Post 321

Professor

God is like a professor who gives an exam.
He explains exactly what the students must study.
The materials are clear, with examples aplenty.

He gives adequate warning and time to prepare.
Class time is devoted to practice and drill.
Here’s the pre-test; the exam will be like this.

Yet when test day arrives,
Some ask for more time (An extension is granted.)
While others don’t bother to show. (An extension is granted).

He hands out the exams.
Some students are stumped; their preparation was shoddy.
Their answers are guesses, and their guesses are wrong.

Soon the examination is over; the clock says it’s time.
But he waits for the straggler.
(To snuff the wavering wick isn’t his style.)

Now the students are gone.
They are glad to be done.

Alone, he sighs as he reviews the finished exams.
Success was so possible
‘Twas there for the taking.
And yet —

Can he give partial marks?
He gives what he can.
And those who fail
May rewrite if they want.

As he walks to his car, he wonders to himself.
Are these the same students
He taught day in and day out?
Are these the same students
Seemingly so eager to learn?
Where is the effort?
Where is the will?

 

 

Over here
Here is the will, but
Nothing more, Lord!
I have nothing more
But I wish I did!
I wish I had all the meekness and patience
The determination and the strength
The early risings and the love of suffering
Oh!
It’s not me you can use
Not yet, anyway
I wish it were me
What can you do with me?
My shelves are full of books
I know the stories
I see the examples
So many
So good
I am not of their number
I am not like them
I am every year older
Yet I am never any better
What can you do with me?
My shelves are full of books
The stories of the good
Demonstrate the distance
Between what I am
And what I was meant to be
If only I were the way you wanted me to be!
So meek and so calm
Serene as can be
A heart full of peace
Unafraid of sacrifice
Unafraid of suffering
Prayerful and punctual and everything else
But above all
So full of love
As I was meant to be

Such was my lament
Oh! I didn’t know
The value of wishing
I didn’t know
The value of wanting
I didn’t know
The value of the will

God is like a professor
Who considers the effort
He sees what we want
And if we want what is good
Our wanting is counted to us as righteousness
Suddenly what seemed to be failure
Is a shiny
A+

 

 

Post 320
To Our Lady, who journeys with us

November 23 & 24

This is the fourth anniversary
Of something sweet
The beginning of a new world
That turned some lives
Upside down and right side up
All at the same time.

Jesus, we trust in you.

This is the fourth anniversary
Of first secrets revealed
Of promises made
And companionship in the darkest hour

Two years filled to the brim
Of the unexpected, the undeserved and the extraordinary
Oh the thoughts of the dog!
The thoughts of the dog

Two years filled to the brim
Of spiritual stuff you couldn’t imagine
Of words you didn’t make up
Like the thoughts of the dog

And then a third year
Steadier, stronger
Budding and blooming
Victories, successes and garlands of flowers

A third year
That was nevertheless
Understood best
As another year of waiting

Ah yes

And now a fourth
A year of growing closer
A year of understanding
That the future depends upon circling back to the beginning
The garden the tree the fruit the temptation the choice
A plan so perfect so simple so complete so generous so sweet
That it could only be God’s

There has never been a drama like this
No writer like this
As for me
I did my part but I never knew my role
Consider me astounded

The ring is on my finger
Seven diamonds are mine
But the struggle is not over
The work continues
As does the wait

This is the fourth anniversary
Of looking at the sky and looking at the sun
And the stars and the clouds and the moon
And wondering when
It will all come true

Oh Jesus, we trust in you!

Post 319

Can We Talk?
Reflections on Conversation

People are talking but not conversing.
By this, I mean that the talk between many people barely qualifies as conversation.

Have you noticed this?

It’s true that people are making comments, and acknowledging each others’ comments. This much is true. Even those who typically monopolize conversations know that conversation involves taking turns talking.

So, with this basic knowledge, people are able to scrape together some dialogue. It’s quite typical to hear something like this:

Kimberly: I am not looking forward to the speeding ticket I probably just got, getting over here.
Karen: Oh, no way.
Kimberly: Yeah, I was in such a rush it was crazy.
Karen: Wow.
(Silence.)
Kimberly: So I guess my parents are going to be in town over the weekend.
Karen: Oh, really? Where are they from?
Kimberly: Wainright.
Karen: Cool.
(Silence.)

Such bare bones interactions are common. The exchange involves nothing more than one person making a statement and the other person acknowledging it. There is silence until another statement is made. The conversation is so stilted, so halting.

Why is this?

There are a lot of things going on.

One explanation has to do with female power. In a female clique, there is a Leader, and she controls the flow of conversation. Here, Kimberly has twice initiated discussion.

Karen, by contrast, has not added anything much at all. In a clique, those who are in subordinate positions speak less. They contribute far fewer statements, if any at all. Their input is often limited to empathetic responses to the Leader’s statements. Often they pay compliments to the Leader. Sometimes they ask follow-up questions to topics previously raised by the Leader:

Karen: Hey, I love your bag. It’s so cute!
Kimberly: Oh thanks!
(Silence.)
Karen: Did you get that mix-up straightened out, about the jacket?
Kimberly: Oh, that! Yeah, I got a store credit.
Karen: Oh, that’s good!
(Silence.)

To be in a clique is to wait during slightly awkward yet frequent pauses. After all, the Leader may not have any ideas about what to say. It might be a moment or two before she’s able to initiate another exchange:

Kimberly: I feel so gross right now. I haven’t eaten all day.
Karen: Oh, no! I have a chocolate bar in my bag, if you want that.
Kimberly: Thanks, but I think I’ll wait until I get home and have a proper meal.
Karen: Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.
(Silence.)

The Leader may decide to mention a show or a movie, a common topic.

Kimberly: I was binge-watching Million-Dollar Mouse last night. I LOVE that show so bad, it’s not even funny.
Karen: (Laughs.)
(Silence.)
Kimberly: And I started watching Women Who Overspend. It’s got Shannon Shoebuster in it. SO awesome.
Karen: Cool! I’ll have to check that out.
(Silence.)

It’s almost hard to believe, because it’s so lame, but the dynamic here occurs in other situations as well. Social media typically involves a Leader posting something and followers responding with likes and emojis and supportive comments. All interactions revolve around the Leader. It’s about reacting to the Leader, not about interacting with the Leader. On the plus side, you can generally choose whom you follow on social media. It’s not like work, where you can’t choose your boss. In the work world, social interactions are focused around the boss. For example, he (or she) is the chief story teller. Even if he has told his story about That Time He Almost Got Imprisoned in Mexico more than once, everyone dutifully listens as if they’re hearing it for the first time. They all laugh at the right moments, even if it’s not funny. He wins the game of golf, even if he’s not as talented as others. These Smile-at-the-Boss situations are difficult.

Mr Salter’s side of the conversation was limited to expressions of assent.When Lord Copper was right, he said, “Definitely, Lord Copper’; when he was wrong, “Up to a point.”
— Evelyn Waugh, Scoop, 1938

In hierarchical social situations, you may not get a good conversation going if the person at the top uses the social circumstance to establish and reinforce the hierarchy. There cannot be a real conversation while the Leader is around, because the Leader wants only his or her voice heard. And there is often silence from the bottom as well, stemming from fear. That will also stifle genuine conversation. People are afraid to anger the boss, for fear of jeopardizing their position. They want to blend in, keep their head down.

The funny thing about cliques and many hierarchical social groups is that they are primarily about appearances. The members want to belong, yes, but it is very important that they are seen as belonging. So the members put in a great effort at APPEARING to be enjoying a great conversation, full of amazing secrets and juicy gossip. Effort is expended on exaggerated laughing and loud but meaningless exclamations such as “Oh, no way!” “Seriously!?!” “Oh, get out!” Body language is critical, with tight huddles being an essential element to indicate that everyone else is excluded from the Amazing Conversation Currently Underway.

When I think of Body-Language-For-Show, an example involving Meghan Markle comes to mind. She posed with others for a family photo on the occasion of Prince Charles’ 70th birthday. In it, she is doubled over with laughter. Anyone looking at that photo would think that she was enjoying a great time with her new and famous family. She is in on the joke, and you aren’t. She is an insider, and you aren’t. (Whispering to her nearest neighbour is a common behaviour of hers, and she does this during public events of all kinds, to show her closeness to those nearby, even if these others aren’t interested in chatting.) So, in the case of this birthday photo, what was so humorous? Oh, I see. It turns out that the children’s nanny was using a puppet or some other toy to encourage the children to smile and look up at the photographer.

