What is Loneliness?

“You come home, make some tea, sit down in your armchair, and all around there’s silence. Everyone decides for themselves whether that’s loneliness or freedom.”  Anonymous

I hear you. I understand you. You feel alone in body and in soul. You see others walking about in pairs. You are not part of a pair. You ride your bike alone – I know – I saw you as you saw me. You are having a beer at the local pub – alone. However, when we are alone we are free to observe others without any hindrance and that can be illuminating. Walking along a downtown street I saw a woman struggling to open her car door with her hands full of groceries – I offered my assistance and she cheerfully accepted. Twenty yards ahead I then saw someone who was holding two speciality Starbucks coffees give one of them to a homeless man. She stopped ahead of me to light a cigarette when I turned to tell her what a beautiful action it was that she did – she smiled and thanked me.

So, are these examples of loneliness or freedom that is queried by the anonymous writer?

To combat loneliness we may force ourselves to be busy and that is often defined by being occupied with people, but you know that is only a temporary respite from what ails us. Yet the benefit of being alone is to be able to think a lot more – to contemplate life as it were – unfortunately, that is not routinely a positive practice.

For an individual who has suffered abuse, their solitary time hinged with their haunting and tragic memories, can potentially exacerbate the trauma. For them, therapy is crucial. I cannot fathom what that type loneliness feels like.

But like most of you, I do know what it is like to be alone with random troubles escorted by the echo of our internal deliberations reverberating around a sometimes-empty chamber of existence.

A most unsettling type of aloneness is when we are with others and yet at the same time feel secluded from them, as if we weren’t even there. It is the feeling one gets when our partner fusses with their smart phone while out together – ignoring us. It is the observation I wrote about recently when one party rudely walks in front of the other. It is also the sense that the significant other in our life doesn’t seem to understand us. And there is always the emptiness of an unrequited love. Any of this sound familiar to you?

The world now has 7.5 billion people and there have never been more lonely people than there are today.

“All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong? ” John Lennon

Sitting here on this computer and writing is being alone but also splendidly being free as well. Writing my book When Walls Become Bridges or even this blog, have allowed me the glorious opportunity to figure me out. But I have a confession to make: I am still a work in progress and while I am miles ahead of my starting point, at times I still struggle. And that is okay.

At the end of the day, loneliness, like any other sentiment is not a concrete thing. We have created the acceptance of that particular state or emotion and allowed it to infuse our consciousness. How in theoretically identical circumstances can one person be lonely and another not? For example, two widows, two divorcees, two singles – some feel alone and some proclaiming freedom. I really do believe in the independent ability and capability of making choices in our life. Not just in the choice of action to turn left or to turn right, but owning the power of thought to either think judgementally or alternatively with the freedom to embody and accept the present moment as applied to others and to ourselves as well.

I am not dismissing the fact that many of us feel lonely at times and for many different reasons, all I am saying is that we don’t have to. I feel the same way about hate …

As we move forward together, I hope that we all continue to find joy and discovery in life.

Time Does Not Stand Still

Exploring my neighbourhood I was curious regarding exactly how long it would take me to walk to the main street taking the shortest distance possible from my home. I used the Stopwatch feature on my iPhone so that I would be precise with this acquired knowledge. I have experienced this feature before, typically when doing planks at the end of my workout as I attempt to meet specific time oriented goals. This time fixated feature measures the duration of the activity to the hundredth of a second – YES, I need to know that – well maybe not to that granularity! Yet as I was walking onward and intermittently glancing down at my phone I became mesmerized by the rapidity of the fractions of seconds literally ticking away and I thought of life – my life. We can never get those fractions of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years back. So what are we doing with the ever so valuable, indeterminate amount of finite time remaining?

I suppose that as one becomes eligible for the senior’s discount at a national drug store chain and refuses the savings, or when I asked the public transit bus driver the other day what the cash fare is and her response was, “you mean the seniors cost” and I get facetiously offended, I ought to read the writing on the wall … we don’t have forever in this physical form we know as life. I vividly recall at age twenty taking the opportunity of parachuting with my mortality not even remotely in question, but walking to a local independent coffee shop in my fifties brings me to an entirely different temporal contemplation by merely observing a stopwatch.

So is there anything that you desire to do before it is too late? Of course there is – we all have our “bucket-list” of sorts. But with that morning’s walk and the visual of hundredths of seconds accelerating by, I intuited new meaning and fulfilment regarding a momentous event in my life – the upcoming launch of my book.

