Friday, 27 June 2008

Jhegaala by Steven Brust

Jhegaala
Steven Brust
TOR Books
ISBN 9780765301475


It really is amazing that this the eleventh novel; in the Vlad Taltos serirs is as captivating as the first. Steven Brust attempts to write each novel so that it can stand on it's own, and again in this one he has done so. When I recommend people read them books, it varies on my approach. Always start with Jhereg but to some friends I recommend reading in order of publication and some in order of chronology. This book steps back from the last few and tells of an earlier tale. A tale of a man in search of his past and his family. It is also a tale of murder, intrigue, confusion and misunderstanding that all leads to a high body count.

In each of the Vlad Taltos novels Brust approaches them differently. He has created such a believable world that side stories and books mentioned become something the read would like to possess. In this book each chapter begins with quotes from a play Six Parts Water by a playwright named Miersen. These snippets leave you wanting to read or see the play. It is hard not to like the witty and humorous Vlad Taltos, even if he is an assassin by profession, even if he betrayed his 'crime family' to save his estranged wife. Even is he got most of his distant family murdered because he did not understand a situation he blundered into. This is Vlad Taltos, the man we would like to meet and know and count among our friends. He has impeccable taste in food and drink and live by a motto akin to 'Life is to short for bad food or drink.'

In this book we see a very different side of Vlad, he is not an Easterner trying to fit in without fitting in; in the Dragaera Empire, he has returned to the land of his ancestors in the east. He is a human among humans and yet he fits in even less than we are used to. In part because he has live his whole life in the west. Because of that in this book we see for the first time Vlad take a major misstep and pay a personal price, he is injured worse that we have seen yet in any of the books.

This book will be a great summer read for any fan of the fantasy genre, or for people who are already fan's of Brust works. It fills in some of the story between early books, and answers some of the reader's ongoing questions about Vlad, unfortunately it also raised many new questions. But those must be answered in another tale. Hopefully soon.

(First Published in Imprint 2008-06-27.)

Books by Steven Brust:
Vlad Taltos Publishing Order:

Jhereg (1983)
Yendi (1984)
Teckla (1987)
Taltos (1988)
Phoenix (1990)
Athyra (1993)
Orca (1996)
Dragon (1998)
Issola (2001)
Dzur (2006)
Jhegaala (2008)
Iorich (2010)
Tiassa (2011)
Hawk (2014)
Valista (TBD)

Vlad Taltos: Chronological Order:
Taltos (1988)
Dragon, main chapters (1998)
Yendi (1984)
Dragon, interludes (1998)
Tiassa, section 1 (2011)
Jhereg (1983)
Teckla (1987)
Phoenix (1990)
Jhegaala (2008)
Athyra (1993)
Orca (1996)
Issola (2001)
Dzur (2006)
Tiassa, section 2 (2011)
Iorich (2010)
Tiassa, section 3 (2011)

The Khaavren Romances:
The Phoenix Guards (1991)
Five Hundred Years After (1994)
The Viscount of Adrilankha, published in three volumes:
The Paths of the Dead (2002)
The Lord of Castle Black (2003)
Sethra Lavode (2004)

Other Books:
Brokedown Palace (1986)
To Reign in Hell (1984)
The Sun, the Moon & the Stars (1987)
Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille (1990)
Agyar (1993)
My Own Kind of Freedom (2008)

Co Written:
The Gypsy (1992) with Megan Lindholm
Freedom & Necessity (1997) with Emma Bull
The Incrementalists (2013) with Skyler White

Short Stories:
An Act of Contrition - Liavek (1985)
An Act of Trust - Liavek: The Players of Luck (1986)
A Dream of Passion - in the convention chapbook for Ad Astra (1986)
An Act of Mercy - Liavek: Wizard's Row (1987, with Megan Lindholm)
An Act of Love - Liavek: Spells of Binding (1988, with Gregory Frost and Megan Lindholm)
Csucskári - Excerpt from The Sun, The Moon, and the Stars in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: First Annual Collection (1988)
A Hot Night at Cheeky's - Liavek: Festival Week (1990)
Looking Forward: Excerpt from Athyra in Amazing Stories, March (1993)
Attention Shoppers - Xanadu (1993)
Abduction from the Harem - in Timewalker Issue 14 (October 1996)
Drift - Space Opera (1996)
Valóság and Élet - in Sandman: Book of Dreams (1996)
Calling Pittsburgh - in Lord of the Fantastic: Stories in Honor of Roger Zelazny (1998)
When the Bow Breaks - The Essential Bordertown (1998)
The Man From Shemhaza - in Thieves' World: Enemies of Fortune (2004), reprinted in Year's Best Fantasy 5 (2005)
Klava with Honey - Eeriecon Convention Chapbook #4 (2005)
Chapter One - in Eeriecon Convention Chapbook #6 (2007)
The Desecrator - on tor.com (2011)
Fireworks in the Rain - on tor.com (2013)

Monday, 23 June 2008

Bonaventure and Erasmus Two Ways. - An Essay.