That’s all.

Nanny didn’t realize her techniques would be so hilarious. Duchess Markle can’t even stand up straight, she’s laughing so hard!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! You’re killing me! Ha ha ha ha ha!

Actress.

Meanwhile, all the other adults are just smiling normally.

But anyway, back to the topic of these cliquey conversations. You, the outsider, are missing nothing. Trust me. The cliquey groups are just killing time. They aren’t engaging in meaningful or even entertaining conversation. They are posing, pretending, posturing. It’s about how things look, not how things are.

There is another type of hierarchy which has a different feel. It’s the male version. You will notice that men will talk more readily between themselves, so that initially it will seem that there is no hierarchy. It seems, at first glance, that men are able to socialize freely without all of the complicated layers of rules that women have. You might think that all of the men are allowed to contribute thoughts and anecdotes.

But then it will happen that one of the men will tease another. Watch carefully, and you will see that the teased one will rarely retaliate, even jokingly. He knows that such an approach could be dangerous and become even physical quite quickly. Instead, he will laugh and seemingly agree with the joke against himself, perhaps even adding to it. Later, he may make a joke at the expense of someone else, but he will not openly challenge the one who is higher than he is on the totem pole.

It’s a hierarchy too. The rules are just different.

When I was about 13, I was the only girl in my junior high school’s industrial education class, and after observing the boys for a while, I could have sketched a pyramid outlining their hierarchy. I saw that Tier A boys can insult Tier B or C boys, but they usually won’t lower themselves to insult Tier D boys. Tier B boys will insult Tier C boys. Tier C boys will insult Tier D boys, and pity the boy who is insulted by even Tier D boys.

(The true bullies are those who insult those who are a few tiers beneath them, the ‘easy targets.’)

So conversation among boys is not stifled and weak, as it is in female cliques. On the contrary, it is relaxed and often very funny. Many times, the experience is entirely about hanging out, but it is not as free of status issues as it appears. There’s a pecking order here too, and you’ll see it in the words.

Sadly, there are very few social settings that are free of hierarchy.

I once overheard a group of college-age students talking. They didn’t know each other almost at all. One of the very first questions raised was about age. This was no accident; it happens frequently.

You see, throughout their years of schooling, from age 5 or younger until age 17 or older, students rank themselves higher if their age is higher. It’s what they’re used to, and using age as a way to separate and feel superior continues into post-secondary settings. As a matter of fact, not knowing each others’ ages causes a mild type of panic for some, and so they are willing to ask it, point blank.

Later these students will graduate, and by then, they will probably not ask about ages anymore. They will catch on that women are less comfortable revealing their age as they reach 25. And besides, by then, the hierarchy will shift, and the question will more typically be about jobs.

People really, really want to know what type of work you do. I remember my cousin telling me that when he met women at bars, he would deliberately refrain from revealing his work. He said the women couldn’t handle that. I believe him. Meanwhile, I remember two guys; they went out one time, and the first one would boast to the women they met, “I go to Harvard Law School” and the other one would say, “I’m a neurosurgeon.” Women would look at them and wouldn’t believe them. The amusing thing was that they were telling the truth.

Some jobs garner more respect than others. At the top are the celebrities and royals, famous entertainers and athletes as well as People with Connections. They have a disproportionate amount of power, wealth and fame. Such people socialize together on yachts and at resorts. They attend events together and hire the same architects, designers, photographers, publicists, therapists, divorce lawyers and criminal lawyers.

Next are the people who are quite connected to the first group. They don’t have the same level of name recognition, but they mix with them.

Turning to the occupations held by the rest of us, I believe that doctors have the best reputation, at least in modern North America.

They are viewed as caring, kind, and not in it for the money.

The average physician in Alberta, Canada, makes around $350,000 per year.

Next on the totem pole are those in fields that are viewed as lucrative (dentists, engineers, lawyers, politicians, accountants, CEOs, financial managers). Next are those in ‘good’ occupations such as teachers, nurses, firemen, policemen and other ‘helping’ industries. Next are those in service industries and the trades, with there being a hierarchy within trades as well. Near the bottom are those in retail and janitorial fields. At the very bottom are the nannies, except if they work for the royal family and are hilarious.

Those who do not have a job are, not surprisingly, often even lower. Women who are ‘housewives’ therefore have low status, in general, unless they are married to an obviously wealthy man. Students generally have low status, though it depends on their age and area of study. Children generally have very low status, though it depends on the status of their parents. The status of retired people depends on their wealth and health. People who are looking for work have very low status, but not as bad as those who are in jail, institutionalized, dying or homeless.

This hierarchy, tied to age and occupation, is about social relevance. Those at the top are considered very relevant and influential in society. Those at the bottom are considered socially irrelevant.

And of course, certain contexts serve to emphasize the differences. Some professors who are happy to talk to their students in class may not permit themselves to be seen socializing with them when other professors are present. Sometimes a grade 12 student will socialize with a grade 10 student until his friends arrive.

I once had a job as a janitor in a hospital. It was a great summer job for me (easy and well-paying, with almost no supervision), but I noticed that many people avoided eye-contact with me. I wasn’t hurt by this, but I took note of it. Evidently being part of the housekeeping staff changed who I was for others. People would enter the elevator after me and pretend that they didn’t see me or my giant garbage bin. Check out them wheels!

In the case of the janitorial job, people could see — or so they thought — my life’s occupation. Knowing that, they could dismiss me without even asking.

Appearance doesn’t usually reveal occupation, but it still reveals enough. People are constantly assessing each others’ appearance, and, often won’t interact with those whom they consider ‘beneath’ them.

Back to the female clique, girls and women will assess newcomers. The ones whose appearance is similar to that of the clique members will be granted an ‘interview’ (people who look too different will not be given an interview), by which I mean that the original clique members will engage in friendly banter with the newcomer. If she seems to be at the same ‘level’ as the clique, they will feel almost as if they have no choice but to include her. You see, they cannot ignore or shun her, because the newcomer may form her own clique, one which is superior and more socially relevant than the first one. The original clique can’t take that risk. The original clique members do not want to be in a second-rate clique.

So they will welcome the newcomer, and she may even become the new Leader. The original Leader may no longer hold that role, but in that case, she will strive to be the second in command. The view is that it is better to be second fiddle than to be cast out of a clique completely.

Thus personal appearance is often a type of ‘passport’ or ‘admittance ticket’ into a social group. And the reverse is true: personal appearance is often alienating, and a source of separation. If you appear a certain way, some conversations don’t even begin.

And of course, race is a big part of appearance. Some people won’t speak with you if you are the wrong race. I would know. I remember booking a canoe for a trip in Grande Prairie. The fellow I spoke with was fine with talking to me on the phone when he couldn’t see me. However, when I arrived in person, and walked towards him, he looked right past me to my white boyfriend, even though I was the one who had booked it. It was as if I were invisible.

There are a few places on earth with a tremendous diversity of races. In large Canadian cities, for instance, everyone looks so different. Everyone, or everyone’s parents or grandparents, was from somewhere else, or so it seems.

But go to a small town, or to another country where immigrants are few and far between, and suddenly you will be and feel very conspicuous as you go about your normal activities. It would be an interesting experience for everyone to have, but we can’t offer such a thing, even if we could move everyone anywhere, because your experience will still depend on your skin colour. Being the only white person in a group of Asians doesn’t feel the same as being the only Asian in a group of white people. Being the only black person in a group of white people doesn’t feel the same as being the only white person in a group of black people. Some races just enjoy more prestige than others internationally.

Many people don’t realize that they’re evaluating based on appearance or ethnicity, but their behaviour or words reveal it. I recently complimented a woman for her friendliness towards me, and she said, “I speak to people of ALL races! It doesn’t matter to me.”

Um, thanks?

Thank you for speaking to me despite my race?

It was a bit of a surprise. You see, I do not assume that people are interacting with me in a certain way based on race. Do you? I think you don’t. I think the general rule is that when people do or do not interact with us, we see their behaviour as a product of the general circumstance, and as a product of who they are, not as a product of who we are. Yet many (if not most) people are interacting or not interacting with others based on race.