The idea percolated in my mind to write this story about seven years ago (although it profoundly changed by the time it was completed); in fact I told friends for many of those ensuing years that I was writing a book and I am not sure neither they nor I actually believed it would ever come to fruition. There were a few people along the way who provided immeasurable support, guidance and encouragement yet I never made it over the finish line and often doubted I would. But one got me there, my remarkable editor Lindsay R. Allison. She pushed me forward with timelines and deadlines that were not without personal challenges – thankfully I kept to her direction. It worked for me, it might not work for everyone. So to Lindsay, I have much gratitude and love.

When Walls Become Bridges  in ebook format is currently available for pre-sale on Amazon and Smashwords – the paperback version will be available for pre-sale in a few weeks with the official release date of October 16, 2017. So it is happening!

Which brings me back to – does time stand still or not? What does that mean to you? While time may appear to stand still in a moment of euphoric bliss or emotional agony, I see the clock as forever ticking away despite truly being in the present moment, which I now attempt to embrace always. All I know is that I am still dreaming of things I want to do and accomplish. There is nothing wrong with living your dreams. Do what you love. Be with those you love. Keep dreaming.

My dreams have only yet begun …

Why does a guy walk in front of his female partner?

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Viktor Frankl

Like the reformed smoker upon witnessing someone lighting up, I cringe every time I see a couple where the male is often one to several strides ahead of his partner while “taking a stroll out together”. They might even be talking to one another while he crooks his neck over his shoulder just enough to indicate the direction of his communication. I look at this feeling guilty for what I once did.

Perhaps this is your reality still? Guys, why do you do it? Gals, how does it make you feel? It may appear to be a banal observation of mine but I ask you to indulge me for a moment or two longer.

That there can be any logistical or physiological explanation is pure nonsense. He is stronger, has more energy to burn or has longer legs doesn’t cut the mustard. If so, then the pair “walking together” would eventually not have a one or several stride separation but the longer the duration of the walk he could end up dozens of metres ahead of her. So therefore some semblance of self-control on the male’s part is unmistakably feasible while keeping that preferable and steady distance advantage. But why?

I don’t plan to delve into an anthropological analysis, but at play can be any number of factors: Ego. Power. Fear. Misogyny. Culture.   The norm …

We go through life repeating actions, actions that might make others or us uncomfortable, ill at ease, angry or disheartened. I do believe that much of this is subconscious – we can act on autopilot once our norms have become customary and deeply rooted into our daily activities and interpersonal relationships of whatever form they may be categorized.

Those norms are our crutch or our co-dependency. They are our safety or our misery. Sometimes they ground us; at other times they bury us.

What if you held yourself back and genuinely walked beside her? I bet she would instantaneously notice and be thrilled by your amendment to the norm. How would you then make this your new norm? Do you even want to? Maybe this change would be a positive one that grounds you.

The barrier to all this is our natural resistance and reluctance to change. We are too old to change. It is too difficult. I am afraid to change. I see no need to change my life. Why should I slow down, she should walk faster! The excuses are endless.

Change is not always easy when patterns in our lives have existed so long. Lolly Daskal

So where does one go from here? If the status quo is serving you well then there is no need to transform anything. No one knows that better than you do. Yet if any unsettledness exists within, a different approach may be warranted to achieve contentedness. I know we are all capable of honest and substantive change in our lives. It works but requires work. Are you ready?

My upcoming book, When Walls Become Bridges*, is all about change – mine and the wonderful benefits and surprises that are possible with it.


* When Walls Become Bridges, A Journey of Discovery To Heal and Conquer Hatred will be released on October 16, 2017


Into the rain …

I will always be waiting, And I’ll always be watching.

Amy Lee, from Speak To Me


This is one of those days; I am sure you have had them as well; you wake up and just know from the depth of your soul that this day will be different. I felt raw, alive, energized, vital – and I felt powerful despite not everything being as I would choose. I heard a pelting sound behind me by the window of my home office as it began to pour while I was composing this piece. I stopped and ran outside – unprotected, feeling the rush of life, arms raised in the air and I remembered the last time I was out in the rain – and I smiled. I returned inside.


Speak To Me

At the same time I had discovered a new song written and performed by Amy Lee of Evanescence – Speak To Me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lB8ZsjMhy5M

It is beautiful and breathtaking and Lee is spectacular. And it did speak to me – powerfully. It was the perfect storm so-to-speak. I have written in this space once before about a song that absorbed me so, http://lettersandwalls.com/?p=88 but unlike the band Disturbed who were foreign to me at the time, I have always been a big fan of Lee’s, and again today I have been bowled over by the unmistakable sound of her magnificent and reverberating voice.


