Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

As in the previous post, I seem to be reflecting on aging a bit these days. I was watching the documentary, “Monty Python – Almost the Truth”, and Terry Gilliam had a wonderful observation about aging and Monty Python getting back together again. I tried to search for the quote but having failed in my quest, I did find another that I particularly liked. In part, because I have noticed that people my age, especially males, seem to be getting less tolerant as we put on the years. I find it offensive when people share material they find on the internet that is either racist, homophobic, misogynistic, or just plain gross. And it seems to be from people who, in the past, were much more open. It is sad in many ways.

This little recipe for aging is, in my opinion, is something to aspire to as we grow older.

“Prayer of an Anonymous Abbess:

Lord, thou knowest better than myself that I am growing older and will soon be old. Keep me from becoming too talkative, and especially from the unfortunate habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and at every opportunity.

Release me from the idea that I must straighten out other peoples’ affairs. With my immense treasure of experience and wisdom, it seems a pity not to let everybody partake of it. But thou knowest, Lord, that in the end I will need a few friends.

Keep me from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.

Grant me the patience to listen to the complaints of others; help me to endure them with charity. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains — they increase with the increasing years and my inclination to recount them is also increasing.

I will not ask thee for improved memory, only for a little more humility and less self-assurance when my own memory doesn’t agree with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.

Keep me reasonably gentle. I do not have the ambition to become a saint — it is so hard to live with some of them — but a harsh old person is one of the devil’s masterpieces.

Make me sympathetic without being sentimental, helpful but not bossy. Let me discover merits where I had not expected them, and talents in people whom I had not thought to possess any. And, Lord, give me the grace to tell them so.

Margot Benary-Isbert


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It has not been the best June we have ever experienced in Edmonton.

To date, the average high temperature has been 18.7 C (65 F). Our normal average high is 22 C (72 F). For the first 18 days of the month, we have only gotten above 20 C seven times. And it has been overcast and rainy for a good part of the month. To add to the fun, last week we had a tornado warning for the city to go along with the regular afternoon thunderstorm. To summarize, the weather sucks.

However, a good friend passed along a poem from the Canadian poet Robert Service, which helps put things in perspective.


An Ancient gaffer once I knew,
Who puffed a pipe and tossed a tankard;
He claimed a hundred years or two,
And for a dozen more he hankered;
So o’er a pint I asked how he
Had kept his timbers tight together;
He grinned and answered:
“It maun be Because I likes all kinds o’ weather.

“Fore every morn when I get up
I lights my clay pipe wi’ a cinder,
And as me mug o’ tea I sup
I looks from out the cottage winder;
And if it’s shade or if it’s shine
Or wind or snow befit to freeze me,
I always say: ‘Well, now that’s fine . . .
It’s just the sorto’ day to please me.’

“For I have found it wise in life
To take the luck the way it’s coming;
A wake, a worry or a wife –
Just carry on and keep a-humming.
And so I lights me pipe o’ clay,
And through the morn on blizzard borders,
I chuckle in me guts and say:
‘It’s just the day the doctor orders.’”

A mighty good philosophy
Thought I, and leads to longer living,
To make the best of things that be,
And take the weather of God’s giving;
So though the sky be ashen grey,
And winds be edged and sleet be slanting,
Heap faggots on the fire and say:
“It’s just the kind of day I’m wanting.”

Robert Service From Rhymes of a Roughneck

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I was chatting with an old friend in Toronto last week. ‘Old friend’ doesn’t tell the half of it – we met in kindergarten and have been friends ever since – 55 years at last count. We both became geographers and are involved in education in different forms. Doug was a high school teacher until he retired. He now teaches education at a university in Toronto as well as mentors current teachers. For me, I have a certificate in adult education, spent 12 years in environmental education and now teach earth science labs part-time at MacEwan University in Edmonton. And Doug and I still talk every month or so.

Anyway, in our last call Doug mentioned that his wife, who went to our high school, had her 60th birthday the week before. I turned 60 in August while Doug hit the mark in April. He said their family had gone out to a restaurant to celebrate Jill’s birthday. There were a few families celebrating birthdays and at one table was a banner that read, “Happy 60th”. Doug said Jill immediately wanted to know if the banner was for her. When he replied that the banner was not for her, she replied, “thank you”.

This got us on to a discussion about the significance of one’s 60th. As we have grown older, people have always remarked on milestone birthdays. Hey man, you’ve hit the big four-O (or whatever); do you feel different? Up until now, I can honestly say I didn’t feel different for any of the decade celebrations. It always seemed to be a bigger deal for the people around than for me.

But Doug and I agreed that reaching 60 has some significance. I wonder if it is the ‘senior’ connotation. Senior citizenship always seemed to be such an abstract concept when we growing up. But now that we are here, it seems to carry some weight that I really didn’t expect. Senior discounts, senior’s rates – the first hint that I had turned a corner was on my bank statement when there was an entry of “senior’s rebate” and I got $4.00 off my monthly bank fee.

For me, part of the issue is I don’t feel like a senior – or what I had imagined a senior should feel like. Our perception of seniors when we were growing doesn’t seem to fit the actual experience. I still like to watch cartoons, play rock and roll and be silly when the occasion fits. When we were young, we were told to “act your age”. I am not sure I want to.

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I think September is my favourite time of the year. There is a crispness to the air, the colours are bright, the days are still warm while the nights are cool but bearable. And even though the days are getting shorter, they are still long enough to enjoy some daylight after dinner. If it wasn’t for my weekly teaching commitment, I would happily take the entire month off and go out and photograph the fall landscape.

Fall Cirrus

As far as photography goes, I feel that some of my best shots are from the fall. On a good day, the light is sharp and the colours crisp. Makes landscapes and the sky come alive. Even my little buddy below agrees!

Happy Days


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“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Oscar Wilde

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In my current work situation, this is the word of the day. Nevermind that no one really knows what it means, especially when it used without context … but it makes you seem like you have deep thoughts about the environment.

From XKCD: (click to enlarge)

XKCD: Sustainable



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Last weekend the New York Times ran an opinion piece called The Art of Listening by Henning Mankell. It was a very poignent column about the author’s experiences in Africa and how the culture promotes story-telling and the art of listening. I was taught active listening in my first year communication class but it would appear that listening is fast becoming a dying art in Western civilization. We just don’t seem to want to make the time to really listen to someone, rather than just try and think of what we are going to say next. In my latter years I have come to realize the power of story telling and the joy that comes with listening to a well told tale. The New York Times article is a piece that should be widely read.

(I should add the New York Times is behind a pay-wall however you get 20 free reads a month so take advantage of this wonderful piece of writing. The Times is the only web-based subscription I have and coming from Scottish ancestory, it is very good value for money.)

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