Bonaventure and Erasmus two ways.

In this paper we will examine the concept of journey in the
Christian faith. This journey or 'Quest' in my opinion is a two-fold journey. First it is the journey to God or faith, then when we think the quest is over, we discover a whole new journey has begun, that being the journey into God. Thus when we think we have reached our destination we find that it is really just another door, leading to a whole new road. These journeys or quests, take many different paths; we could almost say there are as many paths are there are people. For each person has been shaped by his life, circumstances, times, surroundings and influences. We will examine the concepts of spiritual journeys, or faith quests, and we will look at some historical examples of these processes, from the bible through to our own time. Then we will look at Bonaventure and Erasmus and their specific journeys and their views of such journeys or quests into God.

Though each faith journey is unique there are some characteristics that are common or at least many overlaps in different people's journeys. As Donald Nicholl in the essay Scientia Cordis states: "Certainly a striking feature of many of the great spiritual adventurers of this century has been the way in which, having lost their bearings within their own traditions, they have sought them in some other - and have almost gone over to that tradition, only to discover their bearings once more within their own." Nicholl, here illustrates a point that the quest is journey that will lead one back to one's own tradition; a great example of this quest and the dual nature of the quest of Thomas Merton (1915-1968). As I wrote in an earlier paper: "Thomas Merton was an enigma. He was a monk, a man and a myth. He created the myth with his bestseller The Seven Story Mountain and then spent most of the rest of his life trying to change that story." Merton thought that when he became a Catholic and then a monk he was at the end of his spiritual journey. He wrote his most famous book The Seven Story Mountain and believed he had all the answers, yet within a short time he realized that he was now set upon a new journey, that of growing in this new faith and relationship with God. He wrote prolifically the rest of his life to try and counter the arrogance and mistake of that first book. Now turning to a much older source we have an example from St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians 3:12-16 he states: "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this in mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind." Here Paul outlines his own striving, and journey into God, and how others should be struggling, striving to follow a similar journey. Also in St. Peter's second letter we see a clear outline of instructions for growth in Christian character, or the path to journey on to grow in Christ Jesus and in fellowship with other believers: "But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ."

From the above examples we see that the concepts of journey, in the Christian life, that there is a path to follow goes back to those who founded Christianity as a sub-sect of Judaism, right up to today. So now a study of St. Bonaventure, his life and his view of spiritual journey begins.

St. Bonaventure; whose years are 1221AD-1274AD, was an amazing man of faith. He is credited as being the second founder of the Franciscans. He taught at the University of Paris, was the Head of the Franciscans(1257AD), a Bishop(1273AD), a Cardinal(1274AD) and he played a major role in the Second Council of Lyons. Bonaventure is considered a disciple of Augustine. In "A history of the Christian Church" it states: "Bonaventure was intellectually a disciple of St. Augustine. Like the Latter, he desired to know but two things; God, the supreme reality, and the soul's progress to union with God. Philosophy and all secular knowledge are, at best, only a means to the end of 'seeing' God (the visio Dei)." Bonaventure's life was a quest for two things, to know God, and to journey towards God. Now let us examine those specific paths.

Bonaventure believed that there were three modes of understanding. Those being: i) reflection on the natural world, ii) the consideration of our natural power and iii) our receiving illumination through Christ who is our mediator. Yet each of these three modes is two-fold in that God can be seen in them and also through them. These six stages are representative of different stages on the road by which we ascend to God. Thus Bonaventure can be seen as a mystical theologian. Walker et. Al. summarize Bonaventure's thought as follows: "By meditation and prayer, and aided throughout by divine grace, the mind journeys to God first by gazing upon his traces in the world at large, then by catching sight of him deep within itself, and finally by rising above itself to behold God the Holy Trinity, who is the origin and goal of all that is. At this highest stage, all intellectual operations cease; the soul (not the mind) unknowingly unites with God in the ecstasy of love and affection." Thus we see clearly Bonaventure's view of the journey into God. Now let us move ahead a few hundred years and onto another quester, that of Desiderius Erasmus.

Desiderius Erasmus the illegitimate son of a Rotterdam priest was born in 1466AD and died some time in 1536AD. His mother passed away when he was young, and his inheritance was squandered, shortly thereafter. Much of his adult life was a struggle to overcome the pain and poverty of his youth. Erasmus studied at the Deventer school (1475AD-1484AD) "where Alender Hegius was headmaster from 1483, awakened his love of letters and introduced him to the 'modern devotion' - the inward, christocentric piety" This drove him to educational excellence. He entered the Augustinian monastery at Steyn in 1486AD and left in 1492AD. In 1492AD he was ordained a priest and he studied at the University of Paris from 1495AD until 1499AD. He spent the rest of his career traversing Europe, seeking patronage, seeking knowledge and deeper understanding, both on the continent and in England. Through this process of seeking knowledge he hungered for the study of
classical and Christian antiquity. He was considered the most educated man of his time. Erasmus was also at the forefront of the Christian Humanist movement. McBrien in his book Catholicism states this: "Although various Christian humanists were sympathetic towards the contemporary emphasis on mysticism, they were strongly committed to the general restoration of the Christian Life itself, so much corrupted then by the worst of the Renaissance spirit. Love for classical antiquity and an optimistic view of human nature were characteristic of this so-called devout humanism, and the spiritual writings of Erasmus (d. 1536) are representative of it." Erasmus was another remarkable man of the church, who strove for understanding his whole life. Now let us turn to his specific thoughts on spiritual journey.

