Re: Change

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” is a quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. When I think of the word Change the most available quote that comes to my mind is one my mother used to say often; “A change is as good as a rest.” She was referring to getting yourself out of a routine. Being in a rut is not a helpful place to be when you are on the road of life. I believe my mom was right; choosing a different path can bring refreshment, even enlightenment.

Not all change is welcome. In these changing times brought on by COVD-19 we can feel that change to our very livelihood has been inflicted upon us. Change is easier to handle when you are the creator of it or even if you have a stake in it. When someone else brings change there is a tendency to grumble. In our community we have a Grumpy Taxpayers Association who regularly criticize any change that our elected municipal officials legislate. Specifically they are concerned about the cost of things. In that regard I can relate. I often find myself gazing at the loose change in my hand and wondering how quickly it loses its worth.

Like cities throughout time, our downtown has its share of panhandlers. One fellow in particular gained some notoriety by the manner of his shout to passersby. “Spare a little change.” was his plea. You could hear the long drawn out word ‘Cha-i-n-ge’ a block before nearing him and for blocks further along. He was a veritable institution on one corner and when he relocated it caused a buzz in the community until word got out that he was working a corner closer to his new home. Throughout his time collecting coin he saw an abundance of pennies and nickels, then dimes and quarters. Regardless of the amount his cadence was never changeable.

Our change has changed. Inflation is ever changing the value of change in everyone’s pockets and purses. Where I used to keep a jar for quarters, I now have a plastic tub for loonies and toonies. I haven’t changed how I process my change even though the worth of it has declined. I still feel a childlike thrill when I save enough change to roll into a special paper sleeve designed for its respective denomination. A cylinder of nickels will total two whole dollars, a roll of quarters will create the equivalent of ten bucks and, hold your breath, a single tube of toonies amounts to $50! I’m old enough to remember my excitement as I walked to my corner candy store with a roll of pennies quickly growing warm in the grip of my tight little fist. A large bag of jujubes, caramels, liquorice and jawbreakers would soon be mine.

Change in the 21st century happens faster than it takes for a soft caramel to melt in your mouth. As always, there will be things we can change and things out of our control. Peace will come from knowing the difference.

Re: Judge

Someone who has an opinion is often thought to be judgemental, now that’s an unfair judgement. In fact I believe the word Judge needs a hard look before we jump to conclusions regarding a person’s intent during a conversation. I think evaluation is appropriate. It keeps us safe from dangerous situations and people who may wish to harm us. Judgement implies sentencing and I’m not for that. Society sometimes has to judge and individuals who are authorized by governments to make judgement must tread carefully, lest their judgement ends up doing harm. In my experience judgement can lead to abuse.

For example, I may be walking in the wilds and come across a bear. I have heard that bears are dangerous, shouldn’t be fed and may strike out when cornered. My personal conclusion is to give bears a wide berth. My evaluation may suggest bears and I have to find ways to co-exist. That would be my preference. It would be wrong to judge, that because of my evaluation, all bears must be killed or be put in cages.

I have been in conversations where someone has said, “Now don’t judge me.” This usually means that the person is not sure how I would feel about their behaviour. I have to reassure them that I’m not here to judge. I might jokingly say that they are in luck because I didn’t have my gavel with me that day. Or I might refer to Sammy Davis Jr. posing as a judge on the television show Laugh-in and uttering what would become one of comedy’s first memes “Here Come Da Judge! ”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hIcKkKID8k . Hippies might have said, “I don’t care about your behaviour, just don’t hurt anyone.”

Polite manners of speech often force us into thinking along the lines of judging or being judged. Too bad, since once an emotional line has been crossed both sides stop trying to come to a mutual conclusion. A threat has been perceived, thoughtful exchange degenerates into shouting or worse. When an evaluation can come about as a result of full participation then no judgement is really necessary, only planning together for resolution of the original problem. No further protest is needed since there is a will to rectify rather than justify.

I’ve been shaped by film as some people are shaped by books or influential mentors. One of the themes of A Christmas Carol (1951, starring Alastair Sim) is judgement. In a memorable scene at a rag shop, characters gather to talk of their employer after his death:

Charwoman, “Why wasn’t he natural in his lifetime? …If he had been, he’d have had somebody to look after him…”
Mrs. Dilber, “It’s the truest word that ever was spoke…It’s a judgment on him.”

This scene is the clincher. Lucky for Scrooge he is given a view of his selfish, misguided life while he still has a chance to change it. He sees the truth in his charwoman’s statement, not in judgement, but in genuine curiosity; “Why wasn’t he kinder?”

