Posts Tagged ‘Integrity’

It’s odd what associations you find yourself making sometimes. When I heard on the radio that NDP leader Jack Layton had passed away during early hours this morning, the first thing I thought about, after the initial shock, was Jesus’ apostles the morning after Good Friday.

I know, on the surface that seems more than a little strange, even sacrilegious, but stay with me and I’ll explain.

On that dismal day the disciples were, in all likelihood, shell-shocked. You couldn’t have stunned them more if you bombed Jerusalem.  Despite Jesus’ warnings, his death was the last thing they expected. I’m sure that they were waiting for Jesus to perform another miracle even as he hung there on the cross. When the miracle didn’t happen they were devastated.  Huddled in their room they sat in disbelief wondering what the future would bring – or if there was a future at all. The question rang through each of their minds, “What now?”

Right now, thousands of NDP party members and supporters are feeling just as devastated and are asking them selves that very same question.

Most commentators and pundits across Canada will agree – the NDP accomplishments in the last election had nothing to do with policy, or a massive philosophical shift to the extreme left in Quebec – it was all about Jack Layton. Frustrated with the ineffectiveness of Gilles Duceppe, irritated by the elitist prattling of Michael Ignatieff, a large portion of the country, especially in Quebec, looked at Jack Layton and saw something they rarely saw in Canadian politics – authenticity.

That authenticity drew people to Jack Layton in droves and subsequently to the NDP. And I think most people within the party recognize that fact.  That is why I’m sure many of them are feeling just as lost as the Twelve did that day so long ago. True, Jack is no messiah figure, not in the true sense of the word. But he was definitely the embodiment of the NDP dream. Jack gave them a renewed sense of determination and self-worth. He gave them a new vision for the future, a future that actually seemed possible. He gave them hope!

Now that hope has suffered a potentially fatal blow. The embodiment of the dream is gone and, unlike Jesus, Jack Layton isn’t coming back any time soon. He’s not the messiah, the foundation of a new religion, or even the second coming of Tommy Douglas.  And if you think I am discrediting the gospel by comparing the two, you’ve missed my point. This isn’t about comparing Jack to Jesus, it’s about the followers of a movement. It’s about the disciples.

And the followers of Jack Layton have one more thing in common with the disciples of Jesus; whether the dream stays alive or not is up to them. The future of the NDP is in their hands now and I sincerely pray that they are up to the challenge.

As a libertarian I seldom agreed with Jack’s politics but I often admired the man. Jack Layton was an authentic politician. More importantly he was an authentic and likeable human being. Ottawa will be a better place if his example is followed by more than just the members of the NDP.

Horns of a Dilemma

Posted: June 16, 2011 in Politics
Tags: , ,

As I listen to the rhetoric start to ramp up as we slowly careen toward the provincial election in October, I find myself once again torn on the subject of who to throw my vote away on.  Do I sound cynical? Well, that’s likely because more and more I find politics so generally reprehensible that elections are starting to resemble the process where the prisoner gets to choose their mode of execution; one way or the other, you’re still dead.

My dilemma largely starts with the fact that I can’t define myself neatly on either the left or the right politically. While I have a number of conservative tendencies, I also support many policies traditionally associated with the left. The result is I’m not allowed the luxury of being able to stamp my forehead with a party logo and lock myself mindlessly in step with whatever drivel drools out of the party leader’s mouth. I am forced to examine the evidence, consider all the ramifications and try to come to a rational decision as to which political entity is least likely to cause Canada, or in this case Ontario, to follow the same course as say, Greece.

Let’s take Dalton’s tax record for example. Tim Hudak and the PC Party of Ontario love to point out that Dalton promised not to raise taxes and then promptly introduced the Health Premium; essentially a tax to help pay for health care in Ontario. As a recent cancer survivor I find myself less upset about this lie than I used to be.

In the last nine months I have had 4 CT scans, 3 x-rays, 2 MRIs, 36 radiation treatments, 2 surgeries, 1 colonoscopy and 26 office appointments with a GP, an ear/nose and throat specialist, two surgeons, an oncologist, and a GI specialist and throughout it all the only cash I had to fork out personally was cab fare.  I have no idea how much all of that costs. I’m not even sure I’d like to know as I am sure it’s a frightening figure; but if you were to tell me that the reason none of that cost had to come out of my own pocket was Dalton’s Health Premium, I wouldn’t quibble with you for a second.  MRIs and CT scans and Radiation machines are expensive and the money has to come from somewhere and asking me to pony up my share is entirely reasonable.

