I’ve had a busy November, costume modelling for art students – and as I’ve mentioned before, I often write poetry or sketch out essays in my head while up on the model stand (helps to power my sustained smile). Also brought my camera along for a couple of evening breaks – first Chinatown, and this week – rain!

A far riskier subject, to be sure (though I was followed down Spadina for a couple of blocks by not one, but two different muttering trench-coaters), but the results are even more exciting to me, as a learner photographer.

City Rain (Top photo)

I’m running on minimal sleep, so I’m just going to riff, rather than essay tonight – but a few different notions came to me, that seemed reasonably close to coherent, if not outright meaningful.

First off – as a technician, I know exactly how hostile water is to electronics, and while I also understand complaints and competition are factored into design, and that gaskets have come a long way, I’m also a poor guy – so taking the camera out in the rain scared me – but how else was I supposed to get a nice rain series?

Slung it under my coat to protect it whenever I wasn’t shooting and just hoped for the best. Saw too much temptation not to try for it – again and again.

Here’s the funny thing – the inhibiting awareness of my technician head and also that of my poor-guy head, are both completely legitimate – but so is the fact that this small artistic breakthrough for me, required going past those inhibitions, despite their soundness.

Opera house and steam-vent resident

How bold is bold enough (and how restrained, in balance) – is a strangely complicated question.

I’ve mentioned before that we moderns do a better job of looking out the window (to complain about what others are doing) than we do of understanding ourselves in the mirror, deeply and honestly. This can be taken as an accusation, but the point that I’m actually after is that this chosen blindness, the very common fear of facing ourselves, robs us of richness and compassion that must be earned, by exactly that heart-search.

Only when we understand how many different drives and passions are within us, can we respond with intelligent kindness to the whole range of human beings we encounter.

I’m always disappointed when I hear disparaging talk about younger people – and social media being what it is (a medium for kittens, puppies and gripes), I hear rather a lot of it – ethically sloppy, and not at all deserved.

This group faces challenges greater than any that have ever been faced before and they know it, they also enter the fray with the tightest means we’ve offered our young in a half a century. A raw deal in every way – and they know that, too. Not big-picture naive. That’s not one of their options – we grey-hairs were the last humans who will ever know that luxury, even young.

Yes, they are very different from the infinitely more entitled generations which proceeded them – but this is about circumstance, not character. Further, some of the ways in which they are thinking differently are very important.

The character traits of previous generations, let’s please remember, are what got us into this mess (survival of everything in danger) – so whenever we assert that any ‘they’ should be more like us in one way or another, we must first step back and ask how much of what we’re calling-for was actually a mistake on our own part, that we still haven’t managed to acknowledge or learn from.

Cooperation and fairness are extraordinarily powerful drives for this group (measurably, not just anecdotal) – they are way less interested in vicious cutthroat competition, and usually give each other way more allowance for ranges of emotion – which we know helps make humans healthier creatures.

Next time we feel tempted to say they should be fiercer – like us – remember – this is where we steered the world.

Brand new fancy opera house, and still not enough shelter beds for the homeless – in a fatally-cold winter city. Civilization FAIL.

Cloud tangled

This one reminded me of a dear friend, who moved to Toronto as a teenager, from a small town with wild forest he could bike-to from his front door. He missed the wilderness a lot, but always loved the city when the clouds and fog got tangled up in the towers, and it all went rather blade-runner.

The city really is changing fast – and not just in the dense futuristic tower forests downtown – even streets in front of ivy covered manors and twee tudor homes are being dug up to lay fibre-optic cable. “Backbone” they call it. Was there ever a more ironic… oh, never mind… ;o)

No one can say what work will be like in ten or twenty years – technology, economics, environment and politics are all unstable ground – facing such grand wide-open and crucial questions, it is natural that the young are uncertain and also nervous – those are rational responses to the objective conditions we’ve set before them.

