As a writer and photographer I travel between my life in Toronto, my life in Antigua, and anywhere else my wanderings may take me ... writing my books and enjoying local arts and adventures along the way.

Vicarious Middle-Aged Skateboarding Adventures in the City

Cities have rules to make sure people get along. And cities have young people who live outside those rules. Grafiti artists elude police to tag buildings and subway cars with their self expression. And skaters stay one step in front of security guards to jump off the smooth stone stairs of fancy corporate buildings and slide on their skateboards down those rails. Cities can stand rigidly against transgessors and punish grafitti with lashes like in Singapore. Or cities can bend a little and build public skateparks like the one I saw today in Toronto.
When I got there all the skaters were congregating at one side about to hit the ramps. I asked if I could photograph them and was pleased with their responses which ranged from a helpful and friendly “sure whatever” to a surly but still accommodating “sure whatever”. It was all about the skating. I sussed out the action for a couple of moments to see which jumps saw the skaters catching the most air. I wanted the pictures to reflect the speed, precision, and art of their movements.
I got to talking about skateboarding in the early days with Duncan, a tall fair-haired skater who told me that there would be an official opening of a new skatepark on Queen St. E this Saturday as well. I told him that when I was skating nearly thirty five years ago we didn’t have free skateparks. Me and my crew of skaters found our own skateparks in drained pools, handicapped ramps, and many other places where the poetry of our movements on our skateboards often wasn’t appreciated.
One of the skaters suggested that it’s never too late to get back into it and that its great exercise. His words gave me a flashback of one night out drinking with the buddies when I stopped a kid I saw with a skateboard and told him I used to be a great skater. I promised him that I’d show him some old school moves. It was a catastrophe. Somehow I had become my father trying my skateboard when I was a kid. He had stepped on it the wrong way so it went flying towards the wall and barely missed breaking my prized aquarium. After checking briefly to see that my dad was still alive I gathered up my wounded board with a promise to myself never to repeat THAT experiment. As I lay on my back on the street that day in a suit and tie I saw the same look in the young dudes eyes.
The skater today who suggested I try it gave a few examples of famous skateboarders who still ride well into their forties and fifties. I was impressed. When I told him that I kept flexible with daily stretching and semi-regular yoga he was even more enthusiastic. “Its like riding a bike” he said “you never lose it”. I’m still not convinced. I would love to have the physical capacity to ride at my age but I fear that the nature of my flexibility has changed. Where in my youth I was like rubber, in middle age I am more like plasticine. I bend slowly but don’t bounce back.
But in the end I know that when my son starts to ride his skateboard that eventually I’ll get on it to see what I can still do. I hope that by then the effects of the yoga and the terms of my extended health plan will both have fully kicked in.
There is only one free way to get high.

There is only one free way to get high.

Living Outside Rules

Cities like Toronto have rules to make sure people get along. And cities inevitably have young people who live outside those rules. Grafiti artists elude police to tag buildings and subway cars with their self expression. And skateboarders stay one step in front of security guards to jump off the stairs of corporate buildings and slide on their skateboards down those rails. How ironic that the most prestigious buildings have the smoothest stone and the best rails which attract that counter culture element the strongest. It’s like catnip to the unruly.

Toronto’s Response

Cities can stand rigidly against transgessors and punish grafitti with lashes like in Singapore. Or cities can bend a little and build public skateparks like the one I saw today in Toronto.

When I got there all the skaters were congregating at one side about to hit the various ramps, rails, and other obstacles. I asked the loose congregation if I could photograph them. I was pleased with their responses which ranged from a helpful and friendly “sure whatever” to a surly but still accommodating “sure whatever”. For them it was all about the skating. But given the green light I proceeded to suss out the action for a couple of moments to see which jumps saw the skaters catching the most air. I wanted the pictures to reflect the speed, precision, and art of their movements.

The Ettiquette of Waiting

Step one.

Step one.

Two

Step two.

Step three.

Step three.

Step four

Step four

Step five.

Step five.

