Category Archives: Life

Dignity

One advantage of listening to the radio all day long is that I’m pretty much the best informed I’ve been in my life.

Last week, you may have missed this very important judgement from the BC Supreme Court.

And more recently, the woman who won this judgement spoke out to the public.

Smith [the judge] ruled that because suicide is not illegal, banning assisted suicide discriminates against the disabled and is therefore unconstitutional.

It’s high time that we have a discussion about the dignity of death in this country.

As the daughter of a father who committed suicide, I feel strongly about this notion of being able to have the choice to end your life as you see fit. In the case of an able-bodied person, it’s not that difficult. You hang yourself, like my father did, or you poison yourself, or find another way. There are many ways to do so, some messier than others, but still most people can do it themselves.

I cannot imagine what it is to have a life-threatening disability, and I don’t pretend to be able to put myself in their skin. But as Canadian citizen with a modicum of empathy, I can see why the ban on physician-assisted suicide is unfair.

Controversial and delicate

Dignity

True2Source on Flickr

I will say right away that I understand the difficulties that such a judgement can bring. What kind of checks and balances will there be? How do we make sure that nobody, doctor or family member, abuses this? What does religion have to say about this, if its opinion matters (I would rather religion stay out of it, honestly)?

The thing that makes me happy for Gloria Taylor and, hopefully, all the Canadians who will eventually have the right to ask for a physician-assisted death (she wants us to stop using “assisted suicide”, and I agree with her), stems from the basis of our democratic society: freedom of choice.

At least in Canada, people are free to do with their body as they choose. Women can choose to end pregnancies, everyone can choose to end their lives. Suicide is not illegal, but what do you do with someone who wants to die, but is not physically able to do so? Are they condemned to suffering just because they suffer from a disability?

Why extend the life of someone who has a fatal disease and who is suffering immensely? What good is there in prolonging suffering in loved ones, in fellow human beings? Which causes more harm, letting someone who wants to die live on in pain, or help them die on their own terms?

We euthanize our pets because we don’t want them to suffer needlessly when they are sick or hurt. Some people may feel like it’s a moot point; why compare human to pets? But ask yourself: if we consider that prolonging suffering in animals is inhumane, then why do we still let it happen to humans?

The travesty is being kept alive without dignity  –Gloria Taylor

“Wrong reasons”

As I listen to Ms Taylor talk on the radio about the argument that some people might choose assisted death for the “wrong reasons”, I can’t but agree with her argument that there are no wrong reasons. The reasons are the patient’s alone, nobody else’s. The reasons may seem “wrong” to observers, but why do they matter? Throughout our lives, and especially at the end of it, the only person we are accountable for is ourself.

I may miss my father, every day, but my desire to see him alive doesn’t trump his desire to die. It was his choice, not mine. He was suffering–maybe not physically, but mentally, and I’ve always accepted his death as a way to ease this suffering in a way that no medication could ever have. I choose to be merciful and accept his choice.

There is no “wrong reason” to choose to die when you have a fatal illness. There are only personal reasons.

Although no one can really know what they would do until it happens to them, we can show compassion, and, I believe,trust, in our fellow humans’ decision to wish to end their life on their own terms.

I hope that my fellow Canadians will show compassion and support this judgement if it ever goes into appeal. If you were to be sick and disabled, wouldn’t you like to choose the time and the manner of your death?

Wouldn’t you want to retain your human dignity, in death as much as in life? What’s your take on phyician-assisted death?

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Addiction

I must admit it: I have an addiction.

addicted

Rick on Flickr

Is it drugs? Not really. Alcohol? Nah. TV? Maybe. But I want to talk about addiction to school.

I’ve been more or less vocal about it on social media, but now I can make it official: I am leaving my full-time job and going back to school, full time, in September.

It might come as strange for some of you. After all, I left school with a bit of anger about a year ago. But I know myself enough to realize when I don’t belong; and I certainly do not belong in an office.

