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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Sometimes being a parent means making the tough decisions, even if you kids utter the words “I hate you” as a result.  This was our experience when our 12 year old son asked to sleep over at a friends house last night.  While we’ve always been wary of the whole ‘sleep-over’ idea, we haven’t been really great about reinforcing our position, especially as our kids started to make new friends after moving from Ontario to PEI 3 years ago.  That all changed recently.

After battling with him for the better part of an hour about why we were not going to allow a sleep-over, not last night, not in the future, I reached out to the Twitterverse and the parents at Kajukenpo last night.  I was overwhelmed by the responses I received.  It seems that our role as miserly parents is echoed by most of the other parents that I spoke with last night.  Some allow sleep-overs in their homes, but not at others.  While we considered that route, and offered it as an olive branch last night, it seems wrong to take the ‘no sleep-over’ stance, but ask other parents to possibly compromise the same position.

One of the repeated queries, usually by those without children, was to present the logic for our position.  There wasn’t any malice in the inquiries, so here is our defence.

Last October we listened to the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  In that 2-day conference we received the following counsel from Larry R. Lawrence, a General Authority from the 2nd Quorum of the 70.  In his address he said:
“There is a great deal of wisdom displayed when parents stay up and wait for their children to return home. Young men and women make far better choices when they know their parents are waiting up to hear about their evening and to kiss them good night.

May I express my personal warning about a practice that is common in many cultures. I am referring to sleepovers, or spending the night at the home of a friend. As a bishop I discovered that too many youth violated the Word of Wisdom or the law of chastity for the first time as part of a sleepover. Too often their first exposure to pornography and even their first encounter with the police occurred when they were spending the night away from home.

Peer pressure becomes more powerful when our children are away from our influence and when their defenses are weakened late at night. If you have ever felt uneasy about an overnight activity, don’t be afraid to respond to that warning voice inside. Always be prayerful when it comes to protecting your precious children.”

Those words brought back the memories of my youth, and the struggles that I had to maintain the values of my parents and had to decide whether to accept those standards as my own, or deviate from the ways and paths of our family and religion.  While I was not a perfect youth, I can say that I resisted most of the temptations, including many that beguiled so many of my classmates.

In the grandiose expanse of life, it isn’t the decisions of great magnitude that have the most profound impact on our lives, but the simple, innocuous choices of the every day life that can sway our life from the path we want to follow.  Children need to be equipped to make the choices that will confront them in life, but all in due time.  Exposing your children to temptations that they are not equipped to manage seems like a recipe for disaster, and one that I am going to do everything I possible can to avoid.

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I still remember the day when I discovered that the world was not the safe and inviting place that I imagined it would be. I was 16 and my geography teacher had invited a young woman from East Timor to speak to our class about the invasion of her country by the Indonesian army. A small island nation, the Indonesians exterminated one-third of the population. And nobody in the first world gave a damn.

You see, the problem with East Timor is that there are no lucrative natural resources for a foreign government to exploit, or multinational corporation to capitalize on in the shady markets of ‘free trade’. I remember feeling unimaginable sorrow that day as I contemplated the seeming unending capacity for cruelty that human beings had for one another.

It is almost 20 years since that day of awakening and my eyes continue to open wider and mind continues to be turned to the pain, sorrow and suffering that is so much a part of the human experience. There are definitely some days where I wish that I could climb back into the matrix and bury my head in he sand. I even feel jealous of those who seem completely oblivious to the world around them, able to consume, act and react with impunity — sometimes. (Mostly I just feel sorry for them though)

Here is what I know. There is profound evil in the world, but that evil is a choice. Just because the guy next to you is vile and nasty doesn’t mean that you should jump on his bitter bandwagon. You get to make a choice about the goodness and valor that you exhibit in you life with each decision that you make.

Looking back to that wide-eyed teenager, I am grateful that my eyes were opened. My life has been filled with rich knowledge and a sense of hope that cannot be found without engaging in the complex emotions of the world. While it might appear easier to live a life of ignorance and gluttony, the wealth of experience and knowledge can only be found by surrendering your emotions, to understand joy and sorrow, triumph and tragedy.

To be human is to feel. Choose to be human.

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What is the value of money? If you are like most people the value of money is expressed by the things that you can purchase. If $100 can buy you what you value then the worth of that money is great. If, on the other hand, $100 cannot buy you what you want then we tend to believe that the worth of that money is small.