Usually, we don’t realize it’s happening, but sometimes, we are reminded.

I am asked, not infrequently, where I am from. This question comes usually from a white male, aged about 55 or older, who immigrated to Canada a decade or more ago.

I am not offended. It simply betrays a lack of knowledge about Canada and Canadians.

But anyway, nowadays I ask them to tell me their guess first, before I will tell them the answer. (I am curious how wrong they will be.) After they guess, I tell such inquirers that I was born in Canada, and I do provide enough background information so that the mystery is solved for them, but that’s about it.

What I don’t tell them is that my ancestors Pierre Surette and Jeanne Pellerin married in Port-Royal (now called Annapolis Royal) in February of 1709. The country called “Canada” didn’t exist then, but the land was here.

What I don’t tell them is that I can boast of a sliver of Mi’kmaq ancestry too, which means that my connection to this land goes back a long, long time.

Where are you from?

My point is that race is another barrier that prevents people from engaging in conversation with others. There are conversations that I never had, because people did not feel that I was racially at their level.

Alas, there are many conversations that do not happen because someone viewed himself or herself as above another person, due to race, age, occupation, appearance, or social position within a group.

Some of us won’t even speak to some of us.

On one level, it is tragic, but certainly, the one who snubs will lose more than the one snubbed. This is because all of God’s children are equal. God created us as equals. We humans are the ones who create these different standards. We are the ones who exclude and demote each other. We are the ones who decide, “This person is worth my time. That person is not worthy of me.” We are the ones who ignore others, who say, “I don’t talk to such people.”

Now, it is true that there are some people who have taken much of our time, and yet demonstrated ultimately that they are not worth our time. So I am not speaking about people who have proven to be abusive or deceitful or both. Feel free to protect your time from such people. I am speaking here about the people we haven’t even met.

Are there people in your path, in your day, in your life, you avoid seeing? Why is that? Are there people you consider beneath you? Do you snub others without even getting to know them?

I can say definitively that although it seems that those who are rejected are the ones who will lose out, the truth is that those who snub others are the ones who lose, because they will not gain the gifts that God wanted to send them through this person in their midst. What was that gift? Perhaps that person would have made an off-the-cuff comment that helped you. Perhaps that person would have offered surprisingly wise advice that you would have always carried with you. Perhaps that person would have become your friend.

As for the person snubbed, that person will gain everything that was not supplied by these others. God has the final word, after all. The one who intends what is good will never be short-changed in the end. New friends, new acquaintances, and even new family will enter this person’s life to fill the void.

So the subject of conversation is more complicated than it first appears. That’s because in order to properly talk about conversation, we must delve into the issue of intention.

It may appear that Cynthia doesn’t know how to carry on a conversation, but the truth is that Cynthia just can’t stand Gertrude. It may appear that Harold is a big dumb ox, but the truth is that he has plenty of ideas; he just thinks, based on how you look, that you won’t be smart enough to understand them.

It’s about intention. Intention can build walls but it can build bridges. If two or more people want to have a conversation, they will probably have one. Even language barriers can be overcome when the intention is there.

You understand, right?

But let’s pretend that your intention is good.

Even then, with good intentions all around, it may be time for a refresher. After all, things are worse nowadays, in terms of conversation, than in the past. Nowadays, we are more comfortable, or so it seems, with short texts than phone calls, and more comfortable with phone calls than in-person conversation. People are inexperienced. They’ve been texting, not talking. They haven’t talked enough with anybody.

So even when they are seemingly ready to talk, they sound something like this:

Roberta: I was so cold today!
Rebecca: Yeah!
Roberta: I cranked my thermostat way up. When I get home, the house will probably be boiling!
Rebecca: (laughs)
(Silence)
Rebecca: I really have to take my car in.
Roberta: Oh yeah? Is something wrong with it?
Rebecca: I don’t know. It’s making some kind of funny noise.
Roberta: Hmm.
(Silence)
Roberta: Lately I feel like I am just not hearing things properly.
Rebecca: Hmm.
Roberta: And it’s not my hearing. I’ve had that checked. There’s nothing wrong with my hearing.
(Silence)

Can you imagine me sitting there having to listen to this?

If you know me, then you know that it would be difficult for me to be near a conversation sputtering out like this.

If you know me, you know how I just feel like saying:

“CAN’T YOU GUYS HAVE A NORMAL CONVERSATION???
DON’T EITHER OF YOU KNOW HOW TO TALK???
SERIOUSLY, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

Yeah, one time I should just stand up and go off in all caps like that.

They would be stunned.

They wouldn’t know what to say, so I would be able to carry on, uninterrupted. I would say, “LOOK REBECCA: ROBERTA MENTIONED BEING COLD. CAN’T YOU ASK HER SOMETHING RELATED TO THE TOPIC OF BEING COLD? IT’S A BIG TOPIC! YOU CAN TALK ABOUT TRAVELLING TO SOMEWHERE WARM! YOU CAN TALK ABOUT HOW PEOPLE GET SICK AT THIS TIME OF YEAR! YOU CAN TALK ABOUT HOW YOU ALWAYS WEAR SOCKS TO BED THESE DAYS! YOU CAN TALK ABOUT LIVING IN A CITY WITH A BIG WINTER! YOU CAN TALK ABOUT THE COST OF HEATING! YOU CAN TALK ABOUT WINTER COATS! HATS! MITTENS! MITTENS ON STRINGS! ANYTHING!!!”

And I would turn to Roberta. “I MEAN SERIOUSLY, YOU GUYS, ARE YOU REALLY THAT INCAPABLE OF DIALOGUE? SHE SAID HER CAR IS ACTING UP! YOU HAVE A CAR! CAN’T YOU TALK ABOUT THAT AT ALL? DO YOU REALLY HAVE TO LET EVERY SINGLE TOPIC DIE? ASK HER WHAT SHE THINKS IS WRONG WITH HER CAR! ASK HER WHERE SHE USUALLY GOES FOR REPAIRS! TELL HER WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT MECHANICS! YOU CAN EVEN TELL HER THE STORY ABOUT THE WEIRDO MECHANIC HARRY FROM CALI AUTOMOTIVE WHO ANSWERED HIS SHOP DOOR WITH A TOOTHBRUSH IN HIS MOUTH! ASK HER WHAT KIND OF CAR SHE DRIVES! ASK HER IF SHE LIKES HER CAR! ASK HER IF HER CHILDREN ARE LEARNING TO DRIVE YET! ASK HER IF SHE’S WORRIED ABOUT THAT! ASK HER SOMETHING! ASK HER ANYTHING! JUST STOP KILLING ALL OF THESE TOPICS!”

They would stare at me blankly, at first.

But then, of course, they would become aggressive, because Canadians are polite only at first.

Sigh.

I don’t think it would be worth the wear and tear on me. So I would have to leave them to their own devices.

Or wait — I have another idea.

Oh, this is brilliant. I could write up giant cue cards, like they used to have on news programs or television shows. I could quickly write up questions or responses and hold them up where one of them could see them.

Or I could get all modern and invest in a teleprompter. You bet — I could type up some dialogue suggestions, some “Talking Points.”

Oh! that reminds me of a Chesterton short story. It was about a guy who became really popular because he was so witty at parties, but his secret was that he knew a talented fellow who supplied him with clever dialogue. I can’t remember how it turned out. Which story was that?

Excuse me a moment. I am going to see if I can find the book.

Here it is. It’s a short story called “The Painful Fall of a Great Reputation.” You weren’t planning to read it anytime soon, so I’ll tell you how it goes. There is a man with beautiful hair (“his hair, which was largely grey, was curled with the instinct of one who appreciated the gradual beauty of grey and silver”) who gets all the attention at dinner parties. He is Mr. Wimpole. Mr. Wimpole amazes everyone with his words. When someone asks who Mr. Wimpole is, the reply is:

“Wimpole!” cried Lord Beaumont, in a sort of ecstasy. “Haven’t you heard of the great modern wit? My dear fellow, he has turned conversation, I do not say into an art — for that, perhaps, it always was — but into a great art, like the statuary of Michael Angelo — an art of masterpieces. His repartees, my good friend, startle one like a man shot dead. They are final; they are–”

Everyone draws near to him just to hear him. One such person is the young and single Muriel Beaumont, “who gazed at him with great violet eyes and with the intense and awful thirst of the female upper class for verbal amusement and stimulus.” She asks Wimpole how he is able to deliver such humorous responses (to Sir Walter Cholmondeliegh) so coolly. She says that whenever she thinks of something funny, she can barely help but laughing herself: “You say things quite philosophical yet so wildly funny. If I thought of such things, I’m sure I should laugh outright when the thought first came.”

