I am sorry Nova Scotia

“I’m sorry.’ The two most inadequate words in the English language.” » Beth Revis

What is wrong with me?

I have barely commented on the abject tragedy and senseless loss of 22 precious lives (excluding the murderer) that occurred this past weekend in our Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Have I even posted a single news article on that? Have I reached out to an old university friend who lives in Halifax? How much space does it even occupy in my consciousness? Have I even adequately grieved for the loss of life for my fellow Canadians?

It is not like I am absent from current events. I am one of those self-labeled (oh how I hate labels) “news junkies” and I have always taken time to be aware of geopolitical events because it is very much who I am. I engross myself in politics including a cross-section of sociological and ecological affairs including both the good and the bad. And for those of you who have seen any of my social media posts during and since the massacre in Nova Scotia, you know I have been posting articles and opinions on everything from COVID-19, the stock markets, fear and recently a piece on how to overcome sadness during isolation. Of course, I have opined on Trump and his incoherent Dear Leader rants from his daily and useless press conferences. But virtually nothing on the Nova Scotia massacre. I repeat, what is wrong with me?

I was shaken to my core after the Danforth shooting (here in my city of Toronto) which killed two innocents in July 2018. I rode my bike down to the scene of the murders a few days later to more thoroughly absorb that tragedy.

I was horrified and incensed in April 2018 when the Toronto van attack occurred and killed 10 people.

The Parliament Hill shooting of October 2014 in Ottawa, our nation’s capital, killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo and I was mortified by the Corporal’s pointless death. I praised our national hero Ken Vickers who valiantly ended that attack along with other authorities.

It was before social media, but I vividly recall the horror of what transpired at Montreal’s École Polytechnique in December 1989, brutally killing 14 women in a vicious misogynistically motivated mass murder. Several years later as the father of three daughters, this tragedy hit home for me even more as it does every memorial anniversary of this attack.

I know what is different and I do not need to spell that out for you. I am preoccupied as are we all. I have a whole host of fears just like you and my mind is imagining many contrasting scenarios of what this all could mean to me – to all of us.

The other day I was speaking with a friend about my guilt over this. I mentioned that we humans have an unlimited capacity for love, or so we have been told. If we are blessed to have children, we love each one and do not run out of love if another and another come along. And when grandchildren arrive in our family, lo and behold, we have more love to give to them without diminishing the love that we already hold within our hearts for family and friends that were here before. But what of fear? What about grief? For this do we have unlimited capacity as well?

That is the proverbial million-dollar question. The answer may be no, we do not. We are operating on sensory overload during these unprecedented times. I might not be the only one who has fallen to the same malady as there are undoubtedly more who harbor the same guilt as do I.

I can only conclude that LOVE is more powerful than fear, and LOVE is the most potent of feelings and emotions. We continue to do good deeds through love even as we ourselves are in need. We have the power of love to care for the sick when in fact our health is inferior. At our breaking point, love propels us to dig even deeper to care for our loved ones. In despair, we protect those closest to us at the cost of our own peril because of the love we possess for them.

So why was my love for my fellow Canadians in Nova Scotia not enough? Maybe it was. Perhaps my love spirited me to dig a little deeper and has driven me to write this. That love has enabled me to acknowledge my error, my lapse in judgement, because perhaps I was in a rough place for a couple of days.

I am so sorry Nova Scotia. I am deeply sorry for your tragedy. I wish a speedy and complete recovery to the injured, my condolences to the families and dear friends of the deceased, and may all those innocents who perished, rest in peace.

On the other side …

Life is about change. Sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s beautiful. But most of the time, it’s both.

Lana Lang

 

The new normal or the new strange? One of my old friends from the UK suggested to me that a “new strange” would be a more apt phraseology of the post-transition period. What will it look like when we get to the other side of this? That is the common speculative talk – you have been a part of those discussions as well. Our ideas are plentiful, our conjecture mixed with optimism and pessimism. Will we always be wearing masks? Will we be watching the competition of sports teams played before empty stadiums and arenas? Will the shaking of hands be a custom of the past? Will packed restaurants only be something we see in movies filmed pre 2020? Will planes fly with at one-third to one-half capacity – at double the cost or more of pre COVID-19 days? Will our taxes skyrocket to pay for the extraordinary borrowing by our government during these unprecedented times? And on and on …

Many, including myself, have observed a collective expression of societal gratitude, admiration and appreciation to not only the front-line healthcare professionals but also to those holding down duties of labour allowing the many to shop. They are clerks, truckers, delivery people, restaurants open for takeout, warehouse workers and all the other affiliated and supporting functions required for us to buy the needs of our daily living and if I may say so – our very survival. THEY are keeping our supply chain flowing while the “many” stay home either working from home (the truly fortunate) or the abruptly unemployed. And quietly, our clergy, while they are not guiding us in houses of worship as they once were, they are performing perhaps their most sacred of tasks – presiding over funerals and burials sometimes without family present.

