It’s not the politics … it’s the hate

You have no doubt witnessed this yourself. The hate, animosity and recriminations coming from the left and right are occurring unabated everywhere from social media, to home and in the workplace.  Friendships have ended, families have been fractured and the increase in depression and anxiety amongst many is palpable. In other words we are at each other’s throats. And I can’t imagine any scenario where this is a healthy phenomenon.

One person is to blame. Actually two. You and I count as one.  No one forces us to do anything we don’t want to – think or act. However, one other is fostering this hated making it rather easy to tag along, perpetuating the vicious cycle, encouraging and leading in the vilification of anyone who disagrees or heaven forbid criticizes the PEOTUS. And that is Donald J Trump. If you are still reading – great – please hang on a bit longer.

I generally don’t know if this or that policy is better economically, socially or politically. I suppose it matters for who is better with this or that policy! I have voted in the past as a liberal, a conservative and as a conscientious protest voter so I am not ideologically bothered with a Republican or Democrat in the White House. Even though I am not an American, but were I, I would be considered an independent – one of those swing voters persuaded by the issues or the candidate of the day both nationally and jurisdictionally.  My vote might also at times be predicated more on international politics than domestic ones or vice versa in any given election. In the meantime governments come and go … And a new one arrives on January 20th.

We are often initially disappointed or conceivably even angry at the eventual decision of the electorate. Our guy or gal lost but we get over it and live to fight the good fight next time! Then as the mandate progresses sometimes we become quite upset with the government of the day, with the leaders or specific decisions (or inaction) they take. Some of us loathed George W Bush. Some despised Bill Clinton and someone (or an entity) hated John F Kennedy enough to assassinate him.  However in this most recent election between Donald J Trump and Hillary R Clinton something distinctive happened. We not only hated one of the two candidates (dare I say a normal election emotion) but we began hating one another in direct correlation to which side we took and “bigly”. So even as a Trump supporter, can you not see how it is so different this time? Please hang on a bit longer.

Why is personal animosity a product of our opposing political leanings and why now? Why not before? What is new and different this time? This bothers me to no end. I am fearful for our future if somehow this torrent of hate is not immobilized and if not entirely destroyed (naïve I know) at least recognized individually as an abjectly destructive and debilitating force for each and every one of us personally.

Everything has its reasons. There is a reason we feel and contemplate matters as we do. Whether it is our upbringing, our influences, our fears, our insecurities, or our prejudices (most of us have them), once we recognize the source or cause of the malaise only then can we begin to rectify the situation – but only IF we choose to see that it is in fact a problem – our problem.

The demeanour of the President Elect is shall we say; crass, uncouth, demeaning, derisive, loud, unsympathetic, narcissistic (sorry for those that disagree with that categorization or the next) and deceitful. He has sunk the discussion across the many platforms and settings where we all discuss this circumstance. This is not about any policy (yet), but a tone. It is an unmistakable tone that transcends policy to intolerance, anger and hate. Maybe we are better off with improved relations with Russia. Perhaps Obamacare can be replaced with a superior health coverage program. Possibly a President Trump can bring back better jobs for the displaced American worker without triggering a worldwide recession. Great. Love to see it. But the other stuff need not be a part of the package – that is what he does not get or simply underscores incapability. And we need not fall into line and follow as deficient a human being as is one DJT. It is our decision and choice how to act towards our fellow and who to follow as an example and who not to.

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; True nobility is being superior to your former self.” Ernest Hemingway

P.S. By the way I am definitely not in favour of walls …

Distant from others suffering …

“Empathy makes you more aware of other people’s suffering, but it’s not clear it actually motivates you to take moral action or prevents you from taking immoral action.” David Brooks

At this time of the year we are quite naturally reminded to “count our blessings” – with or without anyone inspiring our consciousness to do so. In December there is a holiday for many. In order – Mawlid an Nabi, Bodhi Day, Yule, Hanukkah and Christmas. The latter, even to this non-Christian has always been a time I have enjoyed due to the enhanced mellowness that exudes from so many even during wicked rush-hour traffic in Toronto during a seasonal snowstorm, such as we experienced last week. I surmise this personal observation is true for many of you as well – Christian or otherwise.