Speak To Me

There is so much going on for me today. As some of you know, I have written a book and it will be published this October and today I have numerous deadlines to meet that have nothing to do with the writing of it as that task is I can joyfully declare – complete. I do feel the weightiness of all that publishing my story entails; the excitement, the fear, the anticipation, the unknown but more to come on that in the coming weeks.


Speak To Me

Today is also Father’s Day.

I lost my father over two years ago but gained exponentially more than I lost by our brief time together at the end of his life. I am also a father to four beautiful, talented and distinctive children, each of them are finding their own way in the world as I had to. I understand that. Life can be complicated but only by so much as we allow it to be. Yet I will always be waiting and I’ll always be watching.


Speak To Me

I witnessed incredible joy in the world this week. I attended a wedding that meant a lot to me. A special family, a remarkable extended family too, and I got lost in it all. I realized at that celebration that we come to a point in our life when things have changed; People, relationships, friends, sometimes family. It is the journey of life that stagnation is never an option. We may subconsciously change or change with full awareness, but unmistakably we are constantly changing. And there are always more weddings to come.


Speak To Me

We are now today who we are because of all of these experiences. It is about our growth. We needn’t be sad. We learned. We hurt. We were hurt. We loved. We made choices. Some worked out as planned. Some not. Was it all fate? Was it meant to be? These are concepts that preoccupy me at times. I am however forever grateful for all the experiences. It’s time to move forward – back into the rain …





My hometown was bombed – I still cannot hate

It was just shy of 7pm in Toronto; I pulled into my driveway and was about to turn off the ignition when I heard that startling interruption on the radio “late breaking news – an explosion has been reported at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester England – there are casualties.” MANCHESTER? While my parents and I left Manchester to become new immigrants to Canada as I was but an infant, my frequent visits and strong family bonds make that northern city of Britain forever a second home. I franticly began texting and reaching out to family and friends seeking assurances of their safety. “Everyone okay???? I just heard the news.” A cousin responded back several minutes later, “What news?” Such is the reality of today’s world of instant information – I was aware of the bombing 5700 kilometres away before my Manchester cousin who is living there. As the tragic and horrific magnitude of the cowardly suicide attack unfolded I was sickened by this latest act of nonsensical violence. I have daughters the age of many of the concertgoers. I intensely watched news of the bombing over the next several days and most chilling to me was listening to that all too familiar and distinctive Mancunian dialect uttered by grief-stricken eyewitnesses and the parents and relatives of the missing and killed. A dear Manchester friend posted the following on Facebook days after the attack:

“We’ve had 2 teenage girls, separately, with their mums come in to the shop this afternoon … both were at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. One was too scared [to have] me closing the curtain to the fitting room to try a top on and the other wouldn’t talk at all – it’s so scary and when they left, I burst into tears.”

In addition to the shock and horror, not surprisingly the chorus of hate and venom appeared from the usual quarters both here in my community, abroad and from the White House. The edicts of anti-immigration, “send them back” and impose the Muslim travel ban rang loud and clear once again. One of my ongoing struggles is to try and comprehend what the haters hope to achieve in a practical sense by indirectly slinging their invectives at a broad group of Muslims or any identifiable group for that matter. I say indirectly because they habitually preach such nonsense and vitriol to their own choir of haters – their base! Former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore said on TV in the wake of yet another UK terror attack and other disconcerting news (attack in London and the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change):

“We have a saying in Tennessee, if you find a turtle on top of a post you know he didn’t get up there by himself.”

Such is the underlying message of our own individual responsibility and ability to confront the hate we see in our daily lives. We, I am entitled to express sadness and outrage at the senseless loss of life and innocents maimed for life, but it ought to stop there. I am neither a politician nor a member of our police or armed services. Neither are most of you. All we can do is to either show love or hate. That is a choice. Therein lies our genuine power and ultimately the ability to make a difference.

In the wake of what are likely to be more terrorist attacks to come, I hope we can stand up to intolerance, to polarization, to incitement and see the good that is inherent in most living all around us.


What are you putting off until tomorrow?

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone”

Pablo Picasso


Should I mow the lawn today or wait until next week?

Can my hair go another few days until I get it cut?

Should I clean my bathtub today or try doing it tomorrow?

I am terrified of calling my estranged father today because of what he might say and how he will make me feel – and besides, he treated me so poorly.

