My book for this month is “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (Ian Fleming, 1964). I’ve always loved the movie, and when I saw it (for the umpteenth time) a couple of weeks ago, I realized I’d never read the book. And it’s almost as old as I am. So I looked it up in our local library, put it on “hold”, and picked it up today. After I’d done my walk (on om of the the last hot days of the year), I snuggled down and started reading.
There are some fundamental differences from the movie, but it still reads wonderfully well. And I have to admit a certain stumbling happiness as I got about a quarter of the way through. It was just the beginning of the magical changes that were to take place through the story, and the paragraph started… “And a sort of soft humming noise began… then the most extraordinary transmogrifications (which is just a long word for changes) began to occur…” (emphasis mine).
It might be a word, but it isn’t (yet) in my spell-checker.
So everyone else is probably already quite aware of this. I first experienced the word in the old “Calvin and Hobbes” comic that blessed my young adulthood (1987). For anyone who has not seen the “transmogrifier” series, I found a link to the comics. I had always thought that Bill Waterson had virtually made up the term, and that it had entered pubic parlance only afterwards. So I was happily surprised to see it in print more than twenty years earlier.
I took the day off today, ran some errands that I’ve been intending to complete for some time. For lunch (and for cinnamon rolls) I dropped by IKEA. Out front they have a section of the parking lot dedicated to electric cars. Of the eight spots available, three of them were charging.
I thought this was great. Until I noticed that they were all government vehicles. The province started adding electric cars to the fleet over a year ago. I suppose that because of the cutbacks in subsidies for alternative fuels, the government is one of the few able to afford them now. So much for the new premier stimulating the economy.
But the conservatives should be happy. The charging stations at IKEA are free, so at least they’re not wasting taxpayer dollars.
One of the things I brought with me from the States back to Canada is NPR, “National Public Radio”. When we bought the new car, it came with Satellite Radio. I was planning to let the subscription expire… I think it came free for six moths. But I enjoyed the variation in music, particularly the indie programming. And then I discovered “NPR Now”.
One of the reasons I first started listening to NPR in the States was the perspective, the information… and the consistency. It was one of the few radio programs that was available all across the country, wherever I was visiting (and I travelled a lot in those days). I finally started supporting KUAR in Arkansas. So I was happy to discover a version that is available up here… it may not be Canadian, but many of the values reflected make me feel at home.
The power failure yesterday (Bowles, 2018) was a significant event. It was something out of the ordinary, something where all of us, as residents in one area, had to work together to overcome the difficulty. And it was difficult, not just because so many of us lost power. But even if you were just passing through, there were so many stoplights that were out that traffic was reduced to a crawl. “Passing through” took some time.
It’s funny. A lot of people… a surprising percentage, actually… weren’t very compliant when it comes to broken stop lights. They’re supposed to treat them like four-way stop signs, coming to a stop and going through the intersection in their turn. Lots of people didn’t do this. Many went through as a group, sneaking through with the person in front of them; at the smaller lights, they didn’t even slow down. I wonder if they realize that such behaviour actually made the whole system work slower? They might gain a second or two at one light by cheating someone else of their turn, but they then lost a minute because they’ were behind a whole bunch of people ahead who are cheated out of their turn. Those who weren’t willing to take their right-of-way, and took longer to avoid those who cheated? We’re so focused on immediate gain that we don’t realize that our behaviour is making things worse.
I met two young women from China on that walk. They needed help just getting across the street. Everyone was so intent on getting through the intersection that not a single person stopped for the timid pair to walk across… a violation of not only general civility, but of the law. They had been trying to get across for ten minutes, but the stopping was so random and so quick (we often call them “California stops”) that they did not have the confidence to even start. So I showed them, and walked them across the street. A simple thing, but it can be important when everything seems against you.
I wrote that yesterday (Bowles, 2018) I woke up and there had been power failure… among other things. Not that unusual; I suppose I’m on a part of the grid that is considered dispensable, since it happens fairly frequently. When I lived in Arkansas, I was on the same part of the grid as Governor Huckabee’s mansion, so I don’t think our power ever went out. But not here. In fact, this outage was a bit unique. Although the power was on when I got up, there were stoplights out along the way when we went grocery shopping. And by mid-morning, the outages were significant enough that we took side streets home. We had to put away the groceries in the dark.