But lying about it isn’t. According to the CQCO (Cancer Quality Council of Ontario) if you are diagnosed with cancer in Ontario you have “one of the best chances of survival anywhere in the world.” [ref] And the billions we spend on health care here is the reason why; not to mention the millions raised by events such as the Ride to Conquer Cancer.  This is something we should be proud of and celebrate, but our leaders still find it hard to just be open about it and say, “Look, it costs billions to make health care happen and taxes are the main source of that money.” Then make sure you taxation strategy is fair and balanced.

But when you lie about it and try to hide it and obfuscate the details so that people who disagree with you are more likely to vote for you it does not inspire any level of confidence even if the result is largely positive. Give the public some credit and simply tell us how much stuff costs and how you’re going to pay for stuff up front. So while I understand the need for the tax, lying about it does not increase my willingness to vote Liberal.

That said, I’m also sure there’s a big slice of those billions are being pissed away paying consultants and contractors and others way too much to do things that have been done before and accomplish very little that actually results in more people getting colonoscopies, surgeries, and visits to the doctor’s office.  I’m sure of this because I know from experience that’s the way far too many bureaucracies work (remember eHealth), and b) that’s the way far too many consultants manage to stay in business (again eHealth).

I am also fairly sure there are savings to be found on the front lines as well. I used to work security for one of the hospitals in Guelph and was curious as to why the guy mowing the lawn got paid as much as the orderlies did. One of the staff in the administration office told me it was because “of the extra training and skills required to do the job in a sterile hospital environment.” I will never forget that line.  Mow the Lawn? In a sterile hospital environment? Really?? 

And yet, while I’m sure cutting health care costs is on Hudak’s agenda, most of what he has said so far leaves me convinced that I can’t trust him to be selective enough in his cutting to do any real good. Rather than separate the wheat from the chaff, I can easily picture him just burning the whole field; leaving me unable to confidently vote PC either.

So you see my dilemma, no matter which option I choose I’m fairly certain the end result will be a horn up my butt. And not just with health care. A similar each-one-is-as-bad-as-the-other scenario can be demonstrated for just about every aspect of my existence.  My only hope seems to be that somewhere in the next hundred days one or the other of them will screw up so bad the decision will be made for me.

Until next time… Shalom

What’s Up Doc?

Posted: January 11, 2011 in Faith, Personal
Tags: , ,

Monday was the first of 5 Review Clinic sessions I’ll have with Dr. James Wright, my radiation oncologist. Every Monday for the next 5 weeks (the last 5 weeks of my treatment cycle) I’ll meet with the good doctor and one of the nurses in the Review Clinic to take a look at how my regimen is progressing.

We started off yesterday with a look the CT pictures they took as part of the planing session. They are a series of cross sections of my head inside the mask used in the linear accelerator. Imposed on this in a number of colours, are bands that define which areas of my head will receive what levels of radiation exposure.

The hot zone, not surprisingly, is the location of my former right tonsil, where they found the tumour. They did cut the tumour out when they took my tonsil, but there are an unknown number of microscopic “roots” that are left behind and need to be destroyed by the radiation. This area of my anatomy is a bright yellow colour in all the various scans.

In the red and blue zones are the various lymph nodes located in and around my throat; down each side of the neck, along the upper edge of the clavicle. Since the cyst that disclosed the presence of P16 was in a lymph node, radiating the lymph system makes sense and gets the next highest does based on distance from “ground zero.”

There’s a green line (I think – I have colour blindness issues) that delineates the outer most reach of the treatment. No radiation above the level of my nostrils. Don’t want to irradiate the grey cells at this point. But then in my case, every cell is a Gray cell! lol… (All right. I’ll be good.)

The clavicle forms the lower border. No radiation below that level. Everything in the middle will receive one of about 11 varying degrees of exposure that were detailed on the CT scans.  I was impressed that they could discern all the exposure levels in such detail. Gives you a real feeling that they truly knew what they were doing. That is, until Dr. James Robert Wright made this encouraging, and inspirational statement.

“Yeah…    So…  there it is.  We’ll keep fartin’ around like this for the next five weeks and when it’s all over hopefully we’ll get the results we were looking for.”

Excuse me! You describe this supposedly high-tech, targeted procedure on which I am betting my continued future existence as “farting around” ?? Nice choice of vernacular Doc!

Flatulence references aside however, the good doctor is mostly correct in his assessment. The fact remains that as far as we have come and as much as survival rates have increased, cancer therapy still remains, to varying degrees, something of a crap shoot.

