Hockey – a Moral Compass?

By Rosemary Gray Snelgrove

There is more to hockey than many of us think.

I married into a hockey family.  This has been positive, for the most part.  The few times I’ve watched my husband play, I’ve been in awe of the beauty of his movement across the ice.  He glides, in a wonderful balanced movement; the assurance of his stride reminds me of how I continue to enjoy the difference between the genders.  (I skate reasonably well, and I would hope he’d enjoy my stride too.)

I love that he played regularly, for decades, with friends with whom he shared a camaraderie and sense of fun that carried over into life away from the rink.  So on a personal level, playing the game was a happy thing that I could also take pleasure in.

Beyond the personal, the fact of hockey on television or at the occasional big league game has been neutral for me, but again, enjoyed on Dave’s behalf.

But the larger place of hockey as a cultural phenomenon occasionally strikes me as worth taking seriously.

The Canada Russia Series, 1972

The impact of the first Canada Russian hockey series, in 1972, meant more than the entertainment value of the televised games.

For the first time, our hockey heroes – and the rest of us who chose to pay attention – met more than their match.  There was no preparation for the fact of how good the Russians were.  Our blinkered sense of superiority on this one dimension – that of  hockey – was crushed.  We had to wake up and see the reality.  They were as good as and maybe better than we were.

Expand this to the wider realization that our widely held sense of superiority to people we saw as less able, perhaps more primitive than ourselves, was likely WRONG.  The totality of the shock reverberating across the country makes sense.  It wasn’t just a hockey team.  It was a whole sense of identity. National identity.

And it didn’t stop there.  If we weren’t the best at hockey, were there a whole lot of other things up for grabs?  Might we have some other things wrong?

The entire Canadian populace likely didn’t see things in this way, but the door had been opened to having to lose the smugness, the arrogance, that had come of assuming that we were simply – the Best!  Second to the Americans in lots of things, but Hockey???

In losing this assurance, we had to grow up!

As The Series Progressed…

I remember feeling great ambivalence.  I was so much more identified with hockey than I would have guessed.  I really wanted Canada to win the series.

But as the games became more rough, and “our” team began to look more like street toughs, I was embarrassed.  When Bobby Clarke broke the ankle of Kharlamov with a slashing stick, he took out one of the best of the Soviet players.  That was awful.  But it didn’t stop me from jumping up and down when Henderson’s goal won the final game in the final seconds.  That’s still one of the most thrilling moments of sports history in my life.  But.  The unease about how we won – that has remained.

The Return Bout

Two years later, my husband reminds me that the Red Army team came back to North America, to play some of the NHL teams.  The game with the Canadiens in Montreal was apparently a wonderful hockey game, showing skill and spirit.

The next game was with the Philadelphia Flyers.  They were a tough team, known as the Broadstreet Bullies.  And bully they did.  They lay into the Soviets with physical moves that many would call assault.

The CBC Olympic coverage has repeated an excellent short piece on the reflections of three of the Soviet players of the time, including Boris Mikhailov.  He describes how the team was so unprepared for this kind of game behaviour that they feared for their lives.  The Soviets actually determined that there was serious risk to the players and after the second period, they left the game.  Just walked out.

Further Reflection

I find this very interesting.  To win in 1972, Canadian players were so fired up to win, so shocked when realizing how hard it was going to be, that they used tactics that had nothing to do with skill and sportsmanship.  Was it perhaps a little bit like war?  They won.  We won!!  We were happy.  We still celebrate it occasionally.  But did it tell us something about ourselves that we need to be aware of?  We’re not bullies when we don’t have to be but if we have to…?   But did we have to?  Who knows?

And then in 1974, the pleasure of well-played hockey was restored between the two countries and a fine game took place in Montreal.  Perhaps there was less riding on this series for Canadians because we’d absorbed the wonderful myth that we were the best.  Was winning perhaps not as critical?

But did the Flyers feel they had more to lose?  In Philadelphia there was clearly some motivation to assault the Russian team and they went out and did it.  Was it a matter of the stakes seeming higher?  The Cold War was still a reality.  So perhaps, war it was.

Winning, Losing, Identity, Pride

This all suggests that we hardly know ourselves.  Winning at times seems to matter more than honour.  Losing embodies shame almost beyond enduring.  Who we are is bound up in being closer to winning than losing.  Pride can blind us.

Is this just the way of the world?  Are we making any progress toward more inclusive thinking and less need to be victors?  Or, when push comes to shove, are we always going to shove as hard as we can?



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Leonardo Boff: We Are Flying Blind…

Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove

This blog is written by Leonardo Boff.  A brief biographical note from Wikipedia tells us he is a Brazilian theologian and writer, know for his active support for the rights of the poor and excluded.  He currently serves as Professor Emeritus of Ethics, Philosophy of Religion and Ecology at the Rio de Janeiro State University.  He is 75 years of age.

I have chosen to share this because it is in tune with what I have been thinking about for months.  Since Idle No More made its inspiring entry into the consciousness of Canadians (notable for Harper’s stunning ignoring of it) I’ve been clear that we must learn what First Nations peoples have to teach us if the earth and livable societies upon it are to survive.

Then today I received this article written by Boff, the sender asking for wide distribution.  Because I think he’s spot-on in his thinking I’m happy to aid the effort.  In the last few paragraphs of the piece, he describes the Earth Charter, developed over eight years of international study, approved by UNESCO.  The Charter presents an image of a world becoming aware of the necessity of working together, recognizing the need for interdependent efforts, for grace and cooperation as tools and as goals.  This has elements of the First Nations view of the earth.  David Suzuki speaks this language.  Is it possible that such a realization is emerging from many corners of the earth?  Might we be moving toward the possibility of a critical mass of people who get it?

First comes the imagining – then we’ll become clear about what to do to get there.  That’s  the hope.

[Note:  My mind and heart have been filled with the wonder of our grandson’s entry into the world.   Writing has escaped me.   But I doubt if I’ll stay silent for much longer.]

We are flying blind: where are we going?

Leonardo Boff

Earthcharter Commission

  Those who read my previous articles, “The deadly corporate world empire”  and“The worst form of global government: that of businessmen”,  surely would have concluded that passengers in this spacecraft-Earth travel under totally different conditions.  A small group of the super-rich occupy first class, with scandalous luxury;  other lucky ones travel in economy class, and are served reasonable food and drinks.  The rest of humanity, and there are millions, travel in the cargo hold, where the temperature is many degrees below zero, almost dying of hunger, thirst and desperation. They bang on the walls of those above them screaming: “either we share what we have in this unique spacecraft  or at some point the resources will be exhausted and regardless of social class, we will all die”.  But who will listen to them? The comfortable ones sleep undisturbed after a very generous banquet. 