The hero of the story, Basil Grant, knows what is going on, and later outside the house, he tackles Sir Walter Cholmondeliegh, and wrestles him to the ground, so that Sir Walter Cholmondeliegh can’t go to an evening dinner party with Mr. Wimpole.

At the party, Mr. Wimpole has nothing to say, even though people are there specifically to watch him in action.

Basil Grant, triumphantly pulling a ‘script’ from Sir Walter Cholmondeliegh’s coat, says:

This fat old gentleman lying on the ground strikes you, as I have no doubt, as very stupid and very rich. Let me clear his character. He is, like ourselves, very clever and very poor. He is also not really at all fat; all that is stuffing. He is not particularly old, and his name is not Cholmondeliegh. He is a swindler, and a swindler of a perfectly delightful and novel kind. He hires himself out at dinner parties to lead up to other people’s repartees. According to a preconcerted scheme (which you may find on that piece of paper), he says the stupid things he has arranged for himself, and his client says the clever things arranged for him.”

My apologies to Chesterton for reducing the plot to its bare bones, but I really did want to tell you about this.

So what do you think?

A side job for me. And of course, we could modernize it; you wouldn’t even have to memorize your lines. We’ll set you up with an earphone, and whenever you are in a social situation, I could help you figure out something to say. For starters, I could help you come up with a topic.

Interested?

I think that the people who most need such a service would be the least likely to want it. As I said, those who don’t talk have their reasons. It’s usually about unwillingness, not inability.

And anyone desperate enough to pay someone for help with carrying on a conversation is not in bad shape. Such a person will get better and better.

I do want to digress a little about something in that same story, while we’re here. In the story, Mr. Wimpole, who bought the services of the clever poor man, is an evil man. I want to share with you the description of evil that Chesterton provides, because it is very insightful.

Chesterton writes: “I saw that while all ordinary poor men in the streets were being themselves, he [Mr Wimpole] was not being himself. I saw that all the men in these slums, cadgers, pickpockets, hooligans, are all, in the deepest sense, trying to be good. And I saw that that man was trying to be evil.”

The worst among us in this world have manufactured an entire persona (often one of benevolence, if not holiness) for the world to see. The inside of such people is so corrupt and rotten that they exert all of their effort in preventing anyone from seeing who they really are. They lie so much that they can barely remember what their own likes and dislikes are. Compared to this, yes, most people are quite good. Sure, they get frustrated and they do evil things, but their lives are not entirely a lie. They are the types of people Jesus was referring to when he described the white-painted tombstones atop the graves.

I don’t think I will ever be done this post. Maybe it will join the other blog posts on my computer which I haven’t yet finished. I have posts from the springtime. And having this Chesterton book near me now is dangerous. Every second page has quotations that I’d love to talk about.

It’s an amusing predicament, and I see the irony. I’m trying to post about conversation, but I won’t be able to finish because I just keep finding new topics. It’s either that or the topics are finding me. I better watch out. Before you know it, the prose will become poetry and the poetry will become songs and I’ll be in a musical somewhere.

But as I was saying, or as I meant to say, in order to have a conversation, you need to pursue a topic. As you keep talking about something, the conversation gets richer. A conversation will never be any good if you keep changing topics. You are not a talk show host coming up with random, completely unrelated questions. Stay on the same topic for a little while; look for interesting aspects of it. That in itself will smoothly and naturally bring you onto a new, but connected, topic.

It’s like changing parties. I knew a long time ago that if you’re at a party, stay at the party until you’re done. Don’t follow that break-off group leaving to go somewhere else. The break-off group is always worse. They don’t have a good plan, usually, and you’ll be left with a handful of people at some lame bar that’s going to close soon.

If you can choose a topic, then choose something that interests the people in the room. There’s always some common topic that everyone has opinions about. If you’re a student, talk about student life. How are your studies going? Are you enjoying university life? How did you find the midterms? Do you like your teachers? Do you like your professors? Do you know a lot of people in your classes? What’s your schedule like?

If you’re a mother, there are a million things to talk about. If you’re a woman, there are a million things, ranging from the things we consider small and unimportant, to the things we consider significant.

A mixed group of women, men, students, seniors and recent immigrants can talk about a lot of things too. Let’s talk about getting around the city, about speeding tickets, about pets, about travelling, about allergies, about Trump, about Greta Thunberg, about the oil industry, about the new premier, about the Oilers, about Rogers Place, about gardening, about good restaurants, about how to figure out which restaurants are good.

Come on, people! Together, we know so much! Why can’t we talk? Why can’t anybody get going on a topic? Nowadays it seems like a person can get more heartfelt, genuine and energetic information by reading reviews on GoogleMaps or Amazon than by talking to the person standing nearby. (Yes, I know there are fake reviews; I have seen how all the ‘different’ reviewers for one product sound the same.)

Sigh.

But even if you can’t or won’t choose a good and appealing topic, then at least, don’t kill the topic that has been presented, even if it’s weak. (Distasteful topics, however, can be abandoned without any acknowledgment of them.)

A few days ago, I happened to hear a group of boys talking during a catechism lesson. Nobody went with anybody’s topic. Everyone was just randomly saying stuff, with very little or no attention paid to what the previous person had said. It was just a bunch of chattering, in the hopes that maybe someone was listening. A lot of talking, very little connecting.

Connection requires back and forth communication. Connection requires dialogue. Ask: What do you think of this? Ask: What is your experience of that? You cannot have a conversation if all topics die the moment someone says anything about it. But to listen, you wonder if people think a topic is finished/dead/taken once someone has commented on it. Is this some sort of misguided idea of originality? Have we reached a sort of modern Tower of Babel, where everyone is talking, but nobody is understanding? This too, is irony, because nowadays so many people in the world speak English, but those who know English are communicating less and less.

Do people know what conversation is meant to be? Chesterton says it has always been an art. I would say that this is true, and it is more than this too, because even if it is done clumsily, awkwardly, it is still an opportunity to understand — to understand each other, to understand humanity, to understand life and all the big questions.

I observe that nowadays, radio stations which invite listeners to phone in or to text in are popular. They are popular because the radio station DJs think of — yes, that’s right — the DJs think up TOPICS.

The DJs ask the listeners to tell about that time they were speeding because they were listening to a certain song. The DJs ask listeners to tell about a time that they needed to rescue an animal. One station in my town tells people to “Join the Conversation.” (Another station has imitated this exact phrase, which must not be very impressive to the first station, which spent a lot of money advertising this slogan.)

But, of course, this isn’t even a conversation, because a conversation is not really a whole bunch of people answering the same question.

A conversation gets richer as it continues. It is supposed to be back-and-forth, and it goes where people don’t expect, usually. It expands to other topics that are connected to the original topic, and becomes even more interesting as it develops.

The radio conversations just end without going anywhere. There are a few more songs, a few more anecdotes, then a string of commercials.

It’s not terrible for radio, but in-person conversations should be able to do better.

In person, we should be able to do more, right? We could exchange tips about how to do things better, about where to buy this or that, about where to get this service or that, about when to do this or that. And we could go further. We could find out what we think about different things, even if those things are not particularly contentious. We could talk about how you feel, about how you’re doing, if you want. Or we could talk about controversial things too, if you want.

I was recently at a fund-raising dinner and the other guests at the table had almost nothing to say. They just sat there looking blank. What were they planning to do for the whole dinner? Just eat?

The three of them didn’t seem like they were even connected with each other, because there was so little interaction. So I was surprised to hear that this man was the husband of this woman. And I was surprised to hear that the second woman was friends with this couple. Could have fooled me!

So I couldn’t leave them like that. You know I couldn’t just sit there.

Let’s talk!