For me this year, despite it being December, I am in a sulking disposition all too aware of the suffering of others – but is that enough to matter? The daily tragedies I am reading about and brooding over from Aleppo Syria in particular are beyond heartbreaking – they are demoralizing. I know that some will claim “Fake News” reporting is coming out of Aleppo – fine. That is all I can say of that to those holding such viewpoints. Aleppo is a chilling reminder that man’s inhumanity to man is not a relic of the past but is still dishearteningly present today and must be fought and contested whenever and wherever it is surfaces.

The story of a child dying in Santa’s arms in a Tennessee hospital now appears to be a deception and those of us who were so moved to tears are now supposed to feel bad for feeling. The very act of feeling is now unhappily to be questioned and needs authentication first before we display our emotion.

And certainly other tragedies have befallen previous Decembers, but it feels different this time around.

I am fretful about the state of the world and the United States in particular. More than anything, I am despondent about my observation of a dismissive callousness towards minority groups and individual rights and the feeling of suffering many of them / us have. I recognize these serious apprehensions from within; the LGBTQ communities, Mexican and Latino groups, Muslims, Jews, Pro-choice groups, women, African-Americans, immigrants, people representing freedom of the press, liberals, those genuinely anxious over cyber security, native Americans and more. Most ominous perhaps emanating from some quarters is a collective obliviousness over the famous passage; “First they came …” by Martin Niemoller;

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Some people who should know better seem to have forgotten.

Thankfully, many remind us of what they see as being wrong in the world. One may at times object and find disfavour with their words, but they have the bravery, determination and audience to be heard and for that I applaud them and hold immense gratitude towards them all. I am speaking of insightful writers and thinkers like; David Frum, Summer Brennan, Peter Daou and others. Then there are the more apolitical types who simply write from a universalist heart embodying their fortified truth, like Sheri Eckert (aka Dear Human) and Monique Hohnberg.

But the words of David Brooks above still bewilder me. Are we even making a difference when we have genuine empathy for the suffering and the vulnerable amongst us or far from us? Are we accomplishing anything by raising awareness of peoples suffering anywhere on this planet, whether within our respective local and national jurisdictions or abroad?

So I am not able to offer up an answer to Brooks’ quandary. My only wish is that through our societal consciousness, a resurgent attentiveness of the marginalized or perchance could be marginalized and by the inculcation of Martin Niemoller’s warning, may we all have self-awareness and mindfulness to somehow come closer to other peoples suffering – as a start, through empathy which is a fundamentally good place in which to dwell.

“Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.”  Moshin Hamid

 

 

 

 

Trying not to be a Hypocrite …

Definition of Hypocrite;

‘A person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

I have been nonexistent here for over a month … but not on social media. It has been perhaps the most challenging period for me since I began sharing my written thoughts with you eighteen months ago.

Like so many of us, the American election, for Americans and non-Americans alike and its excruciating aftermath, has consumed me, infuriated me, emboldened me, depressed me, “created” acrimony amongst friends/acquaintances/relatives/strangers and has left me with an omnipresent feeling of guilt.

These are not the mindsets I want to hold as I wholeheartedly believe in my “new view of the world”, as one friend recently pointed out to me in deriding fashion, however, he is correct – in a manner of speaking. Fortunately, I recently caught myself spiralling into a trough of vacillating bitterness with my cousin on the other side of the pond and on the other side of an issue. We both stood down and pursued love and respect – which I know we both have for one another. But it was work! Should it be?

If you haven’t yet followed me on Instagram – I hope you will. And if you have not hitherto embraced Instagram I encourage you to do so. On that platform, dissimilar from Facebook, Twitter or to any number of morose pundits one may subscribe, I for one have been able to perfectly insulate myself and escape from divisive politics, rancour, or any debate and instead, have been successful in submerging myself into and/or posting only “good vibe images” of love, peace, universal friendship and the power to change ones life through resolute personal choice.