This is, metaphorically, humanity’s real situation. We are truly lost and flying blind.  How have we reached this threatening situation?

We have experimented with two models of production and of utilization of natural goods and services to fulfill human demands: socialism and capitalism. Both have failed.  There is no need to go into detail of how that happened. In practice, the socialist system was one of a centralized state planned economy. It reached reasonable levels of equality-equity in the fields of education, health, and housing, but due to internal and external reasons, especially its dictatorial  character, it was unable to resolve its contradictions, and it collapsed.

The neo-liberal capitalist system of free markets with scant control by the State also failed due to its internal logic, that of accumulating material goods without limit or any other considerations. It produced two grave injustices: social injustice, where the wealthiest 20% controls 82.4% of the riches of the Earth, and the poorest 20% must make do with only 1.6%; and an ecological injustice, devastating whole ecosystems and eliminating species of living beings at the rate of 70-100                        thousand per year. This system collapsed in 2008, precisely in the heart of the central countries.

Chinese communism is sui generis: it pragmatically combines all modes of production, from the use of the physical labor of people and animals, to the highest technology, joining state, private or mixed properties, so that the final result is better production with only a minimal sense of social or ecological justice.

But is important to recognize that there is a growing certainty that the  system-Earth, limited in goods and services, small and over-populated, no longer can support unlimited growth. She has lost the conditions necessary to replenish that which we take away, and therefore the Earth-system is becoming more and more unsustainable. But as a living super-entity, the Earth reacts ever more violently: with sudden climate changes, hurricanes, tsunamis, thaws, terrifying depopulations, erosion of biodiversity and an ever increasing global warming. When will this process stop? If it continues, where will it take us?

It is urgent that we change course, this is, that we adopt new principles and values, capable of organizing in an amicable form our relations with nature and with our Common Home. The most inspiring document certainly is The Earth Charter, born of a world consultation that lasted eight years, inspired by Mikhail Gorbachev and approved in 2003 by UNESCO.  The Charter incorporates the best data of the new cosmology, that shows the Earth as a moment in a vast universe in                        evolution, alive and endowed with a complex community of life. All living beings are carriers of the same basic genetic code, making all of us relatives.

Four fundamental principles structure The Charter: (1) respect and caring for the community of life; (2) ecological integrity; (3) social and economic justice; (4) democracy, non-violence and peace. The document warns severely: “either we form a global alliance to care for the Earth and for one another, or we risk our own destruction and that of the community of life” (preamble).                         

The final words of The Charter call on us to retake humanity: “as never before in history, the common destiny calls on us to search for a new beginning.  This requires a change of mind and heart. It calls for a new sense of global interdependence and universal responsibility. Only in this way will we reach a way of living sustainably, at the local, regional, national and global levels”.  (conclusion).   

Let us note that it does not speak of reforms, but of a new beginning. It is about about re-inventing humanity. Such a purpose demands a new way of looking at the Earth (mind), seen as a living entity, Gaia, and a new relationship of caring and love (heart), obeying the universal logic of interdependency of all with all and of a collective responsibility for the common future.

This is the path to follow that will serve as the navigation map so that the vessel-Earth lands safely in a different type of world.

Leonardo Boff    01-17-2014

Please circulate this article widely. Thanks!


1 Comment

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Uneasy Road: A Grandparent Looks At The Arrival

by Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove

I’m about to do the most obvious thing in the world: talk about the experience last week of becoming a grandparent.   Our grandchild, Theodore Jonathan, was born 9 days ago.

I won’t talk about how charmed we are by the infant (visited on Skype), or about the joys of the grandparenting relationship.  Technology has so far provided the connection with him.  We anticipate joy in getting to know him, but as he may always live in another city that will become what it will be.  It’s the mere fact of his approach and arrival that are presently absorbing me.

Phenomenology: the approach to knowledge from studying experience.  Some call it naval-gazing.   Self-absorption?  Narcissism?   Perhaps.  In this case, because the ground under my feet has been shifting since Theo’s birth, I’m curious.  Telling you about it may be of little use to you, but my urge to poke under the surface of experience seems unstoppable so I’m just going to do it.

If I get any of it right, it might go some way to illuminating why grandparents smile so benignly if you mention their grandchildren.  It’s almost like a secret.  Is it just that the child is so lovable?  Or more?

New Behaviours, Mostly Compulsive

I photograph his image on Skype every time we talk to our daughter and son-in-law.   And then send the pictures all around, to whoever I think might be interested.  Or even not.

I keep going to the computer to see if anyone has messaged us to comment on his arrival.  Or how they like the latest photos.

I live in a state of simmering excitement, which leads me to fall over or forget what I’m doing, especially after a glass or two of wine.

Memories of our daughter (only child) at the same age abound and I voice them to husband Dave.  He seems to have some of his own and tells me them so we’re partly living in a time zone 29 years back.

Family Connections Fascinate

We’ve found it fascinating to look at the seven-pages (small print) printed from the Family Tree page that Dave has tended for a few years listing all our family members.  The Snelgrove grandson’s list of “Relationships” goes to the eighth step of connection:  our family newborn has 350 family relationships (that we know of).  The last one, “Sally Brown, the wife of a third cousin of Snelgrove grandson, eight steps to a direct ancestor”, may strike you as being on the remote side.  But to us, it seems precious.  The boy has a familial connection to at least 350 other people.  And he hasn’t even made his first friend yet.

A Little Out of Control

While awaiting this birth, which occurred exactly at the time predicted – meaning that there weren’t anxious weeks of wondering when, when, when – a flittering butterfly kind of mind took over my days.  For the last month, sitting and focusing on a single topic or activity – required for writing a blog – wouldn’t happen.  Woke up wanting to, and instead, spent hours doing busy work: sorting a drawer, tidying a shelf, making lists.

There were other ways in which, on reflection, preoccupation with the impending birth had taken over some emotional core.  Blood pressure was up, digestion wonky, an aggressive rash spread over arms, shoulders, head – all signs of stress.  What, me stressed?   Nothing really to be concerned about.  Our daughter is competent, healthy, and all will be well.  Friends were solid in keeping the mind on the right track.  Worrying would be doing her a disservice.

