Sunday, 21 December 2014

Turning the Page on Global Warming

Dateline: Sunday, December 21, 2014 at 6:03 PM – Winter is officially here.
Dude! Where's my car!?
I'm dreaming about getting the cycle and the kayak out in Spring.
Today is the shortest day of the year and tomorrow is officially the first full day of winter. I'm already planning the first days I can drop my kayak into a river or tune up the cycle for a ride. Of course, my immediate concern is whether I have amassed enough movies and books to get me through. Hmm... Perhaps a few more of each.
Winter is an ideal time to plan an exodus. Not the two week variety. The big one.
Of course, this morning I kick on the iTunes, click “random play” on my selection of Sunday morning mix tunes and... wonder of wonders... Bob Marley starts off the morning taking me immediately to a mental scene of palm trees, white sand and breakers foaming over a reef.
The whole event around Solstice and winter got me thinking about how difficult it is for Canadians to have success in outdoor sports. We’re pretty much snowballed unless it’s hockey, skiing or riding a CO2 belching motorized dog sled. And then there's hurtling at a hundred miles an hour down an iced tube. They call that last one Bobsled. I'm thinking Bob was missing a few ice blocks from his igloo.
To combat this discrepancy in sports such as golf, we have devised mechanical wonders like indoor driving ranges with industrialized, sub-atomic heaters blowing warm air at our frost bitten crotches and virtual screens where you can pretend-play against some of Canada's best (like the 2003 Masters champ). Still, it hasn't the same allure as real world antics where I can crank a golf ball off the nearest Sugar Maple, have it ricochet back and leave a good sized divot on my golf buddy’s family jewels.
Hmm… it could have been a frozen hockey puck there, Jacques. Stop moaning, you sissy. You're up next. Next time wear a cup. Oh... and here's your missing jewel.
Then, there’s one of my preferred activities… cycling. A few hardy individuals brave the winter by riding their bikes through the season looking like a puffy Don Cherry in raving lunatic Technicolour. Donned in a snowsuit, mukluks, snow mobile gloves, battery-powered-automatic-feed Tim Horton's travel mug and a triple thick balaclava, if they strolled into a bank in the States they would be porous by way of hot lead faster than Jean Chr├ętien can choke a voter. Here in Canada, the bank teller simply offers a free cup of Timmies, a donut and a tissue for ever present cold weather nasal snot.
Oh my God I'm gonna have a coronary!
So I turn to cycling indoors which means a spinning machine at the local YMCA or in my living room. Cycling at the gym or "The Y" isn’t entirely nonconstructive. All a person of my vintage need do for motivation is choose a cycle behind a blistering hot, sweaty twenty-something in black spandex shorts and spend the entire session trying to catch up. Perfect, my brain thinks. I'll be in great shape for Spring!
Until I dismount the contraption and my legs betray me like over-cooked spaghetti leaving me puddled on the dead-sweat-smelling gym floor.
Cycling in the living room has its own dilemmas. The same motivation doesn’t exist. (Well, there's Charmed reruns and it just isn't the same.) On winter evenings, there's hockey on the TV to get the RPMs up though it's quite the balancing act riding a stationary bike, whooping it up when the Leafs score and avoiding spilling beer (sacrilege). During the day, all you really have for motivation is Days of Our Lives, Doctor Phil or a droning talk show about the most recent medical break-through to moderate menopause.
Ready for a winter paddle.
And... while spinning along, every so often the contraption kicks off its stand conveying the unsuspecting rider (me) at warp ten across the beige medium pile carpeting into the fifty-two inch Hulka-Monster big screen TV. Now I find myself with the television horizontal and me lying prone on top with beer, pretzels and regurgitated Timbits strewn everywhere. The great part is the right leg disappearing into the wall... beside the hole made by the left leg last week... and the other hole left by my elbow the week before.
I think I have it fixed now. A half dozen lag bolts into the antique wood floor and I'm all set.
The long winters here make it difficult for us to thrive in outdoor summer sports. On the other hand, we’re great at hockey, pretty damned good at skiing and very proficient at sliding down the middle of an icy, hilly city street on our Hugo Boss clad asses. That last one isn't a sport but it’s a hoot to watch. I gave a guy a ten last week for careening off a British green Miata, grabbing some lady's take out coffee on the way by and scattering a waddle of nuns from Sacred Mary Heart of Sleet before coming to rest with feet in the air against an "icy conditions" street sign.
Dreaming of somewhere warmer
All of this brings me back to this year, the early spring and late fall. Could this be Global Warming? Is it possible Al Gore is right? If so, we’ll be the new Florida soon and finally produce some respectable tennis players. All we need to do is sell more tar-sands sludge and eat more Alberta beef.
As often as we find ourselves positioned as Miss Congeniality in summer sports, is there any doubt we have to be pretty damned nice people… eh?
So... promote Canucks in summer sports by buying more gas and driving around in endless circles on your snowmobiles. Don't forget to load up on steaks and ribs. Hurry, will ya? Kayaking on the dining room table in front of a seascape on a big screen TV is... well... I rolled off twice yesterday. Helmet, dude! Helmet!
I'm gonna need a vacation.


Sunday, 14 December 2014

On the Soap Box Yelling at the Queen

Sometimes it has to be said.