They can take a guy like me, mid-fifties, slightly over-weight, average health, clean removal of the tumour, a ‘species’ of cancer that has the best response rate there is to radiation therapy, and 8 or 9 times everything will work well and you get the results you were hoping for. Then there’s the 10 or 11th guy in the list; all the same parameters, all the same drugs and treatments, and for reasons you and your $100 million cancer clinic have yet to work out, it all goes to hell, the cancer remains firmly entrenched, and the guy dies.

I don’t know if Jim Wright had one of those days last week or not (I was his first appointment on Monday), but I can imagine that after a man like him, who has invested his life in this work, has a case go sour on him it can feel like all he’s doing is “farting around.” We are all prone to feeling ‘useless’ when we do everything right and it still doesn’t work.

However, focusing on the 10th or 11th guy isn’t going to help any unless you’re a research pathologist. For the rest of us we… I need to focus on the other 8 or 9 guys who make it. It’s like Paul says in Philippians:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

So we continue on. Supported by Dr. Wright (whom I still have complete confidence in) and his amazing medical staff and volunteers at the Juravinski Centre, and by the many of you who are out there praying for Roberta and I. If you are inclined to do so add Dr. James  Robert Wright and his staff to your prayers; they work hard, care much, and need all the support they can get. Besides, he gave me these lovely lorazepam tables that make sleeping through this a hundred times easier.

I know, but before all you amateur pharmacists (and professionals for that matter – Joan) start emailing me the Wikipedia entries, telling me how highly addictive a drug it is, and regale me with all the side effects associated with benzodiazepines (I can Google it too), I am taking it under my doctor’s care and I’m real good at following instructions. So Chill!

But pondering the doctor’s choice of words aside, I seem to be in good shape; tat is, the treatments seem to be progressing as expected. The sore throat, treated with liquid pain killers, the sleeping aids, the general lack of energy and loss of appetite are all textbook symptoms and appear to be right on schedule. So I am hopeful.

Actually today, I am more concerned for my friend Darby than for me. At 10am today (Wed. Dec. 12) she goes in for a hysterectomy to remove a large fibroid she’s been carrying around for some time now. If you’re praying for me, pray for her too, please!

Till next time … Shalom.

I subscribe to a number of daily & weekly blogs via Google Reader. It saves me a lot of time and ensures that I don’t miss anything from my favorite writers. This morning I got this from

Why are some Christians so afraid of science.

Why are some Christians so ignorant & afraid of science.

I will never understand why some Christians are A) so incredibly ignorant of basic science and logic, B) so afraid of science they really don’t want to know anything.

Take the above example. First of all let’s look at the original statement of so-called fact.

“Fact – if the earth was 10 ft closer to the sun we would all burn up and if it was 10 ft further we would freeze to death… God is amazing!!”

Yes God is amazing – I’m amazed he doesn’t hurl more thunderbolts when his followers come up with this kind of drivel. Seriously! TEN FEET!!! How can anyone actually believe this? It doesn’t take an astrophysicist to realize that is this were actually true then life on earth would have died off before Adam and Eve got themselves kicked out of The Garden.  Or at best life could not exists outside a narrow band between  10 ft. above and 10 ft. below sea-level.

The first thing they taught us in grade 6 science was the difference between mean distance and average distance and just how much wobbling there is out there when it comes to things like planets and moons and stars and such. One really has to wonder how any educational system more than 10% functional could produce this kind of scientific ignorance.

But the real problem here is not that God-is-awesome-guy can’t comprehend basic physics; it’s his reaction when someone points out the flaw in his logic.

“Okay, thats cool and alll but dont ever comment on my status telling me that i am wrong everrr again. I didnt ask you did i? Answer: NO” [sic]

This is what really bugs me about this post and the entire God vs Science debate (as if God and science have nothing to do with each other). What has happened to the church in the last century to make such a large portion of it so afraid of science? And why is it so many of those who claim to follow one of the gentlest, kindest, most polite people ever (Jesus wasn’t even rude when talking to those who were out to kill him) are such blatantly rude ignoramuses.

This isn’t the first time I have encountered this among God’s people. Back in the Eighties I had a pastor once try to tell me that human beings never, ever under any circumstances lived in caves. That the whole cave-dweller idea was part of the conspiratorial lie that is “evilution” (Yeah – he actually pronounced it that way every single time he said the word).

When I asked him to explain the overwhelming preponderance of evidence that indicated large numbers of human communities lived in caves all over the world, his response was, “Even if it is true, I don’t want to know about it. I prefer my own reality, the facts be damned.” (Exact quote folks. It was so absurd a statement I will never forget it.)

