All posts by meanderer007

Good Intentions?

 

This week (May 2021)  the southern B.C. First Nation of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc near Kamloops B.C. announced that the remains of 215 children were found on the grounds of what used to be the site of Canada’s largest residential school. The school was closed in 1969 the year I attended first and second year university at the University of Manitoba. I just want to put this into context for me. I don’t think I am that old and this was not that long ago.

What I want to emphasize right now is that these were children taken from their homes to be “educated.”  We Canadians often think of ourselves as a kinder gentler version of our more powerful neighbours to the south. Many of us think that we took these children from their homes and into these schools to be educated for their own good. Sometimes white people say that we sent indigenous children to residential schools for good reasons. We had good intentions we say and sometimes even believe. We wanted them to get a good education. We wanted them to become like us because we were better than them. Assimilation we called it. White supremacy was what it was all about.

 

Children shouldn’t often die in schools should they? My wife Christiane had a very wise question for me when we heard this news. When we now learn that this Indian residential school had 215 bodies of children buried outside it, what possible explanation is consistent with a good intention? I could not think of one. Can you? Those who think our intentions are good must answer that.

 

Which Church is more Christ-like?

 

I heard recently that the Winkler hospital was overwhelmed. Does anyone doubt that might have something to do with the number of vaccine hesitant people live in that region?

Yesterday I tried to describe what happened when a hospital is overwhelmed. It affects not just people with Covid-19, but many others who can’t get the treatment they deserve. Sometimes that can risk their lives. It is serious stuff.

We have also heard how Manitoba is considering sending Intensive Care Unit patients to the United States. Many have already gone to Ontario. This is serious stuff.

Now think about what some of the churches are doing. First there, are churches like Church of God Restoration near Steinbach,  and others that continue to disobey health orders, refusing to take Covid-19 seriously. They  have continued to have indoor services for at least 3 Sundays in a row, contrary to health orders because they demand the freedom to assemble to worship. They can worship from anywhere they choose of course.  Frankly, I think they are being selfish.

Then there are the people of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Winkler, also part of the Bible belt, in a region that has the lowest rates of vaccination take up in Manitoba. Yet this church, according to Brenda Suderman of the Winnipeg Free Press, unlike the Church of God Restoration,  “has consistently walked the straight and narrow path.” This church appreciates religious freedom too, but has instead “committed to keeping their southern Manitoba community of 13,000 as safe as possible.”

The pastor of family ministries of this church, Corey Hildebrandt, has said, “We’d like to follow the spirit of the law, not simply the letter of the law, so we’re not trying to find loopholes and backdoor ways of gathering…We’re trying to keep us safe versus restrictions telling us what to do.”

In the early days of the pandemic the Winkler church consulted some of the congregation’s 25 or so medical professionals, including 5 doctors , asking their opinion as scientists on how to deal with Covid-19 and got advice on what was the safest way to proceed. As a result, they quickly shifted to online worship as early as March 20, 2020 when Manitobans were just starting to see early effects of the pandemic. Since then, they only met in person a few times when that was permitted by provincial health restrictions being eased. As Suderman reported,

“After a second consultation with medical professionals, Hildebrant said the congregation decided to continue live streaming instead of reopening when religious institutions were allowed to have smaller gatherings earlier this year, fearing case numbers would rise again with the projected third wave.

“We took a fair bit of heat for that,” said Hildebrant, recalling talk on the streets his congregation was afraid.

We were not afraid actually; We were trying to be good neighbours.”

 

This church, unlike the Church of God Restoration, realized that safety precautions, such as keeping a safe distance, wearing masks, and obeying health orders were not just about keeping themselves safe; it was about keeping their neighbours safe too. They have tried to help Manitoba’s hospitals from being overwhelmed. The Church of God restoration instead spends its time challenging laws designed to protect the public while Manitoba has had the highest rates of Covid-19 in all of North America.

Who is the good neighbour? Which church is behaving more Christ-like?

 

What does an overwhelmed health care system look like?

 

In Manitoba Today recently, we have learned the hard way what it means for a health care system to be overwhelmed. Our Premier and Chief Medical Officer of health have been warning about it. Now we know.

Manitoba, a small province, recently had 8 deaths from Covid-19 one day. 28 Covid-19 patients from Intensive Care Units in Manitoba have been transferred out of Manitoba for health care, because our health care system can’t care for all Manitoban’s needing health care. 1 Covid-19 patient died while being transferred to Ontario.

