Times I Literally Cried

Countless are the times I felt like crying, but I find it infuriating how I can’t bring myself to cry, tears and all. I can’t recall too many times when I melted into tears, like when…

…I was a kid of about 4, sitting at the dinner table with all my family. Being summer, I spent a lot of time outside and I had a tan and a lot of freckles on my face. My sister noticed these speks and commented, “I think Maurice is going to have red hair when he’s older.” Directly in front of me was a plastic bottle of ketchup. I cried.

…I went through that phase as a kid of 8 or 9 when all I could think of as I was falling asleep was death. I would cry myself to sleep every night.

…I got back to my apartment in Halifax that late-October evening in ’88. Earlier that day, Hiker unexpectedly asked that we become “just friends.” I suspect — I fear — that I may have cried myself dry in the days that followed.

For today I fume. I rage. I stew. I mope. I slam my fist on the table. I raise my voice. I speak fast. I clench my teeth. But I can no longer bring myself to cry.

Even the sadness of that statement doesn’t make me cry.

Online Word Nerd

I remember that when I was a kid, about 8, adults would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. They probably expected one of the standard replies — fireman, astronaut… — so they never knew what to do with this kid’s answer: “A writer. Je veux être un écrivain.” They would only repeat what I’d just said — Un écrivain!… — exclamation and ellipsis included. They didn’t realize that, already at that age, I would draft short stories and essays and would get my mother to correct them before I would neatly transcribe them into a scribbler.

But…

…I was a pragmatic little boy. I soon figured out that I probably couldn’t earn a decent living as a writer. So by the time I reached 10 or 11, I would tell those inquiring adults that I wanted to become a journalist. I even started or revived the school paper, for I loved typewriters and newspapers. Alas, by Grade 8, I was advised to quit the school paper, which promptly died the moment I quit. But you see: In my hometown in the ’70s, a boy who was a straight A student, who preferred conversations with adults and who loved to write but was an exceptionally poor athlete was immediately branded by his peers as a fag. To try to get the endless tauntings to stop, I had to take a lower profile as far as writing was concerned. (I still remember how it broke my teacher’s heart to make this suggestion. As any good teacher, Madame Richard wanted me to write and write and write.)

Having to stop doing something I truly loved soured me to journalism. (I was also rather literal as a kid.) Therefore, by the time I reached high school, and being fluently bilingual, I thought of a new avenue that would still lead me to dealing with words: Translation. And for six years, that was my story and I stuck to it.

Problem, though. About one third into the degree program in translation, it hit me that I was in my very early 20s and all I could see stretching in front of me was an endless series of ultra-boring administrative texts — texts that no one would read, texts that were being translated to French to meet some government’s requirement that all documents be produced in Canada’s two official languages. Never mind that translation would pay well; I would die of boredom before reaching middle age. So I quit the translation program.

What next… Sitting in the career counselling office at the university, I found that there was only one university in Canada that offered an undergraduate degree program in public relations. All the documentation I could find emphasized writing as a primary skill for PR. Plus, learning about mass communication media would bring me closer to my childhood aspiration of becoming a journalist.

I got that PR degree: I loved the writing, hated anything that related to business or management, and generally felt I had earned a run-of-the-mill BA with an emphasis on communication. My first job upon graduation, which I held for four years, was not a PR job; I was the managing editor of an academic journal in women’s studies. Immersed in a world of words, I was happy. The pay was lousy, but it was the best job of my life.

I’ve never held a PR job and I don’t think I ever will. Since I graduated in ’89, I developed a respectable set of computer skills, branching into “Web stuff” by 1997. I taught myself HTML, programming in PHP, MySQL, and so on. But I did so as someone who’s passionate about writing; I did so as someone who wanted to see clarity of expression shine on the Web.

I am Maurice, and I am an online word nerd. I started this blog last month as an amusement and a way of getting closer to a craft I love. I am not a master of this craft, but it has had a hold on my imagination for as long as I can remember. Hence this blog.

Tired of Debate and Reality

I think I’ve come to the point where I have lost the will or energy to discuss, let alone debate, the issues that are making the headlines these days.

In uppercase and lowercase P politics, I always believed it was important to keep an attentive ear and mind to views with which I don’t agree. The reason is simple, even evident: Know what your opponents are thinking and the exact words they’re uttering to build their case. Debate is healthy, I always thought, provided that it’s viewed as some kind of discussion, a negotiation whereby the debaters are willing to make concessions.

I have to admire a friend of mine for still having the energy to enter into this kind of negotiation. Believing firmly in people’s right to express their opinion, he allows one of his friends to go on endlessly in his discussion forum with views that are markedly contrary to his own. The only rules are that his friend must not use profanity and must not attack people’s character for the mere fact that their views are opposite to his own. Part of my friend’s reasoning, I think, is that he does not wish to behave like one of our mutual online acquaintances, who is very opinionated (a good thing) but very intolerant of the slightest shade of disagreement towards those opinions (a bad thing).

But me, I’m finding myself unable or unwilling to negotiate, and this change of heart manifests itself in several ways.

Blog links: I think the “big” thing to do would be to have links to a selection of blogs that express views opposite to my own (and likely Poupoune’s as well). Some people are quite capable of such overtures, and for that I commend them. But I can’t bring myself to doing it. Hence I’ve disqualified many blogs whose authors have right-leaning sympathies or are in favour of a U.S. attack on Iraq, even though I may actually like what they have to say on other topics. By doing so, I feel I’m exhibiting the same mean-spiritedness or close-mindedness as they are but, frankly, it’s a simple case of how, for me, the vehemence of their position acts like venom in my bloodstream.

— Doctor, doctor! It hurts when I do that!

— Well don’t do that!

So I don’t do that.

Commenting in blogs: I see absolutely no point in expressing a dissenting view in someone else’s blog. Some of those bloggers actually like seeing a fight erupt in the comment area of their blogs. I can’t imagine why. I think what I’ve seen in one month of aMMusing is that its small readership:

  1. enjoys the range of musings I write, since they provide a break from hardline political posturing without necessarily lapsing into overly mundane accounts of our little lives;
  2. if it doesn’t like or agree with, or is not inspired by a particular musing, simply doesn’t comment on it — possibly because, like me, it doesn’t see the point of expressing dissent in a blog;
  3. has a life and, therefore, gives this blog only the attention it deserves, which obviously ought to be minimal. :-P}

I guess what I’m still left wondering is if the blogosphere is an accurate or a distorted reflection of what ordinary people with Internet access are thinking these days. According to an article to which I pointed a few days ago, the reflection is distorted. Nevertheless, it leaves me feeling that I should simply find solace in a little bubble of my own creation, which is relatively far from today’s realities. But, at the same time, I feel guilty for throwing my hands up in the air and saying, “There’s nothing I can do about anything, so I’m just going to ignore it.” There’s simply too much at stake for too many people.

My nature is to be passionate and engaged. Therefore I can’t stand seeing myself losing my taste for defending what I believe in — letting myself be silenced because I’ve become a tired soldier in need of retirement. I’m too young to have become so cynical and jaded.