Truth isn't invented or created
It's there, waiting to be found or revealed.
And discovering unchanging truths,
just below the surface of the everyday,
is one of the great rewards
of conversation, reading and prayer.
Here, I share some of my recent finds,
lest I burst.
It was only recently that my eyes were opened to the significant amount of regional discrimination in Canada. Those living in certain regions look down upon others living in other regions. I knew there were jokes sometimes, but I didn’t think about it much at all. As I put my mind to the issue, however, I can gather enough scraps to say that it seems to be like this:
Ontario and Quebec, who have an uneasy alliance, feel superior to the prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba) and to the Maritimes.
B.C. feels superior to all the provinces except Ontario.
Alberta feels inferior to and superior to B.C. at the same time.
The Maritimes feel forgotten.
The Territories are forgotten.
It reminds me of the Bible line, “Could anything good come from Nazareth?” People hold prejudice against not only people from other countries but also against people from other regions within the same country. Of course, not all people from a given region feel this way — do I even need to say that? — but there are patterns here, observable patterns.
Like all types of discrimination, this regional ego is almost a subconscious thing — a certain set of notions, such as “The important people of Canada live in Ontario” are allowed to live in someone’s head unchallenged. And we all know that there are many forms of discrimination. In today’s world, we are on a crusade against discrimination, but it’s a selective crusade. These days, on social media and in the larger cities of the United States and Canada, the focus is on rooting out discrimination based on gender identity. Arguably tied for first place is the goal to eliminate discrimination based on race, but primarily it’s about eliminating discrimination against blacks, not hispanics or Asians, for instance. In Canada, in light of discoveries about the residential school system, there has been a concerted effort to understand and pay more respect to the experiences and wishes of indigenous groups. Yesterday’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was about that.
Unfortunately, only a few movements or causes are given much attention and energy at any given time. I think that in the past, movements were sparked by charismatic speakers and persuasive writers who became the leaders of the cause, but nowadays these movements usually do not have an obvious leader. Nowadays, it goes more or less like this:
– A very interesting and dramatic incident or discovery of particular facts is reported by mainstream media or social media.
– It seems to be an egregious (=shockingly bad) instance of a powerful group hurting a weaker group.
– Supporters are going to stick up for the weaker group from now on, with the goal that the powerful group will no longer hurt the weaker group.
So far, so good, though you will notice that I am already pointing out that only certain incidents will make the cut, in the same way that only certain stories of manslaughter or missing people captivate public attention. I am also pointing out that the situation might be more complicated than it seems to be.
In any case, that’s the broad outline. Those who support the movement cannot be classified easily because the motives are completely all over the place, and not at all in keeping with outward behaviour. Let me introduce to you six people:
Mabel is 45 years old and she has her hands full with toddlers and a new baby. She has heard some of the stories that led to cause XY and cause YZ, and although she doesn’t know much about them, she supports both of these as well as other movements, but just doesn’t have time to drop her responsibilities to look into them more.
Denise is 51 years old and she is the first to find such stories and pass them along to her contacts. She is alert and socially savvy. She does sympathize with the victims, but her main goal is to be seen by her friends as up-to-date and passionate about the right things. She will wear the t-shirt if there is one, but only until another cause takes its place.
Troy is 22 and cares deeply about the environment. He puts up posters and attends any talks that he can. He feels that it is his personal mission to do what he can to stop pollution, especially related to Lake Ontario. He has heard about these various movements, but he isn’t involved in them because he doesn’t want to get distracted from his main focus.
Darwin is 29. He has become very active in several of the major movements, but it’s not what you think. He loves the feeling of power that he gets when he is able to catch someone saying the wrong thing. Both on social media and in person, he is keen to shame those who, in his view, deserve it. One time, he was able to get someone who is more than a little famous to issue a public apology — wow, that was a big win! Ironically, Darwin has a reputation for tremendous compassion.
Cheryl is 66. Cheryl is quite thrilled to have amassed a sizeable online following. She wonders why she didn’t think of this sooner. By identifying herself with the cause YY, she finally gets the attention she so desperately craves. Like Meghan Markle and Harry, popular movements are juicy opportunities for more attention.
Gordon is 19. He has started a new job, and he has noticed that his female boss’s Instagram page is all about Cause XYX. He wonders if it would be best to also show his support. He hasn’t forgotten what happened to his friend who lost his job after making a racist comment. It’s always best to play it safe.
My point is that there are so many variations here. Some people seem to ignore a movement, but the truth is that they do care, while others seem to support a movement, but they are seeking only their own ends. Support for any given movement may appear to be like a solid wave of like-minded thoughts and sentiments flooding the internet, but it’s not like that at all. It’s really a jumbled mess of hidden motives, where many of those present are absent, and many of those who seem absent are present.
Sadly, there are many situations of discrimination, injustice, or oppression which are not currently in the spotlight. Sexism against women continues to be a big problem and here I am not speaking merely about wage equality. It’s such a subtle thing. I’m talking about how women’s observations and words get discounted, for one thing. And the current hurry to recognize and make room for non-binary gender preferences often comes at the cost of sidelining femininity. When mediocre formerly male athletes are allowed to compete against women and take their medals and prize money, at least 99.5% of people in the world would agree that there’s an injustice here — yet only a few will say so.
Ageism is a huge problem, and I think a lot of it has to do with the school system, which is more about segregating people by age (herding and managing all the people who aged 4-18 so that the parents can work) than about education. The desperate pleas from society to reopen the schools during these pandemic times has been more about child care than about education. And then all students are subdivided into rigid groups by age within the schools. Nowhere else in society is your age the be-all-and-end-all. The single room schoolhouse was more natural because children progressed through different books according to their ability. One of the unfortunate effects of this segregation is that people just don’t realize what amazing things can be done by people at any age, and so the world underestimates the goldmine of talent being suppressed in schools day in and day out. A few young people do break free and show up on TicTok or YouTube or at the Olympics, but that’s not enough to show you that I’m right. The world just thinks that most “kids” are ordinary because they’re “just kids.” It’s not like that. Given proper love and freedom, they could accomplish so much more. So the entire school set up contributes to ageism against the young.
Long ago I spoke with Andrew Pudewa, whose daughter began university at age 16. I asked him if he was worried about her being so young. He said that university students who are a couple of years younger or older than their peers don’t need to worry about peer pressure because their peers will avoid them. College students are still thinking along school lines: the only relatable people are those exactly your own age. So that’s one of the main thing taught by our school system.
Ageism continues even after university. I remember when I was in the workaday world, I wished that I looked 45 during the day and 23 in the evenings. I knew that the older looks would give me more credibility.
Mind you, that back then I wasn’t thinking about everything else I was up against. I wasn’t fully aware of the impact of the other prejudices. That’s because as you get older, the people around you also get older, and they stop calling you names based on your appearance. They learn to hide it better.
I suppose soon I will be greeting ageism on the other side. It will be a new experience to be old. I’m 51, so that already makes me old in a lot of fields, such as chess and sprinting and dance. Being old means being dismissed, and everything about you gets flattened into a pancake — a woman is now a Nice Little Old Lady and the man is now Nice Little Old Man. Humans like to simplify things, don’t we? But oh, it’s so not like that! In the first place, very few of them are actually nice. Their voices may be weaker, and they may be smaller and frailer than they used to be, but don’t be fooled. They are still the opportunistic and sneaky children they always were. If you magically set a control panel in front of them with which they could control the world, you would see that the nice grandma with the sweater on her knees has some vendettas she’s going to pursue, now that she can. “Oh look at that: I think she just flooded her sister-in-law’s town!” “Hey, she just redirected all the bank funds to her own account!” Greed doesn’t disappear when you turn 65, and neither does envy, lust, or pride. Pride is a big one, and many people go to their grave playing games of one-upmanship and comforting themselves with their own superiority.
And in the end, that is, I guess, the very root of all of these types of discrimination: pride. People convince themselves that they are better using as many forms of discrimination as they need. Well, at least I’m not old, like him. Come on, don’t be childish. Grow up! Hey, at least I know how to speak English, not like those people. Go back to wherever you came from! I’m educated. I work for a living; I don’t take handouts like those people do. I eat right; those people are fat and unhealthy. I’m a good person, not like those anti-vaxxers. I’m a Republican. I’m vegetarian. I’m a Democrat. Well I’m a vegan. I have more followers than you do.
How can we break through all this nonsense? How can we break through these artificial barriers and notions of superiority? Is a person from Toronto better than a person from Grande Prairie? Is a person from Vancouver better than a person from Saskatoon?
