Wondrous Wonder

Tonight as I was tucking B into bed, he asked whether I knew anything about superheroes. “What do you want to know?” I replied. He obviously wanted to know a lot, as he started throwing out questions faster than I could answer, such as:

  • Can Spider-Man shoot webs from his head or just his hands?
  • How does Thor fly up in the sky?
  • What’s so special about Black Widow? Can she walk on the ceiling?
  • Will you buy me rockets so I can fly like Iron Man?

And then he said, “But my wondrous wonder is if Hulk can jump from one forest to another. Do you think he could even jump across the world?”

He looked so intently at me that it was abundantly clear how serious he was about his questions. I remember when I shared his wondrous wonder about so many things. What leads us to lose our passion for learning and discovery? At what point does the pursuit of knowledge become tedious and/or designated as a work- or school-related activity? What can we do to continually foster a playful and adventurous spirit as we develop greater wisdom and expand our understanding of the world around us?


Math Problems

Last night I woke from a dream in which I was panicking because I hadn’t taken a math class that was necessary for my high school diploma. I often had these dreams during my first year of university but they stopped soon after I attended my high school graduation.

I completed high school over 25 years ago and have since received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. Even if I did need the extra math class, I’m not giving back the degrees or going back to high school.

I’m not sure where this dream came from after all these years, but the experience does make me wonder where my fears go once I’ve found a solution or resolution. Are the fears expunged from my memory, or are they simply buried deep within my mind with the ability to rise up again unexpectedly to haunt me? What does it take to eliminate my fears (especially the ridiculous ones) completely?



When we lived in Zimbabwe, I grew vegetables in four large garden plots behind our home. I planted tomatoes, carrots, onions, aubergine, peppers and various types of lettuce, so we always had a consistent supply of fresh produce. I also cultivated a small garden plot below our guava trees for herbs and strawberries.

Before moving to Zimbabwe, I knew nothing about gardening. Thankfully one of our friends, M, had studied agriculture in university when he lived in Congo Brazzaville, and he took great interest in teaching me. M showed me how to till the soil in our backyard and how to plant vegetables from seeds and seedlings. In order to promote growth, we also burned some maize husks and scattered and stirred the ash into the soil.

In addition to the ash, M told me I needed to acquire some cow manure to enrich the soil. One of my neighbours, C, often travelled around the country to visit farms and agricultural projects, so I asked if he could get me some manure.

A week later, I came home and found two large bags of cow manure in my backyard. I went to work right away, breaking up the cow pats with my hands over the garden plots and then mixing the manure into the soil with a rake. This took me almost two hours, but I was excited to have completed the task myself. I was becoming a real farmer.

When C came by later, he asked about the manure. I said thanks and told him I’d put it in the garden already. He looked at me incredulously and asked, “All of it?” It turns out that there was enough manure in the two bags for all of our neighbours.

That day I learned that sometimes shit is a valuable resource that promotes vibrant growth, and that a little bit of it goes a long way. You don’t need (or want) too much of it in your life or in your garden. I was also reminded of how easily westerners like me can waste resources that could benefit a whole neighbourhood.

I did, however, grow some spectacular tomatoes and onions after I added the manure to the garden, so perhaps a big dump of it is a good thing from time to time.



Ever since K started kindergarten, R and I have attended annual spring meetings with the school leadership team to discuss K’s academic progress and to align on a plan for the coming year. In the past, we’ve generally received negative reports that focused on his social inhibition and his challenges keeping up with the curriculum. Tears have been shed at these meetings.

This year, however, is different. We’ve witnessed incredible academic and social development in K over the course of Grade 3, and today’s meeting with the school team was infused with hope and positive feedback. This is primarily due to K’s teacher, Ms R. Instead of focusing on K’s weaknesses, Ms R recognized early on in the school year that K possesses strong math and reading skills. Knowing that it’s tough for K to initiate conversations, she utilized his strengths by having him help others with math problems and partnering as a reading buddy. While K still needs help with abstract questions and concepts, and he’s not able to draw much of anything (much like his father), he’s progressing well with the key academic disciplines, his social skills are improving, and he even participated on the cross country team.

At this point, my biggest concern is that my son’s math skills are already more advanced than mine. I’m embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t understand some of his homework the other day. At least I won’t be one of those parents who always complete their children’s homework for them.

Today I’ve been challenged to think about how I can better utilize strengths and assets instead of focusing on needs and weaknesses. This is applicable to me as I engage with others at work as a supervisor and at home as a husband and father. It’s also an important lesson to employ internally as I reflect on how I view, value and speak to myself.