I wasn’t nosey, but just talking about things that weren’t even personal meant that we covered a lot of ground, and by the time we were done, I knew that this was the man’s second marriage, that he was from a European country, and he goes back every summer for several months because they have a place that they rent out to tourists. The new wife cleans up the property between guests. She was eager to show me a photo on her phone of the view from the property. She used to garden here in the city, because she has a condominium that gets a lot of good southern sun. However, she hasn’t been able to garden since she started accompanying him to his home country. He has children from his first marriage. He doesn’t go to church when he’s in Canada, but he does go when he is in Europe. He feels that church is for families. The friend is planning a trip to Europe this year, to such-and-such countries. She is going with her friend. And of course, there was more. And there could have been even more if the seating arrangements were different. Large round tables with tall centerpieces really aren’t the best.

They asked me very few questions. The man’s only question for me was, “Where are you from?”

And that brings me to my next point:

People, you need to ask questions — REAL questions about the other person!

CC BLOOM: “Well, enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think about me?” –Mary Agnes Donoghue, Beaches, screenplay, 1988

Nowadays people don’t ask questions even if they have been asked something and have spent quite a while talking. It can actually be rather astounding. I already told you about the woman who chatted with me at my place for 5 hours and didn’t ask anything about me. I found that the only way to keep the conversation going was to ask another question about her. She liked to talk about herself and her life.

If someone asks you something, try to reciprocate.

Don’t spend the entire conversation talking about yourself. Just because someone is asking you about you, it doesn’t mean that the only thing they want to talk about is you.

People like it when you show interest in them. People have areas of expertise, and they are happy to share what they have experienced and what they know. They like to think that other people find them interesting.

According to Chesterton, they like to think that other people think they’re impressive, on some level:

(I can’t resist this next quote. I just saw it a moment ago; can you blame me?)

“What do you want now?” I cried.
“I want,” he cried out, “what a girl wants when she wears her new frock; I want what a boy wants when he goes in for a slanging match with a monitor — I want to show somebody what a fine fellow I am.”

— G.K. Chesterton, “The Painful Fall of a Great Reputation”

The world has many talkers, but so few listeners! People want to be listened to. People pay psychologists and therapists to listen to them. People call their mothers because their mothers will listen to them talk about their problems without expecting them to reciprocate.

I would know. For most of my life, I have been like a mother to other people, listening to their problems, consoling them, thinking through their issues, offering my advice, worrying about them, and praying for them. It goes back a long way. Even when I was young, adults wanted to talk to me and confide in me.

I remember my piano teacher telling me about his marriage woes. As a matter of fact, he spent so many of the lessons talking about his life that I was surprised that he always collected payment for teaching piano.

The mothering role suits me, because I’m interested in people; I’m interested in humanity. I’m interested in its experiences, feelings, thoughts, theories, fears, goals, dreams, worries, likes and dislikes.

I am interested in how we are.

Is this rare? Are people uninterested in everyone except themselves? I wonder whether our inability to communicate has roots in a deep sort of selfishness. We do not ask about each other because we just don’t care enough?

And I can only wonder about prayer. Watching how people interact with people shows you that people are probably praying in the same way: they are listening to their own words, they are telling God what he needs to do, and how, without even caring about what God might want.

Of course, some people learn the “art of conversation” in order to climb the social ladder. They learn to seem empathetic because they have another goal in mind. They want to appear charming. They gaze into your eyes as you speak, as if they’ve never heard anything so amazing. (“A beauty is a woman you notice; a charmer is one who notices you.” — Adlai Stevenson, speech at Radcliffe College, 1963)

I would hope that your intentions are better than that. I would hope that your goal is to build genuine connections with the people you meet and the people in your life. I would hope that your goal is to share yourself with others, and to discover the richness and beauty that is in the people around you.

So, to summarize, I am saying:

1. Be willing to converse with people who are different from you.
Be willing to talk to people who are less socially relevant, less educated, less powerful, less attractive.
Be willing to talk to people who are not “from here” or who aren’t the same race as you.
(But yes, of course, avoid anyone who would harm you, or those who genuinely frighten you.)

2. Introduce a topic which people will understand and care about, or ask a follow-up question about the topic which has already been introduced.

3. Keep talking about the topic. Show interest in the topic, and let it develop. Show interest in other people’s response to the topic.

4. After you’ve answered a question, reciprocate. Ask the other person the same question you were asked, or something similar. After all, there’s a good chance the person was already thinking of his own answer to the question while you were talking.

5. Show interest in the people you’re speaking with, even if they’re wrong.

And on that note, I’ll call it a night.
It’s late, but strangely, later it will be not quite so late as now.
Ah
Daylight Savings Time
Messes with my mind
So odd,
Don’t you find, to play this funny game?
So odd.
Wind wind wind
Look! Now it’s early!
Wind wind wind
Look! Now it’s late!
Don’t you find it so odd to go back in time?
The symbolism of the clock
The clock strikes two
And it strikes you
That it does that twice
Or does it?
Oh but does your mind not consider the possibilities?
Turn it back a bit?
Turn it back a lot?
Turn it back today?
Turn it back tomorrow?
No!
Turn it back never
I tell you
Even if I love the past
I love the future more
I’m a Christian after all
I know about the fall
I look forward to the spring
A spring for all
Spring for all

8000 words and counting

So
I’d best
Slip away now
Before the poetry
Has a chance
To become
Song

Post 318

Unclassified:
Reflections on Zelenskiy's Conversation with Trump

I feel very busy these days. I feel that I don’t have enough time to do all of the good things that I feel I am supposed to be doing. I spend a lot of my time driving, and a lot of my time cooking. They are both time-consuming. And, as WiseOne once noted, they’re both dangerous but necessary. Cooking is knives and heat. Driving is speed and heavy machinery.

But I do want to write, even at the cost of not tidying up my kitchen just yet.

Moral choices pop up when you’re not expecting them. I will give you three scenarios involving moral choices. These are all true stories. One or two have happened to me, but let’s pretend they’re your dilemmas:

Story one: You are almost certain that the grocery cashier has made a mistake. You are glad that the chicken is on sale — if you purchase one, you get one free (“BOGO,” meaning ‘Buy One Get One free’) — but the cashier also has to deal with the rain check, and she has hit ‘cancel’ one too many times. Do you point out the error, or do you just pay and leave? It’s not your fault she’s made a mistake.

Story two: You receive an email that you have won a scholarship, but that one condition of collecting this award is working at a casino. It is required, not simply requested. You know that casinos exploit people. You know that many people are tempted by gambling, and that some people lose great amounts of money there, but you have earned this scholarship fair and square.

Story three: The judge has ordered your client to attend for an assessment of her mental health. You know that she is perfectly sane, and that she does not deserve to be put through this. It is a very dirty tactic. Nevertheless, opposing this will require you to go to the Court of Appeal, a prospect which is intimidating, because you’ve never done it. It will take a lot of your time and energy and it will be stressful.

You see, in all of these cases, doing what is right is painful. Did you catch that? Doing what is right can be painful. Sometimes it’s just a little bit painful, and sometimes it is excruciating.

But this is how God sets things up. He wants to know whether you can give up something that you (really, really) want or even something that you think you need, in order to do what is right.

Can you do it?

So let’s say you walk away with the chicken. You argue to yourself that it doesn’t matter. You are, in fact, kind of excited that instead of BOGO, you got BOGT (buy one get three), and you happen to mention it at supper. Your children say, “So you didn’t tell the cashier that she made a mistake?” They ask, “Is she going to get in trouble?” You assure them that the cashier won’t get in trouble. They ask you if you are going to tell the store that you should have paid more. You weren’t thinking of it. It’s true that you still have the receipt, and, in theory, you could go back to the store to pay more. You wonder to yourself what kind of an idiot would do that.

So let’s say you accept the scholarship and you sign up for the casino. The hours are long, and instead of studying more, or doing something wholesome, you’re there adding your energy and friendly face to the gambling industry. The entire atmosphere is foreign to you, and you wonder why anybody would do this. As a game, you think to yourself, which game would I play if I absolutely had to play one?

So let’s say you let your client be tested. The psychologist, being a psychologist, identifies some ‘issues.’ You meet with your client, and now you will tell her that, according to this report, she has such-and-such a condition. In layman’s terms, you will tell her that the professional says she is crazy. She will be distraught, and she will tell her husband and her family that she has been diagnosed with a mental condition. Her family, including her in-laws and her children, will never forget this, and neither will she.

The point is that the consequences of your choices are hidden from you. If you choose to do what is wrong, because it is easier or because it is, in the short term, more pleasant for you, you will set off a chain of events that are problematic. These create new moral choices for you and for others. In general, the second dilemma will require greater effort than the first, but it is God’s second chance for you to fix things.

