Sometimes you need the ability to stand above it all and see things from a different perspective.
We tend to get into ruts you see. Life being what it is you can travel along these pre-ordained paths right up until you shuffle off this mortal coil. Except that every so often we get lucky. We are given a chance to either create our own ruts or, better yet, try a different set of tracks. Preferably many sets of tracks actually.
I was thinking about the latest rut I was in the other day. Actually it's more like wandering along the Grand Canyon, when I realised that for all the trouble I have had I am still in a new country, experiencing new things and, most importantly, being able to live long enough to experience more.
What sparked off this train of thought was that Christmas was just around the corner. This time it looked like we would be in for a White Christmas. Which, when you have always been celebrating the season in mid summer, as opposed to mid winter, is still quite exciting! And also a really good reason to stuff yourself!
It's the excitement that I want to pass on to you all. For next year take a long hard look at yourselves and your own rut. Then go and try find your own snow tableau to make you feel childlike again!
Peace and prosperity to you all!
I'm a member of an exclusive club you know.
There are only about 700,000 of us eligible to join in Canada.
Which when you put it down on paper doesn't really look all that exclusive does it? After all that is quite a large group of people. I bet that's more than the Liberals can legitimately claim as card-carrying members. And a little less than the ad agencies personnel receiving largess from the same Liberals. (Hence the results at the polls.)
Interestingly there should be almost eighty to one hundred thousand members here in Toronto.
Well truthfully there should be that amount who are eligible for membership, not necessarily that many members. We all know that reality doesn't measure up to theory. And by its very nature a club this exclusive sometimes has trouble convincing the very people who can join to actually commit themselves to do so.
Yes! Of course I am talking about Mensa.
When you sit down and look at how many people can actually join this Society it becomes fairly obvious that we are nowhere close to realizing our full membership potential.
In fact here is the most disturbing part of the mathematical calculations involved in this little exercise:
If only two percent, of the two percent of society eligible to join Mensa, actually did, we would still only be at roughly ten percent of that reduced amount at our current Canada wide membership!
We have just over 1600 members in Canada currently. That is just over .006 percent of Canada's current population.
Toronto fares a little better with at roughly .13 percent but even still we are woefully short of the membership potential that remains out there.
Which seems to me that we have some serious marketing to get stuck into.
Not having the millions available to some when it comes to advertising our presence, we need to be smart. Which of course should be easy for us right?
So lets tap into the current expertise that we can muster, among the elite of the elite that we have, and come up with some ideas as to how we can contact those thousands of potential members who need to be involved in the societies activities.
There are a heck of a lot of lost souls out there people!
September/ October 2002
Can someone please explain to me what a Canadian is?
I've been in this country for three years now and I am still puzzled and baffled as to what constitutes Canadian culture or even “the average Canadian”.
No. Actually I am wrong there. I think I know what a Canadian is. I believe that I understand Canadian culture. I am sure that I know Canadian values. I've enjoyed reading Canadian history.
In fact given the history of this country and the actions of the citizens that I have now had some time to mull over I think that I understand and admire the average Canadian.
I'm just not sure why it is that Canadians themselves seem unable to give me a synopsis of what they believe they are.
Nor why it is that they find it necessary to pretend that they aren't Canadians.
If another person smiles indulgently at me and says, “well we are all immigrants after all you know” I may be tempted to commit a bit of bodily harm. (Which doesn't go down well with Canadians actually!)
There seems to be some sort of negativity inherent in the need to pretend that you aren't Canadian. Why would anyone who is born in a country deny their own birthright?
I'm an eighth generation African and will be until the day I die.
I hope to become a good Canadian citizen but I will always remain an African.
So why do so many Canadians feel that they can't claim the same privilege as regards their own country of origin?
Who was it that managed to convince Canadians that they should take their humility to the ridiculous depths that it now resides at?
Why should you be ashamed about being born in, and living in, the best country in the world?
As someone who has for reasons of language and race, been informed that I am not allowed to claim my birthright, I find it fascinating that Canadians seem quite happy to voluntarily give theirs up.
Or am I being too hasty in judgment here?
Perhaps my observations are not indicative of all Canadians but merely of Torontonians? Who, I am told, are an island of insanity within Canada and shouldn't cloud my observations.
So you tell me. What is a Canadian? What should I be looking for? How will I know when I have found them?
Can I ever find one?
And should bloody uppity immigrants even be asking these questions?
Even better, should immigrants be allowed to answer?
I don't know!
Some people have those sort of days. Others those sort of weeks or years.
Now me…. I have centuries!
At least that seems to be how this one is shaping up. Sort of!