Okay – well and good.  But now, a week later, I tend to recognize the impact of the history of childbirth and our own store of tales from friends and family.  We know that childbirth isn’t a slam dunk.  Lots can happen.  In the two weeks prior to the birth, our daughter suddenly had to get to hospital to have several minor but not pleasant procedures, which she handled sensibly and recovered from in the following days.  But that reality served to emphasize for me the tough truth that, common as it is, bringing another life into the world isn’t going to be easy and won’t necessarily be without incident.

Separating from our kids in their teens, as they push away from us and have to try themselves out in the world, is accomplished with varying degrees of success.  I think we had arrived at a comfortable place, trusting our daughter as a capable adult.  But!  When she was seeming to be in trouble, in those trips to the hospital – with her husband working long hours at a serious job and no friends nearby to drive her, plus an expensive taxi ride to the Emergency Room and back – my protective impulses went back into high gear.  I couldn’t halt the shakiness inside.  I yearned to be there to be able to help.  But I likely wouldn’t have been!  My anxiety would have interfered with her problem-solving.

All part of the fact of our child really being out there on her own.  She’s blessed with a fine husband, a fine man, and not all alone.  Except that, in the matter of bringing life into the world, there’s no controlling what may happen.  Some deep trust in the life force, the ongoing circle of life – however we can visualize it – has to take over.  But it can be a mighty struggle for a parent.

The irony is that she’s now one too.  And all that awaits her.  I don’t envy the trip.  Except that I do.  How wonderful it is.

Age is Clear

My age is now underlined.  I’ve distained many of the nostrums about being old.  “Dress your age”, “Act your age”, “It’s all downhill now”.  Still don’t buy into much of that.

But looking at one of my short-skirt-and-tights outfits, I saw it differently.  I’m a 73-year-old grandmother of a little boy.  Maybe there’s a way to incorporate that into how I go out into the world, pointing to second thoughts about my indifference to age-appropriateness.

This one is still open for consideration.


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Escape Poverty? Only If Your Brain Power Isn’t Compromised

by Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove

First…The Quebec Charter

I have been stymied about where to go with the Quebec Charter issue.  There were so many thoughtful responses.  And some encouragement to take my arguments further.

But seeing what and from where other arguments came – Wow!  They’re all over the place!  Not all alike but when Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard speak in defense of a “non-discriminatory culture”, I figure I can rest assured that a critical mass of good souls and sound thinkers has emerged.  Quebec will likely take care of itself quite well.  My small voice can retire for now – with vigilance a requirement.

I  thank those of you who took the time and effort to Comment .  This readership is alive and kicking!  A grand thing.

Excitement on the Science Front

I’m eager to move on to a very affirmative study that was reported in the Toronto Star In late August 1.

It has given us some tools to address the problem of the apparent difficulty in helping move people forward out of the condition of poverty that seems to keep them entrapped.  It provides information to help answer the question that is often posed about peoples living in poverty:  “Why don’t they just get off the couch and get a job?”; “Why do the poor seem to make so many bad decisions and keep getting in more trouble?”.

The study, scientifically studied and reviewed, has found that “…poverty itself reduces cognitive capacity. We suggest that this is because poverty-related concerns consume mental resources, leaving less for other tasks.” 

In other words, poverty and poor performance are not just correlated.  They don’t just happen to occur in tandem.  Cause and effect are at work.  Poverty causes the poor performance.

A Reasonable Theory Held By Many

For decades, social scientists, social workers, and educational theorists have embraced the idea that people at the lowest end of the socio-economic scale have more difficulty within the educational system, and finding a place in the work force.  It’s a sensible observation from many people working for decades among people of differing socio-economic status.  Financial and social deprivation usually go together.  They correlate, and children within deprived families have, accordingly, a harder time learning and coping.

My own observations have settled around the notion of the trauma of poverty.  When you haven’t a secure home, or enough food, and you’re cold in winter, blocks develop in the mind as you deal with the preoccupation of trying to become more safe.  You’re more inclined to shoot yourself in the foot than to do something sensible when you are faced with a choice or an opportunity that might get you to a better place.  But this has been mere speculation from ‘the field’ – from people who have worked among the poor.

There may already be hard science to back up such observations, but I have not done a literature review, and have to celebrate a study that says it loud and proud: “Being poor can impair cognitive functioning, which hinders individual ability to make good decisions and can cause further poverty3

Hooray, Science Comes on Board

Scientists look at a piece of what can be seen (observation), read all about what has been previously determined about it (the scientific literature), and on the basis of history and hunches, come up with various hypotheses (well-considered ideas) about what else might be an explanation for the things seen (the phenomena).

The science guys then figure out what might be a way to test their ideas.  They devise experiments, often looking at two groups of people, some of whom have certain things happen to them, and another group who has different things or nothing at all happen to them.  They find ways to measure it all so that it is totally fair.  A result has to be something that can be re-tested (replicated) repeatedly – so it’s not just a one-off that enters the scientific literature.  The results are presented for peer review – people who are experts in the field review the findings, the experiments, and criticize it like crazy, to ensure that the results hold up.

I’m pointing out the difference between science and smart observation even to readers who are very aware of how it all works – because without scientific data we’ve been without solid tools in working among people who are poor.  Interpersonal compassion and insight and prayer have carried the burden – brilliant projects do pop up – but I think nothing will change until this society and its institutions stop getting away with blaming the poor for their plight.  Poverty itself reduces cognitive capacity. 4

Moral Implications

Dealing with poverty takes up so much mental energy that the poor have less brain power for making decisions and taking steps to overcome their financial difficulties”. 5

Hence we must:

Stop blaming the poor

Recognize that accepting growing poverty means accepting our part in reducing the brain power of our poor.

Name this false thinking that says we can’t afford to reduce poverty.  Point out the costs of maintaining conditions that reduce the amount of collective brain-power we’ve got to work with.

Support housing and food policies that help children to experience less strain on their thinking capacity.


More Information Needed

The study doesn’t include measuring the chemistry and electricity in the brain that is affected by being poor, BUT it suggests further hypotheses about what can be further studied, to suggest ways that the brain’s capacity can be harnessed by a person, and not hi-jacked by her circumstances.



1          August 29th, 2013, “Poverty Lowers Brain Power”, Canadian Press, written by Sheryl Ubelacker) published in the Toronto Star, August 29, 2013..   

