Farewell 2018, hello 2019
We are now well into the twenty-first century. The hopes and dreams of our ancestors are well within reach or even surpassed. So where do we go from here?
Personally, I’m inspired in part by the words of preeminent feminist scholar and philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft. Wollstonecraft lived in London, Britain between April 27, 1759, and September 10, 1797. (One of her children, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, is the famous writer of Frankenstein.)
Wollstonecraft’s first commercial success was a political pamphlet. She wrote “A Vindication of the Rights of Men” in 1790 to respond to Edmund Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France”. In it, she wrote:
In life, an honest man with a confined understanding is frequently the slave of his habits and the dupe of his feelings, whilst the man with a clearer head and colder heart makes the passions of others bend to his interest; but truly sublime is the character that acts from principle, and governs the inferior springs of activity without slackening their vigour; whose feelings give vital heat to his resolves, but never hurry him into feverish eccentricities.
‘During, 2019, I will focus on “acting from principle” and “governing the inferior springs of activity without slackening their vigour.”
I summarize those ideas with the word “peaceful.”
Before focusing on 2019, I think it’s worth reflecting on what happened in 2018.
Slow Start to the Year
Last year’s word for me was “active.” Eventually, the word helped me succeed with several projects. Early in the year, however, I struggled to figure out what to do with my ambitions.
I don’t know what to do with my government action intentions yet, and this problem really stopped me early in 2018. Part of my problem stems from a bruised ego after losing the municipal election late in 2017. There’s a bigger issue with my identity too though. During the election campaign, I gave up a long-held conviction for neutral observance as a journalist and became a clearly biased wannabe politician. Both personas enabled me to share a passion for public service, but neutral journalism is no longer possible. Since I don’t want to practice opinionated journalism either, I haven’t yet figured out how to evolve further. For most of 2018, I avoided writing about municipal politics altogether. I didn’t write much journalism at all in 2018, as you’ll know if you’ve been following the Arialview blog or The Suburban.
I continued writing, although primarily for clients. Those contracts enabled me to study behavioural science, the collaborative economy and how people participate in a just, democratic society. Much of the resulting work will be published over the next two years.
I also began speaking and teaching people how to write well in 2018 and this will continue in earnest in 2019.
Family History Presentations
The earliest speaking gig took place in February along with two other members of Genealogy Ensemble.
My favourite of these was a group presentation to the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO) group back in February. The presentation took place in a wonderful venue, The Chamber, Ben Franklin Place, 101 Centrepointe Drive, Ottawa, Ontario. Afterwards, we met with the organization’s writing group and received a warm welcome there also.
I recently turned my portion of the presentation at that event into a free course called “Four Steps to Profile Your Ancestors.” It only takes 23 minutes to go through it. Let me know what you think!
Also, BIFHSGO has another wonderful presentation in the same space two weekends from now. Two sisters, Kristen den Hartog and Tracy Kasaboski will be speaking about how they combined their family history research into a book called “The Cowkeeper’s Wish.” Unfortunately, I can’t attend the presentation, which is open to the public and takes place from 10 until 11:30 am on Saturday, January 12. To keep up with the sisters’ work, however, I’ve signed up for updates when they add to their blog, thecowkeeperswish.com.
Raif Badawi Freedom Award
Another highlight from 2018 took place on April 26 when the Montreal Press Club celebrated its 70th anniversary by awarding jailed Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi with its first ever Freedom Award.
It was such an honour to have dinner with his wife Ensaf Haider and his children Maryam, Doudi and Najwa, who now live in Sherbrooke.
Controversial philosopher Jordan B. Peterson also spoke at the event.
A month later, on May 28, the City of Montreal made Badawi an honourary citizen of the city.
Every Friday at noon, they hold a vigil at the Sherbrooke City Hall to bring Badawi to Canada so that he can be reunited with his wife and children. Friday will be the 158th such event.
I can’t wait to welcome Badawi to Canada.
After that event, activities with the Urban Abundance Solidarity Cooperative (CAUS) took over my schedule.
Promoting Local Food Production
My work with CAUS last year featured a compost project, farmers’ markets, shared gardens and a new member retail outlet at Verdun’s Municipal Greenhouse. Our membership is growing and we extended our Wednesday farmers’ markets into the autumn, a pilot project that will continue in 2019.
Members also re-elected me onto the board of Grand Potager, the non-profit that has turned the municipal greenhouses into an urban agriculture resource centre. The 2018 year marked the first of self-sustaining operations for the new organization. Our 2019 goal will be fundraising to replace the older production greenhouses. That’s been a joy to be a part of.
I’m going to continue exploring how Canada can become more self-sufficient, particularly when it comes to food. I’m excited about continuing the farmers’ markets, compost project and member retail centre with CAUS. I also have two additional projects planned—fruit baskets and a local food application.
The year 2018 also marked the beginning of my audio investigation of what it means to be Canadian. During the year, I spoke to courageous people working hard to make our country stronger and kinder while making sure that their own lives have meaning.
It’s a great honour to continue working on that project in the coming year.
Exploring the Nature of Truth
I also plan to continue exploring the nature of truth as “that which corresponds to reality.” My work encouraging Canadians to create Notable Nonfiction in the fields of business, genealogy and journalism will continue.
I’m also planning to explore and promote the incredible leaps and bounds we’re taking in the fields of high tech and artificial intelligence while working equally hard to protect human health. There’s no doubt that we are all undergoing a giant experiment right now, and I’m committed to reconciling the two realities.
Part of that work will be the long-awaited book about how Canada changed because of World War II. If you’d like to be among the beta readers, please let me know.
In the meantime, enjoy the beginning of what I hope will be a wonderfully productive year.
For me, I’m particularly inspired by Thomas Paine’s argument that each of us is born with equal rights and that the state must protect those rights while giving us the ability to keep control over its efforts through voting and other democratic innovations.
I also agree with Jean-Paul Sartre that each of us must choose what we do with our lives to ensure meaning. Simone de Beauvoir’s extension of his ideas to encourage women to recognize our own freedom and in doing so free ourselves from a society whose rules and values have traditionally stemmed from men.
So, here’s to freedom and meaning in 2019.
 Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Men, in a Letter to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, occasioned by his Reflections on the Revolution in France (2nd edition London, Printed for J. Johnson, 1790), https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/wollstonecraft-a-vindication-of-the-rights-of-men, accessed 1/1/2019.
About the Author
Tracey Arial helps Canadians grow with notable nonfiction and urban agriculture.