Sometimes Everything Works

Sometimes everything works

Talking Smack About Back in the Day

I got to talking about skateboarding in the early days with Duncan, a tall fair-haired skater who told me that there would be an official opening of a new skatepark on Queen St. E this Saturday as well. I told him that when I was skating nearly thirty five years ago we didn’t have free skateparks. Me and my crew of skaters found our own skateparks in drained pools, handicapped ramps, and many other places where our skateboarding often wasn’t appreciated. But even though we were marginalized and chased away, and both our skills and our boards would be considered old school today … our movements were still poetry.

Never Too Old

One of the skaters suggested that it’s never too late to get back into it and that its great exercise. His words gave me a flashback of one night many years ago when I was out drinking with the buddies. I stopped a kid I saw with a skateboard and telling him I used to be a great skater I promised that I’d show him some old school moves. It was a catastrophe. Somehow I had become my father trying my skateboard when I was a kid. He had stepped on it the wrong way so it went flying towards the wall and barely missed breaking my prized aquarium. After checking BRIEFLY to see that my dad was still alive I carefully and gingerly gathered up my wounded board with a promise to myself never to repeat THAT experiment. As I lay on my back on the street that night in a suit and tie I saw the  look in the young dudes eyes. I must have looked at my dad the same way after he tried my own skateboard a generation ago. It was the look you give old guys. At that moment I knew my skateboarding career was over.

It’s Like Riding a Bike

The skater today who suggested I try it gave a few examples of famous skateboarders who still ride well into their forties and fifties. I was impressed. When I told him that I kept flexible with daily stretching and semi-regular yoga he was even more enthusiastic. “Its like riding a bike” he said “you never lose it”. I’m still not convinced. I would love to have the physical capacity to ride at my age but I fear that the nature of my flexibility has changed. Where in my youth I was like rubber, in middle age I am more like plasticine. I bend slowly but don’t bounce back.

Why launch yourself into the air while connected to your board only by the difference in momentum between it and your body? Because you can.

Why launch yourself into the air while connected to your board only by the difference in momentum between it and your body? Because you can

When everything goes right you grind.

When everything goes right you grind.

The Inevitable

But in the end I know that when my son starts to ride his skateboard that eventually I’ll get on it to see what I can still do. I hope that by then the beneficial effects of the yoga and the extra coverage of my extended health plan will both have fully kicked in.

Links

Skateboarding is a strange sport that brings together the young who skate and the old who sit in the parks and watch them suspiciously … wondering whether they are getting up to no good. If you are either of these or even somewhere in between then you can find more about public skateboarding in Toronto at the following links.

http://www.toronto.ca/parks/parks_gardens/cummer.htm

http://www.x-village.com/skateshop/parks.html

Urban Adventures in High Park

An iron sculpture of a sunflower peeks out from the middle of a garden.

An iron sculpture of a sunflower peeks out from the middle of a garden.

Toronto’s Central Park

From my viewpoint, Toronto’s High Park fills a similar role to the city as New York’s Central Park does to the big apple. It’s an absolutely massive park in the city that is a hub of activity for joggers, walkers, mothers walking with their strollers, and owners walking their dogs. Because it’s so massive it also accommodates a zoo, a small lake where people often fish, a large playground for kids, multiple picnic areas, tennis courts, and restaurants.

West of Central but Conveniently Located

High Park is very conveniently located on the subway line and also has lots of parking nearby so it is easily accessible. However High Park is not as centrally located as Central Park in New York. Perhaps this is the reason that I forgot about the park, and the reason that this past Sunday was the first time I visited the park in years.

Man Lured to the Park by Offer

However in driving through that area recently a sign advertising a $1.99 All Day Breakfast caught my attention. Everyone loves to discover a good deal. I made a mental note that I would return and this Sunday I did come back with the kids.

Man Eating Dog

The menu was a little confusing and I didn’t find the advertised special … but the kids wanted other things anyways. We settled on sausage dogs for the kids and a sausage and egg breakfast for me. The dogs were the biggest things I had ever seen in my life.

Eric starts off strong eating the big dog ... but he faded fast.

Eric starts off strong eating the big dog ... but he faded fast.