The tone on social media conveys a pronounced softening, kindness and helpfulness in us, does it not? A categorization of life’s priorities is being reshaped as well. Never in most of our lifetimes have our needs and wants been more dissected and evaluated than they are today. We are rethinking who are heroes ought to be and more emphatically who they ought not to be. Our resiliency as human beings is shining as is our adaptability. To most of us, ZOOM connoted something entirely different a couple of months ago than it does today but we are embracing it.

Our appreciation for connectedness may have never been stronger than during this period of separation and isolation.

Wouldn’t it be euphoric if on the other side society changed for the better? That somehow, we carried these positive emotions and gratitude towards essential workers EVERY DAY, we forsake wants and worked only for our needs, we paid nurses what lawyers make, store clerks made a living wage and persons humanity to person became the norm across society. All would be beautiful. Home after home would be lined by white picket fences, there would be no crime and cancer was cured.

Just like President Trump’s gap regarding what happened in February, there is an abyss in this dialogue from what is happening today and what we will have suffered on our travels upon arriving at the other side …

Therefore, what we seem to be ignoring in most of these conversations is the pain and the loss we will endure. I think partly because “it” has not struck many within our immediate circle of reality – yet. We learn of this loss as the full array of numbers are reported daily. I read earlier that someone compared the reports of the “daily death toll” from COVID-19 to viewing the American evening news in the 1970s as the news anchors broadcasted the daily tally of US service personnel killed in Viet Nam. For the most part, faceless, soulless soldiers … just a number. Today, along with the COVID-19 death toll is the analysis of whether the curve is flattening or if there is a surge. We are talking about fucking people who by the way are dying alone!! Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents and friends, dead! Will we end up as one of these faceless, soulless numbers?

I am not a black and white guy. It has not been an easy journey for me to arrive here, but I am now usually and firmly grey. That is why I chose the introductory quote to this piece by Lana Lang. Yes, I do have tremendous optimism that we will experience a re-awakening as I have confidence in the ultimate goodness of the human soul. I can envisage our collective growth emanating from this pandemic. But I do not expect it to be without earning our own trauma. I anticipate it will scar most of us. However, we will change.

Life is about change. Sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s beautiful. But most of the time, it’s both, on the other side …

Are you wearing shoes?

So much has changed in just a few short weeks

Missing our favourite restaurants and shopping boutiques

We can’t watch our sports and cheer for our teams

While attempting to work amongst our kid’s screams

There are Zoom meetings, Zoom Seders and Zoom family check-ins

And our investment portfolios are playing little violins

No touching. No touching. OMG NO TOUCHING

I can’t wait to get back to some serious clutching

So what is with all this hoarding and over-shopping?

At least I am learning about product swapping

And speaking of learning and acquiring new skills too

Like mask designing, cooking and making our own do

Anyone bored or wondering how to get by?

Like me writing a poem that only makes you cry?

How many funny memes can you share in one day?

People have an overabundance of time to play

But along with the jokes there is a time to be serious

We are dealing with a virus that’s terribly deleterious

It is life-threatening and lifestyle impacting

The hardest part of all is the absence of interacting

So what do you miss the most and miss the least?

And where has your gratitude significantly increased?

With doctors, nurses and front-line staff?

Or athletes and celebs, that makes me laugh

So many poor, who lost their jobs and have no money

For the first time, I really wish there was an Easter Bunny

I ache for the homeless and people dying alone

And I’m angry at politicians lacking a backbone

I have a couple of questions remaining to ask …

Over the next few weeks what shall be your greatest task?

With negativity and fear are you singing the blues?

And during these most difficult days, are you wearing shoes?

@lettersandwalls

… many other forms of spirituality originate from a book …

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

Viktor Frankl

 

If you could see me now, I am sitting on a reclining red deck chair resting upon a sprawling wooden platform listening to the roar of the British Columbia interior’s Nahatlatch River and its white water rapids. As I begin to write this it is 10am Pacific time. It also happens to be a milestone birthday.

