1. I was born in Mexico…where I lived for the first six years of my life. I still have family there, and as a child, we used to visit once or twice a year. I remember very little Spanish…but few places feel more like home than the red soil of central Mexico. While I have been a Canadian citizen for almost 30 years, those early (now gone to my conscious thought) memories of Mexico still serve as a quiet comforter of a different world. At times, when feeling overwhelmed, I flirt with aspirations of abandoning the world which is “too much with us” (to abuse Wordsworth), and adopting a monk-like life of reflection, gardening, and writing. I imagine we all have those thoughts at times. The impetus for mine rest in the simple experience of early childhood without electricity and its attendant busy-ness. I still recall evenings of conversation centered on a flickering oil-lamp. Shadows dancing on walls, faces glowing with amber-red light, the air filled with the musty smell of burning oil, smoke spiraling from the lamp, tossed by air currents and exhaled laughter, and world views shaped by personal stories and dialogue (rather than impersonal newspaper articles of news casts). These simple images clash sharply with my current digital lifestyle of “always connected”. The lamp-lit conversations have given way to LCD-lit dialogue. Generations apart, but in one lifetime.
2. School was not valued by my parents (and the culture I grew up in). I was expected to drop out of school at 16 (the age required by students in Manitoba) and enter the work force. Practical contributions, not lofty thought and learning, were the primary expectations of our community. I didn’t drop out of school, even though I hated it. I think it was more of an expression of defiance than a philosophical move. In grade 9, I concluded that school was largely a norming process. Intended to students toward the un-exceptional…curbing the edges of what makes humanity exciting and provocative, and replacing it with a nauseating sameness. If you’ve seen Pink Floyd’s The Wall, the conveyor belt scene, as grotesque as it is, expresses my views nicely.
3. Religion played an important part of my childhood. We attended an ultra-conservative church (television and anything “worldly” was forbidden…my first contact with computers required a reorganization of my theology). Instead of watching TV, after school, I worked for 6 hours helping my parents, and spent the balance of the night reading. After I read all of the fiction books of interest in our local library, I started reading books on subjects in which I had no real interest (pop psychology and other “soft sciences”) but helped pass the time. Faith still plays a central role in my life (I’m one of those dwindling North American church-goers. Prayer, meditation, and Bible reading remain a daily activity). I have too much faith to fully relate to people without a spiritual bent, and too much doubt to relate to people who are more pure in their spiritual world view. A spiritual no-man’s land (excuse the gender specification – what’s the alternative? “no-person’s land”?). But I have long maintained that logic and deep critical thought, coupled with strong faith and comprehension beyond temporal structures, are the only keys which unlock the unknowns of this world (both scientific and the inner workings and motivations of being human). And yet, I am always reluctant to speak on these bases least I offend. Is it respect for others or personal weakness? I don’t know.
4. I was a horrible student. My average grade was 51%. I didn’t connect well with teachers, principals, or authority figures. In my grade 12 year of high school, I was suspended 6 times and finally expelled. I had to humble myself and plead to be admitted back the next year to finish high school. I did much better the second time around . Random people possessing authority by situation and circumstance, not merit, is a notion to which I am still not able to consistently reconcile my behaviour.
5. My early career aspirations were a) ornithologist or b) medical doctor. I became so focused on pursuing medicine, I started writing out Grays Anatomy (I made it through the human scull and lost interest…I even attempted to duplicate the drawings). Instead, I opted to pursue a career in hospitality (I started working in restaurants when I was 15 years old). I purchased my first restaurant when I was 21, and over the next several years…between my brother and I, we owned and managed seven different restaurants, ranging from drive-ins to formal dining. Nothing kills a person’s personal life faster than managing and owning a restaurant.