I’ve been considering the worth of money a lot over the past few months, perhaps because it is tax season, a time to reflect on all of the money earned and spent during the year. How much is money really worth to me? Granted, money allows me to purchase the necessities of life including food, shelter and clothing. On top of that it affords my a plethora of luxuries which also happen to include food, shelter and clothing, among other indulgences. The fact that I spend a disproportionate amount of my day earning, or preparing to earn, money would suggest that I place a very high value on money. That would be wrong.

I strongly believe that there will come a day, in the not too distant future, that we will be forced to reconsider the value we place on money. Decisions like the US quantitative easing devalue the worth of a currency while flooding billions into the coffers of the ultra-rich. There will come a time when money will have collected so disproportionately in the pockets of the minority that the majority will simply decide that money no longer has any real value and we will recalibrate the measurement of value in our lives.

Might I suggest some measurements of real value:

1. Access to clean drinking water
2. Access to, and the ability to grow, clean and nutritious food.
3. A diversified and resilient local economy. (Economy does not equal money!)
4. Friends and family that you can depend on to assist in times of need.
5. The freedom to learn and apply the skills learned.

This is a short list, one that could definitely be supplemented by the comments of others. My point is that we invest, sacrifice, even lie, cheat and steal in some cases, to gain more money, when the precarious relationship we have with money is built on the pretext that money holds a constant value in our lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. Money is no more constant than the shifting sands of a desert or the drifting winter snow.

What I would suggest is that we revalue our lives and the actions we take based on those things that hold true value for us. As we gain permanence of perspective, as we build resilient and powerful communities and families, when we can find peace in doing what we need to do and want to do we will finally rediscover the true value of life and the experiences that make it an adventure. Then, and only then, will we realize that money is nothing more than a polite social contract between friends and that our perception of worth has been hijacked to make the minority wealthy in this new paradigm of value.

It is time that we take back the definition of wealth and revalue humanity and nature as invaluable resources that are worth saving through collective sacrifice.

What do you value? What are you willing to sacrifice?

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I love to tell people who I am a recovery video game addict.  That is to say that I still fall off the wagon occassionally and play video games, though I try very hard to avoid playing them because I know that they become all-consuming in my life.  I know this because I grew up in the coming out period for video games, when they transitioned from the massive arcade consoles to hand-helds in what seemed to be a few short years.

It was, in that context, that I watched the video I’ve embedded below about Jane McGonigal, a video game designer who also happens to have a PhD from UC Berkley.

If you haven’t watched the video yet, I would suggest that you do.  Yes, I am asking you to invest 20 minutes of your life listening to a crazy professor (and aren’t they all crazy at UC Berkley) tell you have the world is going to be a better place if we can invest 21 billion hours a week in, what amounts to, neural entertainment.  I spent the better part of those 20 minutes thinking to myself, “this lady is crazy!”, but what she is trying to say is that we need to change the way that we perceive the world and the challenges that lay before us.

Think about it.  How many times have you thought you should do something, but were too afraid, unsure, reserved, or otherwise intimidated into not pursuing the idea?  Ok, admittedly not every idea is a good idea, and certainly not every idea represented in a video game is a good idea, but consider this theory.  The generation that is now most active in the work place, that would be 24-35 crowd, is the generation that has spent the most time playing video games of any of the working class groups.  When McGonigal talked about video games as trainers for engaging in real life I realized that while I wasted the better part of my youth playing video games and Dungeons and Dragons that I exhibited many of the traits she claims video games teach.  (No, I don’t credit video games with everything that I am, nor do I blame them for everything I am not — just hear me out.)

With a solid foundation of home life, a robust education that included science, art, music, math, architecture, religion, etc., video games instilled in me a sense that things can and do change when we act in pursuit of them.  People often wonder how I end up doing some of the things that I do, and being involved in some of the things I become involved in my life.  My response is usually — ‘I don’t know, they just happen.’ — the reality is that they happen because I am doing something.

Ok, maybe video games didn’t teach me everything I need to know to be a contributing member of society, but if we can use video games to teach people how to be creative and dynamic thinkers, if video games can be used to field test new ideas about economics, science, farming, sociology, etc. then we can harness the analytical powers of hundreds of millions of players to help solve problems that are more than just slaying dragons and leveling up, they might actually help save the world.

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To kick things off on The Malaise of Modernity blog I thought I’d re-post two entries that were a part of the original blog from all the way back in 1994.  Yep, we’re going to the vaults to dig out these (ahem!) gems.  I hope you enjoy.

