Mon héritage


Le 13 mai 2017, mes parents ont célébré leur 45ième anniversaire de mariage. Enfant, je feuilletais leur album de mariage avec fascination. Je pouvais y voir mes cousins, alignés le long du chemin de gravillons qui menait à l’église de Vascoeuil, les garçons portant des vestons assortis, les filles leurs robes à «smocks». Je me régalais de la jeunesse et de la beauté de mes parents. Le complet «Prince-de-Galles» pâle de mon père et sa cravate à motif octogonal criaient 1972. Mais comme si elle voulait conter l’histoire de deux mondes en collision, tout ce que portait ma mère était classique et éternel. Sa robe blanche, confectionnée au Québec par ma grand-mère paternelle,  n’avait autre atour que des petits boutons nacrés mettant en évidence la simple perle qu’elle portait au cou. Ma mère avait délaissé le voile traditionnel pour un chignon élaboré tenu à l’aide d’une large boucle de ruban blanc tombant en spirales le long de ses épaules. Mes parents s’étaient rencontrés aux États-Unis et mariés en France dans le village ancestral de ma mère avant de retourner vivre au Canada, le foyer de mon père. J’ai toujours ressenti un attachement profond à la famille de ma mère et l’album photo de mes parents représentait pour moi une clef du mystère de la dislocation, ce sentiment de n’être à l’aise nulle part, d’appartenir simultanément à deux mondes sans ne jamais se sentir chez soi.

Le jour de l’anniversaire de mariage de mes parents, mes enfants ont annoncé — avec l’aide de Facebook — que mes parents célébraient leur quarante-cinquième anniversaire de mariage. Je me suis exclamé: «C’est impossible! Je ne suis pas si vieille!!», mais non, en effet, je le suis. Je suis née 18 mois après le mariage de mes parents. Aînée d’une famille formée par un francophile et une française, j’ai grandi dans l’ignorance de ma déviance jusqu’au jour où je suis entrée à l’école. C’est alors que mon accent, né du métissage  entre l’énonciation claire des français et le lié chuintant des Québécois — un humoriste québécois a décrit l’accent français ainsi: «C’est comme parler… mais avec des dents.» — m’a valu moqueries, insultes et appels à “retourner d’où je viens.” Mes professeurs me faisaient parler à haute voix pour pouvoir rire de mon accent. Du jour au lendemain mes vêtements choisis d’après les goûts français de ma mère sont devenus démodés; mon imagination créatrice est devenue une perte de temps; ma rêverie est devenue une infraction punissable, et l’humiliation un moyen acceptable de corriger l’affront, de redresser le crochu, d’homogénéiser le bigarré.

 

J’ai grandi comme «l’autre» dans une communauté québécoise si homogène qu’une petite fille blanche parlant un français différent était perçue comme l’outsider. J’ai grandi au coeur d’une dichotomie où tout ce qui était ridicule à l’école — mon parler, mes vêtements, mon imagination, ma créativité — était célébré à la maison. Le mariage de mes parents, avec leurs univers en collision, avait créé un endroit au sein duquel la différence était saine, voir désirable. J’y prenais refuge contre les moqueries et le rejet de mes amis et professeurs. Le contraste marqué entre l’acceptation artificielle et conditionnelle du monde qui m’entourait et l’amour inconditionnel de ma famille m’a enseigné que les gens qui blessent ceux qui les entourent souffrent d’un mal plus noir et plus profond que les injures qu’ils profèrent.

 

Le mariage de mes parents n’était pas ce dont on fait les films. Il n’avait aucun artifice, aucune prétention. Portée par l’intrépidité qu’offre la jeunesse, ma mère avait quitté sa famille française au profit d’une vie au Canada, à une époque où les billets d’avion coûtaient à peu près ce qu’ils coûtent aujourd’hui sur un dollar plus difficile à gagner. Les appels téléphoniques transatlantiques se comptaient en dollars par minute. Ma mère nous a élevés sans le soutien de sa famille outre les lettres manuscrites qu’elle recevait de sa mère et de ses soeurs. J’ai vu l’océan s’élargir alors que ses parents prenaient en âge et en fragilité; et devenir plus large encore alors que ses frères et soeurs ont atteint la fin de leur trajet. Mes parents s’aimaient de manière imparfaite, mais ils se sont tenus l’un à l’autre par la force d’une promesse et de leur volonté de céder aux besoins de l’autre.