My dilemma and guilt is found between what I have been sucked into on Twitter and Facebook (my choice entirely – my bad) and the dichotomy of my Instagram activity. In a nutshell – I felt my varied actions to be hypocritical.

Do you agree? Or have you similar personal misgivings about your own inconsistent actions and thoughts? We all strive to be the best we can be within the current boundaries of our imperfect amalgamation of knowledge we have acquired thus far. Is it fair however to be so self-critical?

Endeavouring to be consistent in our lives has a number of meritorious elements for us. People understand what we stand for. There should be no surprises. One would expect fewer misunderstandings and mixed messages (my issue). Perhaps more people would respect our views despite the fact that one may genuinely deviate from them.

On the other hand – we are complex cognitive beings. We are multifaceted in thought, actions, love, empathy, jealousy etc.

We are naturally wired to think critically and therefore I believe, that as a cognitive mammal it is unnatural or better said disingenuous to force oneself into a hermetically sealed box (blindly or otherwise) of one politically or socially circumscribed philosophy. I am quite sure I would make for a lousy politician.

So in this doctrinally polarized environment, if one takes a stand where one feels, “it is just too important to be silent”, personal assaults will be inevitable and one must be prepared for them. If I am sending out peaceful vibes on Instagram and sharp digs out on Facebook or Twitter, so be it. It is what I believe in. And, notably – I am prepared to face the music. It is our choice that allows people to get “under our skin” and feel unsettled. In the international best selling book, The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz expounds on the Second Agreement, Don’t Take Anything Personally.

“There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally. You become immune to black magicians, and no spell can affect you regardless of how strong it may be. The whole world can gossip about you, and if you don’t take it personally you are immune. Someone can intentionally send you emotional poison, and if you don’t take it personally, you will not eat it.”

Being authentic is not being hypocritical. Being a critical thinker is where we find genuineness and objectivity. That is what I always strive to uphold. If I remember that, I might also remember ALL of Ruiz’s four agreements.

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.

Aristotle

 

truth-and-post-truth

So there …

 

To those who support Donald Trump – you are forgiven

“As long as the world is turning and spinning, we’re gonna be dizzy and we’re gonna make mistakes.” Mel Brooks

As this blog is about forgiveness, allow me to start by asking for your forgiveness. Some of you have seen me tweet or post articles about my concerns of an American presidency under Donald Trump. Just to be clear, I have never posted a favourable (Canadian spelling) endorsement of his primary opponent – Hillary Clinton. Some of you have attempted to read between the lines and put words into my mouth – that is fine and that is your prerogative. I have nonetheless been against Trump – period. And now for asking forgiveness … I am not an American citizen.

Who am I to stick my Canadian and British nose into your very serious business of a national election?

Some Americans have encouraged my voice – and I thank you for that. But to those of you who are offended in any way, I do apologize for voicing an opinion into your election where I have no vote. But I will ask for your consistency. You will of course refrain from criticizing or showing support of any foreign governmental entity or election outside of your own national jurisdiction.

As you are aware, this has been an election, #Election2016, like no other. The acrimony, the name calling, the anger, the vitriolic accusations have all been an unremitting existence on the daily news and social media feeds flooding our brains and souls for months.

It has been reportedly causing anxiety, depression and as a recent The Toronto Star editorial quoted below says, it has also “ … led to an unprecedented wave of bigoted bullying in schools…” I for one will be glad when it is over, but fret what is yet to come.

I have tried to understand why approximately half of the American electorate are in favour of The Donald. The same goes for non-Americans who too favour his ascendancy to the highest office. I fear what is represented by the fact that so many of you seem to adhere to the clarion call to lockup #HillaryClinton for crimes not only where she has never been convicted but also never even charged. Is this the America we all know and dare say respect? How do you, the rational, intelligent and accomplished, many friends of mine, have the ability to look past the blatant and outright misogyny and degradation of the individual consistently coming from Trump’s mouth and “smartphone”?  I have heard from some of you that it is for religious reasons that you support Trump despite your acknowledgement of his well-publicized and copious deficiencies.

