Tuesday, October 21, 2008


First Impression:

I’m landing in Toronto, and I take the Customs Form that I filled out and I’m supposed to hand in, which instructs me very clearly not to fold it, and I slip it inside the book I’d been reading on the plane. The form’s in the book; it won’t accidentally fold.

I walk up to the Canadian Customs Officer, a pretty young woman in a flak jacket, and I place the book on the counter in front of her. The Customs Officer reaches for my Customs Form and then abruptly stops, a look of concern contracting the muscles of her face. The concerned Customs Officer, gesturing to my Customs Form, then says:

“Is this your book mark?”

Welcome to Canada.

Intermediate Impression:

In Canada, they televise the Supreme Court proceedings. Being me, I watch, fascinated. For religious reasons, the Hutterites in Alberta have refused to have their pictures taken for their Drivers’ License. Can the government force them to? That’s the case.

Here’s how fair minded and even-handed the proceedings were. I watched a lawyer argue his position for more than fifteen minutes before I discovered which side he was representing. The way I finally found out was they subtitled on the bottom of the screen:

“(Whatever the guys’ name was): Representing the plaintiffs.”

I really couldn’t tell. Although he was advocating for the plaintiffs, the lawyer’s argument was so respectfully balanced that from an outsider’s perspective – an outsider from a fiercely adversarial culture – it was impossible to determine whether he believed the Hutterites should be required to have their Drivers’ License pictures taken or they shouldn’t.

Final Impression:

I’m flying back to L.A. Air Canada. I get up to go to the washroom. It’s occupied. I wait. Finally, the occupant comes out, and as I take a step towards the washroom, he holds the door open for me.

I’ve been on many planes on lots of different airlines. No one has ever held an airplane washroom door open for me before.

Air Canada. The courteous skies.

That’s the place I was borned in. That’s O Canada. That’s my home and native land.

Or is it?

I read some newspapers while I was there. There was some bad stuff being reported, murders, and other nefariosities. I don’t remember the details. And there’s a reason for that. The reason I don’t remember the details is because the information about the bad stuff didn’t stay with me. There’s a reason for that too. The information about the bad stuff didn’t stay with me because, due to a prejudice favoring my country of origin, I simply didn’t want to know.

That’s not good reporting on my part. It’s not even good remembering.

I wanted to be proud of my country of origin, and I wanted to show you that Canada’s okay. So I deliberately forgot stuff – no, not forgot – I never took it in in the first place. I only retained what supported my position.

It’s natural, I suppose. You remember what you remember. But for a purported seeker of wisdom truth such as myself, this is hardly my finest hour.

I’m going to mix metaphors here, can you handle it? It’s like we’re these receivers, and each of us receives information on our own personal frequency. And that frequency is like flypaper. (That’s the mixed metaphor – a flypaper frequency.) Somewhere in our remembering mechanism, we decide what we want to notice and what we don’t. And what we remember becomes the truth.

Some stuff – in this case, the positive stuff about Canada – sticks to our flypaper or is picked up on our frequency, and the other stuff isn’t picked up – or doesn’t stick to our flypaper – choose your metaphor. When you remember later, it’s like that other stuff never happened.

You want to know what’s really going on, don’t you? Maybe you don’t, I don’t know you. But I do. Or at least I say I do. The problem is, how can I know what’s really going on when I’m wired with a blatantly prejudizing predisposition?

The anecdotes I related about Canada actually happened. If you’re a regular reader, you know I don’t make stuff up. But a lot of bad stuff was going on at the same time. But that stuff was absent from my story.

There was no deliberate choosing. It doesn’t work that way. I can’t tell you about the bad stuff for a very simple reason.

I was programmed not to remember.


I want to thank my family and friends for making me feel so comfortable and welcome. I really wish we lived closer.


Tim Susman said...

I really think you've got something there, about the frequency on which we remember things. I know a lot of people who will selectively only remember the bad news, the mistakes, the flaws, the annoyances, and, surprise, those people are generally unhappy.

That's not to say we should gloss over the bad stuff altogether, but for heaven's sake, why work to make yourself more unhappy? As Yann Martel would have it (in "Life of Pi"), if you have the choice between two narratives that are equally plausible, why wouldn't you choose the one that makes you happier?

kenosha said...

I think you'd remember it if you felt you could do something about it. An occasional reminder that prayer is "something we can do" might open up that frequency to all the bad stuff. God bless Canada!