We all recognize the signs of procrastination. Sometimes it is based predominantly on laziness – no harm no foul by delaying the action that will get done sooner or later.

However, where one is unsure of the outcome resulting from a perceived dreaded action, where deep down we feel it is a matter that we should take care of, fear and uncertainty takes over and can often paralyze us into inaction. We become so anxious and fearful of the outcome – sometimes we never embark on it and perchance – it becomes no longer possible.

Never does a day go by that I am not grateful for taking the bold and challenging step to reach out to my aging and estranged father – with one last gut-wrenching effort. And rarely a day goes by when someone I encounter does not own up to having their own family separation they are battling and yes, procrastinating over.

Ask yourself this … how long do you plan to wait until the choice is taken away from you?

That can of course mean one of two possibilities. You die first or they do. Then the choice is no longer a choice, but now the survivor of the bitterness lives forever with the reality confirmed as a permanent state. It is funny, we avoid the hard decision, one that can ultimately bring relief or resolution, but by not making the choice, the upshot is a life sentence of a painful matter unresolved that could have been undertaken.

 Once the choice has been taken away – now what? Guilt? Remorse? Regret?

So taking action is hard? You feel the other person should make the first move. They were in the wrong you were the wronged? They need you more than you need them. The hell with ‘em!

Is it your pride that is holding you back? Stubbornness? Refusing to give in? Feel it is a characteristic of weakness?

One last thought. Think of the example we are setting for our children. What are we teaching them? What if the shoe were on the other foot?

I do hope that someone out there reads this and chooses a different path and as a consequence receives an unexpectedly wondrous result … just one of you.

“We were talking about the space between us all and the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion. Never glimpse the truth – then it’s far too late when they pass away”

George Harrison



“The easy days ahead of you will be easy. It is the hard days – the times that challenge you to your very core – that determine who you are.”  Sheryl Sandberg

All of us have suffered. Pain, sometimes resulting in trauma of some sort, has and always will be a part of our lives. We have failed. We have been ill. Within our close circle of friends and family we bore their hurt and anguish as well.

Life is regularly interrupted by emotional if not physical ups and downs – sometimes both at the same time. We question; why me, why me again, why now, why like this and when will it end? During this disturbance and sorrow we seek comfort. Comfort can take many forms through both healthy and unhealthy choices … physical and non-physical remedies. We also us seek out other people with whom to share our sorrow or alternatively seek the nonjudgmental, pure love and affection of a cherished pet.

These upsets, setbacks or just feeling out of sorts is a commonplace circumstance that befalls us every now and then even sometimes without any explanation or apparent causal effect. I have read recently that this phenomenon can be best described as being out of alignment. The natural or safe state of our emotional equilibrium can be jolted out of place – leaving us with a sense of searching, questioning, and fidgeting towards righting our position.

On Being, a broadly listen-to podcast by Krista Tippett recently aired a discussion with Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook fame and Adam Grant – a renowned multidimensional author. Adam, a friend to Sheryl and her late husband David, together wrote a book after her husband’s very sudden and untimely death titled Option B. I admit I have not read this yet but I plan to. However, this beautifully woven and stirring podcast on Resilience – is a lesson for all of us. Personally, it struck a resounding cord, and took me back in time as I reflected on aspects of my own ups and downs and up journey we call life.

Shit happens to all of us. And when that happens, we wipe it off, clean up and move forward again. What other choice do we have? But, we do have a choice in how or even if we pick ourselves up off the ground. We too often become absorbed in those “whys” noted above. We succumb to self-pity, leading to self-doubt and perhaps even a fatalistic view of our future.

Sandberg said that when bad things happen, one should seek to find the balance between no control and no order and the emotion one feels … and learn to accept this lack of control when bad things or hardship occurs.

Perhaps like you are doing now, I became motionless upon hearing those profound and deeply meaningful words uttered by Sheryl.

What did that symbolize in my life? “No control and no order” and “to accept the lack of control …”. Each one of us will have a unique interpretation of what this means only if we first make an attempt to decipher its adaptability into our own lives.

You see, whatever is going through your mind at this moment is proof that choice is an option even during the most difficult times of your life. Autopilot is only operational while cruising at 35,000 feet, but is not turned on when landing a plane. Autopilot is also not an optimal state during personal adversity and challenge – whatever form that may take.

This is the time to ask ourselves questions, for example, “what can I do now?” Not the reactive and reflex leaning “why” but the proactive, action orientated “what”.

