I have four friends.
OK, more than four, some of which are closer, and much more present in my life.
But these four are special to me. By all societal standards, they are perfect - smart, honourable, funny, law-abiding and immeasurably sane. And if that weren't enough, all four of them are gorgeous. If my self-esteem were shoddy, I'd think twice about hanging out with them because they could make me look pretty bad.
I've known them for years. Three are ex co-workers I stayed in touch with, and one a fellow baseball mom I grew close to over four years of watching our kids play ball. Seems like a lifetime ago.
They had always accepted my outlandish views of the world to varying degrees, but didn't particularly care for them. It certainly wasn't why we got along then.
We'd stayed in irregular contact, touching base every so often. But that changed over the course of the last few months as they began reaching out to me, more frequently, behind the scenes. And although they never commented on my posts, they certainly had questions. Nagging doubts. Concerns, as they were trying to make sense of what was unfolding. Things weren't adding up.
Sphinx and Pixie were biding their time, waiting for this whole vaccine thing to play out before jumping head first into something that was so new. Cappy was even more reluctant, naturally inclined to avoiding pharm medicine whenever possible.
Gem was a different story. Fully on board with the original covid planning committee, she got the shots and wasn't shy to confront me on social media when I shared my refusal to get mine, once lashing out so angrily I was dumbfounded. But I let it settle and wash over me. It's the price you sometimes pay for sharing unpopular views, but I wasn't going to lose the friendship over it. I also sensed there was something else going on, and whatever it was, she deleted the tirade the next day. Maybe hoping I hadn't seen it, and not knowing for sure - till now - that I did. It never came up.
So it was all the more surprising when I started to see Gem, out of all people, turn around. Openly acknowledging that it was enough with the mandates, that things had gone too far, and that she would not get the booster.
Pixie and Sphinx were far more reserved. At least publicly, and for a long time. Never having identified with the conspiracy crowd, they suffered in silence as they watched friends and family increasingly getting the shot, and felt pressure to do the same, coming dangerously close to giving in at times, but in the end standing their ground.
Cappy was always very quiet. She wouldn't shy away from saying where she stood if asked, but she was definitely not using a bullhorn to make any loud statements. And having just given birth, she had a whole set of additional burdens to face, and more than any of us, she worried about her child's future. She was even considering moving back to her corrupt home country in Eastern Europe, because they were less restrictive than Canada. Imagine.
So I spent months speaking with them privately, on and off, behind the scenes, away from the public stage of social media. Never telling them what to think. Trying to answer what I could, which wasn't much. Leaving them the time and space to come to their own conclusions.
And research they did. Before I knew it, they all turned into little private detectives. Many times they were the first to inform me of a new development, an interesting fact they stumbled upon, an article I would have never known about. When part of your social media family is the echo chamber, you hear many things over and over. These girls were finding stuff nobody else was.
But mostly, they were finding their voices. The more they read, the more they discovered, the more determined they became. Slowly, they started speaking up and pushing back. Kindly, respectfully, but insistently. Challenging family and friends. Sphinx left her mask at home, getting away with it in a couple of stores, and dealing with being confronted by the security clerk in another. Not to mention joining in on the truckers' rally, an afternoon we spent together on the overpass cheering on the loudly honking semis passing underneath with Canadian flags. Pixie found like-minded people to connect with in her new neighbourhood and is now editing a local paper reflecting these views while battling her employer who is making her take two PCR tests a week. Cappy, the quiet one, has come out with public social media posts that leave no room for doubt as to where she stands. And Gem, well, Gem never took any prisoners to begin with.
In many ways, their voices matter more than those who were skeptical from the beginning. Because they had always been conventional and taken the world at face value. Because of their ability to question and challenge their own views, and their willingness to arrive at new conclusions. Because of their courage to face a world that is hostile to unpopular views, finding themselves in completely foreign territory.
It's easy for anyone to dismiss the conspiracy-minded nutcase with the tinfoil hat. Not so much the friend you always respected and whose judgment you trusted. The impact of that person suddenly changing her tune can't be understated.
So there lies my hope. That there are more such courageous spirits out there. It's not enough to quietly agree in the background anymore. It's time to push back. Speak up. Be loud. Take a stand. Not just on principle itself, or that it's the authentic and honest thing to do, but because it may give someone else with quiet doubts of their own the courage to do the same, and maybe inspire someone else in return.
It's becoming more difficult to collectively ignore us. We're waking up and gaining ground, and before you know it, we will be an army with enough power to break down the door of the cage we've been living in for the past two years.
It was the middle of May when my then 7-year-old son, seemingly out of the blue, asked me about Santa Claus.
I had never promoted Santa much because I didn't particularly like the idea of misleading my boys. But I also didn't want to deprive them of what was a supposedly magical idea, nor ruin it for their friends at an early age. So although I'd mention Santa in connection with Christmas, more in passing than anything else, I never hyped it up or had them send wish lists to the North Pole, and I certainly never threatened them with Santa not coming if they misbehaved.
But then there it was.
"Does Santa Claus exist?"
I don't know what possessed him to ask this question on a beautiful spring day that couldn't be further removed from anything Christmas, but he did, when I least expected it. I was definitely not prepared. And yet, like all parents when the time comes, I had to answer something.
I knew it couldn't be a simple yes or no. A yes would be a lie, a no might shatter his innocent world. Not something I could do lightly.
I let it sink in. Tried to process it, put myself in his little mind. Figuring out what to say felt like an eternity.
And then it just happened. I didn't provide an answer, I asked. Carefully.
"Nicky, if Santa Claus didn't exist - are you sure you would want to know?"
It was his turn to process the question. It felt like another eternity.
And then he answered.
I said nothing else. He said nothing else. That was it. A silent understanding. That Santa did not in fact exist, but that my son wasn't ready to hear it just yet. Asking for a bit more time to digest it. On his own terms.
And eventually, he did of course, although he didn't hear it from me. As with most children, the confirmation came from his friends who were all slowly waking up to this reality, some sooner, some later.
If I haven't forgotten it, it's because it was a big lesson, namely that you have to meet people where they are. You can't just bash them over the head with the truth and expect them to thank you for it.
New realities take time to absorb, and some, for reasons of their own, prefer to continue living an illusion. It makes life bearable. It gives hope. The world isn't always a welcoming place. Reality is challenging enough without throwing a bomb into the mix.
The adult world is not much different. The greatest discoveries, even the harshest truths, are strictly DIY. We hear a tidbit of information that makes us question our world view, and we let that settle for a while. And when we're ready, we begin to ask questions. We research. Find our own answers. Turn to others who may already be on that road, further ahead in the distance, asking for input and guidance as we navigate this jungle of new information. We re-adjust our position in light of said new info, and depending on the severity of the issue at hand, we deal with the fallout of people around us suddenly not recognizing us anymore.
We mourn our old truth, we grieve the world we are leaving behind.
It's an emotional process, not an intellectual one, and it can't be rushed. Common sense and logic, statistical data and proof carry very little weight. There are many well-meaning people who, convinced that they hold the truth in the palm of their hand, believe that simply throwing facts and information at the misguided is sufficient. They expect an immediate reversal of position, and when it doesn't play out that way, become upset and resort to mocking and name-calling, in an equally emotional reaction. Insults like "sheeple", "brainwashed", "zombies" - and, ironically, accusing them of believing in Santa Claus - are not only counterproductive, they are downright self-sabotage. Think back to your own process of awakening and remember how you got there. Did it happen over night? Did you simply let someone convince you, or did you do the leg work yourself? Would it have helped had you been judged, demeaned and ridiculed for not immediately seeing the light?