At the end of the day, the solution will not come from any short-lived movement. Even though many such movements do achieve some good things, and I encourage people to support them for the right reasons, they are not enough. People being people, new forms of discrimination will pop up all the time. The only remedy is to understand that we are all children, and the difference in who we are is so slight as to be not worth counting. I hesitate to bring God into this, but really, when he looks at us squabbling about who is better, it must seem so pathetic. It’s one blade of grass telling the other blades of grass that he’s a better blade than they are. If the nonsense wasn’t based in pride, the squabbling would be almost funny.
Ultimately, the biggest difference between us lies in our hearts, by which I mean in our intentions. It’s not really about what we do, but about why we do it. We must intend to do what is right for each other and we must intend to do what is right in general. The key thing is that we must want the best for each other. Only in cheering for each other will we be able to overlook (and ultimately celebrate) our differences in appearance, stage of life, interests, tastes, and backgrounds. Paradoxically, in looking out for and helping each other, we find our ourselves. We find our best selves. That’s the movement we need.
Oh, and speaking of summer, I forgot to mention that I did get a cell phone. I haven’t had one for more than 20 years. The last time I owned one was maybe in about 1997, so although it is true that I’m among the last, it’s also true that I’m among the first.
I almost never used it back then. I would forget it at home or leave it in my car trunk. When I called to cancel my phone plan at the time, the salesperson was — as they always are — so eager to find a new plan for me, but when he looked up my usage records (zero, zero, zero, zero), there was really nothing to sell me, so he let me go.
But you know, I’m always ___(insert very very latest word meaning ‘trendy’)_____, so I thought it was time to pick myself up an iPhone 13Pro Max. an iPhone 13 Pro. an iPhone 13. an iPhone 12 Pro Max. an iPhone 12 Pro. an iPhone 12. an iPhone 11Pro Max. an iPhone 11 Pro . an iPhone 11. the most basic iPhone they were selling at the time. I got it on August 16th from Best Buy.
It takes a very long time to buy a phone, as in, eat before you get there and bring something to read while you’re waiting for all of the steps to be done. (“Bring something to read” — ha ha, I catch myself. That’s what we used to say in the Olden Days.) It is kind of fun to be able to have some choice about what phone number you get.
I like it. I say to myself, “Ah, I see why they are so popular,” and I keep mine nearby all the time. I never leave it in the trunk. The one time I left it in my vehicle, I used “Find My” to figure out where it was. I was relieved that it was not too far away.
Nevertheless, I don’t regret all the years without it. They’re expensive, for one thing. And they tend to promote slouching.
My favourite feature is that I can stay in touch with the people I like. Did you know that the first ever text message sent by cell phone was sent in 1992? The message was, “Merry Christmas!” ‘Twas sent by developer to company director (of Vodafone) at a Christmas party.
I think a case could be made that texting is its own language.
I think emojis are fun. Sometimes they are so exactly right that it’s hilarious. Hats off to the developers who think about the range of human emotions and try to capture them. Wouldn’t that be a fun discussion? — people sitting around trying to describe how humans experience life: “Well you know that feeling when someone compliments you or thanks you and you’re happy but also embarrassed too and you just don’t know what to say? Oh! I know! Let’s put that as a smiling face but with little pink marks right here, you know, on either side. That will be blushing.” And then of course there would be the human emotions that are more difficult to draw — but then again, maybe not. Some say you can draw schadenfreude with the laughing-crying emoji 😂 . It’s interesting that such a negative thing as schadenfreude (happy emotions at someone’s suffering) has overtaken the original idea of the laughing-crying emoji, which was tears of joy. In fact, the tears of joy emoji got awarded as Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries in 2015. So it starts with the developer, but it almost instantly becomes about the people.
Emojis connect with the child within us in the sense that we children like looking at cute little pictures and saying things using codes. Chesterton talked about how much fun the Egyptians would have had designing the hieroglyphics.
I also like the camera feature. I don’t have a fancy phone, so nobody will be dazzled by the resolution of my pictures, but phones allow us to capture the moment right then and there when you wouldn’t even think of bringing a proper camera. That makes up for a lot, including the way a slight tilt of the camera will make everyone look like they have disproportionately large heads.
I like having the little clock that can be used as a stopwatch or timer or alarm.
As for apps, I don’t have many. I have a map app which until now I didn’t know was GoogleMaps. I didn’t know because when I use it, I don’t need to type “Google Maps;” I just click on this little upside down drip-droppity symbol.
It’s very good, and I do like it. My only complaint is about what happened yesterday. Yesterday it told me to turn right, and I turned right. Right, however, was wrong. Right was into the welcoming arms of a police officer. I was completely confused, thinking they must be doing random checks if they wanted to talk to me. You know that feeling: “Me?” “Why on earth do you want to talk to me? — I’ve been good this year, Santa Claus.” But you know it’s not good. Nothing good can come out of a chat with a police officer. The best you can hope for is something neutral. So I was hoping for neutral, but he pulls out his ticket pad. He can tell I’m confused. “You can’t turn right here. It’s because of the bike lane.” I’m thinking, “What?” There are bike lanes all over this town and cars always have to turn right in spite of them.” I told him, “The GPS told me to turn right.” By GPS, I meant Google Maps. He rested his elbow on my door because I had the window down all the way.
Why do they do that? Is it comfy? Is his arm sort of tired, so he likes to rest it on anything handy? I wasn’t sure how I felt about it; I felt like it was a message: I’m In Your Space But You Can’t Complain Because I Am The Boss in This Here Situation. But does he really want to get that close to me? What about social distancing? What if I have germs? So anyway, he gets my driver’s license and goes away to write the ticket. I’m thinking, “Man, why can’t they just let me off with a warning?” You always hear about this ‘let you off with a warning’ thing, but it never happens to me. Probably it’s something that happens to flirty beauties who know how to bat their voluminous eyelashes. My eyelashes are not voluminous. That’s the real problem here. It’s either the lack of lashes or GoogleMaps — GoogleMaps where they don’t know you can’t turn right here. (Mind you, so many people turn right that probably the computer mind of Google Maps thinks turning right is perfectly fine.) Probably there was a sign back there, but I didn’t see it. I was just trying to make sure I was even on the right street. Meanwhile, the locals are getting pulled over at the rate of about one every 2 minutes or so. While I was waiting for my ticket, I had to move my vehicle up, because so many others were getting pulled over for the same thing. So it’s really just a place where the cops get sent when revenues need to be generated. That’s really the deal. Every city has a few spots like this. I think it’s kind of underhanded on their part.
But anyway, the officer came back to my vehicle. I said, “How much is it?” It’s been a long, long, time since I got a ticket from a police officer. I think it’s been probably more than 20 years. In fact, come to think of it, it was probably back in the day when I DID own a cell phone. Hmm. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Interesting coincidence, don’t ya think? 🧐
So then he says, “Just plead not guilty.” This time he’s not leaning on my door because I didn’t roll the window ALL the way down. That’s something to keep in mind, folks. When you get pulled over, leave a little bit of glass there so that they don’t go in your space so willy-nilly. Not that I minded him, mind you. We actually got along just fine. I think we would have clicked, if we met, you know, gliding through the local aquarium on those conveyor belts — “Hey Marko! Look at that brown-banded bamboo sharko!” So of course I was surprised that Constable Marko encourages me to fight it, not to mention a little confused because I know that I can’t use GoogleMaps as an excuse. But he’s really trying to persuade me. He says, “You don’t even have to go in (to court, he means). It’s all online.” He’s friendly in the I’m Giving You a Ticket But I Don’t Hate You kind of way. So I said, “But I can’t use the GPS as an excuse.”
He agrees, but he says, “Yes, but I might be too busy to show up.” And I look at him and I say, “Ohhhh” and I connect the dots. He might not show up. Right. Right. I get it now. I get it, and he sees that I get it. Okay then.
There is this one way of assessing the amount you spend on clothing called cost per wear. You already know how it works by the name: my sweater cost $27 and I have worn it 3 times, therefore I am paying $9 per wear. Ah, now I have worn it 9 times and now it costs $3 per wear. In order to figure this kind of thing out, you need to keep track of how much you paid for the item and how many times you have worn it so far.
Everyone thinks about the cost of clothing from time to time, usually when they’re considering making a purchase. Those who think in terms of cost per wear, however, think about it every day. Every time they wear an item, after all, its cost per wear goes down.
I don’t judge those who enjoy this kind of (new word alert:) sartorial calculation; I think it would be interesting for a while to generate and watch those kind of statistics. I can see how it would be popular. The advantage is that it does make you consider how much use you are making of the various items you have bought.
With this method though, I don’t know if there’s enough attention paid to the items which don’t work but raise the total expenditure. While you are calculating the cost per wear on the blue sweater and being happy that your price per wear is going down, do you remember that the red sweater isn’t getting worn at all? The focus, it seems, is all on the items that are being used.