I belong in a classroom, either as a student or, eventually, as a teacher.

Now, I’m starting back from the bottom: an undergraduate diploma in applied lingustics to teach ESL. Undergraduate. Like 100-level coursework. Easy peasy, right?

Probably. But even then, it will make me happier than sitting here, day in and day out, translating stuff I don’t really care about. I feel no personal involvement in either the company or the work itself. Translation (or at least the type I do) is boring. And I’m not even a trained translator, so I’m still wondering how I got the job in the first place. I’m actually not that good at it.

So, yeah, maybe I’m going back either because I’ve simply been institutionalized and I can’t imagine myself outside of the system… or maybe my unconscious is telling me that I DO have something to bring to the academic world. I just needed to find it. And as I find myself increasingly reflecting on my situation as a bilingual/bicultural individual in Canada (especially in far-off BC, where French is akin to exoticism), I think that linguistics might be the way to go. Literature wouldn’t have let me explore these questions, and I want, WANT, to work with both my languages and make a positive contribution to the state of French in Canada. And without this experience, without this dip in literature and this work as a translator, I couldn’t have figured it out.

Here. Federalist, but no assimilated Anglo. Simply a believer in a better future where English and French Canada have more open and honest communication, where the language barrier is slowly taken down, brick by unilingual brick.

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Universe

We are nothing more to the universe than ants are to us.

The difference: we are aware that we are insignificant. Or at least some of us are.

On this day of the transit of Venus, you should stop and take a moment to reflect on the real size of things.

Out there, this big ball of fire that’s thousands of times bigger than the Earth itself, is the only thing that’s keeping us alive. Without the sun, we wouldn’t have plants, or water, or life at all. Our existence depends on this astral object that goes on its merry way without a thought of us.

And this sun is only a tiny bright spot within thousands in the galaxy; and the Milky Way is only one of thousands of similar galaxies. Who knows if galaxies are not part of a bigger system, still outside our ability to comprehend and imagine?

Universe (has anyone ever photographed his breath?)

D. Reichardt on Flickr

We are not the centre of the universe. The Earth is not the centre of the actual universe; humans are not the centre of the Earth, and you are not the centre of human life. We are all little units of a system that is much too complex for us to imagine.

I love science-fiction because it provides a reflection of this state of things. Finding our place in the world is a constant human desire; finding humanity’s place in the universe is this same desire, expanded on the galactic level.

But it would be nihilistic to live with this fact constantly in mind. If we don’t matter on a universal scale, then do we matter at all?

But we do, we do matter because we are aware of our relationship to the universe. We matter because we know we don’t matter. And we matter because we try to understand our place, no matter how insignificant. Humanity finds meaning in discovering how meaningless it is.

This existence is made of universes within universes. What is the structure of your system? Are you the sun, or a planet? Are you the sun to someone and a planet to another? What’s your place in your many universes?

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Nakedness

I have a question for you.

Who are you when you are naked?

Forget everything you own. Forget your home, your car, your clothes. Forget your computer, your iPad and your TV. Forget your work title and your paycheck and everything you buy with it.

Get naked, really, truly naked.

Now, who are you?

Naked by Lake in Snow

By VORT3Xphoto

Making a living or making a life?

I’ve been thinking about meaning a lot lately. This morning I was having a conversation on Twitter about the difference between “making a living” and “making a life”.

I see making a living as pure survival. You take that job because it pays the rent, not because it’s something you believe in or that suits your values. It’s getting the paycheck to buy things to fill the emptiness left in you after spending 40 hours a week doing something valueless.

When you’re making a life, you’re working with purpose, either because you use your money towards a meaningful goal, or because what you do, in itself, is purposeful. When you’re making a life, you get up every morning with a sense that your day will have value, will make a difference.

What are you doing right now? Are you making a living, or making a life?