Didn't think so.
You can't have it both ways. If someone, in your eyes, has seriously barked up the wrong tree, you can either sincerely try to help them consider an alternate reality, or you can get them to dig in their heels just a little harder. Nobody likes to be told what to do, even less what to think.
And it helps to remember that we may, just may, be wrong. Maybe not completely, and maybe not critically, but keeping an open mind also keeps us humble, and less forceful in our assertions. Intellectual arrogance is suicide.
I'm not saying to shy away from speaking your mind. State your position. Be absolutely clear about where you stand, and make no apologies for it. Whatever you do, have the courage to share what you know, present the facts, and make your case. Plant the seed - but then, let it go. You don't control the outcome. They will either receive it or they won't, but there's nothing else you can do except be there for them to answer questions should they have any, and give them comfort as they pick up the pieces of a sacred worldview that has been smashed to smithereens.
I don't know at what point my son made it to the stage of acceptance, but I do know this: it wasn't proof. It wasn't evidence. And it wasn't him accidentally catching me in the act, placing the presents under the tree. It was peer pressure, plain and simple. Watching an ever larger group of friends no longer on board with the Santa myth, and wanting to remain part of that crowd. Not wanting to be ostracized for thinking differently or hanging on to a concept that was clearly passé.
So it begs the question - what would have happened if the world around him had continued to play along? What if everyone, into adulthood, had continued referring to Santa Claus as a legitimate entity? What if the media had discussed him like they do politicians? What if, year after year, gifts inexplicably showed up under the tree on Christmas morning? What if the occasional doubt was quashed with ridicule and shame? What then?
It's easy to laugh it off. Nobody thinks of themselves as that gullible.
Yet this is our world. One where groupthink prevails. One where the pressure to conform outweighs all rationale and defies all logic. Where people who dare question anything mainstream are made to feel outcast. The need to belong, to not rattle the cage or ruffle any feathers, is extremely powerful. It takes a strong person to persevere and seek the answers to the bitter end.
And so maybe it's no wonder that people hang on to their view of the world, safely tucked away inside a bubble of comfort and pleasure, desperately trying to keep it from bursting.
The process of enlightenment is a destructive one. If you truly feel compelled to contribute to it, do it with kindness. With heart, and with respect. At the very least, abstain from ridicule, anger and frustration. Stick to the facts. Take the emotion out of it. Don't be preachy.
Because I absolutely promise you - you will otherwise lose them forever.
When the crisis began, I was as scared as the next person. We in the western world had never encountered any such thing, and there were so many unknowns, and too many unanswered questions.
And just like everyone else, I suddenly became, at least temporarily, afraid of touching doorknobs or getting close to anyone who sneezed. I even stopped pulling my gloves off with my teeth, and that's saying a lot.
But before long, things began not adding up, the details of which are another matter for another day, and a different blog entry altogether.
I started to read, a LOT. I got informed as much as I could.
And I began to see the writing on the wall.
They said flatten the curve. Stay home for 2 weeks. Do the social distancing thing. Luckily for me, the industry I work for - newspapers, therefore media - is considered an essential service, and I never had to quarantine. Even more luckily for me, I have a rather unconventional workplace, a little anarchistic. Rules are only enforced when they make sense. Otherwise, as long as you get the work done, nobody cares how you do it.
So my own world didn't change much, but the one around me did. And slowly, I observed the slippery slope that began with lockdowns, rules on how many people could be in a store, and which side of the road one could walk on. I warned people that before they knew it, masks would be made mandatory. Narratives about being responsible for your granny's death had me worried about people being forbidden to visit their grandparents. Rules made in the name of safety had me worried about exponentially stricter restrictions - where one could go, how many people could assemble privately, if the police might stop us and ask for ID. Talks about a potential vaccine had me worrying about the possibility of a vaccine being made mandatory.
I was called a nut, a conspiracy theorist. I was asked by family and friends, politely, to stop it already with all the negative talk and fearmongering. Yes, I was the fear-mongerer.
And then it all happened. Some of it not to completion just yet, but there's no disputing that vaccines are being pushed, with Bill Gates aiming for "the whole world" to be inoculated. But gradually, each one of them reared its ugly head.
So did the well-meaning accusers relent? Stop to take the pulse? Admit I may have been right? Become alarmed in any way?
They just shrugged their shoulders and reacted with a symbolic "OK, then". Went along with the whole kit and kaboodle of impositions, restrictions, warnings and threats.
The litany of consequences, mocked as a conspiracy up to that point, suddenly became just another fact of life. No resistance. No questions. No pushback. Just blind, quiet acceptance of this new normal which was anything but.
I was stunned.
Any appeals to proof being in the pudding, to logic, to their heart or their common sense hit a brick wall. There was no reaching them. I had no choice but to keep moving, and so I did. Hoping that, in time, they would see what I saw.
The starting point is where we diverge. Theirs is the present. They live in a world where the future, and the outcome, is undetermined, and so they adapt to their changing world as they go along, somehow trusting the process and the good intention of all those in charge.
My starting point is the future as I see it already planned out, rolling back to the present moment and seeing how the powers that be are molding it to make it lead to the intended goal.
But it's more than that.
I've discovered, as harsh as it seems to say, that people love their servitude. They crave rules and regulations that establish which lines they are not meant to cross. It takes the responsibility off their hands. Just like a child who needs boundaries for a sense of safety, many adults have not grown out of that need. Having someone decide for them keeps them neatly in line, and they don't have to break their heads over where that line might be. It serves them well. So like a child, they feel safety in being told by what time to be home, which friends they can see, where they are allowed to go and what they should be wearing. Sure, they mumble and grumble about the rules, but they ultimately bow to the authority that threatens them with consequences should they disobey.
But then, it's even more than that.
People have this inborn need to bond over shared experiences. In an office of superficially connected coworkers, news about Amy over in advertising having lost her son to suicide suddenly makes everyone feel united in their concern and compassion. An accident maims someone on the construction site and everyone comes together in grief. A company has to close its doors and everyone becomes best friends. For a while anyway.
Nowhere is all of this more pronounced than in the army, where obeying commands is a matter of life and death, especially when fighting in the field. Add to that the sense of brotherhood, of living an existence where tomorrow is not promised, the critical importance of having each other's back, the bond strengthened by a common ideal, that of fighting for one's country and its freedoms, and you have it all in one package.
When they return, they often fall apart, as they can't find their footing in a "real" world that is so devoid of all those things. No more strict rules, nothing to fight for, nothing to connect over.
Prison is another example. Of course nobody wants to be behind bars. But inside, you are safely contained. There is structure, and there are rules. You have an excuse to be passive, and even play the victim.
Outside, freedom comes with a sense of responsibility, that of doing the right thing even if you can get away with NOT doing the right thing. Self-discipline is a requirement, accountability a must, and all of those are extremely difficult to carry when you're not governed and micro-managed. A parole-board friend of mine, facing an inmate who was eligible to leave at the 1/3 term of his sentence, found him begging her to allow him to continue serving time until the mandatory 2/3 because he felt that he would derail as soon as he got out.
