On being a ‘Serious’ Reader

This evening I’ve been thoroughly admonished by the writings of an author I only learned about because he recently died. Simon Leys was the pen name of Pierre Ryckmans, a Belgian-Australian writer, who was eulogised by one of my favourite literary figures, Theodore Dalrymple – also a pen-name. This particular admonition has to do with the disdain with which I have viewed and spoken about works of fiction in general. At least one of my social network profiles has “non-fiction” listed as the category of books I like to read. I’ve grappled with appending “non-fiction” to the item “reading” in the hobbies section of my resume, and I’ve been known to tell people who ask me about what I like to read “I don’t read fiction”. Fortunately, most of the people who I’ve said this to scarcely take it any further. In the light of the present state of realization I am in, I don’t know whether to thank them for being decent to me, berate them for waving me off, or worry that they didn’t see anything weird about it. Whatever it is, the questions were probably just small talk anyway – and like most small talk, you only do it to sound interested enough to seem interesting.

On some level, I believe my desire to make the distinction of what type of books I read was Continue reading

La Familia

The Dali RamaDuring the last few days of the fall, I went to a farm in Sunderland called Warner Farm where every year during the Fall they convert their maize farm into a maze farm and call it Mike’s Maze (www.mikesmaze.com). This year, they created a picture of the famous magician, the Dali-rama from maize stalks. For $10, you get to walk through it, find different attractions and solve puzzles in order to win a pumpkin. It was awesome outdoorsy fun.

Walking through the maze with a map trying to find different points had me thinking about how similar that situation was to life in general. We do not have the luxury of seeing the big picture while walking around everyday with our boots on the ground, yet we have to make our way through life with whatever guidance we have and reach milestone after milestone until our time is up and we die :)

To move through life, we equip ourselves with tools, abstract and concrete. There are abstract tools – our faith, our hearts, our logic, our sense of purpose, etc and also more concrete ones, people for instance. Family.

What is family? In human context, a family (from Latin: familia) is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity (by recognized birth), affinity (by marriage), or co-residence/shared consumption. But we all know that family is beyond that. Let me borrow some words to help me define family better.

Family… a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that binds us all together. – Erma Bombeck

“What is family? They were the people who claimed you. In good, in bad, in parts or in whole, they were the ones who showed up, who stayed in there, regardless. It wasn’t just about blood relations or shared chromosomes, but something wider, bigger.” – Sarah Dessen

A lot of sentiment has been expressed about family. Some good, some bad, plenty humorous, and everyone agrees – no one should be without family. In fact, some will argue that no one is EVER without family. The only question becomes – which family?

And there are many families. In fact, there are as many families as there are people. We all belong to many families at the same time. But there is only one family we are part of which WE DIDN’T GET TO CHOOSE – the family you are born into. Lets call that your ‘nest family’. Every mammal on earth has some form of ‘nest family’, it is an institution required by nature for the survival of young. A necessity.

But necessity is a weak bond. There can never be a real family without choice. That is why as we grow older, we seek after and create all sorts of ‘familial’ connections. Many of these connections become crucial to the rest of our lives. Like Dr Frenzo put it, “Family is more than blood connection. More than half of my family don’t share my DNA.”

Well, life is a lot like walking through Mike’s Maze without the opportunity to retrace our steps and without the clarity of a definite map to reach our many destinations. Your nest family is a lot like the first group of people with whom you started walking the maze, your parents taught you the rules the best way they could and your siblings went ahead of you to explore different parts of the maze, all while you were growing up and getting prepared.

But as soon as every child within that nest family is grown up and capable of making their own decisions for themselves – they must chart their own course through the maze, choosing their own teams and selecting their own destinations. Ultimately, because there is something in every individual that leads each one to seek to break new grounds, one eventually forms new families to support these aspirations. They move across the country (or world), they join a club, they establish business partnerships, they get married, they have children and in no time, are propagating a cycle that has continued for as long as time.
Ultimately, your decisions and actions (or lack thereof) shape this evolution for yourself and for those around you – that means you need to think about it carefully. You can’t autopilot this one.