Shadows we must pass through to reach the light

You go about life, plans, hopes, dreams. In a moment it turns a blind corner and the light goes out. But for a moment. The light returns and you find yourself in the middle of a wide bright field of wild flowers and realize you’ve gown, become more because you have braved, confronted, defeated the shadows. You are battered, bruised by grief, but you are greater for it; you are a deeper human being because you’ve stood up to the undefeatable and made your voice heard above the din of its scythe.

A hug goes further than an Iphone

The dichotomy of this season: Brings to many joy- sorrow
It is for the rest of us / to give not / procured gifts / but gifts of the heart / of the deepest compassion / to others in need
Begin with a hug and go from there…

More random thoughts on this eve of christmas…

Here I am sitting in the coffee shop writing and feeling sorry for myself.  I think about Christmas’ past and all that went with it in my very dysfunctional and distant family.  I only remember a handful of Christmas’ we were all together, there was likely more when my parents were together.  But they separated when I was very young so not much after that.  Yeah I know, what is a normal family right?  Well of course, my family (of which I was a distant eighth and last) was one of those who only got together for weddings and funerals (and not always).  One of my sisters (who died at 44 of cancer), my mom, my dad (my mom when she was 90 and my dad was 92) are gone and so November and December are always reminders of this loss.  On top of this how all the anger and pain in our family often bubbles up and has separated us further.

But having said that, I am the sum of my experiences, good and bad.  I can be rather morose at times, but I also know I am a deeply feeling being who isn’t a stone wall, but an emotional sponge and for that, I am grateful.  I look at some men who can go through the day, see much of the darkness of humanity and seem unaffected by it.  Not to say nothing is going on inside, just outwardly how like a stone wall!

As for me, yes I’m one of those annoying guys who cry at the drop of a hat and feel everything.  But I say what the hell’s wrong with that!  I’ve heard it all: that men shouldn’t cry, should be strong, bla, bla, bla!  I’ve found that men who are emotionally honest are men who are far stronger than the thickest stone wall.

It’s a far greater to be a fully functioning, feeling human being (man or women) than the one who prefers to swallow the pain (or joy) and say all that emoting is for the sissies!

Alas how grief touches us all: my wife is dealing with her first Christmas without her beloved mom.  It will soon be a year, but how sharp each of these seasonal sign posts are on her heart.  So often she cries out for her mom and how I see a profound sadness in her eyes.  I am grateful I am there for her and with my experience in grief I know I have the tools to help her through the toughest moments.

And now my brother’s in the hospital with diabetes problems (he is in northern Alberta) and as it is Christmas Eve it will likely be though Christmas too.  He’d had a very tough time of it.  Of his own doing, but he’s paid his debt and wants to turn a new leaf and move on.  Then when he is about to restart, his health throws a curve and he’s in a hospital bed.  I wish I had the resources to help him through but I, daily, send healing thoughts his way.

Ah how this season brings us so much reflection…

My love/abhorrence of the gifting Season

First off, I’m not here to change other’s minds, only expound my own.  I’ll leave the reader to decide his or her own path.

Having been raised in the catholic faith, I am sure I have christmas stamped deep in my marrow.  And all the trimmings that come with it.  To hear refrains of Oh Holy Night and I am instantly transported emotionally to so many moments in my youth!  Specifically to Sister Aquinas’ grade four classroom where she, throughout the season and for any subject would make us all sing a variety of hymns and carols.  It was here I found my musicality, fell in love with those many carols and singing.

There are many fond childhood memories as well.  Of getting the house and tree decorated, anticipation of my father returning home with his hands full of presents.  Then on the morning, waking up early of course, family around, well when they were anyway.  Being a distantly last child in a family of eight I was basically an only child with many mothers and fathers.  So yes I was spoilt no end by everyone and with oh so much guilt specifically by my separated parents and further distant siblings.

Yes indeed I do love this time of year and the underlying positive mood that seems to permeate everyone and everything.  I still love a well-sung carol too.  You know the one sung by Andrea Bocelli or even Mariah Carey… put it on and I tear up!  How emotionally entrenched are all those feelings with all those songs!

The abhorrence…
There indeed is so much to say about the good of this season.  The giving, people opening their hearts and wallets to the needy, wonderful.  However, I come to the part of this season I’ve decided to let go of: the receiving part.

I tell everyone I know to not send me or give me any gifts and, I don’t buy or give presents.  Yes, I still do receive the occasional gift and I always say it is up to them to give but I always add that I will not reciprocate.  I’ve gotten many looks and harsh words about being cheep, being a Scrooge, etc.  And, I choose not to feel guilt about it either.

A few years ago I decided that Christmas for me will never be about what it’s become: commercialised.  I refuse being caught up in this shadowy side of it and I hope I never will.  Man… if I had kids they would not care for me much.   But to me this season is not just about the faith or the getting/receiving, to me it is about love, hope for a new year, being with family.  Period.