But what prevents us from acting, doing and thinking differently from how we are accustomed is conditioning. Only as one arrives at the conclusion that the old ways are no longer serving us well can walls be torn down and in their place bridges constructed towards a new, fresh and liberating methodology. It is this psychocultural rigidity that inhibits our growth as truly evolved human beings. Not an easy lesson …

To put it another way, Adam Grant wrote,

“Too often, we get stuck in defending our old views instead of being open to exploring new ones.”

I believe that an emotionally healthier resilience for all life’s challenges that awaits us depends upon us moving closer to that which we are all capable of – exercising the choice that we have in most facets of life.


Is it just me?

“No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.”

Elie Wiesel


Do you ever feel alone, alone in the sense that you feel yourself to be an outlier? That in your group, your family, and your religious circle or within your political affiliates that on “big picture deliberations” you think differently than the rest? Is there something wrong with me? Why can’t I be like them, behave like them, react as they do to the environmental stimuli that is common to our coterie?

On the one hand, differences are what make us human and individualistically unique. Sometimes, I say to myself that I am glad that I don’t think as my cohort does and many of them I am sure opine as they read these words; “here goes Stuart again, he just doesn’t get it.” Or, those that know me may mutter to himself or herself disbelievingly, “What ever happened to him?”

So here I go.

I am observing a significant rise in unconcealed racism across the USA and in Canada – hopefully not an earth-shattering revelation. Over what period of time you may be wondering? Let’s say in the last half a year. The fact that not everyone agrees is obvious yet disturbing to many others and me. I am not necessarily positing a cause of the racism, just the recent increased frequency of it.

Is it just me?

An alleged and heavily armed white racist walks into a mosque in a suburb of Quebec City murdering six Muslim worshippers. Numerous Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized across the USA and multiple bomb threats phoned into Jewish Community Centres in the USA and in Canada. In a Kansas bar two East Indian men are shot with one dying in the attack. The motive? The white perp mistakenly thought they were both Muslim yelling, “Get out of my country” as he took aim! And listening to the announcement for the creation of Homeland Security’s V.O.I.C.E. – Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement, an immigrant only crime reporting structure sent chills down my spine. Shall I go on? In the past few months the unrelenting list of hate inspired; statements, executive orders, posts, rants, tweets, threats and tangible violence has swelled beyond anything recognizable in decades.   And this: The following is a tweet this week by Steve King, a Republican sitting member of the House of Representatives from Iowa, “We can’t restore our civilization with someone else’s babies”. That tweet was in support of Dutch leader of the Party for Freedom – Geert Wilders, who can at minimum be described as an extreme nationalist.

These facts are irrefutable. They are not “alt-facts”, this is not “fake news”, and this is what is happening. The dead Muslim shooting victims are in fact dead and were buried. Family members did in fact find their relatives gravestones toppled and the aggrieved families did not bring it on themselves as had been suggested. Oh, the ban on Muslim entry into the USA (from the now six Muslim countries – down from the original seven – how did one country become good so quickly?) to ward off the rise in terrorism on USA soil, well, there has been no such causal rise in terrorism in the USA (yes, many will say it is a pre-emptive action however with limited justification). FACT. Most if not feasibly all Mexican illegal immigrants are neither rapists nor criminals. FACT. But someone of importance, in a position of power is instigating and spreading this hate via lies and innuendo or worse, turning a blind eye as it goes on unopposed under his nose. This new American leadership is spinning a racial web of mistrust and malicious insinuation. These actions have tapped into the hate, intolerance and ignorance that indeed EXISTED six months prior. It is not new. But the underbelly of society that has been harbouring such tenacious racism has been liberated and has come out from the xenophobic rocks under which they dwelled.

Is it just me?

On the brighter side … I believe that all this must lead to a brighter side.

Something is changing. The apex is approaching. I am beginning to see harmony “outside” my group whatever that group is. Imagine, me, a Jewish would-be writer in Toronto being on common ground with a White Methodist farmer in Wyoming? Picture an African-American Catholic teacher in Detroit united against hate with an Atheist LGBTQ investment banker in Tampa? A laid-off Lutheran Pennsylvanian coal-miner and a Muslim Syrian refugee who works at McDonalds in Saskatoon both being on the same page if-you-will united as human beings, both blind to our physical and cultural differences. It is happening. But it needs more of all of us to break down the barriers and the walls of intolerance towards those not like us … whoever the us is.

Many have seen it before OR it was our forebears who bore witness. We have a collective responsibility to stop it and call it out for what we recognize once again.

Is it just me?

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