It’s late. Large snowflakes softly fall. I can see them as they pass under the streetlights. A thick layer of snow has formed on the street below my window. The house seems so quiet now with the boys asleep.
This will be my last journal entry for 2006 and when I think of the year that has passed it seems to have stormed in and left without even stopping for a drink. Our younger was born in February and the newspaper moved from printing once a month to twice a month in April. The number of staff in our office has doubled, we’ve got even more great writers and our readership has skyrocketed. So the year has been one of birth, growth, and propulsion.
Not much has changed on the international front. War still goes on in Iraq and Canada is still trying to bring peace to Afghanistan, but the longer it lasts the less likely it seems. Nobody truly believes that civility is possible in such a tribal culture, but the ethical sense of duty to help and protect the people in their war-torn country still goes on.
I met with a great Canadian architect today. We spoke about cities, about the importance of designing buildings that enhance the streets they are on. His philosophy reminds me so much of my fathers. My father was also a great architect who believed that good architecture must fit within a social structure. It should always take into account the rest of the community and work to complement the landscape around it. Architecture is about creating a civilization.
I drove past the Royal Ontario Museum. Construction continues. At this point the heavy-hanging metal beams looming over the sidewalk remind me of the scenes of destruction left by the twin towers — it seems barren and empty, the cold steel and glass a reflection of the new immediacy that seems to be taking over life in today’s “got to have it now” world. The old solid stone building behind this mess seems to be cringing at the horrible partner that is now being fused to it. The design is an exhibitionist statement made to attract attention. It was created to fix the immediate problem of lack of attendance. It is like an immature child screaming “look at me, look at me.” While at first it will turn heads, it will require an endless succession of bells and whistles to get people back time and again.
It didn’t need to be this way. Unfortunately the design is not a solution to the problem of attendance, but merely a quick fix attempt — like a bandage one hopes will be ripped off quickly but may stick on, growing more and more ugly as the years pass. The architecture feeds the vulgar elements within society and will ultimately hinder the natural development of the area that surrounds it.
Tonight I watch the news as Canadian forces meet up with yet another suicide bomber in Afghanistan. His body lies in pieces on the road. Tanks and armoured vehicles are everywhere. The buildings in the background are bland square boxes. I click from channel to channel.
How much does Canada shape my value system? I have a garden to sit in. There are clean parks and safe streets that my children can play in. I’m not living hand to mouth, with little time to think. I have the time to contemplate, to create, to build. I have reason to value the civil society I live in. But the people in Afghanistan don’t have these luxuries. Life isn’t about working together to make a better community but about personal survival.
I think of my boys quietly sleeping, I watch the snow steadily falling. I am safe, there is peace all around me. The television brings images of people struggling in Afghanistan; people with different beliefs so strong they are willing to die for them. I see the shards of glass from a suicide bomber’s car glitter on a road halfway around the world and I remember my grandfather’s words: “There but for the grace of God