Saturday, May 27, 2006


Labels can accurately represent contents if the contents/ingredients are few in number and readily identifiable. If it is a case of WYSWYG the label works. Although many people like to extend labels to people, people are individuals that cannot be so readily categorized. More commonly, labelling people leads to or is used fuel racism and other forms of intolerance/ignorance. Todd Haspect, a Youth Empowerment supervisor, states in May 26, 2006 issue of Saanich News, "Upon spying a group of teens adorned with Mohawks, ragged clothes, tattoos or body piercings, some adults tend to make negative snap judgments about their character rather than remaining neutral or taking time to find out who they are as people." The label reads: "those with Mohawks are sketchy".

Waiting for my drink in a new coffee shop I was checking out, a homeless man introduced himself to me. Subsequently, I shared my table/food and chatted for about half-an-hour. I am glad that he broke the barrier and ripped the label off by introducing himself to me; what a blessing.

What is very interesting about labelling is that many feel compelled to label themselves. This compulsion arises in seeking an air of respectability in social circles. Even though I genuinely say that I want to be myself and forget about the pressure to conform, I still find myself at times glamorizing my story. The pressure to fit into an acceptable preset mould is great. Finding a label also saves you lots of explaining at cocktail parties. Anyway, I'll still venture to be myself and to find my place.

My co-worker showed me the fuh2 website the other day. I wish that one day I will invent something so quirky and original. It, however, both encourages and mocks labelling, so mine hopefully will be in a slightly different vain.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Searching for Meaning

Edward Wilson in the May 2006 issue of National Geographic states, "Well, the human mind has evolved to search for meaning." This statement seems counter-intuitive to me. There are few things in history that have caused as much grief to the world as the search for meaning. Notably any institutionalized form of religion. How could it then develop? I do like the fact that Wilson considers the subject of the world as A Meeting of Science and Religion (the subtitle of his new book). It is true that many have lost the big picture. The world is beautiful. Let us not screw it up too bad. We will have an impact, so the question is quantity. How needless is our (the traditional West's) waste? I agree that Intelligent Design will not provide scientific answers, but I in no way believe that science can provide all the answers humans need. I like how Robert Miller put it in the April 2006 issue of First Things:

"The larger problem the Dover Area School Board was trying to address--the apparent atheistic drift of much public education--may still have a solution, however. I think public high schools ought to offer, at the senior level, a course in philosophy, including metaphysics...This would negate the impression, perhaps created in science classes, that science explains everything there is to explain about the universe." Check it out! The whole article is good.

Getting It

Since I read the article Duchy of Cornwall in the May 2006 issue of National Geographic, I have a few apologies to make. I was lulled into a diminished of view of Prince Charles, but now have much greater respect for him. Although the maximum level of respect that he can get from me is still hampered by his treatment and fall-out with the most popular woman of this age (her funeral attendance says it all), I would like to apologize for thinking he was completely without judgement. Not only does he have judgement, but he also "gets it" and puts his money where his mouth is. The town of Poundbury says it all. As does the following quotes from pages 102 and from the article:

"'It very nearly didn't end up like it is now because there were efforts to water it down', the prince said. 'But we have probably shown that for a ten percent extra cost, roughly, you are actually achieving a far higher value in the longer term than the shorter term, which is the way the modern world looks at everything.'"

If only Bush could think the same!

"'In farming, as in gardening,' the prince once wrote, 'I happen to believe that if you treat the land with love and respect (in particular, respect for the idea that it has an almost living soul, bound up in the mysterious, everlasting cycles of nature) then it will repay you in kind.'"

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Blast from the Past

Besides being astonished by the amount of 80's music on the radio --it exceeds the amount of new releases by far, the popularity of Star Wars among 7 to 9 year-olds blows me away. Lately I have watched my son play Star Wars with his friends, though he only saw the movie the other night. He played along just fine with my basic summaries of the movies and characters, though I had to correct talk of "rookies" to "Wookies". Either the movies are overly simplistic or children do not "get" a lot of it. I believe it is mostly the latter; shows for kids often have dialogue for the benefit of adults. I have noticed that, since he watched the movie, guns are more prevalent in his play. Col. Grossman at has many sources to back up the correlation between video games and increased violence (the Marine Corps uses violent video games to induce a willingness to kill). I think we'll scale down the level of violence that he watches for a bit until this stimulus is diluted a bit.