2.        Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function by Anandi Mani, Sendhil Mullainathan, Eldar Shafir, Jiaying Zhao, in the Journal Science,  30 August 2013, Vol. 341 no. 6149  pp. 976-980

3.        See (1) above 

4.         From the Abstract of the study in (2) above.  “The poor often behave in less capable ways, which can further perpetuate poverty. We hypothesize that poverty directly impedes cognitive function and present two studies that test this hypothesis. First, we experimentally induced thoughts about finances and found that this reduces cognitive performance among poor but not in well-off participants. Second, we examined the cognitive function of farmers over the planting cycle. We found that the same farmer shows diminished cognitive performance before harvest, when poor, as compared with after harvest, when rich. This cannot be explained by differences in time available, nutrition, or work effort. Nor can it be explained with stress: Although farmers do show more stress before harvest, that does not account for diminished cognitive performance. Instead, it appears that poverty itself reduces cognitive capacity. We suggest that this is because poverty-related concerns consume mental resources, leaving less for other tasks. These data provide a previously unexamined perspective and help explain a spectrum of behaviors among the poor. We discuss some implications for poverty policy.”

5.         See (1) above.


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Love Quebec, Hate the Charter

by Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove

I’m leaping into the debate. Intemperate language will follow because I’m riled.

Reading two very funny pieces from the English Quebec press, regarding the more bizarre possibilities in applying the proposed Quebec Charter of Values, two opinions crystallized for me.

First, One of Two Disclaimers (be patient)
I’m not rattled about the intensification of the secular/religious agenda. Nor am I particularly emotional about the politics at this point.

There are clearly political motives to the proposed Charter. The P.Q wants to be re-elected. A Constitutional battle with Ottawa over the Charter would likely heighten popular separatist opinion in Quebec. Also there are rural votes to be gained by appearing to not let immigrants feel quite so welcome. “Pure laine” still has appeal.

Secondly, Reasonable Accommodation
Secondly, all across the country I think we’re not clear about where we want to come down on “reasonable accommodation”. It’s a darned tricky issue. And we keep forgetting our history.

We are a country of immigrants.

Of course, we gave no chance at all for the original inhabitants to decide how much to accommodate us – we bullied our way into possession and power hundreds of years back.

It makes no sense to compare us with France or any country in Europe or Asia where – while foreign invaders kept working at shifting boundaries – there have been clear linguistic and cultural developments in many regions over millennia.

Canada, by contrast, kept inviting and attracting immigration. Hence we have had to keep re-inventing ourselves, working out over and over how to work with the whole mad combination of talents to build a country together. We needed immigration. We still do.

French Canada, being founded earlier and holding on to its common language, has had a few hundred more years to grow its distinctive culture. But immigration has continued to fuel its enterprises.

We Need to Work Out Reasonable Accommodation
Holding all of Canada’s regions together has been a common belief in the rights of peoples on our soil to have as much freedom as makes sense, within limits of not hurting others.
So, what is reasonable accommodation of newcomers’ differences? This has to be worked out between us all, paying attention to fundamental human rights and the Quebec and Canadian Constitutions.

Here Come My Objections
Putting aside the secular/religious issue, and that of reasonable accommodation, there are two huge objections I have to the Charter of Quebec values.

I refer to Bernard Drainville, one of the authors of the Charter. He is the main spokesperson for its contents and intentions.

Racist Toward Jews
Pay attention to the argument for retaining the big cross in the Legislature and other large public fixtures (such as the Mount Royal cross). These large Christian symbols are to be exempted from the Charter’s rules because they are part of the heritage of Quebec.

Is no group other than Christians a significant part of the history of the province?? Jewish people are hardly newcomers. They have been a critical part of the commercial, intellectual and artistic life of Montreal for much of its life. They have contributed profoundly to the social fabric. Those who have been wearing the kippah every day of their adult lives are part of the traditional life of the province. To ignore this is an injurious disregard of the Jewish contribution to Quebec.

I therefore consider the legal prohibition of the kippah for everyone receiving a pay cheque from the government (which includes thousands of Quebecers) to be a racist act.

Relative Newcomers
Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs have all been invited to come to Quebec following campaigns in their home countries encouraging immigration, The best and brightest have been particularly welcome. Quebec provided a good example to other provinces in its peaceful integration of new minorities. Until now. “Sorry, we’ve changed our minds”.

For cultures which have developed around a fundamental connection between culture, religion, and personal identity, the new Quebec of the Charter of Values tells them that their way of being is unacceptable to the State.

A Fascist Impulse
Secondly, Drainville said on CBC, and in some reported interviews, that if differences between people are not evident — if people appear to be more alike — life will be more peaceful. For whom? Not for those who have to lose their jobs in order to honour their heritage.

Was this not the thinking of the National Socialist Party through the ‘30’s in Germany, resulting in the plan to eradicate those who were too different?

The Taliban also requires conformity.

Enforced conformity
This is the commonality between the Nazi program, the Taliban, and the Quebec Charter of Values.

Drainville said that the threatening aspect of the wearing of a scarf, turban, kippah, is that it indicates that that person has beliefs and concerns different from the norm. He or she is placing importance on something other than the goals of a secular state.

Conformity with the goals of the State will indicate one’s worthiness to be a full member. A teacher, nurse, day care worker, social worker, garbage worker – the whole structure of the Quebec civil service will be required to conform. That structure is threatened by non-conformity.

This appalling idea is to be enforced. Law requires enforcement. Enforcement requires policing. A person on the street may be a secret terrorist or thug: it’s the religious teacher or SAQ employee sporting a modest religious symbol who will have to deal with the police.

This is, in my thinking, a mark of a fascist society.

Where Did This Come From?</
The news that 60% of the Quebec population feel in tune with the proposed legislation is chilling to me. I was born in Quebec and lived there for over 30 years. Where has this mean-spirited strain come from? Can’t blame it on the Church. I don’t think Rene would be happy – he was a worldly man who hated fascism! So who likes the idea of enforcing this removal of individual choice in the matter of acknowledging, so modestly, one’s religious attachment?

Who really thinks the state is threatened?

There’s the pain – conformity seen as necessary to peace. Does anyone else have trouble with this???


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Why A Bigger Circle: After Three Days of Comments

By Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove

To review: the original blog on August 1- Watchful Hope – Can We Maintain This? – contained a long article by Jamie Manson about how those so inclined might best regard Pope Francis. It wasn’t published in A Bigger Circle but was e-mailed to the mailing list, and Comments as they came in were also e-mailed.

