Vocation

  • Dignity of Work

    My father was a construction labourer during my early youth, and I remember taking the scenic routes to a destination so that we could observe the progress being made on a construction project that he had contributed to. I remember welling with pride—my dad helped build that!—and though my father wasn't the talkative sort, I know he also felt a particular sense of accomplishment that wasn't measured by the hours of labour or the paycheque received.

    Every job has its unique satisfactions, but I suppose the job of a construction worker is a good one to illustrate the importance of work and vocation to our wellbeing.

    My father was a construction labourer during my early youth, and I remember takin...

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  • My 2013 Top Ten

    And I'm very pleased to offer my own highlights of Cardus's year, as the grateful president of this enthusiastic young outfit. I won't try to be comprehensive—that's what our yearbook is for. Rather, let me share a few of the items that I'm most excited about.

    If you haven't been paying attention, I understand. Everybody wants your attention nowadays, and all of us face a thousand experts shouting a thousand opinions. So I'm grateful you're here, following Cardus.

    And I'm very pleased to offer my own highl...

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  • Experiencing Every Square Inch of God's Theater

    Calvin described this world, moved by God's providence, as theatrum gloriae. For him, every aspect of life from work to worship and from art to technology bears the potential to glorify God (Institutes, 1.11.12). Creation is depicted as a platform for God's glory (1.14.20) or a "dazzling theater" (1.5.8; 2.6.1), displaying God's glorious works. Calvin viewed the first commandment as making it unlawful to steal "even a particle from this glory" (2.8.16). Such comments support Lloyd-Jones' later claim that for Calvin "the great central and all-important truth was the sovereignty of God and God's glory."What makes the theater image powerful?  It's the interaction between performers and audience. Every performance is unique as the audience responds to the actors who in turn are affected by the response. The lively dynamism shapes the experience.

    Last week's Comment interview reminded me of why I prefer John Calvin's metaphor of the world as the theater of God's glo...

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  • Scholars are Worth More than Dollars

    Already, he is showing the twitchiness he develops as the prospect of diving back into the archives and rooting through centuries old documents draws near.

    Tomorrow I will put a young fellow of my close acquaintance on a plane to Paris where he will go back to researching the social implications of insect infestations on farms in early modern France.

    Already, he is showing the twitchiness he develops as...

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  • Knitting While Detroit Burns?

    But one could also worry that we're confusing humility with retreat. Eschewing triumphalism shouldn't be confused with abandoning aspirations for large-scale systemic change. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    A generation of younger evangelicals are still reeling from the misguided triumphalism of a generation past. Having watched their parents confidently seek to "transform" culture, only to see some of them end up as evangelistic shills for crony capitalism an...

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  • The Back End of the Golden Goose

    But our general support for the development of our resource extraction sector—and our recognition of the huge benefit such work brings to Canada—shouldn't be equated with uncritical support.

    Cardus is on record—in a number of different places—as seeing Canada's natural resources as a tremendous opportunity for our country and its citizens. We've called Canada "a land flowing with milk and ho...

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  • Families, Flourishing, and Upward Mobility

    It is certainly true that this dream easily slides towards idolatry. It can become a nightmare of crass materialism and selfish ambition. But we shouldn't confuse idolatrous perversions with more humble aspirations of families to simply enjoy a mode of economic security that is conducive with flourishing.

    If the "American dream" is anything it is a dream of upward mobility: the dream of getting ahead, climbing the ladder, leapfrogging from one class to another in a "land of opportunity"—all if you're willing to work for it. Too often, fantastic "rags to rich...

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  • Called to the Show

    It is the dream of every AAA ballplayer to be called up to the show. It's the day they spend their entire career preparing for. It comes with new demands and scrutiny. Dostoyevsky, in his novel The Idiot dropped the enigmatic phrase, "Beauty will save the world." Ippolit Terentiev asks Myshkin: "Is it true, prince, that you once said that beauty will save the world?" and then mockingly adds: "What kind of beauty will save the world?" But Myshkin gives no answer to Terentiev's question.

    The time for artists is now. They are being called up to the show. Their role in cultural renewal can no longer be relegated to the minor league.

    It is the dream of every AAA ballplayer...

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  • Sacrifice Binds Us

    The purpose of his article, which I heartily recommend and endorse, is to leave behind the placards and plumb the depths of the word and its public implications for North America.

    Rusty Reno notes in his opening essay of First Things' June/July issue that "solidarity" is a word that, "for a long time, has been a word of the left: class solidarity, workers' solidarity, solidarity strikes and so forth."