Erasmus was a master of letters, and a wordsmith of the highest calibre. His works were wide ranging and extensive. Including the Greek New Testament published in 1515AD. Yet from my readings his biggest desire was reform; reform of the individual and through that society. Walker et. Al state: "Erasmus has his own constructive program of reform. He envisioned the renovation of church and society through education and eloquence - specifically, through a return to the pristine sources of Christian truth, to the Bible and the fathers, as well as to the ethical wisdom of the ancient sages, to be instilled through the art of persuasion by pleasing discourse." Erasmus wanted to use reason as a tool of spiritual growth, and through that as a tool to change society. Cory and Landry sum up Erasmus's contributions as: "The greatest of the northern humanists was Desiderius Erasmus (c.1466-1536), a scholar learned in the literature of both the Latin and Greek early church writers, and the most famous writer of his age. In his Handbook of the
Christian Soldier, Erasmus argued that true piety depends on the virtue of the Spirit, rather than on conformity to external rites of the church." This echoes a similar thought in Placher: "Erasmus sought to clear away corruption and superstition in order to restore a simple, ethical Christianity in which people would try to follow Christ and be decent to each other." Therefore we see that Erasmus was dedicated to growth in the individual and through that society. Now we will turn to some of Erasmus's own writings and words.

The first quote is from a letter to Paul Voltz: "a great part of holiness consists in desiring with all one's heart to become holy; I do not feel that we should look down on a person striving for such a goal even if the attempt sometimes falls short of success." We see here a clear call to holiness and to personal perusal of that goal. The personal quest. From his writing The Weapons of Christian Warfare; he states: "You must believe me when I say that there is really no attack from the enemy, no temptation so violent, that a sincere resort to Holy Writ will not easily get rid of it. … Therefore, if you will but dedicate yourself entirely to the study of scriptures, if you meditate day and night on the divine law, nothing will ever terrorize you and you will be prepared against any attack of the enemy." We see here a commitment and directions for spiritual growth and protection, for spiritual warfare we must know scripture and be prepared to use it in defence of ourselves. Erasmus also wrote General Rules for Living the Christian Life; I have been unable to find a complete list but here are some of those points I have found:
  • First Rule: Now since faith is the only gateway to Christ, the first rule I would lay down is that we ought to place great reliance on the Scriptures.
  • Second Rule: is that we doubt nothing in the divine promises, then we must act upon them.
  • Forth Rule: Make Christ the only goal of your life. Dedicate yourself to Him all your enthusiasm, all your effort, your leisure as well as your business.
  • Tenth Rule: Make a violent effort to put sinful thoughts out of your mind.
  • Eleventh Rule: You have two dangers to face: one is giving in; the other is becoming proud after a temptation has been conquered.
  • Seventeenth Rule: Each temptation has its own appropriate remedy.

We see then a man passionate about seeing hearts set free, or as St. Irenaeus said, "The Glory of God is a man fully alive!" This quote can describe both Erasmus and Bonaventure, and so we will now compare the two and their different approaches to the spiritual journey.

As a man living in a post-modern world, I have found both these authors fascinating, and believe that we can learn much from them both. As Erasmus looked back to the classical and Christian antiquities, I find that we can look back at the Medieval and Reformation writers and glean the gems from their writings. Yet it is true that these two approach things from very different angles, and present alternative paths to spiritual growth. Bonaventure is a mystic, and though very educated, many today would struggle with the mystical path to spirituality. Yet for some it would be the right route. Erasmus on the other hand is extremely logical, and process oriented; he lays out clear rules and steps to be followed that will help to transform the individual and through the individual transformations help to transform society. Many would find this straightforward approach helpful in developing spiritual disciplines and these steps or rules would help them along in their journey.

For me personally, though both authors and approaches are attractive and intriguing to me, I find the systematic approach in Erasmus most appealing. Clear straightforward rules and guidelines would help me in my spiritual development and faith journey. They are something I can judge and see growth; there would be empirical evidence of progress. The guiding questions could be: Do I see a greater love of others? Do I fail/sin less often? Do I love God and others more than I did last week? Last month? Last year? And from the answers to these questions I could find the
areas in which more work and development would be needed.