The response, as seen in the number of Comments received, has been remarkable in the history of this blog as has the range of opinions. This means to me that people were interested enough to want to join the discussion. Yet, two readers have asked to be removed from the mailing list. This suggests that the blog for some has been hurtful or offensive.

I regret any offence given, of course. I respect the continuum of opinions and belief that exists among people applying thought and intelligence to any issue. Experience colours all our thought and feeling and each reader’s experiences are unique to him/herself. Our responses to each other may seem to line up on ‘sides’ of a question, but on close examination, each is unique.

The Purpose of A Bigger Circle
I have had to look again at the purpose of this blog. It may have changed a little since I inherited it from Joy Connelly, but I don’t think violates her intentions. A Bigger Circle does attempt to include people of different views, to respect those differences, to attempt to address them in subsequent blogs, There has to be room for controversy. HOWEVER, the purpose is not to stir controversy. It is to explore what I perceive as common human dilemmas as we journey along, trying to reconcile mind, spirit, and the world. I also try to find ways of getting beyond where we – individually and/or collectively – seem to be stuck. I love to look under and around and into the dilemmas to find a place where we can at least understand what the different perspectives are. And where they come from (i.e. the experiences that form them).

Religion, Not a Popular Topic
I’m aware that questions about Church and organized religion may push negative buttons for some readers: a real ‘turn-off”. Yet, Church or Temple or Mosque play a big part in the lives of many, and I think A Bigger Circle has to include people of good will, with differences acknowledged and accepted.

Religion is important for those who find it a link to their history and traditions. For some it holds the family together. It is one way in which people give expression to religious feeling. Some find satisfaction for their spiritual yearnings. Church community can provide a lifeline for people otherwise isolated. Great for some, not for others.

And some of the big churches and religious communities have the ear of political leaders. Ignore that at our peril.

Can’t Promise Never to Touch the TopicI assume that readers understand that I am not advocating for religious institutions, nor for people who choose them. But I won’t drop the subject out of fear of offending readers if it seems timely to write about it. And if I do offend you, I’m interested in why people. Believe me, I want to understand differences.

The Comments Below
You have received the Comments that are attached in a series of e-mails over the past 5 days. If you want to read them in sequence, they’re here below.


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Watchful Hope – Can We Maintain This?

I’m sending this article, (below) hoping that some of you find it as useful as I have. I have been charmed by Pope Francis, for the reasons identified by the writer of this piece, Jamie Manson. But what is coming clear is important for many many people, not just Roman Catholics. The Roman Catholic Church, even at this point in history, is not irrelevant. Its guidelines forbid or permit a lot of behaviour among many different peoples all over the world.

James Manson demonstrates that the new Pope’s agenda fails in not pushing forward on the full inclusion of women in the core hierarchy of the Church (priesthood and subsequent leadership positions), and in denying a recognition of the full personhood of those who included in the LGBT designation.

Women religious have been doing remarkable work on the ground in all continents for centuries. They are part of the backbone of the body of the Church – doing Christ-like work in some of the toughest conditions. Their leaders have remarkable experience and wisdom to bring into the core of the Vatican’s think-tanks. Women have gifts and skills complementary to those of men but different in various ways. The importance of relationship and connection, an approach to reason not distinguished by what is measureable, a sense of the world influenced by the nurturing role, and many other Christ-like gifts that could balance the errors the Church has continued to make, most starkly in the use of power and the understanding of sexuality.

Pope Francis undoubtedly has a strong preference for attending to the needs of the poor. It is my view that a one-sided Church, weakened by the absence of strong women sharing the leadership load, will continue, largely unwittingly, to support those inhumane aspects of capitalism that encourage poverty. (Now there’s a topic to debate!)

Here is the article. I’ve entered a line at the point to which I hope you’ll read.

Blessings! Rosemary

When does our hope for Francis become denial?

Jamie Manson | Jul. 31, 2013 Grace on the Margins

Full disclosure: I do not feel excited or hopeful about what Pope Francis said about women and gay priests [1] during his epic press conference on the way home to Rome.

Now, wait. Before you click me off as a hater or an incorrigible pessimist or an angry feminist lesbian or another choice label, please understand this: I don’t dislike Pope Francis.

I think he has an authentic warmth. I appreciate his desire to be among the people. I laugh at some of his jokes, and there are themes in his sermons that genuinely move me. I share his desire to break down clericalism and the injustices of capitalism, and I believe wholeheartedly in his vision of ecological justice.

More substantively than even all of this, I share with him a deep passion for the poor and marginalized. Like Francis, I, too, have my most vivid encounters with Jesus among those who are homeless, mentally ill, incarcerated or suffering with addictions.

But Francis and I part ways on the topics of women’s equality and the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in the church. The pope’s statements on the plane only reinforced the depth of my disagreement with him.

An excessive amount of commentary has been launched into cyberspace since the news of the pope’s comments on women and gay priests hit the Internet, so I’ll attempt to give the short, bullet-point version of why I do not share in the hope or excitement of some of my colleagues and friends.

• In terms of his much-touted use of the word “gay,” I believe he used it not so much as a sign of respect but because the word was being used in the context of the rumored “gay lobby.” Few people still know what this mysterious lobby inside the Curia is or what precisely they are advocating for (clearly it isn’t LGBT rights), but Francis was again clear he was not pleased with this lobby, saying he needed to distinguish whether a person was gay or part of the gay lobby.
• After Francis delivered his now-legendary “Who am I to judge?” line, he immediately reaffirmed the teaching of the catechism. He may not have used the “intrinsically disordered” phrase, but he did make it clear that “the tendency isn’t the problem.” Obviously, same-sex acts and same-sex marriage still are the problem. The real question I think he was asking was, “Who am I do judge a celibate gay person who seeks the Lord and is of goodwill?”
• While his words about a new approach to divorced and remarried Catholics were encouraging, they were couched in his mentioning that a new “pastoral care of marriage” was being developed. My sense is the main thrust of initiative will be to make the boldest Roman Catholic declaration yet that marriage is between one man and one woman. Remember that just two years ago, as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he called same-sex marriage an “anthropological setback,” and on the plane, he affirmed the church’s opposition to marriage equality.
• Pope Francis’ words about women were spirit-breaking. The idea that we need a “deeper theology of women” is remarkable only because, for the past half-century, Catholic women theologians, many of them women religious, have been developing, writing and teaching a profound theology of women. Just because the hierarchy has not cared to read it doesn’t mean it doesn’t already exist. I shudder to think whom Francis would ask to formulate this “deeper theology.”
• As a woman who has discerned a calling to the priesthood for more than 20 years, Francis’ hiding behind John Paul II’s theology and claiming that the “door is closed” on the ordination issue was profoundly painful. Hearing these words, I felt the same kind of humiliation I would have experienced if a door had literally been slammed in my face.
• Francis got some positive attention for saying women are more important than priests and bishops, even if they have no chance of being ordained. In essence, he said even though women will never have ecclesial decision-making power or the opportunity to exercise sacramental ministry, they are so much more special than the men who get to run and lead the church.