Let’s do it again. Here’s what really happened.

You pointed out to the cashier that you think she didn’t count all the chicken. She makes you pay for the initial total, and says she will figure it out afterwards. You pay, and then she studies the receipt. Then she realizes you’re right, and she scans one of the chicken packages again. She needs your debit card again because now she’s going to charge you. You were already in somewhat of a rush, and she doesn’t apologize for her error. On the plus side, months later, when you’re trying to think of examples of moral dilemmas for your blog, you can remember this one.

You write back to the lady who offered the scholarship and say thank you very much, but I cannot accept the terms of accepting this scholarship. A few weeks later, you receive another email, and she tells you that the scholarship committee had a meeting, and they have decided that students should not be required to work at casinos. They have changed the policy, and she says that the cheque is now available for you to collect.

You go to the Court of Appeal, and you win. The three Court of Appeal judges rule that a person should not be required to submit for psychological testing when their lawsuit has nothing to do with psychological harm. The case makes its way into the handbook about litigation procedure and also appears in the online case databases. Other lawyers rely on your case in future years, and protect their clients from this dirty tactic.

There’s an expression, “a hill worth dying on,” which asks you whether you feel it is worth suffering or fighting about a certain point. In many cases, it is not. It is not worth arguing with your sister about whether such-and-such a celebrity or athlete is more talented than another, for instance. However, when it comes to moral decisions, they are all hills worth dying on.

Every time you have a moral decision, always choose what is better, even if it hurts.

Shall I retype that?

I urge this. Perhaps I am nobody to you, but consider what I say because it’s true, and not for any other reason.

Always choose to do the right thing, no matter what you believe the consequences will be. Do not give yourself the excuse that you are doing this TEENY wrong thing in order to bring some greater benefit overall. The expression “the end does not justify the means” is the best guideline.

It doesn’t matter that nobody will ever know what your moral choice was.
It doesn’t matter that nobody will get hurt if you don’t do what’s right.
It doesn’t matter that somebody else would probably do the wrong thing if you don’t do it.

Choose what is right, no matter how much it costs you.

For you see, this moral dilemma was part of God’s plan for you. He wanted you to win these moral battles. He wanted you as his soldier.

Let’s consider the case of Volodymyr Zelenskiy (Зеле́нський is sometimes written as Zelenskyy or Zelensky), President of Ukraine. He was elected recently, and his life’s story has been interesting so far. LoyalOne follows Ukrainian politics closely, and keeps me up to date. He has made significant changes to Ukraine in his fight against corruption. He has fired many people, and replaced them with those of his choosing. He is so popular that he has been able to fill his parliament with politicians who are loyal to him.

God of course had a plan for him too. God is good, and he always has a plan. His plan for Zelenskiy was to allow him to be a light for the Ukrainian people, to give them hope. For too long, the people of Ukraine have suffered under corruption. They took a chance when they gave Zelenskiy, this non-politician, the right to govern.
In many key ways, Zelenskiy has been doing what is good. Sometimes the decisions have been rather unpopular, but Zelenskiy has, for the most part, enjoyed his role as the Leader Against Corruption. Doing the right thing can be enjoyable.

God knows that Russia continues to harm Ukraine, and that Ukraine wants foreign help. God knows that the war is unjust, and that people are dying. He also knows that it is good for other countries to help Ukraine, but that most are not helping as much as they could. His plan was for the world to know that Zelenskiy is trying to fight corruption, and that countries can be changed for the better. A leader who makes good moral decisions will set his country on a new path, and God wanted Zelenskiy to be that leader.

God had a message to the world about corruption, and he wanted Zelenskiy to demonstrate that corruption could be fought, and how to fight it.

So God allowed a moral dilemma to be presented to Zelenskiy.

Zelenskiy would be asked to do something wrong, in exchange for things that Zelenskiy really wanted. You know this story. Zelenskiy knew, before his telephone call to American president Trump, that Trump would not be willing to talk with him unless he were willing to discuss the case of Hunter Biden.

The name “Hunter Biden” would have initially been unfamiliar to Zelenskiy, and he would have asked his aides to explain why Trump would care so much about Hunter Biden, an American. The aides would explain that the Biden family is a personal, political rival for Trump.

Zelenskiy would be asked to assist Trump in its attack on Hunter Biden. Before the telephone call, Zelenskiy would not have known the exact form of the help that Trump would request, but it would probably involve prosecution of Hunter Biden using the Ukrainian legal system.

This is wrong because neither Trump nor Zelenskiy should be involved in prosecutions. There must be a separation between the leader of a country and the prosecutors. The prosecutors should not begin prosecuting people just because the leader personally wants it. Similarly, prosecutors should not desist from prosecuting people because the leader wants it. That is corruption of the legal system. The legal system, in order to be a good legal system, must be free from interference by politicians. It is also an abuse of political power. Political power is given by the voters to leaders so that the leaders will govern well, not so that the leaders can fulfill their personal wishes. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did wrong in pressuring his Justice Minister to proceed differently in the criminal case against a big Canadian company called SNC-Lavalin which was involved in bribery in Libya.

As a reward for agreeing to do what Trump wanted, Zelenskiy understood that he would get so much of what he very much wanted. In the first place, he would receive hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid. This aid would allow him to fight Russia, and possibly enable him to achieve his goal of ending the fighting and ending the deaths. Success on this front is so important to Zelenskiy. In the second place, Zelenskiy could gain a powerful ally, and thereby achieve economic success. In the third place, friendship with Trump would prove that Zelenskiy was as skillful a diplomat as the previous president.

During the July 2019 telephone call, Trump gave details to Zelenskiy about the “favour” that he wanted. Trump was wanting a foreign government to begin investigations against one of his own citizens. Zelenskiy did not ask, “Who is Mr. Biden?” because he already knew. Indeed, Zelenskiy said that he was “knowledgeable about the situation.”

We all face moral dilemmas, and this one was Zelenskiy’s. You can see that it would have been painful to do the right thing. But a leader must be morally clean.

Zelenskiy’s past includes script-writing. Mine does too. Here’s what he could have said, “I am knowledgeable about the situation, and I can sympathize 100%. Indeed, I can sympathize 1000%. You know that I hate to see corruption in any form, and if this Hunter Biden was involved in any corruption, it would be very unfortunate. At present, I do not have a general prosecutor assigned, but I will be doing my best to choose someone who is very competent and ethical. The problem, however — and I hate to say this because we rely on the United States as our very great friend, and because we are counting on the military financial support that has been set aside for Ukraine — is that I cannot raise this subject with my prosecutor. Even if I wanted to, I cannot. Our system is arranged so that the prosecution is independent from the office of the president and the prosecution pursues cases based only on the information gathered by our police force or own intelligence agents. I hope you are not too dismayed, because I am hoping to be on good terms with you and the United States.”

Yes, it would have been difficult. I know this. I know it would have felt very scary to break the news to this famous and powerful world leader that he could not cooperate in this way.

But he should have resisted Trump’s plans as soon as he could see that there were any immoral elements in it. Immorality means that you have deviated from God’s plan. And God’s plan is always superior.

And what was God’s plan? How would it have played out?

Allow me to provide you with my theory.

This telephone call would have become public, not based on what Zelenskiy agreed to, but based on what Trump had requested. The entirety of the slimy request would have become known, and Zelenskiy would be on record as having stood his ground against this type of corruption. Immediately, Zelenskiy would have been known everywhere and hailed as a hero. It would be the David and Goliath story, believe me. He was born for the role of a young David — he is short (5’6” or 5’7”), he is Jewish, he is energetic, and he is ready for a challenge.

This was his moment.

We would have seen the pressure put on him by a lumbering Goliath (6’3”), who is used to having his way, who is uncouth and who has his mind in the gutter, and we would have seen how the hero, Zelenskiy, was polite yet firm. We would have admired him. The world would have admired him, and the stature of Ukraine, Ukrainians and Zelenskiy would have risen. This was what God wanted for him.

Instead, we have this.

The document which has been released, referred to as a transcript (even though it is not verbatim), may be followed later by the verbatim transcript, which is currently (and suspiciously) under lock and key.

