November 21, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. Today Colombia is on strike. In the wake of recent protests in other parts of South America, folks here have been rattled. An anonymous video surfaced a couple weeks ago, for instance, of a young man threatening acts of terrorism on the Bogotá and Medellín metro systems on the day of the strike itself. Then, last week, a man was arrested for graffiti’ing strike-related messages on the Medellín Metro.* Some two dozen foreigners from neighbouring… Read more

November 17, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. When I was a child, Canadian culture was a touch different. There was a freezer in my public-elementary, for instance, where school-event freezies (what some of you call otter pops) were stored alongside sandwiches made up for any kids who were hungry. A child who’d forgotten their lunch. A child who’d had no lunch to forget. The sandwiches were peanut butter–a cheap, efficient protein source. Tasty! Durable! And most critically of all: Not yet a… Read more

November 15, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. One of the most misunderstood Aesop’s fables is now also a common expression in our culture: namely, having a case of “sour grapes,” which we use to dismiss others as simply envious of one’s good fortune. This Aesop’s fable can certainly be spun in that familiar way–and if you’ve read any version in a children’s story book, you’ve probably encountered just such a heavy-handed lesson. Here’s one common iteration, from the Library of Congress: The… Read more

November 9, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. I wrote my last essay on shame, but it and the prior essay were rooted in a highly cerebral and white-collar context. What a bizarre thing it’s been, though, to be asked by many people here in Colombia about my wounds in Canada. Familial and childhood pain, sure–that’s something widely understood. Depression and suicidal ideation? Eh, 50/50. But… to try to explain becoming non-viable in an academic setting and feeling a devastating loss of self… Read more

November 4, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. Or, rather, a continuation of one. In my last essay, I told part of a story I have been processing and revisiting over the last few years–about the end of my time in academia and how my atheism played a role in it. But there’s another part of the story that I haven’t shared before, because it’s far more painful. It has to do with what came after that arduous committee meeting. Right after that… Read more

October 31, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. I struggled a long while with the wounds of leaving my PhD program five years and two dissertation drafts into the process. I had decided I had no other choice after a two-hour meeting with my committee in which I was in tears almost the entire time, unable even to get tissue for 45 minutes (literally, I had snot dribbling down my lips as I was being called angry, hostile, and arrogant), while being accused… Read more

October 27, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. Oh, yeah, I bet plenty of you saw “Žižek” in the headline and are rarin’ to see if this is a FOR or AGAINST essay, but slow your roll, folks: We need to talk semiotics first. Three super-basic semiotics terms are relevant to this essay: the ‘sign’, the ‘signifier’, and the ‘signified’. The ‘sign’ is usually first taught as something concrete–a literal instance of a table, for instance. The ‘signifier’ is then what I use… Read more

October 24, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. I was raised in a politically active (Canadian) conservative household, so I grew up licking campaign envelopes and doing door-to-door drops and meet-and-greets for the then-Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. This provincial party included politicians like Mike Harris, who as premier was loathed by teachers and nurses for aggressive cuts to public spending, including incredibly punitive reductions to the welfare system–but who in my household was The Guy. I was probably the only kid I… Read more

October 17, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. I spent the bulk of my (Canadian-Thanksgiving-in-Colombia!) long weekend working on a new sort of story for me, a secret project that tested my humanism in ways I look forward to discussing post-delivery. (In particular, I look forward to talking more about the stories that can better accommodate us all.) But when I looked up from that writing process, I also noticed that a religious friend was caught up in some religious-vs.-atheist discourse (from the… Read more

October 8, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. This one’s Dr. Brené Brown’s, but it also marks the moment I realized how rare a certain approach to emotional discourse is. Brown’s known for her self-help books, a genre I don’t generally read, and for her TED Talks on the importance of being open about vulnerability and shame. She’s especially known for taking clinical research and framing it in warm, rounded, over-the-kitchen-table-styled Southern speech, which has helped her come off as approachable and relatable to… Read more

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