I arrived here late the previous afternoon after the conclusion of a week long business trip also here in BC. For some, this appears to be an odd way of celebrating a milestone birthday such as this is. Travelling alone, landing here on my inaugural yoga retreat with strangers is not entirely a commonplace practice for – okay – a 60th birthday celebration. There, I said it. But since the day I turned 59, I have not quite dreaded this day, for what is the alternative – tragically I have been shockingly reminded of it. Yet I have had my mind negatively preoccupied with what this day represented to me!

So who are these strangers? Well, they are beautiful human beings hailing from; Australia, Spain, Los Angeles, Canada – Ontario, BC, and Alberta, New Zealand, Fiji, South Dakota, France and elsewhere. They are; students, yogis, several types of therapists, a construction worker, a doctor, professional white water rapids guides, an Ontario cop, photographers, a TV studio set designer and even an international fireworks architect.

I have revelled in the multiple daily yoga practices – but above of all I will always cherish the conversations I have had with several of the precious souls here with whom I made a deeper connection.   Where else but sitting 10 metres from this beautiful river in front of us can someone describe and literally point out to me her interpretation of spirituality as, “nature is my church”? Those trees and raging river we are gazing out at clearly are not man made, she went on to say. So many other forms of spirituality originate from a book, whether written by man or at least inspired into man – nature is just there for all to see and marvel in the power of a source or unlabelled creator of nature and by definition – of us. And then there is the unexpected depth and joy of discussion with a 19 year-old summer worker. He is a very bright and inquisitive young man mature beyond his years. He firsts asks me if I believe in love and soulmates. Next he asks if I have any regrets in life as he seeks advice from this “erudite” new sexagenarian.

Soulmates? Wow. That one hit home. How does one know? Do both parties have to realize it for it to be your true soulmate? Or perchance it’s not the right time for the soulmates to light on fire. Can there be more than one in a lifetime? And therefore if the is yes answer, then timing must be a factor since by most western norms, morals and practises one can’t be involved with two soulmates simultaneously. And a 19 year-old is asking “me” about my life’s regrets in the hope of not making the similar mistakes as I have? In those two astounding questions he somehow condensed all I had been worrying about at turning 60. At a later discussion over dinner he confided to me that both his parents are social workers – okay so he is evidently a good listener particularly around the dinner table at home.

Most of you would agree that life is about those who occupy space around us – like family and also those we meet along the way. Those who impact us and vise versa. One of the yogis and I were having a general dialogue regarding the meaning of life. What is my purpose she asks? I gave her my answer. She then challenges me, “Why are you not following it”? Hmmmmm …

I am feeling rejuvenated here. I love these people. I am captivated by the Nature enveloping me. I can’t wait for my next hike. I am excited by what I will find later through the lens of my camera. I love all of my family and adore being with them.

Find your motivator. Don’t settle. Know when the time is right to make changes in your life.

I do know this. I don’t want to settle. I don’t want to go through the motions. I want to make meaning as Viktor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning and as I referenced in my book, When Walls Become Bridges.

And for all this worry about turning 60, I just learned that the 34 year-old son of one of my dearest friends died of a drug overdose on my birthday …

Believe in Possibilities – #BellLetsTalk

 “Hope is a passion for the possible.”

– Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

The existentialist soul Søren Kierkegaard wholly captured the passion I sought in heading up this piece.

Why do we – as they say – dust oneself off and try again after a self-perceived failure or disappointment? Is it because we expect the same result and accompanying sense of overwhelming despondency by trying again? Is it because of low self-esteem that we feel we get what we deserve? Or are we perhaps gluttons for unrelenting self-flagellation?

Of course, the answer lies in our deeply held, sometimes subconscious belief in hope. We hope for a better and more desirable outcome the next time. Many of us in the past have purchased a lottery ticket and I suspect that most of the many know fully well our chances of winning the jackpot are highly remote – yet – we buy that ticket don’t we holding out hope that “maybe” it will be us this time?

We walk through the door, eyes open, heart exposed, vulnerable but hopeful. In our essence we do believe in possibilities – and if we don’t, we should call out for help. Hope is soulful passion. Hope is the lifeblood of continuance. With each breath we strive to get better, to become more fulfilled, we take chances, we try to enhance our lives, and even go out on one more date, and another and another.

