Just a Wee Little Boy

I want it.  I will have it

I will build a great wall – and nobody builds better walls than me, believe me – and I’ll build it very inexpensively.  I will build a great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall.  Mark my words.

I’ll call you whatever I want to call you

Dumb as a rock … lazy as hell

I’m better than you

I have a much better apartment than they do.  I’m smarter than they are.  I’m richer than they are.  I became president and they didn’t.

You’re an idiot

Look, you’re a third-rate reporter.  And what you just said is a disgrace, OK?  You will never make it.

I win

Our country is in serious trouble.  We don’t have victories anymore … When was the last time anybody saw us beating let’s say China in a trade deal?  I beat China all the time.  All the time.

I’m so cool

I just start kissing them.  Just kiss.  I don’t even wait.  And when you’re a star, they let you do it.  You can do anything.  Grab them by the pussy.  You can do anything.

I’m a stud

My fingers are long and beautiful, as (it has been well documented) are various other parts of my body.

I’m the smartest

My IQ is one of the highest – and you all know it!  Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure.  It’s not your fault.

You’re different and useless

Our great African American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.

I’ll beat you up

You have to dominate.  If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time.  They’re going to run over you.  You’re going to look like a bunch of jerks.

You’re a loser

Rudy, you’re a baby … They took your diaper off right there.  You’re like a little baby that needed to be changed.  When are you going to be a man?

It’s not my fault

I don’t take responsibility at all.

Bearded (Or Not)

From Friday till Sunday, I was in an intense retreat online with the Evolutionary Collective.  My brain cells were mightily scattered – in a good way.

I woke up this morning felling pretty darned tired.  It became apparent that my commitment to life amounted to pressing the power button of the TV remote.  I decided to pig out on a few hours of coronavirus coverage.  Some of it was gloomy stuff but heroes of every ilk were also there for the viewing.

I’m fascinated with commercials, with what they say about our “modern” life.  After a run of four or five of them, I had a wee “Ah hah!”  It was about the men.  Some guy was peddling car insurance, looking sporty in his close-cropped beard.  Then a fellow was waxing poetic about dog food “with real meat and veggies” … also bearded.  And how about having a new car delivered to your home with no physical contact needed?  The delivery driver was smiling beneath his ample facial hair.

“Hmm … they all have beards.”  I flashed back to a visit in Alberta with Jody’s brother and his family.  Lance said something like “They’ll spot you as a tourist right away.”  Curious, I piped up with “How?”  >  “No beard.”

This morning, I pulled out a piece of paper and started a tally of men in commercials.  You’ll be happy to know that 92 of them pranced across the screen, trying to sell me something.  And 59 of those souls wore beards and/or moustaches.  64% in favour of facial hair.

I got to thinking: What does it take to be a man?  Clearly, marketers see hairy faces as highly desirable … but I think not.  My occasional days of not shaving just made my face itch.  I don’t need that.  As far as I can tell, the only requirement for manhood is the possession of a penis.  There’s no blueprint.  Not appearance, personality or occupation.  Not height or clothing.

I know I have the basics, and that’s good enough for me.  We men are patches on a coat of many colours.  And the garment shines!  Vive la différence.

Unbearded, I continue my walk in the world.

Words of Life and Death

At the end of the day, I’m not gonna let corona stop me from partying.  We’ve had this trip planned two, three months, and we’re just here to have a good time.  Whatever happens, happens.

Who the hell are you to be walking around just giving it to old people, and you just flippantly dismiss it?

:::::

[In a crowded restaurant]  It was delicious, and I took my sweet time eating my meal.  Because this is America.

I have just been furious, furious at baby boomers and millennials … for people who would just have the hubris and arrogance to ignore what’s going on.

:::::

I’m not worried because I’m not immunocompromised.

You shouldn’t be taking your child to the playground!

:::::

We’re just trying to get drunk before everything closes.

[Watching on TV]  Yo, there’s like all these students on spring break, and dude … they’re not even caring about the new coronavirus or any of that stuff.  It’s not cool and, like, superperfect for spreading the virus to other people, you know?

:::::

We’re just living in the moment.

Our grandparents were asked to go to war.  We asked these a-holes to stay home on the couch and they can’t even do that.

*****

[Talking about his senior-aged parents]  They just won’t listen to me.  I’m going to kill them before Covid does.  I’m really upset.  They’re telling me I’m overreacting by telling them to stop eating out, and my mom keeps going to the office.  I won’t let them come over here to see the boys.  They get mad at me when I call them to tell them to just stay home.

80% Full

“Derek”, my trainer at the gym, suggested that I get involved in an online program called Precision Nutrition.  It offers daily lessons that mostly focus on the mind, rather than the stomach.  Every two weeks we’re given a new daily habit to focus on, and I’m finding that I can apply them broadly to my life.