There's a box one can stand on in Hyde Park, London, England where, as long as you remain on the box, you can say anything you wish... including denouncing the Queen herself... and no-one can touch you. It's called Speakers Corner.

Last week I went off on those who criticize others, specifically those who mete out their criticism with a good dose of racism, sexism or any other “ism”. Being critical is not an issue with me. I believe questioning everything is a good thing. That which stands up to criticism usually proves valuable. Personal attacks on one's heritage or gender or sexual orientation or physical appearance is never to be stood for.

I noted a couple of things since last week after my rant.

Firstly, I received feedback stating there would always be people out there who would be critical and would attack others on a personal level. So? Does that mean we stand idly by and watch? I think not. Where would India be if Mahatma Gandhi had stood idly by and let the British continue their regime? Where would South Africa be if Nelson Mandela had decided to cave in to his captors pressures? Where would African Americans be if Martin Luther King had just let things slide?

How about Helen Gurley Brown or Gloria Steinem?

Malala Yousafzai?

Another message I saw was something along the lines of... promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate. I have a problem with that. While I agree there is a balance between the two activities, one cannot turn a blind eye toward injustices. A Poly-anna attitude might work for the individual. It does not work for a society.

And no, I do not believe war or physical violence is the answer.

I don't disagree that too much focus on bashing what you hate is likely to cause more problems in your life than good. However, at some point, each of us has to stand up for what we believe. Most of that is good, I think. Some of that standing on the soap box is directed at things that need correcting.

I know of that which I speak.

When I was younger, I was bullied. There's no point sugar coating it. I was beaten up, pushed around, laughed at, mocked, ridiculed, stolen from, threatened, had property damaged, etc. This from the time I was five in Kindergarten until I was sixteen. For twelve years I would go to school knowing I would be bullied in some way. For twelve years I kept my mouth shut. For twelve years my friends let it slide.

The only message the bullies got was that I was an easy mark... and the beatings continued. The bullies had little to be afraid of because they knew I was too scared to speak up. The bullies had little to be afraid of because they knew my friends wouldn't be there to back me up.

Not speaking up about injustice serves only to send one message to the perpetrators of injustice... “It's okay to continue behaving badly toward others because I can get away with it.”

I know what it means to be bullied and face those fears every day. I know the courage it takes to get in the arena to face the lions with critics surrounding me no matter how much I might not want to get into the fight. The truth is, if you're playing the critical voyeur watching from the sidelines and not in the arena standing at my side getting your nose bloodied, your body bruised and your ego molested and taking the criticism just like me scrabbling in dusty, muddy, bloody combat... then I'm not interested in your opinion of how the battle is going.

If you're not willing to step in there and fight injustices, your opinion about the fight is of little value. I'm not interested in hearing it.

While I agree there are people out there doing ugly things and there likely always will be and I agree that focussing on the positive most of the time is a good thing, I also whole-heartedly believe that we need to speak up when we see injustice. Turning a blind eye or smiling and focussing on something pleasant doesn't solve the problem.

As Dr Phil says, whether you believe you are a fighter or not, if someone is throwing punches, you better damned well defend yourself because the reality is... your in a fight!

The reality is, we have to stand up to injustice... period. We're in a fight and we better defend ourselves.

I wonder if the Queen can hear me.

If you think I'm the only one who thinks this way, click here.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Ship of Fools

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Martin Luther King


For some reason, I've seen far too much of this crap in the past few days. The only reason I can seem to come up with is the Universe wants me to write about it. I hate writing posts like this. Too often, my blood pressure is up and I usually don't feel particularly good about myself afterwards. Yet, the topic covers a litany of unadulterated stupidity unmatched by much else I can think of (other than the continuous raping of the planet... which also pisses me off.)

You may wish to read this article by Amanda Blackhorse before continuing because it's exactly the type of low brow, ignorant, Neanderthal behaviour that induces constipation.

I understand the major issue in these instances is a lack of education. Let's face it, people who react in such an abhorrent manner toward others are ignorant. They haven't experienced the life others have yet have an opinion about how the other should behave. They ought to take a few courses with Ms Manners before allowing their putrid psyche to shit out all over the page.

They lash out because of fear. What that fear is will probably be personal to them and I can guarantee you they feel threatened in some way. Constantly putting other people down is a sure sign of your own immaturity and lack of self confidence. Oh, you may look hard and tough on the outside and inside your a malleable blob of goo easily swayed by any piece of odious sexist, racial bullshit your drinking buddies or knitting group care to stuff down your gaping maw.

Basically, your a piss-ant who can't wipe his own ass without permission.

The internet has made things far worse when it comes to hate mongering. Too often I see crap spewed out under the guise of humour with little or no regard how those words are going to be taken at the other end. More and more often it seems there is little attempt at passive aggressive humour and it's simply straight on aggressive behaviour. Hiding behind a screen and spewing hateful tripe is cowardly. More often than not the person subjecting the crap wouldn't have the intestinal fortitude to say it to your face. They'd piss their pants before they would stand in front of you and use the same language.

If you don't have the fucking courage to stand in front of me alone, without your gang of idiots, and say it to my face in real life, then shut your fucking mouth on the internet.

Does that piss some of you off? Tough. I don't really give a rats ass.