In conclusion I believe that all believers are on a spiritual journey, and that all people are spiritual questers. Our quests, either that of to God or that of into God, are lifelong pursuits that we will only improve as people and as believers by seeking means of growth. Either the mystical road represented by Bonaventure, or the progression through rules seen in Erasmus will help us. Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind, states: "I must reiterate that Rousseau, Kant, Hegel and Nietzsche are thinkers of the very highest order. This is, in fact, precisely my point. We must relearn what this means and also that there are others who belong in the same rank." We are all questers, and can learn from those who have gone before us on this journey. Will we seek the knowledge of those who have gone before us and try and walk in their steps for some distance, or a long way, so that we will be challenged and grow through the process? Or will we try and go it alone? I believe that both Bonaventure and Erasmus would encourage us to: Journey on!

Endnotes:

  1. Scientia Cordis in The Beatitudes of Truth: Darton, Longman & Todd, New York 1998, p.150
  2. Thomas Merton, The Man, the Monk, on Monasticism, McEvoy, Steven R. November 25th 1998, p.2
  3. Philippians 3:12-16 NKJV p.867
  4. 1St Peter 1:5-8 NKJV p.905
  5. Biographical information taken from Tyson's An Introduction to Christian Spirituality, p.159-160
  6. A History of the Christian Church: 4th Edition, Walker et. Al. McMillian, 1985, p.338
  7. A History of the Christian Church: 4th Edition, Walker et. Al. McMillian, 1985, p.338-339
  8. A History of the Christian Church: 4th Edition, Walker et. Al. McMillian, 1985, p.408
  9. Catholicism Volume 2, McBrien, Richard P., Winston Press, Minneapolis, 1980, p.1066
  10. A History of the Christian Church: 4th Edition, Walker et. Al. McMillian, 1985, p.410
  11. The Christian Theological Tradition: Second Edition; Cory & Landry, Prenice Hall, Upper Saddle River, 2003, p. 256 (Advanced Reading Copy)
  12. A History of Christian Theology; Placher, William C., The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1893, p.184
  13. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.217
  14. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.220
  15. Edited from Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.221-222
  16. St. Irenaeus, as quoted in The Purpose Driven Life, Warren Rick, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2002, p.55
  17. The Closing of the American Mind. Bloom, Allan New York: Touchstone, 1987, p.240

Bibliography:

Tyson, John R. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. New York: Oxford UP, 1999

Cory, Catherine A. and Landry, David T. The Christian Theological Tradition:
Second Edition Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2003 (Advanced Reading Copy)

Placher, William C. A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction
Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1983

Walker, Williston. et al., eds. A history of the Christian Church: Fourth Edition New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1985

Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind.
New York: Touchstone, 1987

McBrien, Richard P. Catholicism Volume II
Minneapolis, Wnston Press, 1980

Nicholl, Donald. Scientia Cordis in The Beatitudes of Truth:
Darton, Longman & Todd, New York 1998

Warren, Rick. The Purpose Driven Life
Zondervan, Grand Rapids 2002

McEvoy, Steven R. Thomas Merton, The Man, the Monk, on Monasticism
Essay for P. Frick, RS 100K Fall 1998

Holy Bible New King James Version:
Nashville, TN, Thomas Nelson, 2003

(First written for RS231 Histroy of Christian Thought Fall 2003.)

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

God and Grief - An Essay

Can God be found in Grief?
Or is God Lost?

Both C.S. Lewis and Jerome A. Miller in their respective works, A Grief Observed and The Way of Suffering, deal with the questions of faith and doubt and love, in and through the process of grief. The question we will examine is: Did Lewis actually find God in a deeper way, or did he lose his God or understanding of God, through the grief he experienced at the loss of his wife Joy? Both of these scholars present very differently in the works we are examining: Lewis's writing is very raw and visceral and written in the moment of pain and grief and loss of his wife Joy, whereas Miller's argument is much more scholarly and is written as a clearly defined argument.

To begin with, Lewis himself stated in his book The Four Loves: "We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting t
hem and offering them to Him, throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it." This book by Lewis is an academic study of the four different loves. In A Grief Observed we have a very different approach. Lewis presents a very visceral response to the loss of his wife. An example of this is that Lewis states at the beginning of the book: "No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing." Where Miller declares in his paper: "God writes straight with crooked lines. The most crooked path conceivable is the one that leads us up to God by inviting us to follow the intimations that lead us straight down into our own nothingness." Lewis does indeed go down that path and comes out the other side with a new perspective and experience. (Note: Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis's stepson recently released a book about Lewis called Jack's Life. It includes a DVD interview, where Gresham states that Lewis did not intend to publish A Grief Observed; it was a personal notebook. When it was published it was under the pseudonym NW Clark and by a publisher Lewis had never published with. Gresham also said that Lewis received numerous copies of the book as gifts from friends who thought it would help.) Lewis's stepson Douglas Gresham shared in an interview how much Lewis grieved, yet came out the other end with an even deeper faith. He stated that he wrote the book about Lewis to share about the man he loved and respected, who was a true Christian gentleman.

