A few disconnected and thoroughly disjointed musings for a Tuesday afternoon…
Here in Canada, it’s the morning after a federal election. And, like the provincial election in Alberta back in May where the NDP party swept aside a Conservative party that had been in power for roughly forever years, the result was equally shocking. Gone is the much-maligned Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada. In his place, we have Justin Trudeau and the back-from-the-dead Liberal Party promising hope and change and bright new days and the usual assortment of platitudes that inexplicably retain their capacity to get people screaming euphorically and exultantly waving their signs…
And speaking of signs… As I collapsed into the couch after the first hockey game of the beer league season last night and watched the last remnants of election coverage, I was struck by what a very unusual thing the phenomenon of sign-waving is. What kind of person, I wondered, feverishly pumps a sign up and down at the appropriate intervals in the speaker’s speech (usually after one of the numerous undulating crescendos that ended with “the people have spoken” or “the Canada we want” “the time has come for change!” or something to that effect)? What kind of person actually believes that this politician will be appreciably different from the previous ones? Surely, we’ve seen and heard enough from the mouths of politicians over the years to know that this government, like all previous governments will mean a predictable mixture of moderate attempts at newness mixed with the a whole lot of self-preserving and power-retaining oldness. All political parties are, after all, populated by human beings. And human beings are, well, so very human.
I don’t really have a dog in the political fight, as I’ve written here before. I have a meticulously cultivated skepticism of all politicians and all parties. Justin Trudeau might very well be a good thing for Canada. Or not. At the very least, his tone seems a marked improvement upon that of Stephen Harper. And he does have fantastic hair. But for my part, I’m fully expecting to see another well-groomed (younger) woman or man in four (or eight) years breathlessly going on and on about how the time has come for hope and change after four (or eight) years of Liberal rule.
And the people will obediently yell and cheer and exultantly wave their blue or orange or green signs.
I took a drive down the highway this morning to meet a colleague for coffee at a town part way between our two cities. It was a beautiful fall morning with a brilliant blue sky above. There were streaks of wispy white clouds strewn across the horizon. It was the kind of prairie morning sky that just went on and on and on. The kind of sky that can make you feel very small. The kind of sky that might even inspire something like reverence.
Looking up is very often a way of gaining a bit of perspective in the face of all that’s going on down here below. Looking up at the vast expanse of sky can remind us of the transitory and fleeting nature of our lives, of the relative insignificance of the problems that beset us, of the brute fact that this big beautiful world has been around for a very long time and will be here long after we are gone. The sky can put us in our place.
As I looked up this morning, I thought of my wife hurtling through the same sky in a cylindrical chunk of metal making its way from Amsterdam to Calgary. I thought of how much I have missed her. I thought of the miracle of air travel. I thought it barely believable that I was down here and she was up there—that the sky I was staring up at was the same sky that she was traversing home.
The sky made me think of other miracles. The miracles of human love and longing. The miraculous and indescribable beauty of things like mercy and forgiveness, kindness and peace, goodness and hope. I thought about the incredible unlikelihood of these things in a world full of so much ugliness and madness.
I looked back up at the sky and I wondered if it was not, perhaps, even more incredible that things like ugliness and madness and war and death could exist under this magnificent expanse of jaw-dropping wonder. How do we persist in all that deals death and destruction when we have this same sky above us all, putting us in our place, bringing us back to one another?
Someone asked me recently about my “rhythm of writing” on this blog. “How do you decide when or what to write about?” they asked. Hmm, how to answer in a way that makes it sound like I’ve actually put some thought into my “rhythm of writing…” Blogging is a very odd and irregular form of writing, after all. At least it is for me.
Some bloggers probably have schedules and routines and self-imposed rules for how often, how many words, which topics, etc. My “policy” would probably sound rather more uninspiring: I, um, write about the things that I find interesting whenever they happen to interest me and whenever I can find the time to write about them. Sometimes I write once a week, sometimes four times. Sometimes I write about pastor-y type things, sometimes I write about the news of the day, sometimes I tell stories about the people I meet, sometimes I write (obliquely) about things that are happening in my own life that are pulling me apart and wringing me out. It’s a bit of a mixed bag here, as long-time readers will no doubt be well aware.
Having said all that, I’ve been pondering the merits of establishing some fixed parameters or scaling things back a bit here. Part of this is just the feeling that I might need to discipline my writing a bit more. Not everything that occurs to me needs to be instantly crammed through the ether. Some things should or could remain unsaid. God knows there are enough words out there, all climbing over top of each other, scrambling for their piece of the ever-shrinking attentional pie. Part of it is just a weariness with the online world in general. There is so much reactionary nastiness out there, so much poorly considered and inadequately measured commentary. Social media can bring people together, certainly. But it can also serve as a laboratory for the cultivation of the worst of human carelessness and excess.
It’s also because I am considering the possibility of writing a book. Nothing is certain at this point, but I am exploring options with an editor that recently connected with me. Writing a book is obviously a different animal than blogging. The former requires more long-term planning and discipline than the latter, which is highly episodic in nature. Writing a book means structure and templates and forms and “marketing plans” and answering questions like “What will your book do that others haven’t?” or “Why are you the person to write this book?” and all kinds of other things that I’m generally terrible at. I don’t know if I will navigate this whole process well or if my idea will be accepted and find its way into a book. But I do know that I’m serious about giving this writing a book thing a crack, it may require blogging a bit less.
So, what will all this mean? Well, I’m not exactly sure. It might just mean that the odd rhythms of my writing here might get a bit odder in the days ahead. I might post slightly less than I have, at times, in the past. I might engage a bit less in the comments section than usual. I know that time for a book isn’t magically going to appear out of the sky; some things will have to be sacrificed to make way for others.
Having said that, I remain committed to this space and will continue to write here. For all my misgivings about the medium and the message and what technology is doing to us as a species, I have come to value this blog and the people who connect here deeply. In many ways, it’s hard to imagine what I would say in a book that I haven’t said here. This blog is an expression of who I am and what I care about. As I’ve said before, it’s deeply gratifying to have consistently discovered that it resonates with who others are and what they care about as well.
On with the words.