Insofar as small “c” conservative politics / economics goes – most of you do realize that Trump has never been nor is he now a true conservative. He is however, sadly, YOUR GUY! And you are likely to #vote for YOUR GUY. Even House Majority Leader Paul Ryan has reluctantly come out and said he has voted for #TrumpPence and every Republican on his ballot. That is a sad state of affairs when intelligent people park their brains at the door because of partisan politics. Surely there are some exceptional Republican candidates on the down-ballot ticket but likewise some are not.

But as I alluded to earlier, my overarching concern is for November 9th and the next four years. I fear for the demagoguery that I opine is one #DonaldTrump. No other Republican candidate would have whooped up such insanity, as has this man.

I cannot better articulate the distress felt by so many than by the words of that Toronto Star editorial of November 4th 2016.

“Trump has unleashed a flood of nativist feeling and outright racism that will pollute American political life for a long time to come. His attacks on Mexicans, immigrants, Latinos, Muslims and others have already led to an unprecedented wave of “bigoted bullying” in schools, according to one survey. He’s given public permission for the worst kind of prejudice, always simmering below the surface of American public life. Once released, this cannot easily be put back in the bottle.”

Naturally we support one side over another. Too often we fail to see the other perspective. I too in this election am extremely challenged on that front. I admit it. Normalcy – a term coined by then Presidential candidate and eventual victor Warren Harding in 1920, is a state in which I yearn we can ascend. So when this election is done, and regardless of who wins, I hope we all have the desire and intestinal fortitude to reinvigorate relationships with; friends, confidants, colleagues, associates, casual social media followers and family members.

Now more than ever, wise words of almost a century ago ring true today.

“America’s present need is not heroics but healing; not nostrums but normalcy; not revolution but restoration.” Warren G. Harding

 

The prison of our ego

Intolerance is the most socially acceptable form of egotism, for it permits us to assume superiority without personal boasting.  Sydney J. Harris

Superior people are only those who let it be discovered by others; the need to make it evident forfeits the very virtue they aspire to. Sydney J. Harris

A good friend recently began writing his thoughts publicly and in a form that was revealing, unguarded and authentic. He wrote one line toward the conclusion of his piece that captured my own sentiment on the subject – on ending the polarized times in which find ourselves; ” … one way is to find the truth in what the other person is saying.”

Sounds very simplistic. It is obvious right? Why not? Even if they are wrong? Gotcha! My friend wrote that it is hard to accomplish – and it is. It goes against what has been ingrained into us since we were children, since we attended school and grew up socializing within our environs – home and elsewhere. We have attended church, synagogue, mosque or temple listening to the parochial discourses within that respective assemblage or merely subjugated to the atheistic or agnostic idiosyncrasies of others close to us. We learned and absorbed – a lot.

eye-prison-photo

And when our “knowledge” or subjectivity is challenged, our ego awakens and we steadfastly hold on to our entrenched positions. I have seen this first hand attending vulgar and violent rallies across Canada, witnessed it over political debate including the omnipresent social media variety where nary the opposition voice or word sways an opinion and sadly – I have observed this within families. How many of our dear friends or loved ones so resolutely clutch on to their predisposed opinion so much so that the relationship itself is being challenged? And to be authentic about this matter, how often do we see it is as “us” who are implacably stubborn? This breeds intolerance, it fosters enmity and accompanied with back and forth or tit for tat recriminations. The US Presidential elections are Exhibit One as a prime example. In what way can we ever move forward and approach civility, rapprochement and stem all this anger if we don’t somehow abandon the encumbering armour of ego and I dare say – superiority?

Superiority. It is a fascinating display of one who possesses or has characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). We have no doubt seen some of this in others.

The Mayo Clinic has in layman’s terms defined NPD: “A mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. Behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that is vulnerable to the slightest criticism. If you have NPD, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious, you often monopolize conversations, you may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior, and you may feel a sense of entitlement (when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry). At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior.”