Yet in the yearning for a belief in possibilities, there are certain immutable facts that present as non-starters. At my age I will not become a star for my beloved Boston Bruins nor any other professional hockey team.  Actually, those who saw me play in my youth several decades ago already arrived at the same clairvoyant-like conclusion.

I am constantly amazed at human resiliency. So many others with whom I speak echo the same observation. And despite all those hardships you and I have experienced, it is those specific setbacks which have undoubtedly shaped who we are today. It can therefore be said that those adversities are contributing to us being loved by others for that is how we became who we are and we are loved by family and friends. There is nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of and know that there are always people who will listen and not judge us, but it is our responsibility to seek them out or accept their open-handed generosity.

Yet too many times that resiliency is not present. Too often that listening voice is not sought out. Several days ago I received a dreadful phone call at work about a client’s teenage child who committed suicide and my assistance was needed to speedily release RRSP (401k) funds to pay for the funeral. It was heartbreaking. It was sudden. Incredibly sudden.

No doubt many of us are all too familiar with mental health matters within some specific slice of our lives. And tragically, some are also all too familiar with the worst possible outcome of mental illness – suicide.

Today we are more aware than ever that mental illness can strike within any; community, socio-economic position, race, nationality, education level, profession, relationship status, employment status, age – especially amongst our youth.  For reasons we cannot rationalize or hypothesize, many struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD or a myriad of other mental health diseases. Hope becomes less a state of their of conscious thought. The possibility of hope becomes, for them, sadly, a faint memory of a distant time in the past. But there is an opportunity for rediscovery, to reignite that belief in possibilities and hope that many of us have every day when we arise and perhaps take for granted. We need to reach people, talk to them, accept everyone for their perfect imperfections and provide a safe place or person to begin the discussion. We must strive to continue raising awareness of mental health challenges in our homes, workplaces and in society at large.

On Wednesday January 30th, Bell Canada once again sponsors Bell Let’s Talk.

“In September 2010, Bell Let’s Talk began a new conversation about Canada’s mental health. At that time, most people were not talking about mental illness. But the numbers spoke volumes about the urgent need for action. Millions of Canadians, including leading personalities, engaged in an open discussion about mental illness, offering new ideas and hope for those who struggle, with numbers growing every year.”

It is my profound hopeful desire that through worthy programs like Bell Let’s Talk, the belief in possibilities will flourish for all those currently without hope. #BellLetsTalk

My evolved humanistic perspective on Christmas

“Christmas isn’t a season. It’s a feeling.”

Christmas has always been something of an enigma to me. There was a brief period in my early childhood when I recall on Christmas Eve setting out a cup of milk and caramel squares on my night table – for Santa Clause of course.  In my first season of playing rep hockey, in the game immediately prior to Christmas, the players all received a hockey stick from the coach. I was about to ask the coach for the stick lie number six I was accustomed to instead of the number five I was given but my father appropriately intercepted my near faux pas and told me it was a gift.  Why would the coach be giving us a gift I wondered?

Growing up in a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood of Toronto in the 60’s with a large population of holocaust survivors (my parents however were not), Christmas was largely a non-event save of course for the year or two when I suppose I believed in Santa. We were aware of it for sure, but we had Hanukkah around the same time where the children also received gifts but commonly not the parents. I don’t recall any of us feeling we were missing out on the commercial aspects of the holiday plus we received chocolate coins and real coins too – not a tradition of Christmas! With Hanukkah being a post biblical holiday and therefore having diminished religious significance compared to the biblical Jewish holidays of for example Passover or Yom Kippur most Jews don’t attend synagogue. Not too dissimilar a scenario from a substantial number of Christians who choose to ascribe limited religiosity to Christmas – all was equal.

This all began to change for me as I entered University and subsequently the working world.  That point in time also saw the rise of the evangelical movement in the USA with Jerry Falwell and the founding of the Moral Majority in 1979.  At Carleton University in Ottawa I spent my initial two years in residence and for the first time in my life lived in a predominantly non-Jewish environment. I wrote about some of those revelations and new challenges in my book When Walls Become Bridges.  There were a couple of people from my residence floor who objected on what I felt were prejudicial religious grounds when I was Santa Clause for our floor Christmas party. Beautifully though, my dear first year roommate invited me to his family home over Christmas (a new experience for me) and there were many more Christmases in his Southwest Ontario home to follow. Those enlightening moments are precious memories to me as he and I reminisced this past Christmas Eve.