This last point raises an important question about the laity’s response to Pope Francis: Who among progressive Catholics of the last two decades would have ever abided by such patronizing rhetoric? In previous papacies, this kind of a statement about women would have raised the ire of all progressive Catholics.

Francis locked the deadbolt on John Paul II’s closed door to women, and he reaffirmed the church’s woefully inadequate teaching on gays and lesbians as well as its ban on marriage equality. Yet we still hear that many progressive Catholics “cannot get enough” of the new pope.

I have even heard Catholic women who have been fierce fighters for the full inclusion of women in the church claim that they still feel hope and are excited about this pope and his proposed deeper theology of women.

Yes, Pope Francis is a warm pope of the people with a deep passion for many marginalized communities. But he is still advocating some very unjust, harmful doctrinal positions. So why do Catholics, especially many progressive Catholics, continue to give him a pass?

Francis is changing the tone in the hope that the church will be perceived in a better light, but there is little evidence to suggest he will or wants to make doctrinal changes on women’s equality, same-sex relationships or contraception, and his response to the issue of clergy sex abuse has been underwhelming at best.


Have we gotten to the point where our desire to realize the church of our dreams and our insistence that Francis will be the man to make our dreams come true is clouding our perception of what Francis is really saying?

Recently, when I criticized the pope’s words about the existence of a gay lobby, a friend chastised me, saying I had already decided I didn’t like the pope, so there was nothing he could do that would please me.

I took the comment to heart, and I continue to use it as a litmus test for my own reactions to Francis. But I also turned the tables on my friend. Couldn’t it also be argued that there are progressive Catholics who have decided they like this pope so much that they have practically given him immunity from any criticism?

Are we truly listening to the full context of what Francis is saying, or are we just hearing what our hearts most deeply want to hear? It is important to be people of hope, but at what point does being hopeful and optimistic slip into avoidance and denial of what this man truly believes?

I realize Catholics are starving for inspiring, authentic pastoral leadership, but honesty and solidarity demand that we speak out against unjust, spiritually harmful words, even if they are coming from a charismatic figure in whom we desperately want to believe and trust.

I want to be hopeful that Francis might have a transformation. Personally, my heart has a deep investment in it: I would love to be able to return to active Catholic ministry again, and I want all of the exceptional women and LGBT Catholics who have the ability to spiritually lead and inspire to be able to answer God’s calling.

I want to believe real reforms are in the imminent future. Again, my heart is invested in this: I would love to have the opportunity to marry my partner in the church of my childhood, the church with the “sacramental view of the world” and the finest social justice teachings on the books. I want all LGBT couples to have the chance to marry in the church with which their hearts identify.

But there was nothing Francis said on that plane that leads me to think we are any closer to either of these possibilities. I remain hopeful justice will come someday, but I think it is important to accept the reality that the residual effects of a patriarchal, homophobic, clerical formation can still dwell within a man who is otherwise committed to justice and deeply pastoral.

For many progressive Catholics, the Benedict years were painful and divisive. But the upside of having a pope that was less pastoral and more rigidly orthodox was that it helped some Catholics break out of some of the trappings of our tradition: the passivity, the clericalism, the adulation of the papacy. Laypeople began to embrace the idea that God has infused all of God’s people with deep sacramental power.

Since our new pope is so likeable and so obviously committed to justice for many marginalized groups, it appears that even some of the most liberal Catholics are gradually being lulled back into an odd, filial submission to Francis. Hearing so many English-speaking folk refer to him as “Papa” suggests this pope may even be fulfilling the need for a benevolent, spiritual father. I’m not sure how healthy this is spiritually or how helpful it is for the future of badly needed reforms in our church.

The response to the papal plane ride has set up an interesting challenging. How do we remain people of hope with a deep admiration for much of what the pope says and does while also not losing our prophetic edge in fighting for true justice for women, LGBT people, sexual abuse survivors and those suffering from lack of access to contraception?

If we cannot be honest about what this pope believes, and if we refuse to criticize him when criticism is justified, we could run the risk of giving the Vatican public relations machine exactly what it wants: a return to the days when the pope was an object of affection, adulation and unequivocal goodwill — no questions asked.

[Jamie L. Manson is NCR books editor. She received her Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, where she studied Catholic theology and sexual ethics. Her NCR columns have won numerous awards, most recently second prize for Commentary of the Year from Religion Newswriters (RNA). Her email address is[2].

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Technology Illuminates a Soaring Heart

by Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove and Michael Bartlett

My only contribution this week will be to introduce you to Mike Bartlett, a man who is an brilliant accountant and gamesman, and an adult convert to the Christian life. We worked together at Yonge Street Mission. In his semi- retirement he has redisccovered an enjoyment of poetry, doing some writing himself but also finding pleasure in old poems recalled. But being a leading-edge kind of guy, he tried out the potential of the computer in finding remembered lines, and discovering differences in renditions.

So this is his account of his finding a workable process, and he shares some lines that he has rediscovered.

For those of you who have followed this blog, you may find that some of the lines have a more Victorian certainty about life than I’ve ever displayed. “Sweet delight” and “endless night” are visited upon some at birth, the poet Blake suggests. Ah, unfair! Do what we can to dispel the endless night – if invited. Like Joni, we are designed to arrive at a point of looking at life from both – or many – sides, given half a chance.

Thank you, Mike.

    The Heart Leaps Up

by Mike Bartlett

I told you of the splendid time I had in surfing for “The Child is father of the Man” leading to studying Wordsworth’s “My heart leaps up” ….

Well I had another such time this morning.

This time it was in Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence” – a total coincidence, having fumbled for a poetry book to read before getting up, and randomly finding this.

I came to a couplet that drove me to surf for a certain song because of a very vivid incident it brought to mind, then wrote a comment on Youtube – see *(a) below.

Then I read further in the poem and came to lines that haunted me since reading Agatha Christies “Nemesis” dozens of years ago – see (b) below.

