Thursday, May 26, 2011

All Is Vanity

Current Reading: An issue of Canada's History Magazine (formerly The Beaver).

Inspirational Quote: "I'm not confused, I'm just well mixed" -- Robert Frost

Well, obviously, not ALL is vanity. Some of it is apples. And a little bit of it is people with red hair. But, you know, OVERALL, it looks like vanity if you squint.

I apologize yet again for the long delay between posts. I have plenty of excuses, but none of them will go back in time and force me to fill in the blanks, so they're useless.

Of course, sometimes I haven't been able to think of anything to write. This is a fallacy, of course. I'm looking at things the wrong way around. I simply need to write what I think and stop waiting for the perfect planetary alignment, or geological convergence, or whatever to light the fires of inspiration.

It's true that this approach will lead me to post nonsense that nobody outside my head could possibly care about.

But then the same phrase could describe the archives in their entirety. So, the more things change...

I really have to comment on the election. It was remarkable. We elected a majority Conservative government, which I fear to my toes because Mr. Harper's heavy-handed techniques and autocratic style make me suspect that his decisions will be hard on those of us who are not rich and priviledged.

I hope he proves me wrong.

Outgoing Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff watched his party shrink to a tiny fraction of its former size. I don't think anybody saw that coming. One of his final comments struck me as prophetic, though. When asked what their defeat meant for the federal Liberal party in the next election, he said that it was good news. "Nothing could be better for the Liberal party than four years of Conservative majority government with an NDP opposition."

The Bloc Quebecois was likewise annihilated. I'm okay with that. I think a party that espouses a distinctly provincial agenda and advocates disruption of the federation really shouldn't be in federal politics.

Now we have the NDP as official opposition. It has a few members who have been in the House before, but for the most part they are all rookies, and many of them are barely out of their teens. I get the feeling that most of them were watching the returns with as much disbelief as the rest of the country. "What the hell do you mean I won? I can't win! I don't know how to do anything!"

Yeah. Neither does anyone else. Congratulations on your outstanding qualifications. The job's yours.

Of course, they are the official opposition to a majority government, so even if they had the most savvy politicos on the planet running their caucus, they STILL wouldn't be able to do anything more effective than boo loudly. They are a tale told by an idiot: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The interesting thing about politics, though, is that after such a tremendous popular upheaval in which everything changed... once the new parliament sits on June 2, it'll still be business as usual.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

To Be, Or Not To Be

Current Reading: A combination of Scientific American and Discover Magazines from the last few months.

Inspirational Quote: "Lord we may know what we are, but know not what we may be." -William Shakespeare

I went to see a movie last month: Limitless. It's about a man who takes a pill that amps up his intellect. It's an intriguing premise, but the movie didn't take it in a direction that interested me, instead devolving into a pseudo-thriller/pseudo-superhero tale with superfluous violence. Good for popcorn sales, not so much for intellectual stimulation.

What intrigued me about this is the idea behind this line from the trailer: "How many of us ever know what it is to become the perfect version of ourselves?"

Of course, before we even start to think about this, we need to know exactly what we mean by "perfect." Defining "success" is hard enough. Defining "Perfection" is a task close to impossible.

Still, we can ask some simpler and more specific questions: How do we make ourselves the most creative we can be? The smartest? The most courageous? How do we overcome our weaknesses, our fears and doubts, and become the best we can?

How do we realize our potential?

In the film, it's a pill. I don't think that's a good way to go. It'd be revolting to think that my personal development depended on something that "wore off."

But beyond medication, there's the billion-dollar self-help industry. Dale Carnegie. Steven Covey. Every MBA with a book. They'll give you 12 steps, or 7 habits, or 9 favored aspects which, if followed religiously, will set your highest and best nature free of its restraints. They promise success (whatever definition may apply), and they may well deliver for all I know, but I honestly question how effective they are at promoting generic personal development.

But speaking of following something "religiously," there's religion itself. There are lots of belief systems, each of which is the only one you'll ever need. Each, if you follow its precepts, promises enlightenment or salvation or the chance to become a higher, better being.

I'm not dumb enough to even try to comment on the effectiveness of this approach beyond saying, "It works for some people."

I believe the realization of personal potential is the goal of individual existence. I often hear people ask themselves, "What am I here for? What's my purpose?" as though they're looking for some niche in which they can slot themselves and say, "this is it." I don't think it works that way. I think our purpose is to try to become our best selves, nothing more, but in attempting that I have no doubt we will do things more wonderful than we ever thought possible.