Another problem is that this approach is used to justify exorbitant spending. There is a myth which seems to be gaining more steam these days that expensive pieces will be forever pieces. Did you know that an Hermès handbag can cost about $30,000? The idea is that if you buy an Hermès bag, especially certain versions, then you are buying ‘A Classic,’ and 1) it will always look good, and 2) you will always love it. The cost per wear rationale fits in here, and you are supposed to think, “Yes, it’s expensive, but I will get so much use out of it that the cost per wear will be just a few dollars a day!” There are many problems with this. First of all, the purse will not always look good. Don’t be fooled by the fact that certain versions of older Hermes bags are currently, in September of 2021, being celebrated. This will not always be the case. Soon a different version of the Hermès bag or the Chanel bag will be praised as the ‘classic’ bag. However, out of all the Hermes bags (consider all the colours, embellishments, sizes, materials) only a select few are being celebrated at any given time; you cannot predict which bag of the past will be the new darling of the future. At one time, people said that you cannot go wrong with black. Now people are more likely to say you can’t go wrong with white or tan. My point is that just because one older style is popular/respected today does not mean that it will be popular/respected in the future. The essence of fashion is change, and anyone who believes that there are some timeless sorts of fashion just hasn’t considered a wide enough time frame. How many women were told that such and such a fur coat is a classic and will never go out of style and could be worn forever? You know it’s true. $5,000 mink coats were the thing to have at one point, and now it’s difficult to sell them on eBay for $500. Nobody anticipated that fur would go out of style so suddenly. Fur is an easy example, but the same thing is happening with watches. Nowadays it’s so easy for people to check the time on their phones, and so many don’t bother with one at all. If they are going to wear something on their wrist, maybe an Apple Watch Nike is better, or an Apple Watch Hermès (people want to look like they are obsessed with fitness). The market for the watches that were called “classic” or “luxury” is shrinking. And really, it happens with everything. All the items which are called ‘classic’ become unfashionable eventually. Even the classic of the classics need to compete with new ideas of what looks good. Fewer people are wearing ‘classic’ khaki pants or chino pants nowadays, and even denim jeans are being ditched by women in favour of leggings. If you look at a store webpage from a few years ago, you would find that it just looks “off” — the model looks just as sullen as the models nowadays, but there’s something about the proportions and cuts that says, “Hi. I don’t quite know what I’m doing.” With each passing year, the clothing, hairstyles, eyewear, and makeup looks sillier and sillier. (Yes, even the giant eyebrows trend will die, and you will be mortified that in all your photos, you have massive, bushy, drawn, brushed, soaped, laminated eyebrows.)
I am not dismissing the idea of a classic altogether; some items do look good for longer than others. My point is just that we must be cautious about spending an excessive amount of money because it’s ‘a classic’ and will last such a long time. Even those items which take longer to look silly are still not worth ‘investing’ in (watch out for the word ‘investing,’ — if anyone tells you that retail spending is an investment it means you are about to be ripped off) because things wear out and things get damaged. More importantly, people are very changeable and we do get bored. We get bored of even the very best of things — just ask Seinfeld.
What I would propose instead of the cost per wear model is just checking the global figure you’re spending on clothing and accessories. It’s far easier than checking your cost per wear, because you can easily see what you’ve spent in the last three weeks and already get a good grasp of the situation as a whole — you don’t need to research how much you spent on the belt you bought in 2018. And if you want, you can calculate the clothing cost per day by dividing the monthly figure. It’s a more honest approach. After all, if you spent $7,500 on an YSL brand bag, then you’ve spent $7,500. Let that number, and no other, sink in. It’s false comfort to say, “I used it 10 times so now it’s only $750 per wear, and I am going to wear it every day for two years and so by then it will be only $10.75 per wear.” The calculation of the past is accurate, but it tricks the mind a little bit, don’t you see? It washes away the fact that you went a little wacko with your wallet. It sidesteps the fact that you overspent (no matter what your net worth is). As for the calculation of the future, well, that’s even more problematic. How can you predict how you will feel in the future? Not only do the world’s tastes change, but our own tastes change too. Are you absolutely sure that you won’t be tempted by that other bag, the one expected in the spring of 2022? There’s buzz about it already — it’ll be dropping on April 1st. Oh darling, by then your bag will be so — how can I put this? — 2021 . . .
Tell me, how was your summer?
Were you sad because so many things were closed or cancelled?
Did you get vaccinated?
Are you working from home again?
How about church?
You’re so quiet.
I need to carry this conversation, it seems.
The other day I watched the Seinfeld stand-up routine where he says everything sucks. (And it was before the pandemic.) It was posted on YouTube in 2020. He says, “Your life sucks — my life sucks, too,” and then there’s a slight pause, and he says, “perhaps not. quite. as. much.” which of course is funny because everyone knows that he’s wealthy and famous. The idea is that his life is probably better because of those things, but I know that’s not how things work. Happiness doesn’t come from fame or wealth.
That feeling of happiness comes and goes throughout the day. It’s the same with sadness or anger, with laughing and tears. Human emotions are very variable, kind of like the weather.
I can’t remember exactly what I was going to say about Seinfeld, but I guess I thought of it because when I think about my summer, I think to myself that my summer was very good, and when I tell you about it, you’ll be thinking that I am saying my summer was perhaps. better. than. yours. But that’s not really what I want to say. I just want to say hello and tell you what I’ve been up to — because obviously I wasn’t blogging.
Around when I wrote my last post in late 2020, I had started playing chess online. I joined chess.com and played against people around the world. It’s a good pandemic activity. It’s strangely addictive, and I feel that I got quite good quite quickly, but the scary thing is that you get rusty quite fast too. I’m already rusty because the next thing I found was K-dramas. Netflix has quite a few of them with English subtitles. I watched “Rookie Historian” and lived the experience of binge-watching. My longest session was 6-hours straight, I think. Boy, those Koreans know how to tell a story. I’ve heard that they begin airing the episodes even before filming is done, and the writers adjust the plot lines based on viewer feedback. I think that’s clever, and I’m sure the shows would have benefitted from viewer feedback. I never did watch any of Game of Thrones, but my understanding with that is that the writers purposely went against what the viewers wanted at the end. What did they do? Didn’t they make a good character behave immorally? Hmm. Let me just look this up on Wikipedia. One moment.
Okay, I’m back. The final season, season 8, was very disappointing for the viewers. According to Rotten Tomatoes, all of the other seasons were rated 93% or higher, but the final season was rated 55%. People were very unhappy with how they ended the series. From looper.com, I found this: “the shocking twist was when Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) descended into madness.” Someone named Turner was angry that 1.7 million fans signed a petition asking for the final season to be re-written. “Turner says that it shouldn’t have been ‘such a negative thing’ for audiences at home. ‘It’s a shock for sure, but I think it’s just because it hasn’t gone their way,’ she stated.” Hmm. Let me disagree with that. If Daenerys Targaryen was a well-loved character, then the audience wants to see a victory for her; that would be satisfying. The K-drama makers know that normal people want a happy ending. Having her go nuts is not a happy ending.
I’m curious about her character. Another moment, please.
Alright. I see basically what they did. Daenerys Targaryen struggled a lot and stood for a lot of good, and then at the end she is responsible for the death of a lot of innocent civilians. Yeah, that’s lame on the part of the writers. It’s realistic, in the sense that in real life, many people are not what they seem, but the problem here is that so many viewers were led, step by step, line by line, season by season, to cheer for her and empathize with her. When she became very immoral at the end, those fans lost the character they loved and even identified with. Yeah, I can see why people would be upset. I think the writers of television show deliberately and maliciously mismanaged that. I can be as bold to say that it was malicious because these things don’t happen by accident. They chose an ending that they knew would disappoint. There are a lot of ways to end a story in a satisfying way, so why not give that to the fans who have given success to the series and everyone associated with it? Too often writers don’t think they’re being clever enough if things turn out well in the end. They think that a dark ending is more ‘sophisticated.’ That’s just pride.
I hear the writer of the original story has still not finished writing his version (the television series went beyond the book version), and there are hints that he will do better. It seems he couldn’t really do worse.
But back to me, after “Rookie Historian,” I watched another K-drama called “Crash Landing on You,” and that was also thoroughly enjoyable while also showing the sorrowful separation between North and South Korea. After that, I watched “Start Up,” and that was great too. Not all K-dramas are as good as those; there were some that I didn’t watch more than one episode of.
I also went to the Heritage Days festival. I love it and attended all three days of it. To me, heaven would be something like that, except the food would be free.