 

J’ai toujours compris sans nécessairement pouvoir l’articuler que ma mère avait choisi un mari et non un pays. Elle a toujours cherché à maintenir son identité et sa culture française même au coeur d’une société qui la percevait comme snob ou prétentieuse. On lui disait qu’elle était «gentille pour une française». Presque 50 ans plus tard, elle parle toujours avec un accent français (aux oreilles des Québécois) et n’a jamais goûté à la poutine. Au dîner d’anniversaire de mes parents, mon frère, ma soeur et moi avons fait des farces de bon coeur au sujet de ces «immigrants qui refusent de s’intégrer.» Ma mère a toujours eu un pied dans deux mondes et j’ai toujours su que la famille qu’elle avait créée au Canada était son ancre. Sans nous, elle aurait depuis longtemps suivi les vents d’est vers l’atlantique et flotté jusqu’à la France. Son amour nous était donné gratuitement, mais son coût en était toujours évident.

 

L’amour inconditionnel est mon arme secrète alors que je suis mon bout de chemin dans le monde d’aujourd’hui. Il m’a été donné par mes parents, inscrit dans chacun de mes gènes. J’y ai trempé dans la douce innocence du sein de ma mère. Je m’y suis accroché lorsqu’enfant je trébuchais. Je m’y suis réchauffée lorsque j’étais seule et frigorifiée. Je l’ai laissé me rapiécer lorsque mon coeur était brisé. J’y ai trouvé le courage de faire face aux moqueries et au ridicule. Je n’ai rien fait pour le mériter et pourtant, il m’accompagne à tout moment.

 

L’amour inconditionnel est une disposition du coeur qui s’exprime par les mots et les gestes les plus simples. Et pourtant, nous avons du mal à comprendre comment aimer nos propres enfants. Motivés par la culpabilité, nous nous jetons sur tout ce qui brille, que ce soit une nouvelle diète, une nouvelle possibilité, un nouveau trophée. Nous pensons que l’amour devrait être tangible, palpable, mesurable, alors que nous savons très bien qu’il ne peut l’être. Nous arrachons une page du manuel de nos enfants, mélangeant leurs envies et leurs besoins, comme si le besoin de nourriture et l’envie de foie gras étaient la même chose.

 

Le mariage de mes parents est mon présent et mon héritage. Tranquille et sans prétention, l’amour transforme le monde une famille à la fois.

 

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Opening a door, closing a window


My new website Fearless Family Life just launched and this is the long awaited official close of this blog. Despite its recent neglect, it’s with a heavy heart that I’m announcing that I won’t be posting here anymore. This website was my training wheels. I made friends and connections through this page and I will always be thankful for my readers’ patience and commitment.

Please follow me at my new website www.fearlessfamilylife.com and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to never miss a post. I have a lot of good stuff coming up, between my foray into podcasting, my fiction writing and the blog posts I will keep churning. I have a Youtube channel, a Patreon page, a family who loves and supports me and hopefully, my Vie de Cirque amazing readers will follow me in my new Fearless Adventures!

I will continue to publish occasional update posts in French on Vie de Cirque. My French family was among my very first readers and I know that some still come here for updates. All my English writing will move to Fearless Family Life.

To my Vie de Cirque readers, those who encouraged me to start, those who have stuck with me those 5 years, and those who have joined along the way and kept the momentum, thank you. If I ever make it in this sphere, it will be because of you.

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Nosy, awkward and outrageous: how I cope with comments about my family’s size


Having a lot of children raises eyebrows. Heck, having children in any circumstances not reflecting a perfect sequence of material acquisition and career advancement raises eyebrows. Having a large family flies in the face of common sense. Thankfully for my children, common sense ain’t that common.

While we know the reasons that reason ignores, and while each child coming after the second adds a new thickness to our hides, comments about family size always hurt. The intensity of the burn ranges from mild annoyance at the grocery store to lasting pain and resentment at the hands of our families. No one likes to feel like an idiot, not even mothers of 4+ children.