So it becomes apparent that people crave rules. It doesn't matter if they constantly change - and yes, I get it, part of it is adjusting to new realities as things evolve. But there was a time, somewhere in the last 10 months, when masses of people wore rubber gloves. That's gone. A time when cities created "walking corridors" and people made laaarge circles around each other when they crossed paths. That's also a thing of the past. A time when all we heard was stats on deaths, but now that the deaths have plummeted, the narrative has changed to "cases" (how they are counted, again, a subject for another day). Masks were initially considered ineffective, then suddenly effective, and they remain enforced even though the WHO itself has openly backtracked and admitted that their effectiveness is disputable. The idea of curfews, early on, was tossed out, because that was a measure that should only apply in wartime or in the face of terrorism. Now they are par for the course.
Whether the rules are short-lived or long-term, they are all headed in one direction, one evermore restrictive direction.
And so this becomes the question: Where's your line? Because you're going to need to establish one. Ten months ago, you laughed at me when I suggested what might be coming, and you never imagined it to play out, or that you would ever go along with it, yet here you are. Will you comply when you have to get a test to prove you're negative just to go to the movies? Will you accept biometric chips to keep your job? Will you go along with wearing masks for an undetermined amount of time? For how long, you ask. I dunno - you tell me. What's acceptable to you? Another six months? A year? Five? More? How about forever, is that ok? And don't say that's not going to happen, because you said that about a half dozen other things, too.
Will you get the experimental vaccine? If you say no, like the majority, will you cave when you can't board a plane without one? Can no longer get certain health benefits? Or send your kids to school?
Where. Is. Your. Line?
Because it seems you have already crossed it many times over as they keep shifting the goalposts.
You are not at their mercy. You don't have to blindly trust, and follow, and obey the rules. You are perfectly free, capable of thinking for yourself, using common sense, being responsible for your health and that of others, even if the relentless media coverage tries to instill fear and render you paralyzed.
You are NOT selfish for asking to be treated as a responsible adult. For wanting to be autonomous. For asking that your rights, as written in the Constitution, be preserved. For protecting your body from a vaccine without being punished for it. You are not selfish for wanting to see your aging mother, or long time friends. For wanting to take a stroll at midnight. For living as a free human being.
Ultimately, it comes down to this - you can stay in prison, behind the bars of safety, security, restrictions and rules.
Or you can draw your line, push back and reclaim your freedom.
It will have to be one or the other.
Self-esteem. Like opinions and belly buttons, everybody's got theirs, and we are quick to categorize ours - and others'! - as good or bad, high or low. On a scale of one to 10, you may have already rated your own - what is it? A decent 7? An average 5? A perfect 10? A down-on-your-luck, hard-on-yourself 2? Whatever your answer, it's probably fairly easy to come up with a number.
Unlike opinions and belly buttons, however, self-esteem is not usually referred to in its plural form, "self-esteems". It would almost sound as if you were opening up about your split personality disorder.
But in reality, the number you came up with is an instinctive average, comparable to a GPA, where each self-esteem sub-set is multiplied by varying coefficient factors, resulting in a total that is then divided by X to give a nice overall number. And just like with a GPA, you may excel in math but suck at geography, and that average would not reflect the reality of either.
And so it is with self-esteem - our average does not tell the full story, nor does it properly reflect the sometimes wildly fluctuating extremes that inhabit our personas.
After all - is your relationship self-esteem as good as your work self-esteem, or do you regularly kick butt in the workplace, confidently putting out fires, only to come home to an emotionally unavailable partner who makes you feel small? Is your social self-esteem as good as your intellectual one, or are you fully confident about your brain but zero confident when it comes to making small-talk conversation in a setting where you feel judged? Is your initiative and problem-solving self-esteem as good as that of your body image, or do you feel like you're up to any challenge - à la James Bond – all the while suffering from looking more like a James Blob?
If you rated each area individually on that same scale of 1 to 10, wouldn't there be variations from one area to the next? And in some cases, massive variations?
As if that weren’t enough, there are even imbalances and apparent contradictions within the same type of category, such as body image. Some people love their bodies and their looks and have no trouble being seen and noticed. They are in shape and healthy and fall into the category of good looks as defined by society. Yet, when it comes to intimacy, they are suddenly body-shy and need time, sometimes lots of it, before opening up to someone physically. And the opposite happens, too – there are those who, in public, try to cover up all the obvious and damning physical flaws they can identify, but suddenly become free-spirited hippies open to one-night-stands behind closed doors.
And so although it's OK to run with the median version of our self-esteem, it's also important to distinguish between those areas where we feel good about ourselves, and those we need to work on, and there’s nothing wrong with leaning on the former to improve the latter, as long as it doesn’t become a crutch.
Self-esteem is not about being good at something, although having it can help us develop certain skills, and discovering that we’re good at something can help us build it. But at its core it means knowing your worth, regardless of people and circumstances. It’s being fine with exactly how you are, accepting your gifts as well as your limitations. It means trusting yourself that “you’ve got this” - no matter what the “this” turns out to be – without feeling intimidated, all the while being able to set boundaries and walk away once you realize a situation has become unhealthy, or toxic, or draining, or counterproductive, or unsustainable.
This is also not about bravado, so don’t get fooled by the one who talks the loudest, brags the most or has the nicest house. On the contrary – I would dare say that these are the ones often covering up for their perceived insecurities. Those with truly good self-esteem don’t feel they have anything to prove.
Unsurprisingly, there are some interesting distinctions particularly when it comes to gender (and yes, I’m going with the standard binary male-female system for simplicity’s sake). In the area of work, for example, a job wanted ad may list the 10 requirements a candidate should ideally possess. Time and again, studies have shown that women tend to apply only if they check off all 10 points, while men are happy with 6 out of 10 and figure they will wing the rest - a direct result of the impact of self-esteem, as females are still playing catch-up to the can-do spirit of the once predominantly favored male working world.
But there are some particularly interesting dynamics when it comes to relationships. As young people begin exploring and dealing with all of its tangents – attraction, feelings, hormones – and peer pressure arises from who has done what (or at least this was the case in my time, apparently today’s generation is much better at not caring, or so they say), it turns out that the greater the male’s self-esteem, the earlier he tends to become sexually active because he has the confidence to pursue the girl, ask her out and initiate physical contact. Girls with good self-esteem, however, tend to wade into those waters later, because they in turn have enough self-esteem to be able to say - and mean - no, and wouldn’t go along with something against their better judgment.
Later, when we settle down long-term, we tend to choose a partner with a similar level of self-esteem as ours. If you're a 6, then there is potential with a 7or a 5, but you'd be too much of a work-in-progress for a 9, and way out of a 1's league. Like seeks like, and often, a relationship will no longer function if one of the partners undergoes a noticeable shift in self-esteem. And there is a split along the gender lines as well: When relationships do fall apart after many years, more often than not women tend to leave because they’d rather be alone, while men leave because they’ve found somebody else. Generalizing of course, but it’s frequent enough to make it an overall trend. And it’s the result of female self-esteem tending to improve with age, and male self-esteem not faring quite as well.
So how do you explain abusive relationships? The person being mistreated clearly has work to do on their self-esteem, while the abuser appears to be the one with the power - or so it seems. But of course that's not power, it's also low self-esteem. Neither individual has any self-worth - one of them has somehow accepted they don’t deserve to be treated with respect, and the other believes the only way they will keep a partner is through control, humiliation and threats, and that nobody would ever love who they are at the core.
