So, reader, we meet yet again. It's yet another long solitary saturday. Minney came down with a cold or something so she didn't feel up to coming over. She works herself so hard that nobody in their right mind would take that for a polite way of backing out at the last minute. I've certainly had friends who have done that before. Not her though. She's just plain run out of fuel. Hence, I find a yawning chasm of time alone before me. What else is new? It also happens to be raining out there. I only found that out after fetching my coat and Trekker Breeze and heading out the door. Not at all a day for walking around the lake. Nobody down in the lobby to talk with either. Nowhere to go but tons to blog about and listen to. Tomorrow will be a much more social day thank goodness. Church has become a very bright light for me. I'll also be seeing Sandy and John Morgan in the afternoon. It's been quite a while since those two have gotten together and touched base. As we move forward with Sandy towards his assessment for the Assistive Devices Program, I want to make certain we're all on the same page. Also, it's invariably interesting when one runs into Mr. Morgan. Acording to my faith, good works can't get you into Heaven. John is one of those kind souls who really make one think twice about that. He'll be helping Sandy financially by making the Internet affordable during this especially tough time in his life. He helped me by donating my Trekker Breeze to me. That opened up more of the world within walking distance to me than I ever would have thought possible. I never would have gambled that much of my own money on that gadget. I just couldn't fully appreciate its value. It's precisely that way with Sandy and the Internet. John has made it feasible for Sandy to enter the digital world with my assistance. God knows how many people John has helped go farther and take more chances than they otherwise could have.
It has been a truly excellent week for listening material. I've actually kept most of the podcasts which have whiled away the hours. I'm only half way through Aquainted With The Night which is proving to be an utterly splendid read. The narrator is excellent and the book is covering all sorts of fascinating things about night. There have been so many splendid observations from the illusive "green flash" sometimes visible just after sunset for ten to fifteen seconds to details about many various festivals. As just one modest example, I never knew that our celebration of Christmas is more of a private family-centred affair due to the Nordic Yule Log festival. Russians apparently throw empty bottles into the air at New Year's in order to capture the old year and smash it on the ground. So many wonderful details. When I come to create sunssets and festivals for Enchantment's Twilight, those sections of the book will be very handy indeed. I've thoroughly enjoyed the first part of the section on dreams and have paused the book to leave delving into an exploration of nightmares for a little later. It was also nifty to finally get a detailed idea of what a sleep lab was like. I've always wondered about that.
There have been so many auditory treasures this week. I've decided to keep hold of at least five podcasts. As much as I'm greatful for the stimulation, there's always that sense of incompletion. I wish I had a group of friends or a love in life to share and discuss all this with. Once the audio stops, it's just me here in the apartment with nothing but the quiet swish of the CPU cooling fan and occasional noises from my kitchen appliances. I sit there and reflect on what I've just heard knowing that there's likely nobody nearby who has even heard one of the items I've found so captivating. There damned well should be someone else there! Empty friday nights and saturdays seem to drag out and make a mockery of all my attempts to fit in and find lasting love. In order to keep busy on this one, I'm going to set down my reflections on five interesting podcasts which have captivated me. I'm sick to the teeth of hearing this stuff and then having all my thinking vanish forever into my subconscious or disappear completely for lack of use. Before I get to that though, there's a show called Ontario Today on CBC Radio1. One day this week, I caught it for the first time in quite a while. It was pretty grim stuff. I heard from a lady who was a prostetute. She described how she got into the trade as a result of her drug habit. I got the impression it was a kind of creepy insidious process where you get to a stage where there's no longer any sense of what's wrong in life. I had the same feeling as when I've heard people describe how they got into credit card debt. She's concerned that changes to the laws forbidding prostetution would make things even worse for the women involved in it since their johns would be less fearful of consequences. Immediately following that was a discussion about how bad things are in northern Ontario for the Native people living on reserves up there. Some folks wonder where I get my patience and normal good cheer from. How can I be so forgiving and understanding with so much potential untapped and so many doors closed to me in life? A part of the answer is that I'm keenly aware and appreciative of the many blessings in life even on days like today when my need for