What up

Loyal readers might have noticed that I’ve been unusually quiet lately; at least with regard to personal things. There are a number of reasons for this, none the least of which is a decline in my interest in talking about myself on this blog. But it’s also because I’ve been pretty busy lately.

About a month ago, the axe fell at my place of employment. I, and about a dozen others, were unceremoniously “let go.” I got an embarrassingly small severance given the seven years of undying service I gave to that company, but as we say in Cape Breton, “it was better than a boot to the head.”

It was my first unplanned release into the unemployment wild since about 1991.

My first interview for another job was held the same day, a mere five hours after getting canned. Over the next couple of weeks, I interviewed with three different companies, and finally accepted a position as team leader of a technical documentation group. Yes, I’m switching out of marketing (due in no small part to my recent existential tailspin) and am returning to my roots. Go me. My daily commute will be longer, and my new office is, sadly, not downtown, but I’m looking forward to feeling useful again. The product I’ll be documenting has redeeming social value (which is to say, it has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with goddam mobile phones). In fact, it is used to help save lives. That’s all I’m going to say, as I have a policy of not explicitly talking about my day job on this blog.

I’ve also been pretty busy around the house, helping Martine with some landscaping and gardening work, and doing some geek stuff like reinstalling operating systems and upgrading our WiFi network. It’s surprising how busy a person can be when there’s about two years’ worth of un-done things on his “to do” list. Still, I wish I had another month as there are still a lot of outstanding chores.

Strangely, I haven’t been reading very much. However, I did managed to finish James Meek‘s occasionally rambling but otherwise very excellent new novel, “We Are Now Beginning Our Descent.” It’s the story of a Scottish born, London raised writer who has spent a lot of time as a foreign correspondent in some of the most interesting places in the world. After a harrowing stint in Afghanistan (just as the war began), he hangs up his flak jacket and writes a novel. (To this point, it could be autobiography.) Complications ensue with regard to his hopes for success with the book and with his pursuit of a romantic desire. And, most importantly, with his frame of mind. The “decent” referred to in the title is not really a reference to the many plane rides he takes; it’s a reference to his character and circumstances.

It’s a great read. A lot more talk than action, with several layers of interest happening simultaneously. And rest assured that the romantic angle is, like a lactose intolerant’s pizza, entirely without cheese. There are many memorable passages in the book, but a couple really stuck with me. What follows is one of them, from a scene late in the novel when Kellas (the protagonist) has just shared a meal with his intended, Astrid, and a strange older man who, despite being an atheist, insists on saying grace before dinner:

Kellas asked about Bastian’s grace before the meal. Astrid glanced at him and smiled (…). She explained that Bastian didn’t believe in God, but believed the flaws and limits of man required him to have some way of filling the needs that religion otherwise supplied. These were hope, gratitude, humility, restraint, confession, and atonement. He’d found such a way for himself, and it came out in his graces, his conversations and his counsel.

That strikes a chord with me; I’m essentially an atheist too, but I’ve always struggled with the the same notion that people have a need for those things. That need, which can be described as a flaw, is what makes us human. It is our imperfection that separates us from machines. But without a religious framework there is no compelling reason to act on that need, or to even articulate it. (“For the good of humanity” doesn’t cut it, as most animals, humans included, are primarily out for themselves at the base level. Socialization has to be learned, whether you’re a wolf, a thug in the ‘hood, or a preacher’s daughter.)

I worry that a population that is utterly devoid of religion would be one with moral dissonance; with a need for things like hope, gratitude, humility, restraint, confession, and atonement being present but with no framework in which to exercise the compulsion. Meek’s passage doesn’t provide an answer, but it is a nice way of presenting the problem in a way I can relate to.

Speaking of books, I marked a new milestone a couple of weeks ago with the launch of Mark Abley’s new book “The Prodigal Tongue; Dispatches from the Future of English.” Abley interviewed dozens of people while researching the book, from hip hop artists to text-frenzied kids to bloggers. I was one of the bloggers, so not only am I quoted across two pages in the book (pp. 180-181), but I have my very own index entry. “Big deal” you might say, but do you have an index entry in anybody’s book? Right. (OK, maybe it only resonates with book nerds.)

I don’t start my new job until June 9, which gives me one more week on the lam, so to speak. On a whim, Martine and I poked around the Web a couple of days ago and came up with some cheap(ish) airline tickets to Paris. Like I’ve always said, if you’ve got a week to kill, you might as well kill it in Paris. So that’s what we’re doing. It means we’ll miss YULBlog, but we plan to look in on Paris-Carnet instead.

But enough about me, let’s talk about you. So; what do you think of me?


11 thoughts on “What up

  1. Good on ya mate (damn those Aussies are rubbin off on me) People between jobs don’t usually skip town to Paris no less. So things seem to be working out well. Have a good trip.

  2. Excellent, excellent, excellent post about spiritual needs. As a born-again atheist and former believer, I feel the absence of those things most keenly. I am thankful for my blessings, but thankful to whom now?

    I think society needs to recognize that we should get rid of religion, and that until we find a structure within which we can fulfill those human needs, we never will.

  3. You don’t have to worry about putting up personal stuff. Unless it’s something you want to share. I think of the blog as an external part of some of my interests. It’s really entertainment, maybe some enlightenment. Sometimes exorcisms.

  4. I second the need to be rid of religion. Rigid, dogmatic thought is not doing the human race any favours. I think you’re right that we all have a need for spirituality in our lives though. Being part of something larger than ourselves helps us put our troubles in perspective.

    Sorry about your old job, but good luck in your new one!

  5. Man, every kick in the butt is actually a step forward. Maybe it was time for you to move on. Good luck with the new job!

  6. Wow, Ed, I m like devastated. (No apostrophes or question marks, sorry, computer woes). I m going through some bizarre personal transformation myself in the past couple of months; I kind of feel like the guy in The Fly sometimes. But I think it s kind of like a Spring Cleaning. It just has to be done from time to time. While I m going through major trauma I m also shedding a skin, so to speak.

    And you have Martine! So, no worries there.

    And I ve never been conflicted about religion. Religion is just a way to cope with life. Life is very, very complicated and stressful and extremely unpredictable. So we need to think that something is protecting us somehow. But for me, that something is simply love. If we love each other and try our best to protect one another, we are our Own Gods.


  7. “Let them eat (your dust while you munch on broiche &) cake!”

  8. Hello Ed..
    Good luck on the new job. Not sure if you remember me, a few months ago I was asking you about San Fran, but we decided to switch plans, we are actually going to Paris this coming Sunday(jun 8).
    We seem to follow you to Europe(although we booked this trip, a few months ago), when you went to Italy in 2006, we ended up going a few weeks later.

    Ciao Gino


  9. What did I tell you? Take a month off, damn take the whole summer. Nah, five hours, five hours and you were back at it! You don’t need a religion, well I will not tell you what you need, figure it out…

    At least you are Paris.

  10. Wow, so it happened! Geez. Glad you found something more inspiring so quickly, and very glad you and Martine will be hopping on a plane to Paris. I appreciated your musings about religion, grace, etc…sounds like a good book too. (And what do I think of you? Quite a lot!) Best of luck with the next phase of life!

  11. Wow, I didn’t see the Paris part. Well, Ed, ya got your work cut out for you. Don’t forget to go to the Musée d’Orsay and hang out in Montmartre and the Tuileries and maybe stop by the Hotel Mondiale I stayed at near Rue Faubourg (Montmartre) and slap the receptionist for me. What an asshole . . .

    And DO NOT forget to say “bonjour” before you stop to ask anyone a question . . . or it’s you who might get slapped.

    Keep us all posted


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