Then further on in the same poem led to great surf sessions to unravel two couplets that mystified me, one successfully – see (d) below…

And one that’s still unresolved – (c) below, but 2 hours have flown by and I need breakfast!

This is brought to you with the possibility one of you may find it interesting or enriching; I just needed to share it!
I’ve typed parts the way they were written

    Praise Him

*(a) my comment to the Youtube uploader of Praise Him Praise Him All ye little children”

My most vivid recollection of this song was 35 years ago. I was shopping at Grand and Toy and my three-year-old son was sitting on the floor at the store 15-20 feet away from me singing it while I was stooping looking for something. A twentyish angry young man stormed by loudly saying “what a fool”. That scene often comes back to me. This very morning, twenty minutes ago I was reading a poem by Blake and I came across these lines – “He who mocks the Infant’s Faith / Shall be mocked in Age and Death“. I arose and came to my computer to google this chorus. I just read the poem further -“some are Born to sweet delight / Some are Born to Endless Night“.

Once again saddened for that angry young man.

    The Winner’s Shout, the Loser’s Curse

(b) poignant verse repeated and woven thru “Nemesis”.

The Winner’s shout, the Loser’s Curse
Dance before dead England’s Hearse.

Every Night and every Morn
Some to Misery are Born

Every Morn and every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight

Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to Endless Night

    Internet Surfing Clarifies!

Then (c) and (d) – partially understood lines leading to good voyage of discovery by internet surfing:

(d) We are led to Believe a Lie
When we see not Thro’ the eye
Which was Born in a Night to perish in a Night
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light

God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night
(c) But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day.

from Mike

= fabulously interesting and he puts an extra “with, and” that possibly makes it more understandable. When we see with, and not through the eye

(d) We are led to Believe a Lie
When we see not Thro’ the eye
Which was Born in a Night to perish in a Night
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light [still mystified!]
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night

(c) But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day.

(look under “Best answer”)

(e) the whole poem


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Each Home A Mystery to Another

Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove

Some ideas are like those tunes you can’t get out of your head for days. The latest one such for me emerged from a TED talk given by Jordan Peterson, a man who not only has the great good luck live on Toronto’s Olive Avenue, but who also puts together philosophy, religion and psychology to great effect, giving us fresh ways to look at life. (He does this at the University of Toronto and in various venues such as TVO – Google will lead you to some, always worthwhile).

The notion was that no one knows what goes on inside another’s family. So now I’m seeing everything in that light.

The Impact of Serious Mismatch

We know about the impact upon us of nurturing, and the degree to which our natures interact with that family environment to shape our identities so that when we venture forth into the big wider world, we’ve got some basic equipment with which we operate. (Reference here to blog on Identity, [date])

But. Taking this reality a little further, I believe we’re inclined to think that what we regard as normal is normal for other people. We don’t see the peculiarities of our family environment. I now realize how much this leads us astray. And I think this error is a main element in some of the biggest mistakes we make.

Primary example: marriage. It may take years, but eventually we see that what He learned at home is entirely different from what She learned at home. The obvious differences (handling the toothpaste cap, noticing when dust turns into grime, comfort with animals in the home) surface and are worked out – or not – in the first few years. Enough disparity in several areas may well determine whether the relationship sticks.

The deeper habits, such as how emotions are expressed, what is considered risk rather than adventure, the practice of generousity including comfort with guests in the home: these take longer to become apparent and may lead to a whole review of what was thought of as a keeper of a relationship.

The Impact of Subtle Diversites

I’m looking here mainly at families of similar cultures. Cross cultural variation enters another realm – one I don’t know much about. Around us in Canada, successful long-term relationships between people of different cultures abound but I don’t know what is required in the way of accommodation, wisdom, or learning. Please provide Comments if you can illuminate the subject of cross-cultural relationships.

But the point of this blog is that I’ve realized that just about every modern marriage is actually cross-cultural. Perhaps not among people of tight-knit communities, but even Mennonites may have big variances in what happens behind closed doors.

Everyday Differences with Big Consequences

Space here allows just looking at the initial phenomenon – what are some obvious significant differences in home environments?

I think that the big red ball in the middle – for all – is emotions and how they’re expressed and responded to.

Emotions are Huge

Fear, subsequent anger, sadness, anxiety, embarrassment, joy? How are these expressed?

Is there censure if the emotion is (a) acted out, showing anger or hurt or exaltation by hitting, throwing, jumping, shouting, swearing), (b) verbalized with emotional words (“I hate you”, “You’re all awful”, “You always do this”, “I’m so happy”, (c) verbalized in a reasoned way (“you know I hate losing”, “I’m afraid when you’re like that)? When witnessed by a child, she learns quickly what’s expected. Don’t cry. The man can yell, the woman can’t. If you’re small, shut up. Lots of unspoken rules.

An example: some families forbid ‘fighting’ between siblings. Sounds good to me, at first blush. But if no anger can be expressed, what does the wronged child do with the sense of injustice and frustration? If there’s a bully in the bunch, does that ever become evident to people other than the victims?

If, from earliest days, a child is surrounded by people who have found a harmonious way (likely including humour) to acknowledge each other’s feelings and validate what each other feels – well, that’s probably a child born into heaven. But families that are trying to do this will be modeling something hopeful to their children.

So many of us, of course, fail at dealing with strong emotion and yet do provide nurturing environments. However, I think that many children learn very early that emotions are dangerous. Learning to “walk on eggs” is familiar to anybody living in a home with an addict (even expressing anger can be a kind of addiction). Emotions can be volatile and the unpredictability teaches certain behaviours. So do lots of other conditions that are completely random – bearing no blame, no fault. They just are, but they impact on a child in formation within that family group.

Other Areas With Big Implications

How does the family approach celebrations and community holidays?

This may have everything to do with faith communities and culture. Yet, even among those who are part of a celebrating community, the mood, the approach to the extra work involved in preparing, the absence or presence of joy, inclusion of all in the home, the dealing with pressure and tiredness : these can vary enormously. And will impact on how family members approach those holidays, birthdays, weddings, into the future.

How financial realities are dealt with remains private within households. We knew a family where the father, having lost his job, continued to act out the part of a working man for months, dressing, leaving the house, and returning at suppertime, in order for his family to not have to deal with the reality. Were pride and shame the motivator in that household? What would all learn from that?