Even a full grown man would have trouble eating that dog. If I had known how big they were ahead of time I would have gotten one for all of us to share. My kids were troopers though. I was proud of the way they made a good effort to finish all the food in front of them …. but from the time they first saw their plates Eric and Anisa both laughed knowing that there was no way they could eat it all.

After that we needed to walk off the food induced torpor. And we wanted to send Eric’s plane off on its maiden flight.

We passed through the zoo on the way to other adventures.

We passed through the zoo on the way to other adventures.

Eric starts off strong eating the big dog ... but he faded fast.

Eric starts off strong eating the big dog ... but he faded fast.

An unknown variety of flower adorn a rock ledge behind the restaurant.

An unknown variety of flower adorn a rock ledge behind the restaurant.

Toronto’s Central Park

From my viewpoint, Toronto’s High Park fills a similar role to the city as New York’s Central Park. It’s an absolutely massive park in the city that is a hub of activity for joggers, walkers, mothers walking with their strollers, and owners walking their dogs. Because it’s so massive it also accommodates a zoo, a small lake where people often fish, a large playground for kids, multiple picnic areas, tennis courts, and restaurants.
West of Central but Conviently Located
High Park is very conveniently located on the subway line and also has lots of parking nearby so it is easily accessible. However High Park is not as centrally located as Central Park in New York. Perhaps this is the reason that I forgot about the park, and the reason that this past Sunday was the first time I visited the park in years.
The Lure
However in driving through that area recently a sign advertising a $1.99 All Day Breakfast caught my attention. Everyone loves to discover a good deal. I made a mental note that I would return and this Sunday I did come back with the kids.
Man Eating Dog
The menu was a little confusing and I didn’t find the advertised special … but the kids wanted other things anyways. We settled on sausage dogs for the kids and a sausage and egg breakfast for me. The dogs were the biggest things I had ever seen in my life. If I had known how big they were ahead of time I would have gotten one for all of us to share. My kids were troopers though. I was proud of the way they made a good effort to finish all the food in front of them …. but from the time they first saw their plates Eric and Anisa both laughed knowing that there was no way they could eat it all.

After that we needed to walk off the food induced torpor. And we wanted to send Eric’s plane off on its maiden flight.

Anisa winds up the rubber band driven propeller in preparation for taking her turn as pilot.

Anisa winds up the rubber band driven propeller in preparation for taking her turn as pilot.

I try to let the kids have fun without me stealing their toys ... but in the end ...

I try to let the kids have fun without me stealing their toys ... but in the end ...

Before us in the big field where we flew the plane these dragonfly were chasing small insects like fighter pilots.

Before us in the big field where we flew the plane these dragonflies were chasing small insects and taking them down like fighter pilots.

Anisa said "lets take this path ... it looks like an adventure". So we took the path.

Anisa said "lets take this path ... it looks like an adventure". So we took the path.

These young film makers might have been making the next big indie hit. You judge for yourself. Check out their video on YouTube under Captain Canada: The Spy Who Did Stuff to Me

These young film makers we encountered might have been making the next big indie hit. You judge for yourself. Check out their video on YouTube under Captain Canada: The Spy Who Did Stuff to Me

The area at the end of the trail was heavily used by BMX bikers who liked to jump off the hills. The native Canadians who sat there keeping watch over the place however said that it was an ancient indian burial ground that should not be defiled with such pursuits.

The area at the end of the trail was heavily used by BMX bikers who liked to jump off the hills. The native Canadians who sat there keeping watch over the place however said that it was an ancient indian burial ground that should not be defiled with such pursuits.

The kids had a great time flying the planes from the mounds while no BMX bikes were there and before we were informed that it was a sacred indian burial ground. Who knew.

The kids had a great time flying the planes from the mounds while no BMX bikes were there and before we were informed that it was a sacred indian burial ground. Who knew.

What goes down has to climb back up. After launching the plane the run back up the hill seemed like half the fun.

What goes down has to climb back up. After launching the plane the run back up the hill seemed like half the fun.

Whats not to smile about after flying the plane and running up and down spooky trails?

Whats not to smile about after flying the plane and running up and down spooky trails?

Many of the paths were wide and flat for those seeking a more leisurely adventure.