    The purpose of ...

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  • Holding Onto Relics

    She has been wreaking a clearing and cleaning path since mid-June, making landfall in the overcrowded slum of our laundry room just before the solstice, then churning her way up the coast with lightning speed toward the densely-packed districts of the garage. In the chorus of the Jimi Hendrix classic from the Summer of Love, "the wind cries Mary." In my household this summer, The Hurricane howls: "Old! Useless! Out!" You will appreciate the many nerve-wracking moments when I wondered how long it would before I, too, was lifted and deposited firmly on the curb.

    There was a tree-demolishing windstorm in my Montreal borough last week, but it was a zephyr beside the summer long in-house hurricane known as my wife.

    She has been wreaking a clearing and cleaning path since mid-June, making landfall in the overcro...

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  • Nurture

    From a training and educational standpoint, nurses are highly qualified to assess bodily system functions and use complex technology to monitor their patients. They monitor vital signs, check and replace IV lines, administer injections, make painstaking reports, and perform an overwhelming assortment of often unpleasant tasks not included in their job description. It is nurses who keep our hearts beating.

    My sister, Angela, recently spent 15 days in hospital. Needless to say, my family met many nurses over those weeks. In this time I've wondered about the distinction between duty and service. What is it that makes one nurse seem more compassionate and attune...

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  • The Extraordinary Ordinariness

    In a lovely, reflective article by Charles McGrath, who identifies himself as Munro's first editor at the New Yorker Magazine in the 1970s, Munro confirms that a lifetime of short story writing has come to an end. It is astonishing, of course, to think of Alice Munro turning 82. Writing that endures seems to confer on the writer not just extended literary mortality but also an exemption from normal human passage.

    One of the small, quiet, but deeply meaningful stories on Canada Day was the news in the New York Times that Alice Munro will write no m...

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  • Taking a Bow

    One of Dudamel's signature moves is to bypass the customary conductor's bow in response to audience applause, and instead leap off of the podium and embed himself within the orchestra. He will put his arm around a couple of the performers and initiate a communal bow to acknowledge the appreciation.

    Classical music aficionados will recognize the name Gustavo Dudamel, the 28-year-old director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic who has become the craze of the symphony orchestra scene around the world. The May 18th print ...

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  • Garden-Variety Work

    I raked the lawn out, fertilized it, cleared the remnant leaves from the flower beds, put up new netting for my beloved vines, fixed the fence next to the roses and made arrangements with the arborist to clean up the ash tree. One of the fences has to be replaced this summer and I need to speak with the neighbour about that. Before I head off to Montreal next weekend, I hope to mow the lawn. So it begins.

    Last weekend, finally, I began this summer's work in the garden. Winter has been long this year in Alberta—it began the third week in October and the most recent heavy snowfall of 20 cm or so was only two weeks ago.

    I raked the lawn out, fertilized i...

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  • Who is Responsible for College Seniors?

    Parents and students everywhere wait with bated breath to find the results to the mysterious process of college acceptance. An entire industry has formed around supporting high school seniors in this life-defining rite of passage. One of the critical outcome assessments of private high schools is how successful they are in positioning their graduates in getting into the colleges and universities of their choice.

    This is the season for thick and thin envelopes.

    Parents and students everywhere wait with bated breath to find the results to the mysterious process of college acceptance. An entire industry has formed around supporting high school seniors in this l...

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  • Here Come the Wonksters

    "The harsh events of the past decade may have produced not a youth revolt but a reversion to an empiricist mind-set," says David Brooks. He calls it a tendency to think in demoralized economic phrases like "data analysis," "opportunity costs" and "replicability," and a tendency to dismiss other more ethical and idealistic vocabularies that seem fuzzy and, therefore, unreliable.

    After the hippie, the yuppie, and the hipster, the cool people are now . . . wonksters?

    "The harsh events of the past decade may have produced not a youth revolt but a reversion to an empiricist mind-set," ...

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  • Book of Jobes

    After watching a Calgary performance last week, with playwright Janz participating in a post-production conversation, the predominant emotion I felt was admiration and sympathy. The story is of a Cerebral Palsy sufferer who has remarkably persevered through her disability (with the heroic assistance of many caregivers and providers) to earn a Ph.D.; she has coped with the deaths of her two closest friends; and she survived a vicious robbery in her home in which she was close to death, only to subsequently forgive her attacker and live her life with evident purpose and zeal.