The type of person who would subject another with aggressive, hateful comments around gender, race, creed or religion in a vane attempt to bolster their significance on this planet isn't worth the time of day. If your idea of making yourself look bigger is to make others feel small, I'll be the first in line to verbally take you down. I have little tolerance for those willingly sailing on a ship of fools.

If all you have to rebut any argument is red-neck, hateful discourse, shut the fuck up and keep it to yourself. 

Your vacuous truculence toward others shows just how much of an elephantine ass-hole you really are.

I don't feel any better.

In the words of spiritualist John Parkin... fuck it.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

On The Side of the Street With Nowhere to Go

I am lost,
I am lost,
Has anybody seen me,
I am lost,
Oh nothing is forgotten,
Only left behind,
Wherever I am,
She leads me now,

Unbound by Robbie Roberston
from the album Contact from the Underworld of Redboy

I searched the sloppy streets, yellowish overhead lights beginning to flicker in the coming darkness, snow whirling around with a concrete city weighing heavily on my sloping shoulders. Eventually, I came back to where I had begun. An empty space.

While I was working in the blowing snow, my truck was stolen. I came back to an empty parking space and no amount of fretting or hoping or rubbing of a copper oil lamp was going to bring it back. Reality was beginning to set in. No matter what I hoped or wished, the truth was I was staring at an empty parking space on a cold night... nothing more and nothing less. Everything else racing around my head was fodder for another time. I either took action or crumpled in a steaming heap whining about being up to my neck in excrement. "Oh poor pitiful me!"

Screw that crap.

The phone calls began; the boss, the city, the towing company, the police, the insurance company.

The night was cold and getting colder. Everything was happening at what felt like the pace of a three toed sloth on industrial strength Prozac. Standing on the side of a street feeling lost will do that. Slow things down when you want immediate answers. It alters perspective; the lights are too bright, it's too dark, the traffic is too loud, there's no-one around. It also heightens your awareness to the truth.

I was a stranger in a strange land.

Once the phone calls were done and I was satisfied I could do all I could under the circumstances, I retreated to warm confines of a coffee shop and waited some more. There was a rental car on the way. All I needed do was be patient... not one of my more pronounced virtues in less than ideal personal conditions. It's something I work on every day... patience under duress.

We all have basic needs... things we need to get in our lives to allow us to feel safe, secure and satisfied. One of mine is freedom. (I have seven basic needs. Others may have more or less. If you wish to figure out what yours are, start here. It's where I figured mine out.) Another of my needs is connection. I had lost both.

When one of my basic needs is denied by life and the humour of the Universe saying with a wry chuckle, “Oh yeah? Watch this dude! Have we got a surprise for you!”, I can usually manage fairly well. Taking away my freedom and connection by leaving me stranded on the side of the road on a cold, snowy night with a dying cell phone while knowing almost no-one in the city and ten kilometers between me and home? Umm... patiently managing is not at the top of my list.

Still, I did find the humour in all of it.

I realised the Universe is pretty much going to give me what I ask for. Did I ask someone to take my truck? No. And I didn't ask for it not to be taken either. Did I ask to be left stranded and cold in a city where I know virtually no-one? No. Again, I didn't ask not to be. Would I have willingly asked to have a sinking feeling and have my fear of abandonment raise its head once again? No. And feelings are my issue, not the realm of the Universe.

What I did ask for didn't include being blind-sided on a cold, wintry evening. Then again, it didn't not include it either.

Yet, through all of this, I knew I was accountable for what had happened. I had chosen to park at that spot. I had left my truck there during a snow storm and continued to work. I had chosen this city. I had chosen to complete this route before another. I chose to buy a truck targeted by Ali Baba wannabes. All of the decisions I made led me to that spot at that moment. I am accountable for what happened.

Does that make it my fault? No.

Being accountable has nothing to do with fault. Nothing. It has everything to do with taking responsibility... and ultimately control... over my life. It means I will not play the victim. I am not a victim in this event. I will not go through life blaming others for whatever predicament I may find myself. If I blame them and hold on to that position, they have hooks in me and a part of me will never be free of that hook pulling me away from where I want to go... until I become accountable for me. Then, and only then, the hooks slip free.

Remember, freedom is one of my basic needs. No chance I'm giving up freedom to stay hooked into blaming someone else! Were they wrong? Maybe. And that's their burden... not mine. I ain't carrying it for them. They can carry their own frigging backpacks full of what they have done.

Of course... the Universe has its own plan for me and getting me where I say I want to go. I might not know the reason for someone taking my truck when they did. I may not know for a long time. Experience has taught me two things; what seems bad often turns out to be good, what seems good often turns out to be not as good as I hoped.

I do know this... it will all make sense when it's time for it to make sense.

I do think I should have been a little more specific when I asked for what I wanted. For instance, perhaps I might have added, “... without being left on the side of the street with nowhere to go and a dying cell phone.”


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A Reason, A Season, A Lifetime

Things don't always make sense. Perhaps they're not meant to.

People come in and out of our lives all of the time. Sometimes it seems they are only there for a moment. Other folks stick to us like glue. There are still others who we might not even notice yet they affect our lives in ways we might never understand.