Many of the paths were wide and flat for those seeking a more leisurely adventure.

A photo of me taken by Anisa with my big heavy camera.

A photo of me taken by Anisa with my big heavy camera.

The trees in the background hung overhead like a frame for this garden.

The trees in the background hung overhead like a frame for this garden.

This dragonfly must have been moulting. It stayed motionless for minutes while we photographed it. Eventually it flew away.

This dragonfly must have been moulting. It stayed motionless for minutes while we photographed it. Eventually it flew away.

We didn't see any coyotes. We did see lots of women walking tiny little frou-frou dogs though.

We didn't see any coyotes. We did see lots of women walking tiny little frou-frou dogs though.

A leaf from an iron sculpture of a plant. The sculpture was planted in the garden alongside real plants.

A leaf from an iron sculpture of a plant. The sculpture was planted in the garden alongside real plants.

Leaves from an iron sculpture of a plant. The sculpture wrapped around a real tree planted in the middle of the garden.

Leaves from an iron sculpture of a plant. The sculpture wrapped around a real tree planted in the middle of the garden.

An unknown variety of flower adorn a rock ledge behind the restaurant.

An unknown variety of flower adorn a rock ledge behind the restaurant.


Don Valley Brickworks

Bike Trails Behind the Brickworks

This weekend the kids and I went bicycling on one of the numerous bike trails that run through the green spaces of Toronto, one of which passes through the Don Valley Brickworks on its way to the Toronto beaches. Toronto really is blessed with a wealth of green spaces and scenic biking or walking trails. The kids and I have been to the Brickworks on many a Saturday during the summertime to visit the lively farmer’s market where you can buy local produce, taste different foods, and where the kids can get their faces painted. You can also venture behind the brickworks to the series of ponds and man-made viewing bridges called Turtles Walk. The ponds are full of fish and there are lots of turtles which makes for fascinating viewing for the kids. If you have a young family you’ll have no trouble engaging their interest. In fact I wrote a kid’s book called “Eric and Anisa Save the Don” that was inspired by our weekends there. The book will be published shortly.

The Don Valley Brickworks hosts many activies during the summer. The Saturday morning farmers market is a real treat in the heart of the city.

The Don Valley Brickworks hosts many activies during the summer. The Saturday morning farmers market is a real treat in the heart of the city.

Away with Training Wheels

Normally we just walk along the trails because the trails are  in some places not smooth enough for the training wheels that used to be on my daughter’s bike. Now that she rides without training wheels I promised her that we would go riding on the trails. This Saturday that’s exactly what we did. As we passed the Brickworks on the way to the trails I met a young man watering the plants.

I met Morgan Zigler tending to the plants at the Brickworks.

I met Morgan Zigler tending to the plants at the Brickworks.

His name was Morgan Zigler of the not for profit organization Evergreen that runs the brickworks. We got to discussing how knowledge of native plants and herbs is disappearing. I told him how my grandmother in Antigua would have her fever bush and other bush teas and herbal remedies, and that whether or not the remedies worked I often missed those teas simply because they were so delicious. Those times are largely gone however because my generation, being without the knowledge to distinguish any potentially useful plant from weeds, would simply run the lawnmower over the lot of them. The natural consequence is that we see less reason to take the time to do things that are good for the environment because we are deeply disconnected from any need to be sustained by the local environment around us.

Morgan’s Urban Tribe

Morgan confessed that he belonged to what he called a “tribe” of like-minded people who harvest wild urban edibles such as mulberries from which he makes mulberry jam. At his urging I tasted one of the tomatoes that he was watering. It was a small yellow variety and it had a cool, fresh taste. My son looked on with fascination. As I bit into it the juice flew past his head. Morgan, myself, and my son laughed simultaneously.

Morgan tells me that phase 1 of the Brickworks project is coming next May with a huge children’s garden and a climbing wall.

Mount Up

After saying hi to Morgan we mounted up to head to the trails.

Behind the Brickworks is are a series of biking and hiking trails that criss-cross the entire city and extend for many kilometers.

Behind the Brickworks is are a series of biking and hiking trails that criss-cross the entire city and extend for many kilometers.

