A Hard Night Turns

Some nights don’t end the way they start.

Tonight Oliver and I were in the audience at The Walrus Talks at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, an evening of short talks by interesting Canadians, one of 13 such events organized this spring across Canada.

Oliver, for reasons I didn’t completely understand, but nevertheless supported, came equipped with a list of questions.

By way of trying to head off any frustration that might arise both from the night’s programming seeming not have much in common with the questions on Oliver’s list, and from there being no Q&A on the agenda, I gently suggested that this might not be a night where Oliver’s specific intellectual itches got scratched.

Alas this groundwork had the opposite effect: Oliver immediately got rather agitated, and my mind started to go into “how am I going to maneuver my anxious son out of here without upsetting Graham Greene” mode.

Oliver, of course, would have none of this, as if anything is true of him, it is a steely determination to finish anything he starts.

So we stayed. Oliver took deep breaths and, by times, squeezed my hand so tight I thought it might fall off.

And we survived. Even relaxed a little toward the end.

As the crowd let out, we dutifully subscribed to The Walrus as was requested, enjoyed the bountiful buffet lunch, chatted with friends, signed the big map of Canada, and then prepared to head off into the night.

But remember the questions? And the steely determination to finish? Oliver made it clear that we weren’t done yet. There were still questions on the floor.

So I proposed, what with eminent Canadians in the room, that we pluck up our courage and seek answers.

Truth be told, it was only I that needed pluck, as Oliver was primed and ready.

He started with the speaker Clifton van der Linden, CEO of Vox Pop Labs. Oliver asked him about fake news and real news and genuine news. We had a nice chat about Google and Facebook and AI.

Next he sought out speaker (and Colonel Gray alum) Chris Zhou for answers about his views on social media. This led to a chat about engagement and voting and whether politicians who seek advice from advisory councils actually want to listen to it.

Oliver finished the evening by patiently waiting to speak with The Walrus Publisher—and the evening’s convenor—Shelley Ambrose, and asking her “what’s your view of this Island of ours from the viewpoint of The Walrus?”

Shelley, it immediately became obvious, has exceptional people skills, and spoke directly to Oliver—rarer than you might think, alas—and answered his question with passion and conviction.

Questions answered, off into cold spring air we went.

A night that started in distress ended up a night of engagement and answered questions.

And proof—yet again—that if I breathe deeply myself, and listen to my son, he’ll show me what he needs.

And take me places I’d never go on my own to boot.


Ton Zijlstra's picture
Ton Zijlstra on April 23, 2017 - 05:23 Permalink

Kudos to both of you. Sounds like a fine evening.

vbj's picture
vbj on April 23, 2017 - 09:01 Permalink

What a compliment to these speakers that an audience member had so rigorously prepared. And kudos to Oliver for being so invested in their message and experiences to prepare so well.

Jonas 's picture
Jonas on April 23, 2017 - 11:13 Permalink

This is wonderful. If only more of us carried questions with us and didn't rest until they got answered.