May 2, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. In my last essay, I mentioned the struggle to advocate for other people without needing to be directly related to the issues they’re having. Today, I want to expand on another part of the struggle for better humanism: avoiding the use of other people’s plights to remind you of the relative ease of your own. I had a run-in with such an experience just this week — a week in which, on top of my… Read more

April 27, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. I’ve been reluctant to write here because of a situation I know will inform my writing — and not necessarily for the better. For the last few weeks, I have been trying to find a pathway to apply for a second visa here in Colombia — which is no easy feat amid lockdown, with the government closing migration services until May 30, well past the expiration date of my first visa. A new, online tool… Read more

April 10, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. I don’t talk as much about Judaism here, in part because I’ve known more Jewish atheists than Jewish theists, and even at a young age the Jewish people in my community (Toronto) articulated awareness that many of Judaism’s central stories didn’t happen. Major Israeli/Jewish media outlets like Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, and Jewish Journal are quite blunt about this, every Passover in particular: archaeological data makes plain the earthly fabrications in this supernatural tale. But maybe… Read more

April 6, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. I didn’t share one last week, because I was still in processing-mode. I think a lot of us have been during this pandemic. I shut off my personal Facebook for a greater sense of calm; and then Friday, I deactivated Twitter, too. (This upcoming week is Semana Santa, which means my online teaching schedule drops away, and my novel-writing time surges. Fingers crossed I can finally finish the first draft of book two!) Before I… Read more

March 23, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. Colombia is about to undergo two weeks of mandatory lockdown, from March 24 to April 13, to protect against COVID-19 dissemination. We’ve already been in voluntary social-distancing for two weeks, but the hoarding behaviours didn’t really kick in until Tuesday, when hard-discount stores and major supermarkets alike had to implement changes in how people could access the stores and what they could buy. Medellín has also been under curfew since Friday, and citizens in their… Read more

March 16, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. Teaching requires great emotional dexterity whether it’s in Colombia or Canada, among children or adults. When you teach more discussion-friendly material–such as literature, ELL, social studies, and political science–you will run into moments when students disclose extreme events in their lives. (If that happens in math or physics classes, too, apologies for the exclusionary language!) For me in Colombia, I have quite a few students who speak as a matter of course about losing family… Read more

March 8, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. This is a distillation of the first conversation I often have with people when they find out I write and publish science fiction: “Oh, cool! I love science fiction!” To which I say, “Oh, cool! What sort of authors do you like?” To which they pause and say, “Do you know… Asimov?” And I smile. “Yes, Asimov is one of the Golden-Age majors, along with Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, and about a dozen more. Some of… Read more

March 1, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. This one’s part-personal-update, part-lesson (I hope) about how some of our best work as humanists will come from listening to others, and from availing ourselves to the possibility that many things we take for granted are not givens for everyone else. This is especially important, I’d argue, when it comes to establishing a sense of moral conduct in the secular world. Is what we’re suggesting should be “common sense” really universally applicable? Or are there… Read more

February 23, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. These last few months I’ve been interrogating a lot of my most deeply held beliefs, by which I mean beliefs that are so much a part of me I often forget they are beliefs: perceptions of the world as operating one way, that is, when I could be perceiving it in another. I explored a few of them in a recent essay, “Beyond the Biological: Why Humanists Must Be Leery of Inner Drive.” There, I discussed how something… Read more

February 16, 2020

Let’s begin with a story. Back when I was precocious twit–a kid in grade three who’d already been skipped a grade, went to one-day-a-week gifted a year earlier than the programmes usually began, and took math class with the grade sixes (who then beat and bullied said kid at recess: not that the older kids in gifted were any better)–I read a story in Jack & Jill magazine about a teacher illustrating prejudice by creating an arbitrary divide in the… Read more

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