companionship isn't met. I heard about a couple of kids whose parents had been so tired of life that they hung themselves not even caring whether their young children saw it happen. That just struck me to the core. Up north, it isn't so much the price of housing as it is the price of groceries which can make things incredibly hard. There's corruption, no jobs even for fully able folks. The water from one's tap isn't safe to drink until it's boiled. Apparently, these kids were re-inacting the tragedy discussing how the rope had been used while looking out a window eating breakfast. What circumstances would drive two young people to that utter extreme? It seems so unthinkable that this kind of thing can happen in the same province I'm in. One of my chief blessings is a very supportive caring family who would do pretty much anything they could for me. I also have safe running water and am in a well=built apartment. There's just no comparison to the cross of exclusion I bear and the true utter poverty faced by these people. I have hope of things eventually getting better at least on the social front and perhaps other areas. There's enough, for the most part, to keep me going in life. I would never seriously entertain the idea of killing myself. Leaving that sort of trauma in the lives of my family and friends is utterly unthinkable to me. It's up to God to determine when I am no longer of value here on Earth. The least I can do is experience and enjoy his gift of life to the best of my ability. Hearing about such horrific circumstances has stayed with me for most of the week. I wish I was in a position to do more than simply bear a kind of distant second-hand witness. You want to reach out and fix things but there's just nothing a man like me could offer which would make the slightest difference. I feel completely and utterly dwarfed by such large-scale blatently unjust situations. Thankfully, the podcasts below were more positive.
Last week's episode was about the upcoming sequel to the movie Tron. I've had a soft spot for that film since I was a kid. It was neat hearing Jeff Bridges and others involved in this new Tron Legasy speak their minds about what it all meant to them. I look forward to eventually seeing that one when it get onto DVD. The theatre is just getting too pricy. If I had a group of friends or special lady in life by the time it came out, perhaps then, it would be worth the expense if it were part of a larger outing. None of this "well that was good. Lets go home." crap. I'd like a chance to digest some food along with some actual time together talking about what we had just shelled out so much to see. It feels like nobody else seems to think like I do on that front anymore. I wish I had more to say about the actual story of the upcoming film but everyone was pretty secretive on that front.
There were a couple of very noteworthy items here. I don't find all of the lectures interesting but I try to check for new items of interest every few weeks or so. A very thought-provoking lecture was given by a Muslim lady named Ayaan Hirsi Ali.[Thank God for cut and paste] She illustrated how sharply the philosophies of the western and Muslim worlds differed. I may try to get her book Nomad: From Islam to America, A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations. If her lecture is anything to go by, her perspective in greater depth would certainly while away some hours.
Her main point was that while the western world focussed on making life on Earth better for as many people as possible, Muslims invested in the life to come after this one. I wonder how many of the Muslim friends I've briefly had over the years would agree with what she thought? I presume she was presenting a far more fundamentalist view than what I've come across in life so far. I've had somewhat limited exposure to Muslims. For instance, it apparently is counted against you in the Muslim afterlife if you have non-Muslim friends. Even more so if they're Jewish. If that's the case, how can we expect there to be any progress at all with coming to terms with each other? I've lost contact with the Muslims I once knew. Does my friendship with them still count against their eternal happiness? Talk about an unfair double-whammy.
Muslims indeed have the ability to ask for forgiveness as we do. However, it must be sincere to the point where you no longer commit that sin. That seems square enough as long as the list of unpermitted things makes sense. After death, you're quizzed by an angel and asked three questions. One's answers determine how comfortable one's time in the grave actually is. That grave time lasts until the great tribunal. A bit more low-key than our Christian Heaven and Hell waiting areas. On the day of judgement, all parts of your body speak against you. What a treassonous bunch. If the book of misdeeds recorded by the angel on your lef in life is heavier than the positive book recorded by the one on the right, you're sent to Hell where you do time for your crimes. It isn't eternal though. Eventually, you can get to Heaven. Sounds better for men than for women. Is there no religion anywhere who treated men and women as true equals from day one? I'd like to think that some group somewhere was smart enough to realise what has been planely obvious to me for as long as I can remember.
