Canadians need to talk about and start to settle controversial political questions. The cowardly status quo where the people cede difficult matters to professional administrations just won’t do.

From one controversial issue to another the sticking point is that the only iron clad logical positions are at the extremes while most people are just uncomfortably in the middle- inclined to one extreme or the other, but also aware of the heart-wrenching context of callousness, cruelty, or suffering that holds them back from embracing an extreme position. Still, that is the law: the law is a line drawn by representatives of the people in our democracy and we must have those hard public conversations.

There will always be more and less sympathetic cases and we need that compassion and tenderness for the tough cases but we shouldn’t let that hamstring us from doing the right thing or let that discomfort turn our eyes away from other injustices.

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Action, reflection, and automation

I’ve been reading Mark Kingwell’s sounding of the philosophical depths of the relationship between action and reflection- his meditation on how fishing bridges much of the gap between our understanding of those two spheres of life.

I also heard an interesting talk with a professor on the radio. The professor said that with automation and driving, much of the courage of the moment involved in action will be taken away. For example, a customer could choose to program the car to make selfish or altruistic driving choices, which are made in the heat of the moment now.

So, with technological extensions of man we can objectively decide in tranquility what we want to do in the middle of powerful emotions and split second fluid happenings. I think how or if we reflect on the good life it has always affected how we act in the heat of the moment. I guess the question is where ‘guts’ and ‘heart’ come from- it seems that technology will take some of that mystery out of it now, though.

There is a very intriguing article on a thriving small town in the November 2017 issue of the New Yorker- I heartily encourage you to read the whole thing- what really snagged my attention, though, was this passage:

If you belonged to a church and you had a crisis, church members would likely help you out. If you moved to a city, though, you saw a level of need that could not be addressed by church groups alone.

Why is it if cosmopolitan people are more trusting of strangers as the article posits that there isn’t enough close face to face help for people to get what they need?

All stories are biography and all pictures are portrait – they tell you something about people and eventually they all fully return to the Creator

Bishop Curry’s address with a focus on fire reminded me that George Macdonald insisted over and over again that our God is a consuming fire: we digest these stories, pictures, little biographies and these sustain life until ultimately consumed into the mystery of a larger, greater purpose for life

Good Friday and ‘what is truth?’

I read The Passion from the Book of Common Prayer yesterday, and I was struck when Pilate replied to Jesus, ‘what is truth?’

I certainly have asked that question in varying forms of expression and varying degrees of intensity, and I think I’m not alone, for my little part in the journey, in often feeling like Pilate did: afraid and under competing pressures and exasperated in the middle of it. I too often let those feelings and those things push me around instead of focusing on the presence of the Lord. Pilate was overwhelmed by those feelings and those things to the point that he didn’t ask the question honestly or he didn’t wait in the presence of the Lord for an answer. He quickly and repeatedly turned to the mob. When you don’t wait and work for love to cast out fear that is what happens: you anxiously allow yourself to become a victim of circumstance and allow worldly pressures to sway.

My maternal grandfather died on Good Friday a decade before I was born. I think about him often, and it’s one of the many reasons this poem by John Donne is so moving:

Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward

Donne, John (1572 – 1631)

Original Text: 

J. D., Poems (London: M. F. for John Marriot, 1633).

1Let mans Soule be a Spheare, and then, in this,

2The intelligence that moves, devotion is,

3And as the other Spheares, by being growne

4Subject to forraigne motion, lose their owne,

5And being by others hurried every day,

6Scarce in a yeare their naturall forme obey:

7Pleasure or businesse, so, our Soules admit

8For their first mover, and are whirld by it.

9Hence is’t, that I am carryed towards the West

10This day, when my Soules forme bends toward the East.

11There I should see a Sunne, by rising set,

12And by that setting endlesse day beget;

13But that Christ on this Crosse, did rise and fall,

14Sinne had eternally benighted all.

15Yet dare I’almost be glad, I do not see

16That spectacle of too much weight for mee.

17Who sees Gods face, that is selfe life, must dye;

18What a death were it then to see God dye?

19It made his owne Lieutenant Nature shrinke,

20It made his footstoole crack, and the Sunne winke.

21Could I behold those hands which span the Poles,

22And tune all spheares at once peirc’d with those holes?

23Could I behold that endlesse height which is

24Zenith to us, and our Antipodes,

25Humbled below us? or that blood which is

26The seat of all our Soules, if not of his,

27Made durt of dust, or that flesh which was worne

28By God, for his apparell, rag’d, and torne?

29If on these things I durst not looke, durst I

30Upon his miserable mother cast mine eye,

31Who was Gods partner here, and furnish’d thus

32Halfe of that Sacrifice, which ransom’d us?

33Though these things, as I ride, be from mine eye,

34They’are present yet unto my memory,

35For that looks towards them; and thou look’st towards mee,

36O Saviour, as thou hang’st upon the tree;

37I turne my backe to thee, but to receive

38Corrections, till thy mercies bid thee leave.

39O thinke mee worth thine anger, punish mee,

40Burne off my rusts, and my deformity,

41Restore thine Image, so much, by thy grace,

42That thou may’st know mee, and I’ll turne my face.

Blank slate, palimpsest, latent desire, piece of wood, or just an individual- what does it matter how you think of children?

So, this article got me thinking about pedagogy, and what I don’t go in for

I read Pinocchio a few years ago (curious why some stories are bigger than their authors and some authors are bigger than their stories). Well, anyhow, there’s a great scene in it where a poor carpenter tries to bend the piece of wood, which becomes Pinocchio, to his will with frustrating results, and then a master carpenter who doesn’t try to go ‘against the grain,’ but works with the wood to fine results.

I think the content of instruction really does matter, and I do think that students have an individual latent character you can’t break- or shouldn’t want to- but also a universal latent desire for the good that can be easily misguided, and the student needs a humble but passionate teacher to guard against the way our fallen world can misguide our desires.

I’ve heard many different sorts of analogies (the palimpsest is interesting); what is important, though, is that teachers (that’s you) don’t lose sight of either the individual character or the universal desire to play a part in, even conform with, the larger truth and beauty (wisdom is knowing the difference between a shallow status grubbing conformity and a deeper, richer spiritual conformity). So, I’m inclined to think something important is missing from the blank slate model where you just fill a student with rules and strategies as well as the opposite model where you’re afraid to have any effect at all.