I have moved more than a few times in my life. Sometimes it was a decision, sometimes it was forced and other times it was following my gut instinct. (I tried counting the places I've lived in my head and got to 18 before I quit.) Each and every time there is a move there is also a sense of loss. A sense of leaving the known behind and jumping into the void with a hope and prayer I just might learn to fly this time.

People left behind almost always tug at me. Whenever I feel that tug, I try to remember something I was taught quite a while ago; people are in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Everyone who shows up in our lives has something for us or we have something for them... or both.

People who are in your life for a reason are those who simply slip into, then out of, our lives and we may not think about it too much. Years down the road we might understand why they were there and not be able to recall their name or even who they were. They are there to meet a need you have expressed or wished for. They have come to assist you with something you are struggling with either physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are! They are there for the reason you need them to be.

People come into your life for a reason because you need a push to get what it is you want or need or wish to change.

People also come into your life for a season because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh or give you energy to move or teach you something you need to learn to move ahead into a better life. They may teach you something you have never done or show you a way of life you never considered (or thought possible). They may be there to bring you out of your hypnosis or show you your dreams are possible. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy, even for a short time. Believe it! Remember that! It is real!

And it doesn't last forever. These are the most difficult connections to get over. You connect with the person at a deep level and then they leave your life for whatever reason.

In both cases of reason and season, without any wrong doing on your part, or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something that ultimately brings the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they leave. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand (i.e. make them leave). What we must understand is that our need has now been met, our desire fulfilled and their work is done... and so is yours. The wish or plea for help has been answered and now it is time for both of you to move on.

Lifetime relationships teach you lifetime lessons; things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.

Lifetime relationships last forever, even when the two of you move apart. Long distances mean nothing in this kind of relationship. They may disappear for years then suddenly reappear just when you need a kick in the pants or moral support. These are the people you can sit and have a coffee with after being apart for years and act like you had seen them yesterday.

Lifetime relationships never fade... they only shift with the sands of time.

Which of these relationships is most important? None... or all... depending how you choose spin it. The point to all of this is every person you meet is there for some reason. And you're there for them for a reason. You don't even have to know why they are there, although sometimes you will get it. Just know they have showed up in your life because you need them for however long that may last.

The real trick is, I think, to see the positive no matter how long someone is in your life' even if the lesson is difficult or they left under less than ideal conditions... and love them all the same.


Monday, 20 October 2014

Games Without Frontiers

This is a test... This is only a test.

How are you feeling today? Take a note of how you feel. (sad, happy, tired, etc). Maybe even write it down.

Now perform the following exercise. There's nothing tricky about it... honest. I can't do a Vulcan Mind-Meld. Trust me... I've tried.

Each line contains five words. As quickly as you can (not a speed test), make a coherent, grammatical sentence from each line using only four (4) of the words.
  1. him cannot liked she always
  2. from with Rome love temperature
  3. ball the throw toss silently
  4. shoes give caress meaningful a
  5. he observes occasionally people watches
  6. be will tomato happy she
  7. heart the elated inconclusive is
  8. should now connect forgetful we
  9. us hands sing happily let
  10. me make temperature smile they
Now... take note of how you are feeling. Is there a difference?

I really hope you have a great day.


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Going Native... Thankfully

I am lost, I am lost
Has anybody seen me? I am lost
Oh, nothing is forgotten, Only left behind
Wherever I am, She leads me down, Unbound
No borders, No fences, No walls,
No borders, No fences, Unbound
Oh, listen for the night chant
Oh, listen for the night chant

Robbie Robertson... Unbound

For what have we to be thankful?

It's easy to be grateful for stuff and people and lifestyle and healthcare and the nation we are fortunate to inhabit. Those are the things we see every day.

When I was young, I used to hear the expression, “gone native” when referring to a transplanted European who began to live their life akin to Indigenous folks. Going Native was never used as a compliment. It was always derogatory. It was as if living a life different from what the Europeans thought were some form of sin against the chosen deity of the day... whichever convenient one that happened to be. 

I took offence to “gone native” then though I had no idea why and I certainly didn't have a strong enough voice to speak my mind at the time.

To Europeans, natives were backward... dirty.... heathens. Natives had little issue with nudity while the Puritans who landed at Plymouth rock were... well... Puritans. The Puritans viewed the nudity of Native North Americans as heathenism. The Puritans were Christian and the Natives were not and therefore the natives needed to be "saved". The Indigenous folks were mobile in their lifestyle. Europeans didn't understand it and tried to nail natives to one spot... thus the creation of reserves

Going Native was viewed by my forefathers as a large step backward and the lifestyle was seen as something to be repaired... and feared... and admonished. It was negative in the truest sense.

There is a world of difference in intent.

I now view Going Native as an appealing destination. To me, it is a way of being; a way of viewing the world at a global, societal, spiritual and personal level. While I wouldn't wish to give up the entirety of technological advances or some of the creature comforts that come with those, I believe there is a certain blending of modern technology and ancient ideology that can create a Utopia, if not in society then in a personal view.

Going Native to me is a blending of ancient ways with modernist tendencies.

Today is Thanksgiving.

Just over five hundred years ago, Europeans landed at Plymouth rock and nothing has been the same on this continent since. The natives greeted the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. The Europeans saw wide open, exploitable resources. After the first settlers landed from the Mayflower, there were offerings by the Indigenous peoples and a feast of the year's crops were enjoyed by all. It was called Thanksgiving.