Everything in our democratic society is geared toward improving and extending life here. Schools, recreation, hospitals, etc. Life here is precious. She thinks Christians don't really describe Heaven or dwell on it in detail. Never really stopped to think about how much more descriptive Muslims were about their Heaven. That kind of gets them into trouble with their women to my way of thinking. It's clearly depicted as better for men. In our Christian vagueness lies some safety there I think. She goes on to tell how Islamic law developed consistant with that investment in afterlife. Virtue is litterally enforced on the streets. Right and wrong are made very clear. Do what's right in gray areas. Cannot compare tribunals to western system. Corruption means staying away from the Koran depicts as moral and right. Indivisuals don't choose but must submit. Western institutions want to achieve maximum happiness for maximum number of people.
Her final point talks about how we in the west think that any conflict can be resolved through human reason. We think of states as secular and basically reasonable. However, the Muslim perspective is that reason simply ought to direct people to the Koran which spells out what's right and wrong pretty clearly already. The fundamentalists feel it their duty to try to get Muslims who have been tempted by modernity and/or sin to come back to investing in afterlife rather than this one. Rejecting the Koran's message makes you an enemy of Islam. Attempts to win enemies back begin with communicating the message to them and when that fails, war. Pretty bleak stuff. I'm glad God comes at things a tad differently when it comes to choices and obligations to others on his behalf. Philosophy behind western influence on other countries is one of life on Earth. We try to modernise and improve life. Islamic fundamentalists feel like Islam is under siege by innovation and people investing in this life. It's a stark conflict with no middle ground for them. Philosophy of death needs enemies. Anyone who tried to change Islam from within was suppressed and labelled as enemy so change is far harder in Islam. She believes Iran's leader is trying to acquire the bomb. Westerners should try to understand how the leader welcomes death rather than fears it. He wil be a hero in their afterlife. Wow. Wish I could have heard the questions cession. How does one negotiate with that kind of thinking? Is there any hope at all? Are we just doomed to ultimate conflict with these more fundamentalist believers or is there something, some avenue forward that isn't obvious? What about extreme Christians? What are the worse case dangers actually presented by fundamentalists of my faith to the Muslim world? Christians are certainly not immune from siege mentality.
The other Big Ideas episode to grab my attention was one about the workings of Jewish humour. Ruth Wisse gave a fascinating lecture. It began with a joke which I'll set down here probably not verbatim: Four men went hiking together in a woods. They became lost and ran out of water. "I must have tea!" said the Englishman. "I must have wine!" said the Frenchman. "I must have beer!" said the German hiker. "I must have diabetes!" said the Jew. It took me about a half-second after the audience started laughing before it clicked and I got it. When I told Sandy this joke earlier today, it took him about a second and a half before he got it. I had just begun thinking I'd have to explain it or apologise for it, [He does suffer from the illness.] when he got it. Ruth took that joke apart and examined it under a microscope explaining how it wasn't really antisemitic. It operates on the different use of the verb "to have" and on the unexpected completely different track the Jewish hiker's mind was on. That made me think of a book called The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer. He's a favorite author of mine as regular readers will be aware. In the book, an artificial intelligence pontificates on what laughter and jokes are. He said that we laugh due to new and unexpected connections between things we previously thought unrelated. Jokes create new nural pathways which we respond to by laughter. An interesting kind of parallel there.
The other part of Ruth's lecture which truly made me pause in shere admiring awe was when she described a tense department meeting. A candidate was under consideration for being added to the membership. Most members approved of this person. However, one Jewish man strongly opposed. The candidate certainly seemed to have what was needed but he just wasn't happy with him. Eventually though, things had reached a crisis point. A decision was needed right then. Clearly, this candidate was the best one going with the most conscensus from the membership. The Jew who had opposed his acceptance ended up making a joke which did a number of things: It conceeded that perhaps he had been too stubborn and picky in a way which also gave everyone the right to laugh with him and at him. He used humour to gracefully withdraw his opposition in a way which restored good will in the department. There's a kind of heroism in that. A moment of God's grace made manifest which I wonder how many people who were even present truly appreciated. It was an exquisite demonstration of the power of the Jewish style of humour to overcome obstacles.