1.  Make Time

The “for what” part of making time is totally up to me.  And I’m clear that I need to set up my life to get this stuff done on virtually a daily basis.  For instance, I need to write this blog.  It’s not a diary.  I have no interest in that.  I want to reach people like you, to sense that my words sometimes get you thinking, get you feeling, get you living a touch deeper.

I’m committed to making time for conversations that matter.  Let’s talk about what’s important to us.  I want to sit down with 12-year-olds, 42-year-olds and 72-year-olds.  You have the depths of your life to offer me, and I’ll give you back all that I have.

I’m committed to meditating – to falling into the space of love in the quiet of my bedroom.  I want to touch the ineffable, the sublime, the union with the divine.

I will also make time for getting strong, aerobically fit, flexible and nutritionally sound.  My well-being is not only spiritual and relational.  It’s physical too.

2.  Eat Slowly

Actually, do lots of things slowly, such as walking.  I feel the rhythm of my body moving, the flow of it all rather than frantic here, stumbly there.  I also drive slowly, despite the tailgaters who seem to be shouting “More!  More!”  I slow to a new speed limit gradually, instead of slamming on my brakes at the last second.

The eating part is a challenge.  Put down the fork often.  Chew a lot.  Really taste things.  There’s a lot of work to do here but I know I’m in this for the long haul.  I need to have meals be an experience, not a brief interlude between tasks.

If I slow down, then the roses can truly be smelled, the eyes of the other can truly be met, and even my breath can take its time.

3.  80% Full

Two days ago, I read about my new daily habit: stop eating when I’m 80% full.  Just a tiny bit of hunger left, the plate not fully cleaned, and a spaciousness inside that’s palpable.  There’s a lightness here which so easily migrates to my mind and heart.  In contrast, I remember family dinners from long ago where it became a ritual for me to undo my belt and unzip a bit before dessert arrived.  Being bloated dampens the flavours.

In the gym, how about stopping when I’m pleasantly fatigued in the bench press, and then moving on to the next exercise?  “No pain, no gain” just doesn’t ring true to me.

I could respectfully leave a conversation when the words coming into my brain are at the 80% level.  Things don’t have to be so jampacked.  I could put my book down when my brain is 80% tired of processing ideas.

***

Hmm.  Nutrition … life.  From the very specific to the many dimensions of living.  Why not?

Auschwitz Today: Respect or Selfies?

I sat last night with one of the other guests at my bed and breakfast in Toronto.  He’s a Polish fellow living in Ireland.  On a visit home recently, he visited the Auschwitz concentration camp, where Nazi soldiers killed over a million Jews, gypsies and members of other groups whom they deemed “sub-human”.  My new friend was “devastated” by the experience, overwhelmed with the pure evil, and with the suffering endured by men, women and children.

I asked myself how I’d ever cope with seeing the horrors of Auschwitz.  I shut my eyes and went to bed.  I knew I wanted to write about this, but my fingers, mind and heart had nothing left to give.

This morning, I went to Google, looking for more details about Auschwitz.  I didn’t know what I wanted to say but I knew something would come.  What showed up was a YouTube video spoken by Patrick Ney.  I don’t have to say anything more.  Patrick knows the way.

I first went to Auschwitz concentration camp in 2012.  And as somebody who had read a lot about the history of that place, and had watched a lot of documentaries, it was something that I was dreading.  But I was also in a kind of way looking forward to it.  To go to a place where the absolute worst things that humans have ever done to other humans, was an honour.  But unfortunately my abiding memory of visiting that place isn’t actually about what happened.  It was the behaviour of the people who were there with me.

As we walked into the crematoria at Auschwitz 1, a couple that were in the group that I was in, decided that it would be a good moment to start kissing each other.  When we walked into one of the barracks where shoes of the Jewish victims at Auschwitz concentration camp were displayed, our guide asked us not to take any photos, and not to take any photos of the shoes or the human hair or the suitcases, because these are the possessions of people who have been murdered.  And the first thing that every single tourist that was in my group did was whip out their phone and take a photo.

And unfortunately, to my undying shame, I said nothing.  I did nothing.  I stood there disgusted and angry, more angry even at their behaviour than at what I was actually witnessing.  Because it was so horrible to see the way that people coming to this place, this terrible place, treated it, almost as if it was an amusement park.

So in recent months where news reports have shown how people have been “ticking off their bucket list” by visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp, taking happy, jolly selfies – people from all sorts of different countries – regardless of where they’re from, you just feel absolutely sick to the stomach.

I went to Auschwitz recently to record a film about a Polish priest who sacrificed his life for that of a stranger.  And unfortunately, on that visit as well, spending two days at that camp, I saw exactly the same behaviour as I’d seen on my first visit.

