Monday, 29 June 2015

How I Be is the Goal

I'm one of those people who, when someone comes to mind, I call them up or send a message for no particular reason out of the blue and say, “Hey! Wanna meet for coffee?”
Planning in advance generally isn't my strong suit. Yup. I'm one of THOSE. I make people who plan everything to the last detail crazy... on purpose. It's like a contact sport. (I'm laughing my ass off as I write this. Ahhhhh... good times!)

I remember in eighth grade my teacher telling the class we had to think about what we wanted our career to be... for the rest of our lives... until we gasped our last breath... or retired... whichever we were unfortunate enough to endure first. On the long side shelf by the big expansive windows that looked out on a picturesque yellow-brick wall were a couple hundred career descriptions. We were to go over, mull them over and pick one. Mu... mu... mu... what? So we all rushed over for a look. Well, most of us rushed. Myself and a couple of others wandered with what I assumed were some sort of glazed, deer in the headlights look glued to our pasty white faces. I'm pretty sure my ass was still glued to my chair three isles behind. Career? Direction? Goals? Really? Really, really, really? I'm thirteen dude! I can't decide what underwear to wear in the morning. Do I have to choose?
Pfft... I still don't know what I want to be.
BUT... I do know how I want to be.
I often self-flagellate through philosophically unanswerable questions. Some days I think I have them figured out. Other days I think my brain will implode into a synapse sucking black hole never to return from some alternate reality where I'm a bagel. One of those questions that has come up in my life (indeed, in most people's lives) is the meaning of life. Some define life by the question... what are your goals? Again, I kind of drag my feet on this one. I'm fifty-four. How the hell do I know what my goals are? Do I have to go to the brick view window and pick something... again? Really? Ass stuck to chair...
My difficulty with goals is I'm not so certain goals are a great way to determine how to live one's life. There is so much emphasis placed on goals we have come to a place in society where, if we don't have carefully defined goals, others look at us like we have horns, a reddened face and a pointy black goatee. The truth is, I'm just not good with choosing or maintaining goals. Neither is half the population. The other half have lists that tell them where their frigging lists are.
I do have a pitchfork though.
It seems to me it is far more important to know how I want to be in this world than it is what I want to do in it. In fact, it seems to me, knowing how I want to be is most likely going to determine what I do and then I will have goals to strive for. Not the other way around. If I choose a goal and it doesn't fit with who I believe I should be, I will most likely fail. If I manage to somehow achieve the goal, it will feel hollow. If I know who I want to be and then choose a goal that fits that persona, it's much more likely I will be successful.
Creating goals before we know how we want to be is akin to learning to drive a car before knowing the rules of the road. It kind of has to be the other way around, ya know?
Choosing a career when I was thirteen was a pretty idiotic exercise. I didn't even know who I was. I was just starting to notice girls and trying to figure them out (which pretty much put the kibosh on ANY other goal). I didn't know how I fit into the grand schema. That didn't come until much later. I recall choosing architecture as my life career. Somewhere in high school, I switched to accounting and computer science. After University, I went into restaurants and hotels... then the steel industry... the medical rescue device industry... the art industry... contracting. See where I'm going here?
Turns out my “career” is to learn as much as I can, hypothesize, philosophize and generally be a pain in the ass when someone asks about the meaning of life. (Best not ask. Just sayin'.)
There is no way one can attach a goal to all of that.
There is definitely a way to attach a way of being to all of that.
I guess the crux of this is, if I call you up to go for a cup of coffee, don't freak out too much. I was just thinking it might be a cool thing to do and some synapses fired at the same time bringing your name to mind. And don't worry about saying no. I get it. You've already got your day planned. No worries. I've been told no plenty of times.
And I'm happy to have talked and know you're doing okay.
Oh... and figuring out women? Yeah... that's one of those unanswerable philosophical questions... and usually when I feel like a bagel.