So how do you build it? There are a thousand books on the subject, and therapy is probably a good way to go if you are serious about working on the weaker subsections of your self-esteem, so I’m not going to re-invent the wheel. But it starts with awareness, and being able to name it, and then questioning whether the story you are telling yourself is really what you believe or just a tape, constantly replaying messages received from your environment when you were young. As an adult, you need to find a way to re-write the script. And if you’re a parent, you need to nip it in the bud for the next generation.
A note to all well-meaning parents who think that this is done by telling their kids "You can be ANYthing!" (no pressure, no pressure at all) and do nothing but indiscriminately praise every little achievement - stop doing that. These kids will grow into teenagers who are clueless about what exactly makes them as great as their parents say, without a proper sense of self or how to fill the void that was always auto-fed by their environment. You have to feed them from the inside. Listen to them. Ask them questions and let them figure things out. It's empowering. Ask for their input, or their view of things, and laugh with them, often.
You want kids who value themselves as grown-ups? Then start by valuing them. There's a scene in the movie Breakfast Club where Andrew, the jock, and basket-case Allison open up about their parents, and Andrew asks "What do they do to you?" and she answers "They ignore me."
Harm done. And difficult to repair.
I was blessed with a mother whose love was generous, and authentic, and warm, and full of physical affection, and when she would look at me, she would have this sparkle in her eyes. I owe her a debt of gratitude for allowing me to have grown up feeling unconditionally loved, and as a result having tons of love to give, whether it is to family or friends or to humanity in general or, of course, in relationships.
But I was lucky, too, as life somehow aligned with this and spared me serious damage. When I was 6 I had a huge crush on my 16-year-old swimming teacher, and so one day I approached him and flat-out asked him if he would marry me (this was pretty much the last time the topic ever came up in my lifetime as marriage is a concept I do not grasp and can’t relate to). You would think this gorgeous guy with the long curls would have laughed in my face, or at least casually brushed me off, but no – he smiled and looked me in the eye and said “Sandra, we’re both still very young, what do you say we wait a little?” And that made complete sense to me, as I happily went on my merry way assuming it was just a matter of time, and not a rejection of me as a person - something I somehow carried my entire life. I was only broken up with once – at 13, tough one! – and had the one mandatory unhealthy relationship (I believe it’s a prerequisite in the school of life) in my early 20ies, but aside from that, no, relationships were never my Achilles’ heel.
Don’t ask me, however, about my work or, God forbid, career self-esteem. Even there, the roots go far back. Despite all the maternal love and affection, other messages fell along the lines of “You can’t”, “You’ll never be able to”, “Let me do it”. And so when came time to pick a field of studies, I went with Translation, because languages was the only thing I knew I was good at, and I was unaware of any other criteria. As it turned out, I intensely disliked translation, although I still do it in my volunteer work and it fulfils me in that sense. But not as a job.
No, the career thing is still being untangled as we speak. And by career I don’t mean the status, or the money, the rewards or the benefits – I mean having the confidence to go out there and make a living off something I love to do and that fulfils me, rather than doing it in my spare time while I work a job that pays the bills. But that’s my next project, and it’s never too late to get yourself to a better place, no matter the area of life.
Time is on your side. One of the benefits of ageing truly is caring less what others think, feeling comfortable in your own skin, choosing your battles, knowing when to let go, making choices that are authentic, having less patience for the pointless and investing in what truly matters. You come to realize that you’ve overcome challenges you never would have believed possible had you known about them in advance, and yet here you are.
So it’s time to turn off the tape, rewind it and hit “record” with a new message suited not to the person you’ve been told you were and would always be, but to the person you want to become and really are.
It came down to laughing out loud or choking on my coffee, and the result, I can assure you, wasn’t pretty.
As a lifelong INFJ personality type*, otherwise known as the Advocate, I had no idea that this was a thing among the 1% of us who belong in this category, let alone that it had a name - accompanied by “infamous”, no less, according to more than one source, as I later discovered.
I felt like I had been called out. It caught me so off guard that I reacted viscerally, and I have the coffee stains to prove it.
So yes - the infamous INFJ door slam.
In all fairness, the label is rather harsh. A door slam suggests anger and aggression, or at least some version of a temper tantrum. It implies an emotional reaction that occurs in the heat of the moment, evoking images of broken dishes, punctuated by words that can’t be unsaid. Anybody who knows an INFJ type will tell you that this is pretty much the exact opposite of everything they embody.
Yes, they are sensitive, but emotional they are not.
And yes, they are also critical, but they don’t judge. Or at least they try very hard not to.
Advocates may profoundly disagree with you, but they will never make you feel small for your differing opinion, and if anything, they will welcome opposing viewpoints, if only to improve their own understanding of how other people’s brains work. Theirs is a world of principles, mostly, and they care very much about practising what they preach. One of those things is respect.
They can handle people’s anger, and they understand lashing out as coming from a place of pain and internal misery. None of that is by definition disrespectful. They know not to take personally what wasn’t intended as such and accept that people react defensively in the moment, patiently waiting for them to come back around once the moment has passed.
INFJ personality types don’t particularly enjoy taking the high road, oftentimes cursing it under their breath. But they can see the destruction ahead if they don’t, and simply choose to take one for the team. More often than not, they will give you more than a couple of chances. The benefit of the doubt. Space to decompress. A soft place to fall. We’re all human, after all.
But then there’s that line. It’s part of their INFJ-DNA. A shield that separates the wild west that is the rest of the world from this personality type’s sacred core. It carries a sign that says “Do not cross”. You probably can’t see it, and even if you could, you might be bewildered at what constitutes a chargeable offense. In your mind, you’ve said or done so much worse, and now this – this?? – is considered a dealbreaker?
Well, yes. Because while those other things were selfishly impulsive and thoughtless, they were, for the most part, understandable and forgivable. What crosses the line is the act that is deliberate, unprovoked and unjustified. One that leaves no doubt about how little the person at the receiving end matters to the one dishing it out.
In that moment, INFJ types will feel like the rug got pulled out from under their feet. The act itself needs not be of great significance or consequence. But it says everything it needs to say with its underlying message: “You’re not important.” “You’re not worth the effort.” “You mean nothing to me.” And while Advocates will bend over backwards for you, they don’t expect the same in return – on the contrary, it would make them uncomfortable. But to be dismissed with the back of a hand is something else entirely, and that, they can’t overcome.
INFJ types know better than to react in that moment. Yes, they will feel everything you would expect them to – pain, disbelief, anger – but they will wait for the wave to pass before making any attempt at even assessing the situation. The very last thing they want is to act irrationally, under the influence of a torrent of emotions. But once the dust has settled, and they are back in control of their mental faculties, and they are certain that they have not misinterpreted what was said, done or not done – and God knows they question their perceptions to an unnerving degree and allow a tremendous amount of leeway for the possibility of being wrong - eventually they reach that moment of clarity. They have seen you for what you are, and will ensure that this never happens again.
And so they proceed not so much to slam the door on you but rather to methodically and quietly simply erase you out of their existence. No exchanges, no memories, no feelings, no mementos.
It’s not being done to you, see it instead as an act of self-preservation. They didn’t get there over night, and they don’t do this lightly. But once it becomes clear that who you are cannot co-exist with who they are, it emerges as the only logical thing left to do.
There are many personality types, no doubt, that have their own version of the door slam, but what marks this one is the cold contrast to the Advocate’s usually rather warm disposition, the awareness with which it’s carried out, and its finality.