Who was doing the giving and who was doing the thanking?

If you need to think about that answer, you're missing the point and the true spirit of Thanksgiving. As much as we like to (and should) celebrate the day, I believe it's important to remember those first thankful days of giving by those who had the most to lose. This day isn't about football games or watching uncle Harry drink himself silly or whether the gravy is lumpy or having naps after eating too much or being grateful for all the new crap you managed to gather this past year.

This day is about remembering to whom we should really be thankful. I can't help but wonder what Native North Americans have to be thankful for.

Am I thankful for the things I have? Of course. I am also thankful to those who gave so much and who received so little in return. The European way was to change what didn't fit their way and to destroy what they didn't understand. Fortunately, the societal climate has been changing in the fifty odd years I've been inhabiting this body. Fortunately, we haven't lost the wisdom of the Ancients. Fortunately, for those who are willing, they are willing to teach.

Today, I am thankful… to those who gave without seeking anything in return. I'm am thankful for being a student of ancient ways, not only here in North America, but also throughout the world. I am thankful for finding a way to weave those idioms into my life. I am thankful for those who take the journey with me. I am thankful for the wizardry of life which allows me to create myself with a balance of new and old.

Of course I think we should be grateful for what we have and for those in our lives that lift us. We should be grateful for having the things we need to live full lives. We should be happy for a roof and four walls. We should be grateful for those who join us on our journey. These are all important things.

For myself, I am also grateful knowing I have Gone Native.


Saturday, 11 October 2014

I Shall Not Conform

When I was in grade four, we had an art session where we were to create whatever we liked. I opened a book and found a photo of a tiger that appealed to me and I began to recreate the drawing with pencil and paper. The teacher was wandering around looking at the things the kids were working on and she stopped at my desk. She looked at the open book and the drawing I was creating and said, “That doesn't look much like the picture. You should try something else.”

Add caption
In her view (and in front of the entire class) she had devalued what I was doing based on her narrow view of what my tiger should look like. I was nine.

I never drew again.

In high school, I had an English teacher named Mr. Wilson. There was a writing contest during grade eleven and I entered one of my pieces. It was a big deal for me to put myself out there where something I had created could be scrutinized by anyone who was able to read... particularly by those peers who already thought I was different and made a point of publicizing it. Not only was I commended by Mr Wilson for the writing (I didn't win the contest) but I was encouraged to keep working at it.

I have been writing ever since.

We cannot manufacture people... and yet, our education system is predicated on exactly that... the linear build up from Kindergarten to university or college with the brain being the only focus. These days, kids are being interviewed before going to kindergarten. Can you imagine sitting in the interview as a four year old and some panel of stuffed shirts determining whether you've done enough in your life to warrant acceptance into their school? Seriously? Particularly when what is really on your mind is seeing if you can make your bike fly or wondering what mud tastes like.

The education system is predicated on the idea that we start school from day one preparing for university and then for a life of doing one thing until we retire.

It's wrong.

It's wrong and it doesn't work any more. Our fathers concept of working for 40 years and finally getting to do what you really want to do if you retire doesn't work. That concept of human worth being valued on a narrow band of acceptable careers and thought functions doesn't exist any longer yet we are still mired in the idea that linear education is the only way things work. It's nothing more than a societal habit.

I once heard a story of a woman who was preparing a Thanksgiving meal and she was cutting the ends off the ham. When asked by her husband why she cut the ends off, she didn't know except that she learned it from her mother so she called her mother and asked why. Her mother didn't have the answer either so she suggested she call her grandmother. The woman dialled her grandmother and her grandmother said, “Well, I cut the ends off the ham because the pan I owned then was too small.

We pass things on to our children that have little or no bearing in newer circumstances and as children, we don't question the status quo. The education “system” is no different. It has a basis in two hundred year old circumstances and we are expecting our children to follow that path despite what their real talent may be..

There is a hierarchy of importance given to what is taught in schools. At the top are mathematics, science and language and at the bottom are the arts (dance, music, writing, etc). At one time, education was structured this way out of necessity to move society forward. That time has passed. As children, we were steered away from things we liked followed closely by the reasoning that we will never get a job doing that. The entire system is built around the idea of getting to, and making our way through, university. There are many, many brilliant children whose innate talent was suppressed simply because it didn't conform to the idea that we must get through university. Why is this so?

More people are getting degrees and degrees are becoming of less and less value... because more of us have them. It's simple economics... the more there is of something, the less value it carries. You don't need a BA to get a job any longer. You now need an MA. And what used to require an MA now requires a PHD. The letters after our names (I have a few myself) are meaningless.

So, how do people discover their talent and ultimately what they are brilliant at? We are encouraged to follow our dreams.

I'm reminded of another story I heard during a TED talk by Ken Robinson about Dame Gillian Lynne. Gillian Lynne is a dancer and choreographer who had humble beginnings. In school, she was always fidgety and distracting the class. She couldn't sit still. The school called her mother and said Gillian might have a learning disorder. Today, she likely would have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD but they didn't know what either was in the 30s when Gillian went to school. Her mother took her to a specialist. While there, the doctor spoke to Gillian and her mother for several minutes then excused himself and Gillian's mother leaving Gillian alone in the room. On the way out, the doctor turned on the radio. While Gillian's mother and the doctor watched from outside, Gillian got up from her chair and began dancing around the room. The doctor turned to Gillian's mother and said, “There is nothing wrong with Gillian. She simply doesn't fit into the school she is in. She should be in dance school.”