Miller states: "When we lose the thing that gives us so clear, so perfect an intimation of something infinitely precious, loss seems the most deadly of wounds, dashing everything we have longed for. But what we never suspect, what we never in a million years would have thought to anticipate, is the simple truth that the only way we can ever find that infinitely loveable reality we have always looked for is by losing that very thing that has given us the most perfect intimation of it" Lewis comes to the same conclusion in a very different way. He declares: "God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't." Lewis has come to the conclusion that through the process and pain of his grief he has come back to God in a deeper, truer and more full way. He has learned how to love and love fully through this process. This is contrasted with what Lewis stated earlier in the book: "Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him." Lewis feared that he would come out of the process of grief with a distorted, evil view of God. Instead, he goes through this process with a belief in God.

Lewis describes Grief as a journey. "Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape. As I've already noted, not every bend does. Sometimes the surprise is the opposite one; you are presented with exactly the same sort of country you thought you had left miles ago. … There are partial recurrences, but the sequence doesn't repeat." Lewis went down that long journey and as Miller says, he comes out with a new insight, impression and experience of the divine. Miller states: "Those who have suffered a mortal loss, those who have allowed it to shatter them, know that God does not prevent it from happening."

Lewis states: "Yet that would have been best for me. Praise is the mode of love which always has some element of Joy in it. Praise is due order; of Him as the giver, of her as the gift. Don't we in praise somehow enjoy what we praise, however far we are from it?" When we compare that statement with Miller's: "In the other Case, something has happened to us at some point that broke through the surface and penetrated the most secret, intimate part of the self. Some agony, some joy, some terrible suffering, or some transporting ecstasy made us think, at least while it was happening, that we were in the presence of something of absolute transcendent importance." Lewis clearly made that progression; he has gone from anger to a greater experience of God through his suffering.

Endnotes:

Lewis, C.S., The Four Loves, Harper Collins, London, 1960 p.148
Lewis, C.S., A Grief Observed, Harper Collins, London, 1961 p.1
Miller, Jerome A., The Way of Suffering, Second Opinions, No. April, pp.21-23
Miller, Jerome A., The Way of Suffering, Second Opinions, No. April, pp.21-23
Lewis, C.S., A Grief Observed, Harper Collins, London, 1961 p.61
Lewis, C.S., A Grief Observed, Harper Collins, London, 1961 p.5
Lewis, C.S., A Grief Observed, Harper Collins, London, 1961 p.69
Miller, Jerome A., The Way of Suffering, Second Opinions, No. April, pp.21-23
Lewis, C.S., A Grief Observed, Harper Collins, London, 1961 p.72
Miller, Jerome A., The Way of Suffering, Second Opinions, No. April, pp.21-23

(Written for RS 100M Love & Friendship Fall 2006.)
(Click here for my review of A Grief Observed.)



Saturday, 14 June 2008

From Injury Back to Work Again Part III - The Light at the end of the tunnel.

From Injury Back to Work Again Part III
Retraining and all.

In this article we will examine the process and timeline from surgery back to work again. We will chronicle the days, weeks and months from surgery to a return to work if not a return to 100% health.

This part
of the journey began at St. Jospeh's Health Care Centre in London, Ontario. After many trips to the hospital over the last nine months, the time had finally come for surgery. After coming out from under the general anesthetic I would not be allowed to drive so I needed an escort to take me to London. My friend John Helmers accompanied me to the hospital. Before I was admitted to pre-op, a nurse went over the expectations for the day and what would happen, and John's role in looking after me after the surgery and on the return trip from London to Waterloo. After that we parted ways, and they began to prepare me for surgery.

As I do not recall the surgery I cannot comment on that part of the day's events. But they went in through my neck and did a nerve block, freezing the nerve for my arm in the neck rather than local on the shoulder. This was combined with the general anesthetic. After my surgery, they discovered that the nerve block must have hit the diaphragm also, because every time they tried to take me off oxygen my blood oxygen level would drop too low and I would have to be put back under the mask. I was expected to be discharged from the hospital around 1pm and it was after 5 before we were finally able to leave. What they did during the surgery was to go in and cut out the scar tissue from around the tear in the supraspinatus tendon. The surgeon also shaved bone from both the Acrommion and the Humerus to give more room for the tendon to swell when it gets inflamed.

After the surgery there were a few follow-up meetings with the surgeon. After the first 10 weeks, physiotherapy began again. This time it was only three days a week. For the first 12 weeks I did not even have doctor approval for driving so had to make arrangements for rides to and from appointments and treatment. So I was back and forth to Kinetex Rebab frequently. Then a determination was made between the surgeon and physiotherapist that the shoulder was as good as it was going to get; treatment would continue but with my employer being unable or unwilling to take me back with modified duties it was time to look at other long-term options. Permanent restrictions were put on my working. No repetitive or sustained work at shoulder height or above, no lifting above shoulder height of 10lbs or at shoulder height of 15 lbs. These were now permanent restrictions - something I will have to abide by the rest of my working life. If I choose to work and ignore these restrictions then WSIB will not cover any future problems. If I have abided by these rules and down the road the injury reoccurs, WSIB purchased a home TENS unit for me. A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a non invasive, drug-free, pain management modality, used for short-term acute pain or long-term chronic pain management. I can use it daily at home to help manage the discomfort and pain on an as-needed basis.