We have 9 kids so we’ve been raising eyebrows since 1999. I have almost heard it all. I have heard really awkward. Awkward as your three year-old making a clear-as-springwater observation about someone’s dress or facial hair. I have heard outrageous. Outrageous as only an older person with cognitive issues and no filter could possibly muster. No one has ever called me “selfish” but most moms of many have been called selfish to their face. Come spend a weekend with 5+ kids, it’ll knock the selfish right outta ya. I rent my family by the week — if you can last that long — for self-centered relaxation. Try it if you dare.

I am asked often how I deal with negative comments about my family’s size. I have a supernatural ability to ignore things that bug me, that’s the easy answer. I’m like the Penguins in Madagascar:

smile-and-wave

That said, I had two meaningful interactions with older folks when I was a young mom expecting my third child. One had had one child (whether by choice or circumstances, I don’t know) and that one child had died suddenly in his mid-forties. The second had had 10 children in close range. The one with one child still had regrets at age 80 about not spending more time with his family, about not seeing his son grow-up. The one with 10 children told me of the people in her nursing home: “All these people were sorry for me when I was having my children one after the other. Now they think I’m lucky.”

These two conversations had a profound impact on me. On my perspective on having children and making family-centered decisions. It taught me that (1) none of us gets another kick at the can once our fertile years are behind us and once our kids are grown; and (2) that raising young children is the grunt work of parenting, the tiling of the field from which the harvest will later come forth. It’s a use-it-or-lose-it proposition: we don’t get to pour the time, care and affection we didn’t pour into our children once they are grown and we don’t get to have more children once we are older and lonelier. The blessings of children are not the sleepless nights, the bum-wipings and the ear-piercing shrieks. No. Those are the latrines of parenting. The blessings come later, once the field has been tended and nurtured, early in the morning, late at night, in the cold, in the rain, back-broken and exhausted, when you felt like it and when you did not.

Most people make their family size decisions in the here and now. That’s fine, whatever floats your goat. whatever-floats-your-goatBut we never consider what comes after the crazy years of raising small children. Of course two children under 3 is enough! Children under 6 are crazy animals. Maybe some people have large families because they love being pregnant while chasing a potty-training toddler who still doesn’t sleep through the night but I sure as heck did not. I have more children because I know that however intense these years are, they are but a flash in comparison to the other lifetime I will spend in my older years.

Bear with me for a second. I started my family at 21, now I’m 42. That’s 21 years of having little kids in the house. Assuming my 9th is my last, I have another 5 years of little-kid-madness ahead of me, for a total of 26 years. Insane right? That said, assuming I live as long or longer than my grandparents, who died between the ages of 80 and 100, I have another 42 years — probably more like 50 — of life without small-kid-insanity on the horizon. Fifty year. I haven’t even been alive that long! That’s what I mean by “another lifetime”: 40-50 years of friendship and support and family meals and visits and help and whatever other amazing things will come out of having a large gang of properly attached people around me. And no one will burn-out supporting me because the work will be split 9 ways, times their spouses, times their own kids.

My husband and I were on a dinner date last year and while chatting with the waitress she pointed at a large group seated nearby. She mentioned that it was a group of 14 celebrating their mother and grandmother’s 80th birthday. All her children and grandchildren were present around the table and the matriarch was beaming, seated in the center of the table as I had seen my own grandparents do so many times when their descendants were visiting. I counted 4 grown children and their spouses with 6 grandchildren among them. The small popular restaurant was almost full and renovations were underway to open-up a mezzanine overlooking the main floor. I told my husband: “It just occurred to me that if most of our children get married and have children, and if some of their children have spouses and children, we will need to book the entire restaurant when we turn 80. It will be full to the rafters.”

When I get totally overwhelmed by the present moment, I remember the “after” and the rafters. People who think we are nuts today can’t see what we’re seeing. This is the truth.

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Été 2016 – Des nouvelles de la famille


Bonjour tout le monde, ou du moins ceux qui me lisent en français! Il y a longtemps que je vous dois des nouvelles fraîches mais j’ai à peine écrit deux phrases qu’un enfant se réveille: interruption à point qui illustre bien pourquoi je n’ai presque rien écrit depuis un mois. Alors on commence comment?

