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I changed the décor in our church the other day. I took down the Thanksgiving theme, and put up an Advent/Christmas theme.
It was a wasted effort, I suppose, because no one will see it. Provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has ruled that indoor in-person events such as worship services must be cancelled to control the spread of Covid-19.
I’m not sure on what basis she – and the government – determine that selling cosmetics and houseplants is an essential service, and worship is not.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: Christmas, worship, decorations
Most people seem to be complying with the provincial order to wear masks indoors. I see people parking their cars, heading barefaced for their preferred store, and then going back to get a mask to wear. Unwillingly, perhaps, but they’re doing it.
A few people blunder in without a mask, and are given one by a clerk. They may grumble, but they wear it.
And a few refuse. Utterly and totally.
If the authorities can’t make up their minds, the skeptics might say, if their recommendations keep changing day to day, why should we believe them?
I use the word “believe” deliberately. Because at its roots, this is an argument about belief systems, an argument that goes back several hundred years to what historians call “The Enlightenment.”
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: belief systems, science, Masks
Here it is. The night before Christmas.
Technically, Christmas is a Christian celebration. About the birth of a baby in Bethlehem. Christian worship services – conducted mostly online this Christmas – will tell and re-tell, in story and song, of shepherds and angels and wise men from the east.
But outside of church, those songs and stories blur into a kind of emotional fog, about good wishes and gifts, a fog that envelops Jews, Muslims, Baha’is, Hindus, everyone.
It’s going to be a different Christmas this year. Thanks to the second wave of Covid-19 infections, multi-generations will not gather around a fireplace. Or a burdened table.
There will be few Norman Rockwell Christmases this year.
Tags: Christmas Eve, Blue Christmas
I think my dog is paranoid. If she thinks she hears something that might be a doorbell – such as, say, clinking pots together as I prepare a meal – she launches into a paroxysm of growls and howls, races to the front door, and barks furiously at nothing at all.
\ Her behaviour makes me suspect she’s been watching too much social media.
Most social media postings are, in my opinion, basically Pablum for adults. Bland meaningless chat. But there’s a subgroup of users who can see conspiracies under every news report.
As a journalist, I subscribe to several non-mainstream news sources. Sometimes merely following a link, to check the authenticity of a story, is enough to put me onto someone’s mailing list for a steady stream of fear, anger, and venom.
Tags: social media, conspiracies, misinformation
We humans love to follow beaten paths. Both figuratively and literally.
But what if you don’t want to go along a beaten path? When I’m out on the local trails, walking my dog, I occasionally take side trips. To explore a rock face, perhaps. To circumnavigate a small lake. To find an alternate viewpoint.
But I’ve noticed that if I take that diversion more than once or twice, my feet leave enough imprint that other people start taking the same route. And before long there’s a whole new beaten path, that wasn’t there before.
Figuratively, too, we also like to follow beaten paths. In politics, in theology, in economics, we are much more comfortable endorsing and supporting ideas that someone else has expressed already.
Tags: paths, exploring, reforms
n all the hoopla about the U.S. election last week, a couple of significant events sneaked by. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that corporations are not persons. And the U.S. media acknowledged that they have ethical responsibilities.
First, the media. Friday night after the U.S. election, still-president Donald Trump ranted for 16 minutes of outright falsehoods and accusations without evidence, that he had won the election. At least six American networks cut him off in mid-sentence.
For the networks to pull the plug on a sitting president is an unprecedented act.
In the second piece of overlooked news, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that, in certain situations, corporations are not persons.
Tags: Trump, corporations, networks
No, I am NOT going to write about the recent U.S. election. Everyone else has done that already.
Instead, I’m going back some 80 years, to a collection of academic papers I inherited, written by my father while doing his studies for a PhD in psychology.
He was, at the time, acting principal of an undergraduate arts college in India. His students belonged to four different religions and at least six language groups. And he was using those students to test psychological theories developed for western nations -- Europe and North America.
The only thing he proved, he admitted later, was that western categories simply didn’t fit the eastern mind.
But some of his exercises have interesting implications.
Tags: stories, India, psychology
Jeffery Sachs has access to far more facts and figures than I do. He is an economist, professor of Political Economics and International Development at Columbia University, and has been a special advisor to the last two UN Secretary-Generals. So I’ll let him make the case for America’s decline.
Sachs told a conference on multilateralism held at the Vatican, “The U.S. was a dominant economic and technological power in the world for decades. This is no longer the case. It is still a powerful country economically and technologically, but it is no longer a dominant power. The European Union is a larger market, China is a comparable market, and the spread of technology is worldwide.
“I’m sorry to say it -- it’s my country -- but this is an imperial power in decline.
Tags: U.S.election, American empire, Jeffrey Sachs
All the leaves fell off my catalpa tree in a single day. In full foliage, it’s a dense mass of huge flat leaves.
Something about an unexpectedly early snowfall, coupled with an overnight cold snap, triggered a reflex in every leaf, leading them to separate from their parent tree.
The tree looks quite different now. Bare branches stand gaunt against a grey sky. I can see right through it.
Some years ago, I was given a book called Trees in a Winter Landscape, by Alice Upham Smith.
Most of the year, she suggested, we know trees by their leaves. The underlying structure doesn’t become visible until the leaves fall. I think that might be true for more than just trees.
Tags: trees, winter, structures
The day after the election in BC, the same day as the election in Saskatchewan, another vote took place at the other end of the Americas.
The people of Chile voted overwhelmingly to abolish the constitution imposed by dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1973, after his military coup deposed elected president Salvador Allende.
The two Canadian elections didn’t change even the flavour of government in the two provinces, let alone their ideologies. The Chilean vote changed the direction of a whole country.
Chile’s current president called it “the beginning of a path that we must all walk together.”
Tags: change, Chile, Pinochet, constitution