Columns

From the category archives: Columns

Dr. Gerry Turcotte

Church signs can elicit giggles, guffaws

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
October 26, 2015

The feedback I received in response to a column about Church bulletins prompted me to consider that other powerful medium that parishes everywhere use to communicate with their communities - Church signs. We are all familiar with the unintentional messages that a hastily worded sign can send: 'Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.' Or the possibly intentional misspelling in this one: 'God's will is perfect; people make misteaks'.

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Life offers a balance of shadows and light

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
September 28, 2015

There is a funny story of identical twins, one always excruciatingly negative, the other indescribably positive. The first is given a horse and complains that he has to feed it; the other a room filled to the ceiling with manure who exclaims happily: 'I know there's a pony in here somewhere!' Optimists are often criticized for being unforgivably positive even when events would suggest otherwise. We can all think of the person who always says, 'Could be worse,' no matter how catastrophic an event.

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Life's failures can open creative doors

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
September 14, 2015

Recently, at a workshop for university presidents, one of my colleagues noted that at times he felt everyone was too afraid of failure. He challenged us to embrace failure - to give it a try, in order to understand its potential as a learning moment. The example he gave was trying to teach a young child how to do math. He told the child to imagine he had 36 donuts and to divide them into two lines.

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Mary's accessibility always brings comfort

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
August 31,2015

The first prayer I ever learned as a child was the Hail Mary. To this day I experience a sense of comfort and sacredness from those opening lines: "Hail Mary full of grace. The Lord is with thee. "I remember a feeling of awe when, as I backpacked through Turkey as a young man, I came across Meryem ana, the House of Mary, arguably the last place she lived before her death. This is where the Apostle John is said to have taken her after Christ's instructions, from the cross, to care for his mother.

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Don't get caught with a placebo faith

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
July 13, 2015

How many times have you pressed the "door close" arrow in an elevator? If, like me, your answer is several hundred times, then rest assured the exercise was futile. Government policy, especially as it relates to disability legislation, prescribes the unalterable length of time an elevator door must remain open. The button is there for emergency personnel and usually only works with a bypass key.

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Musical interlude dropkicked me through the goalposts of life

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
June 1, 2015

The role of a university president is varied and always interesting. I can truly say I was prepared for the bulk of the issues that have come my way, but there are still some that have caught me by surprise. Sometimes an issue can emerge that is so unexpected that it leaves me speechless. One of the most unusual matters I dealt with last year was a formal complaint about our answering service.

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A symbol's history can reveal surprising meanings

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
May 4, 2015

It's hard to imagine getting through our daily lives without symbols. Few in the western world would fail to recognize a bright red octagon and not know it meant "Stop!" It's perhaps why there are so many funny additions to the sign. My favourites include the prankster who wrote "in the name of love" on one, or the person in a country town who crossed out "stop" and wrote "Whoa!" Not all symbols are as universally understood, however, and many have lost or changed their meaning over time.

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When speed replaces patience, our sense of wonder is hijacked

Dr. Gerry Turcotte
March 9, 2015

In 2004 I published a multi-genre book entitled Border Crossings: Words and Images that featured poems, essays, short stories and images. Virtually all of the photographs were "old school" – that is, analog not digital. The book was a combination of writings that I had written for performance, including a live dramatic reading with a jazz ensemble at the famed Sydney Opera House, and a photographic installation at the Wollongong City Art Gallery, also in Australia.

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Ordinary Time can still bring exhilarating experiences

Dr. Gerry Turcotte

February 9, 2015

As a child I was always thrown when the priest announced that we were in Ordinary Time. Sometimes it seemed self-evident; but often it was anything but ordinary. My uncle bagged a moose; someone won the lottery; another had triplets. And in the papers . . . goodness me, nothing seemed ordinary. So why was the priest proclaiming that we were in the fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time? What, I always wondered, was extraordinary time? Maybe I should come back later when the cool things were happening.

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New Year's can be time to restart the engines

Dr. Gerry Turcotte

January 12, 2015

I was struck by the following quote that is often repeated in the context of New Year's resolutions: "Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties." It's an inspirational statement, though you might be forgiven for thinking that such messages sometimes fall flat when you are really struggling. Many complain that New Year's Day is an equally provisional symbol of a fresh start . . . as though all the pain or joy, the failures or successes of the past year suddenly vanish just because we reset the clock.

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