When I was an undergraduate student, I spent a few years studying Classical Greek and Latin. It’s amazing how practical these courses have turned out to be in my professional life. It honestly boggles my mind that people waste their time and money on post-secondary studies such as engineering, IT and medicine, or on learning languages that are still spoken today such as French, Spanish and Mandarin. If asked to offer one piece of advice to prospective university students, I would say this: Studying dead languages is the way to go, closely followed by poetry and creative writing. You can’t go wrong with pursuing any of these academic disciplines; unless, of course, you want to have a nice place to live and adequate food to eat. Did you know that the word sarcasm comes from the Greek sarkasmós, which means to bite the flesh from one’s bones?

It’s been 20 years since I immersed myself in the worlds of Greece and Rome, but I often think of the stories I read/translated by the ancient poets and philosophers. One of these stories comes to mind often, as it provides a gentle but profound reminder to embrace freedom in my life.

I believe the story below was originally told by Herodotus, who is known both as the Father of History and the Father of Lies. I’m relying on my memory here, so let’s just say it was written by Herodotus, and not completely made up by me, and then I’ll either be a disciple of history or a disciple of lies, depending on how familiar you are with ancient Greek texts.

As Greek men were wont to do—or at least in the stories of antiquity—one day all of the landowners from a small city left their farms, livelihoods and families to travel by sea to fight with their countrymen against the enemy Persians. Gone for 10 long years, the Greek men returned home only to discover that their slaves had taken their place as the new masters of the city, having even married their wives.

Filled with rage at this discovery, the Greek men put on their armour, picked up their shields, swords and spears, and marched toward the city to reclaim their homes. When the former slaves saw the Greeks approaching, they quickly armed themselves in defence. A battle raged, but the Greek men, tired and hungry, were pushed back beyond the city gates.

Twice more the Greek men marched against the city, but each time they failed to defeat their former slaves. As they prepared to give up their fight, one among the Greeks spoke up. “Why are we fighting our former slaves man to man? When we do this, we show them that they are equals, and we will continue to struggle to overpower them. We must remind them who holds the power.”

With these words, the Greeks threw down their swords and spears and picked up their whips. Then they walked proudly toward the city.

When the former slaves saw the men approach and heard the crack of their whips, they were reminded of their past, lost their confidence and surrendered their freedom. The Greeks reclaimed their mastery over the slaves and took back ownership of the city.

I write this now as a free man, but at times I question whether I have the intelligence, social skills and motivation necessary to excel in my professional life. I also worry too much about what others think of me and whether I receive enough recognition for what I do. And sometimes I speak sarcastically and critically of others. These are all things that enslave me and interfere with a healthy and vibrant life.

However, when I focus on being true to myself, showing kindness and patience to others, and listening to close friends and family members who know me best and care for me, I am able to experience a life of freedom.

The key is to recognize the whips which continually call me back to a life of slavery.


One Box

Last week I packed up all of my personal belongings from my office and brought them home. After five years of working in the same large office space, I’d filled up the shelves with books, placed artwork on the walls, and arranged photo frames and trinkets on the desks (for some reason I have two desks and a meeting table, probably just to fill up the ridiculous amount of floor space). It felt so liberating to remove everything personal from my workplace.

When I first moved into this office I was embarrassed by its size; I often say to people that it’s larger than the first apartment I lived in when I got married. Now that I’ve removed the personal items I’d accumulated over the years, the office feels even larger, but it’s also become sterile and barren. This week I plan to replace the personal artwork with material from our recent advertising campaigns, so that should restore some vibrancy to the walls, but the art will now reflect the organization’s branding and not me personally. I think that’s a positive step for both me and my employer. I want to avoid any sense of entitlement or complacency at work. My office is not my home nor do I have any ownership over it. While I do want to feel valued and respected, I don’t want to be taken for granted—and I shouldn’t take the organization for granted either.

Today at home, I gathered a few books and put them in a small brown box along with a photo frame of my family and a personal item for my desk. These I will permit myself to bring back to the office. The personal item is a blown glass orca whale given to me by my mother after I completed my graduate studies and we travelled to Vancouver Island together for my convocation weekend. The orca reminds me of many things: the unfailing love of my parents; walking on Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park where my brother’s ashes were scattered; and the accomplishment of receiving my master’s degree (the glass orca is much more beautiful to look at than a framed degree mounted on a wall). I’ve decided never to accumulate more personal items at work than I can quickly fit into one small box, which I plan to keep beneath my desk as a reminder.

I suppose if I was more courageous, I’d delete the previous two paragraphs and share the real reason why I packed up all of my personal belongings last week. Either way, I do feel more free.