Turtle walk is a series of man made bridges over the ponds to the rear of the brickworks.

A number of what I believed were Eastern Painted Turtles could also be observed there.

A number of what I believed were Eastern Painted Turtles could also be observed there.

One of the turtles we saw was a massive snapping turtle. Its shell alone was nearly a metre long. It's head was a massive as that of a pit bull.

One of the turtles we saw was a massive snapping turtle. Its shell alone was nearly a metre long. It's head was a massive as that of a pit bull.

We stopped to try and spot some fish and other creatures in the pond. We were excited when we spotted two species of turtles, one of which was an absolutely massive snapping turtle. We could also hear frogs, but they remained invisible.

Travelling for Personal Growth Part IV

This post is the last in a series of four posts that is accompanied by an article entitled “How to Change Absolutely Anything about Your Life in Ten Steps” that I published on eHow.com.

The Illusion

In my previous post I made the rather philosophical point that although we are largely under the control of our predispositions we generally like to think that we are guided only by our own free will. I found that not only had other people had pondered this issue, but that the whole subject of “The Illusion of Control” is actually a formal area of psychological study. Turns out that the illusion of control is necessary to our own mental well being whenever we must coexist with situations of stress. A high stakes gambler can only stomach walking onto the casino floor if they are accompanied by the illusion that somehow their luck is something they can control. Perhaps they will influence their luck by the confidence of their swagger; perhaps they will influence their luck by the colour of the tie they wear. This illusion is of great benefit in the short term for working up courage, but it’s proven to be a liability that one would benefit from shedding in the long run.

The difficulty is that we can’t pick and choose how we feel about things so that we have that swagger that is useful when we need to take a risk, and so we have the caution of turtles poking our heads out slowly of our shells when we need to be careful. A brave man will be brave even when he shouldn’t be, and a scared man will be afraid even when he shouldn’t be. We don’t reason our way into or out of emotional states so much as feel about them how we are predisposed to feel. Of course one predictable case in which that predisposition does change is when we are not at our best and feeling low.

While in general it’s true that we can’t suddenly change how we feel about things, we can certainly change our physical and emotional environment and that will in turn change our own perceptions and thus change the way we feel.

Follow Where the Moment Leads

How do we escape the overwhelming tendency to respond in ways that lead to the same negative outcomes? One way is to change our physical environment. This is where travel comes in.

Make the best of things

Make the best of things

Follow where the moment leads. You might find something you've been missing in your life.

Follow where the moment leads. You might find something you've been missing in your life.

Be open to follow where the moment leads and then wherever it takes you make sure to find ways to enjoy the best out of it.

Travelling for Personal Growth Part III

This post is the third in a series of four posts that is accompanied by an article entitled “How to Change Absolutely Anything about Your Life in Ten Steps” that I published on eHow.com.

The Last Post

My previous post ended with the recognition that although I believed that the end conclusion of my reasoning processes was completely arbitrary based on the facts, in reality my reasoning proved to be far more predictable. What was even more stunning than the predictability behind what I initially thought was my inherent randomness was how that revelation quickly made the behavior of other’s begin to seem quite preordained as well. I as a born risk-taker for example would generally weigh an opportunity and conclude that the most logical approach was to take the risk involved in trying to realize the opportunity. I have a good friend of mine whom I respect as an intelligent and well-reasoned man but who is far more risk-averse. He would unfailingly weigh the exact same opportunity and conclude that the most logical approach was to avoid any risk whatsoever. That example sticks out glaringly for me to this day. It pointed out that although we think our logical minds are in control of weighing facts and independently choosing a course of action, to some degree that process of logic is a facade. The end result of our reasoning is less determined by a logical assessment of the circumstances around us than by the responses to those circumstances that we are by nature preconditioned to have.

The Debate About Free Will

While in a very philosophical mood one day, another friend and I got into a debate on the same issue of whether when it comes to decision making we follow our predispositions or whether we independently go in the direction our logic dictates. I argued that our decisions are largely preordained by our dispositions.