Actually my life seems to go in cycles of roughly ten years of feast or famine. It can be fascinating at times and damn trying at others. I am sort of reminded of the Chinese curse about “living in interesting times” and am desperately trying to figure out when it was that I annoyed someone from that continent. Or possible how I managed to have all many billion annoyed at me.
I am coming toward the end of another of the iffy ten-year periods thank goodness. Especially if I can last out the initial settling in period that every immigrant has to suffer through. In fact I have gone past the “you need two years Canadian experience” excuse to now at least being told that I am “over qualified”. Pleasant, but not exactly reassuring.
In fact a little bit kinder than the “you're too old for …” bald fact that has been told to me twice now.
Which, no doubt, is the reason I have am not doing anything that remotely resembles my training and background experience. OK. I admit it does remotely resemble some aspects. I'm in sales. With Western Canada and the Southern USA as areas that I need to convince to buy masses of specialty food ingredients. In a “coals to Newcastle” situation I might add.
With the added bonus of having an amazing accent that goes down really well in Georgya and Alabammy y'all!
Actually learning all the ins and out of the food industry is fascinating. Unfortunately I have the pleasure of working for the last of the Luddites around. In case you are thinking that that was a bit harsh, consider the following.
There is no Internet access allowed in the factory. Time can be booked on the only available machine so long as there is a monitor with you. E-mail is not allowed from any machine but must be written on an available form, which is then scrutinized before it is sent out. The same with faxes. All e-mail and faxes are read by the boss every day to ascertain contents. All post is opened by the same boss as well. Personal phone calls, e-mails and faxes are “verboten”.
The list of paranoid restrictions is both amazing and endless. Still like a good immigrant you suck it up, endure and carry on rewardless. Including the insults and distrust. Apparently the Boss's pet hate, amongst society in general, is the IT industry and Marketing. Which of course is where I came from and what I am good at!
No doubt the “Great Practical Joker in the Sky” having successfully shuffled the script again is having a good laugh at that one!
This week was a brilliant example. An e-mail to me from a customer was read, censored and then passed on to another salesman to complete. I never did get to find out what the customer sent to me. I did get a lecture about trying to take over the boss's job. Which considering that he had excised the portion of the e-mail that may have explained what the fuss was about was a bit eyebrow raising. Although not unexpected! Given that opening letters addressed to staff is a regular occurrence. In fact the day before exactly that happened to me as well. Including the now obligatory lecture with regard to getting above my station in life. Even when I pointed out that he had asked me to contact this particular person the attack merely changed to my inability to ask the right questions.
OK I could go on for a long time about the daily shenanigans.
Let's just say this is a fascinating example of extreme distrust and paranoia at work To the extent that sometimes I feel like I am in a Monty Python movie.
If it wasn't for a few things in my life I probably would have gone postal a while ago.
Of course there are my children.
Then there is the volunteer work I do which oddly enough has a good calming effect on me. Maybe because I am lucky enough to work in areas I enjoy.
Lastly there is Mensa. The ability to gather every so often with reasonably sane people and just be myself. To indulge in banter and brain teasing. Good conversation with people who are intelligent enough to both have an opinion and not be afraid to express it. Or for that matter, to change it either.
This might be the time then to say thank you to a lot of you for keeping me sane.
I bet I'm not the only one.
I was interested to note Bob Yewchuk's call for Mensans to e-mail him with the name of the book that they were currently reading. I suppose, to be fair, because this is Mensa, it should really read books.
Most Mensans I know seem to have the knack of reading more than one book at a time. If you are anything like me there is one by the bed, one in the lounge and generally one in the bathroom. Not to mention the one for the train or underground and the one in the office for tea and lunch breaks.
Which means that when someone like Bob asks for what you are reading he gets a list. Which I suppose makes it easier to compose his own list, even if only one or two people respond.
Especially if one or two people I know responded!
As most Mensans are avaricious readers, when it was suggested that we take a stand at the “Word on the Street” later this year there was very little debate. If anyone would like to help out at the stand please let Lawrie know of your interest as I am sure that he would very pleased to have you there.
Even if you keep popping off to the other stalls every so often!
Anyway, and thinking of my list to Bob, as I`ve been in this country for three years now and can legally become a Canadian Citizen a lot of my time of late has been spent on Canadian History. Aside from the need to learn certain facts for the test I have always had a love of history and so it is now time to learn more about my new country.
How better to do that than buy a few books and, thanks to the great Library system here, borrow a few.
I tried borrowing my Son's history book only to discover two things. The first being the serious bias being propagated in the school system as regards Canadian history. The second being that all of a sudden my childhood years are being taught as history!
Which almost annoyed me as much as the first!