I can’t help but feel sad when I hear of families going broke just to make sure there are presents under the tree.  Yes it is their prerogative to do so and imbue such a sense of worth to their offspring.  But so many find they are defined by what they receive and what they give.  If little Joey can’t get the latest playstation game they are poor parents.  And how it affects the kid Too!  How his self-esteem’s struck down that all his friends have the game and not him!

I was in Costco yesterday and oh my the look on some faces:  that wide-eyed, I might not get the right thing so I gotta rush about like a stuck pig to make sure my child/sibling/parent/friend/aunt/co-worker/cousin twelfth-removed gets the right gift!!!

I wish to add that while I sit here seeing all the shoppers on Robson pass by, I see many smiling faces.  Especially those with loved ones sharing the fun moments.  That is great to see.

Yes, the commercialism of this time is far overblown.  Yes I know it drives our economy and blah, blah, blah… it also brings friends and family together and this is the reason that I love this season.  Period.

Happy Holidays!

Debate sparked within me

I love a good debate.  I also love watching BBCs Intelligence Squared – the World of Debate, when I get a chance.  Then yesterday, I saw a tweet from @simonpegg that had a very impassioned and eloquent speech of @StephenFry from October 2009 in a debate titled: The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world.  A subject near to my heart.

Please go to this link and watch Mr. Fry first: Dailymotion – The Intelligence² Debate – Stephen Fry (Unedited) http://t.co/KvSpe6n via @Dailymotion

Before I go further, I, like Mr. Fry noted, do not, in any way or form wish to take anything from the person who believes in his or her faith whether it be Catholicism, Judaism, Muslim, Buddhism, Druidism or any of the myriad of secular and non-secular philosophies.  I would fight to the death to defend a persons right to his or her beliefs.  Whether we believe it is right or wrong, is none of our business!  I am not here to force my will or opinion on anyone else.  Only to stem open and I hope respectful debate.

I was born, baptized and raised in the Roman Catholic faith and imbued into my brain, my heart, my bones.  No amount of atheistic thought, debate or understanding could wedge those deep-seated and what I believe is guilt-inducing nonetheless systematic brain-washing out of my noggin.

Unfortunately for me.  I say this because I wish I would have been born with a wider field of beliefs.  Needless to say I was born in a small, close-minded town with little choices other than a form of Catholicism.  I’m sure there were pockets of other faiths, but the glaring light of Catholicism white washed all else.  It took a move to Vancouver, a coastal location brimming with humanity that pried open my mind to that wide-world of convictions.

In this present day I find myself more of a non-practicing Buddhist.  As I noted above, I have no qualms with anyone of deep faith.  Of any faith.  However, when a faith draws a line in the sand and says that if you are not on their side, you are the enemy.  This to me is the defining form of hate.

Hate.  That is a whole other battle.  I’ve been striving to eradicate from my mind and vocabulary this horrific word.  For instance I would try to say, “I don’t care for that ice cream”, rather than “I hate that ice cream.”  I cringe when I catch myself saying this nevertheless when I hear it from others.  How many lives have been lost due to the overwhelming influence of hate?

I have come to understand that most faiths, at their most base level, have a fundamental doctrine that teaches love, understanding, and caring for your fellow human.  And yet, it is our human instinct to draw from these words our own view and definition of how to set it into practice.  Most clearly it is far too often such a beautiful work of humanity is debased and twisted to create such deep-seated hate and anger for anyone not toeing their line of beliefs.  And thus while humanity has such a vast capacity for love and compassion, it also has an enormous and grotesque culpability in serving up fear and hate in all shapes and forms.  Deeply into those masks we must inquire.  Those masks worn by those who shovel out what they believe you should follow.  Why are so many following these fear mongering proponents of hate, but again it is up to each of us to decide whether what we hear, see, feel and believe is right for ourselves.  I can only shake my head and hope that most will just look inside, to their own truths, and find not hate, anger, but love, hope, compassion.  How magnificently beautiful and safe the world would be.

Indeed.

A Discussion Between Patriots

I wanted to post here a short conversation between two citizens who cannot help but question the governments of our day.  I’m posting this because I feel strongly that we should question everything.  While it is one thing to follow blindly, poorer are the citizens who do not question and challenge those in positions of power.  While it is a short conversation, I feel it goes straight to the point about being a better citizen concerned with our respective country’s state of affairs.  I’m going to leave it open-ended as I would love to hear feedback.  Cheers.

My friend from facebook, James Dennewitz, posted the following status:
Join me in starting a campaign to recruit a challenger to Obama in the 2012 Primary? Now that he’s lied about another campaign promise, tax cuts for the rich, We need to admit our mistake and find someone who will fight for the middle class. Perhaps some Tea partiers will join us, since the republicans are raising our debt ceiling, giving a tax cut to the rich that will raise the deficit $4 trillion in 10 years.