Under the illusion of being governed by nothing other than our own conscious free will, we instead follow our predispositions uncontrollably. He disagreed strongly and countered by saying “We have the ability to change whatever we want to in our lives. When you recognize that you have no control over the things you are strongly predisposed to do then you can change anything”. Incredulous, I gave a crazy example about a raging alcoholic. Were they in control just because they acknowledged that from the first they smelled liquor they had to run after it with no control over anything except remembering not to hold their breath too long when guzzling so they didn’t pass out? His words were an obvious contradiction to me.

Then my friend said something truly profound. “You can’t control the things you are not in control of, but from the areas where you are in control you can fix or seek help in fixing those where you are not. In that way we are in control of everything”. The light began to turn on for me right then.

Compulsion

We feel out of control when we are compelled to act in ways that strongly contradict with what we ourselves believe to be good for us.

Most people who gamble would agree that losing their firstborn’s college money was not in their interest. Most people who drink would agree that blacking out behind the wheel after a serious night of drinking and crashing the car into the side of their house was not in their interest either. Whether or not one believes that our logic simply allows us to feel comfortable about doing what our individual predispositions instruct us to do in the first place, compulsions differ from ordinary behavior in that they inspire action that leaves any semblance of logic behind.

Taking Leave of All Good Sense

All of us have areas in which we can’t have even the semblance of a logical discussion such as areas in which we are very sensitive to the way we perceive ourselves or to the way others perceive us.

We can’t consider all opinions and weigh them dispassionately because it’s just too difficult to let the discussion head to areas we refuse to accept. But to counter the lack of control that comes with a compulsion we can begin the discussion of a solution in areas where we have no sensitivity and where our reasoning is strong. From that position of strength we can extend solid reason into areas where our reasoning is much more shaky. Few of us can tell when our thoughts are slipping into the region of broken logic and compulsions having consequences difficult for us to accept but it’s easy to recognize when we clearly feel good about some outcome. The wisdom in what my friend told me is that in a number of ways, we can use the good to fix the bad. We can use the more balanced logic from the areas in which we gave good feelings to help us sort out the areas where our logic is broken and where our compulsions reign free.  And we can leverage the positive aspects of our relationships to enlist their support of others.

Accept the Help of Others

In a world of over six billion, none of us are truly alone, despite the way one might feel at times. As human beings we are social animals who have the capacity to rely on each other’s differing strengths to help us meet diverse challenges. Control alone is less important than understanding where support is readily available from others. Control is really a balance between being protected within the sphere of our own control and recognizing where others can reach out and protect us with their support at other times when we cannot. Despite my belief in my own ability to reason through the most difficult questions it was fitting that this most profound conclusion came not from me but from this person who I recognized has over many years of my life has been such a reliable source of support. His support formed the beginning of my answer to the question of how we can be in such a state of self-control that we can change anything we want about ourselves … and that answer is to ask another question … whether we should seek to be.

Travelling for Personal Growth Part II

This post is the second in a series of four posts that is accompanied by an article entitled “How to Change Absolutely Anything about Your Life in Ten Steps” that I published on eHow.com.

Where We Left Off

My previous post ended with asking whether any one of us knows the difference between what we can and cannot control and therefore change even in ourselves. In this post I’ll continue to reflect on that question and lead towards showing how the fresh and hopefully pleasant perspective given by travel can enhance one’s capacity for positive change.

The first thing to recognize is that the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes of our lives being completely within our control and completely in the hands of fate. The second thing to recognize is that it’s not a bad thing that the exact line where control ends and fate takes over is different for everyone and that we discover the location of that line for ourselves as we go along.

What I Saw as a Child

As a child I would observe others when their behaviour slipped out of the bounds of their control. Sometimes the person’s behaviour would cross the line into having them do something they would have preferred not to do without them even noticing themselves. Kids my age would cry when they fell and didn’t hurt themselves badly, and other kids would flinch or even kick up a fuss when they got needles in the nurse’s office even if they knew that they were far more sensitive to the ensuing ridicule from unsympathetic classmates. I watched with some detachment. Since I was always in complete control of my own behaviour I never wondered what I would do and what I would not do in any situation. Most of the time if I didn’t want myself to flinch or cry then I simply wouldn’t. If something did hurt enough to bring tears I would do so without worrying about how anyone else felt. I couldn’t understand people who ended up letting any emotion carry them away, whether anxiety, fear, or even happiness, so that they would end up doing things that their own good sense dictated they didn’t want to.

