Solace in Quantum

Cover of Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed

Sometimes it takes a long time for a piece of writing to get out there.

I don’t mean “long” in cosmological terms, like Douglas Adams, who likens a walk to the chemist’s as “peanuts” compared to space. But when you put your writing into someone else’s structures – their spaces, their publishing formats, their agenda – you have to wait. It’s not the case with a blog like this, of which I am in full control (and therefore have no one else to blame for how infrequently it gets updated, but I never promised you quantity here.)

But while you have to wait, and sometimes you have to adjust things to suit your editor, there are real benefits to publishing with other people. Like reach. An audience wider than the friends on Facebook who bother to click the link (Note: ‘liking’ is great, but I’d love for you to read the posts, too. And comment. And share them. Go ahead.) The relevance of that audience can be a factor, and so I’m pleased that after a long wait, a blog I wrote has finally found a public home.

It began as a little musing I was going to post here, several months ago. Last year, in fact, before Christmas and just after I’d finished my first term lecturing at university – a course on social theory, which is not incidental when you read the post. Continue reading

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Primary Socialisation

Religion in Life Certificate

Started young, I did.

My dad sent me this scan of a certificate I got when I was in Cubs. I needed images of me in any Beavers or Cubs kit to go with a blog I was writing for the Messy Table. Seeing it now, there’s an eerie resonance with the MA I took at King’s College London in 2010-11 (Religion in Contemporary Life). Maybe I could be cheeky and call my Master’s degree “II Stage” of the programme. It cost a chunk of change, but there’s a qualitative difference between Zone 1-2 of London and the Cub Camp near Bragg Creek in the Alberta foothills…

Could I have imagined then that I would now be lecturing on religion and the media at a Russell Group university? We don’t know which from among our early experiences will have an impact on our later ones – and maybe, to a degree, we’re complicit in writing that script. That’s a bit of what the blog post is about, musing about a friend who is torn over enrolling his child in Scouting when he doesn’t believe in the God his child would be asked to profess.

Here’s some of what I had to say in the post:

The fellowship my friend wants his child to encounter in the Scouting programme, as well as maybe some groovy skills that include cooking beef, potatoes, and carrots in tin foil on a fire he helped make, is one set of experiences that will shape him. The utterance of belief in God is another, and the way the child is brought up in his home is yet another. The dream of a seamless meld here is a fantasy, because we are ourselves contradictory, before we even get to the contradictions we experience when we meet other people.

You can read the full piece here.

Inside Out

School is back in session here in Wales, but not so for my kiddos. We moved down from Edinburgh over the summer, and although there have been many things to love, a frustration is the wait for open spaces for the elder two most-certainly-school-aged kids. In the meantime, they’ve been doing Home School with Headmistress Mummy and Class Gerbil Little Brother.

And as a, er, special treat, they got an assignment this morning from Guest Lecturer Doctor Daddy. Though I toil at my new office Monday to Friday, I was able to take the elders to the local arts centre Sunday afternoon to watch Disney’s Inside Out.

I’d heard just a little about the movie – we’re rather a little bit “those people” and don’t have a telly at home, and going out to movies… well, I mentioned the Class Gerbil Little Brother, right? Scotches that kind of thing except in the most exceptional of circumstances, or when we divide and conquer. As we did Sunday. But as you can see from the clip above, there’s a lot going on here that merits unpacking. I was really struck by the supremacy of Joy and the denial of Sadness, which you can see at 0:51. Just talking tonight after dinner, I realised that the treatment of Sadness is something I’ve just been working with on a blog post I wrote just a couple of weeks ago for a groovy group of UniEdinburgh postgrads.

So, in true now-I-have-my-PhD-and-everything-must-be-considered-more-deeply fashion, I didn’t just take the kids to the movie. I gave them an assignment. And here it is – names replaced with age designations cuz that’s how I roll. Also, watch for the Bonus Question, as there is a bit of a SPOILER. Continue reading

Good Old Shoes

The author's bad old shoes

For my graduation ceremony last week, I went full-formal. Male students, we were advised, should wear a white bow tie with a dark suit. Well, the specificity of the neckwear notwithstanding, a “dark suit” covers a multitude of garments.

But you know, graduation comes but seldom, and for a doctorate, is indeed the celebration of a significant achievement and investment of time. And since I am in possession of a tuxedo and since it was with me in Edinburgh, why not wear it? (The tux was first acquired for a gala I went to as an undergraduate in the company of my uncle, aunt, and not-yet-fiancé. It was a decommissioned rental job, and we determined that if I wore it three times, it covered the cost of the separate rentals, so why not? That one of those “times” was not yet specified but kind of hanging in the air like a descending hot air balloon makes the tux most significant for my now-wife.) (And how did it come to Edinburgh? We had been invited to dinner with a certain Lady So-and-So at the kirk, and the high-bond invitation indicated that gentlemen should wear a dinner jacket. My lexicon is not fully Britishised, so I had to check with my supervisor as to whether this really meant a tux; he said yes it did. Mine was senselessly squatting in a closet in Ottawa, so I hit the charity shops and got a 48-chest British-wool dinner jacket for seven mighty quid. That it was impossibly large for me was tempered by its obvious quality and inviting price, so I bought it and wore it, convinced that the low light of dinner would obscure its ill fit. The next time I was over in Canada, I made a point of returning with the tux, just on the off-chance another high-bond invitation should slip through the door-slot. Still waiting.) Continue reading