Reality is…whatever’s important


What’s important to me right now is finishing up our kitchen renovation. When I go to sleep at night I dream of adjusting crooked shelves and sticking drawers and off-level cabinets. Forget philosophy, my entire reality is revolving around this new kitchen.

As for our kids, their reality is the start of March break. This has turned out to be a bit of a heartbreaker for our oldest son, Michael, whose birthday lands at the end of this week. With our recent house move he wasn’t able to get his birthday invitations out to his friends, some of whom are now traveling with their parents over the break, and the rest, well, don’t seem to have last names, at least as far as Michael can remember. So his reality is now focused on the temporary absence of his friends.

For quite a few Canadians today’s reality is probably the warm afterglow of this year’s Vancouver Olympics. I’d bet only Paul Henderson’s winning shot against the Soviets in 1972 Canada-Soviet Series has affected Canadians more than Sid Crosby did with his gold medal-winning overtime goal against the Americans on Sunday. On top of that there’s the record-breaking 14 gold medals won by our Canadian Olympic athletes. But unfortunately I didn’t merge with any of that reality. I was busy with the kitchen. Since we still don’t have cable TV, forget that.

Some realities are definitely less pleasant than others. Friday’s massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake—the seventh largest ever on record—in Chile is a grim follow-up to the 7.0-scale earthquake disaster in Haiti last month. A more earthquake-prepared Chile resulted in far fewer casualties (present count at 700+ deaths), but still over 500,000 people have been affected. Chile’s earthquake-ready reality stems from a giant 9.5-magnitude event that killed more than 2000 people there in 1960.

In a reality closer to home, fishermen in Prince Edward Island are apparently upset this week about a proposed ban on their bluefin tuna fishing. Island fishermen take “only” 138 metric tonnes of these prized fish a year, so what’s the big deal?

Well, the Scientific American website reports that,

“Scientists and conservationists have long warned that bluefin stocks in the eastern Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea are facing imminent collapse after years of mismanagement by ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas). Stocks in the Gulf of Mexico and West Atlantic have already declined so significantly that U.S. and Canadian fleets routinely fail to even meet their annual ICCAT catch quota, while catch limits are routinely ignored and wildly exceeded by European and Japanese vessels.

“Studies cited in the Monaco proposal report that Atlantic bluefin stocks have fallen by about 75 percent from 1957 to 2007, with 60 percent of that loss occurring in just the past 10 years as overfishing has accelerated. Scientists warn that continuing to fish the bluefin at current levels will push the population to 94 percent below the size it was before commercial exploitation began, effectively collapsing the fishery and putting some populations at risk of extinction.”

That’s pretty real.

Reality for the Japanese is wonderful sushi. And the best sushi has fresh raw tuna in the centre of it. In 2007 the Japanese imported 32,356 metric tonnes of the stuff to satisfy their craving for the ultimate sushi and sashimi. For fans of sashimi (sliced raw fish) tuna is king.

Wikipedia has a good entry on sashimi. Apparently, a sashimi-grade fish is one that’s caught by hand on a line, and once landed is killed instantly with a spike through the brain and immediately packed into ice. The rapid killing prevents the release of lactic acid in the fish, which helps prevent the fish from decaying in the ice and no doubt provides a cleaner tasting flesh.

It should be noted that, unlike the tuna “harvested” by the large purse seines used by the big French and Italian rigs that ply the Atlantic and Mediterranean, the tuna caught in PEI are reeled in by hook and line, making these fish the ideal candidates for the most expensive traditional sashimi.

Just to understand reality—as it is for our PEI tuna fishing neighbours—a single healthy adult tuna can fetch up to $100,000 at Tokyo’s largest fish market in Japan. That’s some motivation to oppose a ban on tuna fishing. Hmm. Let’s see. Catch one tuna and buy a new house. Or ditch the tuna and forget the new house. Which choice to make?

Not surprisingly, the ever-environmentally sensitive Harper government has made its choice. The Federal Minister of Fisheries, Gail Shea, told the PEI Fisherman’s Association last week that Canada supports them in opposing the European Union’s call for ban on tuna fishing. Our Canadian reality, it seems, is very conservative these days—without being the least bit conservational.

Speaking of being conservational, another ongoing reality for our family is dealing with our recent commitment to following a meatless diet. With our house renovation, this has turned out to be bit difficult—and what with takeout and restaurant food, I have to admit some meat has indeed crept into our menu. For instance we cooked up some big hot sausages that we had left over in the freezer. We had them in buns like giant hot dogs. I ate two (almost, our dog George got a half) and paid the price for two days. No, the meat wasn’t off. Clearly, pork sausage no longer agrees with me, to say the least. Even our boys, who used to be enthusiastic burger and hot dog fans, weren’t keen on them, though they didn’t seem to suffer as much as I did.

As I write this the reality of another week is setting in. In the house move I’ve misplaced my hairbrush and razor, so I’ll be in for a real rough looking Monday morning. At the office there’s a ton of work waiting for me on my desk, and when I get home I’ll be finishing up painting the kids’ rooms in the evenings.

And if reality really is based on what’s important to us, I have to admit that nothing I’m presently doing seems all that important right now. Of course when that happens life takes on a dreamlike quality.

Then again, maybe that’s how new realities get started.


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