Change: for some families, the spectre of change causes fear to flow. Moving home may be familiar to many: military families, clergy, many businessmen. For others, dread and deep anxiety would fill the household if the necessity to move away was presented. And few are prepared for the unexpected such as illness or death. The way that these are handled will vary enormously and give the children their sense of what is normal when change has to be faced.

The Norms – a Hidden Dimension of Identity
So upon the question of what is the norm: here’s where the rubber meets the road. What do we learn to expect? What is normal, what is acceptable, what goes beyond the bounds, what are the bounds?

Our baseline emerges from our households. And every one is different. Isn’t it amazing that we ever manage to live with others?


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What is Within Will Save You

by Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove

I’m starting by quoting Andrew Solomon quoting Jesus in the gnostic gospel of St. Thomas:
If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you.1

I have such conviction about the truth of this statement that I’m sure it’s spilled out into just about everything I’ve written in this blog. I believe God wants most for all of creation to grow into what it’s meant to be – especially we human creatures. But we thwart each other; create walls and blocks against such growth. The freedom of mind and body we’re designed for eludes us. Because we don’t trust ourselves. We don’t love ourselves. So we have trouble really trusting and loving each other.

None of that is new. It’s just sometimes so obvious and glaring that I want to shout it from the housetops. Today I won’t focus on the harm in crushing a child’s inner identity, but on encouraging inborn difference to flourish.

“Far From The Tree”

This book, by the above named Andrew Solomon, is all about identities. Those which are inherited and therefore immutable (gender, race, culture, ethnicity, language) he calls Vertical Identities. We can alter aspects of these, but if we share these traits with the family into which we’re born, we’ll absorb many of the values and traits common to those of that vertical identity.

Inherent or acquired traits, not inherited and foreign to the parents’ own – though usually included in the wider society – are termed Horizontal Identities. Being different from his family members will require the child to seek out a peer group; which may be difficult to do. Being gay, having a physical disability, autism, becoming bi-polar or schizophrenic, experiencing intellectual disability, deafness or blindness are likely to be horizontal, unless the child is born to parents with that characteristic.

It has occurred to me that the challenge to parents whose children are quite different from themselves is not dissimilar to parenting teenagers.

Letting a Child Become Who They Are

Moving on from Mr. Solomon’s huge enlightening book, which encourages not seeing difference as illness or aberration, a familiar question arises. Should one raise a child to be as fully himself as he can – while still living with kindness among other people – OR work to shape the child to be the best person you think he should be, according to what you, the parent, thinks is “best”.

Profound “Horizontal” Differences

As a child grows and interacts more with the world beyond the family, problems with being different will grow but can also ease. The trick is finding others who are also different, sharing the uncommon-ness. It happens more easily if the parents aren’t frightened by how unlike themselves their child is. Acceptance doesn’t always come with loving, but parents who can achieve some degree of genuine equanimity about their unusual offspring are giving her or him a head start at making a way in the world.

Nature and nurture remain two sides of the same coin in that they act one upon the other and can’t easily be distinguished. However, the nurture side allows for modest control and here’s where we can concentrate on allowing nature to breathe.

Some schools – usually Alternative or Arts schools – seem to be more nurturing of uncommon natures. With smaller-sized populations, they are chosen by students (or parents) who realize a less-usual child may be overwhelmed in a huge conglomerate institution. A smaller school body focussed on creativity or specific skills can celebrate eccentricity; friends may be more easily made. Gay youth can proclaim itself and be safe.

What is like for the parents? How long does it take a parent to absorb and become relaxed about having a gay child? Or a deaf or disabled or autistic child? If the condition isn’t life threatening, if the child isn’t doing damage to herself, can a parent begin to let go his ‘normal’ expectations, and choose to like the child as she is? It’s not easy, but probably necessary if life is to be able to flow again for the adolescent who has likely by now identified his difference. Solomon, a gay son, describes his parents’ experience as “having a child who spoke a language they’d never thought of studying”.2

An Example From Everyday Life

Not uncommon in ordinary families is the horizontal identity of being “highly strung”; a pain for everybody else in the family, emotional, self-doubting, easily embarrassed. Unfortunately, these are precursors of depression if intensified over time.

An example: in a family where children are exposed to playing table games with their family, there is an expectation of learning how to win and lose ‘well’. It is verboten to mope or sulk when losing. Worthy learning. Yes, but. Some children can skate over their mistakes, their losing, with a laugh and the urge to try again and win next time. The odd child, and I was one, feels a big surge of emotion when losing in a group. Shame predominates: it’s terribly personal. Becoming withdrawn, or sulky, the child might be sent away from the game until able to shape up and change her reactions. Or kidded mercilessly.

Fair enough, you might say. Learn to be a good sport. Toughen up. What if that child really becomes a poor sport? Who doesn’t hate that!

But I do wish that for small over-sensitive people, some caring relative would recognize a need for help, and let the child know he’d seen how bad she felt. I’d hope there’d be a chance for her to express the frustration, the embarrassment, the inner humiliation that losing brings on for her. The point would be to bring the child back into relationship, reducing the sense of isolation and loneliness, allowing her back into a loving fold.
If being highly emotional is a Horizonal identity, Solomon comments: “…how isolating an exceptional identity can be unless we resolve it into horizontal solidarity”.3

One can learn to accommodate one’s eccentricities, such as too-quick emotional bruising. Many would say YES to suppressing the child’s ‘wussiness’, to toughen him up. Others see the value of giving permission and support to feel what one does, and help to move through it. The latter may help divert the self-loathing that grows if one believes one isn’t acceptable as one is.

Something Hits The Fan

Leaving strong Horizontal identities aside, teenagers give most of us a lesson in acceptance. They want to stretch beyond how their parents see them. They want to know who they are. Testing limits is perpetual. (“Who needs limits?”) A little child may have been beautifully compliant and the parent – poor sap – was fooled into thinking they were raising a little version of themselves – essentially someone who would (if secret wishes were known) be a stand-out in high school. Whoops.

Dealing with the increasing distance between oneself and one’s beloved child is one part of the difficulty. The fact of separation just keeps having to be learned. But the harder part is realizing that one’s child is on a different trajectory. Her own. Can’t choose for her, can’t really advise very much, can’t extend my wisdom (ha ha). Just love.

But those with the heart keep moving forward and becoming generous spirited adults. I hope we encouraged our daughter in becoming who she is – though the journey is never over. We likely tried a lot of molding. But you do your best – that’s all.
1 Solomon, Andrew, Far From The Tree, 2012,Scribner, p.19
2 Ibid., p.15
3 Ibid., p.13


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