Date:  Thursday, March 21st, 2019 – Cancelled
Time:  Cancelled
Place:  Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC Campus, 515 West Hastings Street (between Seymour and Richards Streets) in the Diamond Alumni Lounge on the second floor
Speaker:  N/A
Topic:  N/A


The plan for March 21 had been to have 3 presenters give us a programme on the great American Singer, Nat King Cole as this is the centenary of his birth. However, due to an unexpected medical event, it was felt wisest to postpone this presentation and we are trying to see if we can organize it for either the April or May meetings and accommodate the other speakers.

Last Meeting:

I asked Michael Dallaire who is a long-term member and had been a “Scholar in Residence” when that programme was active to prepare comments on Catherine Racine’s Presentation. On behalf of all of us I thank Michael for his clear and candid remarks.

“Speaking of Wonder: The Ethics of Care in Community Mental Health and the Moral Process of the Clinician”

No person enters the helping professions with the intent to do harm. Indeed, helping professionals often espouse variations of the Hippocratic Oath and most are guided by empathy for the broken hearted. Generally speaking, institutions function to provide resources and strategies to supplement and sustain the work of helping professionals. Yet, many seasoned helping professionals confront experiences that lead them to a consciousness of institutional culpability in the inability of some people to heal and recover from their brokenness. Inevitably an individual’s journey towards healing and wholeness is impacted both by institutional culpability and capability.

It is this tension between individual brokenness/healing and institutional capacity/culpability and the tension between the benefits and deficits inherent in professional ‘distancing’ practices that Catherine Racine seeks to address by asking how wonder can help broken persons and culpable institutions to heal. Rooted in her personal professional experience of an encounter with the ‘face’ of a mental health seeker, an experience she hesitantly calls mystical, she pursued interdisciplinary doctoral studies while working with the thought of Emmanuel Levinas one of the few Continental philosophers who incorporated an appreciation of the mystical within his thought. For Levinas, whose entire life work was influenced by the Holocaust, the ethical comes before the ontological—right action before right being. The symbol which Levinas often appealed to was that of fire. The fire of the ethical purges all systems, all ideologies. The fire of the ethical provides warmth and light in the dark of night. This fire is the ethical holy that pervades all creation and forms the foundation for human wellbeing. The fit between Catherine’s mystical concern for the ‘other’ and Levinas’s concern for a political ethics that grounds life is a natural one and she demonstrated a learned comfortableness with the subject matter giving a presentation that was profound and challenging.  Throughout her talk Catherine modelled the autoethnographical method she practices, a method of reflection upon experience grounded in the primary reciprocity between clinician and wounded seeker, a reciprocity that potentially heals both the wounded seeker, from personal distress, and the clinician, from moral distress connected to institutional alignment.  Woven into her talk was the prophet’s cry to institutional leaders to pay attention to the ‘face’ of the poor, the abandoned, the disenfranchised.

Catherine obviously has her finger on the pulse of the issues facing community mental health workers, some of whom were in attendance. The questions and dialogue that took place after her presentation were a testimony to the credibility of her insights—she struck a chord. The melding of the personal and the political, the professional and the institutional, is a concern for many in our day regardless of which institution through which one seeks to serve others. Dr. Racine’s passionate and prophetic reflection was a sound contribution and well received by those who gathered. A future presentation that would allow her more time to unpack her understanding of wonder and how the fire of wonder can function within diverse therapeutic relationships and within institutional politics and settings would be most appropriate.  

Additional Information:

Marja Karelia, who spoke to us in October, is a student in the Graduate Liberal Studies Programme at SFU. I forward to you the most recent blurb from that programme for your information:

SFU Graduate Liberal Studies
Open House: Thursday, March 14th, 2019, Suite 2400 SFU Harbour Centre, downtown Vancouver

Graduate Liberal Studies is a part time MA program at Harbour Centre for mid to post-career adults keen to pursue the ‘great books and ideas’ and contemporary thinking with a tightly-knit community of fellow-learners.   In the first year, students take two seminars (both an interdisciplinary mix of literature, philosophy, art, and social sciences) one in each term, on Wednesday evening after a subsidized group dinner at a nearby restaurant.   After that, students have 2 to 5 years to complete the program and may do so through a course option taught by invited faculty from across the University or by pursuing an academic or creative project.  Our students range from break-dancers to CEOs to artists to homemakers to retired teachers to CBC personalities to MLAs. It’s the mix of people – and the community they form – that makes it great.

In addition to classroom learning, our credit courses include travel study to locations including Italy, Scotland, and Spain.  Our extensive reading groups, lectures, and social events for our 25-years of alumni also mean that our students continue to participate in the community well after graduation.

Many of our teaching grads have successfully used this MA as a flexible, multi-disciplinary route to teaching in colleges and universities.   In addition, new this year thanks to the provincial government’s new graduate scholarship program, we are able to offer two entrance scholarships of $15,000 for students beginning the program in September, 2019.  This exceeds by substantially more than a third the program’s total cost:  

Additional information about the program and embedded student interviews can be found on our website:

RSVPs to the March 14th Open House to are much appreciated. 

These are the upcoming meetings:
April 25
May 16

Any questions, please contact me:
Mark Dwor

Categories: Event