Gillian Lynne went on to become the choreographer for Cats and Phantom of the Opera. In today's schools, Gillian would have been drugged and forced through the industrialised school system.

There are any number of people you meet in your daily life who don't know what their talent is. There are very few who do know and even fewer who are making a living at what their talent is. If asked, the vast majority of people would not be able to name their innate talent. The reason is, it has been suppressed by an education system hell bent on getting as many people from A to B in an orderly fashion as possible.

The new world will be based on doing what you love and not what you have to do to survive. The education system needs to catch up.

I'm the yellow guy.
Have you ever tried to line up a group of five year olds? It's like lassoing water. It ain't gonna happen. How orderly is that? Five year olds will migrate naturally to what they love. They will figure it out. The school system, more often than not, will devalue anything that doesn't move children along the prescribed, industrialised path.

When I was in school, my real talents were squashed by a system intent on making me conform to their idea of what my talent should be. I was forced to choose from a narrow band of societally accepted career paths because the industrial machine needed those people. I have always bucked the system because it didn't feel right to me. Having dreams of how the world should be and communicating those thoughts through art, photography, writing and speaking were not acceptable to the machine.

Seeing the world from a different perspective is my nature. Dreaming of what can be is my nature. Not conforming is my nature.

It has taken me fifty years to recover.


Friday, 10 October 2014

The Why

People don't buy what you do or how you do it. They buy why you do it.

Why do you write?

I've been asked that question more than once over the years. I've even answered a couple of times with “I don't know” and an indifferent shrug. I answered that way a long time ago when I hadn't checked my bio-hard-drive to see what the software was up to. (I probably did know and the answer may have felt a bit embarrassing at the time.) In recent years, the answer has been somewhat more coherent; I write because that is how I express myself best.

Close... and not quite.

I wrote my first novel when I was seventeen. It has never been published because it is truly a piece of one-copy-never-to-be-seen-again-everlasting crap... even though there is a good idea or two in there. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, right? But the exercise was good. I had already been writing poetry and short stories so the longer version of a story was more or less a natural progression.

The “why” of the exercise at that time was “to save my life”. Again, close and not quite right.

It turns out the most successful companies already know the correct answers to the questions “why”, “how” and “what”... and which is more important. Take the example of Apple. When Steve Jobs was alive, it was pretty clear their mission statement had something to do with pushing boundaries, being hip and improving peoples lives. That is the “why”. The “how” was to build the most advanced products possible with current technology and to keep on the leading edge. The “what” was that they happened to build computers. They could have built anything and the why would not have changed. When cell phones and MP3 players came along, it didn't matter that the company had focused on computers before then. People lined up for hours to get the first iPhone and iPod because they felt connected to the “why” that Apple was offering. Apple could have been building toasters and the why would not change.

Most companies do the opposite. “Here is what we have and here is how we build it or provide the service. Want to buy one?” Err... no.

The neocortex (the new part of the brain) corresponds with rational thought (which includes mathematics and language) and also corresponds with the “what” part of decision making. Why is this important? People can hear a litany of facts and figures and even admit the product is beautiful or functional... and they won't buy because it doesn't feel right. You may be bang on in your description of whatever it is you have to offer. You may know your product inside out and backward... and still not get the sale. In short, the customer hasn't connected with the feeling of owning what you're selling.

The limbic brain centres on the other hand, are the older and more primal parts of the brain. They're what make the hair stand up on the back of your neck when you look down a dark alley and think, Umm... Yeah... I don't think so. The limbic brain centres do not understand language or reasoning. They understand feeling. They respond to why and how questions (mostly why). This area of the brain is responsible for all final decision making. It is also the part of the brain that has been making the decisions for our survival by “gut feel” for the entire existence of our species.

You will not buy what someone is selling until you feel right about the decision, no matter the volume of data and convincing argument.

It's also why we need to "agree to disagree" from time to time.

This goes for hiring practices as well. Find people who believe what you believe. The best qualified may not be "the best qualified". Hire qualified people who believe what you believe. Orville and Wilbur Wright had everything going against them. They had no money. They had no advanced education between themselves or amongst the team they had assembled. Yet they were still the first to create a flying machine despite having competition from various others who had the funding and the education. How?

Everyone on the team was on the same page... and the Wright brothers were in this thing to change the world. Those who worked with them believed the same as the brothers. Their main competition was in it for the fame and glory and the people working for them were inventing for the same fame and glory for themselves.

Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech... not an “I have an Idea” speech. Sell what you feel... the why. That's why two hundred fifty thousand people showed up to see him speak.

Which sort of brings me back to why I write.

As I alluded to previously, in the early days I had no idea why I wrote. I just wrote because it felt right. I assumed it was for my own enjoyment and finding a creative outlet. In my late twenties and early thirties, I was certain I wrote because I needed an escape. What I was escaping I'm not sure. Some form of internal boogie man I suppose. Either that or some form of external influence compelled me to find a dark place and run my fingers incessantly over a keyboard. Later still, I made the leap to “I write to get my feelings out”. There are 15 or 20 personal journals hanging around here somewhere with enough thoughts to fill a few books... fiction or otherwise. (Those journals will remain closed until I die and no longer care who reads them or where they are shared... just sayin'.)