And you know what?  If you can’t behave in the right way when you go to Auschwitz concentration camp, or any other place where the mass extermination by the Nazi Germans during the Second World War took place, don’t go.  If you can’t treat that place with respect, if you can’t focus all of your energy and your effort on the victims, the people who were tortured and murdered in the most bestial way, then don’t go.

If you don’t have the empathy to understand what happened at these places, you don’t deserve to go there.  It’s not a holiday.  It’s not a special treat.  And it certainly isn’t ticking something off your bucket list.  It’s your obligation as a human to the human race.

Amen.

***

Here’s a sampling of the comments people posted about Patrick’s video and Auschwitz:

1.  It just astounds and shocks me that a human being could do such evil to another human being.  It’s so very heartbreaking.  We can never let this happen again.

2.  Where is the proof that 6 million people vanished from the face of the earth or is it something we were told to believe?

3.  Great video, respectful and informative and difficult to watch at times.  Thank you.

4.  Even as a tourist, tourists piss me off.

5.  Nothing is like seeing it in person although this comes close.  There is something about it.  Like there is a powerful energy that’s extremely depressing.  You can get very emotional if you feel things deeply.  But it was a moving experience.

6.  And how did they get about 24 million tons of coke or coal into the camp?  Where did they store it?  How was it moved around the camp?  Never see any pictures of any coal trains, mechanical shovels, fuel bunkers, do you?  Where is all the ash?  And if the transport trains were in the camp, how would they get the coke in to burn 8000 bodies a day?  Maybe a bit of critical thinking instead of bullshit might go a long way here.

7A.  Everyone’s got it all wrong about Hitler.  He was made to look like a villain because he went directly against Zionism and freemasonry, so they decide to make an example of him.  More that half the shit we’ve learned in school is a completely fabricated lie.

7B.  You are a complete moron and a wannabe goosestepper.  Garbage like you keeps hate alive.

8.  We visited Auschwitz on my school trip at the beginning of 2017.  My classmates normally behave quite childishly and make jokes throughout the classes all the time.  It truly was a shock to me how respectful they all were.  No one looked on their phones, nobody talked loud, etc.  Just looking around, thinking and talking with each other about the events that had taken place in a very mature way.

Enough

My family of professionals were always struggling to learn more and to be more. It seemed there was always more. It was never enough. If I brought home a 98 on a test, my father would ask “And what happened to the other two points?” I pursued those two points relentlessly throughout my childhood. But my grandfather did not care about such things. For him, I was already enough. And somehow when I was with him, I knew with absolute certainty that this was so.”

Rachel Remen

Rachel is pointing to the common stance that who I am, and who you are, is deficient. Sadly, many of us buy the idea. And so we launch a quest to find that elusive “enough”. But I don’t think we’ll ever get there within that mindset. Goal #1 achieved leads immediately to Goal #2 pursued, or Goal #1 enhanced.

I like what grandpa brings to the world. “Sure, strive to improve, but who you are is just fine.” We all need to hear this. Completely separate from our abilities and disabilities, we are golden, shining like the sun.

May you have someone in your life who looks deeply into your eyes and sees beauty there. Someone who nods and smiles when another mentions your name.

My dad was my biggest cheerleader. When I got zero in a university course because I didn’t hand in the one assignment, he sat with me and helped me plan for the future. When I told him that I wanted to hitchhike from Toronto to Alberta (a distance of 3500 kilometres), he said “Go explore” and drove me to the on-ramp of Highway 400. Did I make mistakes? Many. Did he know about them? Yes. Did he keep loving me unconditionally? You bet.

Now I’m a grandpa figure in a class of 11-year-olds. I get to look into their eyes and have them see that all is well. They deserve to know that they are truly worthy of respect, appreciation and love. If I can do this, maybe they’ll pass it on twenty years from now.

And the world will be a better place.

Commercials

I watched a lot of tennis on TV today and so I watched a lot of commercials.  I bet I’ve seen a few of them twenty times.  What do you figure is the impact on kids of seeing this one over and over again?

Imagine a ticket counter at the airport.  Person after person asks the female employee “Is there any chance of an upgrade?”  One handsome man asks her “Have you thought about being a model?” The thing is, that according to Hollywood standards, this woman isn’t particularly attractive.  I can see an young onlooking mind ask himself or herself “How could she ever be a model?”  How easily sexual stereotypes and the relative valuing of people can be passed down to the new generation.

Here’s the next one:

A chef is working with his two assistants to create a delicious meal, while a technician is installing cable TV in the room.  The boss puts his spoon into the pot and samples the contents.  Then his wrath is turned onto his female sous chef: “You need to taste it first and then season it!  Yuh!  I wouldn’t serve that to my dogs.”  It’s hugely demeaning.  Again, the woman is not what the culture says is beautiful … and seconds later she is gone.  Okay, kids, what did you get from this one?  That it’s okay to insult your employees?  That public shaming is just fine?  So very sad.