L’été est arrivé comme à chaque année le 21 juin, avec l’anniversaire de Colin, mais pour notre famille les vacances ont commencé un peu plus tôt — en mai — afin de me permettre de travailler sur un contrat de rédaction technique. Nous avons eu le plaisir d’accueillir une jeune fille pour l’été qui est venue garder les enfants pendant que je travaillais. Travailler de la maison avec de l’aide s’est révélé une solution idéale qui m’offrait un certain équilibre et me donnait un peu d’espace pour respirer après une année intense d’école à la maison et de récupération.

Au tout début des vacances, Lucas s’est cassé la jambe en sautant sur le trampoline. Avoir un petit éclopé a certainement mis une bonne cuiller de sable dans nos engrenages. Les 5 plus jeunes allaient passer l’été à la maison, un petit été tranquille, marqué par les randonnées dans la forêt autour de la maison, les picnics à la plage du village et les visites au Daily Scoop, le comptoir à crème glacée local. Avec la jambe dans le plâtre jusqu’à la hanche, les randonnées en forêt étaient difficiles, la plage était impossible, ça nous laissait le comptoir à crème glacée que nous avons honoré par notre présence sur une base presque quotidienne. En août, nous avons fait notre pèlerinage annuel au camp familial, lieu de repos et de ressourcement — enfin, autant que les vacances avec les trois plus jeunes le permettent.

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Au début de l’été, j’ai commencé à publier des vidéos genre “tranche de vie” sur YouTube avec l’espoir d’augmenter ma visibilité en ligne. Je n’ai pas eu le succès espéré et je me suis retranchée en août. Le temps requis par l’assemblage de me petits vidéos empiétait sur tout mes autres projets et sans vraiment faire de différence sur mes statistiques. Bref, je dois accepter que mon message — qu’il soit écrit ou filmé — n’est populaire qu’auprès d’un noyau loyal de supporteurs — et de membres de ma famille — qui me suivent depuis le début. J’ai beaucoup de plaisir à écrire et à produire mes vidéos mais je ne crois pas que mes publications vont me permettre de gagner un revenu. Bref, j’ai passé un peu de temp cet été à accepter que mes projets écrits ne sont qu’un hobby et que la rédaction technique est mon gagne-pain. C’était une réflection importante pour moi car j’ai passé les dernières années à justifier le temps que je passais à écrire et à produire mes vidéos comme un investissement dans ma carrière. Cette conclusion donnait un certain aura, une priorité, à mon écriture en relation à mes autres ambitions et passe-temps. Lorsque j’ai accepté que mon écriture ne résonnait pas auprès d’un large public, ça m’a donné la permission d’explorer d’autres formes d’expression qui m’apportent du plaisir mais pour lesquelles je n’ai aucun talent ou ambition, comme la peinture, la poésie et la musique.

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En partageant cette reflection avec vous, je ne cherche pas les compliments ou les encouragements. Je veux seulement vous dire que le monde de l’Internet dans le fond, c’est un grand concours de popularité. Et je n’ai jamais été populaire à l’école. Là où je réussi à faire une différence, c’est plutôt dans les présentations que je fais auprès de petits groupe intimes et dans le contact personnel avec les lecteurs qui communiquent avec moi par téléphone ou par email pour avoir des conseils et de l’encouragement. J’ai rencontré des familles extraordinaires par le biais de mon blogue et c’est une présence en-ligne que j’ai du plaisir à maintenir. J’ai beaucoup réfléchi sur la tension qui existe entre rejoindre une large audience qui me permet de gagner un revenu ou poursuivre mon bout de chemin anonyme mais significatif. Idéalement, j’écrirais des choses qui changent la vie de millions de personnes et j’en ferais ma carrière. Cependant, il semble que pour le moment je ne réussi à toucher qu’une poignée de familles mais que ce contact est significatif. Qualité versus quantité. Je rêve d’avoir une grande quantité de qualité mais ce sera pour plus tard, peut-être quand les enfants seront plus grands.
Les enfants vont bien. Clara commence sa troisième année d’université et travaille pour la réserve des Forces Armées Canadiennes comme ingénieur de combat. Colin commence sa deuxième année d’université au Collège Militaire à Kingston en Ontario. Éloïse et Marie sont retournées à l’école cette année après 2 ans à la maison pour terminer leur cours secondaire. David et Sarah continuent à être éduqués à la maison, les jumeaux — qui vont avoir 5 ans cette semaine! — commencent à faire “du travail” avec beaucoup d’enthousiasme. Nous avons terminé l’année d’école 2015-2016 à la maison par la peau des dents en mai dernier et j’ai immédiatement commencé à faire de l’anxiété en pensant au mois de septembre. Je croyais que j’étais un peu brûlée et que mes nerfs se calmeraient avec un peu de repos et un changement de routine. Malheureusement, l’anxiété est devenue de plus en plus sévère alors que Septembre approchait et vers la fin août, j’étais complètement sur le carreau. Nous avons dû changer notre plan d’attaque afin de continuer à mettre un pieds devant l’autre. Paul a pris la responsabilité de l’école à la maison et reste à la maison avec les enfants deux jours par semaine et le samedi. Je m’occupe de l’école le lundi et le mercredi. Cet ajustement devrait me permettre de respirer et offrir aux enfants la structure dont ils ont besoin et que Paul est plus apte à fournir. La dynamique entre les enfants et moi est tendue, sans doute parce que je suis tendue, et j’espère que je vais retrouver mon air d’aller plus tôt que tard.

