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Sunday May 30, 2021
The big picture only hits home when it becomes the small picture. That’s why movie makers show you the big picture--of thousands of foot soldiers surging up a hill, for example--and then zoom in to show the tension visible on a single face.
After 14 months of daily pandemic statistics, the big picture of daily COVID-19 statistics goes over my head like distant thunder.
Until Wednesday of this week.
When my daughter tested positive.
Suddenly, COVID-19 has stopped being a big picture and has become intensely personal.
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: daughter, COVID-19, personal
Thursday May 20, 2021
When the west wind blows across the lake, it has to rise when it hits the cliffs along the eastern shore.
The other day, I watched a cabal of crows dancing in that upwards rush of air.
Traditionally, a collection of crows is called a “murder”. I don’t like that term. I suspect it was coined by someone who disliked crows, who shot them whenever he could.
“Cabal,” to my mind, better fits crows’ mischievous nature. It’s also alliterative.
This particular cabal put on quite a performance.
I found myself envying their mastery of the invisible element they lived in.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: Crows, dancing
Sunday May 23, 2021
I wonder if any country on earth has seen more consistent violence than Palestine/Israel. Or is it just that we know more about the endless conflicts there, thanks to the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings in the Bible?
Wars against the Philistines, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Moabites … In one appalling passage, God commands genocide against the Amalekites – men, women, children, livestock, even pets.
Also wars between the sons of Jacob. One act of revenge so totally exterminated the tribe of Benjamin that the other tribes had to volunteer some of their own members to recreate Benjamin for posterity.
In Jesus’ time, the region was an irritating pimple on Rome’s backside. Other conquered nations accepted the inevitable, got on with business, and profited from the Pax Romana. But Rome had to constantly crush Hebrew rebellions. Protestant Bibles conveniently leave out the grisly saga of the Maccabees, but tourists line up to visit the final defeat at Masada.
Tags: Bible, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
A few columns ago, I wrote that I had great optimism about individuals, but pessimism about humanity as a whole.
But a reader told me that my concept contained an inherent contradiction. Humanity as a whole is made up of individuals. Logically, therefore, I cannot be optimistic about individuals without also being optimistic about the whole. And vice versa.
I can’t agree. There are discontinuities in everything. Transitions, where one reality morphs into another.
And you never know exactly where, or how, those discontinuities occur.
Tags: Transitions, discontinuities
Sunday May 16, 2021
The problem, it seems to me, is that we humans don’t know how to value anything unless it can be taxed.
Undeveloped lands have no intrinsic value.
Old growth forests, magnificent as they are, have no value in themselves.
Just as unpolluted streams have no value in themselves.
Yellow flowers growing wild on hillsides have no value.
Parks and wild lands are not treated as assets in municipal accounting, because they don’t produce tax revenue. Even though they certainly add value to other real estate. Imagine Vancouver without Stanley Park. Or New York without Central Park.
Tags: taxes, wild lands, Gibsons
Thursday May 13, 2021
The hummingbirds are back. Probably two pair of them, although I’m not quick enough to identify individual features.
They seem to play, like otters, for the sheer joy of living. They perform aerobatics overhead that would make a stunt pilot green with envy. They soar vertically, flip over, dive at dizzying speeds, zoom past at low altitude, do barrel rolls, meet in mid-air, come to an instant stop…
I also notice they have different feeding habits. One visitor perches on the feeder while sipping nectar. Another hovers constantly while dipping his (or her) beak into the plastic blossom. For each bird, always the same blossom, always the same perch.
And I wonder which bird is headed down an evolutionary dead end.
Tags: vulnerable, Evolution, hummingbirds
Sunday May 9, 2021
Today is Mother’s Day.
I had a mother. That’s possibly the only statement that every human on the planet can affirm without qualification. Also any mammal.
` I’m tempted to say that every living thing had a mother, but I’m not convinced that laying eggs in a riverbed or casting spores to the wind qualifies as mothering. The new life may require female DNA, but in my mental dictionary, mothering Involves more than abandoning one’s offspring to chance.
When we scattered our son’s ashes in the ocean off Vancouver Island, his mother began, “From the moment I first felt you moving in my womb…”
With almost a sense of shock, I realized that being a mother starts nine months earlier than being a father.
Tags: Mothers, ego
Thursday May 6, 2021
The Kelowna Art Gallery is hosting a show about nuclear exposure, until July 18.
The gallery’s promotional leaflet says, “BOMBHEAD is a thematic exhibition organized by guest curator John O’Brian that explores the emergence and impact of the nuclear age… encompassing the pre- and post-war period from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daachi in 2011.”
It’s not just about nuclear war, although the visual images do include mushroom clouds and flattened cities.
It’s also about the invisible threat of nuclear radiation.
I felt that the exhibit failed.
BOMBHEAD is a visual arts display. But how does an artist portray something invisible?
What you can’t see CAN hurt you.
Tags: Art, BOMBHEAD, nuclear threat
Sunday May 2, 2021
As a child, I had a smallpox vaccination every year. As an adult, I travelled with a yellow vaccination booklet that documented my vaccinations against smallpox. Also against diphtheria, tetanus, cholera, Yellow Fever, typhoid, typhus, measles, and mumps.
No immigration officer has asked for that booklet in more than 20 years.
Because vaccinations work. They prevent me from catching a disease, and from passing it on.
I don’t care what scruples you have about the ethics of Big Pharma. I don’t care what rumours you have absorbed about Bill Gates or the Illuminati plotting to take over the world. I don’t care if you found an obscure Bible verse that specifically prohibits vaccinations.
Although I can’t help wondering how a writer 2,000 years ago would know about vaccinations, to condemn them.
But I doubt if you have anything that rational against vaccinations.
Tags: UNICEF, vaccination, Immunization, smallpox, polio, Rotary