7.24.2005

Q&A

There's a quote I once read, attributed to Ben Franklin, that I wanted to cite. I searched online and couldn't find it. I'm not sure it was Franklin now. Here's the paraphrase from memory:

The question of an afterlife will eventually be answered and without any effort on my part.

Stay On Target

My last post made me realise something that's been tickling the back of my mind of late. This blog has moved away from my thoughts of mortality as the distance from my minor health scare grows with time. They are always present but the theme of this blog was never meant to be about mortality but rather my thoughts on the world we live in. I have tried to avoid links to sites, pictures, memes and the other usual blog content. This was always meant to be more of a diary than anything else. I'm not too disappointed with it so far. I've got a couple memes, a few links but nothing too egregious. I have other websites that I can use as outlets for those things.

I think I'll avoid posts in the future about the quirks of my kid or cute pics of him. I thought about starting another blog as an outlet for that, too, but I don't need anymore projects. I think I'll just blog as usual and spend my time enjoying my son's development instead of documenting it.

As for the pseudo-anonymous BS I've been maintaining for the last couple years (beyond the fact that it's patently obvious who I am by simply reading this blog), I think that that plan has run its course. Though the early entries were more for myself, the later ones were written with the full awareness of other people, people I know, reading this. If you feel like linking me, name and all, go nuts. Talk about it, deride me to my face over it, whuh-eva. While I won't go out of my way to promote CC, I have no problems owning any of this.

Reset

I started this blog not long after I found out I had lumps in my arms. While they turned out to be harmless lipomas (small masses of fat), I did have to undergo an operation to remove a growth from around my groin which turned out to be a swollen lymph node (still no solid idea as to the cause).

I can still recall my first inkling of mortality as an 8 year old when I realised that:
1) people died,
2) I'm a person,
Oh My God, 3) I'm going to die.

I was lying in bed and I sat upright with a big gasp for breath. It was only my first lesson, though.

When my father died in '92, I, at the age of 17, having seen how miserable a person could make themself and those around them and then suddenly die, I vowed to simply enjoy my life and let the people around me enjoy theirs. It became a futile effort to try and determine the whys and wherefores of living. There was no point in delaying action or living for some distant point in the future. The future is all too uncertain and cares little for your understanding of it.

It lead me to the conclusion/philosophy that waiting for ideal conditions before doing things I wanted is simply a lack of courage to get up and do something. My new flaw is that I frequently rush into things without much competence or forethought but I find that, more often than not, I am satisfied with the results and I would rather try and fail than having never tried. Life and its transitory nature have sat quite well with me for a number of years.

I have been ready to die for a long time but with the birth of my son, I'm sad that I won't see the entirety of his story. I suppose if he dies before me, I will, but I hope that is not the case. I can't really think of too many things worse than a parent having to bury their child. It's a new twist to my mortality that I'll have to learn to accept.

Ugh, this is difficult.

7.19.2005

Tough

I didn't think it would be this hard to go back to work but I'm finding it difficult to be away from my son so much. I daydream about him. It's just hard to be away from someone so funny. He's so strange, it cracks me up all the time.

My favourite part so far is his burping face. After a feeding, I sometimes sit him on my leg with his little legs draped across my thigh. He then gets leaned forward with his head supported in one hand and patted on the back with the other. His arms hang limp by his side and he gets this slack-jawed, wide-eyed look like, "Wha? Huh? I had a booby in my mouth a moment ago. Now I'm sitting up. I don't get it."

7.13.2005

Like A Wedding Cake

It only just occurred to me. I paid $200 out of my own pocket for a private room at the hospital. Normally, my wife's private health insurance would have paid for a semi-private (shared with another mother) but they paid half of the private room and we could afford the rest so we got our own room. A big bed for mommy, a pull-out chair mattress for daddy and a bassinet that was just right for el nino. So two questions then...

1) What do people who have no private health insurance get? A room with four mothers or do they just have to pay for the semi-private themselves?
2) Why are so many people objecting to paying extra for extra services in the health system? That ship appears to have already sailed.

7.11.2005

A Muslim Eunuch Goes To Sea

The tale of Zheng He gives me hope that mankind's exploration of the world around them will inevitably continue. Though our desire to do so may wax and wane, we will ever strain a hand towards the horizon because, my friends, there is always a buck to be made.

7.06.2005

Tear Down The Past

I was once asked the question "Do traditions not divide as much as they unify?"

I think my answer makes a good post.

Good question. I suppose it would depend on the tradition and the community. Some traditions are not exclusive in that there is no restriction on the participants (see: Commercial Christmas). But the vast majority of them are kept within a community.