Je vous souhaite une bonne année scolaire. Rappelez-vous que que dans la vie, on avance ou on recule, il n’y a jamais de beau fixe. Du moins jamais pour longtemps.

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Mixed Nuts: 5 reachable goals


Thank you everyone who answered last week’s question about the Mixed Nuts, here on the blog or on the Fearless Family Life Facebook page. I wanted to know if you preferred the short and sweet “5 quick-takes”-style blog post where I share links without commentary or the longer “fruit of my brain” commentary on things I’ve read throughout the week. The dominant opinion was that whatever I posted was fine (you are all so nice!) but that a mix of longer and shorter, especially during the summer, would be perfect. Today, I will share 5 quick reflections — something between a link and a ponder — about my goals for the near future.

1 Pick a project and pursue it .

“If you only have one ass you can’t sit on two horses.”

My creative projects are as scattered as they are unfinished. I have a tech writing project that pays bills and as such takes priority. I am learning how to make better YouTube videos and edit them faster. I am trying to find an agent, a publisher and a ghost-writer for my friend Johanne, if anything we need to write a test chapter and a rough road map of the book to increase our chances of catching a publisher’s eye. I also have a parenting memoir project and, last but not least, my beloved novel.

I struggle with picking the right horse to sit my one ass on. Creators are often advised to create regardless of the commercial potential (or lack thereof) of their projects: every successful writer, musician or movie producer has a pocketful of stories of bitter rejection. They are the battle wounds they show-off in interviews, laughing about the butts they’d like to wipe with the million-dollar scripts once rejected without as much as a call back. But this creator has 11 mouths to feed and cannot blissfully disappear in a fog of inspiration. My income goes into the necessities of life for a large family, not into boot-strapping my next project. I can’t pull a Steven Pressfield, sell the coat off my back and move into my car until my first novel is finished. Raising my children is the creative work that I have to do relentlessly, with discipline and laser sharp focus. I have no illusion of growing as a creator without pounding the appropriate amount of pavement but I have to choose the road wisely, with some discernment as to which pavement is most likely to yield an income. Right now, I feel like a Canadian twist on Sisyphus: rolling my 4-5 snowballs up the hill, hoping that one will get to the other side and roll into some momentum. But they still roll back down the way they came.