Since returning to my previous job was not possible and I now had permanent work restrictions, WSIB sent me to a subcontractor for a Labour Market Re-entry Assessment or Plan (LMR). The first time I met with my assessor I was more than a little disappointed. I went with copies of my high school and university transcripts, copies and samples of different resumes and cover letters that I had used. My worker's response was: "I don't know what to do with you; most of my clients have never finished high school, and I have to send them for aptitude testing before even looking at creating a plan and what type of schooling a client can do." At that time I was 4 credits short of graduating at the University of Waterloo. But because I was injured working construction, my worker would not even submit a plan to have me finish my university degree. So she created two plans and submitted them to my WSIB adjudicator for approval.

Unfortunately the plan that was decided upon was not well-planned or well-researched. It was created to get me in and out of school in the quickest way possible - to get me back in the work force. I began at triOS College to work on Microsoft Office Certification. I trained on two of the applications in the office suite and then moved to Laurel College, for the other three. Unfortunately triOS does not offer the certification exams for the courses done there and Laurel taught and offers exams on a different version of Office. Fortunately Laurel College allowed me to work at my own pace and I did the coursework, practice exam and certifications in Word, Excel, Access, Powerpoint and Outlook in 21 days - what is normally 12 to 15 weeks of private instruction. Then I had a week off and after that went back to trios. It had now been over 2 years since my original injury. Again my worker who planned the LMR did not realize that she had me in a part of a course that did not include the exam certificates allowing me to write the certification exams for all of the courses done in class. We had to go back to WSIB with a modification of the LMR to request the exam vouchers for the courses being worked on, and add courses to complete certain certification requirements.

There had been both good and bad along the road to recovery. For the first 17 Months I had the same adjudicator from WSIB. We developed a rapport and relationship. Then over the next 12 months I had at least 8 adjudicators, some of whom never returned or called before I was informed that I had a new one. The two years off work had been a mix of good and bad. Some of the instructors and staff at both triOS and Laurel College were great to work with. I was also able to be home the first year of my daughter's life, an opportunity many fathers do not get to have. On a down side, my wife had to return to work shortly after the birth because we could not afford for both of us to be on reduced income. I was also able to focus on developing my writing and spend more time at Imprint volunteering. It was a struggle being on reduced income and there were emotional trials of being off work for such a long period, and it caused some stress in the family. During my entire time off work I looked for a job that would not contradict my restrictions. I applied for many jobs and never heard a thing. Just as I was returning to triOS for my second stint there, a headhunter from Spherion Staffing contacted me because they had found my resume on Workopolis and thought I would be perfect for one of their clients. I did a couple of interviews but did not get the job. Then late in November they called again to see if I might be interested in interviewing for a different client. It was a hard decision; my schooling had been extended into February. Should I take a contract job and leave school and continue studying on my own?

I took the risk and accepted a contract position, through the headhunters, at Crawford. I had been hired to do IT support, which was what I was training for at triOS. I negotiated with the company managing my LMR and was able to transfer my unused tuition from leaving school early to extra book and exam vouchers to write more certification exams on my own. After my contract expired at Crawford I was hired on full time. My first day back to work as a fulltime employee was Monday March 10th 2008, almost 30 months to the day from the injury. I was now employed full time again.

My advice, since having gone through the system and meeting many at triOS who were doing the same, is to learn what you are entitled to, and fight for it. Find out about all your options and don't sign anything you do not agree with. Seek the advice of others who are going through the process and from professionals (Lawyers, Medical Staff etc.) and organizations or associations set up to help injured employees. Yet first and foremost protect yourself at work. Do not do something just because you are told to, if you think it is unsafe. If you have questions or doubts check it out before proceeding and hopefully you will never have to go through this kind of experience yourself.

(First published in Imprint 2008-06-13 as The Road to Recovery Part 3: The final installment of McEvoy's journey from injury to recovery. He undergoes surgery, explores his career options, and finally finds an employer who understands.)

(You can read Part1 and Part 2 by following the links. You can also follow my progress by checking here.)

Friday, 13 June 2008

Infinite Space, Infinite God edited by Fabian & Fabian

Infinite Space, Infinite God
Edited by Karina & Robert Fabian

Twilight Time Books

ISBN 9781933353623

www.isigsf.com

Religious-themed science fiction is not a new genre, from classics like A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller Jr., to nearly anything from Gene Wolfe. One of the best known collections was edited by Fr. Andrew M. Greeley called Sacred Visions. Yet this new volume of 15 short stories in the genre of Catholic Science Fiction is a treat for the fan of either genres. The authors tackle themes of morality, science, and the role of religion in humanity's future in new and engaging ways.

