Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Devil made me do it . . . NOT!

Lakeside Property

It will come when it will come!
In a Facebook exchange about (I think it was) whether or not Satan knew that he would be defeated by Jesus when he tempted him in the wilderness, I suggested that the “Satan” is far better understood as the impulse to bad behaviour innately possible in the human psyche than as an evil, lesser God that floats about somewhere above us and tries to undo Goodness in the world.
    Sometimes, however, the temptation to describe behaviour as Satanically-driven is strong: criminally harassing kids until their lives are not worth living, taking advantage of tragedy to scam people by preying on their sympathies, taking revenge on perceived injustice by exploding bombs in crowds of the innocent.
    The only time my car was vandalized was in the school parking lot a few days after my daughter’s funeral.
    It may be nice to blame an external force for our darkest behaviours, but that’s not likely to be constructive.  When Stephen Harper takes a jab at Justin Trudeau for suggesting that terrorism has social precursors, I wonder if our government too is acceding to the expediency of blaming it on demon-possession. Looking for a reason for behaviour that implicates ourselves is not on; it’s like negotiating with the devil.
    What’s the difference between the kids who grow into deviancy and those who don’t? We know at least part of the answer to this question intuitively: strong families, good schools with empathetic teachers, functional communities and creative opportunities greatly improve the chances that kids will grow up to live constructively.  Jails are full of adults who lacked these basics.
    I’m not sure what Harper, Trudeau, Mulcaire or May believe about this, but I am sure that some of them are influenced by a Christian background, and that that background might well include a tenet that sees evil as a project of a lesser god called Satan. When it comes to the task of making the world a more just, more peaceful, more prosperous place for all, I suspect they’d be better off without it.
    Not to mention us citizens.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Art, anecdotes and a few explosions

In the Academy B & B Gallery - Encaustic art by Dennis Dyck and

Watercolour still life by Brian Hicks

·        1. Write a bucket list
·        2. Travel to . . .
*I pondered why a baseball appears larger as it approaches, and then it hit me. – Some comedian on CBC (overheard while driving).
*One of the best ways to give the brain a thorough workout is to try to unravel the complexities of the politics of countries such as Israel, Iran and Italy. – Joe Schlesinger (He might have added Canada, I think.)
It’s been a week of explosions, particularly in the USA. Who’d have thought that the Boston Marathon would occur to terrorists as a target for mayhem? That a fertilizer plant should be the site of an accidental explosion should come as no surprise. It makes me wonder how safe we are her in Rosthern; tanks of anhydrous ammonia (like the one that blew up in West, Texas) are stored within a mile of my house, along with granular nitrates and who knows what other toxic agricultural chemicals meant to kill bugs, weeds, etc. Of course, the odds of an accident like the one in West are small, but then, even a blind dog is bound to find a bone sooner or later.
               In 1866, Alfred Nobel discovered that mixing nitroglycerine with silica would turn the liquid into a paste which could be shaped into rods of a size and form suitable for insertion into drilling holes. In 1867 he patented this material under the name of dynamite. To be able to detonate the dynamite rods he also invented a detonator (blasting cap) which could be ignited by lighting a fuse. (
               Alfred Nobel’s discovery facilitated a giant leap forward for the mining industry which could now load blast holes with dry sticks rather than handling the volatile liquid nitroglycerine. Since then, explosives of different kinds have been the strategy of choice for all kinds of problems, especially when we consider that gunpowder belongs in that class.
               Seems to me that a man has an intrinsic need to make a mark on the world. Failing to do that through normal social intercourse, the mind turns to alternatives, and what more spectacular alternative can there be than the explosion. Whether or not Dzohkhar Tsarnaev survives his injuries or not, the mark he and his brother made is exceedingly more spectacular than most of us could ever hope for; there’s been little else in the news for the past week.
              A nineteen-year-old recruit to the Canadian military was asked about his thoughts before embarking for Afghanistan. "I can't wait to get over there and blow stuff up," he replied. 
             This essay needs a clincher, but I can't think of one, except to share in my thoughts the weeping of all those who have sacrificed so that some misguided soul could "make his mark." 


Sunday, April 14, 2013

My grocer calls me George

'50s Rosthern - courtesy Jim Friesen

Where are the green lentils?? Anyway?

My grocer’s name is George.

For a time, there, he took to calling me Jake, and I called him Pete because with the Hi, George followed by Hi, George, it was hard to tell who was talking to whom . . . and it sounded kind of silly.

At a recent hospital fundraiser put on by the local Lions, I sat with my grocer’s father-in-law and we chatted between forkfuls (forksful?) of pasta.

None of this is conveyed as news. It’s just to illustrate that the person who stocks green lentils if I ask for them is also a friend, a food confidante who knows the needs and tastes of his customers and caters for them if he can.

Sadly, our relationship to our tailors, our haberdashers, our hardware suppliers and our grocers is more distant on the whole than it’s ever been. Walmart sells groceries, for Pete’s sake (no pun intended). And we—being the acquiescent, consuming sheep that we’ve become—flock there because they can sell peanut butter for 20 cents less a pop.

And our friend’s living potentially dries up and he leaves town and we have no choice anymore but the big box store 75 kilometers away or the internet, where the owners don’t know that we have colitis or a broccoli allergy or that we do our own painting . . . and couldn’t care less.

If I was really mad, I’d mention how this is all feeding into the corporate globalizing of citizens, their reduction to anonymous participants in the highly profitable production/consumption paradigm that serves CEOs, corporate boards and stock traders. But I won’t, because it’s a beautiful spring (late winter in Saskatchewan) morning and I still have my George . . . or Pete . . . and my hardware expert Jen and my librarian Pat and a host of others who call me George and not Sir.

So what brings on this lament? Walrus magazine’s short article about the takeover of Zeller’s locations by Target. (Walrus, May, 2013, p. 16) So Target will be cheaper than Valley Sports and Hardware, but will they know my name? I doubt it because I checked them out on Wikipedia, and here’s what I found:

“Target Corporation, originally the Dayton Dry Goods Company and later the Dayton Hudson Corporation, is an American retailing company, founded in 1902 and headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is the second-largest discount retailer in the United States, preceded by Walmart. The company is ranked at number 38 on the Fortune 500 as of 2012 and is a component of the Standard & Poor's 500 index.”

The former Zeller’s location at Lawson Heights Mall—which traffic from Rosthern going into Saskatoon ordinarily passes—is being enlarged by Target. It will open soon and savers won’t have to go all the way to Walmart anymore. Think of the shortened driving distance as a green initiative!

I’m just saying.