The Winnipeg Free Press reported about a young woman who had lump detected on her lung in March, but she has not been able to arrange for surgery because the medical staff and facilities are too busy to handle her case. My wife Christiane has a brain aneurism which was detected in January and it is urgent that she get surgery because it could burst at any time, but  so far she has not been able to arrange a date for surgery.  As the Winnipeg Free Press said, “thousands of Manitobans are waiting on procedures for conditions that aren’t currently life-threatening, but are significantly affecting quality of life.”

A cardiac surgeon recently said a cardiac patient died waiting for surgery that was delayed on account of Covid-19 issues. He said 5 other patients died under similar conditions.

According to Dylan Robertson of the Winnipeg Free Press, “In the first wave, Manitoba delayed at least 5,300 surgeries, though some estimates have the figure closer to 12,000.” Manitoba has already been postponing elective surgeries for quite some time. As Robertson added,

“Doctors across Canada have warned that delaying care is causing mental health issues, putting people on painkillers that could breed addiction and risking children outgrowing the period for surgeries needed to prevent life- long problems.”

 

Imagine the horror you would feel if you brought a loved one to the hospital and saw her or him flown out of province for care.

Think about the pain and suffering of people who don’t die or perhaps are not even in the hospital yet suffer from the effects of Covid-19. I know people in that situation.

Yes, I think we have learned what an overwhelmed health care system looks like.

In my next post I will explain how different churches are dealing with it.

Hit below the Bible Belt

 

Winkler, the Manitoba city with one of the lowest rates of vaccine uptake, in part because of defiance, now has the highest rate of Covid-19. Is this justice or just the natural result of the defiance of science? Active cases of Covid-19 in Winnipeg and Manitoba have bumped up considerably after a few weeks of low numbers . Manitoba has become the hot spot for Covid-19 in North America. Malak Abas in the Winnipeg Free Press pointed out how Winkler recently had an anti-vaccine rally. Was this the superspreader event? Or has God abandoned his fans? Someone once said the worst thing about Jesus was his followers. He might have a point.

 

Winkler and its surrounding area is well known for it religious zeal among conservative Christians in particular. Sort of like Steinbach. These two towns compete vigorously for the crown. Winkler does not like to be called part of the Bible Belt. Nor Steinbach.  Why is that? Should they not be proud of the label? Mayor Martin Harder of Winkler says that some of his people see wearing a mask as a sign of submission? Submission to what? Science?

Vaccine Justice

 

People are quick to criticize their political leaders when they don’t act firmly enough to get more vaccines into the arms of their constituents. I confess I have fallen prey to this weakness too, though I try to avoid this particular sin. Here in Canada, we are now vaccinating very low risk people, like children 12 years of age who have very little (but not none) risk of serious illness from Covid-19.  Partly we say that to justice protecting older people, even those who have been vaccinated once, but even those have a very low risk of serious illness.

 

Meanwhile in India health care workers on the front line of health services have no vaccine. As a commentator said on CBC radio, “We will have blood on our hands in Canada”.

If we don’t care about global justice—and it does seem like none of us care—perhaps we can care about new variants emerging in places like India which might make our vaunted vaccines less effective or even ineffective. When only about 1% of people in India have been vaccinated that leaves a lot of timber for the virus to work on and mutate into ever more dangerous variants. Should we not be sending vaccines to India for our own good?

Yet most of us, myself included want our second vaccine as soon as possible. Is our government not doing what we really want, just not what we feel good about wanting?

Ethics is complicated. Particularly when the disputants have a personal stake in the outcome of the debate.

Do you feel comfortable? I know I don’t. But so far, I haven’t done anything about it other than to post this blurb. Not much to be proud of.

 

Should we discriminate against Vaccine resisters?

 

I like Jimmy Kimmel. He is a funny. I don’t like vaccine resisters so much. Jimmy  had a funny rant on his show the other day. Here it goes as far as I got it:

“Now that the CDC has announced that with few exceptions vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear masks indoors, and since they did that there has a been a sharp increase in fake vaccination cases. Searches for fake vaccination calls are up more than 1,100% which is gross. Lets start calling these vaccine avoiders what they are—freeloaders! The only reason you are somewhat safe now is because other people got the shot. You’re the person who  who heads for the bathroom when the check comes in the restaurant. You’re the lady who takes home the centrepiece from a wedding you weren’t invited to.  You’re the guy that brings 5 napkins to a pot luck dinner. That’s you! You don’t know it, but that’s you.”