Even as I traveled parts of the world after university it [the world] would soon nonetheless become narrowed to me. I slowly embraced and then withdrew into a Jewish religious community of like-minded individuals and institutions, many of those people however were some of the loveliest I had ever met.  Still, I would take on new idiosyncrasies that further isolated me from the world at large. For example, I not only felt it wrong for me to utter the words “Merry Christmas” to friends, colleagues or clients but I would narrow-mindedly be offended when greeted by those warm and sincere wishes of the season. I became one of those “Seasons Greetings” people.

But over time things changed – as most constants do. Think about what has changed in your life, but more poignantly – why?  A relationship? A job? A move? A birth? A death? A friendship? Some other life altering event?

Nothing remains the same – nor did some of my idiosyncrasies.

Something would eventually happen to me every December. A friend made an unassuming social media post this week captured in the heading of this piece that perfectly captured it for me.  Christmas did become a feeling.  Most people also can sense it themselves. There is a percolating energy of peace, a growing sense of lightness and joy in the air that becomes unmistakable each and every December.

Despite the Northern Hemisphere certainty of December as a cold winter month here in Toronto, I am yearning that December could last. And maybe the tide is turning …

Speaking with a homeless person on Christmas Eve who had been on the streets for several years as he recounted to me, he said that he has seen an outpouring of goodwill, generosity and love this season. “It’s a bit too much” he told me as we both shared a laugh at his observation.  Oh, how I wish that laugh could carry on for twelve continuous months …  

Our Gut Instinct

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. – Steve Jobs

It has been a few months since you last saw my words strung together here, these thoughts of mine. Oh, I have been writing, observing the world around me – like most of you do as well – but I have not published again until today.  I am now especially motivated to do so …

A week ago I was heading to a hot yoga class. I parked my car on a busy street on the west side of midtown Toronto, used a mobile parking app to pay for the time I needed and got out of my vehicle. Walking only thirty metres or so to the yoga studio I was startled by a cryptic message on my phone.  My end point was interrupted by that message and instead a gut instinct altered my course – the first one of yet another to strike me that morning. I was persuaded to abandon my hot yoga class that I was so looking forward to.

What is gut instinct all about? You might also call it your inner voice. Is it a supernatural or god-like power not merely guiding us but compelling us towards an absolute action or direction? According to the Collins Dictionary a gut instinct is “an instinctive feeling, as opposed to an opinion or idea based on facts.”  This latter perception is a conscious, thoughtful and reasoned conclusion akin to a Benjamin Franklin protocol on how to make a sound or even unbeatable decision.  Have you ever been so motivated by a gut instinct?

The Cranberries wrote and performed a beautiful song called Animal Instinct which I hope you will click on. It is a raw love ballad illuminating something many of us have experienced.

“It is a lovely thing that we have
It is a lovely thing that we
It is a lovely thing, the animal
The animal instinct”

We know of being in that carefree present moment of love making when we are seemingly in a free-fall of actions without a thought to orchestrating a pro and con analysis of next steps or what if scenarios. And it is not thought to be learned, but an innate ability – an animal instinct if you will.  That was the allegorical gut instinct I experienced last week but not a sexual one.

I was in an elongated moment of confusion, uncertainty and fear. I had no previous experience on which to draw. Facts were not within my reach. I had no capacity to formulate an opinion. Suddenly, an action ensues, and I am in free-fall.

Powerlessness. Trust. Abandonment. Faith.

As a person who so often writes about choice and free-will I am not sure I acted out of choice this time. And I ask myself repeatedly – WHY NOT? Five minutes later and I would have been doing a downward dog or tree pose.  So, was it a force that interrupted my journey at that moment? If it is truly a gut instinct or inner voice, I trust that this power is so great and pure – following it will and did end happily, and I’ll leave it at that.

I urge you when and if the moment arises, to be fully self-aware of that extraordinary opportunity. But then again, if it does, you will know it – just as I did.

Let’s all make a difference in our lives and those we touch or can …

Intolerant of the belief once categorized as “tolerance”

Where is the line between one being “tolerant” or “intolerant” of another human being? I suggest it is a dangerously fine line indeed. – Stuart Lewis

In beginning this piece and searching for an opening – hopefully a thought-provoking quote complementary with my thoughts here, what I found were numerous idioms fawning over the virtue of tolerance from luminaries such as; John Kennedy, Helen Keller, The Dalai Lama and Mahatma Gandhi to name but a few. None I found were on the mark of where I was heading so as you can see, I came up with my own. That could very well mean I am again an enigma unto myself or perhaps it is time to rethink this model of comportment we label as “tolerance”.