Most of us despite our imperfections are nowhere near possessing NPD – I want to simply illustrate a point. But negative personality traits such as those described by the Mayo Clinic are evident all around us – especially nowadays on social media.

Clearly YOU are not absolutely right nor are YOU absolutely wrong. The opinion-holder of your opposite viewpoint should be viewed likewise.

Let’s start from there. What if we really did begin from that point? If we can ease off on the ego and allow some humility to seep into our thoughts, wouldn’t that would be a wonderful genesis towards our common goal? It is a common goal is it not? For somewhere within that opposing viewpoint to ours, there must be some element therein that we can say with all sincerity and authenticity that they are correct.

Can we try and see the truth in what another is saying? And if we are not yet ready for that, can we at least acknowledge the role that our ego has in our lives?

Who has influenced you? Are you even aware?

“We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far. “ Swami Vivekananda

 

It is easy to say our parents influenced our thought patterns – positively and or negatively. One might also suggest a political theorist we studied shaped who we are today. There are countless inspirational theorists, like the late George Dyer who in particular has guided conscious thought of legions of followers. Perhaps the music of an era’s iconic master, whose lyrics and composition was able to touch deeply into our soul, moulded us into the us we are. For many, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Krishna or God via the hand of Moses, represents a timeless spiritual guidance that strongly influences our being.

My opening question today is, “Do we even recognize who or what has truly impacted who we are today?” The second question is, “Why does it even matter?”

An oft-used expression that can depict this learning cycle is “Life is a Journey.” But a journey is the planned traverse of moving from point A to point B. It theoretically implies that conscious or conscientious thought has been employed to go from “here” to “there”. We may drift through life unconsciously, not engaging in concrete or self determined actions and somehow we end up somewhere we never planned or intended. I am not sure that isn’t more an illustration of being caught up in a tidal wave or flood and being unceremoniously carried away without benefit of utilizing Google Maps or the Waze app. To me, that is not a journey. It wasn’t planned. It was an accident and can prove dangerous. That can also turn out to be a glorious opportunity.

We make mindful decisions based on knowledge, which may be imperfect, but at the time of that fateful decision we went into it with the desire to make a good decision replete with all the accessible information available to us at the time. No one wilfully proceeds on a course one knows in advance to be deleterious, disastrous or senseless. The only manner in which we make decisions is based on current knowledge (or emotion), and whether a bad decision was made and we wish to correct it, or a great decision was made and we hope to repeat it, recognize who or what influenced that decision and how you arrived at it. This is not easy work. Over the many years of our life we have been modeled or cognitively programmed (sort of brainwashed) to act in a certain way. What if that “way” is becoming progressively clearer to us as no longer serving us well?

Not serving us well? Are you angry a lot of the time? Have a short fuse? Are you often demoralized? Are you blaming others for your own shortcomings and failures? Do you often find yourself judging others? If you answer yes to any of these questions, then perhaps elements in your life are not serving you well. In other words, such a person may be leading an inauthentic life – not being true to who we are and finding ourselves in conflict with the person most important in our life – us.

I expect asking my second question is now redundant. If we are truly on a journey through life, we must first learn by adding newfound knowledge acquired through experience. As we prepare to adapt and to incorporate the lessons learned only then can we ultimately actualize the change we desire to see. We are given the gift to use the lessons presented before us and make the most of them. Whether we stumbled and failed, or soared and succeeded, harbouring gratitude to all those who were a part of our experiences is in my opinion – essential. Be grateful to your boss. Be grateful to your partner – past or present. Be grateful to your children. Be grateful to the songwriter. Be grateful to the Instagram message you read that shook your soul. Be grateful to the date turned bad for now you know.

Gratitude is the appreciation for all who touch us. Gratitude for all that we have learned. I am learning gratitude each and every day. To all those I have learned from, I am eternally grateful.

