Archive for the ‘Poems and wisdom’ Category

I sent my son away from home at age 16. For all the right reasons. He is attending school in Europe, doing his grade 11 in Estonia’s most pedigreed high school. And he has the added luxury of spending his Christmas break with my friend who lives near Geneva, Switzerland. A world of opportunity has opened up for him. And I trust him to seize every moment of this school year. Tomorrow he is heading for a ski resort in the Alps. It’s just 4 months into the school year, boggles the mind to anticipate what further wonders await him. I read in the paper today, about a hockey player Morgan Rielly. His folks sent him to a hockey high school far from home, at the tender young age of 14. I get it. I completely empathize with the anxiety they must have felt at the time. And I hope that I will also experience the boundless joy and pride they must now feel many years after that gut wrenching split. They are now seeing their 19 yr old son playing professionally for the Toronto Maple Leafs. It won’t be hockey for my son, but it will certainly be something which he would never have found had he not undertaken this journey. So reach high, seek far and never let anybody else dictate the limits of what you can do. Defy all the odds, follow your passion and achieve. Embrace your failures for they define the path to your success. Walk tall, think proud and have fun! Happy New Year!


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Life is no brief candle for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

George Bernard Shaw

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Where’s the crime in ‘wasting time’ at university?

Don’t let careerist naysayers derail your dreams. Study what you want.
by Emma Teitel on Wednesday, November 6, 2013 7:56am –

If you are a university student or a university-bound high school student you probably have the impression, thanks to Canadian media and possibly your parents, that the future is bleak. They would have you believe that learning for learning’s sake is a waste of time and picking a potentially lucrative major is not. There are no jobs, they warn, certainly not in art history or philosophy or whatever allegedly dead-end major you plan to pursue—so you may as well learn something “useful.” They are right about jobs. The future, not to mention the present, is bleak. Youth unemployment in Canada is exceedingly high; in Ontario, according to a September report, one in two persons between 15 and 24 has a paid job—the worst ratio we’ve seen since Statistics Canada began recording the numbers in 1976.

The establishment is wrong though, about university majors. After all, if job prospects are dim for everyone, you might as well study whatever you like. The Margaret Wentes of the world love nothing more than to belittle young people who major in supposed vanity disciplines: women’s studies, queer history, French poststructuralist pining, etc. But they seldom mention the students who’ve majored in so-called “useful” subjects (law, chemistry, engineering, insert-other-subject-armchair-boomers-never-bothered-to-study), because the “useful” grads among us are also wallowing in parental basements. Numbers don’t discriminate; 2:1 is a bad ratio in Canada’s most populous province and unless every other young person is a women’s studies grad, there are a whole lot of would-be doctors and lawyers walking around jobless too. Why? Because beyond the depressing job market, the reason for rampant youth unemployment and malaise is simple: people change their minds. And no one changes his or her mind more rapidly and readily than a young person.

In my last year of university I had no idea what I wanted to do. Neither did any of my friends, the majority of whom are now pursuing completely different things post-graduation and could not have had the foresight in first year to know what would interest them down the road. When I started university, I assumed I’d become an English professor, but my essays always came back with lousy grades and comments like: “Fun read but no substance, sounds like a magazine column.” (In rejection, I would find my calling.) My best friend studied commerce, intent on becoming the next judge on Dragon’s Den. Today she teaches math to 10-year-olds, something she discovered she liked a lot more than spreadsheets and elevator pitches. If you had told her that when she was 18 though, she would have called you crazy. Dreams change—sometimes for the better. (Thurgood Marshall originally wanted to be a dentist.)

Having an idea about what you want to do isn’t a bad thing, nor is having a plan of execution. University tuition is outrageously high, not to mention grad school. And seeking education in the highly employable trades is for many students, a far more desirable path than pursuing pricey master’s degrees while waiting for the job market to change. But in our mission to beat the employment market, we risk squelching personal interest, creativity and ignoring, at our own peril, the fact that interests and expectations are wont to drastically change.

The psychological difference between a first-year university student and fourth-year student is equivalent to the difference between a Grade 9 and a Grade 12. Four years is an eon when you are young; something well-meaning parents and fear-mongering journalists should consider before pushing rigid career plans on high school students. And students should consider this: Unless you’re some kind of phenom, chances are you won’t get much done mapping out your entire future with an untested and superficial notion of success. Half of you will change your major, and a lot of you will wish you had. So read books and have fun. As Jeanne Meister writes in Forbes, citing Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert, “Since humans have been proven to be terrible at predicting what will make us happy, it’s crucial that we find it through trial and error.” Your major will not make or break your future. And thinking far ahead is often the least productive, most paralyzing thing a person can do. Think about next week instead. People fall into things. Let yourself do the same.

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Cell phone sadness

I watch the flicking thumbs of passengers on the east bound train.
No eye contact. No conversation.
Everyone searching for some connection in cyber space.
Moving through their contact lists.
Desperately seeking some connection.
Who are you sharing your space with?
What response are you looking for?
Or is it just mindless habit.
Will someone be there to break your fall?
When the battery power runs out.

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12 Years a Slave

In honor of this most excellent movie I reprint some perfect verse from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”

The runaway slave came to my house and stopt outside,
I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,
Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsy and weak,
And went where he sat on a log and led him in and assured him,
And brought water and fill’d a tub for his sweated body and bruis’d feet,
And gave him a room that enter’d from my own, and gave him some coarse clean clothes,
And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness,
And remember putting plasters on the galls of his neck and ankles;
He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and pass’d north,
I had him sit next me at table, my fire-lock lean’d in the corner.

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Written several months ago when dad’s future was very uncertain. Here’s hoping he never revisits this period.

I wonder where my father’s mind has gone.
It disappeared long before the coming dawn.
He rages at things unseen.
Heart racing, hands flailing, logic failing.
The man who once guided me
now needs a seeing eye dog for his soul.
Watch him weeping, my heart bleeding.
Cannot console him, just got to keep him alive.
Get him home to his safe zone
far removed from the din that obscures his light
and sucks him into the night.
Darkness, no color.
No sight.

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Toasts to woman

Brisk wine and lovely women are

The source of all our joys;

A bumper softens all our care,

And beauty never cloys.

Then let us drink and let us love

While yet our hearts are gay;

Women and wine we all approve

As blessing night and day.

…..author unknown


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