Re: Sort

Carl Linnaeus, considered the Father of Taxonomy, developed a system of sorting plants and animals in the mid-eighteenth century. In university, I enjoyed an Entomology course where 50% of the final mark was to sort hundreds of varieties of insect specimens found mounted and stored in dozens of drawers in the lab. Many features on each specimen needed examining before it could be assigned its proper Order, Family, Genus then Species names. I got my highest mark in this course, where order took precedence over randomness.

Not without coincidence perhaps, my favourite candy as a boy was Liquorice All Sorts. When we first came to Canada they were hard to find in stores. Sometimes my grandmother would send a package from England at Christmas. My sister and I had different favourites which luckily avoided conflict; she liked the black tubes filled with white sugar paste and I loved the coconut wheels with the liquorice centre. I still enjoy them as a treat, my wife loving the colourful beaded ones that look like buttons. No arguments here: Harmony reigns.

An English phrase I recall my parents using was, “Let’s get you sorted.” I’d have a problem with my bike, or something troubling happened at school or sibling rivalry reared its head and Mom or Dad would sit us down to get to the bottom of it. We were encouraged to sort through our problems in a structured way by examining ourselves first.

What sort are I? Like my fellow human, I am a person wanting to be able to express free will. The more you put me in a box with a singular definition the less I will feel free to be me. In the documentary film, ‘Ask Dr Ruth’, Ms. Westheimer rejected being classified by her daughter and granddaughter as a feminist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkZ8Kn3xVO8
I thought about this scene in the movie for days afterward since it seemed obvious to me that she represented in word and deed what a feminist would stand for. She later accepted the label saying she wasn’t ‘radical’. I wondered if her reluctance had anything to do with being sorted, as so many of her generation had been, in the methodical terrorist manner that was the Nazi Germany of her youth. Under Adolf Hitler, people were identified and classified. Once labelled, a person could be discriminated against, legislated against and potentially exterminated.

None of us want to be put in boxes. We are much more than one aspect of ourselves. We are many facetted. We are all a unique combination of our skin colour, our beliefs, our upbringing, our occupation, our thoughts, our daily activities. We are complicated. We are right to reject being classified. We must shout loudly if necessary, that we are a member of the human race. We can say this with certainty, objectivity and truthfulness in our hearts and minds. History tells us that this fact needs to be declared repeatedly so that we remember our common natural classification as Homo sapiens. No further discussion needed. What else needs sorting?

Re: Truth

There is only one truth. Usually this universal truth is described as scientific fact. The existence of gravity on a planetary body is irrefutable. Scientists use the scientific method to explain observations, then they form conclusions which can then be tested over and over by other scientists for accuracy. Empirical evidence is the cornerstone of any scientific discovery.

Often Truth comes with a number. You get a traffic ticket because you were travelling at 100mph. The measurement on the bathroom scale indicates 85kgs. The library fine must be payed since your book is 2 days overdue. You may disagree with any of these numbers but you can’t say they are false. Science isn’t the only area where we can be confident in a singular truth. Banks keep track of the financial numbers and we feel confident that our account is accurate and up to date. Our judicial system is based on finding the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Historians make a point of checking facts of events so that we all can agree that certain things did happen as witnessed. Unscrupulous governments or corporations can distort historical documentation to bend the truth in their favour and thus control the citizen or consumer. I remember first being awakened to this deception thru George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6Ybkd_beUU

We often like to ignore the truth, even when it is staring us in the face. Seems these days that people are playing fast and loose with the truth. We see so many examples of the twisting of facts and figures that we can lose trust in the authority of numbers. Mark Twain found humour in this manipulation by suggesting, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.” We’d like to know deep down that the truth can set us free, yet how will we know it when we see it?

Oprah Winfrey has often encouraged her followers to trust ‘your truth’. I would call this Personal Truth. It is subjective. It is not truth at all: it is belief. We all have a belief system that helps us make decisions. We grow up learning rules of life; some we keep from childhood, some we discard when they are no longer useful. ‘Your truth’ may put you in danger if it causes you to ignore objective truth. Our true selves may crave speed but we are testing the laws of physics and tempting statistics when we drive our car too fast. Slow down or better yet, stay off the roads or maybe try out for NASCAR. You pick.

Throughout history people have found comfort in joining others with similar beliefs. When your truth finds commonality in a community then you have found faith. This is Social Truth. Like Personal Truth it is still subjective. Viewing Social Truth as fact can be comforting but also very dangerous. Religion is a Social Truth. Some sects attempt to provide evidence that their faith is fact or at least better than the other person’s faith. This has led to war.

And, perhaps finally, there is our current Inconvenient Truth: Climate Change. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4DFXUndvbw