The Alchemist – read it for the first time – over and over again

“Why don’t people’s hearts tell them to continue to follow their dreams?” the boy asked the alchemist. “Because that’s what makes a heart suffer most, and hearts don’t like to suffer.” Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

 

Find your self. Return home. Or as Coelho famously scribes, “follow [your] dreams.” After the miles I have proverbially travelled I am still bewildered that up until a couple of weeks ago I had never read The Alchemist. I can’t ever recall being more than abstractedly familiar with this classic. I appear to be in the minority – at least in certain circles. Even the young cashier clerk at one of the largest national bookstore chains in Canada upon seeing my purchase proudly proclaimed he reads it several times a year! Wow – I was filled with anticipation of what awaited me.

As the title of this blog suggests, I encourage you to read it for the first time, or if you have not read it for a while, read it again. Why you may ask?

We question our choices and ourselves continually. Some of us also do it for others – that is called judgement – another topic for sure – not unfamiliar in this space. We hesitate in making those big decisions. We ponder the efficacy of a possible directional change in our life. We give pause to our choice of a potential life partner or to our current one. We have ambitions for that dream job but settle for something inferior or below our capabilities because after all, we have to put food on the table etc.

“To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation.” – from The Alchemist

This is an illuminating line. At first glance one might presume this to be a selfish statement or goal in life. But I think it is entirely the opposite. I believe that realizing one’s destiny is demonstrating our ultimate strength, self-awareness, aptitude and mission in life, not selfishly, but for all those encircling our sphere in life. Think about it. If we are engaged in the ultimate quest for achieving our destiny, our loved ones, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and co-workers, heck even the person sitting beside us on the subway are all benefiting from our purpose in life. And for believers in a higher source or power, God, whatever that may be, what could be a greater calling than completely fulfilling that journey as it has been written? Coelho uses the Arabic, maktub.

A friend recently told me that if she were to die today, she would be at peace with that fate. At the time, her bold statement troubled and disturbed me feeling that she had so much more to yet realize in her beautiful life – and then I came across the following passage in The Alchemist:

“And, as the camel driver had said, to die tomorrow was no worse than dying on any other day. Every day was there to be lived or to mark one’s departure from this world.”

If anyone has been with a loved one as they ceased to breathe, to live, you know what that is like. It is almost indescribable – all those emotions, sorrow, but it is the same fate that awaits us all. How will we do it? What will it look like? But it will come. It will be that one day to “mark our departure.”

And let’s end here with love and the heart. We have all had heartbreak haven’t we? And not just from romantic relationships: Heartbreak from professional disappointment; Heartbreak from family anguish; And yes, heartbreak from a failed romance. It is all heartbreak. But what of it? What does a fulfilled heart and love mean?

“Because it is not love to be static like the desert, nor it is love to roam the world like the wind. And it’s not love to see everything from a distance … Love is the force that transforms and improves the Soul of the World … It is we who nourish the Soul of the World, and the world we live in will be either better or worse, depending on whether we become better or worse.” – The Alchemist

Go buy the book and read about the Soul of the World.

When people surprise us

“Sometimes people surprise us. People we believe we know.”

Joyce Carol Oats

 

Aren’t surprises wonderful? Well, sometimes they are and sometimes they’re not. Receiving an unexpected phone call or text message from an old acquaintance – well, it depends right? Getting a perfectly appropriate and awesome birthday gift from a special friend can be both heartening and exhilarating. What does it mean when WE are surprised by certain actions, words or deeds from within our circle of friends, family or acquaintances?

We lead busy lives, and depending on the phase of our life at any given point in time, it can be excessively consumed by our studies, building a career, looking for a “life” partner (first, second or third time around), raising children and often times our busyness is a simultaneous combination of more than one of these key life stages. Compound all of that with the instantaneousness of our social media frenzy – we have an increasing proclivity of missing beautiful moments and people in our lives because we are just so damn busy.