But even this unclassified document is enough to show that Zelenskiy was excessively deferential to Trump. Zelenskiy must be so embarrassed that everyone can see how pathetic and groveling he looked. But what is worse is that Zelenskiy agreed to do Trump’s bidding. Zelenskiy said “I will:”

Zelenskiy: I wanted to tell you about the prosecutor. First of all, I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation. Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case. On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure that we administer justice in our country with regard to the Ambassador to the United States from Ukraine as far as I recall her name was Ivanovich. It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough.

Some have shown ‘understanding’ for Zelenskiy in this situation, by which I mean that they have — almost without thinking — excused Zelenskiy’s behaviour as being unavoidable. The idea is that Zelenskiy is a new, inexperienced, and weak politician who is understandably desperate. The idea is that nobody could have expected Zelenskiy to do any better.

I disagree. Zelenskiy is very intelligent. He is observant and socially skillful. He understands the law. He went to law school. He didn’t need to be a pawn. He didn’t need to agree to be a puppet. I am not surprised that Zelenskiy insists that he was not pushed, that he was making his own decisions. Unfortunately, people are not listening, because they want to write their own narrative.

Furthermore, Zelenskiy had help in this moral dilemma. He had two kinds of help.

First, he had human help in the form of advisors, as many as he wanted. If he had doubts or questions about ethics or legality, he had access to almost anyone he could have wanted. Yet he would have needed less help than someone less educated; a law school graduate does not always know the answers, but at least he has learned to see where the issues are. Indeed, he knew there were issues even before he had the telephone call.

Second, he had help in the form of grace. God gives grace to people all the time, but there is extra grace given to those who are faced with moral dilemmas, and there are extra graces given to those who lead others. This grace gives people wisdom to know what to do, and gives people strength to do what is difficult.

So where does this leave us?

God, being good, always has a plan. In his love for Zelenskiy and for Trump, their plan did not go any further. It was exposed before either could act on it. Zelenskiy wants to point out that he hasn’t contacted his prosecutor, and he wants to tell the world that his prosecutor is professional, and educated in the west, because Zelenskiy knows what is ethical and what isn’t, but that isn’t the part that the media is interested in. It’s too late now, and it shows he knew exactly where the problem was.

And as a side note, I will say that the era we are living in is one of revelation. What is spoken in secret is being proclaimed from the rooftops. All manner of wrong-doing is coming to light, and we are discovering that so many powerful and admired people have done so much that is wrong. It is good for all of this truth to be revealed. Sometimes, contrition doesn’t even begin until sins are exposed. Now is the time for people to be contrite; now is the time for people to admit what they have done wrong.

God’s immediate plan for Zelenskiy is for him to apologize. Zelenskiy knows that what he did was wrong. He was wrong to agree to cooperate with Trump’s plan. He should apologize to Ukraine. This apology will be more difficult than saying ‘no’ to Trump in the first place, but it would be the best starting point. And besides, being who he is, Zelenskiy would be able to apologize well. He could show the world how it should be done. God knows the world has heard too many bad apologies.

But I don’t think he will apologize. In his pride, he wants to pretend it didn’t happen, or make light of it. So that is a moral failing on top of a moral failing.

But that is not all of God’s plan for him. The second part of God’s plan is is for him to continue to fight corruption, but now he must do so with more humility. The world knows that he agreed to do what was corrupt himself, when the benefits were great, and the conversation was secret. His fight against corruption will be consequently harder, because it will always seem somewhat hypocritical. And he will not have the help that he would have received if he had acted heroically.

But that is not all of God’s plan. Zelenskiy did not allow himself to be a hero, so God will use him as an example.

 

Post 317

Hit List: Top 20 Posts

So, for almost no reason at all, other than the fact that I find it interesting, I decided to tell you which of my posts are the most popular so far. Back in December of 2016, I listed the top 10 as it stood then.

Just for the record, I don’t actually believe the stats on my blog, so I don’t study them or keep track of them. (I also don’t keep track of subscribers or look at their email addresses, so if you subscribe or unsubscribe, that’s entirely between you and the technology of this blog. I hope the technology treats you well.) You see, I once asked EfficientOne to hide them from me, and it seems that he has really fictionalized those numbers, because they don’t really make sense anymore. But you know, it’s better for me this way, and, in fact, I would recommend this practice of not watching statistics, because watching stats is what messes up so many people on social media. They live for the numbers, and that’s a really, really, unfortunate thing to live for. They are happy when they’ve gotten more attention, and downcast when people seem disinterested, as if their personal worth as a human being has been determined for the better or worse. (But truly, some of the people on social media with the ‘best’ numbers are doing the very worst damage to humanity, doling out advice that is very harmful, and setting examples that are unwholesome, and that will, if followed, lead to a lot of individual pain and suffering.) But people find it difficult not to care about ‘their’ numbers. And, perhaps worst of all, they don’t want to admit how influenced they are by these numbers they watch, so they feel that they can’t admit to anyone why they’re sad. It’s too bad! Please, notice how social media is making you feel, and make changes! Unsubscribe. Clear your mind. Protect your heart.

I have omitted the posts with the messages, because I didn’t compose those.

I am sure that all bloggers would say that they are surprised at which posts are the most popular, in the same way that singers would say that they’re surprised at which songs climb the charts, and in the same way that an author is surprised at which novels have become bestsellers. For the purposes of this post, I’m assuming that the numbers that I see about hits are reliable enough to show which are popular. Truth be told, I reread some of them to see what on earth I had written, and to guess at why those had been chosen. But anyway, here are my chart climbers — my best sellers:

The 20 Most Popular Posts (most popular at the top):

Post 236 Here’s My Essay, Baby! A Critique of the English 30-1 Diploma Examinations
Post 43 Zoom Zoom Beep Beep: Reflections on a Restless Culture
Post 18 Zip it: Five Reasons Not to Blog
Post 210 A Little Bit About Your Lawywer
Post 53 One Candle: Reflections at Christmastide
Post 44 Call Me When It’s Over: Reflections on Book Clubs
Post 288 Up Late Last Night
Post 286 Required Reading: Four Truths About Motherhood to Counter the Four Modern Lies
Post 293 9 Seven Steps: Reflections on Being a Prophet
Post 294 Sent
Post 285 The Grand Finale: A Recipe for December
Post 289 Hidden Depths: Reflections on Identity and Suicide
Post 229 Where Do You Go and the Other Inspired Song of 1996
Post 20 Bystander: Reflections on the Context of Suffering
Post 290 Because I Actually Like Quebec: Reflections on the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist
Post 292 Canada Day 2018
Post 291 All That Noise: Reflections on Envy
Post 19 Blogging: Reflections on Reflecting Aloud
Post 3 Unprofitable Talents: Reflections on Hobbies
Post 261 Right to Rewrite? Reflections on a Revised Version of The Merchant of Venice
Post 316

Tears of Joy

God knows everything.
God knows who you would want to see in heaven.

God knows that Julja would want to see her sister again, the one who died too young.
God knows that Jim would want to see his brother again, the one who died too young.
God knows that Laird would want to see his mother again, though he pretended he didn’t care.
God knows that Marilyn would want to see her mother again, because everything was left unsaid.
God knows that Diane would want to see her father again, because he seemed to understand.
God knows that Tonia would want to see her grandmother again, the one who loved her so.
God knows that Leah would want to see her parents again, the ones who died too early.
God knows that Donna would want to see her son again, the one who died too young.
God knows that Anita would want to see her father again, though she pretended she didn’t care.
God knows that Phillip would want to see his grandmother again, the only parent he had.
God knows that Alla would want to see her husband again, even though she divorced him.

God knows that children would want to see their fathers again, the ones who left too early.
God knows that those parents would want to see their children again, the ones who died in the crash.
God knows that those parents would want to see their sons again, the ones who died on duty.
God knows that those parents would want to see their children again, the ones who died in the fire.
God knows that those parents would want to see their children again, the ones who died in the hospital.
God knows that those children would want to see their mothers again, the ones who were taken too early.
God knows that those children would want to see their parents again, the ones who didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.

God knows that those women would want to see their babies again, the ones who were born, but didn’t survive.
God knows that those women would want to see their babies, the ones they miscarried.
God knows that those women would want to see their babies, the ones they aborted.
God knows that those men would want to see the children they lost.