I reorganized my wardrobe and bought new things. I really like Coach purses when they are 8 inches long and 5 inches tall and have the little brass turn-lock closure. When I take a chance and buy a Coach purse that’s an inch wider, I think to myself, “Why did they make it so huge?” And when it’s smaller, I think, “Man, this is just not right!” But this size, and with the golden coloured turn-lock — well, it’s the closest I come to being a collector.
I got vaccinated, twice, but still support those who don’t want to get vaccinated. The vaccine should be available to those who want it, but those who don’t want it should not be unduly pushed into it. As I’ve said before, distrust of the government and the billion-dollar health industry is a valid reason to not get it. (Some who are opposed don’t even call it a ‘vaccine.’) In addition, fear of needles or medical situations is also a valid reason. Yes, the hospitals may be overwhelmed, and yes, some of the unvaccinated people may become ill and may even die, but we must not vilify or bully a group of people in the name of health or economy. It’s outrageous how far all the establishments and people in power will go to pressure the unvaccinated. Only those who are willing to say that people have a right not to get vaccinated really know what it is to believe in human rights.
I have gone to church, but not as much as before. It’s been more difficult and the obligation is currently suspended.
So the weeks all blur together without being separated by Sunday Eucharist.
This fall, a neighbour saw me watering my plants after the weather had turned noticeably colder. Roland is his name. He made small talk, “Doing a final watering?” Many of my neighbours were done with their plants, but I wasn’t thinking of it as a final watering. (I don’t give up easily, you know.)
I wanted the summer to keep going even though the temperatures had dipped. My little flowers didn’t know that winter was coming, and as a matter of fact, they looked just fantastic — really big and healthy. The marigolds had a whole bunch of buds, and there were rows and rows of little buds on the geraniums too. I figured that I would just keep watering as long as the flowers were doing their side of the equation. So I told him that I was planning to keep gardening as long as I could. He said, “Well then you’ll have to do something about the weather.”
A few weeks later, we were suddenly in a warm spell, getting summer temperatures instead of autumn ones. I saw Roland again, and I said, “And look at the weather now — you’re welcome!” Of course he knows I was joking around about taking credit for the weather.
Now it’s December 6, and it’s 7 degrees Celsius in my town (43 degrees Fahrenheit — spell checker shows me that I need two ‘h’s in there). Normally, the days in early December reach a high of -4 and a low of -12. When you’re used to that, then +7 feels downright balmy.
I’m really glad for it. The days are so short that it’s nice to be able to go outside and enjoy what daylight there is. I think it’s neat to see the long row of cars parked near the toboggan hills. People drive here to bring their kids sledding.
This year I did pray for a long summer. I asked for unseasonably warm weather stretching far into November. I wanted it for the sake of gardening. And I did enjoy that extra bunch of summer days in September and early October. But then when a heavy snowfall came a few weeks later and decisively buried all my plants, I thought that what had happened in the autumn was the whole gift. That’s what I thought. Then this — it’s lovely. People are talking about it here. People say, this is very strange, but I’ll take it!
Yes, I’ll take it too. As for taking the credit for it, I won’t do that of course. But I will talk about it.
I remember that part in her autobiography where St. Thérèse of Lisieux (spell checker shows me that I need two ‘i’s in there) tells how she was so delighted at the snowfall on the day she received her habit. Snow is what she had ‘childishly’ wished for, but the weather was so mild and spring-like that she gave up her hope for it:
And now my clothing day drew near . . . the Bishop fixed the ceremony for January 10. The time of waiting had been long indeed, but now what a beautiful feast! Nothing was wanting, not even snow. Do you remember my telling you, dear Mother, how fond I am of snow? While I was still quite small, its whiteness entranced me. Why had I such a fancy for snow? Perhaps it was because, being a little winter flower, my eyes first saw the earth clad in its beautiful white mantle. So, on my clothing day, I wished to see it decked, like myself, in spotless white. The weather was so mild that it might have been spring, and I no longer dared hope for snow. The morning of the feast brought no change and I gave up my childish desire, as impossible to be realised.
But then she saw it:
The instant I set foot in the enclosure again my eyes fell on the statue of the Child Jesus smiling on me amid the flowers and lights; then, turning towards the quadrangle, I saw that, in spite of the mildness of the weather, it was covered with snow. What a delicate attention on the part of Jesus! Gratifying the least wish of His little Spouse, He even sent her this. Where is the creature so mighty that he can make one flake of it fall to please his beloved? Everyone was amazed, and since then many people, hearing of my desire, have described this event as “the little miracle” of my clothing day, and thought it strange I should be so fond of snow. So much the better, it shows still more the wonderful condescension of the Spouse of Virgins—of Him Who loves lilies white as the snow.
God knew how she loved snow, and she joyfully accepted it as a gift for that day. Do you see it that way, or do you sort of dismiss it as her well-meaning mistake or delusion? After all, her claim that God did it especially for her and her special day is a bold claim, isn’t it? It’s bold because weather events affect a lot of people at once, and we don’t think that God would change the weather over a large area in order to please one person, right? Even if we believe in God, our minds have difficulty with that. We feel like there’s an inefficiency there, like weather is a phenomenon that is too big to be directed at just one person.
Of course the first step is to believe that God can and does control the weather. But even if that is true, would God would really do things that are so ‘big’ for the sake of so few? St. Thérèse has been declared a Doctor of the Church, so it’s worth paying attention to what she claims. She says God does this kind of thing (she says elsewhere that the weather has so often matched her mood). It’s true. God does do this kind of thing, but it’s important to note that he doesn’t neglect anyone else while doing so.
The key thing to appreciate and believe is that God’s power is so great that he is always simultaneously doing everything for everyone. This means that if he sends snow for St. Thérèse of Lisieux in order to show his love and thoughtfulness, she will appreciate it for what it is, and meanwhile, the snow will do what it is meant to do for the lives of everyone else who experiences it. For some people, it will serve as a pleasant surprise, something which breaks the monotony or predictability of the day and season. Some will enjoy the snow for its beauty, and some will enjoy it for the memories and associations. For others, it is more; those who found out how she loved snow felt the significance of it along with St. Thérèse. These are all examples of God benefiting people in different ways, even though they didn’t attend the ceremony.
But what about the people who don’t want to see the snow? Did God just forget about all of them in his eagerness to please seventeen year old St. Thérèse? After all, some people dislike seeing snow. In Canada, many people groan when the snow falls because they know it means slippery roads and shoveling. So how do we understand what God is doing in the lives of people who wouldn’t have been happy to see the snowfall? (Let’s say that there were some.) Here we enter into something more complicated. These hardships or inconveniences are types of suffering. And suffering never goes to waste. Surely you see how almost all of the fitness people encourage you to endure all kinds of things for the sake of having a better body? It’s actually the same way with spiritual things. Suffering will have its rewards. To continue with a fitness analogy, suffering will either burn away your excess fat, which is like paying for the wrong you’ve done — the sins you’ve committed against other people and God, or suffering will increase your muscle tone, which is like gaining merit in heaven (and often on earth too). Nevertheless, as I have said in previous posts, you don’t need to seek out suffering. It is natural and good to take legitimate steps to avoid it when you can, in the way that St. Paul pleaded his Roman citizenship to escape death. Suffering will find you eventually, after all.
To summarize, God is always looking out for everyone, even when it doesn’t look like it. His power is such that he can move everyone to the next stage of their story one occurrence or coincidence at a time. Yet because we are only mortal, we cannot grasp the entirety of what he is doing even in our own lives (let alone everyone else’s life). We don’t know the future, and we don’t know exactly how and when good will be rewarded and how evil will be punished. For this reason, trust and faith are always asked of us.
He wants us to say Amen to the mystery of it all.
Anyways, now it’s almost 3, and the sun is getting pretty low in the sky. I look out my west-facing window and I can see it just above a neighbour’s roof. Today is Sunday, the second week of Advent. Oh, it’s also the feast day of St. Nicholas. Ah, that’s funny! I made arrangements to do an errand today, and it’s to drop off a costume to someone named Nicolas. Nicolas will be both Angel Gabriel and Magi Gaspar. It’s that time of year, and some things are worth doing, no matter what. (I don’t give up easily, you know.)
This is the fifth 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 fifth 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
Budding and blooming
Victories successes and garlands of flowers
A third year
That was nevertheless
As another year of waiting
And then a fourth year
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
A fifth year
Consider us blessed
Though we are unseen by those
Who thought they knew us best
And seen as nobody by the rest
Consider us blessed
The past fades from view
Yet it is a treasure which cannot be taken
The future is astounding
Yet the path to honour is perplexing
The present is working and playing and waiting
Yet we are told it has meaning
Children are we
Younger than before
Taught and tested
Set apart yet never alone
But still, a child will ask,
Are we there yet?
