I still believe in communal living, and am excited to find out people are making it work in cities. Here is a story from the Atlantic on a commune in the heart of DC.
Yesterday I went through some old papers and found a lot of stuff from 2007 to 2010, when I was trying to think about what I wanted to do in my studies and in my life. Fast forward to now, I’m having a conversation over WhatsApp with friends in Argentina about the concept of tikkun olam and thinking about possibly doing doctoral research on post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic illness in Israel and the Territories. The habits are the same; it’s only the topics that have changed.
Went to the opening of this at the CCA. It was great, as things at the CCA usually are. Also, I think urban planners have a really great perspective on things. I’m beginning to like university more as time goes on and I start talking to people who are engaging their curiosity and their ingenuity in questions about justice, health, and dealing with reality. The originality and creativity I sometimes am privy to makes me want to go farther, dig deeper, and drink more beer with more people who are passionate about their ideas and projects.
And profs are a part of this, too. All of my professors this semester are vibrant, intelligent people who I’m lucky to be taught by and speak with. These days the Academy is looking more and more interesting to me as a place in which to make my work a home. A happy realization.
Pursuing resistance and alternatives to established systems (economically, socially, sexually) are all very attractive and interesting. I could spend my time reading/studying about how capitalism, industries, big business are destroying our morals and environment, our sensibilities to queer people and other minorities, the chances for other countries to develop properly so most the world’s population doesn’t live in poverty. I could try to understand how genocides are possible and have become a recurring phenomenon of our world. I could do ethnographic research on hipsters in the Mile End to understand how they are trying to jam culture, and how they fail. I could read social theory for the rest of my days and lose myself in ideas, never truly coming back to earth. I could study how people create meaning in their lives, if community has anything to do with it, and come up with ways to cultivate it in our urban, fragmented environment where organic solidarity has failed to develop in the way it was imagined it would.
Yet I can’t help feeling that the most immediate and important thing is to strive to understand how to be healthier as a society. What populations are most unhealthy? Why? What could be done? Is the main concern nutrition? Accidents? Mental health? In any case, the topic is not very risque or exciting. In a way, I wish I were passionate about something edgier or revolutionary, but nothing seems to be pragmatic enough. (Similarly, I catch myself wishing I dressed awesome and had a crazy haircut. But ultimately I find it silly and of too little consequence to put more energy into something like that.) I read that most Canadians die from preventable diseases and I know something is gravely wrong and is not being properly addressed.
How to go about getting into this? Would I be better prepared if I were somehow involved with the hard medical realm, such as working as a nurse? Is a program in Social Studies of Medicine where I should be? What comes after? (Can one work for the WHO from Montreal?) Would that be a good use of my energy? Does it fit with what I want for the other aspects of my life?
It’s difficult to plough through into the world, especially when it’s not the one you grew up thinking about. Today, I’m wondering if I’ll be a comfortable, young professional one day, how I’ll experience my life, how I will practice religion, how I will think about things.
Feeling a little overwhelmed. Today, life is too big and I worry about what I’ll do with it. I’m ready for it to be Friday night, to take the time to come back to the pace of real, unabstracted life.
I’m watching this documentary in parts on YouTube. It takes excerpts of Eduardo Galeano’s Las venas abiertas de América Latina (The Open Veins of Latin America) and illustrates them with disturbing examples of the exploitation, disenfranchisement and destruction that resources, communities and the environment suffer systematically in Latin America at the hands of Europe, the United States, neoliberalism and capitalism. I am turned off from anything complaining about so many catchwords, but the fact is that this is a region that was raped and bled for centuries to satiate the pillaging greed of colonizing forces, and this dynamic continues into the present.
Just yesterday I started reading The Economist’s 14-page special report on Latin America (the cover is my much-loved “inverted” map, with Tierra del Fuego at the top and the United States drooping lugubriously at the bottom). Might the decade we are entering, The Economist wonders, be the Latin American decade? There is a lot of growth and progress taking place, specifically with the brilliant promise of Brazil on the horizon. But I wonder how these two stories fit together: that of the region so accurately described by world-systems theory and that of long-devastated countries emerging into the global market as growing powers.
I guess what I’d like to do is come to have a grasp on what’s really going on. Specifically, I’m drawn to understanding so that I can find out what it is I could do. Over the years, with varying degrees of conviction, I’ve entertained the idea of devoting myself to working on whatever it is that I could in Argentina, or somewhere else. Lately I’ve been trying to be realistic in determining what goals I decide to embark on accomplishing (PhD in Canada + nine kids with stable lives + devote myself à la Guevara to a noble cause in South America = unlikely), but despite reality’s attempts to temper it, the idea tenaciously claims its right to a little nook in my mind for back-ups plans in case I one day wind up starting afresh in a distant land. One thing that comforts me is the work of Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, which won him the Nobel Peace Prize despite the fact that his training was in architecture and sculpture.
Hegel said that it is ideas that are the impetus underpinning change and movements in history. My own life is a good example of that in microcosm. As I am reading about Che’s life and reflecting on my conversation with Mike, I am thinking about studying in Argentina, about what books I will read next, seeing how the ideas I encounter in one translate into my life right now, figuring out how (working as what, on what principles, to what end, by what means) I actually want to live my life, and what I need to be doing now to go towards these goals, both short- and long-term. So once again, a list: No pare, sigue, sigue…
Idea: How about I convert, do a year exchange in Argentina, fall in love, and take it from there?
Went to a lecture by a Sufi master the other day:
As of right now, I want to double major in anthropology and sociology or do a joint specialization in anthropology and sociology, whichever makes more sense; and minor in French, English literature, philosophy, political science and religion.
I am trying very hard to be realistic but I just can’t.
Majors: anthropology, sociology; Minors: Latin American politics, nutrition/health
Dr. James Orbinski: “Global Health and Humanitarianism”
Thursday, September 25, 2008 at 7pm
Alumni Auditorium, Henry F. Hall Building (H-110) 1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd West