Levinas, the face, and governance 

Since the face is so moving for Levinas, the neighbourhood is the ideal ethical distance for governance- once you don’t see personal faces you won’t have the same respect and compassion. Levinas said that his philosophy could be boiled down to ‘after you,’ and that looking at the face of the Other he is compelled to do more and try harder the Other. So, if you’re too remote from the people you’re governing that’s regrettable, but also if you’re too intimate, which is why there should be separations of powers and policies in place to discourage dynasties, like inheritance tax. 


I’d like to share a couple wonderful pieces above my arts and crafts mission clock in my tinkering room

I cherish this carving by Vladimir Davydov-along with an old print from 1907 of a female brook trout painted by WB Gillette-reminds me of the beauty of small stream brook trout every time I look at it. It has this effect, I think, because all the things Vladimir says about his feelings and his craft are true.

You’ll also see the clock and an old one of a kind birds eye maple banjo ukulele I found traveling around with my brother- one of the previous players wrote his favourite tunes on the skin, daisy, pack all your troubles, it’s a long way from Tipperary, carry me back to old Virginia, home on the range, working on the railroad and some are too faded to make out

I reread a story from Guy Vanderhaeghe’s new collection

The story, Live Large–in which we meet a blowhard small time businessman who overleverages himself to attain a status symbol and gradually realizes he is losing his financial situation as he takes in the beauty of his surroundings on a golf course and recalls his childhood and the times he played with his kids– says to me that you can only live large when you know you’re time is running out and you make peace with it, and then heartily embrace the graceful pleasure of the moment. 

I have some thoughts about energy and the environment 

There aren’t often technological solutions to moral problems, and we’ve seen the world over, if vice is left to fester then technology just amplifies the consequences. 

The way I see it, the earth and all of it’s wonderful diversity need us to live more humbly– not find an alternative source of energy to fuel our current lifestyles or make them even more lavish. 

George Herbert knew well that what people really want isn’t to be big shots but to be new and small. The only way to make that happen is to see greatness and accept your part in it- and that’s very hard. 

The nuclear zone in Chernobyl is now a natural paradise just because we’ve let it be and nature always surprises with its resiliency when we give it space. I don’t want more roads in Algonquin park for logging and tourism. If we just explored our crown lands on foot, then day hikes would still surprise everyday with beauty and the rare long hike would still be a marvel, they’d still be holy places. 

The problem is all of the roads and mansions in the country and the outrageous amount of energy we use- there are roads crisscrossing all over the place in southwestern Ontario, taking away space and killing all the turtles and snakes. I think we should be talking about habitat loss as much as climate change and renewable energy. I just don’t think wind and solar on just as massive a scale as fossil fuels now will solve our environmental problems, with the tons of concrete poured over rural land and massive bird bashing propellers slowing down wind streams, like our dams intervene with most rivers now, and panels and batteries filled with metals very costly to mine and recycle to block and use the rays on a massive scale that would otherwise go into the earth. 

I know I’m not living up to any solution and I’ll keep searching for how I can live more harmoniously with the dream of the earth. 

I’ve only read a few pieces, but I must say I like front porch republic 

The newspaper grabs on and doesn’t let go of what I’ve been trying to get at for a while now: modern successful politicians of all stripes seem to just talk a lot about equality and then just make government bigger and team up with big business to create a benevolent society solely for insiders close to big government and big business. 

You can’t fight city hall when it gets too big. That there be a physical place where people can physically meet face to face and speak to neighbours and the people who make important decisions for the community is vital to preserving freedom by using it in a responsible and nurturing way. 

I just acquired this enthralling carving

I saw this carving by a local carver with my brother and one of my best friends in an eclectic shop. I was enthralled with it and kept thinking about it for days, so I returned and picked it up. That the cataclysmic civil war subject matter always intrigues me wasn’t what kept me thinking about it; it was the posture of the confederate soldier, the missing star on the rebel flag that evokes something meaningful, a sad wisdom about human frailty and weakness. I don’t know. I do know that the confederate cause was repugnant, and that the confederate soldiers were outgunned, outmanned, ragged, and hungry, and also that their was a lot of greed fuelling the carnage on both sides- I’m almost certain that there were exploitative, opportunistic carpetbaggers who did a lot of damage to the cause of justice and reconciliation after the war too. I wonder if there is a sympathetic connection between the British empire loyalists, who had to retreat to Canada, and the confederates because they’re both losers- Like Al Purdy said, the country around Belleville is a land of defeat because the Loyalists settled here after they lost the Revolutionary war. More than that, though, they both fought a lost cause that was tied to tradition and honour and duty, but also a government and social system that was deeply rotted with brutal oppression (though I think a number of the loyalist and confederate fighters were probably just fighting for their homes- many poor confederate soldiers didn’t own slaves or think much about politics, but still ended up in a war on their front porches).

The carving really seems to be another moving example of the Dying Gaul, one of the first examples I can think of in art where the loser is portrayed in a moving way. It’s even more complicated because the soldier was repugnant is so many severe ways too, so it makes you want to fight against evil on earth and at the same time it makes you want everyone to be saved! It’s a paradoxical mix of human strength and weakness. Leonard Cohen had some very wise things to say about that kind of thing.

I’d like to talk about a photograph my aunt and uncle acquired for me

I mentioned that I was really fond of this one- it’s the cycle of life, the wonder of biodiversity. I also like how vibrant the green is because it’s a metal print. When I lead students on hikes, I always get questions about moss. Kids are just drawn to it. 

I gather that before there were trees with roots there was moss. The earliest land plants were mosses. These beautiful trees grow and spread seeds and then return to the earth embraced by moss. I like that returning part. I also gather that moss takes in water vapour- water on the way up- now that’s beautiful.