12 June 2004

Guilty as charged! It’s true, I did steal the name of a lecture by Charles Taylor for this blog. Of course, it is out of the upmost respect that I made this selection. Mr. Taylor and his lecture on “the culture of narcississm” has profoundly changed my life and the life of my family. I realized that I had succumbed to the ego-centric lifestyle that has infected our society and that I needed to make drastic changes as a individual, husband and father.

I’ve recently realized that I have spent the past 5 years trying to keep up with the Jones’, and I don’t even know any Jones’! Having attained all of my goals for material and financial matters, as limited as they were, I was left with a rather hollow outlook on life. It was the realization that life is much more than the preservation of the individual, but is the advancement of the whole, that rescued me from a chronic melancholy. It is the knowledge that we each play a vital role in success or failure within a multitude of microcosms, and that each microcosm contributes to the success or failure of society at large that has exacted near cosmic changes in my life. I needed to recognize that it is the obligation of each individual to recognize the needs of others and act as though those needs were their own. In a society where each citizen concerned themselves with the personal well-being of everyone else there would exist a self-sustaining balance in the preservation of the whole through the maintenance of the individual.

The beauty of Taylor’s views, and those like him, is the unity it brings to my long standing personal views on life, politics, religion and relationships. The adoption of Taylor’s theories and ideals has propelled my marriage and relationships with my children beyond a basic survival mode and into the realm of creativity and enjoyment.

I will continue to post my views on the world at large, the social and political landscape in Canada, and the admittedly utopic, but achievable, world that I want to raise my children to be a part of in the future. There is a surreal happiness that is part of life when you realize that life is greater than this moment, and far greater than any individual. The choice to take upon oneself the burdens of the world earns the priceless gift of true freedom.

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This the second (and final) re-post from the original MoM (hey, look — I’ve got an acronym already!) blog that I started in 1994.  It’s interesting to see how my ideas and ideals have morphed over the years.  I’ll try and highlight some of those changes as we move along.

——

14 June 2004

As I have begun to realize what a truly perverse world we live in, I have been inspired to learn not only the symptoms of this perversion, but also the history of it. In doing so, as mentioned previously, I have begun to read “The Malaise of Modernity” by Charles Taylor.

On page 17 of his book Mr. Taylor says: “It’s not just that people sacrifice their love relationships, and the care of their children, to pursue their careers. Something like this has perhaps always existed. The point is that today many people feel called to do this, feel they ought to do this, feel their lives would be somehow wast or unfulfilled if they didn’t do it.”

Unfortunately, I have been guilty of that same form of societal degradation that drives the individual to flourish at the expense of the whole. Granted, I have often been accused of being a flaming socialist although it is not until recently that I have attempted to live outside that life that has been assigned to me by the often maligned and indignant capitalists that make this world what it is today. It is vital to observe at this point, that I draw a distinct line between industriousness and capitalism. It essential to the preservation of the whole that industriousness exists, for without it there is little or no desire to advance beyond the current state. As the status of being is in a constant state of growth or decline, whether individually or collectively, there will always be opportunity for the industrious among us to observe and seize the moment for long-term gains. This is, unfortunately, where industriousness and capitalism differ. The capitalist will observe a situation and evaluate the possibility of success with little or no regard to the preservation of the whole, but rather with an intent to seize the moment for himself whereas those who practice industriousness labour for the collective good.

Although I consider Canada the lesser of two evils when it comes to capitalism in North America, I must sadly admit that this poison is alive and well within the borders of this great country. I have come to the recent conclusion that, aside from providing food on the table, a roof over their heads and clothes on the backs of my children, there is little else that I can materially do for their physical well-being. In contrast, my position as a father and husband will solicit benefits within, and without, my family ties far longer than my limited mortality. It is my responsibility to ensure that my children grow up to make positive and effective contributions to society. It is my responsibility to lead my family out of the “Malaise of Modernity” by taking an active role in government, being socially responsible and preserving the precious environment we live in.

It is simply my hope that I will lay the foundation that will ensure that my children grow up understanding that they are but a single part of a greater whole, and that they must actively engage in feats of both heroism and selflessness to find true happiness in life.

Again, you may find my views somewhat utopic and grandiose. While I admit to being utopic, Mahatma Ghandi said “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” It is by those words that I intend to live my life, and direct in the lives of my family. If I desire happiness in the world, then I must be happy. If I desire tranquility in my family, then I must be tranquil. While a monumental task, one which I am far from perfect in, I hope that I can be as the butterfly the makes a typhoon and ellicit great changes by my simple efforts.

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