2 Believe I can do this.

Last week I sat on the Jody Mitic podcast (episode 7) and played a bit of the devil’s advocate about the Black-Lives-Matter-Toronto-Pride-Parade sit-in where the group demanded —among other things — that police floats no longer be allowed to participate. I don’t do parades, never been to a Pride Parade. Never been black, or queer, or even arrested. I don’t even have a single clue what I’m talking about but I did enjoyed shooting the stuff with Jody. He is the most un-politically correct politician I have met and I do believe that our political discourse would benefit from having more elected officials speaking from a place of genuine emotion the way Jody does: if anything it’s entertaining. I also got to pick his brain (off air) about his experience getting his book published and reaching number 1 of the best-sellers’ list here in Canada. One of the positive side effects of being an opinionated one-man-show is that it makes you a great cheerleader. He has a knack for convincing me that living a normal life with 9 children is as remarkable as being a sniper, getting your legs blown-off, running a half-marathon on prosthetic legs, almost winning the Amazing Race Canada, getting elected to City Hall and writing a best-seller. Then of course I got home to my 87 YouTube subscribers, my $1.47 of lifetime add revenue and remembered exactly how far I was from going anywhere. But that kernel of encouragement lives on and someday, maybe, it will grow into something.

3 Read more and write more about what I love.

I started reading Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” and I downloaded Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art” on Audible. In general I find that reading about writing is a form of avoidance. The fear of wasting my time writing something bad keeps me reading about writing instead of diving headlong into my projects. When Stephen Pressfield characterized writing workshops as “pits of resistance” I knew that I had found my match. His scolding about “the resistance” — a mix a of pride and fear — shed a hard light on my own avoidance mechanisms and excuses. That said, “On Writing” by Stephen King and “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White kept nagging me through blog posts and podcast interviews and I knew that they should be part of my reference library, if nothing else. In the first chapter of “On Writing”, Stephen King lays down the law on writing: reading a lot and writing a lot are key. Isn’t it funny how we sometimes need permission to do the things we know are right? For the last couple of years, since I started homeschooling, I have been constrained by a sense that I should use my reading time wisely by focusing on non-fiction so as to learn something useful. The problem is that I don’t love non-fiction. I like it as one likes vegetables and exercise but not with the breathtaking emotion reserved for stunning landscapes, newborns and lovers. Learning that Stephen King read mostly fiction gave me permission to return to my one true love: the good work of fiction.

4 Find YouTube collaborators

To celebrate my liberation from the shackles of self-imposed boredom — yawn — I decided to read “Far from the madding crowd” by Thomas Hardy and “Au bonheur des dames” by Emile Zola. I would love to chat character development with other like-minded people. If you are a Youtubber or a podcaster looking for a fun collab, please wave in my direction and we can overthink how Bathsheba Everdene doesn’t deserve three suitors, let alone the devotion of a man of Oak’s caliber. In the mean time, just enjoy this Gabriel Oak on me:

“Gabriel was paler now. His eyes were more meditative, and his expression was more sad. He had passed through an ordeal of wretchedness which had given him more than it had taken away. He had sunk from his modest elevation as pastoral king into the very slime-pits of Siddim; but there was left to him a dignified calm he had never before known, and that indifference to fate which, though it often makes a villain of a man, is the basis of his sublimity when it does not. And thus the abasement had been exaltation, and the loss gain.” (p.45)

If you are more of the movie kind, enjoy this interview with Thomas Vinterberg and Matthias Shoenaerts (the producer and main character of the latest film adaptation of Hardy’s novel, available on Netflix). You should still read the book to better appreciate each character’s depth.

5 Get in shape and start lifting weights

Finally, I wanted to share one of the highlights of my week. I bought a membership at my local Movati gym from a from a former member who was moving away before the end of his one-year enrollment. Movati Kanata made it an easy and pleasant experience, showing excellent business sense and superior concern for the customer. I imagine that the low-lying fruit of making membership transfers such a pain in the neck that members never dare to leave is tempting but in my case, it has made gym memberships verboten. I cannot commit to a yearly membership in anything and cannot afford the unfavourable short-term membership fees. Transferring membership is the perfect solution for me and Movati can be sure that when I am in the market for a gym membership, theirs will be the first door I’ll go a-knocking.

Friday’s Mixed Nuts on a Saturday: the quicker version


  1. One video I posted on YouTube:

2. My favorite casual dress for under $50 (or less if you wait for sales): Marks’ notch neck knee-length dress

3. One new podcast I subscribed to: Freakonomics 

4. One book I want to read: The checklist manifesto by Atul Gawande

5. One thing I dream about at night but will not buy in American dollars: Saddleback Leather Satchel

And a question: Do you prefer this short and sweet version of the Mixed Nuts or the lengthier one with commentary? Your feedback matters to me.