I had a delightful opportunity recently to enjoy an evening out with several colleagues. We had a few beverages together before heading out for an elegant dining experience. “Letting our hair down” is an oft-used idiom implying foolish behaviour possibly induced by the consumption of alcohol or other substance yet it can also signify the lowering of personal walls that we build up and use as a protective barrier surrounding our interactions with those we encounter. These walls conceal who we truly are or mask our intentions deluding others into believing we are someone we are not. But on this evening, some of us exposed ourselves – not in a lewd or illegal manner of course, and it is entirely conceivable that the beverages induced this relaxed state, but I think it had more to do with slowing things down and providing our complete attentiveness to those surrounding us. And guess what? Many of us learned new attributes of character in the other that we never knew existed before. I for one was surprised.

Think of a normal day, with typical interactions with the usual cast of individuals within our circle of influence. What do we all talk about? Often it is about other people. People we think we know and we freely judge in discussion. Did you hear what so-and-so did? How dare they do that – who do they think they are? And we think we know of whom we are speaking – at least well enough to cast aspersions and judgment. Or it can be more subtle and less negative by having only a surface understanding of one’s character. People we think we know.

 

“Sometimes the most shocking surprises are also the most beautiful surprises.”

Lori Wilhite

 

So, is it worthwhile to get to know one another in a deeper manner? Perhaps we are still too busy for that. Sometimes it is blissfully too easy to continue our steady and familiar behaviours. Just moments ago on Facebook, a friend announced she was doing a “social experiment” to be nice to people on Twitter who disagree or have been mean to her. Imagine that – in this politically charged environment where we are often facing fiercely opposing viewpoints, to be nice to your antagonist? One of the first responses she received from one such individual was a lunch invitation.

I believe that we need to figure out how to slow things down or approach people differently, allowing us to better appreciate and respect one another, to judge and criticize less. Maybe by choosing this attitude, we will get to learn something new – not just about other people, but even more importantly, about ourselves – and wouldn’t that be the greatest surprise?

Where have you gone? Where have they gone?

“Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio

A nation turns its lonely eyes to you

What’s that you say Mrs. Robinson

Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away.”

Paul Simon

 

People in our life come and go all the time. Sometimes we learn a lesson from the experience yet we should forever try to seek out that lesson for it does continually exist – always. I am thinking a lot about the people who are no longer in my life – some living – some deceased. Some by their choosing – some by mine. Some I am sad about – others not so much. Some may be permanently gone to me (the ones living I mean) – others I hope that is not so. And for them in particular there is a titanic void. I am sure you feel it as well in your own life. There are people who were once in your life – a vital, active and fulfilling part of your existence who you may have counted on for companionship, for laughs, for love, for guidance or nurturing and who were just beautifully there when needed or not. We want them back. We yearn for that – time will tell how that future will unfold. For some of those souls absent, it is our choice to repair the damaged relationship. And for others, we mindfully await their awakening and accept that it is their decision – not ours to make.

The experience with my late father had a bit of everything. Abandoned by him as a teenager, I had no decision in the anguish I felt. As I grew older, matured – to a degree – I still felt that it was his choices hardening the bitterness and the decades old estrangement until I finally figured out something entirely different and only months before he left this life. Are there any relationships that you can think of where you might be able to reframe the animosity and take some personal responsibility for it?

I am not here to preach anything to you. I try to understand more and more each day – for me. I want to learn why some people have left my particular piece of this beautiful world and what if anything can I do about it. Because the more I learn, the better I can cope with disappointments, other heartbreaks and avoid the negative spiral of emotions that can accompany such thoughts. It is purely for the self that I do this.

 

“You may think that in life, a lot of things happen to you along the way. The truth is, in life, you happen to a lot of things along the way.”

Dr. Shad Helmstetter

 

With my father and others, I have come to accept my role in outcomes, negative and positive ones alike. We can constantly play victim, pigheadedly doubling down on our errors, or “person-up” and acknowledge the impermanence of life’s ride. What role does judgment have in all of this? Well, I think that is for us to answer individually to genuinely gauge the impact of that destructive thought process. It took a brutally honest self-appraisal for me that resulted in reconciliation with my father only months before that opportunity was lost to me forever, and the closure, which I achieved, would have forever been absent in my life had I procrastinated any longer or felt forever the victim. The gifts I receive from this experience continue every day despite his passing eighteen months ago.