This is the fifth 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
cathédrale notre-dame de paris
i attended vespers in april of 2015
but i never saw the view enjoyed by the gargoyles
unlike the man who stood on the roof
imagining it being
by flames unlike anything before
lit by one unseen
yes it was
not some errant spark
not some bad luck act of God
planned and plotted
by someone curious
about whether it could be done
and whether he could get away with it
obsession and action in the mind
preparation for evil in the midst of preparation for good
obstacles and frustration despite opportunity
persistence in the pursuit of evil is more damning
the fire at notre-dame 15 avril 2019
someone who cared more for himself than anything
selfish pursuit of pleasure
arrogant blindness to the value of what was built with love and sacrifice
hatred for its stability its shelter its beauty
a thief who prided himself on his choice of victim
choice is the heart of the matter
but especially in matters of the heart
the destruction of the cathedral
symbolic of the destruction of a marriage
for this reason allowed by God
in the land led by a president who said the scandal was spice
as if catching a married woman is some kind of entertainment
adultery is not trivial
do you understand what it is
it is a fire in a cathedral
destruction of what is holy
sin is real
it has consequences
consider the cathedral as an illustration
shame on any civilization that excuses or glamorizes adultery
evil is real
even when hidden
yet here is a striking symbol of its goals
evil seeks to destroy whatever is good
but here is another symbol
the power of evil is limited
curbed by a loving God
the story does not end where you think it does
‘it did not turn out how I expected’ says Tobit
the rose window and doors point to the future
Do you remember when I asked you about your plans for today?
It’s post 267. I wrote it on October 31, 2017. I wrote: “2020. Does that seem like a long way off? Where will you be then? Where will you be on, say, November 2, 2020, the feast of All Souls’ Day?”
I didn’t know, when I asked the questions, how today would be. I didn’t realize it would be a day when we changed all our clocks back an hour. I didn’t realize it would be right before the United States election. But I asked because I thought today might be really different from what you would expect.
So I should ask, where are you now? (The words make me think of Alan Walker’s “Faded,” another song I still like.)
Now it’s 2020, and you didn’t think it would be like this, did you? We’re all facing a world that is so changed. Never before have so many people simultaneously faced the same enemy. Some regions are heading into a second lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and the impacts are certainly unevenly distributed, but everyone is dealing with the fogginess of the future. Ah! We are just mortals, after all, aren’t we? Now we see how little we know, how little we can control. The illusion of controlling our earthly lives has been radically challenged.
Some of the people who read my questions three years ago aren’t on earth anymore. They have died, and that’s what today is for. It’s a day for remembering and praying for everyone who is already gone, those now in heaven or in purgatory.
But you’re still here. The story of your life on earth continues. It’s an interesting story, because you are the main character in it. You will continue to be presented with a series of seemingly-random problems, ranging from small inconveniences to personal disasters. God allows this to see how you will react. Everything is a test. So in this sense, coronavirus is nothing new. It’s just another test in the long series of tests which is the story of your life.
In other words, you’re not just a random piece of wood being tossed up in the big ocean storm called coronavirus. God is still in charge. He knows about your unique, personal experience of the effects of the virus. He knows what you worry about. He knows what you are afraid of. He knows the future, and he won’t let anything happen to you that he doesn’t have a solution for.
However, there is something that you need to know about God’s plan for you, and it is this: you must cooperate.
How do you cooperate?
You cooperate by always trying to do the right thing: the moral thing, the honourable thing, the decent thing. The “right thing” is not necessarily the most profitable, impressive, or cool thing. It’s often difficult and scary because you don’t know how things will turn out, especially when it involves telling the truth. In the case of telling the truth, doing the right thing won’t necessarily look like the most ‘nice’ thing. People so often allow themselves to ignore the evil deeds of others with the excuse that it wouldn’t be nice to question or challenge people. The truth is that they are afraid to challenge the wrong-doer; they are cowardly.
Each day is filled with dozens of moral choices. If you don’t agree, then probably you don’t see the small things as being as important as they really are. But truly, any decision which involves choosing between right and wrong is a big deal. For example, when you go online, it matters what you look at. When you write a comment online, it matters what you say, even though you feel anonymous. When you drive your car, it matters whether you are careful and polite, even though you feel anonymous. And let’s look at all of those daily tasks that you must do. These are important too, whether you are paid for these activities or not. Doing your duty is a morally good thing, and God sees all of the little actions and the energy that goes into tasks that are so quickly forgotten.
Finally, and most importantly, is the realm of your intentions. What are you wanting for the people around you? Are you wanting the best for them? Do you want them to be good, and do you want them to succeed with the talents that God has given them? Or do you secretly envy some of your friends and family members? If you do, then you are not a real friend, and you are not a good family member.
If you are trying to be good, you will receive God’s full reward. The main issue is what you want — your effort, your intention. If you bake a cake for someone, and it doesn’t turn out as nicely as you had hoped, God will still give you full credit for your efforts. Conversely, if you are trying to do something evil, or if you nurture evil wishes in your heart, then you will suffer the consequences of your intentions, even though you were prevented from carrying out your plans.
If you are in a situation where you want to do a good thing, but you are prevented from doing it because of circumstances beyond your control, then God will give you the reward as if you had done it. If you are in a situation where you want to do what is right, but you are outvoted or overruled by others, God will know this too, and he will arrange things so that you will receive a reward while those who have chosen wrongly will not receive it. Nobody’s evil actions can prevent your good actions or intentions from receiving their rightful reward, no matter how linked your futures seem to be. So you must always attempt to do what is right, even if the effort seems futile.
If you are in a situation where you want to do what is right, but you don’t know how to proceed, then God will watch how much effort you expend on trying to figure out the right answer. For this reason, he might not give you the answer immediately. You will be blessed for your persistent struggle to find the truth and the best way.
If you have done wrong, then do your best to set things right. Usually, setting things right will be more difficult than doing things right the first time, but whenever the test is tougher, there is more to be gained from succeeding at it. And even if you are unable to undo the damage as well as you wish, your intention will count for a lot. You can pay for the rest of the damage by patiently accepting the suffering that comes your way.
The thing about personal intention, other than its importance, is its hiddenness. In general, people are silent about what they really want for themselves and for others. Moreover, it is very typical for people to send out false signals, even to the point of outright lying, about their real desires. Why does this matter? It matters because it means that it is very difficult to tell who is good and who is bad. The bible story about the widow who donated a few coins shows that you cannot know from outward actions who is outstandingly good, because often they just won’t stand out. In fact, the general rule is that those who are very good, and who mean the very best, are underestimated and overlooked. Life seems to pass them by while the others know how to play the game.
But our God is a God of last-minute reversals. He is in charge. Do not become complacent because you have not seen much evidence of his presence and his justice. Do not discount his strength and his wisdom. Are you so powerful and knowledgeable that you can scoff at him? Mortal! The wind changes direction and you are frightened.
Do not be arrogant and overly confident in yourself, for soon the day will come when you will regret the times you felt so superior to all this advice.
Instead, be curious about the little hints that God gives you about his love. Become like a child on a treasure hunt. He does love you and care for you, and he won’t snub you in order to get revenge on you for your neglect of him. Pay attention to the coincidences in your life. Pope John Paul II said there are no such things as coincidences. When you begin reaching towards God, he will make his presence increasingly clear to you. But if he makes you wait, do not become impatient. This is also a test. He will watch to see whether you will search for him. Your persistent search will be allowed only so that he can bless you later for your efforts.
Do not be afraid to be a fool in the best sense. Perhaps you long ago declared yourself an atheist or an agnostic. Now you feel that it would be an embarrassment to contradict yourself. Your pride is wounded at the thought of beginning the search again, at the thought of going back to where you left off or returning to where you started. You cannot stomach the thought of repentance and apologies. Or, personal pride being what it is, maybe the thought of listening to or agreeing with someone you dislike or disdain is the issue. Well, all this is nonsense. You are all the more human if you are willing to begin again, even if that means being in agreement with this person or that person. Growing and learning are signs of life. Stubbornness and bitterness — that sounds like death.
And speaking of death, I am glad the Hallowe’en activities are done for another year. As I walked my dog this morning, I saw many houses decorated with plastic skeletons, corpses, and gravestones. These displays are a combination of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and a personal lack of sound judgment, kind of like tattoos. The bigger and bolder they are, the more unhinged the person.
So what do you think? Are you happy with where you are now? Are you in a good place in the most important sense? Are you being the person you should be? Seek improvement, either radical or incremental, whichever will be more successful. Go cold turkey or gradually, but make sure you change whatever needs changing. There’s not much time. A human life is not very long, after all.
The dealer had just dealt me my cards, and I was preparing for the next round.
Yeah, it was past midnight, but the night had just begun as far as I was concerned.
