General spirituality

Portland Interview Project

This is an interview with Grant.ááI did this as part of the Great Portland Interview Experiment. I was going to write it up all journalist style, but three-some weeks later I haven’t, so I figured I’d go ahead and post it now.

Why do you blog?
Since I can remember I wrote stories and reminiscences. When I lived in South Africa I had pen pals around the world, from Australia to Canada, from Belgium to Russia. We exchanged a mixture of topical, personal and cultural tidbits, much the same as we later did in emails. By the time I moved to the US in 1995, most of my pen pals and I were on email, and suddenly I had a host of people I’d left behind in South Africa to communicate with. To aid this, in the 90s I put many of my reminiscences and articles on a web page and from there blogging was the next progression. I guess that is why I have a great fondness for the friendships that can be found and more easily maintained through blogging. I like blogging to be a conversation, but it is also an excellent aid to staying connected.
Why did you start blogging?
In 2004 I stumbled on LiveJournal, which is where I really got into blogging. LiveJournal is a community variation on blogging, similar to FaceBook and Myspace. I found it through the 2005 Worldcon in Glasgow, Scotland. I attend many annual Worldcons (The World Science Fiction Convention) and the 2005 Worldcon elected to use LiveJournal to facilitate and encourage worldwide interactions related to the convention. It meant that a great many of my friends also got onto LiveJournal at the same time. As a result we discovered that it was a brilliant way to keep in touch with each other and to find others with similar interests. For many of us blogging opinions, articles, fun tidbits and the like then followed naturally as we became comfortable with the format.

Who is your blog audience?
My most regular audience includes the above-mentioned friends, as in both friends made in person and friends made online, as well as those who stumble on my blog, which includes many finding my blog posts through my Twitter posts.

How do you define yourself?
Intelligent, questioning, creative, caring, honest, reliable, trustworthy, forgiving, opinionated, informed, adventurous, straight-shooter. I try to live my life by a single rule: never hurt.

How do others define you?
I had to get my girlfriend to answer this one as I was not sure. I had to needle and wheedle to get her to give me negatives to go with the positives she gave. Positives: A nice guy who cares greatly about other people. Fun-loving, helpful, caring, nurturing, happy, intelligent, friendly, knowledgeable, people-person, cat expert, world-wise, good writer, highly creative, excellent mediator and pragmatic. Enough of that. Negatives: Too concerned with others’ needs, to my own detriment. Sometimes beat a topic to death in conversation. Sometimes too verbose and can’t tell the short version of a story, particularly in emails/blogs. Occasionally a know-it-all, kinda-sorta. Too much of a worry-wart. While very forgiving of those close to me, I sometimes find people in general to be very disappointing, holding them up to high standards on ethical/human-rights issues. Hard for me to focus on the things I care about, like my art and writing. Picky eater. I’ll add these: Too prone to interrupt. Getting more ill-disciplined and foggy as I get older. Good and bad: Opinionated.

How would you describe yourself?
Scruffy, six-foot South African expatriate living in Portland, Oregon, USA. A decent bloke. An artist, writer, creative, reader, thinker, questioner, dreamer and lover; never enough of any of them, never perfecting any, especially the ones I like most. An endlessly evolving and logical progressive. One who laughs easily and often and always stands by his friends. One who takes pride in his work and hobbies, perfectionist when he can afford to be, otherwise pragmatic. Occasionally cynical, often pessimistic, naively optimistic at other times. Generally positive. A bit of a know-it-all sometimes, but fortunately an informed one, and controlled too I hope. Rarely grumpy, but if you mess with my food or sleep you up the odds. Rarely angry, but meanness, injustice, cruelty and betrayal will awaken my anger. I treat everyone with respect and I pride myself on seeing the person underneath the shell, meaning I have friends in all shapes and sizes (and I’m richer for it). Though I tend to forgive too easily for most people’s tastes (and I always forgive), once betrayed I don’t easily trust that person again. I don’t like to hang on to the negative crap. I’m a pretty straight shooter and hate personal politics, like office politics, volunteer politics and the like. Creativity is something I thrive on, but don’t do enough of. I often make a rough first impression and have to grow on folks a tad.

How would your loved ones describe you?
Hrm. Tough one. My brother may reply to this, but the distance between us is a barrier (he is still in South Africa) and our exchanges are light these days. Once we were both annoyances and pillars of strength and support to each other. My sister is not talking to me for reasons not to be discussed in an open blog post. That’s my whole family. We are 3. I’m not in touch with my father and his side of the family since, well, most of my life, and the Nazis killed most of my mother’s family (Polish Jews). For now I’ll stick to my fiancÚ and my friends, and I think the answer would then be much the same as 5) above, though here my girl adds, “Makes the best eggs and omelets.” I’ll toss in, SF&F fan, fond of travel, volunteer. Laughs loudly. Scruffy. Never mind a bad hair day, I’ve had a bad hair life!

What do you use as your moral compass?
It’s almost impossible to answer this adequately without writing at least an essay, but I’ll give you the short(ish) version. When I was young and growing up in South Africa during apartheid, I learned racist crap at school. If I repeated it at home, my mother would ask me to back it up with fact. She made me question everything, something I had a knack/predilection for anyway.

I think it all starts with questions. All around me those who never questioned anything listened to their beloved voices of authority (government and religion) and then used these rules/guidelines as justification for their petty prejudices and basest behaviors, oppressing their fellow citizens, be they “non-whites,” women, gays, or whatever. There was wisdom in the laws of the land (no murder, rape, etc) and in religion (charity, good-neighborliness, etc), but both also had built-in contradictions, as well as prejudice and other things that could not be justified.

So I learned to be skeptical of all established morality bases, and I’ve yet to see one that can be trusted better than, well, plain and simple (heh) progressive law in an advanced modern country. We have a ways to go, but I think most of us have a good sense of right and wrong, without any outside influences, we merely often ignore this. For example, for all that my fellow white South Africans back in the day said they believed in apartheid and thought it was just and right, most knew it was not in their heart of hearts, even as the enjoyed the benefits and privileges it brought them. Regrettably, many other behaviors also come naturally, and the desire to lord it over others is one of them. We humans remain an animal beneath our veneer of intellectual superiority.

There is much more to this, but I’ll add that getting to know people, their pain, their challenges and so on, makes it much harder to hold on to idiotic ideas. Cities are more progressive and folks often argue that it is because of the superior education available in urban areas, but much is owed to the daily exposure to a much greater amount of diversity in cities, be it in people, lifestyles, ideas, etc.

I’ll wrap this up by saying that I continue to question, and to listen. My morality is both well-defined and ever-evolving.

What is the source of meaning in your life?
Life itself. Filling up the cup of my experiences. Always learning and growing, never stagnating. Building love and respect with my fiancÚ and my friends. Joy and laughter. Making someone smile, or laugh. Giving, giving back and paying it forward. Making a difference in peoples lives, maybe even saving lives. Touching hearts. Peaceful moments in wild places. Wild dancing today, quiet contemplation tomorrow.

0 replies on “Portland Interview Project”

Very awesome read, I think Grant’s mother taking the tack of questioning racism with a fact requirement is an awesome parenting method.
Love the last question as well. Definitely a mantra everyone should follow especially the very last line. “Wild dancing today, quiet contemplation tomorrow.”

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