Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Is it just me, or does anybody else feel woefully unprepared for the world we’re now living in?

Man, there doesn’t seem too much left to say about it all, because we’re all heavily addicted to our media of choice, telling us the version of the world around us that corresponds most to the world view to which we’ve already subscribed. Orwell’s Newspeak seems to be the lingua franca of this brave new world, and history is indeed repeating, though the stakes are higher, seeing as how the powers that be now have godly powers, the ability to take decisions about the environment or international conflicts that render the future of humanity and the planet as we know it obsolete.

Suffice it to say, for whatever number of reasons, I never thought it could get this bad.

I’m writing from a hostel in Jerusalem; tomorrow I’ll make my way to Gaza. The last several months have been a whirlwind of wonderful and terrible, and this place seems so appropriate to the narrative of my life this year. I’m still hopelessly in love with the city I’ve called home in 2016, though it’s looking increasingly likely it won’t be home too far into the new year. Work is excellent on so many levels: I’m working with the most intelligent, dedicated team I’ve ever had the pleasure to collaborate with; it’s an honour to call the organisations we work with partners; I’m constantly challenged and learning and realising how very much more there is to learn, how very many more challenges lie ahead.

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An update, and some thoughts on staying focused.

It’s hard to write these days. What to say? Nothing exciting keeping me from my words. It’s partly that those moments of clarity that used to come quite regularly to me seem few, far between and nowhere near developed enough to formulate into essay format. I’ve hit a plateau on my journey of self-realisation. These days I’m just trying to remember all the lessons that sounded good when I wrote them down at the time. Not that I read myself. So cringe-inducing…like listening to a recording of your own voice. Give me nails on a chalkboard any day over reading something I wrote more than half an hour ago.

And of course not writing means slowly forgetting how to formulate a coherent post worth reading, and then the whole process of keeping this blog up-to-date seems silly. On the other hand, I know it’s good for me. And this is a day off during which I’ve decided to hole up in my flat doing things I know to be good for me because I’ve been neglecting those things a bit of late.

So if you’ll note and forgive the selfish motivation of this post, I’ll endeavour to write something worth reading.

This is such a very strange time in the world, isn’t it? Surely it isn’t just me feeling it’s all going to pot rather quickly, that the reigns are slipping from our sweaty, anxious palms, that the horses are mad and the carriage is falling to pieces and we’ve left our glasses on the night table and our near-sightedness is proving just one more debilitating factor in this journey gone awry, now seemingly destined for catastrophe.

The news seems bad all the damn time. I have to keep reading it: it’s partly my nature and partly my professional responsibility to try to understand what the hell is happening in the world. As previously mentioned, I’m limited in what I can discuss regarding the goings-on within the geopolitical boundaries in which I currently reside. And no matter how much I read, listen to podcasts, and read some more, I just can’t wrap my head around what’s happening in places beyond those boundaries I thought I understood a little better…Duterte in the Philippines…Brexit…this “election” in the United States. Like one of my Sociology professors used to say, “You can’t make this shit up.” Indeed.

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The unsettling nature of a return to the ordinary.

Perfect autumn day in Haute-Loire

Perfect autumn day in Haute-Loire

Saturday morning was, like every morning since we got back to France, unseasonally warm, though the notion of “seasonal” has lost much of its weight in light of ever-increasing temperatures on the planet we call Earth. We did our weekly shopping and made our way to C’s parents for lunch. Just as we were sitting down to eat, C’s mom pointed outside. “You see that fog?” She indicated a low cloud in the distance. Suddenly it began to snow. It kept on throughout the afternoon and into the night, and it’s snowed a bit today as well. Temperatures dropped from 60-65°F (15-18°C) to 35-40°F (2-5°C) within a number of hours.

And so it is winter.

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A happy memory, and a worthy objective

If you ever want to teach a young adult about the value of a dollar, send them on a 3 month roadtrip with very little money.  At 21, I was just stupid enough to go ahead with a trip around the continental US with two friends right after a series of unfortunate circumstances left me very much broke.  I couldn’t bear the thought of backing out after a year of planning, and luckily my friends had all the faith necessary to lead me to believe we’d be ok.  Off we went, me sat in the back with a few crochet hooks and a few dozen spools of yarn, whipping out tams for dreadies as fast as my fingers allowed. Tams raked in big bucks in those days – I got anywhere between $30-60 for each one.  By the time we left the parking lot of a Phish concert somewhere (Wisconsin?), I’d made just enough money to be on par with my amigas, who were also not rolling in it.

Every penny was precious, so we did not buy what we did not need.  Facial cleanser was just outside our budget, so we’d been using soap.  My girlfriends both had amazing skin, but about 6 weeks in, even they were feeling the stress of it all.  We were in a campsite just outside Quantico (An old man outside a convenience store: What the hell are you girls doing in Quantico? hehe…As with many corners of the US we crossed on that trip, we did not fit in).  I woke up before my companions as I always did, owing, I believe, to my mother’s refusal to ever let me sleep in as an adolescent.  My friends, however, could sleep in those boiling hot tents until well past 10, and I couldn’t stand it.  So I went for a stroll, into a part of the campsite that had been cordoned off.  I could see right away that this part of the campsite had undergone years of neglect: campsites were worn and unused, weeds grew over firepits, it appeared the roads hadn’t been driven on for at least months, if not years.  Interestingly, there were plastic ribbons tied round the branches of a number of trees, which were conspicuously growing in the way of clearly – if anciently – designated campsites.

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Home again.

When I was 13, my family underwent a restructure of sorts.  Upper management felt that it was best for everyone if the organisation split off into two directions, and owing to financial constraints, both parties relocated.  Ergo, the home I grew up in was no longer my home.  I thought my heart would break.  It didn’t.  But it was a difficult time.  We had lived in that house for 8 years, and I had also gone to the same Catholic school for all that time.  Public high school was looming, and though I had a terrible time in my elementary/middle school, I didn’t know anything else, so I was more than a little apprehensive about what was to come.  It was the end of so many things and I was frightened; it was also the beginning of many wonderful things, but when we’re fixated on the past, it’s very hard to turn our attention to the future.

Three years later, across a continent and over a rather large “pond”, C, having recently discovered basketball, was being discovered himself.  It’s not every day in France you find a decent 6’7″ 16 year-old baller.  And so it was that he was recruited to a team near Saint Etienne and moved away from the home into which he was born.

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Turn and face the strange.

Some time ago, in the midst of one of my many (many) existential crises, I happened upon a series of books called The School of Life.  The premise of all these books is that sometimes the things we aren’t overtly taught via the many institutions to which we belong by choice, default or force, could really use some basic instruction.  Some titles include How To Connect with Nature, and How To Be Alone, as well as News: A User’s Manual.   One of the books proffered is How To Find Fulfilling Work, and whilst I have been engaged throughout much of my adult life in fulfilling work, at the time I found that book, I very much was not fulfillingly employed.

This, unfortunately, remains the case.

You see, whilst I do love language, and I do love teaching, I do not so much love teaching language.  I never envisaged teaching English; teaching English was something I never foresaw falling back on, and that happened to save my arse when I did indeed fall.

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