• history,  politics,  religion,  the ethical life

    Nellie McClung and the challenge of history

    Up until a few weeks ago, if I was asked my impression of Nellie McClung I probably would have said “oh, she was that suffragette, right? The one people say was racist and supported eugenics?” I started reading about Nellie McClung this past few weeks. I’ll still a newcomer to McClung’s story and I’ve already read bits that do suggest the darker parts of her beliefs. But what has amazed me is realizing how beautiful some of her thoughts and ideas were too. She wrote novels that promoted the idea that we are all called to serve community, love one another and by doing so to change the world. She…

  • religion,  the ethical life

    William Morris and Jane Austen: Lens for Literature

    I’m reading about William Morris, the 19th century designer and socialist. His company rejected the assembly line in favor of treating every creation like a work of art to be done by one person from start to finish. Morris learned old techniques and reinvented lost techniques. He hoped that as people saw the great quality products they would shun the cheaper mass-produced goods, but of course this didn’t happen and instead other companies produced cheap knock-offs of his work. I first heard of him years ago at university, when I was busy fingerweaving Metis-style sashes, which gave me at least a bit of a feel for the time involved in…

  • activism,  history,  politics,  the ethical life

    Optimism vs Hope

    I’m thinking about the difference between optimism and hope. One can be optimistic because one believes things will go well. In some cases optimism is good and natural. However optimism can also be due to a lack of information about the potential problems or because one deliberately rejects the facts that disagrees with one. Therefore optimism itself is not a virtue. We should not be trying to “choose optimism” when the situation does not warrant it. I picture NASA scientists preparing for a rocket launch. We want them to be optimistic because all the tests, models and simulations suggest they will be suc…cessful. We would not want them to “choose optimism”…

  • accepting criticism,  education,  parenting,  the ethical life

    treating children like rational creatures

    I was reading a philosophy book the other day, and I came across this interesting passage by John Locke: Remove hope and fear, and there is an end of all discipline. I grant that good and evil, reward and punishment, are the only motives to a rational creature; these are the spur and reigns whereby all mankind are set on work and guided, and therefore they are to be made use of to children too. For I advice their parents and governors always to carry this in thier minds, that children are to be treated as rational creatures. As I read the first two sentences of that passage, my mind…

  • communication,  goals,  meaning of life,  memes,  the ethical life

    being wrong, accepting criticism and imperfection

    “No, friendship is NOT about ‘supporting your friends even when you know they’re wrong.” That’s not friendship. That’s being an enabler. That’s being an accomplice. Friendship is loving someone enough to tell them to stop being an idiot before they ruin their lives.” I saw a text-in-a-box thing on facebook today with that text. I read it, re-read it, and thought about a time when I acted as an enabler, supporting someone as she got back together with an abuser, and how I wish I had handled it differently. I had been so scared she’d stop talking to me that I didn’t really say what I should have. If you…

  • meaning of life,  religion,  the ethical life

    making peace

    As a child one of my favourite records was one produced by the Mennonite Central Committee. It was called “I can make peace” and it had a mix of stories and songs. One of the stories was about a family getting up to go to school and how one person’s grumpiness was passed on to the next person until even a friend’s family was affected, but then the reverse happens where someone’s joyfulness is passed on person to person. One story was about an elephant family. The stories and songs start off focused on families and move out to talking about adults, including one about Muriel Lester. I don’t have…

  • politics,  religion,  the ethical life

    yep, I’m going to write about the Duggar scandal.

    I’m writing about the Duggar family because I think what the situation is a good one for shining light on the different ways people interpret things. The Duggar family need to decide how they will handle it, and they will decide that but everyone else who hears about the case gets to decide how they will understand the story. For some that comes very quickly and easily, while for others the situation is a bit more challenging. For some it is a story about a bad man from a good family, and others about a man from a bad ideology.  I want to explain why I think the ideology is…

  • culture,  politics,  religion,  the ethical life

    Reasons to NOT Support Operation Christmas Child

    Schools and individuals are already taking advantage of back-to-school sales to gather supplies for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. While I think it is great to try to give extra joy to others, I want to write to urge people not to support this program. I have a whole list of reasons (see below), but right now (November 2015) I am editing this to add the most important reason at the top. Franklin Graham, the head of the group that runs OCC, promotes fear and hatred. Here is an example of a post from his facebook page. You can check his page out and see that there are more like this.…

  • God,  how do we know what we know is true,  meaning of life,  religion,  the ethical life

    in pursuit of an academic religion

    I’ve been thinking about religion again. I think about the good things, like the way it can support a person’s ability to acknowledge their mistakes or the inspiration to care for others. Yet I’m also think about the problems with religion, particularily of finding a religious interpretation that can be a source of healthy challenge neither constructed to meet one’s own wants or to justify one’s oppressive situation. Inspiring me to write this post is, partly, a post titled Can reason and secularism protect kids from anti-science rhetoric (and build a better society)? over at a blog called Boreal Citizen. The post speaks about Democratic anti-science rhetoric being centered around unsupported fears…

  • environment,  food,  meaning of life,  the ethical life

    costs both hidden and obvious

    I wrote before about how I enjoy playing coasterville because I break everything down in my mind – a quest isn’t really a quest, it’s a matter of eight clicks, three clicks from a friend and two clicks at two hour intervals. Well my same love of breaking things down makes me fascinated by looking at what goes into creating real things. What all goes into feeding a family? Occasionally I keep track of what my family eats for a week and occasionally I think about laying out an equivalent amount of food in the style of the What the World Eats Photo Essay. When I was a teenager, I…