    Edmonton playwright Heidi Janz' autobiographical Book of Jobes deals with the complexities of coping with difficult providences. The play's central character, Rachel Jobes, despairs with God regarding the continued usefulness of her life in an extend...

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  • An Engagement with Acton on Right to Work

    The legislation gives workers covered by a collective agreement in their workplace the option of membership (and subsequent dues payments) in the union responsible for negotiating that agreement. Needless to say, the debate around this law has been heated; so heated that multiple rules of engagement were broken in the span of minutes.

    Michigan is now a right to work state. Let the market rejoice, and let unions weep and gnash their teeth. Let prognosticators wait a few minutes before prophesying.

    The legislation gives workers covered by a collective agreement in their workplace th...

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  • Common Work for the Common Good

    Well, I'm not buying anything, but as the new editor of Comment magazine I am very excited to buy into the vision and mission of Cardus and Comment in an even deeper way. Like many of you, I've been a longtime reader of Comment, and over the years I've been honored to contribute several articles and even guest edited an issue (Letters to the Young).

    In a series of 1980s television commercials, Victor Kiam, owner of the Remington razor company, used to brag: "I like the shaver so much, I bought the company!"

    Well, I'm not buying anything, but as the new editor of Comment magazine I am very...

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  • Families and their Worldviews

    U.S. families can be divided into four approximately equal-sized groups. On one end of the spectrum are a group the UVA researchers labelled "the faithful" (20% of the sample); "engaged progressives" (21%) occupy the other extreme. The two groups in the middle of the spectrum were labelled as "the detached" (19%) and "American dreamers" (27%.) Huffington Post columnist Lisa Belkin provides a thorough summary of each of these groups and their particular characteristics.

    Last week, the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia released a report based on survey data showing the diversity of American familie...

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  • Memento Mori

    New York is not a place known for its contemplation of mortality. The glitz, the money, the movement, the power, the sheer seething of the place contributes to a sense that it is a place that will never die. It's hard to remember, living in a city that never sleeps, that each of us will one day sleep in the cold ground.

    Remember, man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return (and the same for your buildings).

    New York is not a place known for its contemplation of mortality. The glitz, the money, the movement, the power, the sheer seething of the place contrib...

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  • Intuition Trumps Strategy

    In the October 2012 issue of Policy Options, NDP insider Anne McGrath and Conservative strategist Stephen Carter provide their assessment regarding the application of Haidt's thesis to the Canadian context. McGrath equivocates, suggesting that Haidt's appeal for civility is a bit of a "naïve distaste for acrimony," and doesn't adequately account for the mobilization that divisive momentums such as the Occupy Movement have created through history.

    A recent book by American psychologist Jonathan Haidt (a self-described liberal) has provoked interesting conversation among the political intelligentsia. In ...

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  • Whatever is Left of Him

    Yet there, yesterday, was the character named Rope who, when I last imagined him, was kneeling face down on a downtown sidewalk with his eyes full of broken glass, slowly bleeding to death to end a short story called "Orange and Peel." Yesterday he sat, flesh and blood, on the steps of a flower shop between Hingston and Beaconsfield in Montreal's Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighbourhood.

    It is not a little unnerving to meet a fictional character you've created.

    Yet there, yesterday, was the character named Rope who, when I last imagined him, was kneeling face down on a downtown sidewalk with his eyes full of broken glass, slowly blee...

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  • Buildings Encouraging Idiocy?

    I have a hunch that most of us think of our buildings as inert shells. They might be pretty or ugly places, but they don't any power to change us. They're just there; we, the humans, are the actors. Rooms are places where we change our shirts, shorts, and sheets. They are places where we make love, play music, brush our teeth, eat, sleep, hold meetings, do business, pray. Unlike traditional condos, the units are all three- and five-bedroom apartments. The building will have student-friendly features including parking, a social room in the building and on-site gym. And the units are designed to handle the rowdy student life as well with insulated concrete walls. "If you were to punch the wall, this concrete, you're basically going to break your knuckles. It's just designed in such a way that it won't be destroyed," Mr. Firsten, president of In8 Developments, said he came up with the idea for the purposed-based units after several years of owning and renting student houses in Waterloo. "What I determined was there's a lot of wear and tear," he said. "It's challenging moving kids in and out, parties in the backyards, keggers, kids punching or putting their heads through the wall. Crazy stuff."

    Can the shape or condition of a room change you?

    I have a hunch that most of us think of our buildings as inert shells. They might be pretty or ugly places, but they don't any power to change us. They're just there; we, the humans, are the actors. Ro...

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