Showing posts from June, 2010

How do you feel about (your own) birthdays?

Today is my birthday. I'm never quite sure how I feel about that. This year I am 49, and thinking about 50 next year. Aside from the decades thing, 49 seems like it should be more significant: 7 sevens seem to carry some vaguely magical significance.
I have had lots of birthdays and so I have celebrated them in many ways. This year, I am announcing some key projects to a special group of friends who have also been my clients. My work is my playground, and this is the best way I can think of to celebrate the year that is upon me. My work is a gift: it feeds my spirit and shapes my personality and challenges me endlessly. It is not something to flee but something to ride. I am eager to see where it will take me this year, knowing that the road is sometimes windy and bumpy and often breathtaking.
My favourite birthdays are not the anniversary of my own birth but the days when I remember holding a small new-born in my arms and looking into his eyes for the very first time. Those bir…

Three things my daddy taught me

1) If you are going to really learn to golf, you require permission to say "shit" once in a while
2) Believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, but only expect to see fluff from the Easter bunny's tail caught on your window
3) When you get the wind knocked out of you, lie down and breathe till the tears stop.

What good is there in reading fiction?

I promised myself I would blog a response to this question, although it was offered rhetorically when it came up in a recent class. Someone was saying that it was easier to make time to read non-fiction because there was clearly a purpose to reading it: but what good is there in reading fiction? Fiction, I would have liked to say, feeds your soul.
That's not a very good response since it assumes that everyone believes in the soul and also might understand how fiction feeds it. A better response is that fiction allows you to pretend, and pretending is the way we predict where complex situations are likely to move next. When you read fiction, you practice moving from the suggestions provided by the author's words to a richly imagined experience that relies largely on the details you supply yourself. To read fiction is to collaborate in building an elaborate model of experience.
When you read a novel, you make sense of the patterns it holds by imagining the experience it descr…

Travels and the life well lived

I was speaking to someone who just returned from a three week cruise that including visits to a number of really amazing cities. She was mostly bored - not entirely by the cities but by the rhythm of travel. Her real life was on hold and three weeks was too long. I confess to some sympathy with the idea that real life happens where we have real relationships.
On the other hand, my son set off for eight weeks of backpacking in Europe precisely as a way to live his life, to discover not Europe but the parts of himself that wake up in the presence of new places and new people, and in the presence of old, old thoughts. I encouraged his trip because I believe that he will be living his life as he explores.
Paradox is a big part of thinking about what it means to live our lives well. It's possible for our "real" lives to be in the place where our closest relationships happen and it's also possible that our "real" lives are carried inside our skin and go with us …

Airport goodbyes

It can be hard to say goodbye at an airport. I did it Saturday (bravely) when my son left for eight weeks exploring Europe. It's hard because the sense of possibility is almost tangible at an airport. You can step from the ticket window and move towards almost anywhere in the world. It's a little strange to give someone a hug, knowing they'll wake up in an entirely different place and you'll wake up the next day back where you started.
I remember when it was a big deal to watch planes take off. When I was a kid, we would watch while my dad flew away on business trips. Did we cry because he was leaving or because we were staying behind? As you watch the plane lift off the runway, your heart might lift a little too, pulled upwards and outwards by the thought of flight.
Of course, the world has changed and in Toronto, there's no way to watch the people you love walk onto the planes that will fly them off to places where difference is possible. Difference is never …

The Spirit of Hope, Wiesel & Rushdie & interesting questions

On Monday evening this week, I attended the Spirit of Hope benefit where Salman Rushdie and Elie Wiesel discussed a variety of questions related to freedom, hope and peace. Rushdie made points that I believe to be true. He said, "We all live in and through and by telling stories."
Because of this, he also said that the first victim of a dictatorship is language. Dictators know that power means the ability to change the stories people tell.
Wiesel made a related point. He said that there was no point in pressuring Israel because the Jews, as a people, can withstand pressure. He said they have less resistance to seduction.
The implication is that there are at least two ways to change the stories people tell, and one of them is harder to resist. No one at the Spirit of Hope picked up on this thread and applied it to other stories that need to change if the world is to find a measure of peace in the Middle East. No one said that the answer to Iran and Palestine is seductio…