 

I agree with Jimmy. Now people claim vaccine passports discriminate against them, when they chose not to be vaccinated with free vaccine and let others take the risks of getting vaccinated. Some businesses for example, don’t want to let people in who have not been vaccinated. Why should they?  That’s not discrimination! That’s justice! We should discriminate against them.

Each of these people who declined to get vaccinated of their own choice increased the chances of the rest of us getting covid-19. Each of these vaccine resisters increased the chances of the coronavirus mutating into more dangerous variants of the virus even to the extent that the new variants might not be hindered by the vaccines we took. Each of them increased the risks of the coronavirus being passed on to us so that we could get sick (even very sick) and perhaps die because they were possibly going around without symptoms. In other words each of these vaccine resisters endangered the lives of all of us. Frankly, if they were just risking their own lives I wouldn’t care. Each one of these resisters also increased the chances that our health system would be overwhelmed which we are now experiencing in Manitoba. At least 18 Manitoba covid patients are now in hospitals s outside the province because people took unnecessary chances, such as not taking their vaccine. All of us are now paying a heavy price for that. Covid resisters are partly responsible for this. They took reckless chances and now are paying a price. Let them pay it.

We have the right to discriminate against these people just like we have the right to discriminate against drunk cab drivers and just like we have the right to take a ride from them no matter what the colour of their skin.

I say let them suck socks.

A Gem in the Bog: Well worth the trips

 

 

A couple of days after seeing Calypso in bloom, I found a window of opportunity just before impending rain for 7 days to return. I jumped at the opportunity and headed out to the Hadashville bog in search of calypso in bloom. Today I wanted the real thing, flowers in bloom. This was my 4th attempt to find these flowers in bloom this spring and I was finally lucky.

 

Calypso (Calypso bulbosa) is usually one of the first of Manitoba’s orchid to bloom each year and is also one of its most beautiful. Calypso is a tiny little flower and hence difficult to find. While the flower is slipper shaped it is not a member of the lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium) family (genus). It is a member of the Calypso genus. It is named after the sea nymph Calypso of Homer’s Odyssey who kept Ulysses hidden on her island for 7 years.

The Greek word Kalypso means “hiding.”  Presumably that refers to its habit. It likes dark bogs such as I visited today.  Not much light enters here so I needed a tripod to photograph it. I always prefer a tripod anyways for flower pictures to ensure sharp focus. That is very difficult to achieve because the range of focus for such small flowers is very narrow.

 

You can see the narrow range of focus on this photo. The second flower to the right is deliberately out of focus even though it is only inches farther away than the one to the right

There are a couple of odd things about this orchid, besides its stunning beauty. It does not have close relatives. In other words, it is the only member of its genus. How can you have a family with only 1 member? I am not sure how that works.

One other odd thing about this gem of a flower is it has only 1 leaf which appears in autumn then lies dormant under the snow all winter but remains green! Then in spring shortly after the flower appears, the leaf withers until the next fall.

I will never forget the first time I saw this flower.  I was stunned by a flower so small with so much beauty. How is that possible? It really needs a an extreme close-up, preferably with a macro lens. Nothing else will do it justice.

 

It was a great venture. This bog is a little more than an hour from my home and I had to make 4 trips to see these flowers. There were only 10 of them at the site. Well worth the trips.

 

Hadashville Calypso bog

 

Recently, I went for a third time to the Hadashville bog in search of the illusive Calypso—Manitoba’s first orchid of the year.  I checked my  journal that I keep before I went and then I realized that calypso did appear after May 15 in some years. It all depends on the spring weather.  This year had been cool, that could mean, they were taking their time to appear. Until then  I feared I was too late and had missed them for the year.

After walking around for a while I notice two tiny plants without flowers that looked a lot like Calypso. Then I realized these were the buds!  I had never seen Calypso before in bud. This was exciting for two reason. First, now I had seen them in bud. Secondly, this meant if I can come back again I can photograph the mature flowers. This was win/win. Though it meant one more trip. I left well satisfied after taking a couple of documentary shots. From one of the buds I could see the orchid just emerging.

As I left I could not help but stop to photograph crocuses.  I saw my first crocuses this year on April 11 and now, more than a month later, on May 18, I saw them again on the south (shady) side of the road.

If the world does not give you orchids, may be it will give you crocuses. And that’s not half bad.

I like this one because it shows the crocus looming out of the dark.

Resurrection Day Three—lone survivor

 

This may please some of you. This should be my last post on Moby Dick.