Like many fellow members of the Jewish faith, I was last week sitting in synagogue observing Rosh Hashanah hoping to be inspired or just passing the time with tribal compatriots. The featured speaker of the day was a prominent Canadian parliamentarian. It should not be surprising that a Canadian parliamentarian is not likely to be the source of a spiritual uplift – in particular during a religious service but I was intrigued to listen to the “wisdom” of such a dignitary. I quickly became uninspired and thoroughly displeased with the message and messenger – as did numerous others.

I think I heard the word “tolerance” uttered half a dozen times by this presenter when speaking of immigrants and new Canadians. Each time the tone of the utterance became increasingly disapproving of the generalized differences they represented and grudgingly tolerant of the welcome to Canada they received from this parliamentarian. In my opinion it was a distasteful series of statements from such a representative. But this of course is not an isolated circumstance whether here in Canada, the USA or Europe but we are observing a torrent of rising populism across these lands.

A few days later I was fortunate to be invited by a friend to attend a screening at the Toronto International Film Festival (tiff) of “The Hate U Give”. This provocative and gut-wrenching film depicts the precarious social structure of a fictitious African-American city neighbourhood existing under the double-edged fear of actualized police brutality and the code of silence exacted by a local drug lord.

Further, in the case of this film as a Caucasian man, I feel culpable how we objectify the condition in these neighbourhoods as either blaming the local populace for staying there or for somehow perpetuating the circumstance under which they live. “Well we don’t live there, not our problem” is the common refrain from many Caucasians. By reinforcing the archaic concept of tolerance, the definition of community is persistently being narrowed and diminished as we proclaim our tolerance (or intolerance) of others not like us. We don’t see them even when in our midst.

We have witnessed opponents of #blacklivesmatter demand that #whitelivesmatter too without even attempting to understand the deeper meaning of the #blacklivesmatter movement or #takingaknee for that matter. Is this tolerance?

I recently spent time watching our “contact” with the homeless in the downtown core of Toronto. We have become so tolerant of the homeless on our city streets that today we figuratively walk right over them. It is not that we should necessarily give money to every or any homeless person we see – it is up to us individually to make that decision for any donation of charity, but to walk by and not even look upon their face, to withhold a response and turn away when asked for money or when they wish us “good day”, to not see their pain, their loneliness or their despair and to not even acknowledge their existence as human beings was chilling to observe. That is when we have lost compassion and empathy.

This is how is I see tolerance in our society today. How is being tolerant not a destructive force in our communities? We need to go beyond what we once thought tolerance to be. That too is something we all must figure out for ourselves.

Life is shorter

Life is too short, or too long, for me to allow myself the luxury of living it so badly.

Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist

While I agree with the esteemed author Paulo Coelho of life being either too short or too long, this half-statement of his is a mere generality. I prefer to look at the world, my world, not through generalities but with objective reflections. At my age, the life to come is empirically now shorter, I can’t say that it will definitively conclude by being “too short” or “too long” it will simply be shorter than the past life I have thus far lived. And like some of you depending on your age, being circumspect about what lies ahead, I am drawn to another contemplation, this one by the highly respected commentator on life’s meaning and purpose – Viktor Frankl.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

– Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

This past weekend, a long holiday weekend in many parts, was a remarkably emotional and soulful time for me. It was a more intense “time-off” than is my norm; perchance I was endeavouring to pack as much into these days as is humanly possible. I am not sure if it was subconsciously a result of my first bicycle accident the weekend prior after seven years of adopting this activity as my primary warm weather vocation. It was however just a T-bone crash with another cyclist and I’m delighted to report both riders – save for a few bruises were relatively unscathed. It was our bicycles however that took the brunt of the damage.

I spent the weekend connecting to events and people that were immensely meaningful to me. From special friends and family to a bridge and just my own private thoughts, I was deeply engaged in trying to define my purpose and figure it all out with the short or long life I have remaining.

Making soulful and personal connections in whatever manner they are can be spellbinding and were. Who would have thought that a bridge could ensnare me in such a manner causing me to be lost in multiple simultaneous sensory vibrations? A bridge is just a thing of course, but behind the “thing” are people and memories.