I was bewildered when as a child I read a story about crazy college kids who found themselves eating dog biscuits and then were later grossed out by the fact that they had. No other child I knew would want to eat a dog biscuit, yet by the sometimes drunken years of college, anecdotal evidence left no question that some of them would eat dog biscuits, swallow live goldfish, and much worse. That such behaviour was contemptible was an obvious and universal truth to my mind. I hated alcohol and wondered why someone would drink enough of the foul tasting stuff to allow themselves to act like they had no sense. I knew that I for one would never allow alcohol or anything else to encourage me to let such gross things pass my lips.

What I Discovered as the Grandson of a Rum Smuggler

However with the passing of childhood many truths that seem universal eventually reveal themselves as only being true from a particular point of view. The judgemental view that I had previously was obviously one of a non-drinker. The fondness that I inherited from my rum smuggling grandfather for Caribbean rum soon cured that.

In addition I was an inquisitive and contemplative youth for whom examining other points of view was second nature. If alcohol could cause dog biscuits and goldfish to be someone’s entertainment I would probably want to figure out why if I knew doing so wasn’t going to harm me. Admittedly the invincibility I felt as a young man and that fondness for a well crafted rum allowed even my cares about such harm to slide away. Feeling invincible and capable of accomplishing anything I felt no need to hide behind cares about potential harm to myself or for that matter felt any need to restrict my reasoning so that it would lead to safe conclusions. I began to deconstruct everything I believed. The revelation that even most universal truths are relative was inevitable and I found myself wondering how many things I never thought I’d do that I would end up doing in life.

Logical Relativism and the Disappearing Penguin

During the years leading up to my adulthood evidence began to mount in my own mind about where this logical relativism was leading me. When one is open to all conclusions one never knows where one’s conclusions might lead. Honest reflection brought me to face with the uncertainty that this kind of logical relativism had cast me into. Logic seems at the outset cut and dried but in the end it is entirely unpredictable. My favourite anecdote showing this comes from the comic strip “Bloom County” in which the character Oliver Wendell Jones beats Stephen Hawking to discovering an equation that explains everything. Oliver attempts to explain the equation to his friend Opus the penguin. Under closer examination however, the equation disproves the existence of flightless waterfowl and as Opus looks on with concern he sees his midsection begins to be erased, as if with a pencil eraser. Luckily Oliver discovers that he “forgot to carry the two” and corrects the equation so that Opus pops back into existence, concerned but only a bit dishevelled. In life as in comics, logic can lead an unpredictably far distance from the truth.

Flip-Flopping Between Extremes

The heart of youthful idealism is the firm belief that the world can be made to fit within the confines of logic rather than the confines of logic being only a small window of perspective on a much larger and largely illogical world.

I was definitely an idealistic young man who adhered to the logic of my convictions despite facts to the contrary. Believing for example that with every political issue you could identify a perpetrator (i.e. the villain), and a victim (i.e. the good guy), I strove to “educate” myself enough to be able to slice up world affairs that way.  But being completely open to any conclusion that was supported by facts, my opinion about who was the villain in any given situation would flip flop with every new piece of information I read.

The Bigger Picture Forms

Far from being in control of my opinions and conclusions, not even I myself could predict what those opinions and conclusions would eventually be. Furthermore this variability extended to my life in general. I myself had no idea what I would do and what I would not do. Like Oliver Wendell Jones in the comic strip it seemed that following my own logic could lead anywhere. Recognizing the flaws in a strict adherence to logic I was still powerless to look at the world from the alternate perspective, and that is one of faith. Despite forays in that direction I came to believe I was simply not made to understand the world in that way. But the years went on and with the further passing of time I eventually reconciled myself with the particular brand of uncertainty that a strictly logical world view brings. This reconciliation came when I recognized that even this unpredictability was a predictable part of my nature. If given options “A” and “B” I would like clockwork define an option “C” and choose that.

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