What with my illness and all, I had fallen behind when it comes to this nifty show exploring how faith weives itself through modern life. They started off this season with a show about hope. I wasn't certain how that would actually turn out. The show host, mary Hynes, was apparently concerned about profound sappiness also. However, I was delighted with the result. Joan Chittister put any fears of a wasted hour quickly to rest. She's another author I'll have to look into. It's a pretty safe bet that at least some of her over forty books would be available in the CNIB digital library. One title, Scarred by Struggle; Transformed By Hope, definitely warrants my hot pursuit. Here's hoping Blio gets its accessibility act together *soon!* Joan recognises right from the outset that hope is something people need to get them through this life. People want to know about hope when they don't have any themselves. Excellent quotes fell thick and fast from her and I'll try to capture the ones which truly struck me:
"Hope is the capacity to dance around corners while still smiling."
"My hope for the future comes from my experience of the past."
"Hope is God's grace today. It's not a buy-off about tomorrow."
"Hope is marble. Hope's not marce mallow. We construct the statue of ourselves one struggle at a time and God does not, life does not protect us from those struggles."
There was a whole lot more in the conversation, but it's starting to get late and I think I've given you a good feel for things. I'll take a different approach from here on as this is starting to feel too much like university. It turns what should be vibrant, living aural discussion into dead words nobody is all that likely to read anyhow. Her words stuck a strong chord with me. It and humour have been what gets me, an extravert, through lonely days. Laughter is just as valueable and vital. I couldn't help think of that poor Native family up north. I've been pretty distressed and down at times but I've never gotten to the point where my drive to live on, at the very least, has left me. Is there any way I can share that basic optimism with people like they were? Joan spoke of how her struggle dealing with her mother's Alshimers made her look at other sick people differently. I can relate to that. People who have been more successful following what would still I think be seen as a normal path through life, [job, marriage, etc], can be very quick to judge and dismiss those of us who haven't ben able to as worthless and lazy. They don't take th time and don't have the time to really investigate and find out differently. It's just easier to lump everyone in a similar situation into one category. I'm not immune from the same thing. My past experience married to a woman who had depression would make me very wary of getting involved with other women who suffer that. I know there are doubtless women who either have a different level or type of depression. Also, people cope with and manifest their illness in different ways. My experience of and approach to blindness is, to some extent at least, uniquely my own. There are very likely women out there with depression who I with my optimistic nature might make a splendid companion for. Should one actually prove interested in me, I would gladly invest the time into seeing whether things would work out for us. I have tons of that after all. However, I would approach the situation with far more reservation and caution than I would a relationship with a woman with almost any other disability. Once bitten, twice shy they say.
The next guest was Neil Pasricha. He had the bright idea of starting a blog about all the little awesome things in life. Everyone should check that out. Go to:
People like him who reach out from their own private pain and put some soul back into the world always deserve a second look. I include myself in that pronouncement, feminine sighted world. God! I hate these empty saturdays. Neil has written a book based on his blog called The Book of Awesome. I'll want that as soon as it's made accessible. Neil's main thrust is something I've always found helpful. We tend to forget about the smaller pleasures in life which make going through all the disappointments not only possible but worth-while. You can just plough through a bunch of entries on everything from blowing your nose in the shower to smacking an electronic device and having it start working again. To a man like me, such a mass of positive cheerful reflections are better than music. It doesn't take much to make me feel a sense of appreciation for life. He carries the loss of a good friend who was inspirational in getting the blog going. You can hear the heaviness of that in his voice but he's found a way to memorialise him in the bestselling book which grew from his blog. Perhaps, one day, I too will have a truly catching good idea for another glog. That kind of thinking is part of what keeps me reaching out and keeps me sane. I would prefer starting more of an offline real-world conversation. That's more what I've been hoping for ever since my marriage fell apart. However, I'm coming to realise that no matter how hard I push nor how much I try to explain to people what I'm after, there's just no tipping the scales. I'm likely to be alone more often than not for the foreseeable future. Perhaps, I should turn my mind toward starting a brand new more immediately visible creative venture. Neither of my larger projects will be ready for years anyhow. Wny not add something new and interactive into the mix? Neil, You've got my creative wheels turning again.