Suddenly, the dealer stops in the middle and looks behind me.
I look where he’s looking, and there’s this tall black fellow signalling him and pointing to me.
I don’t know the man, but he wants to speak with me, and the dealer won’t let me continue now.
So what choice do I have?
I stand up from the table, and look at him.
I say to my friends, “I’ll be right back, I think.”
The black fellow motions with his hand, “After you,” as if I could possibly lead the way when I don’t know where I’m going.
Am I in trouble?
I haven’t done anything, but is there some misunderstanding?
We walk together to the far corner of the room
Passing through a door that didn’t seem to exist
(These places have so many hidden entrances and exits)
I find myself in a room filled with monitors.
These are the other side of all the cameras everywhere.
“I would like to show you something,” he says.
I don’t feel alarmed because it’s actually interesting just being there.
He points to one monitor which shows the table I was just at.
I see that another person has taken my place.
There are my friends.
He draws my attention to a different monitor.
That’s one of my other friends buying chips at the cage.
“Do you gamble with these people regularly?” asks the black fellow.
I say, “A couple times a week nowadays.”
“Hmm,” he says. “Yes, that’s what it seems. And how are you doing?”
I say, “Well, nothing remarkable. I win sometimes. I lose other times.”
(I am really lost about where this is going.)
So then he signals to one of the men watching the monitors, and they invite me to have a seat.
Another door opens, and a woman walks in and gives a pouch to the first fellow.
The black fellow unzips it. It’s full of cash.
I am looking, but I am still not seeing the point.
As if reading my mind, he says,
“Almost all of the money collected from the people at your table is counterfeit.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that when your friends buy chips at this house, they pay for them with fake money.”
A million questions run through my mind.
Is he sure? Is he talking about tonight only, or other times too? How long has he been watching them? Does he think I’m also paying with counterfeit cash? (Because I’m not.) Where could my friends have gotten counterfeit money? Where do regular guys even get counterfeit money? Why didn’t they tell me they were doing this? Is there a mistake? Why is he telling me this?
“You’re the only one playing with real money.”
“So — it’s not just one person, but everyone at my table?”
“I’m afraid so,” he says.
I am speechless, and I look from the money to the monitors to the lady from the cash cage to him to the monitor man.
Finally, I say, “What do you want me to do?” as it occurs to me that there is probably some end goal here.
“You don’t have to do anything,” he says, “We just wanted you to know.”
“Oh. Wow. Okay.”
The drive home with my friends is somewhat awkward, tbh.
Ben is the one driving because only he and Jon have a car right now.
They ask me what the black guy wanted to talk to me about.
I won’t lie and say, “It’s nothing,” because it was definitely something.
What do I say?
It’s not like it was normal. You don’t normally get interrupted like that by the staff.
I don’t want to talk about it.
So yeah, that’s what I say.
I say, “Yeah, the guy said some stuff, and asked me some questions, but I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Woo-hoo-hoo!” they tease me. “Are ya in trouble with the casino?”
I laugh a bit, figuring this might be the out that I need.
Let them think I was getting questioned or reprimanded.
They don’t let it go, but soon enough it’s my stop, and I say,
“Well, hey. I guess I’m home, so I’ll catch you guys later.”
I take out my keys and let myself into the building.
So the weird thing is that I started working for the casino.
This meant that I was at the casino a lot more, but I wasn’t gambling.
The black guy — his name is Marcus — is actually the owner of the place, and he offered me a job as one of the monitor guys.
He says, “I already know you’re honest, Jerry.”
In other words, he knew that I wasn’t up to the shit that my friends were.
I think he felt sorry for me, tbh.
But he never came right out and said that.
I decided not to tell my friends about my new job.
I kind of think they just assumed I was still working at the shop.
And for a while, I did work both jobs, but I just wasn’t getting enough sleep
I chose the casino because I felt appreciated there.
And it came with a benefit package for dental treatment and such.
Marcus is a really good guy.
He looks out for his people.
But what I gotta tell you is that I saw a lot of familiar faces coming through the casino.
And the screwy thing is that they’re all trying to cheat the place!
Actually, I don’t know what’s more bizarre — the fact that there are so many cheats, or the fact that Marcus doesn’t have them all charged.
He’s got all the evidence. The cops could have a field day. It’s all on tape — the counterfeit cash is only a fraction of the story.
And I don’t see how he can stay in business, tbh.
Nobody is getting caught, so it just makes everyone more brazen. You half wonder what the point is of all that expensive surveillance equipment if you’re not going to turn people in.
And I have to say, it’s extremely weird for me personally because I know these people — as in, they’re friends and family.
To find out that someone you trusted is a cheat — I don’t know — it just makes you question all your memories of them
What else were they lying about?
And something else which sucks royally is the fact that they knew that I was all in
My coin was real
Every time we came to the table, it was a joke for them
Because I was the only one with anything to lose
Yesterday the boss was around when I was on my break
I was having a smoke outside
He joined me
I didn’t even know he smoked
Anyway the timing was perfect because I had been really thinking about asking him a few things,
Like why he doesn’t rat out all these people, and why he decided to let me into the surveillance room that first time.
We had a good chat, and yeah, he did answer my questions
He said that he had been watching me from the start, and that he felt sorry for me
(like I figured)
to be spending so much of my time with these vultures
(his words, not mine)
who were sucking my time and energy and taking advantage of my good intentions
He said that he felt it was time to intervene
As he was saying this, I was thinking, wow, he barely knows me and he’s way nicer than all those other people
So it was a really cool conversation
Almost like a father-son heart-to-heart, tbh.
I am sure we totally went over the break, but it was like time was standing still
And so of course I had to ask him —
Why do you put up with all of these crooks ripping off your casino, day after day?
He went quiet, and so for a sec I thought maybe I shouldn’t have asked.
“Ah,” he goes, “I have been patient — this much is true, but there will come a day when all will be known. That day is coming soon.”
As he said it, it felt so epic
Like he was from a movie — kind of like a Moses or a wise Jedi.
Snow White was a little bit bored.
So she went online, and she found minimalism.
The minimalists were happy — so happy, oh yes.
For they knew the secret: the secret of less.
Snow White watched, listened, and began to think.
Perhaps she and the dwarves needed fewer things, not more.
Clean surfaces, open spaces, more room, and more time. What’s not to like?
Snow White began.
The verb was “to declutter” and the time was now.
Sometimes it was easy, and sometimes it was tough, but it was always on her mind.
Tough decisions and lots of trips to donate bag after bag and box after box.
It took lots and lots of time, but it was a challenge, and challenges offer change.
She looked to YouTubers for inspiration.
So many before her had emptied closets and rooms and attics and garages.
Snow White continued.
She was amazed at how much there was to remove.
How had they accumulated so much?
She made good progress and had no regrets.
She decluttered the just-in-case, the spent-too-much, and the gifts-from-whomever.
She decluttered her hair-crimping iron and the foot bath massager.
She even tackled memorabilia.
Snow White reached new levels.
Yet the minimalists challenged her to reconsider all horizontal surfaces.
These were just places for clutter to gather.
She said adieu to the coffee table.
A week later, all the end tables were gone, as were the seven bedside stands.
The dressers were next; the room would look bigger.
And what really is the point of a headboard? Hasta la vista, baby!
Snow White checked in with the elites, the experts in Not Having.
She surveyed the videos.
“12 Things You Can Declutter Today”
“44 Things I Never Buy”
“30 Things You Can Live Without”
“I Got Rid of Almost All of My Clothes”
There was nothing new. She had done it all. Even her digital world was in order.
But Snow White, who now went simply by “Snow,” still wasn’t satisfied.
Nirvana had not, as yet, arrived.
Satisfaction was annoyingly elusive.
She wanted more.
She wanted more nothingness.
Truth be told, she resented their need to own anything.
And she resented the dust that fell on her clean surfaces.
Snow sat on the floor eating her oatmeal.
When she was done, she stood up and went to the sink.
(She had considering removing their kitchen sink, but remodelling was pricey.)
She washed out her bowl, and she washed out her spoon.
She looked at her spoon.
Her reflection was there —
But she was upside down.
I sit at my table eating my oatmeal.
Oatmeal with raisins, brown sugar, and milk.
“Wedgwood England 1759 Bone China” says the bowl.
“Retroneu 18/8 Korea” says the spoon.
(My spoon was never silver.)
I stand to put my bowl in the dishwasher, handy thing.
The telephone rings.
I listen to the story, the familiar lament:
Minimalism promised so much through having so little
Happiness, freedom, time, energy, experiences (and control, to be honest)
Having decluttered from top to bottom
Having embraced the hotel aesthetic
Easy to clean, nothing to steal
There was just something missing
Ah, I say,
Nothingness isn’t everything
It’s not what you have in your home that counts
It’s what you have in you that counts
What’s in your heart?