And the thing is, you may not even know that it happened. If they don’t have a choice but to deal with you, like in the workplace, they will remain pretty cordial. They just won’t feel anything anymore – no good will, no empathy, no resentment, just nothing at all. You may as well be a cardboard cutout of yourself. If you were, up until this point, in sporadic contact you may just think that life happens and that people move on for no particular reason. And if you were close, well then yes, you would likely know that you overstepped. But if you’re not sure, you can always ask.
In a lifetime, this doesn’t happen very often, but I can assure you that every INFJ can remember every instance, no matter how deep or superficial the relationship was.
Is there a way back from this? Rarely. First because most culprits don’t care enough to bother, otherwise they would not have been in the situation in the first place. But assuming they do, the fact remains that they are still the same person, the one that is capable of the type of action that led to this. The Advocate is not out to change anybody, or looking for apologies, or out to punish, or on some kind of power trip. You are what you are, and it is what it is, they just want no more part of it.
But on rare occasions, sometimes after a lot of time has passed and the two people involved have had time to digest, review and grow from their past selves, and both can concede their responsibilities – one, for hitting below the belt, the other for stubbornly insisting on their unilateral decision – then yes, there is a way back to a peaceful truce, and even a renewed friendship.
And this one may well come with an open-door policy and a welcome mat, but perhaps you’d be wise to invest in a doorstopper or two. You know, just to be safe.
* Based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) which breaks down the psychological types as described by C. G. Jung into 16 different personalities. To find out which one you are, you can take the test here: https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test
To read more about the 16 different personalities, click here:
The coronavirus has caused strong emotional reactions in almost everyone, literally worldwide – from worry, in its mildest form, to fear, to outright panic among many. No corner of the earth appears to have been spared, this is indeed a global event that is affecting people indiscriminately.
When it comes to being scared, I am no exception.
The immediate and main concerns are health-related, amplified by the fact that we still know much too little to determine exactly how contagious and how deadly this virus may turn out to be; the go-to reference appears to be the Spanish flu from a hundred years ago that killed 500 million people. Following close behind are all worries tied in to the direct impact on economics and finances. The reference for this angle appears to be the Great Depression from the 1930’s, another stomach-churning comparison that makes most of us want to hide under a rock.
But the truth is - neither one scares me quite as much as the long-term consequences this outbreak is likely to lead to.
First, as many have pointed out already, we need to stop calling it “social distancing”. Social is what we want to be; physically close is what we are trying to avoid.
That said, we’ve been at this for a while, what with technology and all of today’s virtual realities. Kids would rather play with each other in cyber-world, each in their own rooms, than play outside where they can develop the art of reading body language, interpreting facial expressions and tone of voice, of being able to communicate while looking people in the eye - you know… social skills. Teenagers are increasingly staying home, watching Netflix and messaging with friends rather than going to catch a movie and hanging out afterwards, socializing. Adults, rather than physically going into stores, are shopping more and more online, thus missing out on that spontaneous conversation with the cashier, a stranger, or an acquaintance. Texting has replaced phoning, because… why really? Nobody ever has a good answer. It takes longer to type than talk, plus talking gets you an immediate response and an actual exchange. Another spontaneous, intuitive experience going the way of the dodo bird.
With this virus, we are not only being encouraged to communicate virtually and to avoid disease by keeping a safe, healthy distance - we are being made to fear any physical proximity, or worse yet, actual contact. It’s only been a couple of weeks, and we already see hand-shaking and double-cheek kissing differently than we did a month ago. What impact will this have when the message persists over the next few weeks and months? Will we ever go back to instinctive physical contact?
The result I worry about is the ultimate disconnect between people. Our strength, as a humanity, lies in that very connection, the one that springs from closeness and unprompted exchanges of ideas and human reactions that are as unique as the people involved. Our unity is our greatest asset in the face of any harm that may befall us, and the powers that be have nothing on us if we are bonded to each other. But if we are scattered and disconnected, we are more easily divisible, and conquerable. And it seems that we are being encouraged to go that route step by step, and it’s being sold to us under the guise of convenience, and, more and more, personal safety.
But then one has to wonder - will shopping in person even be much of a thing anymore?
What will be significant during this particular economic crisis will be the eradication of small businesses. I fear most of them will not recover at all, and among those who do, the question is whether or not they will want to bother rebuilding. Restaurants, bars, mom and pop stores, the local hardware place, the flower shop, the market - many will disappear, and the customers won’t have a choice but to go to the already existing, and more solidly established corporations. Or shop online. It’ll be a world owned by Amazon and those few who can make the rules, with no competition to worry about. Giants against which nobody has a chance.
Surveillance and tracking
Telecommunication companies in certain European countries have already agreed to share data with health authorities, thus providing them with the ability to track individuals who are supposed to be self-isolating. Canada has not ruled out the possibility, and it’s hard to imagine the US not following suit.
What a wonderful, and perfectly legitimate way to violate people’s right to privacy.
The question becomes – once this line has been crossed, how do you uncross it? Do the authorities, one morning, just relinquish this privilege and hand people back their privacy because the threat is now over? Of course not, because the next threat is right around the corner.
One need only recall the Patriot Act that was rammed through following 9/11 and was supposed to last as long as the “terrorist threat”; instead, it has been renewed, time and again, and remains in effect to this day, 18 years after the events took place.
In China, thermal scanners were used in public during the pandemic – taking the temperature of individuals at trains stations, for example, with authority figures taking aside any passenger with above-normal body temperature and testing them for the virus. China is now considering upgrading to facial recognition technology for the same purpose, further expanding on its already massive surveillance system.
The US are not far behind. An Austin based technology company is launching "artificially intelligent thermal cameras" and planning on installing them in grocery stores, hospitals and airports for detection and reporting purposes. If you didn’t already feel like you’re under the microscope, this should right about do it. And if you think the line will stop at this coronavirus in terms of tracking… well, nobody actually thinks that.
So where does the surveillance end? Why stop at cameras and having your phone data accessed when you can just be microchipped and offer yourself up on a silver platter? It’s not utopian. Many people are already on board and getting it done. Thousands of Swedes have voluntarily signed up for this. Something about the convenience of being able to unlock your car door without a key, no longer needing any physical ID and an ability to carry out financial transactions without a wallet.
Meanwhile, back in North America, the current pandemic has opened the door to the elimination of money. In an effort to limit the exchange of hard cash and the germs that are thusly transmitted, certain stores have begun refusing actual coins and paper bills, and there have been rumblings about encouraging a cashless society via the creation of digital currency. This is yet another way for every transaction to be tracked. I can already hear it – who cares, as long as you’re not laundering money, selling drugs or buying on the black market. But again, it’s about privacy. If I don’t want on record that I paid for a certain medicine at the pharmacy, or that I’m seeing a shrink, or preparing to leave my abusive husband, or sending money back home to my cash-strapped family – then that is my business, and I have a right to keep these things private. They are nobody’s business.
A few days ago, the US President signed into law the “Secure 5G and Beyond Act of 2020” to develop and roll out the 5G network as soon as possible despite the dangers of 5G still being very much an issue. 5G is known to substantially increase exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields; the health implications for humans and potential damage to the environment are being completely ignored. But in the official name of keeping everyone connected (and the unofficial one of being able to better track everyone), this bill is sailing through without even a peep from the peanut gallery.
