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Thursday, August 24, 2006

rules of engagement

okay, so we made it back.

although there are a pile of observations and such which will eventually be posted on poitu varam ('jollybeggar abroad' link to the right), i need to briefly reflect upon the state of things here in canada.

any intercultural experience becomes both dialogue and the subject of further dialogue if you let it. in this case, i returned from the civil war-torn island of sri lanka with an even deeper love for the country and for the people there than last year. however, there was a significant difference this year: my love for canada also grew.

i love it here.

there is a tendency for people (especially those from the west travelling abroad) to deal with the culture shock that ensues upon encountering a significantly different culture by becoming disenchanted with the homeland. it's easy: on the one hand one critically notes the absense of many of the problems from home; while on the other hand, attaches a kind of folk-noblility to the problems that are present elsewhere... especially if they are somehow linked to lack of monetary wealth or technological availability. add to this funk, the smiles that are shown to the foreigner simply because in hospitality-valuing cultures ambassadorship is a given, and you have the perfect climate for the incubation of rosey stereotypes and cheap, sanctimonious defaults.

however, i returned to canada loving my home country even more than i did when i left. this is a great and beautiful place and i wish that my friends in sri lanka could experience my country in the same way that i have experienced theirs. just as i have read 'to the ends of the earth' in acts 1.8 and have heard God calling me to a work in sri lanka, i recognize that for my friends in that country the 'ends of the earth' to which God calls them may very well be here. we all have something to gain from knowing each other and leaving amongst each other. fellowship is an exchange, not simply a gift given by one and received by the other.

however, this morning as i pulled into tim horton's, i was reminded of one of the things that really gets me going about my neighbours here in the west- something which i would want to somehow hide from my friends visiting here if i could- not because they couldn't handle it but because i am embarrassed of it.

you see, i pulled my car up alongside the last car in line and waited patiently for the line to move so that i could squeeze in behind this car rather than sitting in the middle of the street possibly holding up traffic simply because i wanted a coffee. the driver of the last car was preoccupied with something in her purse or whatever, and missed that the line moved ahead. when she looke up, i smiled and kinda pointed in front of her. to this she responded with a snitty frown and some words that i couldn't hear, but could understand with even my own very limited lip-reading skills. then she zipped ahead with unnecessary physical commitment and i took my place behind her car.

i couldn't help but wonder if this person would become more or less self-centred and defensive if she had been permitted the opportunity to become friends with people who can live a day on less than the cost of her tim horton's cup of coffee; if she could mourn with those who still mourn the loss of family and friends en masse in a natural disaster like the tsunami of 2004, and find in the mourning empathy rather than just sympathy; if she could live with not knowing whether fifty or more of her family members in an area currently being shelled by her own government were even still alive after over three weeks of communication blackout...

we have so much here that we take turns becoming self-centred, spoiled children having little tantrums when we don't get our own way. we whine and complain and project.

yes, we. i know i have much to learn about living and loving too. this is why i say taking turns... today it was just somebody else's turn.

bottom line? if our greatest problems are whether things go smoothly in the coffee line then truly we are blessed and should be thankful, yeah?

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Thursday, August 03, 2006


bigbro's four spiritual laws:
muslims don't recognize jews
jews don't recognize the vatican
the vatican doesn't recognize evangelicals
evangelicals don't recognize one another in a hooters restaurant.

okay, bigbro can be an idiot from time to time, but he who is sinless must cast the first stone! we take turns being idiots and things really get weird when two or more are gathered together to be idiots simultaneously...

so his little observation caught my attention; i've been thinking about boobs lately.

hold on- it's not what you think. against a barrage of mental images that are now floating effortlessly before the mind's eye of northVUs' male readers in particular, let me try to redeem this post...


the other day i saw the 'large marge' episode of simpsons for the first time. it is really worth renting, buying or downloading (wherever your convictions take you on this one. sidebar: a friend of mine was telling me recently that it is not illegal to download movies in canada... i don't know- what does interpol say?) for the reasons that absolutely any simpsons episode is.

but as i was running the other morning, i found myself reflecting upon this episode- in particular, upon the social power that marge gains through the botched liposuction procedure that leaves her far more buxom than anyone, especially homer, ever dreamt she'd be. suddenly she gets more romance and respect from her husband, tables at swanky restaurants, an oven mitt modelling gig etc. it's really incredible how the enhancement of her mammalian protuberances is greeted so enthusiastically by everyone in springfield. apparently, boobs are everything.

the simpsons have, in this episode, once again served up a generous portion of social commentary for our consideration. is it true that women in our culture are only treated seriously in all other areas of life when the sexuality card is already on the table?

i think it must be really hard to be a woman if this is the case.

i mean, what about my friend's wife who is to undergo a mastectomy in a couple of weeks? is this a form a feminine emasculation? does one's womanhood take a major hit here in a cruel trade with the grim reaper over a pound of flesh?

okay, changing gears.

one of the most touching scenes i've ever seen in a film is in the recent movie 'the family stone.' dianne keaton's character is on edge through the whole film because she has just discovered that she will be doing battle once again with the cancer that has already claimed one breast. the dramatic irony of it, of course, is that nobody in the story knows why she is so grouchy all the time, but the penny drops for us all as she shares her secret pain and fear with her husband in bed one evening.

(here's the part where i always start crying- even when i'm just describing the scene to someone...)

as they lay there talking, her husband holds her in his arms and slips his hand beneath her robe. in a moment of stunning marital intimacy, we see his hand go to the place where the breast once was and rest there in a tender caress. she does not withdraw this, but rather melts into it.

(dang- i can hardly see the screen here... i really thought i'd make it this time

i think the reason that this scene does me in has to do with its redeeming social value. the sexual power of this scene has to do with the acknowledgement and proclamation that deep intimacy is not about the body, but the heart. it is not about how physically voluptuous or whatever a person is- intimacy is about permission to go where no one else is allowed to go.

that we have saucy scenes in films, all manner of porn online and restaurants like hooters just speaks to me of our need for this type of intimacy and our willingness to accept a weak counterfeit in its place.