Dammit! You are only as young as the woman or man that you are feeling and I still have high hopes in that regard.
As for the first, I have noticed that, for some odd reason, Canadian history seems to be actively discouraged. Despite all the interesting tales of heroism and courage that have formed this country there seems to be an active attempt to discourage any retelling of the stories that abound.
Yes! I watched the CBC documentary. I enjoyed it immensely. Propaganda, bias and all! It bought to life a sense of the country which I felt had been missing. I only hope that, like myself, more Canadians were motivated to go out and dig a bit deeper into the sometimes-shallow interpretations of the series. After all this country has a proud tradition, and an interesting history, which I think should be told more often and to more people. Starting with the schoolchildren.
I was lucky in that quite by chance I picked up a book by Will Ferguson. Obviously as a Mensan the best book start your search for information with is one of the “idiots” or “Dummies” guides. The idiots guide unfortunately encapsulated all the trendy politically correct biases noticeable in my Sons history book and I was slightly disappointed.
Then I picked up the Dummies guide and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. So much so that I went out and bought all the rest of his books. All of which, on one level or another, deal with Canadian history past and present. The dyspeptic cynical take that he has probably suits my warped sense of humour more than anything else. As does his ability to present both sides of the story. Which really is more important.
So have devoured these, and many more, books I have a new found understanding and, dare I say it, belief in my adopted country.
I am looking forward to taking the test and becoming a citizen.
Now if only I could find a decent paying job that allows me to save the few hundred dollars needed to pay for it! Or spend a fortune at the “Word on the Street”!
Last week was an interesting epiphany for me.
It started with a phone call from one of our members, Kathleen, who had been approached by The Toronto Star to find Mensa members who were watching the Olympic Gold Medal ice hockey final. A sort of “let's find out if the geeks have entered into the spirit” quest I suppose.
After debating the likelihood of large masses of Mensa members actually organizing a party to watch organized sport we came to the decision that, at the least, it would be as members of other parties that most members would found.
So I phoned up the reporter, gave my sage advice, which I am always happy to do, commented on the outcome and went back to watching the game.
Well, actually we had a reasonably long discussion about Mensans and whether they were inclined to be sporting fans at all. Having once been accused of being a “Rugger-bugger with intellectual pretensions” perhaps I was the right person to talk to. I do enjoy sport and not necessarily for the “Mens(a) Sano etc” side of it. I don't particularly believe that many sportspeople have sound minds at all but that is another story. And anyway I preferred to think of myself as an “intellectual with rugger-bugger pretensions” Which, given my record at games, is probably far more accurate anyway.
It was after the game though, that the conversion took place. Standing there in my Roots Canada cap and waving a Canadian flag I found that I was talking about “our” team and “we won”. Later when driving to the shops with my Daughter holding the Canadian flag out the window (her choice by the way!) hooting at all the children jumping up and down at the side of the road seemed quite natural. Once, many years ago my Provincial Rugby team won the cup for the first time in one hundred years and a similar outpouring of emotions took place so this was very familiar.
The most important aspect though, was my feeling that I was part of the whole Canadian experience. Becoming Molsonised! Eh!
Which brings me to the reason for this introduction. To become part of anything you have to get involved. No! You don't have to be player. You merely have to try to understand, fit in and enjoy whatever it is that you want to feel part of. So you learn the rules, go to games or meetings, talk to people and involve yourself more and more. What you put in giving you so much more from the knowledge and pleasure aspect.
At the end of this year we are having the Toronto Mensa Regional Gathering. “ TOMfoolery 2002” and I would ask you all to make an effort to attend.
It is, like the Olympics, a gathering where like-minded people get together to indulge in activities that produce a similar camaraderie!
You don't come away with a medal but you will come away with new ideas, insight and friends. Reason enough to be part of the experience! Reason enough to attend.
So take advantage of the reduced prices, effective until April 30th, and make a decision that may change your life.
For the record my prognosis was a win by Canada by 3 goals to 2. At least I got part of it right anyway!
“I am almost Canadian!”
For some reason I have been getting quite a few copies lately of that e-mail that states that the writer wants to go back to the days when he/she was a child and the world was so much better then.
It could be that someone has realised the inner child in me and is trying to say something, or, more likely, there is a need for a return to the simpler things in life, which compels people to send out these mails.
With that in mind I sometimes wonder whether any of you feel like I do. When I am reincarnated someday I want to come back as a one of the “normal” people. The type that has no worries in the world except where the next beer comes from and whether or not they are showing sport on the telly that weekend. No need to ponder on the great questions of life, so long as life doesn't intrude into my neat little blissfully ignorant view of what isn't important. And even then it would cause a brain headache of immense proportions. So I wouldn't! I would sit back, sublime in my blissful ignorance and let someone else get the skull cramp for me.