Loss of rights
And if you think your choices and options have taken enough hits, how about this one? Denmark has already passed a law allowing health authorities to force individuals not only to be tested for the virus, but to be vaccinated as soon as the vaccine comes out. Never mind that in a perfect world, a vaccine would be tested above and beyond security measures and guaranteed to be fully effective and without potentially hazardous effects – this one is being fast-tracked, skipping steps and taking shortcuts along the way, in an effort to have it available more quickly than any other vaccine would ever be authorized to see the light of day. And you won’t have a choice but to take it. Let that sink in for a second.
Of course, most people will be clamoring for this injection, so while anxiety levels are still running on high it probably won’t encounter much resistance. But a) it still overrides the personal choices of those who would rather not, b) it sets a precedent and c) it will likely encourage other countries to do the same, and for a much wider range of diseases. I can see a day when you won’t be able to leave your country or have access to services unless you can prove you’ve had a series of vaccines.
A new world
The reach, and impact, of these measures is enormous, and just like after 9/11, as we absorbed it all in a state of trance, they are being put in place without being questioned. There will be more and more laws allowing for quarantines. Regardless of how this virus originated, and whether the developments were natural or the result of an experiment gone horribly wrong (or, worse yet, exactly as predicted), those in power are watching intently, and seeing what exactly they can get away with in terms of restrictions given the right dose of fear, constantly driven home by the media hype. And they are discovering just how easy it is, and how quickly people are willing to trade in their liberties for a sense of security. The way I see it, this was a test. A rehearsal of sorts. For what? Who knows. I don’t dare imagine.
That’s where I need to be on the next anniversary, September 11, 2020.
It’s really borderline unforgiveable that I haven’t made the trip in the past 18 years, especially considering that I’ve been an activist for the 9/11 Truth movement since 2010 and that there isn’t a day that goes by when that tragedy doesn’t still haunt me as I do my part to expose the lie of what we were told happened that day.
But 9/11 Truth is not the topic.
I haven’t gone to Ground Zero because going anywhere outside of my established routine parameter is extremely difficult for me, and the further the destination, the more unfamiliar the journey, the less I feel capable of handling the trip. It’s simplistic to refer to it as agoraphobia because it’s so much more complex than that, but it’s difficult to put into words a fear you’ve had for so long you can’t even imagine a life without it.
For a long time, it was my guarded secret, shared with only a trusted inner circle. And don’t get me wrong – I’m not opening up about this under the pretense of “If I can help just one person”. This is a purely selfish act. A way for me to start getting past this demon that has handicapped me forever – by exposing it.
I can go weeks without giving it much thought when my daily movements remain confined to my regular surroundings. But there are no guarantees, and I’ve had unexpected attacks sneak up on me even then, like on my drive to work when we hit a sudden standstill on the autoroute, with no exit ramp in sight. Longer drives – as in more than an hour – come with more apprehension and require a lot of mental prep, while anything that involves additional vehicles or layovers becomes exponentially challenging. As fate would have it, my mother lives in Austria, so there’s a trip I look forward to regularly. It is usually preceded by psychological nausea and an inability to ingest much of anything for days prior. As far as a diet plan, it has real potential – schedule regular trips with varying degrees of difficulty and I should be at my model-size weight in no time at all.
And it usually ends up fine, as my track record for making it through each situation currently stands at 100%. But to me, that’s irrelevant. I’d like to be able to not even think about it. White-knuckling it, in my view, doesn’t count for much. Having dodged an actual panic attack is nothing to write home about if I spent 3 days worrying about the trip and another 12 hours during it.
And let’s quickly define panic attack. You can imagine it, right? Shaking, becoming agitated, sweating, crying, gasping for air, possibly physically lashing out, right?
Well, it’s nothing like that. At least not on the outside. Or at least not for me. From your vantage point, you probably couldn’t even tell.
Inside, it’s a different world. An implosion more than an explosion. Paralysis. I start physically shutting down my senses and disconnecting from all my surroundings. Even if I’m at the wheel, I have to retreat into a space where I can’t be reached. I have to NOT be in that moment. I feel so vulnerable that I feel aggressed by every scent, every sound, every sensation. I can’t breathe, my heart is beating to my ears, and the odd tear you see is not actual crying, but rather the result of the overwhelming physical pressure exerted by the fear. Fear of being trapped. Of not being able to get out. Of losing control. Of somehow not making it to the destination. It’s not rational. I didn’t say it was. It never is.
And ultimately fear of being judged. The funny thing is I have no other fears, really, in terms of judgment. I have strong opinions and am not afraid to stand up for them. I have critical views and always welcome anyone willing to challenge them. I feel strongly and I love deeply, and I express my love, my affection and my passion with little worry of how it will be received. I have odd interests and unconventional ways of doing things, and I make no apologies for any of them.
I also have many shortcomings which I fully embrace. I feel no particular need to be right, or be liked, or to get some kind of weird stamp of approval. If you’re in my life, I trust it’s for all the good reasons.
But this - it’s just in another realm.
I’ve often wondered why it is even spoken of in terms of “mental” affliction when fear is so intensely emotional. Never quite got that.
On the positive side, I haven’t let this anxiety prevent me from doing those things that truly mattered – visiting family and friends, going to concerts, spending a summer day at the water slides or our Six Flags park (hail the roller coaster as therapy in and of itself). I always bring along my figurative crutches and safety nets. At a concert, I’m close to an exit. In a movie theatre, or on a plane, I’ll always secure the aisle seat. I scan any new place as if I were the Terminator, robotically assessing potential hazards and exit strategies. It gives me the illusion of security.
So I try to not let it rule my life. But I’m sure it has stopped me from doing things I wrote off as unimportant, and in so doing missed out on some unexpected good times, or discoveries, or new connections. And although it has also led me to love being alone – nothing like being a 17-year old at home on a Saturday night, writing songs, or letters, or in her diary (yup! still have 'em!) while all your friends are partying – I know it came at a price.
But I’m tired. I don’t want to put stuff on standby anymore and justify it by insisting it’s not that necessary, or essential, or worth it. Life is short.
Therefore, Ground Zero it is.
I have no idea how I will get there yet as the logistics still need to be determined. In a perfect world I would do this with someone I fully trust to handle a meltdown, should it occur. Someone who has my back, no matter what happens. Someone who makes me feel like it’s ok if we need to make a 180 back home four hours into the drive. That kind of trust.
But I’m also not taking THAT trip, out of all trips, with someone who is not at least as passionate about 9/11 Truth as I am, and the Venn diagram of people who intersect has nobody I know in that center. So I guess I’m going it alone, which is just as well.
2020. This is the year everything changes. And sticking my head out of the anxiety closet, even just partway, is a pretty good start.
Comedian Mike Ward won’t be muzzled, and he’s taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court.
In 2016, the Human Rights Tribunal of Quebec ordered Ward to pay $42,000 in compensation to plaintiff Jeremy Gabriel for having made fun of him during a skit – a decision that was contested by Ward but eventually upheld by Quebec’s Appeal Court. Stating that he would rather go to jail than pay even a fraction of the penalty, the comedian has now turned to the Supreme Court to hear his case and overturn the decision.
Many have been scratching their heads at how things even got this far. How can it be that, despite the considerable leeway enjoyed by artists of all backgrounds to freely express their creativity, a gag order is being placed on what can and cannot be said as part of a comedy routine?
Born in 1996, Gabriel was diagnosed with Treacher Collins syndrome, a disease that causes deformities of the ears, eyes, cheekbones, and chin. But he became a bit of a household name when he was asked to sing for the Pope at age 10, and to join Celine Dion onstage at a separate event. He was eventually invited to perform the national anthem at a Montreal Canadiens’ hockey game and asked to become co-ambassador for the Shriners Hospital for Children, performing in several North America events on their behalf. A mini-celebrity, one could say – one that was strongly supported by the public, who watched him morph from child into a teenager and eventually into a young adult.