Remember the “rainbowed air”? On the third day of the chase (I call it the quest), as in the Bible, there is resurrection. There is one more brief respite from the bleak world of Captain Ahab. That occurs on the very last page of the book in what is called the epilogue. In fact, as I learned from Lara Rae, this one-page chapter was an afterthought. Melville originally published the book without it, but people asked what happened to Ishmael? He was the narrator, but it seemed like everyone perished at sea after Moby Dick attacked the boats and the ship. How could he then tell the story?

So, in one final page Melville,  through his narrator, explains that Ishmael was about to drown with all the others when the coffin Queequeg had made for him when he thought he was dying, “burst upward” from the bottom of the sea and rose with great force beside him. The coffin became a life-buoy and floated by his side, and Ishmael was saved. Resurrected by a coffin. He floated on the coffin while “the unharming sharks, they glide by as if with padlocks on their mouths, the savage sea-hawks sailed with sheathed beaks.” With the death of Ahab, the war of man against nature was over.  Nature won.

After floating on the sea for a day, Ishmael was rescued by the Rachel who was still looking for her lost children in a quest in which Ahab had refused to help.  So, the Rachel “found another orphan.” Ishmael. Here was a genuine connection. Here was a genuine spiritual quest.

As a result, one of the crew of 30 men was not destroyed by Ahab’s monomaniac religious quest. And you can call him Ishmael.

And so ends this religious quest.

A Better Way: The Insular Tahiti

 

In Moby Dick we saw where hatred led. It led to the apparent death of all the men on the ship and the whaling boats. Total catastrophe. All of this is incredibly bleak.

However, I want to take a slight meander away from all this madness of the quest to something benign. Melville offers some amazing hints about this possibility. The quest need not be malignant. There is a better way.

Ishmael asked us readers to consider an alternative. This is what he said,

“Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal wars since the world began.”

 

That was one side of the story. Those wars are of course waged by sparring creatures such as sharks and men.  They seem interminable. Yet there is an alternative and Melville suggests we consider that. As his narrator Ishmael says,

“Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find strange analogy to something in yourself?  For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return.”

 

We have both the good and bad in us. The land and the sea. Ahab and Starbuck. We have choices. Starbuck offered it to Ahab. Ahab turned it down. This insular Tahiti is not just a far-off dream. It is real. Melville through his narrator Ishmael draws it to our attention at various times in this book to give us relief from the mad quest of Ahab. It is a place of peace in an otherwise often mad world of turmoil and strife.

Earlier in the novel, in pursuit of another whale, in fact a herd of whales, the ship

“glided between 2 whales into the inner most heart of the shoal, as if from some mountain torrent we had slid into a serene valley lake. Here the storms in the roaring glens between the outermost whales, were heard but not felt. In this central expanse the sea presented that smooth satin-like surface called a sleek…we were now in that enchanted calm which they say lurks at the heart of every commotion.”

 

There was also the time the ship the Pequod found calm sailing in the heart of the Japanese cruising ground where,

“At such times, under an abated sun; afloat all day upon smooth slow heaving swells; seated in his boat, light as a birch canoe,; and so sociably mixing with the soft waves themselves, that like hearth-stone cats they purr against the gunwale; these are the times of dreamy quietude, when beholding the tranquil beauty and brilliancy of the ocean’s skin, one forgets the tiger heart that pants beneath it; and would not willingly remember, that this velvet paw but conceals a remorseless fang.”

Sometimes the turbulence and dangerous upheavals the sea is prone to, are quiet and peaceful and we forget about the monsters gliding by underneath.

Such times, occur even on land, and are dreamy and idyllic:

“The long-drawn virgin vales; the mild blue hill-sides, as over these there steals the hush, the hum; you almost swear that play-weaned children there are sleeping in these solitudes, in some glad May-time, when the flowers of the woods are plucked. And all this mixes with your most mystic mood; so that the fact and fancy, half-way meeting, interpenetrate, and form one seamless whole.”

 

Clearly, in Melville’s mind these times of peace are rare and brief. And it was acknowledged that such soothing scenes affected Ahab, though “of temporary effect” and “if these secret golden keys did seem to open in him his own secret golden treasures, yet did his breath upon them prove tarnishing.” Ahab could ruin even such golden days. Such blessed calms don’t last. “A storm for every calm.”

We get moments of peace even in our most mad quests. But they are not long-lasting. And in the end, Moby Dick midst “enticing calm” the hunters “allured by all this serenity, had ventured to assail it; but had fatally found that quietude but the vesture of tornadoes.” The serenity could be hideously deceiving. And woe to the person who forgets that. There is a tiger heart beneath.