Teri Degler also stepped up to the plate with some observations which have stuck with me. One of them was that merely having hope was actually a virtue. I had never thought of my hopeful nature as anything beyond fortunate given my circumstances. Scoring eternal brownie points while I'm at it? That's just cool. Thanks God. Hope hasn't failed just because a hoped for outcome doesn't ocur. Hope keeps us trying and keeps us facing our circumstances with greater positivity than could otherwise be done. I can certainly relate to that. Without that small spark of hope, there are plenty of times in my life when I may have gone more off the rails and given into destructive impulses.
You know what folks? I've done enough for today. You can hear the other two episodes of Tappestry if you've a mind to. I feel like I've been to a university class taking notes on these and I can't say I've missed that. It takes what was initially such a better more richly satisfying experience and salvages a fraction of my initial reflections. I can't say I've found the fulfillment I had hoped for when I started this. I wanted to set down something of my inner self; something of my world for people if only as a record of the kind of thoughtful man I am. What has emerged is just a faint flicker. I want to scream at more of the nareby real world to give me the ghost of a chance! Know me! I'll add as much of my gifts and talents to the community as I possibly can if I'm just given a pathway in and help getting started! Nights like this make me feel like I've been locked away in an admittedly comfortable cage and left to live out my days. Digital just doesn't do it for me. Give me honest to God in the flesh *people* in life! It's been a long day. I believe I'll turn in for the night.
It's monday evening now. Yesterday was wonderful. I guess you could say that I indeed spent it with honest to God people. The church community had a couple of surprises. One of which was a ceremony for Naythan who's just turned thirteen. It was a kind of Christian barmitsfa. He clearly takes his faith quite seriously. At his age, I was much more rebellious when it comes to belief. I wasn't yet an agnostic but had certainly started finding things to doubt and question. All four of his grandparents were there. That in itself was pretty awesome. They actually all sounded quite healthy too. I ought to be seeing my one remaining grandparent near the end of the month.
I got home just in time to meet up with John Morgan and go to Sandy's apartment. The meeting went quite well. Provided Sandy's computer keeps behaving until our assessments, we ought to be in pretty good shape. John was able to help Sandy with his internet costs. You could feel Sandy's happiness. I have no doubt at all that John could see it plain as day. If he's available, he'll be the one to drive us both down for our assessments provided they occur at the same time as we hope. Meanwhile, it's up to me and Mrs. Allison to bring him more up to speed with his computer. John didn't stay very long. He never does unless he's actualy doing something to help. I think Sandy has a harder time with that. It isn't easy accepting generocity when you can't return it even when it's clearly called for. People say I'm always gracious about that. I certainly try to be.
I spent sunday evening at a church service with a fairly siseable contingent from the Meadowvale CRC present. It was a celebration of the multinational heretage of the church. The two hour service didn't seem to drag at all even for the kids present. It was most encouraging to hear about all the efforts being directed at inclusiveness. Quite the contrast from how I spent saturday night. If I can just inject more into my weeks, I might not have to start yet another online project. That would be nice.
This morning started with me heading down to Sandy's apartment. He wanted to hear these Commonwealth games which are going to be streamed live on the Internet. On my computer, the Flash plugin gave me no end of grief until I finally managed to reinstall it. I hadn't realised for a few weeks that this was why IE8 would simply seem to disappear sometimes. For once, things worked perfectly on his computer without any fussing around at all. I figured I might be fighting that thing for a good half hour. It took perhaps ten minutes. Sandy's a pretty happy man. He'll just have to remind me when more of these games are covered and have me start up the live stream on his machine. Did a bunch of tidying up today. I also listened to a BBC documentary about aural history. Other than that, things have been pretty uneventful. I've worked some on this blog entry and kept up to date with news.
Tomorrow, I have a mobility lesson and may join mom and Dan's family for dinner depending on how things go. Mom seems to be doing fine. Dad's away on a Golf trip for the week. She wanted me to help move a heavy bookcase upstairs for dad's computer. I didn't think he'd want stuff rearranged like that while he was away. Mom wants things to look neat but I know how disconcerting I've found it when people have moved my things in my absence. I don't know if I quite convinced her to just wait until he returns. It looks like I'll be out with mom again on thursday evening. Kim and presumeably Mark will be joining us for dinner. Other than that, I have no other plans at present. However, I live in hope.