But I can’t end on that note. Dwelling on what is no longer is neither productive nor helpful to me. To those who have more recently entered or re-entered my life – I have deep and eternal gratitude. You saw me as I have never been seen before. I think however one person was able to see me first – and that was me.

How to survive friendships during the election

“There comes a time in your life when you have to choose to turn the page, write another book or simply close it.”

Shannon L. Adler

 

Lose any friendships over a spat on social media? Get so angry with someone or them with you over a political or religious issue that you are no longer on speaking terms with him or her? Regret any Facebook, Twitter or Instagram posts or emails? Well – I have been there – done that. And I can now accept responsibility for my actions. But I am learning – slowly I am learning.

I love Shannon Adler’s take on “a page.” I could easily have used Kenny Roger’s famous lyric on “know when to fold ‘em,” but alas I can’t sing. Each of Shannon’s three options is our choice to make. The trick is in knowing which one is the preferred option at the time. Over the past year, ever since I began writing in this space I have been at loggerheads with one friend I will name Jacob. Jake, like some of my other friends from my recent past have taken issue with my evolved approach to the world, to politics and to religion – I have indeed changed in countless ways and was much more aligned to them and their views than I am now. Many of the social media exchanges between Jake and I became rather acrimonious – and a couple of weeks ago it happened again. To me this one was particularly awkward and uncomfortable, and I did not feel good during the give-and-take. I am sure many of you have been there too. We get caught up in the debate, can’t for the life of us understand someone, least of all a friend, who can become so irrational on a point that seems to us immensely sensible and even objective. And of course, I become the same illogical bloke to him. So the question we face almost on a daily basis it would seem, is what to do about it? Do we fight? Shall we turn the other cheek? Do we focus on “one-upmanship?” Let’s delve into that latter one at bit.

When I fall victim to my ego on social media encounters I believe it is because of time. Time to think. Time to come up with that ever so clever, “I’ll show you” ridiculing statement that not only is directed towards my opponent but to everyone else who may be reading my brilliantly eloquent, irrefutable rejoinder to that outlandish, inane and dense comment I just read “of yours.” But what if we remove time and audience from the mix? I turned to private messaging and suggested to Jacob that we meet to discuss. He quite cheerily and swiftly accepted. The social media exchange – on this topic – ended there.

Sometimes the divisions we face are purely ideological, sometimes they are personal, oftentimes they are centered however, on ego. The distance and sometimes anonymity of social media has many downsides towards human understanding. In fact, we tout the wonderful benefits of social media to shrinking the world and opening doors to common understanding amongst a diverse audience but too often the opposite occurs. What we are witnessing now is that due to the reliance on social media to communicate, we are slowly losing the ability to speak and share ideas one on one.

Though Jake and I disagree on many matters today, we had no issues at all face to face. In fact, meeting over dinner, for the first ninety minutes we discussed everything but our disputes. We talked about his retirement plans and business matters, about women and the dating scene (we are both now single and middle-aged), and we also discussed – no, that was it, just business and women for the first hour and a half. We finally did get around to talking very specifically about the online issue we had. There was no acrimony and in fact the discussion was perfectly respectful. There was no yelling. We both listened attentively to the other. Speaking for myself I learned to better understand his perspective.

Though I am grateful to Jake and I feel emboldened by the actions we took together, I can’t say that it always works out that way.

I had another exchange where it went badly and again I reached out on private messaging to attempt reconciliation to the dilemma. My approach was rebuffed. His public pronouncement against me was condescending and exceptionally judgemental. Upholding hollow religious rituals were once again front and centre in my life but this time it was reminiscent of me looking into a mirror from the past.

We are entering unprecedented times. What is going on south of the Canadian border is to say the least, unbelievable. Though as Canadians we have no horse in the race for the White House, the moral dilemma our America friends face is powerfully drawing us in. Let’s hope that we remember how to properly and respectfully communicate with friends and family. It won’t be easy. And sometimes you’ll have to “fold ‘em.”