Gerry Turcotte

Gerry Turcotte

Gerry Turcotte is the president at St. Mary's University in Calgary.

COVID-19 has triggered many things, some of them predictable, many not. Who, for example, would have guessed that the first major response to the virus would be panic buying of toilet paper? A rush on cellphone cases and Lego were two other unexpected results of the pandemic. Apparently, our behaviour has become so unusual that it is negatively impacting artificial intelligence algorithms, with one AI consultant claiming that “automation is in a tailspin.”

In a wonderful essay written in 1919, “Das Unheimliche,” Sigmund Freud proposed a theory of the uncanny to explain the sense of unease and even terror that can arise when something presents itself to us as strangely familiar, but not quite.

Dictionaries offer two definitions for the word beatify. The first is “to make supremely happy.” The second is “a declaration of blessedness” and, for Catholics, this is the step before canonization.

Every year, as my children got older, the return-to-school routine got less exciting.

I am not a gardener. In fact, I moved into a house with a large garden a decade ago and I joke that I have killed off one species of plant each year. Except that it’s not a joke.

When I was growing up it was popular to mock a film made in the 1950s to prepare children to survive a nuclear war. Older folks will remember this odd cross between animated and live action footage featuring a bow-tied Bert the Turtle who could “duck and cover” at the sign of danger.

It wasn’t so long ago that many of us were using the COVID-19 virus to argue that our world was more interconnected than we care to admit. Divisions are commonplace and people move through their lives erecting barriers between the haves and have-nots, between the East and the West, between the good and the bad.

I have been plagued by cats almost my entire adult life. (OK, maybe I like them just a little.) Dogs, I feel I understand. They’re reasonably straightforward. You know when they’re happy, when they’re guilty of chewing your favourite shoe and when they’re sulking.

I had promised myself that I wouldn’t write a COVID-19 column.

In June we celebrate St. Vitus’ Day, a time that honours an unusual saint whose influence was seen throughout Europe generally and in Germany in particular.

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