No more having to think, or act, or even pretend to be a valuable member of society there to do the bidding of the faceless corporations.
In case anyone is wondering if I have gone completely barmy, or, to be more accurate, barmier, this is a result of the latest snowfall we had, where once again, I found myself outside throwing snowballs. Coupled with a fortuitous e-mail later that night I began to think about quite a lot of things. This was enhanced with a visit to the new members night at Denise's place where once again the major activity appeared to be playing games. And good-natured arguing, but that is such a Mensa side effect that I won't touch that one! It really is like one big happy (ish) family. So long as no one accuses me of being the annoying kid brother!
The upshot of the thought process was that, despite my age, I was back at the start of my life again. Everything that I have done up until my move to Canada is expunged and I am starting everything over again. Life. My career. Even making new friends. Parts of this whole experience are all the new sights, smells and things to do. If you haven't seen snow for the first forty years of your life, believe me, it is still fun to go outside and catch snowflakes on your tongue. Although I will admit that I have already captured the Canadian hatred of the snowplough!
Even the stumbling blocks like getting employment can be seen as part of the growing up process. And I have at least one advantage over other youngsters looking for employment as well. I do have experience, which is supposedly a positive advantage. When I get that career up and running again I will at least be able to use that knowledge to help me a bit.
I used to look upon myself as a well-worn family station wagon before I moved to Canada. Now I have changed that outlook. At some stage that wagon had to have come off the assembly line brand new. I have to choose between whether I am a new Wagon or whether they melted down the old wagon to make a new sport utility. One of those rugged things with mud on it! I will let you choose!
Of course the major plus point, or drawback if I really want to join the great unwashed in blissful misery, to all of this, is that I still have another sixty odd years of productive life left before I can come back in whichever form. Which means many more snowballs and many more bottles of wine. It also means many more meetings at Mensa and lot's more fun and games. Probably with the odd bit of intellectual stimulation thrown in to ensure that I don't regress too far!
So where was I actually going with this decidedly odd train of thought? Well as I said earlier Mensa is like a family. Good and bad but always there to support you and encourage you and in many cases help you. If you can't relax and enjoy yourself in the bosom of the family then where can you?
Just don't look upon me as the annoying kid brother!
By the time you read this the festive season will be over and we will be moving into yet another year. So I belatedly hope that everyone had a joyous festive season.
For those of us who spent most of our lives down in the Southern Hemisphere, I must admit that having a traditional Christmas with the snow and the cold and steaming hot food is still a novel experience. I suspect that many of you would probably swap that for our traditional barbecue by the swimming pool and an ice-cold beverage though.
Meanwhile I'll just act like a kid and carry on enjoying myself as I get to celebrate Christmas in the traditional way.
The other tradition at this time of the year is to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Sometimes the word prosperous is added on. Consider that wish passed on from me to all of you.
Perhaps though the thought that is uppermost in my mind is that the coming year brings a far better degree of normality back to all our lives. With all that has happened in the year 2001 it would be nice to think that we could begin to return to some degree of sanity in the next year.
As with many of our members, and fellow Canadians, I came to Canada to find some degree of balance in a fairly sane society and the events of the past few months have triggered off emotions that I had hoped to leave buried. I've noticed that many people in the immigrant community from all round the world have the same reaction as I do. We had hoped to put all the violence and hatred behind us and start a new life in the country we chose. So it is a bit annoying to have events unfolding so close to home.
Most of us have enough trouble eking out a living without the threat of terror adding to the stress. Or being used as an excuse for layoffs, but that is another sorry story entirely.
What has impressed me has been the reaction of the average Canadian to the events as they unfolded over the last few months. I can see why it is that they have a proud history of getting involved. Either physically, as in warfare, or by lending support to the less privileged. In marked contrast to the Government I might add but perhaps I had better not get started on them for a while.
What I have also noticed is that there is a strong tendency in Canada to expect money to solve all the problems. So as soon as something occurs the “begging bowl” brigade are out in full force demanding that you assuage your guilt by donating. Plenty! Probably to keep the advertising budget and directors going but then I am a bit of a cynic!
So what I would like to suggest to all of you for the coming year is a simple yet very powerful way to become involved.
Get out there and do something different! Be nice to people. Smile more and get involved in talking to them. In fact get involved in listening to them rather. Do small acts of kindness that make others lives just that little bit easier. Become a nicer person. Try to help. In the end not only will you feel better but hopefully everyone around you will catch your spirit as well. It only “takes one candle” and during this season many will have been lit so lets keep them going for a lot longer than we did before.
Peace and prosperity to you all!