Friday’s Mixed Nuts: 5 links I care to share


1. I woke-up this morning to a world slightly different than it was when I went to bed. I did not follow the #Brexit referendum until its very last weeks. I watched John Oliver, he seemed to support the “stay” vote. Lately, I have taken an interest in the geo-political history of the First World War and it has made me aware that history unfolds in haphazard ways. In the early weeks of the first World War, many moments presented as forks in the road where the course of history could have gone either way. Our present-day way of life hinges in many ways on split seconds, swing decisions, rolls of dice, made by military and political leaders long before we were born. The Brexit vote was history unfolding itself in its usual, random, way. In that sense, I am curious to see where this most recent turn takes us. I hope to live long enough to see how it will eventually fit in the bigger picture of the rise and fall of Western Civilization. That said, I have enjoyed watching my friends and acquaintances on the progressive left wake-up with a hangover this morning. Progressives have been pretending that the rise of populist nationalism across the world is the realm of a few unenlightened minds. It’s been a fun zinger-fest on Twitter, sharing John Oliver on Facebook, I have enjoyed it tremendously while nationalists everywhere are counting their chips. And Donald Trump, what fun it has been to watch a few unenlightened knuckledraggers propel him this close to the White House. Populist nationalism. It’s a real thing and it’s starting to call some serious shots.

When you get tired of having your opinion handed to you by humorists — who are very funny, don’t get me wrong, but stuff’s about to get real here — you might find this breakdown of Trump supporters interesting.

2. Speaking of getting stuff wrong, I was listening to a podcast interview with star rock climber Alex Honnold where he spoke about fear and assessing risks. It takes someone who lives with life-threatening danger to avoid platitudes about ignoring fear, I liked that. I believe that fear and doubts are important sources of information that should be honoured rather than ignored: there is a darn good reason why you are afraid of swimming with sharks, know what I mean? At some point in the interview, Honnold answers a question about his spirituality and religious beliefs. Raised in a nominal Catholic household, Honnold remembered never believing in any of that stuff. Even now, he added, he is dumbfounded that grown-ups believe in what are essentially fairy tales. When I heard his comment I had to chuckle because whether or not you accept the existence of God, it’s impossible to deny that religious belief has been part of the human experience since, well, the human experience started. Of course, the reality of religious belief does not prove the existence of anything but it takes some gall to overlook how some very intelligent grown-ups — Aquinas, Augustine, Teresa of Avila come to mind — have explained their belief in fairy tales. It’s one thing to know how Christopher Hitchens explains religious belief but the real test of atheism should be to go beyond atheist writers and read how Aquinas explains it too. It would be like saying “That gravity thing — it made no sense to me as a child and now that I am an adult who is thoroughly uneducated in matters of physics, it still makes no sense to me. I can’t understand how anyone believes in that stuff.” Or “I don’t care what Newton and Einstein have written about gravity, I read Aristotle on gravity and he’s pretty smart.”

Imagine my delight later last week upon stumbling on this excellent piece shared by journalist Andrew Coyne via Twitter. We were wrong abut gravity for thousands of years, what might we be wrong about today? It’s a fun question to ask.

3. Speaking of things that change, one of my favorite things to observe in my fellow humans is how quickly those who reject religion build new churches in their lives, whether it’s jogging, nutrition, politics, I’m sure you can come up with a few more if you look around for a hot second. I find that it speaks to a fundamental human need for absolutes, even when the absolute is that there be no absolutes. There is a drive toward moralistic thinking, clear definitions of right and wrong, that is wired-in human nature. This disquisition on food and sex speaks to our changing morality, or as they say “The more it changes, the more it stays the same.”

4. If all this is too much to bear, I strongly recommend knitting something. Knitting something is always a good bet. This Tulip Tank Top by Purl Soho hit all my buttons until I tried to order the Euroflax yarn required for this pattern. At $26 a skein, requiring 3-4 skeins for my 39 inches of chest circumference, it seems like a bit of a luxury. If you want to buy the yarn, I’ll knit it for you. How’s that?

5. If knitting something is not for you, there is always this fragrant, beautiful cake. In French but learning news words never killed anyone. To serve with tea and eat in one sitting.