The how of writing for me is by using anecdotes, stories (either fiction or non-fiction), references to people who can say things better than I and all the while weaving lessons I've learned onto the page. I don't think we do anything that doesn't have some learning involved... even typing on a keyboard. The what of writing in my world is blogs and social network pages and novels. That is the manner I have chosen to put pieces of me out to the world.

In no way is this the only means of communication I (or anyone else) use, yet from my perspective, it is where I allow myself to be most vulnerable. Well... that and speaking in front of a group of strangers... but that's another story.

While most of those reasons for writing outlined above were more or less true at the time, the real reason I have always written is to connect; to share bits and pieces of me as I figure out what those bits and pieces are and what they mean. I write to share my learning in life, to reveal me piece by piece, to make people laugh or cry or say “hmmm”, to mark down my journey on a path some may wish to walk along while others may not and, yes, sometimes it is simply to escape the boogie man... no matter how bad a dancer he is.

You see, I have a dream too; a vision of what the world could become and how I fit into it. For me, that dream is the why.


Thursday, 2 October 2014

50 Shades of Ear Worms

Everyone else seems to have fifty shades of something incongruous. Why not an ageing fart like me?

I was on the road today. That is, my routes were spread all over red dude's half acre and the only way to complete the route was by vehicle. Why is the Devil red? Is he really, really, REALLY tanned? I've got to check that out one of these days. I'm sure The Onion has a truthful article or two.

I get ear worms a lot. You know, the songs that scurry like over-sugared mice through your head and you just can't seem to get them to settle down. It's like your kids on high-octane Kool-Aid. Over and over and round and round. I usually end up whistling the tunes as well. Why limit the torment to just myself when I can share my uninhibited dopamine overload with unsuspecting unfortunates. Poor buggers.

For whatever reason today, I decided not only to share by whistling, I also took note of where I was and the song I was whistling at the time. For instance, Working on the Chain Gang while being escorted through the local police station. Seriously... how does this happen? I'm presuming my whistling was bad enough that the song was unrecognizable as the officer didn't slap me in handcuffs or discharge her firearm in my general direction.

It gets worse... or better... depending entirely on perspective.

As I approached the preschool, I started whistling Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street... over and over and over. Holy crap! How do I get this one out of my head!? At a hotel, it wasn't an ear worm I took notice of. While I waited for the manager to appear from the bowels of the auberge, I glanced around toward the nicknack shop common in all hotels and right out front on a book rack were several spaces taken up by 50 Shades of Grey. I wasn't sure if it was advertising or a check-in manual.

It mattered not to me since I still had Sesame Street incessantly rattling around my head and didn't catch the irony until later.

The one ear worm that started the whole day of tracking where I was and what was in my head was Misguided Angel by The Cowboy Junkies. Before I realized what I was whistling, I was already half way through the house of prayer. Honestly, I wasn't sure if my song choice was toward the parishioners of the church or directed toward myself. Either way, I was belting it out like Robert Schuller's booming voice echoing on a bright Sunday morning in the Crystal Cathedral.

I don't think they'll be putting Misguided Angel in the hymn book any time soon.

As humans, we do tend to get stuck on things. The ear worms reminded me that it's pretty easy to get things repeating over and over in our heads. It can be something someone said or did that keeps resurfacing. Maybe we blame them and maybe we don't, and yet it stays stuck. It can be something we said or did while wondering how we will be perceived. Acceptance is huge to every human being.

Being accepted is important to each of us. Making a faux pas sticks in our craw because we feel we might not be accepted. It's a tough place to get stuck. I'm still working on it.

Hmm... I'll deal with that later though. Sesame Street is back in my head and Bert is giving Ernie the gears. Have to deal with those two first.  


Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Law of Noticing

I love learning new things and the more esoteric, the better.

I took a course this past winter in Permaculture Design which means I can now, with some authority, destroy your backyard with a backhoe, a pick axe and a bad attitude. The course took me three months to complete and was done one hour at a time for about ninety hours. The fascinating aspect to me was how everything fit together; keeping rainwater, creating ponds, where trees should go based on sunlight and winds, what plants work under trees, keeping your own fish, what plants work together so they're healthier, etc. Fundamentally, it is about creating a backyard that, for the most part, takes care of itself and is in harmony with itself and the surrounding area.

Oh... and most of the stuff growing can be eaten. I thought that was pretty cool.

When I started gardening, I started noticing gardens.

Have you ever been car shopping, become interested in a certain type of car and miraculously discovered the type of car you are interested in suddenly seems everywhere? It's not that there are more of them around you... it is simply a matter of noticing they are around you. They were always there. It is the same with everything else in our lives.

To a worm in horse manure, their entire world can be defined within the descriptive parameters of... horse manure.

We can only describe the world by what we see. If we see that world through the lenses of our problems, we see only more problems. If we see the world through the lenses of what we have, we see more of what we have. If we see the world through lenses of what we don't have, we will see more lack. If we see the world through the lenses of clutter, we will see only clutter.

What the hell does that mean!?