Maintenance diet

Imagine that you had enough money to keep a roof over your head, to eat decently (but not luxuriously) and enough clothes to keep you warm throughout the year (but nothing fancy). You have a bed, and a table, and maybe a couch. No computer, no television, no car, maybe a landline phone or a cheap pay-as-you-go cell phone. You can answer to your basic living needs without hardship, but you have no luxuries.

Maybe you work to get this money, or maybe you don’t. But you don’t have enough of it to get more than what you already have. You can’t expand, but you can maintain.

Where do you find value now? How do you give meaning to your life? Does your personal meaning derive from the things you own (in which case you can hardly imagine your life in this state) or can you easily imagine happiness in a maintenance diet?

Naked

Sometimes we surround ourselves with things because we’re afraid of the vulnerability of nakedness. Our beautiful clothes hide the fact that we hate our bodies. Our obsession with expensive things covers our feelings of worthlessness. Our quest for status masks our lack of purpose.

Let us go back to my first question, then: when divested of all your things, who are you?

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Anger

For me, anger like a fire suddenly lighting up inside. I can’t control its ignition nor its extinction. It flares up, an explosion of emotions inside my chest that expands out to my legs, then my hands, then my head.

My anger is physical. It makes my feet tap. It makes my fists clench. It gives me this itch, everywhere, to kick, punch, scream.

But it’s not appropriate to show anger in public. So no matter how much it itches, you can’t kick, punch, scream your way to relief.

Anger burns the oxygen inside me. It makes me breathless, makes me feel confined inside my own body. I can go outside, I can try to breathe, but it’s inside that I’m choking. My body works fine, and yet there is no air inside.

And then, as quickly as it came, it burns out, leaving smoldering embers where my heart should be. I am given a temporary reprieve, but until I deal with the cause of the anger, it might flare up again.

Anger

Anger, by Zorin Denu

It’s hard to find the meaning in anger. It seems like an irrational, overpowering emotion that needs to be contained.

But anger is there for a reason. It’s telling you that there’s something, about you or about your environnement, that you need to pay attention to.

Listen to your anger. Don’t let the embers under seemingly calm ashes burn you again.

How does anger feel to you? How do you quell it?

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Choices

“The hardest choices in life aren’t between what’s right and what’s wrong but between what’s right and what’s best.” -Jamie Ford

Choices

By Sky Noir

We cannot determine the meaning of a choice before we live its consequences. Choices that seem, theoretically, easy to make, become impossible dilemmas when we are faced with them in practice.

Finding meaning out of a choice depends on your ability to let go of “what if’s” and instead mindfully focus on the present moment. Some roads can be traveled back, but most cannot. Remember the first Mario Bros.: once you’ve walked forward, you can’t go back. You keep on picking up those coins and hitting those blocks and forget about those you missed.

The thing is, there is no reset button to life. So let go of the coins not picked and the blocks not hit. Keep going. Next time around, you’ll do it better.

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Vancouver is pretty, but it’s not for me

Mon pays

Most people have a strong attachment to their home. Adopted or native, home is where we build our life, make connections, are part of a community. Home is where we feel safe, where we feel loved, and where we can leave a part of ourselves.

Someone criticizing your home can sometimes feel like a criticism of you. You feel a sense of personal slight, like there’s something wrong with you for liking a place over another that, in your opponent’s eye, is better. It makes me twinge when people say something bad about Montréal, even though I am aware of its faults. Because despite its problems and the bad things about it, it’s still the place that I consider as my home.

On my second visit--I was already in love

The Cult of Vancouver

Vancouverites are fiercely protective of their city. And with reason: it’s beautiful and it has a lot going on for it. But for the last few days, this civic pride has shown a darker side to me: that for some people, criticism is not acceptable. BPOE, they say; “Best Place on Earth”. Questioning this mantra is close to sacrilegious.

I moved to BC in 2008; spent 2 years in Victoria, then 10 months in Edmonton, then 6 months in Vancouver, then back to Victoria. I don’t know what it was like before the hype surrounding the Olympics. Some people tell me they ruined everything. Others tell me they made everything better.