God knows that women would want to meet the children that they didn’t know they had conceived.
God knows that men would want to meet the children that they didn’t know they had conceived.
God knows that people would want to meet the siblings that they didn’t know their parents had conceived.
God knows that people would want to meet the siblings that even their parents didn’t know they had conceived.
God knows that people would want to meet their guardian angel.

God knows everything.

God knows who I would want to see, even better than I do.
But I made a list anyway.

Anthony, Theresa.
Paul.
Bernice, Wilbur, Yoo-hi, Kyoo-ik.
Eun-ja, John, Antony, Ram.
Tobit, Job, Noah.
Teresa and Thérèse.
Faustina.
Thomas and Thomas.
Gilbert, Josemaría, Karol.
Rosa, Gertrude, Orest.
Peter, Paul, Joseph,
Mary and Jesus.
And my guardian angel too.

Post 315

Remind Me

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”

And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.”

And Jesus, looking upon him, loved him,
and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

At that saying, his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he …

 (Mark 10:17-22)

. . . was very cool.

He had a cool truck, cool cars, and a cool motorbike. He wore cool clothes and he had cool hair. He had a cool place and cool furniture and he listened to cool music. He played in a cool band. He drank cool beer and smoked cool cigarettes. He had cool friends and went to cool parties. He had a cool job. He watched cool things on television and online. He made cool food and he ate at cool restaurants. He had a cool dog. He had cool bikes and cool skateboards and cool snowboards. He went on cool trips to cool places and did cool things. He had a cool walk and cool talk about cool things. He sent cool text messages, sometimes with cool pictures.

Those who talked to him knew how cool he was, though he would deny his own coolness (almost nothing and almost nobody — not even himself — was really cool enough for him).

And yes, he was even born cool. (He was that baby with the deep voice.)

The only problem was that
He didn’t know who he was.

He had invested so heavily in cool.
And he had lost so much in everything else.
He had lost so much.

In the first place, he didn’t know how to take the risks that mattered.

He became afraid
Very afraid
Of expressing himself
Of showing that he cared
Of fighting for the underdog
Whom he loved
With a fierce and tremendous love

He became afraid
Very afraid
Of apologizing
Of admitting that he had failed to help
In your time of need

He became afraid
Very afraid
Of making big changes
Of admitting that he had chosen the wrong path
Repeatedly

In the second place,
He did not open doors that were there
He did not fight the battles that were his
He did not find treasure meant for him
He did not win the victories he should have won
He did not speak the words that would have healed

And he missed the people in his midst

(And when they were gone
He missed them)

Oh, I am sad for him!
I am sad for his losses.
I am sad at his stubbornness.

Please, remind me that I must not be sad
Remind me that his God is a God of second chances.
Remind me that his God is a God of starting over.

His God is bigger and better than all of this.

He can rescue even the cool.

Jesus looked at them and said, “For man, this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God.”

(Mark 10:27)

Post 314
For True Sisters

Tell Me

Oh, Cinderella!
Tell me about that evening
How the moon shone upon the lake
How your carriage flew as if on wings
Your heart was full
You felt you could not be happier
You could want for nothing more

Oh, Cinderella!
Tell me about your dress
Covered in Slavic roses
Velvet and ribbons and embroidery
Embroidery and embroidery
Lace and layers
You smiled as you twirled, delighted

Oh, Cinderella!
Tell me about your slippers
Were they completely of glass?
Some say they were actually kierpce
Reminiscent of distant mountains
Is it true that the shoes were left until last?
Is it true that you almost had none?

Oh, Cinderella!
Tell me about your victory
How you went to the ball
Against the schemes of false sisters
How astounded they were
To see you radiant, lovely and sweet
Graceful, beautiful, unique

Oh, Cinderella!
Tell me about the dancing
How did it feel to step so lightly, so quickly
To twirl?
They all saw how happy you were
Music filled the evening air
You felt you could dance forever

Oh, Cinderella!
Tell me about the promise
What did the Prince
Whisper in your ear?
Did he speak of the future?
Is it true that he said he would never forget you?
That he would always be with you?

Oh, Cinderella!
Tell me, finally, about your secret ally
Who knew how to gather pieces of this and pieces of that
Your godmother, no less
What did it cost her to give you this dress?
Is magic the word, or shall we speak
Of sacrifice, determination, patience, and love?

 

 

Post 313
(A guest post by Miriam C.)

December 20, 2017

My daughter, I love you. The time is near when your Saviour shall come again. Rejoice, for now a time of victory is coming, a time of peace, a new era. Prepare for your Saviour.

[“How?”]

By praying and going to confession. Change your cold hearts, change your cruel ways; repent, for your Father is waiting for you to come back to him. You are his child; he made you and knew you before left your mother’s womb. I loved you when you were an innocent child. I loved you and cared for you when you turned against me, I love you still, and care for you and protect you even when you hurt me and even when you hurt what is good. Come home to where your Father waits for you and loves you unconditionally. You will be rewarded, and given the grace to do what is good. I am your Shepherd. I will give you the grace to know to follow and to follow.

My children, you do not know what awaits you, you do not know how (well) I know what you want. There will be new forests where the trees were cut down. No one will need to worry about paper; the trees will be plentiful and flourish with fruit. The grass will become green, and artificial grass will be removed. Weeds will not reproduce so vigorously, but one will still be able to blow the white fluff from dandelions. The spray-paint on buildings and tunnels shall all be gone, and (even what seemed) permanent will go. Tattoos and piercings will all vanish. Food shall be plentiful and new varieties of fish and birds will come. There will no longer be strange animals of the sea; sting rays, sea snakes, crocodiles and all that is ugly will be gone. The land animals that are ugly and dangerous will also go — the snakes and the insects, the lizards and toads. For these were signs; as the lamb and the wolf are signs, so were the ugly creatures. But now is a new era, and now I want to show you something else. I want to show you new horses, butterflies like rainbows, birds in new colours, new dolphins that can leap through the oceans. Everyone who wants to return to their homeland will be able to, and nothing will stop them. It will not be so expensive to fly, so that the children of poor families will be able to travel to see the creations of God.

Disneyland and artificial beauty will be changed into useable space. Homes will not be gigantic, they shall be built (according to) what you need for your family. For if you took one big house and changed it to match the personal size that the owners need, you could fit many pretty houses, for many families.

People will come to understand the Catholic faith in a deeper way. I love my people and I know what they wanted when they were little children.

I am glad you told those in FTR my message. I have many plans for all who will accept them. I have plans for their jobs, for their homes, for a family or religious life. Some of these plans they know, and some I will reveal later. I have plans for their families as well. I have FTR as part of the plan, a plan that will affect the world now and in the future. They are my children, whom I love and care for. I have loved them and watched them through their childhood to adulthood. I loved them even when they chose wrongly. I know what they want and what they care about. I know what is best for them and I will show them the way. Those who chose to follow (in FTR) will have a special purpose and role in my plan for when I come again . . .

Rejoice, for your Saviour and Shepherd will return, with many gifts for the world.

Post 312
(A guest post by Miriam C.)

December 19, 2017

My daughter, do not be afraid to believe. Do not worry; all of your dreams will come true; all that I have promised will happen. I will not let you believe and be disappointed. Do not think about it (the promises) not happening, because it will.

Those who accept the promises of God are rewarded and never deceived or disappointed. For I promised your fathers of old many gifts, and those who believed and accepted received them. I have gifts for everyone; I have plans for everyone and those who want my gifts can have them. For the Father wants his children to be happy and rejoice, for he gave his people his only Son, whom they put to death. Your Father knows what you long for; He knows what is most precious to you and what you fear most. I know what you want when you are unsure. Trust and follow me, for I will lead you. If you follow, I will give you what you want and deserve. For you will be rewarded. Those who follow Him are blessed and exalted, but those who refuse to touch his gifts and take his hand will not receive these gifts. They are still my children, whom I love, and I still give them another chance to take my hand and follow me.

For you must forget about your worldly possessions and follow me. You must trust me and leave your home and pick up your staff and follow your Lord and Shepherd. For when your Shepherd wants to take his sheep to new rich pastures, will you leave your old fields and home and trust your Shepherd or will you refuse to follow and remain? When your Master comes, who will follow him, and who will be unfaithful to him? For this is a test. It is I, your Master, and I am ready to take you to my best pastures, I want to lead you to your home of eternal happiness. Come, follow me, and I will take you home.