There is something out there called The Law of Attraction. Simply put, that which we focus on is what is attracted to us. If I focus on happy people, happy people are attracted to me. And to make the attraction that much stronger, if I am happy, the happy people come more quickly. If I focus on negative people, I will attract more negative people into my life. If I focus on spiritual people, I attract more spiritual people into my life.

Personally, I don't think there is a Law of Attraction. I believe it is a Law of Noticing.

The Law of Noticing goes like this:
That which I focus on I will notice and I will notice more opportunities to deepen that which I focus on.


As an example, if I am happy and I focus on happy people, I will notice more happy people than I will notice unhappy people. Further, if I focus on being happy, I will see more and more and more opportunities to be happy! It's not that the opportunities to be happy were never there. It is simply that I didn't previously take notice of them.

There is another saying out there that is often heard... When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. In actual fact, the teacher may have always been there. Now that the student is ready (usually that's me), they recognise the teacher as a teacher and... viola... we have found our teacher.... or vise-versa... or whatever.

For the record... we are all students and we are all teachers... at the same time.

This doesn't all work on specific people, by the way. Keep in mind that others have their own path. For instance, if your desire is to have the Dalai Lama in your living room, don't expect the man to suddenly have an auto breakdown in front of your house and ask to borrow the phone. What will likely happen is, you will focus on the Dalai Lama and you will notice his book. You likely would never have noticed his book if you hadn't focused on him. Now, the opportunity to “meet” the Dalai Lama has presented itself through his writing. Whether you buy or borrow the book or not is up to you (opportunity). If you do buy or borrow the book, there is a good chance that book will be in your living room at some point.

Huh. That's pretty cool.

A wonderful example of this in movie form is Under the Tuscan Sun where the lead character wishes for family to be around her and she gets it... just not in the form she expected. That's the odd thing about focusing on something. It may appear, just not in the form we expect or from the people we might expect. Try focusing on one little thing. I would bet that you would take notice of that one little thing much more often.

And miraculously, there it is... where it has always been.

I wonder if the Dalai Lama would let me dig up his back yard.


Friday, 26 September 2014

Down the Ladder for Climate Change

I used to do a lot more heavy construction work than I do now. I've pared it down to painting because as I “become more advanced”, lifting heavy objects becomes more difficult. I can still lift heavy things and there is certain groaning sound emitting from me that is a harbinger of things to come if I am not careful.

Basically, I don't want to look like a hunchback when I'm eighty-nine.

Of course, there are ladders involved in building structures and whenever I was up a ladder doing this or that, it seemed inevitable I would drop that one tool I needed most to complete the job. For a moment I would stare at the offending tool (it was the tool's fault, don't you know) attempting to deny gravity existed by using some Yoda eyes-roll-into-the-back-of-head extreme concentration of the mind I would magically make the thing float back into my hand. Then, admitting defeat, I would trundle down the ladder, retrieve the tool and huff back up the ladder to complete said chore.

Yoda is cool and sometimes he gets on my nerves... smart-ass green whatever you are.

Whether I deny it or not, gravity exists. It is a part of the reality in which I exist. I can explore the idea that overcoming gravity is a mind trick or I can argue with Sir Issac Newton to utter boredom that there is no such thing as gravity or I can deny it and ignore it. The simple fact is, whether I believe it or not, gravity exists.

Can we all agree on that?


Whether we deny it or rename it or are being funded by big energy companies or cannot get past the idea that we have the right to wipe out half of the planet's flora and fauna without retribution, Global Warming exists. Denying it will not change the scientific data. Denying it will not save our children and grandchildren from a life of anguish. Denying Global Warming exists and that we, humans, are affecting the change will not change the fact that it is happening.

Here is what I don't understand.

How is it we can put dollars before humanity? How is it our leaders can be affected by how much money is in their purse and from whom? Why is cost even entering the discussion? When are we, humanity, going to understand money is not the impetus one uses to make ethical decisions? When do we figure out that concern about cost will always be at odds with ethics.

Ethics has nothing to do with cost. Nothing. If a person's (those in power) ethics decisions are skewed by how much it will cost, that person is displaying a complete lack of ethics. We cannot have an ethical debate when dollars enter the fray. It's... just... not... possible.

Perhaps if Big Energy took the enormous funds they scatter around our decision maker's pocketbooks and used it to fund safe clean energy, we would have much less of a problem.

Human beings figure things out. We just do. It's in our nature. Decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels is not a problem. It's an opportunity. If a company goes bankrupt because we stop buying into the fossil fuel regime and another grows because we buy into the renewable energy regime, how have we lost? People who are now employed in fossil fuels would then be employed in renewable energy. It's simple economics. In actual fact, if Big Energy took all of the money they paid decision makers and scientists to promote their viewpoint and put it into retooling themselves toward renewable energy, they would not need to worry about their company going under. The "we can't afford to dump oil and gas" economics argument is unethical and idiotic and even those who use the argument know it.

If decisions continue to be made by economics instead of ethics, empirical evidence and right action, then we are doomed.

I guess the real question is this... Do we continue to  allow our leaders to stand on the ladder staring at the solution in the mud denying Global Warming exists or do we make them admit the simple truth and tell them to go get the damned thing to finish the job?

The answer seems pretty simple to me.