But Gabriel would soon discover the price of fame – that of becoming a target when you are in the public eye. And so it wasn’t long before Ward singled him out in one of his stand-up routines, describing him flat-out as “ugly” and musing about why he was still alive after all these years – should he not already have died from his disease by now?? Isn’t that, after all, why everyone put up with his mediocre singing – because he was living on borrowed time?
There are many places where one can have a discussion about whether or not these jokes were tasteless, or appropriate, or funny. But this isn’t such a place, and that is not the question.
The question is whether or not Mike Ward has a right to make those jokes and whether or not they are protected under the banner of freedom of speech. And the answer seems obvious - we don’t have free speech to protect those who want to exchange pleasantries, we have it specifically so that people can freely express their thoughts and beliefs, as uncomfortable as they may be to some. The legal decision should send a collective chill down everyone’s spine, because, as Ward himself notes, this is the canary in the coalmine test – if we can start dictating what comedians can say out loud, then who’s to say what restrictions are next.
Plus, one cannot separate the act from its intention, which was never malicious or aimed to inflict pain. Ward specifically said that had Gabriel at ANY point come to see him and asked him to pull this bit from the act he would have done so in a heartbeat, but because Gabriel went to the authorities and the courts, he decided to stand his ground based on principle.
Many people agree with the court’s decision, as they sympathize with Gabriel’s pain and have a soft spot for him. The natural human instinct is to protect those we see as vulnerable, and to make sure someone pays for causing their pain. But the laws specifically abstain from emotion – something is either right, or it is wrong. And if it is not wrong according to the legal definition, then the accused must unshackled. It’s really very simple.
So here’s to hoping that the Supreme Court steps to the plate and makes things right in the name of justice and freedom of speech.
Tears of rage - that’s what I remember the most about my reaction to an article in my local paper written by Dr. Joe Schwarcz, a chemist with a weekly column related to his field.
This one, back in May of 2016, was about nanothermite. I don’t usually read his column because my interest in all things chemical is roughly the equivalent to that of watching a documentary on the finer techniques of needlepoint, but the title caught my eye immediately. Having been a 9/11 Truth advocate for years, I knew that nanothermite was an element that had been found in the WTC dust following the collapses of the 3 WTC buildings, and that the only explanation for this was that the buildings had to have been detonated – something that would call into question the entire official theory.
I didn’t think that the author would actually go there, seeing that this article was all about the science – but then, at the very end, he did, and wrote the following:
“Conspiracy theorists purport that it was thermite explosives planted inside the World Trade Center that brought down the twin towers in a CIA coordinated plot. They also maintain that the moon landing was faked and that the U.S. government is hiding the bodies of aliens. Some also claim that the rise of Donald Trump was engineered by a Democratic conspiracy and that on the verge of being elected he will announce “fooled you.” Wouldn’t that be something? It would trump the thermite reaction for heat generated.”
I actually gasped. I expected – maybe – a calling into question of the very fact that nanothermite had even been found. Or of how nanothermite behaves, in practice. Or that it is near impossible to get one’s hands on this substance. But I couldn’t believe the so very un-scientific attack by a supposed professional on a theory so very rooted in physics, and in that moment felt both the anger, and the tears, rising.
And so I did what I do best when I need to deal with something before it consumes me, and I wrote - to the editorial board of the Montreal Gazette, while cc’ing Dr. Schwarcz.
The Gazette never responded.
But he did.
The following is our word for word exchange - and a true reflection of how the scientific community is the one that doesn’t have a leg to stand when faced with the otherwise unchallenged laws of physics that it suddenly cannot seem to acknowledge. It’s the story of a truther’s life, and a perfect example of what we deal with on a regular basis.
From: Sandra J
Sent: Monday, May 23, 2016
Cc: Joe Schwarcz, Dr.
Subject: Dr Schwarcz’ column, May 21, 2016, “The Power of Heat”
Rather than availing himself of the scientific method to answer a scientific question - or at least provide an answer that is based on facts and research - Dr Schwarcz resorts to the idiot's guide to reasoning - logical fallacies. Put forth a theory, use ad hominem attacks by denigrating an entire group of people (which may or may not already be seen unfavourably by the general public), make sweeping yet completely unfounded generalizations about said group, and throw in a random association that is neither here nor there and that has even less to do with the initial theory at hand.
And yet, the scientific evidence contradicting the official narrative in the collapse of the three WTC towers (1, 2 and 7) is overwhelming. As a true chemist, Dr. Schwarcz would know that infrared images of the fires would have shown temperatures as high as 2800 F degrees, as confirmed by MTI, EarthData and NASA, while jet fuel only burns to 1400. He would know about the molten steel flowing like lava – another occurrence impossible to explain by regular office fires (even if originally triggered by fuel). He would know that microspheres formed from molten iron were found in the dust by USGS, the EPA, RJ Lee Group and independent scientists.
And I’m quite certain that despite a doctorate in chemistry, Dr Schwarcz has retained sufficient knowledge of high school physics to remember that objects cannot fall to the ground at freefall or near freefall speed while going through the path of greatest resistance – 11 seconds for Towers 1 and 2, and all of 7 seconds for WTC 7, a 47-story high rise a couple of football fields away. Even NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology) has admitted to free fall acceleration. This is only possible if the falling towers encountered NO resistance on the way down, and last I checked, I believe there were hundreds and thousands of tons of cold, hard and solid steel and concrete supporting the 100 or so floors below. Other steel-framed high rises have burned much longer in the past and yet, the core structure remained. And never before in the history of high rise fires has a building completely collapsed, and yet, on 9/11, three of them did just that – while one of them was never hit by a plane, which in itself does away with any jet-fuel theory to explain the collapses. Controlled demolition is the only explanation, aided and abetted by the use of thermite and nanothermite – substances, as Dr Schwarcz correctly points out, that are highly difficult to come by, and certainly not fabricated in a cave in Afghanistan.
There is a reason why over 2,500 architects, engineers and scientists around the world have signed a petition demanding a new investigation into the collapses of the 3 WTC towers on Sept 11th via the group Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. They have put their careers on the line because they have done their research and are looking not for the comfortable answer, but the true one.
Over the years, Dr Schwarz has been a relentless advocate for the scientific method, making fun of anyone not abiding by those rules. The tables are turned. All this goes to show that in the face of an uncomfortable truth, even Dr Schwarcz is capable of denial, lack of reasoning and emotionally lashing out. I guess the scientific method is only valid when it’s convenient.
So when it comes down to it, Mr Schwarcz, you are nothing but a fraud, a coward, and a disgrace to the scientific community.
“Condemnation without investigation is the height of ignorance.” (Albert Einstein)
On Mon, May 23, 2016 at 8:30 PM, Joe Schwarcz, Dr. wrote:
Wow! People like you actually exist! scary.
Joe Schwarcz PhD
Director, McGill University Office for Science and Society
801 Sherbrooke St. West
Montreal, QC, Canada, H3A 0B8
SJ Not only do we exist, we work and have worked (as in my case) for the very newspaper that your column appears in, some of us (not myself) as reporters and even editors.
I was very angry when I wrote. I still am, really, even if solely for the double standard that you applied in your rebuttal, doing the very thing you would never tolerate from someone else. You usually reply with facts. You cannot say with a straight face that that's what you did in that column.