Family is also a treasure that we try to hold on to or in many cases (mine) reclaim as our lives become shorter. I know however that family reunification is not legitimately possible or desirable for everyone – but I hope you might give it some extra consideration while you still can. I spent a lot of time with my precious family too this weekend and I have to highlight the time spent with my 82, she’ll say almost 83 year-old mother. She’s been saying that just a few months after her 82nd!   I did something special with her and she was overwhelmed by it. My first reaction was one of shame and guilt for not doing more of it. But my attitude quickly changed. I can choose my attitude as Viktor Frankl wrote and I look forward to my next special outing with my dear mother.

Connections, real ones are essential now to me in ways dissimilar than ever before. My search for Frankl’s meaning is taking centre stage as I contemplate that next milestone. It’s not about being frivolous or not with the time that we have. For me it’s about being in the moment and thinking and feeling and not just doing whatever you want with no meaning or purpose. For the record, “playing” is purposeful if that is what one desires in that moment.

As I travel along, I can’t help but see our greatest potential for positive change lay in modifying our own attitude concerning how we see and react to the stimuli swirling around us on a daily basis. Frankl nailed this. Choosing our attitude “is” our greatest freedom. One who is rich or poor, healthy or ill can acquire such freedom. It is not subject to supply and demand economics for it is in limitless supply.

Whether or not life is shorter for us individually is inconsequential for who truly knows anyway? It is however never too soon to check-in with ourselves and taste true freedom.

@lettersandwalls

 

I Know You Are Hurting

There is loneliness when we are hurting. That can be both a physical and or an emotional hurt. At those difficult moments we are trapped inside ourselves and in many cases have spiralled further and deeper in our despair. The enormity of the sensation can be overwhelming and the loneliness which wasn’t necessarily present without the physical or emotional pain is now nonetheless and integral part of it. We don’t feel right. We own a consciousness of isolation from all that is “normal” or “carefree” and we intensely desire a return to what was – before this fell upon us.

For some, it is the loneliness that is the prominent condition. I see it in the elderly on a daily basis but also with many much younger – even with Millennial’s. Loneliness is becoming more prevalent in today’s society as we become massively digitally connected yet physically more distant. Is there any possibility this is an improvement in connectedness amongst human beings?

I was searching recently for one of those great dictums to post on social media and found one so appropriate for what I sought at that point in time:

Saying you can’t be sad because others have it worse, is like saying you can’t be happy because others have it better. – Go Fun Yourself by 9GAG.COM

That is not to say that empathy and compassion are absent from our awareness but our shit IS OUR SHIT.   You know what I mean.

Today – was a difficult day for you. I know. I sensed your pain.

Many are hurting and you are one of them – I assume that is why you are still reading this. For some, you can’t see the end of the tunnel from the incessant pain. A few of you fear an upcoming surgery. You can’t afford the life saving surgery. Something you saw you shouldn’t have and triggers abound everywhere. Others are fighting serious disease. You lost your job. Bankruptcy is imminent. You are separated from loved ones and it is killing you. A million things are bringing you down.

HOPE.

What is hope? Is it real and tangible? Is it a belief system? What good is it to you?

I am reminded of a brilliant English teacher I had in grade eight, or was it nine? Mr. Sevigny. He was a linguist. He professed to know roughly eight languages. The class was soon to learn he was profoundly religious as well. Just moments after a fellow student, under his breath, but loud enough to be heard by our teacher – uttered God’s name in vain, Mr. Sevigny took a yard stick in his hand, raised it high above his head and smashed it down as hard as he possibly could upon a desk in the front row of our classroom. I will never forget the sound and shock of that unsuspecting implosion inside my body created by that yard stick and Mr. Sevigny’s fury.

What we didn’t realize at the time, this was the immediate impetus for Mr. Sevigny to lurch into a lesson of Pascal’s Wager. Blaise Pascal was a seventeenth century physicist, philosopher, and mathematician. He argued that a rational person should live under the possible belief that there is a God. We got quite the lesson that day in Pascal’s Wager. If you are interested to learn more about Pascal’s Wager then click here.

I see in part, that a belief in God or a god or a higher source is of possessing hope. Hope for a better outcome. Hope for change. Hope for a cure. Hope for peace. Hope for normalcy. Hope to end our pain. Hope for love. Hope for companionship. With the concept of Pascal’s Wager in our consciousness, hope is then a logical direction or focus of our energy.

I hope that you wake up tomorrow with the hope you most desire.