If the tradition is exclusive (Christian Communion) or the community is exclusive (Freemasons), then you risk becoming isolationist and alienating. It certainly does help establish that sense of "Other" but at the same time if everyone followed the same traditions... Well, I don't think human nature would be able to tolerate that kind of homogeneity. It would be the most watered-down, lowest-common-denominator pap conceivable.

What allows tradition to survive is its genuine sense of emotional involvement with something much larger than oneself. Most traditions of the last century are currently undergoing a Darwinian process of elimination because exclusion has become the nastiest of words. Perhaps a portion of modern cynicism arises from this dearth of connection to bigger things.

Americans have a wealth of tradition that inspires patriotism; Canadians have exceedingly few and, thus, are less ardently patriotic (sweeping statement, I know, but I'm not sure how many would disagree). Is that a bad thing? Depends on how much you like your patriotism. In a sense, patriotism and nationalism are simply a larger set of community ideals with a larger set of traditions. Exclusion vs. inclusion here is far more important because when your community's population is large enough then exclusion becomes dangerous to the status quo. Those excluded may be numerous enough to force a change (see: Ghandi). There is nothing that will mobilize people like a sense of exclusion.

Tradition on its own is never a good enough reason to isolate oneself. With isolation, even ignoring exclusion, there is a terrible danger: stagnation. Without infusion of new ideas, without evolution, without the possibility of feedback, tradition becomes dogma. Unyielding, merciless dogma has long been the source of human conflict and stagnation allows tradition to fossilize into dogma. In a crowded new world we are learning how to share, dogma leaves little room for co-habitation.

I guess you can tell that I'm against tradition for the most part. On a smaller level, I am for tradition, mostly the quaint, trivial kind like the Stanley Cup or the Imperial system of measurements. On a larger scale, it doesn't really work except in a meaningless, heartless way. I think there is a need for a new human tradition but to make something universal and intimate at the same time seems an impossible feat. I think allegiances and conflicts are a part of who we are, that the sense of belonging and even excluding is fundamental to who we are. I don't think tradition should be eradicated but I wouldn't go around encouraging it either.

7.05.2005

Manifesto

The question of having children is one that has never crossed my mind. Even as a child, I knew I would like to have one of my own. I admit that part of my motivation is to correct the errors of my parents' ways (my parents have been, and my mother continues to be in some regards, poor parents). I can understand those who do not wish to have them. They are a lot of work, sacrifice and even hardship. Children, as they grow older, can make their parents suffer at their hands (there are poor children as well as poor parents in this world; I know that I have been one on several occasions).

I have always felt as though I raised myself, and while I know that is simply untrue and ungrateful to boot, I cannot deny the feeling. I think my parents were never meant to be together but somehow ended up doing so. They were both in their forties when they were married, and I, in my embryonic form, was the impetus behind that union. They seperated when I was fifteen, about three years too late. I have nothing but wonderful memories of my childhood up to the age of twelve. Very few of them centre on my parents. I was mostly left to wander around on my own. I was left alone unsurpervised in a library, alone supervised at the park, free to wander the quiet neighbourhood roads and parks with the neighbourhood kids. I suppose they trusted me enough to let me do these things but at the same time they were never participants in my life, more like overseers with occasional leave. So long as I kept my nose clean and did well at school, I didn't hear much from either of my parents. I was given a lot of things like lessons for piano/tennis/chinese (yes, cantonese, to be precise; damned if I can do anything other than count to 10 and read dates) but interaction with my parents mostly consisted of the occasional game (scrabble, caroms, cards) with my mother or playing the rare game of keep-away with a soccer ball with my dad. Conversation, which is a keystone in my life, was a non-factor. Even now, my mother would rather talk of the ice cream she bought at the store than any real conversation. My brother tries to draw her out but it inevitably devolves into church doctrine. The closest I can come to intercation is getting her to relate to me her travels around the world. My mother, notoriously independent, has always been an individual and has seen more of the world than anyone else I know (and has also had a fascination with eating the various animals that inhabit our planet as though she were moving down some unwritten checklist). Even then, she refers to the personal details obliquely.

In any case (after I've single-mindedly turned this post into a screed about my parents' failings), I know that I can't be a friend to my son for many years to come. Authority prevents the full-disclosure an open friendship requires and I do feel responsible for giving my son a sense of right and wrong; I will not abrogate my duty to raise him to be a decent human. It is now my turn to wear the parent hat and I feel as though I'm working without a plan. My parents' example offer some guidance but nowhere near enough. I suppose I'll do what everyone else does: make it up as you go along. Thankfully, I have someone way more awesome than me to help me out (lord knows I'll need it). It'll be tricky to work it out together (we already disagree on a few points) but we've always negotiated our way to a common ground and I see no reason why this won't continue.

So now that I've written all this out, I await the day when I can look back at this post and laugh, laugh, laugh at how incredibly stupid I really am.