I got caught in the hype too: I WANTED to be in Vancouver, now, because everyone else did. The world watched Vancouver, and Vancouver basked in its mountainous and oceanic glory. Vancouver is modern. Vancouver is hip. Vancouver is welcoming. Vancouver this, Vancouver that. The PR campaign was well executed. It worked. I moved there after Edmonton, thinking “this is my chance. I’m young, I’m smart, I have a lot to give. I can build a life here.” But Vancouver, it seems, had no place for me. It’s not a bad thing–there is one somewhere else. But Vancouver promised, and Vancouver didn’t deliver.

Coming out

I’ve been flooded with comments about my courage for, somehow, “coming out” about my frustration with Vancouver. But I am far from the first one to express this. Numerous articles from actual objective journalists have preceded me. I did not live this experience in a void; nor was this experience devoid of good things.

If there is anything that my academic experience has taught me, it’s to question everything. I’m not always diligent in this, though; in fact, if I was a police story stereotype, I’d be the “shoot first, ask questions later” kinda gal. Vancouver didn’t force me; I came willingly.

From the top of Mont St-Hilaire, looking at my native valley.

Asking questions

But now, I am asking questions. What does “best place on Earth” mean? Is it the natural beauty? There’s beauty everywhere; one only needs to look. My native valley doesn’t have a mountain range, but it has a peaceful river nourishing a fertile soil. It has a feature that’s unique in the world: random magma bursts in an otherwise flat landscape, eroded by the eons and dotting the valley with small but picturesque “mountains”. It’s beautiful too.

But now, I am asking questions. What should “the premium of living in Vancouver” really be? If the “premium” becomes only accessible to the wealthy, then the city loses the economic diversity that makes it work. I’m no economist, but this is not happening because so many people are flocking to Vancouver, trying to “make it” and take the lower paid jobs while waiting for the good ones. And waiting. And waiting.

But now, I am asking questions. The government has the power to control the rise in rent prices. I hear many community organizations requesting regulations, affordable housing, a moratorium on luxury condos. Why is no one doing anything about this? My analysis of it is that the real estate market is the cash cow of the local and provincial governments–but where will it stop? When Vancouver is a phantom city populated only by those rich enough to afford the inflated housing prices? The people who make a city vibrant–its students, its artists, its immigrants–are not going to stay.

But now, I am asking questions. On what scale is Vancouver rated a “world-class city”? Is it the amount of business done there? Probably not. Where is the “world-class” business being run in Vancouver? Is it the amount of foreign visitors? Maybe, but then on that scale, Cuba can be considered a world-class destination as well. What does “world-class” mean? Does it mean “for jet-setters only”?

“We need? What about you need?”

My expectations were not out of measure. I wanted a professional job with chances of advancement that paid enough to make a decent living. In my head, a decent living means having a nice home for at most 30% of my net income, to be able to pay my debts and save, and to be able to enjoy entertainment and shopping. These expectations may have been too high for Vancouver to fulfill, and I only have myself to blame for that. However, I can also see that a city with which I feel in love in 30 seconds is wasting its potential on trying to look good, but becoming empty inside. The Vancouver Playhouse closing is a symptom of a much bigger problem that everyone notices, but no one dares to talk about.

As I see it, the amount of restaurants is amazing, but it’s also a smokescreen. “Eat”, they say, “forget about the homeless, and the illegal suite you’re living in. Forget about the businesses leaving, about the empty condo tower across the street. See all these tourists enjoying themselves. You should feel this way too! Eat and drink and forget.”

But when you’re done drinking, when you’re done eating, when you’ve digested and sobered up, what is there left? Empty condo towers and offices downtown, arts organizations closing, smart people leaving, and no way to provide for a family. If Vancouver is your home, I’m sorry for saying bad things about it. It’s not about you; in the end, it’s about what I want for my life, my future and that of my family.

My conditions–and they are MINE–were not met. If it meets yours, then I wish you all the happiness in the world. As for me, I’ll be looking elsewhere.

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