Friday, 26 June 2015

Windstorms of Insignificant Clutter

Save me,
Save me from tomorrow,
I don't want to sail with this ship of fools...
from Ship of Fools by World Party

I've shut off the swear filters again.
That nine people are dead and we're focused on a flag instead of the real issues of gun control and racism is embarrassing.
That a local mayor (in my one time home town) blames those around him for his lack of attention to detail and protocol is embarrassing.
That an argument about little Johnny's school grades degrades to an argument about who did what to whom three years ago last Tuesday is embarrassing.
That the President of the United States uses the “N” word to accentuate his point that bigotry and racism go far beyond the usage of a word and media are focused on the word is embarrassing.
I am not going to use the “N” word obviously. That would be disrespectful to people I give a shit about. I find the word offensive to the point of physical illness. However, if Potus decides to use the word in its full form, I will trust his judgment due principally to my respect for the man, my respect for why he used it and because he intended it that way for a reason.
If you believe President Obama did not put significant, careful thought into whether to use the word or not, I will tell you are flat out wrong.
The news media has gone berserk over the past few days since the radio interview was released. They're focused on the use of the word by the most powerful man in the United States. “How could he have used such an offensive word so... flippantly?” The entire media frenzy surrounding that one word has overridden the incredibly important message contained in the monologue. That is, the lack of use of the “N” word in public does not determine whether racism exists or not. Racism exists despite the use or avoidance of any particular linguistic unit. Racism needs to be dealt with at a much deeper, educated, inclusive level.
Similarly, the windstorm of meaningless rhetoric surrounding the confederate flag has steered the public away (once again) from the bigger issues: gun control and racism. Should the flag be removed? In my opinion, yes. The sooner the better. What it ultimately represents is abhorrent. And, let's deal with the other issues on the table first. We'll get back to the fucking flag when it's time.
Some would say dealing with the flag is important... and it is. It's also far less important than the underlying issue though. Does it occur to no-one they'll just make another fucking flag to worship?
We often become separated from real issues by those who wish to divert our attention. Why do news outlets alter our view? Because they know we are too fucking scared to deal with the real problem. They know we are uneducated about the issues. They keep us uneducated on purpose by over dramatizing meaningless drivel so we will ignore the bigger problem.
The media outlets also know we will avoid the hard work and scramble toward an easy out.
This sort of obdurate behaviour doesn't happen only in the States. Don't kid yourself.
While listening to a taped, public conversation of a small town council meeting here in Ontario, I heard more than one vacuous sidebar meant, intentionally, to divert conversation from the real issue. The real issue, in this case, was whether the meeting had been called using proper protocol. Instead the participants took a hard turn into who was doing what to whom for what purpose. Clearly, the conversation was flipped by the mayor who had called the meeting without the proper protocol. The rest of council followed along like sugar addicts scrambling to get at the last existing bag of Oreo cookies. Why the deviation by the mayor? Because he didn't wish to deal with the actual issue that he had royally and undeniably fucked up.
Why do we divert attention from the real topic so easily? Because the main topic up for discussion is painful and difficult for one or more of the participants so they (we) divert as quickly as possible to ease the angst. It's human nature to deflect and find a back door, particularly when we feel cornered into something we would rather avoid.
And it's not just media or government where this lack of focus occurs.
The next time your having a “discussion” with your significant other, check out how quickly the conversation degrades into “you did this” and “you did that” when those issues aren't even the topic up for discourse. The only way to relieve the angst of a topic is to deal with it head on. If an issue isn't dealt with up front and immediately, it simmers in the background until the next straw.
And then, wonder of wonders, we can't figure out why nothing is being accomplished and the same shit reoccurs ad nauseum.
Fucking DUH!
Distraction has become an inherent part of our lives: smart phones, television, booze, drugs, sex, internet, movies, self-help etc, etc. Anything to distract ourselves from the underlying problems we face. The unwavering truth is, day in and day out, we're mucking up our brains with distraction whilst the issues and problems are waiting on the sidelines to get back into our life. And they will. Over and over and over.
Shit doesn't go away because you ignore it. Shit goes away because you deal with it. Period.
The only way we resolve the issues of violence, gun control, racism, protocol and why little Johnny is flunking out of first grade is to talk about violence, gun control, racism, protocol and why little Johnny is flunking out of first grade. That's it. It's that simple.
Our job in any discussion is to bring those we are having an argument with back on point.
The rest is a windstorm of insignificant clutter. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

To Father or Not to Father...