What says more: the now record-low approval ratings for Blair and Bush or their victories after 9-11? The fact that they were re-elected, in Bush's case with a greater number of ballots, shows that the general public was duped by their rhetoric. Next time they should listen to Scott Ritter, read Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century and use some common sense. Saddam had no relationship with terrorists at the time and the sources above show that it was Bush Sr.'s goal to topple Iraq that was really fulfilled. Saddam was lead-on by Bush Sr. until his sudden abhorrence at the invasion of Kuwait, so Saddam is not entirely to blame. I guess it should be no surprise that Invasion Iraq was in the works for years, given that Ford and Kissenger approved the invasion of East Timor. At least the approval ratings show that common sense and truth prevailed to some extent, as opposed to being covered up for twenty-five years (the case with East Timor).
Unfortunately, policies are on the table that suggest that we are not out of the woods yet. There are some that see through the fear: "Are you telling me that tens of millions of Americans are involved with al-Qaeda?" Patrick Leahy, U.S. Democratic Senator from Vermont, on reports that the National Security Agency has amassed the phone records of millions of U.S. homes and businesses since 9/11, in search of patterns that might lead to terrorist networks. Both the image and quote are from the May 22, 2006 issue of time on pages 9 and 13 respectively. Overall, I can't believe that the warning sirens surrounding Hayden are not loud enough to be heard, never mind the fact that Rumsfeld still has a position.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Here's To You

Here's To You on CBC Radio 2 is one of my favourite shows on the radio. It is a request show and I enjoy hearing how classical music has impacted different people. Due to the diversity inherent in this genre, a wide variety of music is played on this show. Here is my recent request:

My daughter Evelyn is just over two years-old and she loves horses. "Horse" is one of the few words that she can say well at this stage. One of her favourite activities is prancing like a horse around the living-room to the Prelude-Allegro giocoso of Carmen Suite No. 1. Only this first movement will suffice for her and once the pace of the music calms she repeatedly says "horse" until I go back to the beginning of the track. The odd time I can get by with playing the whole Suite without her noticing, but she doesn't dance with as much vigour. Similarly, to ask me to play this track she points at the stereo and says "horse". I don’t know how she came up with this association, but I can now imagine horses in full-dress apparel performing on the parade-grounds. Could you please play the Prelude for me so I can once again enjoy watching my daughter prance throughout the living-room. Love your show,


Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Nihilism, to me, is much easier to embrace if you don't have children : the hope for the future. Children have been and will continue to be a constant reality on this planet. Many different events float upon the winds of time, but the hope for something better and different, present in a new-born, will remain. Also, M. Scott Peck surmised that it is difficult to understand the human condition without having children. Pets are no replacement in this aspect, as they do not naturally outlive humans or carry-on any genes or heritage. Children are more selfish than most parents, so they force (condition over time) the parents not to be selfish. These aspects of parenthood typify unselfishness, which also looks forward in time. Nihilism is intrinsically selfish as it concerns the present, specifically the view-holder's own present and ignores both ancestors and the hope for the future.

When my wife and I visited Taliesin West we were rejuvenated after the tour, contrary to our expectations. All the walking in the heat would have dictated tiredness had it not been for the incredible design of the place. I was puzzled as to what exactly created this energy until I read the following account by Val Cox in vol. 13.4 of the Frank Lloyd Wright Quarterly:

I realized that just by walking through the buildings at Taliesin and Taliesin West, you’re receiving something all the time. I know everyone feels that. It takes place in the texture and colour and interplay of the forms. It’s almost like a thousand magnetic fields that you’re passing through. And each time you pass through, just walking through the pergola or whatever, you’re absorbing something. And you don’t know what it is and you couldn’t put it into words. But as your life goes on, it starts to flow back out in a way that’s not arbitrary, or as a result of analyzing and coming to conclusions. As Mrs. Wright always said, ‘It’s in the marrow of the bones.’ And it just radiates from you.”

Monday, May 08, 2006

Guest Friendship

The tradition of guest friendship extends far back in time. For instance, read Genesis 18:1-15, Judges 19:16-30 and various instances in the Odyssey, e.g. the famous, Nausikaa passage. I have witnessed this practice in many parts of the world and always feel somewhat unsettled when I am greeted so warmly and favoured so much by people that are truly strangers. I think I do not feel entirely comfortable in these situations because the situation does not make sense in a "typical" North American framework. In most of the urban centres of North America one does not usually welcome and entertain a stranger who is passing through town. This may be due to many things, including distrust and the often used situation in Hollywood movies to set up a murder or similar crime. Also, the culture in North America tends to dictate that you need to deserve something to receive it. While this mentality is a strong basis for a strong work ethic, it doesn't necessarily lead you to be generous or receive unwarranted generousity. Why, in some cultures and communities, am I favoured for being a stranger? I think that this preference is due to survival and is more present in cultures that live in harsh environments. Thus, survival depends on sharing. Who knows when you yourself will be stranded in a desert or tundra without a hope? Fun-loving cultures also have a unique way of welcoming you in celebration. Lastly, in my experience in North America it is the minorities (immigrants and aboriginals) that are most proficient in extending generousity to strangers. This experience is ironic as many attempt to marginalize them or state that they only take; when, in fact, it is they that give.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Biblical Environmentalism?