No they aren’t copying our brash nonsense – but this is good news, really – again ’cause WE FAILED – they are respectfully trying to learn our wisdom and find new ways to use, distill, and combine it, to address an ever more cynical and inert population with the heart-message which they at least, have not yet set aside for dreams of money (also realistic, since there’s not so much on offer).

Of course, it’s also important that they learn to overcome even rational inhibitions (like my tech-head and poor-man fear) so that they can find new joys in life and experience those breakthroughs which can only be won through deliberate risk.

Which leaves us older folk an excellent, useful and obvious role, far more fun and enriching than condescension or disdain (a heart-good, not a meanness of spirit). Acting as exemplars of that courage which is considered and worth it, and also showing the modesty required to learn, so when it isn’t worth it, we don’t need too many runs at the brick-wall to take the lesson. The only required sacrifice is the pleasure of whining. Exemplars don’t do that.

Enduring resistance

Lest my boomer friends feel unduly beaten-up, I should explain my angle on this, once again – it is not at all about anyone’s unique culpability, but a truly extraordinary level of denial, holding back change which is not just necessary, but decades overdue – THIS factor is specifically dangerous and cohort-concentrated.

Left and right both like very much to blame the other, but their irresponsibility has been largely symmetrical – both sides asserting “Not my problem” for innumerable problems which were the natural duty of all responsible citizens, for so many decades now, that billions believe democracies don’t require active citizens at all. Rather, they seem to think they consist instead of righteous demanders of good (again, both left and right), and the unseen masters who must be begged and appeased, so as to win special favour (ultimately – promise of loot).

BUT – “Variation between individuals exceeds variations between types.” Always!

(This, BTW, is the best line you’ll read all day – I’m only quoting it, give me no credit, but do take it away with you, and use it all the time – it works to cut-through soooo much hateful general-categorical BS!).

My boomer friends who are wise, courageous, brilliant, generous, open-hearted, kind-spirited, and still modest and joyful (or at least open to both, as situations present), are among the most beautiful humans I’ve ever met.

I value their counsel, am amused by their humour, inspired to new growth by their deep knowledge of what has gone before and charmed by their general funkiness and self-possession. Yes, this is the really crazy contradiction – there were aspects of character exploration and self-development possible then, which are incomparably more difficult now. Those who really ‘got it’ and processed it without letting it go to their heads, are purest cultural gold. Both inertia of civilization and continuity of hope.

Reminds me of the urban legend surrounding the construction of that ridiculously thin pink marble “Obelisk” of a tower (i’m trying not to be rude). ;o)
The original design plans called for the destruction of their art deco masterpiece headquarters on the same central and prestigious site (some skinning and face-saving – but still a fundamental obliteration).

Then they took a look at the plans for the original building and even sent in the engineers to test, to make sure they weren’t misleading. According to the story, they didn’t build the original building with a pig-iron frame, as was common practise at the time – they framed the whole thing with infinitely tougher and more expensive high-grade steel!

Which means it’s not just fantastically beautiful on the outside – it’s so rock solid and sound down to it’s very core, that it was way too expensive for them to demolish it! Hence, the city’s third largest monument to the – well, you know… ;o)

(Really exciting helicopter pad on top, I’ll give them that – ultra-tiny landing target!)

Rainy day in tea land

One last note about what we offer and what we get. I love my job, and the thrill of helping young creators grow, even in a very small and modest way, is as fresh for me now as the day I first sat down and Bob Berger told the students, “Now, look at what the model is offering you” – and I suddenly realized that though motionless, my job and role was actually entirely active.

And how does this creaky bleary-eyed old bugger still know for sure it’s worth it?

Early morning call today on very little sleep, shuffling into the college a little after eight, sipping on my much needed coffee, a student stopped me by the door and asked me, “Whose class are you sitting-for today?”
I told her, and she responded, “Yay, you’re my favourite model!”

Absolutely made my day. And the breaktime conversations the last few weeks have been especially hopeful and exciting to me. This new gang will do us proud, folks. Sweet and smart – and looking hard for the new way that we all of us know we need. Give them a boost – it will not be wasted!

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