I apologize for the sarcasm, but not for speaking up where I thought - and still think - you were clearly out of line.
JS Sorry…but any claims that the towers were brought down by anything else than the impact of the airplanes just cannot be taken seriously. Surely you have read the official investigations and their conclusions. You can start here:
SJ I've been reading for 6 years...
If the towers' collapse was justified by the impact of the planes, then what comes of WTC 7, which was never touched? A steel-framed high-rise of 47 floors - same height as Place Ville-Marie - down in 7 seconds flat, at 5:20 that afternoon. NIST blames it on "normal office fires" Now that's scary to me.
You can observe the entire collapse, beginning to end, in a 9-second video:
WTC 7 Collapse
What do you see, with your own eyes?
JS Please list for me the courses you have taken in chemistry, materials science, physics or engineering.
SJ My degrees don't trump the laws of physics.
JS Exactly. Now you know how that building came down.
In this sudden recreation of Bizarro World, it appeared that the one presenting the hard facts, the evidence and the logical conclusions was not the scientist, but the layperson, while the one being evasive, condescending and incapable of offering a convincing rebuttal was not the conspiracy theorist, but the one with the PhD.
I never replied, and I didn’t need to. I had won the argument, whether he admitted it or not. My tears of rage had dissipated and made room for the knowledge that I could hold my ground against any scientist choosing to live in denial - and therefore betrayal - of the very basic laws of physics that had stood the test of time.
And that gave me the ammunition, and the courage, to keep fighting for the truth, no matter who my adversary may be – a fight I will never give up, for as long as I live. I owe it to the 3,000 people who died that day and have yet to see justice done.
Does magic exist?
The answer, of course, says more about our personalities and perceptions than any about any factual reality – the kind that you would back up with evidence, measurable results and predictable outcomes.
The Pollyannas of the world will happily come down on the “yes” side, whereas the cynics will evidently snub the very idea. And while it’s true that some see wonder in everything and tend to ascribe meaning to the most mundane events, others just view the universe as a random sequence of unrelated happenings that loosely intersect, with the chips falling where they may.
And it’s true: most of us don’t experience outrageous miracles, the kind you read about or see unfold on TV - winning the lottery, making it through to the next round of American Idol, getting the call to go play for the New York Yankees. Those are no doubt memorable moments for those who experience them, but as you are understandably thinking - these are also one-in-a-million cases and have nothing to do with our boring, daily lives, right?
While most of us are not aiming for fame or being seen on world stages, we do crave the high of something extraordinary happening to us and tend to go looking for it in very twisted and unhealthy ways. But I’d like to suggest that this is not necessary, and that all you need to do is temporarily adjust the parameters of the space-time continuum you operate in to discover that, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, you had the power all along. In this case, to see your life as the full-scale miracle that it has been and continues to be.
And here’s how.
Take your best friend. The one you confide in, lean on, cry to, laugh with. The one you’ve known for years, and with whom you’ve experienced the ups and downs of life. The one you’ve done a million things with, or maybe just a handful of significant things.
Now try to remember when that person first came across your radar, the very first time you became aware of him or her. Your initial impression. It may have been neutral, just like it may have been love or, surprisingly often, disdain at first sight. Regardless. Now imagine someone telling you, at THAT very moment, while you’re still sizing up this stranger: “You are looking at the person will become your closest friend, the one you are still going to know 20, 30, 50 years from now, and you will be at each others’ sides during all the important milestones of your lives.”
Wouldn’t that be something? Wouldn’t it feel absolutely “wow”? Would it not almost be overwhelming, as you’re trying to picture how on earth you guys will go from here – just being vaguely aware of each other’s existence – to there – laughing about the “old times” that are at this point still in utero?
Do the same exercise with your kids. You most certainly remember the day they were born - a screaming lump of tininess, served on a blank slate. Imagine being told THAT DAY what would become of him or her - character traits, interests, abilities, quirks, the challenges they will overcome. Would that not boggle the mind?
Imagine any situation, really. The kid born and raised in Hicktown, USA, being told that he will spend the rest of his adult life in bustling New York. The adopted child being told that he will finally meet his blood relatives at age 56. The drug addict being told that he will not only kick the habit but become a counsellor to other addicts. The business student being told that he will make a living off drawing cartoons one day.
And on a sociological level, what about the still-in-the-closet teen being told in 1989 that same-sex marriage will be possible in his lifetime? Kids in 2005 finding out that cannabis will be legal to smoke within a few years?
All those eventual outcomes are on standby, waiting to play out over the years; we just don’t, and can’t, know about them yet. But it would certainly seem magical to get a sneak preview. Hence the fascination with fortune-telling: being told of a development that is currently inconceivable comes with a lot of awe, even if by the time it materializes it almost feels normal, or par for the course.
And it feels normal because these things develop in increments, in tiny, difficult-to-measure and even more difficult to objectively assess fractions of moments. But that shouldn’t make them less impressive. This IS the jackpot. The people you love and are lucky to have around you, despite the admittedly terrible odds. The job you have. Your home. Everything you are passionately involved in. Your achievements. The hardships you’ve overcome. Your life circumstances. Think back to a time when they were not even a blip on your screen, and imagine finding out about how they will one day be part of your life's DNA.
Getting there can require effort and make the path feel more like an obstacle course rather than a direct line, and truth be told, many days probably won’t feel very magical. But you don’t get there by accident. You will have had an active hand in most of the outcomes, as you initially had to strike up a conversation with that stranger so that (s)he would become your friend, or your mate, or the parent of your children. You had to apply for that job before you got the interview, the callback, and the position. You had to draw on resources you didn’t know you had in order to get through some tough times in life. You even had to go to the store to buy that lottery ticket.
And speaking of lottery tickets, obviously some outcomes are not up to you, as an element of luck really is involved. At other times the outcome is out of your hands because it requires someone else – an actual person - to be on the same page as you, and feel the same way as you, be it about a relationship, or a job, or an idea. No matter. Just because it doesn’t play out the way you had hoped doesn’t mean it won’t lead to new places that become just as magical, and sometimes even more so. Even an event as tragic as a miscarriage leads you to the realization that you would have never had the child you ended up giving birth to had it not been for the tragic initial loss.
I don’t subscribe to “everything happens for a reason” or that certain things were “meant to be”. It’s what people say to make sense of the universe, or not feel so out of control. But when you look at everything it took, everything that needed to happen and fall into place for you to be where you are right now, then it’s difficult NOT to see it as at least semi-miraculous.
So fast forward to today, when - assuming you are not currently on your death bed - so much more of this magic still lies ahead. The people you haven’t yet met. The good times that are waiting. The book that will change your life. The cause you will want to fight for. The aha moments you will have. The places you’ve only visited in your dreams. The obstacles you never thought you could overcome. The good deeds that will help a person in need. Reconciling with people from your past. The new chapter of your career. Victories, small and large. A hobby you’d never considered. The person you will fall madly, passionately, deeply in love with, no matter your past, and no matter your age.
Trust in God, but do your part. If you are not where you would choose to be if you were on the outside looking in, then take the risk. Open your eyes. Open your mind. Open your soul, and make something happen.
So that by the time you ARE on your death bed, you can look back and see the big picture of interwoven magic threads that brought you here and became part of your life story, leaving no doubt that you made the most of every precious day on earth.
Sandra is a blogger, life coach and activist.
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