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This past week, I’ve been thinking about a powerful interview I heard on November 29 on CBC Radio’s The Sunday Magazine with Piya Chattopadhyay. Her conversation with Philosophy Professor Carlos Alberto Sánchez seemed to perfectly encapsulate a lived experience during these past nine months, through the word “zozobra”: framed as “the oscillation between hope and hopelessness”. This resonated strongly, in how one moment I might find myself feeling very hopeful (e.g. hearing reports of progress in vaccine research trials, approvals and production); and then the next hour/day/moment, truth be told, feeling kind of hopeless (“Will this ever end?!?”). The ‘oscillation of hope’ (in Dr. Sánchez’s words) can be deeply disorienting as we cycle through these extremes and points in between.

In the seven-minute interview, Dr. Sánchez talks about our current state of uncertainty and disorientation though this shared experience of ‘oscillation of hope’. He notes that we can learn from Mexican philosophy (and specifically names the work of philosopher Emilio Uranga), in recognizing common suffering – and using this recognition to develop “bonds of love and common struggle”. Dr. Sánchez contests Western notions of radical individualism, and how this contributes to the sense of isolation that so many have been experiencing. The importance of community, relationships, connectedness, are meaningful and necessary. The interview is worth a listen! Check out this link in the text below, and scroll approx. half way down the page:

Interview Link: Word Processing: Zozobra
The various crises of our day have left many of us feeling anxious, disoriented and uncertain about the ground we stand on. Carlos Alberto Sanchez, professor of philosophy at San Jose State University, says Mexican philosophy has a concept to describe how we’re all feeling: “zozobra”. In the latest installment of our ongoing language segment Word Processing, he breaks down the meaning of “zozobra”, its Mexican roots and universal relevance, and how it can help us get through a turbulent time.

Now I am by no means a student of philosophy, but I can’t help feeling that philosophy has – and will continue to have – much to teach us in making sense of an experience that is so hard to make sense of. Finding hope and meaning are deeply human needs, and the voices of educators, scholars, activists and artists can offer pathways into hope and community.

Photo Essay on Toronto’s Kensington Highlights

 

Kensington Market art installation

Cactus leaves and raspberries

Delivery Truck: Cherry berries, peppers & avocados

Vintage clothing storefront

Jerk chicken, curried goat & goat roti

Kensington Market Street Art Skull

Special army surplus

Kensington Market Street Art Woman and Poster

Kensington Market Empanada Columbiana

Kensington Market see you soon

Shadows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t judge me for liking Reality TV – it’s not my fault

 

Just over a year ago I wrote an article for educators and presenters titled 5 Reasons why Reality TV is not a waste of time (describing 5 lessons learned from Reality TV shows).

Since then, I’ve noticed that “Reality TV Waste of Time” comes up again and again in peoples’ web browser search terms. This makes me wonder, why is Reality TV so strangely compelling to so many?

Let’s face it. “Reality” TV is a bit of a misnomer since there is little “real” about the story arc portrayed over the course of a season. Out of hundreds of hours of video, a post hoc narrative is assembled to reference traditional literary/cinematic tropes. What we see is merely an illusion of the unscripted and imperfect.

 

Nonetheless, these shows tap into some deeply human essentials:

First, we all seek social connectedness and community and are reflexively interested in one-anothers’ lives. If you live in a small town everybody knows your business, but populations are increasingly centred in urban environments within which it’s not uncommon to have limited (or no) interaction with our geographically proximate neighbours. Enter Reality TV:

Television occupies our most intimate spaces offering a simulacrum of community and connectedness (Allen & Hill, 2004).

Furthermore, we think in narrative structures – the human brain is hard-wired for story-telling. Reality television simultaneously represents and distorts powerful human stories. (Roche & Sadowsky, 2003).

The modern “quests” described by Reality TV represent a contemporary re-imagining of centuries-old themes: innocence, villainy, betrayal, honour, valour, (in)justice, victory and defeat (Ibrahim, 2007).

 

So, from a mortifying wealth of choices, here are a few illustrative examples:

The epic journey: Amazing Race, Survivor, Ice Road Truckers

The Combat Myth: Hell’s Kitchen, America’s Got Talent, The Apprentice

The search for the “Holy Grail”: Storage Wars, American Pickers, Pawn Stars

Love and betrayal (and sometimes betrothal): The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Four Weddings, Real Housewives

A window into the lives of others: LA Ink, 19 Kids and Counting, Breaking Amish.

 

I am not saying that any time watching any TV is time well spent. There are lots of better things to do. But…all things in moderation, that’s the key.

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