Given that the Protestant work ethic derived from a specific set of verses from the Bible and that this ethic contributed to a consumer driven economy that, in turn, created large-scale environmental degradation, is a biblical view on environmentalism feasible? Since the main focus of the Bible is the relationship between humankind and God, and the relationship among humans Mark 12:28-31 (Deut. 6:4-5), a view of this kind must be derived from a group of scriptures. The first group of scriptures that I will consider concern God’s relationship to earth.
  • God created the world and it is his (Gen. 1:1, 1Cor. 10:25-26 [Ps. 24:1], Col. 1:15-20).
  • What God created was good (Genesis 1:20, 25; Is. 6:3) and a source of joy (Job 38: 6-7).
  • God controls the earth (Deut. 10:14, Ps. 50:1, Ps. 147:8, Acts 16:26).
  • He uses it to exact judgment (Num. 16:32, 2 Chron. 7:3, Ps. 46:8, Is. 13:13).
  • The earth responds to God (Ps. 98:7-8, Ps. 148, Ps. 97:5, Ps. 77:18, Psalm 46:6).
Clearly, the Bible states that God created the earth, cares for it and interacts with it.

The second part of this analysis concerns what the Bible says about our relationship to the earth.

  • God appointed us as stewards (Gen. 1:26, 28; Gen. 9:1-3).
  • What does it mean to rule or be given everything in your hands? Note that God demands an accounting from the animals as well (Gen. 9:4-5, Ps. 148:13, Prov. 28:3, Is. 32:1, Matt. 5:5, Lk. 1:52).
  • There are warnings and consequences concerning our role (Is. 24:5-7, Hosea 4:1-3, Jer. 51:25, Rev. 11:15-18).
  • Our commission regarding the earth (Matt. 6:19, 2 Pet. 3:13, Is. 45:8, Is. 66:1).

Main questions for thought, given the above analysis:

  • What are our priorities, duties and responsibilities to the earth and the poor?
  • What is our relationship to the earth?


Romans 1:20

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

  • There is a correlation between consumption and pollution. Can the above be true in a polluted city?

James 1:27

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

  • There is a correlation between consumption and poverty (ecological footprint, above).

Hebrews 6:12

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

  • God cares for the earth so we should.

What can you do?

  • Recycle.
  • Buy responsibly – buy more local produce and less exotic produce and buy fair-trade to ensure farmers in other nations can make a living.
  • Buy organic to nurture the earth.
  • Drive less.
  • Complete your footprint to see what you need to work on.

If you want a version with the full scriptural references post a comment requesting it with your email and I will get one to you.

The reason that I am passionate about the environment is that when I first moved to B.C., in the 1980’s Acid Rain and the Greenhouse Effect were plastered on the front cover of a majority of publications. As time went on I witnessed logging protests, etc… Like many students at university I explored new ideas and was passionate in the expression of these ideas. It was during this time the 3-R’s became popular and the time that I first recycled, bought bulk items to avoid packaging and visited the Walbran. Today I still recycle, avoid saran-wrap, bike as much as possible, etc... Unfortunately, I have an ecological footprint of 4.6 earths (the amount needed for everyone on the earth to live at the same lifestyle). The NA average is 6.9 earths. I used the MEC one (; my results for were 3.5 and 4.7 earths respectively. Thus, the future in this area always looks bleak as so many people live “without” to sustain that which I use. There is no equality here, but I realize that the less room I require, the more room there is for others. Thus, choices of consumption in North America are important and a way to bring social justice to the world. The bottom line is not the lowest price, but rather ensuring that others are treated as Jesus would have treated them. I won’t even mention sweat shops.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Living Fiction

How much of our interactions are genuine? Does anyone really express what they feel? There are many ways to live fiction. One can distract truth-seekers by talking about the deeds of others, commonly know as living vicariously. Another option is creating a story by exaggerating, which impresses others so much that they don't ask personal questions. One can also be stand-offish or have no "personality". Or, be aggressive and ask all of the questions so you are never asked. There are many options for the majority who do not live reality (including me) and pure reality may be fiction. A useful self-test is: "If people could read my mind would I be afraid?" or would it roughly represent what I convey to others. Non-fiction can not only be interesting but can also be fun and attractive. Live it!