Turns out that this was not just any power failure; a transformer station near the house had caught fire (Global, 2018). It had been necessary to cut the power in order to effectively fight the fire, and that caused the extended outage.
As one of my daily walks, I decided to hike up to where the transformer was. It was not a bad walk; in fact, because the stoplights were out on the major streets, there were times when I was walking faster than the traffic was moving. As I got closer, the smell of burning got stronger; as I approached the charred structure, I could taste the burned material. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of toxins had been unleashed from the station. These are the kinds of accidents that we can’t avoid when we build this kind of infrastructure, and that we have to plan for.
The timing is also… interesting. I can’t help but notice that we have such a significant event at a time when we’ve just started implementing cost-saving and expense cutting at Hydro One. I wonder if this was result of one of those “money saving” measures that we’ve been promised would save us our tax dollars. I’d just as soon be willing to pay some more to have confidence in a consistent electrical flow to my home, and that we’re not adversely affecting the environment.
One thing I’m sure of: in Toronto, I’m not on the premier’s power grid.
I woke up in the middle of the night last night. It’s not that uncommon; the last few years I’ve had a habit of getting up in the middle of the night and doing work or reading. But last night was different, for several reasons. Earlier in the evening there had been a storm, and the thunder had woke me up, so it was not the first time, even that night. But I could tell the power had been out. My clock was on, but the time was flashing, I mentally made a note to reset all the clocks in the house.
But there were also the gunshots. I live right near the intersection of Jane and Finch in Toronto; a neighbourhood that is known to be rougher than many. I’ve lived in this area most of my life, and I honestly don’t really notice it. I know my neighbours; I don’t feel threatened. But sometimes I’m reminded. There were at least half a dozen of them, and I don’t know if any happened before I woke up. I haven’t heard that before, and it made me uneasy. I tried to find any reference in them in the news this morning, but there was nothing. I guess gunshots are considered “normal” in this part of the city, although they’ll never be normal for me.
I guess that’s why the province’s new “Community Safety Minister” thought it was normal to wear a bullet-proof vest on a recent tour of my neighbourhood (Globe and Mail, 2018).
I started reading “The Road Less Travelled” a week or so ago. By M. Scott Peck, the book has been around since the late 70s, and has been very popular. I’m almost certain I read before… I’ve certainly had this copy for decades… but I don’t remember it very well. I’m sure I remember discussing it at Moody; the focus on “discipline” as one of the hallmarks of spiritual growth is one that I’ve known for a while. But there are aspects o this reading that are very new to me. Either way, I’m enjoy it now.
“We are daily bombarded with new information as to the nature of reality… we must continually revise of maps [of reality]… The process of making revisions, particularly major revisions, is painful, sometimes excruciatingly painful. And herein lies the major source of many of the ills of mankind… What we do more often than not, and usually unconsciously, is to ignore the new information. Often this act of ignoring is much more than passive. We may denounce the new information as false, dangerous, heretical, the work of the devil. We may actually crusade against it, and even attempt to manipulate the world so as to make it conform to our view of reality. Rather than try to change the map, an individual may try to destroy the new reality.” (Peck, 45-46)
I generally try to see what in my own life can benefit from my reading, and often I succeed. But sometimes I’m struck by something external. In this case, I could not help but think of Jordan Peterson, the current darling of Canadian conservatism, who is crusading against the natural evolution of our culture. He speaks regularly on subjects like “men’s rights” and encourages his followers to refuse to participate in aspects of gender and sexual equality. (Or at least he doesn’t encourage them not to refuse… he’s rather obtuse and it’s generally hard to identify exactly what he’s saying.)
Both Dr. Peck and Peterson have some similarities. The fact that they both deal (dealt) in psychology is rather ironic. Both call for taking “responsibility” in their work, but there the commonality seems to end. Dr. Peck calls us to take “appropriate” responsibility for our actions and their effects, as one step in the longer journey to explore reality as it unfolds before us, in dying to ourselves and becoming new people with new relationships. Peterson sees it as central to his ideas; he “hammers” on the concept of responsibility. To him it is the foundation for maintaining the status quo and his power. Dr. Peck calls us to take responsibility in order to be healed and move forward on the journey of life; Peterson calls us to take responsibility in order to maximize our control and to stay where we are.