What do you want?
If your heart wants what’s right, be at peace
Don’t worry about having too much or too little
Don’t worry about keeping pace with the minimalists
You don’t need their decor, their Grinch-was-here style
White on gray or beige on beige
The fiddle-leaf fig plant and the inevitable “pop of colour”
IKEA again and again
Give it a pass; fads always fade
Snow is quiet
Just wondering then
If you don’t mind my asking
What kind of style do you like?
Ah, I say,
Funny you should ask
I think that a simple place to start in discussing interior design is with the subject of colour. Minimalism is not realistic about colour, in the sense that typically it is afraid of it. In a minimalist interior, you will see a lot of white (or sometimes pale grey or beige), and this doesn’t vary from room to room. As you walk through the house, the rooms will generally follow the same colour pattern, for the sake of what they call ‘flow.’ One rule, commonly implemented, is the 60-30-10 rule, which says that 60% of your interior should be one colour, 30% should be a second colour, and then 10% should be a third. This is a recipe for boredom in very short order. I don’t think it suits how people are wired. Think of the place we all consider beautiful and peaceful: the outdoors. God does not follow this rule. In even one flower, you will find so many colours! At first glance, a patch of grass might seem to be one colour, but the moment you pause to consider it, you will be able to feast your eyes on endless shades. We love the sky because it changes colour. People actually love colour. We love contrast and we love variations. Colour soothes us and surprises us. Almost everything in nature contains a multiplicity of colours, and that’s one of the reasons we find it beautiful. Life on earth is colourful, and if you’ve seen the photos of outer space, the colours out there are amazing too. And of course, people come in different colours too, and all are lovely.
So, in the same way, a home should be somewhat colourful inside. Pastel colours are quite easy to work with, in the sense that they won’t draw too much attention to themselves. Having said that, more intense colours can work well too, especially greens and blues. I think that people are able to tolerate greens and blues in larger doses than the warmer colours such as yellow and orange; we are accustomed to the greens and blues in nature. Nevertheless, every colour can be used successfully in a room if it is done intelligently. I can imagine a beautiful marigold orangey-yellow dining room with matching chairs. I can imagine a lavender purple breakfast room with white-trimmed windows framing a view of blue sky and sea. Add some lilacs with smooth green leaves in a blue and white vase, and it’s just heavenly. Wallpaper can also be used in a very pleasing way, provided that it has a traditional design. There are so many possibilities, and in the past, it was quite common to give each room its own mood by assigning it its own colour. I really endorse this approach; the variation in colours from room to room makes even the smallest of homes very interesting.
And turning to textiles, here we have an opportunity to add pleasing shapes and designs. Think of nature here too: leaves and flowers feature endless variations and combinations. And fabric does not take up more space if it has a design on it. We need window coverings anyway, so use this opportunity to choose something you like. There is no need to be timid. Nowadays, people are so afraid of making a mistake, so afraid of committing to a look. Without even thinking about different options, they install blinds or plain white curtains. The blinds are simply a series of vertical or horizontal lines in plastic or sometimes wood. I don’t abhor blinds, but they do not add any physical or psychological warmth. By contrast, drapery adds coziness and enhances the mood. What about Roman shades? These are made of fabric but do not take up much space at all. And there are so many beautiful designs. What do you like? You can choose something understated and folksy to create a cottage feeling, or you can choose something more luxurious. I have my favourites. For patterns, I like toile and I also like flowers-and-leaves-on-a-vine motif. I also don’t mind stripes, and gingham has its place. Drapery is also an opportunity to add textures in a sophisticated and subtle way. Fabric can be embroidered or you can add fringes or tassels if you like. The minimalist designers praise texture. (This is because they have deprived themselves, for the most part, of colour, and they are trying to distinguish white from white or beige from beige.) I think it’s nice to have both — to have both colour and texture.
Similarly, the fabric on sofas, chairs, and cushions should be beautiful too. I recommend conservative, understated patterns on larger pieces of furniture. In all fabrics, harsh geometric patterns should be avoided, because they run counter to what we find beautiful in nature. The goal is to find the pleasing shapes and designs that we, as a human race, have discovered. We are at a point in history when we have access to so many time-tested designs. Avoid the styles that came in like a flash and then were discarded just as quickly. With the technology we have today, we can find and pay homage to the best art that we have found. I say “art,” because of course there are many types of art. Textiles are a huge area of human endeavour, and it is good for us to honour what we have learned and what we have been able to achieve. We don’t have to set all of this aside. Consider all of the artistic and culturally-rich designs that are found in textiles. These things can be incorporated into our homes in various ways. I like the idea of a woollen plaid blanket. Think of the sheep grazing on the hillside, and the expertise involved in preparing and using this wool. I like tweed too. I like braided wool rugs. I would love to have a Romanian wool rug, but Persian rugs can be nice too. I like silk and velvet because of the saturation of the colour. I like the look of woven baskets, and a jute rug is said to be very durable. And what about all the rest? There are so many types of textiles that are so amazing and rich in tradition. We can surround ourselves with the amazing things that humans have learned to make using the materials of our world. Why would we turn our back on all of that? A throw pillow with a needlepoint design is a celebration of human artistry, ingenuity, and patience. By contrast, the modern minimalist decorator’s mass-produced shag rug from a minimum-wage factory is not really a celebration of anything. It’s just a fad which will fade, again.
In terms of tables, chairs, coffee tables, end tables, armoires, desks, bed headboards and footboards, and other furniture which is typically made of wood, I would say the same thing. We can appreciate what tradition gives us: the beauty of wood combined with the talent of people — the people who have learned to shape the materials and skillfully fit it together. These wooden pieces of furniture are often handsome and sturdy. They have a presence and a weight to them. The carvings can be very beautiful and intricate. Even when they are old, they are still beautiful. In Venice, you will find many old pieces of furniture because it is difficult to get furniture in and out. The furniture retains its character and quality over decades. It doesn’t look like it’s departing anytime soon. Contrast this with the cheaply-made furniture that is so common nowadays. It won’t last, because it isn’t meant to. It is ‘fast furniture’ — it looks only good enough to make you buy it. It is usually lacking in personality. If you are on a budget, I think it would be better to buy second-hand furniture made of genuine wood. And you don’t have to do what all the YouTubers do, which is sand it and paint it white. You can leave it as is. Regarding Scandinavian design, I understand the aesthetic of clean lines, but I would caution against going down a really modernistic road in terms of furniture in general. Things get really twisted and experimental. I don’t think that a piece of furniture should ‘challenge’ you. I think it should serve you and be comfortable. You might say that beauty is utterly subjective, but I would disagree. There are some elements that are universal and undeniable, such as symmetry. Furniture should be symmetrical and balanced-looking, for one thing. It also shouldn’t be made of industrial materials, such as metal tubing. Plastic is also unattractive. A clear lucite chair may be interesting on some level, but don’t bring it into your home. Marble, on the other hand, is a traditional material, and can be used successfully. I say that it can be used successfully, because it is sometimes used to excess, as a way of showing off. There is a point where marble can get out of hand.
Flooring is something which cannot usually be changed on a whim, but once again, what is natural is generally the most appealing. Hardwood might have an edge over marble, stone and tile, being warmer underfoot. I tend to like ornate carpet in larger spaces like hotel lobbies. I also like carpet on stairs, but you know that already.
Lighting is an area which is much abused by the modern designer. Every outlandish shape is being tried out, but I suppose this is nothing new; since the 50s, lighting has come in a wide array of unappealing styles. Yet after all of this, we can all agree that nothing holds a candle to the peaceful and calming glow of a single candle. That is beauty, and it is a perfect illustration of the truth that we all know beauty when we see it. But I digress. What I would recommend for the modern household is a traditionally-shaped lamp with a fabric shade shaped like a bell. A drum-shaped lamp shade would be my second choice. Such a lamp does not draw too much attention to itself. It simply says, “Hello, I am a lamp,” and it doesn’t even speak until spoken to. I like chandeliers too, and wall sconces are a real treat.
Fireplaces are nice, provided that they are nicely presented. Nowadays, they are usually incorporated into a home because of their traditional associations; they aren’t really needed for warmth or cooking because we have found other ways to warm our homes and cook. They are mainly about style, which is fine. So it makes sense to have them styled in a traditional way: surrounded by rock or marble or tile and framed by a mantle. One thing I dislike is a fireplace with a niche carved out of it where the chimney would be in a log-burning fireplace. The niche is presumably a place for homeowners to put a television set, or maybe a decorative object. It always looks silly, and I would advise closing it to make the wall just continue vertically above the mantle.
