January 31, 2007

Heart Matters

As soon as the love relationship does not lead me to me; as soon as I, in a love relationship, do not lead the other person to themselves, this love, even if it seems the most secure and ectastic attachment I have ever experienced, is not true love.
--Leo Buscalia, Love

February is the month where we are pushed by powerful marketing forces to celebrate those we love, those we consider most important in our lives. I encourage you to open your love to not only the person that you share Call Answer with, but to also celebrate that pursuit which reminds you of who you really are. Either way, the loved-thing is strongly attached to your chest. For when you are away from it, you ache. That aching, of course, is a profoundly visceral response that drives us into states that confound logic and sensibility. And so it should. This physicality gives meaning to our lives, when such a commodity is rare and precious. The need to love is omnipresent in our lives and is infinitely powerful.

True love, I sense, lies at the root of whoever you consider yourself to be. That strange journey (and it is a journey) uncovers mystical properties that most never really understand. To respect and honour is to learn and re-learn the intricate dance of communication. The magic exists in the space between knowing and not knowing; fuelling the traveller onward. And how we covet those spaces, for in them things seem far more possible and the distances to them all that shorter.

Self cultivation is critical for the loving person, as is sharing one's energy with another. I also believe in the value of frivolous day-dreaming. In such brief moments of semi-consciousness empires rise and fall. [Illustration: Artist Unknown]

Wisdom, Knowledge, and Magic

In 1996 the Agnes Etherington Art Centre presented a remarkable exhibit called "Wisdom, Knowledge and Magic: The Image of the Scholar in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art". I remember being struck by the notion that there was no real demarcation between fields of study in the 17th century as there exisits today. I imagine the idea of obtaining a degree in a specific field would be very odd to the 17th century scholar, who did not place such arbitrary boundaries between the study of the just life, for example, and the study of the laws of physics. If you consider the study of Philosophy, you learn that it encompassed moral philosophy (which begat ethics, applied ethics, etc), natural philosophy (which begat the physical sciences), and the classic Mediterranean languages. The point is that the scholar examined things holistically; that understanding the art of an era is just as important to its history and its politics. How sad that our contemporary business students aren't required to study international politics, international relations, or a second language. How sad that our engineering students aren't required to study aesthetics, or that our humanities students aren't required to study economics. The 17th century scholar understood the instrinsic web of connection that exists between all forms of human activity, economy, plight, strife and creativity. Ironically, faculty members at universities across the continent had an epiphany of sorts in the 1990s (likely spawned by feminist and identity-politics scholars) and began creating interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary programs to redress our myopic paradigm; thus hopefully tipping the balance of knowledge, wisdom and, perhaps, a little magic in our self-understanding. [Painting: Michiel Sweerts, "Self-Portrait with Skull" (1660)]

PS: Read my Queen's Gazette op-ed on the need for a return to a core curriculum in the arts & sciences on page 6 at

January 30, 2007

Into the void

During my studies in philosophy at Queen's in the late 80s/early 90s I literally stumbled upon an outstanding book by Gaston Bachelard entitled "The Poetics of Space". In essence the book was about the phenomenology of space (i.e. our relationship to and understanding of space and how we should/could/ought to inhabit it). While some readers have interpreted Bachelard's arguments in terms of being something about architectural concepts I saw it as much more philosophical in implication. Certainly the ideas he presents have a place in a theory (or philosophy) of architecture but I was struck on an inner chord about how I relate to the built environment. A gift Bachelard provided in his text is the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, a 20th century German poet for whom I have developed a great affinity and whose poem "The Fourth Elegy" inspired my blog's title and theme.

When a picture means more than words

This was an op-ed piece I wrote for the Queen's Gazette about the creation of an association for queer staff at Queen's. It can be read on page 6 at http://qnc.queensu.ca/gazette/452d310668f35.pdf