The authors present a future where both the church and science play roles; both are integral to human development and human self -understanding. Yet occasionally the two do clash. Lori Z. Scott's The Harvest, about a colony on the moon, with a Doctor priest who tries to balance healing both the body and the soul is one example. But how do you minister to a soul in a cloned HuNome who was grown for organ transplant purposes? (HuNomes are sub-humans with animal gene splices to better prepare the organs for transplants and as labourers building our colonies in space.) Adrienne Ray's story Hopkins' Well about settlements on Mars, where the Military is trying to maintain control of the planet against crazy Catholics that are part of a larger group of Christians, is another example. The final selection is A Cruel and Unusual Punishment about the Sinn Fein, and a man who calls himself a soldier while most of the world considers him a terrorist. Written around the Stations of the Cross, it is a story of the death penalty and an alternative that may have been worse. It is one of the most powerful pieces. Each of the stations begins with a quote from famous authors: William Blake, Thomas Merton, Evelyn Waugh and others, tying this vision of the future to our past.

This collection is great for introducing a reader to a wide range of authors in a short breadth, some whose styles you will love, some you will not and some you will be undecided about. The advantage of such a collection is you can discover new authors whose writings you will wish to pursue in greater depth.

As such, this collection will be a treat to any fan of Science Fiction, a religious Catholic, or just someone interested in the questions of spirituality and our future as we move forward through the millennium.

Books by Karina Fabian:
Magic, Mensa and Mayhem (2009)
Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator (2010)
Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life (2010)
Mind Over Mind (2011)

Edited by: Karina Fabian:
Infinite Space, Infinite God I (2007)
Leaps of Faith (2008)
Infinite Space, Infinite God II (2010)

Contributed to:
Firestorm of Dragons (2008)
The Zombie Cookbook (2009)
The Book of Tentacles (2009)
Twisted Fayrie Tales (2009)
FRIGHTLINER: And Other Tales of the Undead (2011)
Mother Goose is Dead (September 2011)

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

The Question of Love in Francois Mauriac's Vipers' Tangle - An Essay

Vipers Tangled and Untangled:
The Question of Love

The book Vipers' Tangle by Francois Mauriac is a very interesting story of a family told by the patriarch, Louis, who is embittered and angry at most of his family for most of the novel. The book is called Vipers' Tangle, yet those words do not appear till more than halfway through the book, and they appear five times between then and the end of the book. The reference to a viper's nest, or a tangle of vipers, always is in reference to people's hearts, either Louis referring to his own or to those of his family members.
In order to examine Louis' life as to the question of whether he loved, we will use Henri J.M. Nouwen's definition of love. For Nouwen, a person who experiences love is: "People might call us crazy idealist, an unrealistic dreamer, a first class romanticist, but it does not touch us very deeply because we know with a new form of certainty which we had never experienced before that peace, forgiveness, justice and inner freedom are more than mere words." Through examining changes in Louis's life, we will prove that, based on that criteria, Louis did indeed experience love and a changed heart. We will examine each of the instances of vipers in the book and through them some of the transformation incidences in Louis's life.

When Louis first refers to his heart as a knot of tangles he states: "Oh, above all don
't imagine that I have any very high idea of myself! I know this heart of mine - this heart, this tangle of vipers. Stifled under them, steeped in their venom, it goes on beating under the swarming of them: this tangle of vipers that it is impossible to separate, that needs to be cut loose with a slash of a knife, with the stroke of the sword." Louis is speaking about his heart and he knows that it is tied up in knots and at this point in our story, he does not care about that; in fact, he seems to take some pleasure in it.

In our next occurrence, the Vipers' Tangle has shifted from being Louis's heart to the hearts of his wife, children and grandchildren. He declares: "I had compared my heart with a tangle of vipers. No, no; the tangle of vipers was outside myself. They had gone out of me and rolled themselves together, that night. They formed that hideous circle at the foot of the steps, and the earth still bore their traces." Louis was referring to the family conference he overheard from his dressing room window. Louis heard them conspire to have him committed so they could get their hands on his money. Some interesting questions to consider are: did the vipers move back and forth between Louis and the family throughout the story because of a lack of love? Did they start in Louis and move to the family because of how he treated them, only to return grown and more entangled, to re-infest Louis? Was it a vicious cycle because they all failed to show love to each other?

Next Louis makes reference to the vipers in regards to members of his family, but this time it includes his bastard son, whom he was trying to provide for, and had become ensnared by the rest of the family. He is referring to how his son and son-in-law are enslaving the bastard son by their ensnarement of him. He states how he will crush this brood of vipers: "And I, witness of this struggle, which I alone knew to be useless and futile - I felt like a god, ready to crush these feeble insects in my powerful hand, to grind these entangled vipers under my heel; and I laughed." Here Louis sees the vipers as the family and he plans on destroying them.

Next Louis sees the vipers as a mistake, as a fault, and as something separate from the true nature of his heart; it is part of the turning point in Louis's life. He declares about himself: "I felt, I saw, I had it in my hands - that crime of mine. It did not consist entirely in that hideous nest of vipers - hatred of my children, desire for revenge, love of money, but also my refusal to seek beyond those entangled vipers. I had held fast to that loathsome tangle as though it were my very heart - as though the beatings of that heart had merged into those writhing reptiles." Louis has turned the corner from hate to love; his heart is here opening up again, first by realizing his mistakes, his wrongs and his sins, and he was now going to do something about it.