I feel that the goal in interior design and decorating is to answer our basic needs for our dwelling in beautiful ways. I suppose I agree with a lot of what William Morris, the founder of the Arts and Crafts movement, said (though I think that having everything handmade isn’t particularly workable right now). In other words, you will need a kitchen table, so I say buy one made of solid wood, and don’t be afraid if it has some shape to it. You will need window-coverings, so I say buy drapes instead of blinds. If you are too frightened to buy drapes, then what about simple white lace? In Ireland, lace hangs in window after window and it’s really lovely.
Once you have satisfied the basic needs, then carefully add additional ornamentation. Let me emphasize the word ‘carefully.’ Choose from a wide range of possibilities, but exercise restraint, or else your home will look cluttered. In particular, keep your kitchen counters as bare as you possibly can. If you use your kitchen for cooking, it is a place that gets wet and greasy. I keep all of my appliances in closed cupboards. I reject the open shelving trend, which allows dust and grease to settle onto your dishes. I keep my knives and all utensils in drawers. You want to be able to wipe down your kitchen easily. I would say the same for the bathroom as well.
But even in other spaces, it is not good to go crazy with the embellishments. If you have too many items on every surface, you will find it difficult to keep things clean. In life we have only a limited amount of time we can dedicate to cleaning. I don’t like to see a house that looks like dust is hiding in every nook and cranny. Secondly, surfaces with too many objects can easily look bad. I dislike the look of collections; even if they are inexpensive, like seashells, they look like someone has gone too far. I don’t terribly mind the look of several small photographs arranged on a table, but even in that case, I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to have fewer. Thirdly, having too many decorative objects makes a home into a museum; one risks knocking over this or that at every turn, and it feels risky to have children moving through the space. For these reasons, I would be highly selective in these non-essential things.
However, I would add them, and I encourage you to go in a different direction than suggested by the minimalists. You see, although the minimalists do not generally specify, in words, their guidelines for ornamentation, there is most definitely a ‘look’ that is being promoted. And this is very widespread. I would say most modern decorators, including those responsible for the images we see in magazines or on popular television shows on HGTV, are taking a very minimalist approach. The decorations that they do use are often monochrome and in the same general colour tones as the rest of the room. So, for example, they might add some straw-coloured accents using baskets or dried leaves or lanterns. If they add a vase, it will be a single solid colour and probably in a neutral tone, unless it is being used as the one permitted colour, in which case, the throw pillows will match the vase. If they add a frame, it will probably be very rectangular and plain. Often it is black, though nowadays white is often used. So I would argue that minimalism is not only about having fewer things; it is also about having things which are themselves minimalistic in appearance. It’s a very narrow road, actually, and I think that it is not very forgiving. If you were to try to introduce, say, a glossy aquamarine lamp into a modern minimalist-style room, you would find that it becomes a ‘statement piece,’ and you would have to decide whether your accent colour is now aquamarine (in which case you are now going to need an aquamarine throw and matching abstract art), whereas you would have been able to add such a lamp into many other types of decorating schemes without causing a stir. To return to my race analogy, a non-white person won’t stand out (for race reasons) at a multicultural gathering, but will definitely stand out at an all-white gathering.
So, to continue, I would definitely add artwork to some walls. You don’t have to rush this part, because it may take you a while to find what you like, but choose something. Artwork is quite important, in the sense that it is one of the first things that anyone notices upon entering a room (or even seeing it from a distance). If you choose badly — for example, if you add a large piece of abstract art — then you may easily wreck the entire look of the room, to the point that it is unpleasant to be in the room. (As I mentioned in an earlier post, if you are unsure of whether a piece of art is ridiculous or not, show it to a jury of young children. They will tell you the truth.) Abstract art tends to be pretentious, suggesting that there is a deeper meaning discernible by only the chosen few. I prefer realism, provided that the subject is pleasing. Original oils or watercolours are nice, and can be found second-hand for almost any price. Don’t be afraid of the ornate gilt frames which older pieces will have; they won’t bite. Plain black frames are always harsh, and frameless pictures don’t belong on walls. An alternative to hanging original art is to nicely frame some botanical prints and arrange them in a neat group of two, three or four. Older maps can also be framed or found already framed, and they are attractive. I suppose you can see my style here. I lean heavily towards art that looks intelligent. I don’t like a mess. I don’t want art that looks like it was painted by Lucy the Elephant — no offence to Lucy. I don’t even like art featuring larger-than-life, super-close-up flowers. It’s too flashy and in-your-face. Let’s keep everything tasteful. Avoid all the geometric garishness of chevrons, zigzags, and large polka dots. These post-modern things are the attention-seekers of the decorating world, and you will regret them later. At the other extreme, I would avoid taxidermy, antlers, and animal prints. As for mirrors, these can work well to add brightness to a room, but moderation is key. You don’t want your house to look obsessed with itself. As for portraits, I always prefer them on horizontal surfaces rather than vertical, though I don’t mind portrait paintings or photo portraits in stairwells. There’s something less ostentatious about the space in stairwells that allows for portraits. The absolute worst is what we have seen with monarchs and other wealthy individuals through history — that life-sized or oversized portrait hung prominently in their own home. Definitely, someone was obsessed with himself.
Moving on to other types of decoration, there are some items which are practical, in the sense that they serve a purpose, yet also pretty. In my home, I have a crystal candelabra. I admired it for weeks and weeks, and finally bought it. In terms of home decoration, I would recommend something like that because it introduces another material (crystal) and another line of human craftsmanship. And one piece is enough. I wouldn’t suggest getting a pile of crystal and making a display of it. Move on to another type of material and another type of skill. You could add a vase which is hand-painted, and you could occasionally put flowers in it. It doesn’t have to be an antique vase costing thousands (I think that would be silly, actually); there are so many types of pottery out there. Porcelain has an interesting history, but it could be something else. Choose any culture — almost all of them will have some version of pottery. But of course, don’t buy them all. Choose one item and live with it for a while. You might never want to part with it, or you might stumble across something else that takes your breath away. That’s when you can donate the first item. As you add items, think about the materials. A brass paperweight introduces another texture and colour and type of endeavour. A small orchid in a terracotta pot does too.
There are so many types of things. I like a wooden clock on the mantle and a chandelier over a dining room table, because I am drawn to the styles and ornamentation found in the western European tradition, yet at the same time, some of my furniture is in Chinese rosewood. There can be a mix, and perhaps that is ideal. As a matter of fact, the English style often did incorporate something Asian (often it was flower pots). What do you like? Maybe you will have a Swedish table runner or tiles from the Netherlands. Maybe you will add a Thai silk wall-hanging. How about a Peruvian wall mirror?
The point is to have fun with it and to look for beauty in the handicrafts of the world. Let your home hold a tiny sampling of what people can do, of what people have learned to do. Your home is your place while you live out your earthly life. Don’t strip it bare as if you are planning to rent it out as an AirBnB next week. It’s your space. You can have nice things. You can have decorations that take a stand. If you want to paint your room blue, then do. The decor doesn’t have to cater to a prospective buyer. It doesn’t have to look like an IKEA showroom. We must end this nonsense where everyone is copying what everyone else is doing (growing succulents, for instance) for fear of having something that looks different. The homes on HGTV all look the same! (No, I still don’t watch TV; the dentist’s office has a drop-down television.) Your home should be able to grow, and by that I mean that you should be able to add little touches to it once in a while without feeling that you have destroyed its look. On that note, here is a test for your home decor. Let’s call it a rose test. If a bouquet of roses, even the ‘standard’ or ‘typical’ dozen red roses, would look out of place in the room, then your room is too cold. You can cut the stems down to make a short arrangement, Martha Stewart style, but it must be red roses for this test. Don’t ask for a test of white orchids, blue hydrangeas, an air plant, or a cactus in a macrame hanger. Can that universal symbol of beauty, the red rose, be added to your room in a casual, oh-how-nice-you-stopped-by kind of way?
Let home be a place that welcomes you with beauty and warmth. Make it cozy, interesting, and yet fresh. Make your home look recognizably like your home, not like a house that’s been staged for a quick sale. Make it a home for the people you love.
Below are some photographs I found of rooms that I liked. I don’t have a Pinterest account, so this is the closest it gets. I found these photographs by looking at House & Garden’s list of the 100 best interior designers for 2019. I rejected most designers on that list; their styles were too minimalist or too weird or too excessive. When I was done, I was left with these: Leveson Design, McWhirter Morris, McCall Design, Max Rollitt, and Edward Bulmer Interior Design. And there were five other designers who seemed really good, but I just couldn’t find enough photos online of their work (Woody Clark, Henrietta Spencer-Churchill, Joanna Plant, David Mlinaric, and Colin Orchard.)