And finally:

A young woman’s car breaks down on the freeway at night and she pulls onto the shoulder.  She’s scared.  And she’s alone, except that her dad is on the phone.  “It’s okay, Amy.  Did you put your flashers on?  >  Yeah  >  Don’t get out of the car.  Hey, don’t worry … help is on the way  >  Thanks, dad.”  Due to the phone company, emergency road service will be there soon.  Dad gives his daughter love, calm and safety.  Are you listening, kids?  This is what human beings need.

I suppose you might say that at least there was one humane commercial.  Well, that’s not good enough.  No more nasty chefs and syrupy passengers, please.  Just give me kind human beings.

 

 

 

 

A or B?

Unity – the state of being made one; a condition of harmony

Separation – a break; a place where a split happens; an intervening space

Awakening – an act or moment of becoming suddenly aware of something

Dormancy – something that is not active or growing

Intrinsic – belonging naturally; essential

Extrinsic – not part of the essential nature of someone or something; coming or operating from outside

Mutual – feeling the same emotion, or doing the same thing to or for each other

Unilateral – (of an action or decision) performed by or affecting only one person involved in a situation, without the agreement of the other

Emergence – the fact of something becoming known or starting to exist

Stagnation – the state of not flowing or moving

Contact – the act of touching each other

Avoidance – the act of keeping away from

Resonant – something with a deep tone or a powerful, lasting effect

Muted – not expressed strongly or openly; (of a musical instrument) having a muffled sound as a result of being fitted with a mute

Transcendent – describing the rising above something to a superior state

Mundane – very ordinary and therefore not interesting

Include – to make part of a whole

Exclude – to shut or keep out

Love – an intense feeling of deep affection

Apathy – lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern

Athlete

I’ve been worrying about my cross-Canada cycling trip. The same old refrain: “Too old. Not strong enough.” Happily though, in the past few weeks fear and excitement have switched places. I’m far more in touch with the thrill of it all.

Still … I’m scared.

A month ago, my doctor asked me to have an EGG done. The results showed some “irregularities”. So Julie prescribed a treadmill stress test. Sure, why not? Cover the bases.

I talked to a few friends about the test and their basic response was “No sweat. You just walk slowly.” Didn’t sound like much stress to me.

It happened yesterday. Shorts, t-shirt, running shoes, electrodes on my chest, leads running everywhere. I looked like a member of the Borg, a sinister race of machines/humans on the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” TV show.

And then the fun began. This was no walk in the park. Speed increased, as did the tilt of the machine . Sweat made its appearance, in large quantities. This was the MAXIMUM stress test. After 15 minutes or so, the deed was done. I was winded but doing fine. The doctor had engaged me in conversation about my bike ride the whole time and I had no problem keeping up my verbal end.

Now the results: “It took you 12 minutes to get your heart rate up to 90% of maximum. This is very unusual [i.e. good] for a 69-year-old. It’s more like what I’d expect to see with someone in their mid-twenties. You’ll be fine on the ride.”

Well …

I’m fine. I’m strong. I may even be amongst the fittest of the 20 Tour du Canada riders. I’m pleased and shocked.

The mythical “they” say that achieving any great result is 90% mental. And my mental just zoomed through the stratosphere.

What’s true? I am an athlete. Like all my fellow cyclists, there’ll be times this summer when I’m exhausted. But I can do this. I am doing this. See me fly!

Issuelessness

I’ve been listening to some of Patricia Albere’s conversations on the Evolutionary Collective website.  One in particular has stopped me in my tracks … the perception of issuelessness.

Can it be, that although problems will keep arising in my life, I don’t need to feed them energy?  I don’t need to define something as an issue, and allow it to bring me down.

I’m riding my bicycle across Canada this summer.  Last week, at the school where I volunteer, kids challenged me to run the 800 metres with them.  So I did it!  And now my ankles are nicely swollen.

So … issue or no issue?

In another realm, I look back at my life and the experiences that brought me joy.  I used to be an artist, creating batiks, a process of dyes and waxes on fabric.  Also, I’ve collected thousands of quotations, with the intention of sorting them into categories and publishing a book chronicling the world’s wisdom.  Will I return to these prior passions? I don’t know.

Issue or no issue?  Important to return or not?  One voice tells me to resurrect these activities and another says let them go.

I go back and forth in my assessment of realities: swollen ankles, no batik and no volumes of wise words.  In my better moments, there are no issues.  I feel such freedom, such peace.  And then there are the times I spend behind bars.

Such a work in progress, this living.