In t
he first instance that we examined about vipers, Louis was referring to cutting the vipers of his heart; here he finally seeks to make changes and make up for lost time. He declares: "I must not lose a moment in getting to know them, in making myself known to them. Should I have time to put my discovery to the test before I died, I would go straight to the hearts of my children, I would pass through everything that had separated us. The tangle of vipers was at last cut through. I should advance so quickly into their love that they would weep when they closed my eyes." Louis has been transformed and he makes commitments to making changes and transforming his relationships with his children.

These change are the evidence of a rebirth and a renewal in the heart of Louis. Early in this process he states: "Imagine waking up at sixty-eight - being born again on the point of dying! May I be given a few years more, a few months, a few weeks! …" Louis's change is even evidenced in a physical healing: "And I, too - I was isolated; but I was not in pain. Never had my heart given me such a long respite. During this fortnight and well beyond it, a radiant autumn lingered in the world." Louis asks for time to make changes, he has forgiven his family and now, after he has given up the hate and anger in his heart, he finds relief from physical symptoms and ailments that had plagued him for years. His emotional transformation has helped to heal his body.

Therefore, Nouwen has three conditions for true love, which are: truthful, tenderness, total disarmament, and he also states: "If we are willing to believe that wheat can only come to full maturity if we allow the weeds to exist in the same field, we don't have to be afraid of every conflict and avoid every engagement." Louis came to realize this very late in life - he came to understand that and to experience love. He says: "Never had the appearance of other people presented itself to me as something that must be broken through, something that must be penetrated, before one could reach them.
It was at the age of thirty, or at the age of forty, that I should have made this discovery. But today I am an old man with a heart that beats too slowly, and I watch the last autumn of my life."

Louis learned to see people as they were, not as they presented themselves. As such, he learned how to love, for he could love their true selves. And in learning to love himself and others, he can finally grieve for all that he has lost - time, Isa, Luc, Marie and so much more. Thus we must conclude that, yes, Louis did learn how to love, both himself and others.




End Notes:

Nouwen, Henri J.M., Intimacy Toronto: Harper Collins, 1981 p. 29 (Re-Issue)
Mauriac, Francois., Vipers' tangle Garden City, NY, 1957 p.104
Mauriac, Francois., Vipers' tangle Garden City, NY, 1957 p.128
Mauriac, Francois., Vipers' tangle Garden City, NY, 1957 p.141
Mauriac, Francois., Vipers' tangle Garden City, NY, 1957 p.173
Mauriac, Francois., Vipers' tangle Garden City, NY, 1957 p.175
Mauriac, Francois., Vipers' tangle Garden City, NY, 1957 p.169
Mauriac, Francois., Vipers' tangle Garden City, NY, 1957 p.185
Nouwen, Henri J.M., Intimacy Toronto: Harper Collins, 1981 p. 29-30 (Re-Issue)
Mauriac, Francois., Vipers' tangle Garden City, NY, 1957 p.174

(Written for RS 100M Love & Friendship Fall 2006.)

Monday, 9 June 2008

Favorite Desktop Backgrounds - Babylon 5 Part 3

The week of desktop backgrounds comes to an end. These are some more of my favorite Babylon 5 backgrounds. Many in this collection are obtained from from desktop starship's. This day 9 is the lost of my posts about my favorite desktop backgrounds. I change my background at erratic intervals. Some I leave on for months, but these one's that I have shared over 9 days of posts are all backgrounds I have used more than once, that I go back to time and time again. These are my favorites. I know there are programs that will change it daily, or even at set time intervals. now with Windows Vista Ultimate you can even have a live background movie play behind or underneath. But I keep going back to these images, and I hope you enjoyed at least some of them.

This is part of a series of posts on my favourite desktop backgrounds from the last 3 decades. You can read see the rest here: I wrote about my current one's on Day 1-Morbid Backgrounds and some of my favourites from the past on Day 2-Favorites, Day 3-Sci-Fi, Day 4-SciFi Part2, Day 5-Babylon5, Day 6-My Dad's Artwork, Day 7-Misc, Day 8-B5 Pt. 2. and Day 9B5-Pt. 3, The IT Crowd, Backyardigans, and Glee.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Favorite Desktop Backgrounds - Babylon 5 Part 2

The week of desktop backgrounds still continues on. These are some more of my favorite Babylon 5 backgrounds. Many in this collection are obtained from from desktop starship's. And at day 8 it is abvious that I dont know what a week consists of.

This is part of a series of posts on my favourite desktop backgrounds from the last 3 decades. You can read see the rest here: I wrote about my current one's on Day 1-Morbid Backgrounds and some of my favourites from the past on Day 2-Favorites, Day 3-Sci-Fi, Day 4-SciFi Part2, Day 5-Babylon5, Day 6-My Dad's Artwork, Day 7-Misc, Day 8-B5 Pt. 2. and Day 9B5-Pt. 3, The IT Crowd, Backyardigans, and Glee.