I’ve heard other pastors, elders, evangelists and everyday Christians make similar declarations. “I don’t want to hear the facts. If I’m wrong, I don’t want to know it.” What worries me most is I can only think of one place where this attitude can possibly have come from – insecurity.

That’s right – insecurity! You see, while a number of these people will tell you they hold fast to this position because they are strong in their faith and refuse to buckle under to the lies of science; I think the exact opposite is true.  If your faith is so strong then why must it run away from the facts.

Okay, I know that right now there are a large number of you screaming, “But evolution isn’t a fact – it’s a lie.” First of all – calm down. I’m not talking evolution here – I’m talking science in general. The above example has nothing to do with evolution – it’s a simple matter of math & physics. But even if it was about evolution, why run away from the debate with ridiculous statements like these?

Why can the church not engage in reasonable, intelligent debate instead of meaningless rhetoric that accomplishes nothing other than to shore up the argument that religion is the last retreat of the ignorant and uneducated. It just adds fuel to the fire; it doesn’t solve anything.

I’m really at a loss to understand where this recent fear of science comes from and belive me, it is recent.  As I’ve pointed out in earlier post regarding science fiction, such was not always the case. In previous centuries when science revealed new information about how the earth was made and how nature functions the response of many of these believing scientists was to marvel at the intricacy of God’s creation. In their journals and letters they revel in what they regarded as proof of an intellegence far beyond imagining being at the heart of the universe.

Their faith was not challenged. They didn’t cease to believe. They instead looked at the facts before them, looked at the Word revealed to them and studied to understand how the two come together. When they failed to be able to reconcile them it was not an indication that either science or faith were wrong, but rather an admission that we still need to study harder before understanding could be realized.

When did we stop doing this? When did it become acceptible to check your brain at the door before entering the church?  That’s not to say that there isn’t a good deal of dogmatic ignorance on the side of science as well, there is.  But I not being a scientist I can’t speak to that.

But I feel I can speak to the church, and once again I come back to the question of insecurity. I believe my faith is strong because there is nothing science can reveal to me about how the universe works that will shake it. And I don’t need to run away from it. I want to know how the universe spins. I want to know the world that God created because it all reveals to me something about who God is.

Sometimes it does challenge my understanding of exactly who God is, but never my firm belief that God exists. I harbour no pretentions that I fully understand all there is to know about God or the universe He created. My theology, like everything else about me is a work in progress, a constant state of being and becoming that will never be a stagnant pool but always a flowing river. The shape of it will change with each new turn, each eddy and tributary along the way. Some of the changes will happen because of what I read in the Word, some because of what I read in the earth, but through it all God remains the same.

If your faith avoids rather than faces the challenges that come along, how can growth ever happen?


The Meaning of Life

Posted: November 16, 2010 in Personal, Spirituality
Tags: ,

As some of you know, I have recently been diagnosed with cancer. Yeah, it sucks. I’ve been trying to blog about it, but so far nothing I wrote ever seemed quite – right. So the subject remained untouched, till now.

Over the last few days I’ve been praying and thinking about the situation a lot and, not unsurprisingly, found myself pondering the ‘meaning of life’ – mine in particular, and what the future might hold, both during the radiation treatments and after. Just when I thought God wasn’t going to give me any insight right away, I was reminded of a story I haven’t read in years. I went looking for it to read again and after having don so found it fit the moment perfectly. Surprise, God was paying attention after all. (Just kidding – of course He was.)

It’s called The Three Questions; it’s a short story written by Leo Tolstoy and since it’s in the public domain now I present it to you in it’s entirety below. It’ll only take about 5 minutes or so to read, and says more about where I am right now than I ever could.

So, grab a cuppa joe (or tea for that matter) and take the time to read it. Regardless of your philosphical or religious leanings I think you’ll agree it’s hard to argue with Tolstoy’s answers.



The Three Questions

By Leo Tolstoy

It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid; and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake.

And this thought having occurred to him, he had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to any one who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was the most important thing to do.

And learned men came to the King, but they all answered his questions differently.

In reply to the first question, some said that to know the right time for every action, one must draw up in advance, a table of days, months and years, and must live strictly according to it. Only thus, said they, could everything be done at its proper time. Others declared that it was impossible to decide beforehand the right time for every action; but that, not letting oneself be absorbed in idle pastimes, one should always attend to all that was going on, and then do what was most needful. Others, again, said that however attentive the King might be to what was going on, it was impossible for one man to decide correctly the right time for every action, but that he should have a Council of wise men, who would help him to fix the proper time for everything.

But then again others said there were some things which could not wait to be laid before a Council, but about which one had at once to decide whether to undertake them or not. But in order to decide that, one must know beforehand what was going to happen. It is only magicians who know that; and, therefore, in order to know the right time for every action, one must consult magicians.