Dad and me September 1963
Father Knows Best, right?
Do you remember the television show starring Robert Young? I never did see the show yet it seemed to set off a litany of “fatherly” types on television from downright gospel Midwest father Charles Ingalls to the hip, almost sedate portrayal of Mike Brady. More slovenly portrayals have graced the screen in recent years where the father is, at best, a comedic idiot who is fodder for everyone's ridicule. In some ways, this has translated into the real world context of what a father is.
Fortunately, real life fathers have actually morphed into what would be considered somewhat of a human being.
I was listening to my favourite radio station this past week (Boom 97.3 in Toronto) which I always do on my way to work. One of the reasons I listen to the station is the morning guy, Stu Jeffries. Every so often he gives an impassioned speech from his heart and it's what makes him much more than just another talking head. On this particular morning, he talked about his past with fatherhood and role models and growing up in a fatherless home. Many of the thoughts he shared echoed my own.
Unlike Stu, I never took the chance to became a father.
Early on in my young adulthood, I didn't want kids. I wasn't sure why then. Later on I realized there was fear attached to the idea. My history with kids wasn't anything to write home about. In the modern age, families are broken up and mashed together and the kids have to get along as best they can. As it turned, my situation wasn't much different and I ended up being the oldest of four... the youngest being thirteen years my junior.
I was not the greatest big brother.
Knowing how I was in my teen years with younger siblings, I had a fear of becoming a father and repeating those same mistakes. In fact, there was a strong likelihood I would. How could I possibly be a father when I was still a kid myself? How could I be a parent when I wasn't mature enough to know who the hell I was? My greatest fear had nothing to do with responsibility. It had nothing to do with “being tied down” or freedom or giving something up. It had everything to do with fear of breaking a human being.
Why would I bring a kid into the world when I was the odds on favourite to break them in the first place?
I recently had an opportunity to be a Dad of sorts. Whether I was any good at it or not is a whole other monologue, I suppose. It's certainly not up for discussion here. I do know, though, I was hindered from clarity of thought and action by fear. Fear of screwing up. Fear of doing something that might scar a younger person for life. I think most men go through that same paradigm at some point or other. We're so afraid of screwing up we either react badly, don't do anything at all or defer to the child's mother. It's just easier than dealing with the emotional angst of making a mistake.
So we stay distant from our kids, try too hard or, as in my case, don't have children at all.
I know my Dad did the best he could. I know he made decisions that, while they may not have been the best for each of us in hindsight, they were what he knew. A good portion of our difficulty came from having differing values... even early on. We looked at the world through contrary coloured lenses. We still do. It makes things difficult at best. But then, we were both raised in radically different times. With the upheaval endured by society in the past fifty years, how could we not see things differently?
Being a father is a big deal. At least, it is to us. We are not the perfect Father Knows Best character portrayed in the fifties. Nor are we the bumbling buffoon popularized in media over the past few decades. We are human and apt to make mistakes. We may not show it all the time and we feel everything, just like you do. In a lot of cases, we were brought up not to show those emotions. Mostly, we haven't a clue what we are doing and playing it by ear which can be debilitating. If you get one thing from this post, please get this... we are trying our best and we (those that are fathers) want the best for you. We really are trying to figure out how to show up in your life.
To me, Father's Day is a day of report cards; not for my Dad but for me. Am I a better person than I was last year? Am I more compassionate, more understanding, safer to be around and safer to open up to? Have I grown at all? My report card grades to myself in answering those questions in regard to being a role model is usually... no. Though I've never had children of my own, I live by the understanding that we are all fathers in some way or other, even if that is nothing more than a distant role model for other's children. We still have a part to play.
A final word to my father, I know we don't understand each others point a view most of the time and come at the world from differing angles....
And I love you.

Happy Father's Day.

This is the Stu Jeffries monologue. It really is worth the four minutes.