Archive for July, 2020


Back in 2013 I wrote:

Unless they mean it humorously, when people utter this phrase – “but I’m not complaining” – they are  *always* complaining; i.e., they are expressing “pain, grief, or discontent.” What these sad and/or irritated individuals mean to say is this:  “But I’m not whining.”  That is, they are not complaining in a petulant, feeble, long-lasting, or high-pitched manner.  Nonetheless, they *are* whining, usually, despite their protests of innocence, aren’t they?

I felt I needed to come up with a formula to get my insight across: “If you complain about the same thing three times in a row, no other significant topic intervening, then you are in fact whining.”

With the pandemic, it has become almost impossible to interrupt one’s complaints with other topics. For example, my partner lives in the United States and we can’t cross the border to see one another. The “pain” and “discontent,” if not the “grief,” is continual. On the few occasions I am not talking about it, others are asking me about it.

So therefore, a new formula: Whining = just fine.

The Greeks and Us

Lately I’ve been beginning my mornings reading the Greek Tragedies. It has been a joy! Perhaps the biggest theme in the Aeschylus and Sophocles I’ve read so far: the pressure of justice upon children. I’ve been reminded of something I wrote on that topic awhile ago about more modern times:

Compared to how often parents denounce and disown their children, it is remarkably rare to see them do so in print. Why? Perhaps because, to anyone outside the writer’s particular family orbit, slagging one’s offspring utterly undermines one’s standing as a parent, and hence one’s authorial credibility, too. (The father of cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, Lionel Dahmer, saves his harsh judgments for himself.)

I can think of only one example in the genre: Famous atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s rejection of her first son, William Murray, after he became a born-again Christian. (This son was the “Murray” in the Supreme Court Case Murray v. Curlett in which the court banned prayer in United States schools.) O’Hair wrote: “One could call this a postnatal abortion on the part of a mother, I guess; I repudiate him entirely and completely for now and all times. He is beyond human forgiveness.”

Books by adult children attacking their parents, on the other hand, are everywhere.  Parents, even if they are not dead, can’t fight back without bringing upon themselves righteous fury and dishonour. This genre, then, allows justice for those children among us who could never defend themselves before, but for the rest it provides a template for cowardice and disgrace that is tempting for a time. [4 June ’04]

Happy Canada Day

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