Equally various were the answers to the second question. Some said, the people the King most needed were his councillors; others, the priests; others, the doctors; while some said the warriors were the most necessary.

To the third question, as to what was the most important occupation: some replied that the most important thing in the world was science. Others said it was skill in warfare; and others, again, that it was religious worship.

All the answers being different, the King agreed with none of them, and gave the reward to no one. But still wishing to find the right answers to his questions, he decided to consult a hermit, widely renowned for his wisdom.

The hermit lived in a wood which he never quitted, and he received none but common folk. So the King put on simple clothes, and before reaching the hermit’s cell dismounted from his horse, and, leaving his body-guard behind, went on alone.

When the King approached, the hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut. Seeing the King, he greeted him and went on digging. The hermit was frail and weak, and each time he stuck his spade into the ground and turned a little earth, he breathed heavily.

The King went up to him and said: “I have come to you, wise hermit, to ask you to answer three questions: How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need, and to whom should I, therefore, pay more attention than to the rest? And, what affairs are the most important, and need my first attention?”

The hermit listened to the King, but answered nothing. He just spat on his hand and recommenced digging.

“You are tired,” said the King, “let me take the spade and work awhile for you.”

“Thanks!” said the hermit, and, giving the spade to the King, he sat down on the ground.

When he had dug two beds, the King stopped and repeated his questions. The hermit again gave no answer, but rose, stretched out his hand for the spade, and said: “Now rest awhile-and let me work a bit.”

But the King did not give him the spade, and continued to dig. One hour passed, and another. The sun began to sink behind the trees, and the King at last stuck the spade into the ground, and said: “I came to you, wise man, for an answer to my questions. If you can give me none, tell me so, and I will return home.”

“Here comes some one running,” said the hermit, “let us see who it is.”

The King turned round, and saw a bearded man come running out of the wood. The man held his hands pressed against his stomach, and blood was flowing from under them. When he reached the King, he fell fainting on the ground moaning feebly. The King and the hermit unfastened the man’s clothing. There was a large wound in his stomach. The King washed it as best he could, and bandaged it with his handkerchief and with a towel the hermit had. But the blood would not stop flowing, and the King again and again removed the bandage soaked with warm blood, and washed and rebandaged the wound.

When at last the blood ceased flowing, the man revived and asked for something to drink. The King brought fresh water and gave it to him. Meanwhile the sun had set, and it had become cool. So the King, with the hermit’s help, carried the wounded man into the hut and laid him on the bed. Lying on the bed the man closed his eyes and was quiet; but the King was so tired with his walk and with the work he had done, that he crouched down on the threshold, and also fell asleep–so soundly that he slept all through the short summer night. When he awoke in the morning, it was long before he could remember where he was, or who was the strange bearded man lying on the bed and gazing intently at him with shining eyes.

“Forgive me!” said the bearded man in a weak voice, when he saw that the King was awake and was looking at him.

“I do not know you, and have nothing to forgive you for,” said the King.

“You do not know me, but I know you. I am that enemy of yours who swore to revenge himself on you, because you executed his brother and seized his property. I knew you had gone alone to see the hermit, and I resolved to kill you on your way back. But the day passed and you did not return. So I came out from my ambush to find you, and I came upon your bodyguard, and they recognized me, and wounded me. I escaped from them, but should have bled to death had you not dressed my wound. I wished to kill you, and you have saved my life. Now, if I live, and if you wish it, I will serve you as your most faithful slave, and will bid my sons do the same. Forgive me!”

The King was very glad to have made peace with his enemy so easily, and to have gained him for a friend, and he not only forgave him, but said he would send his servants and his own physician to attend him, and promised to restore his property.

Having taken leave of the wounded man, the King went out into the porch and looked around for the hermit. Before going away he wished once more to beg an answer to the questions he had put. The hermit was outside, on his knees, sowing seeds in the beds that had been dug the day before.

The King approached him, and said: “For the last time, I pray you to answer my questions, wise man.”

“You have already been answered!” said the hermit, still crouching on his thin legs, and looking up at the King, who stood before him.

“How answered? What do you mean?” asked the King.

“Do you not see,” replied the hermit. “If you had not pitied my weakness yesterday, and had not dug those beds for me, but had gone your way, that man would have attacked you, and you would have repented of not having stayed with me. So the most important time was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important man; and to do me good was your most important business. Afterwards when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were attending to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important man, and what you did for him was your most important business.

Remember then: there is only one time that is important– Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are, for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with any one else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life!”