Thursday, May 04, 2006


While living in a community that was, literally, a clearing in dense jungle with ATCO trailers placed in neat rows throughout, I decided to embark on a journey. The easiest trail was the road out of town made for the transmission lines. After heading up the steep pitch, for what seemed like hours, we ran into some local workmen. Here, I was given my first taste of coffee; however, this drink was sweeter than anything I had tasted. I felt guilty and happy that I had sweets so early in the day. We went on from the workers for a while when I spotted it to my left: the low lying caves surrounded by jungle. Somehow I knew these were the "burial caves" and to this day I am unsure of whether the many skeletons and Dutch coin were real or a dream.

New Censorship

Today I went to my local music store to pick up Living with War by Neil Young. Unfortunately the store did not have it, but I couldn't help wondering if the FBI label on the back would read "If you purchase this product you are considered to hold the same view as the artist and will be charged under section 9.11 of the Patriot Act." Then the next time I visited the States with that music in my itunes I could be held without trial for listening to an album that actually seems to make sense.

Onto another topic: I was given an Eddie Bauer back-pack several years ago and have used it often. The result is that the zipper is completely broken. I decided to go into the Eddie Bauer Store to get it fixed. After discussing my problem with several sales staff and the manager, I learned that they would not fix it, as I did not have a receipt. This situation seemed ridiculous to me because there are a number of patches that stipulate that I have a genuine Eddie Bauer bag. I wish they would tell the truth and say, "We get many sales because we advertise a lifetime warranty on the bag, but put many obstacles in the way so we don't have to honour the warranty." My solution was to give the bag away and hope that someone out there can repair the zipper and give the otherwise good bag a new lease on life after writing a complaint to the company to which I received no answer. I would like to point out that my DaKine bag also had zipper problems, but that it was replaced with no hassle.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Defying Nature

The desert in Phoenix does not resemble that of Jordan much; while Phoenix abounds in plant-life, Jordan does not. The blooms that these plants create in mid-to-late April seem to especially contrast the hard-pan found in Jordan. While there, though, I could not escape the parallels brought by my recollection of a large pool in Humayma. At first thought, this pool in the middle of a very dry desert appears to be a cistern. Upon further reflection this supposition seems unlikely because there is no evidence what-so-ever of a roof to minimize evaporation. In addition, all the other cisterns on the site were covered. Nearby Petra has similar remains of a large pool. The most likely theory put forth is that these pools were for recreational purposes alone. A further supposition is that they were built to display the ruler's ability to thwart nature. In Phoenix a similar attitude prevails. There is no visible water conservation. Since I live in a rain-forest and I am limited in how frequently I can water my lawn, I can only suppose that Phoenix does not limit lawn-watering to display man's advantage over nature. Open canals and a number of man-made lakes and rivers seem to strengthen this point. The lack of low-flush toilets and water-saving shower heads also emphasize this point. Conservation in any way was lacking in Phoenix, from recycling to the widespread use of HUMVEEs (the only hybrids are the buses). Although Phoenix may be an oasis in the desert, it cannot be one responsibly for so many people. I hope by my next visit that my hotel won't change the sheets, soap and towels against my wishes (my wife left a note not to do so) and that I find more than two recycle bins in my travels.


Me: "Who does daddy love?"
Evelyn: "Me."
Me: "Who loves daddy?"
Evelyn: "Me."

Evelyn is my daughter, who is just over two years old. We spend much time together and the above is one of our many pointed conversations.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Desert in Bloom

I sensed that familiar spicy-smell, upon getting out of my car at King Tut's. "What a surprise?", I thought, "my wife suggested a Nargila bar." We had just arrived in Phoenix late at night and joined all the trendy youth hanging out at "Tut's". We had a great meal and I was constantly reminded of all those great times I had in Jordan. The next day we hung out at the hotel pool and I almost finished Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. Amazing! No children to interrupt me, just me and my book. In the evening we joined the start of the festivities for a good friend of ours that was getting married the next day. This evening was the rehearsal dinner at the Wrigley (yes, that family) Mansion. The night was a complete blessing and conversation flowed easily at our table. The only puzzling fact was the Flemish-style artwork on the walls of a hacienda. These seemed dark and out of place among the bright walls, creosote wood, and terracotta.

I really do love the desert; like putting on familiar clothes, it feels comfortable. Fortunately, the next day we went to Taliesin West and had the most amazing experience. In the desert stands Frank Lloyd Wright's winter residence and school. This place does blend in with the natural environment just as he intended. In addition, just like floor lighting and drive through banks, his innovation of organic architecture was years ahead of his time. One recent building was built from a plan of his that was sixty years old and the structure blends in beautifully with the modern skyline. Highlights were the piano niche, cut glass to accommodate vases on a too-narrow shelf and the canvas roofs. Learning of his mentoring approach also made a deep impact on me. Despite the long journey, my wife and I felt particularly invigorated after this trip.


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