JAMES then added: So far, I don’t see much change from the Bush years. We should all be outraged. The unpaid for tax cuts in a time of war, which also is not paid for, are intact still, Don’t ask Don’t tell in place, Gitmo is open, The wars are still raging with no end in sight, and we never got a public option, Obama didn’t even put it on the table to start with. Now, he comes out for freezing middle class federal workers wages for 2 years, BEFORE any debate over these tax cuts. He’s the worst negotiator I’ve ever seen in the white house. What’s he going to give away when he loses even more votes in Jan. And what of these Tea party folks, who wanted to cut the deficit, reduce spending? Folks, we are getting it from both ends, we have to make a stand on these issues sooner or later. I’m so let down that Obama has not been willing to fight at all. I say let the tax cuts for everybody expire, let unemployment expire, and put the blame where it belongs, the republicans. At least try it for a month or two, see if they feel any heat, but no, Obama the caver gives them unpaid for tax cuts that have driven us to the point of another crisis. he’s a nice guy, but nice guys don’t do well against sharks.

Then I chimed in: I think that no matter who is in the white house, there will be no change. It’s been basically the same since the 60s.

JAMES: Actually, Bush JR., Reagan both made major changes, as did Johnson, Clinton helped our jobs leave even faster with NAFTA. They may be few and far between, but they can be biggies, like the civil rights bill, war in Iraq, trickle down economics, breaking the air traffic controller unions. I do agree that most of the change we need is going to have to come directly from us, the congress is too corrupt now. Thanks for the comment DC. I feel your apathy, I see our form of government now looking a lot like it did 1771, and in need of similar ‘restructuring”.
Me: I’m Canadian and I feel a tremendous amount of apathy here! You indeed make valid points!

JAMES: DC, we’ve wondered if we’d be better off in Canada in regards to healthcare and to escape our continual war program here in the states. Though I know the corporations are raping everywhere they can, I think we really have a case where the people of the world are going to have to rise up once and for and refuse to be peasants and bow down to the lords and kings.
Me: It’s all about how the middle class is being crushed into the poorhouse – there indeed is a revolt coming & it’s already happening in Europe!

JAMES: I’m thinking it may become the first world wide revolution, how about you? So few realize how so many American companies destroy the environment, take advantage of people, and even try to control rain water (true story folks. The people rebelled and collected rain water anyway). Greed is at the heart of destroying our world and leading us into war again and again. It’s sad how one man can bring war to millions. How did we ever let that kind of world develop? Too many people believe and respect authority, the first deadly mistake.
Me: It’s always been the few controlling the many. I was watching an interview Huffington and she was taking about that exact thing, that the middle and lower classes are going to finally get pissed off enough and revolt. But there are far too many who are so numbed by what they have, by the superficial media and they don’t think enough to look at what is really happening around them. Sleeping consumers. We get so safe in chasing that dollar, the next best thing and fill ourselves with a false sense of security, a house of cards. I can only sadly shake my head at the political system of no choice. We are shown two, up here three, but really it is just the same band of monkeys, lobbyist really, running the show. We are handed, and we lap it up, that we have freedom, that we have choices. Really, we do not have true freedom, only a false sense of it, only an illusion and we are willing to die for (i.e. go to war) to protect our right to be a prisoner, is that irony? I was thinking about why are we at war on the other side of the world? How does this protect our freedom? The only answer that comes to my mind is to supply the military industrial complex with a reason to exist as well as a cycle of fear that is sold wholesale to the public at large.

JAMES: Wow, very well said DC. I agree with it all 100%. You should repost this somewhere, you seem to have quite grasp on things that most people I encounter do not. I’d almost bet you know who Noam Chomsky is.  You’ve nailed so many points here that I often make to people who ask me “what is wrong” & “What can we do?” I’ve also noticed how many ‘laws” seem to be put into place, to label in uprising as treason or even terrorism. I recall Bush trying to label environmentalists as “Environmental terrorists.” I think the oil companies and republicans hold that title. His actions being Right or wrong, we’ve seen how quickly the corporations have moved in step with the “governments” to stop Wikki Leaks. Even if what he does is wrong, people should be concerned to see how easily they will take away your right to have a web site. All freedoms now seem to come with conditions. This guy is not even a US citizen and look at all the US companies who help take him down, even one from the “Live Free Or Die” state of new hampshire. I guess we’re bigger on mottos than actual follow through, and the rich know it. Most likely, the FBI reads everything I write, and who am I? Just a patriotic American tired of Imperial rule. Bush and the bunch showed us just how easy a Marshall law type situation could happen. I’ve been saddened to see how many Americans have been willing to give up freedom for security. Ben Franklin said anyone willing to that deserved neither, and he was right.

Here is a link to Jame’s ‘Rise Above Them All’ facebook page

Lighten the darkness

Into our dark / corners, shine a light / expose our darkness / so to better / value ourselves

The Remembrance Day Ceremonies

Sacrifice:
In silence we stand
For those
In silence did not
For those
Who gave their all
For those
Who fought
And died
So we may
In silence stand

I usually watch the remembrance ceremony on TV, in such a disconnected way.  Usually flipping between the Ottawa and Vancouver telecasts.  I should say disconnected, but there is always something that stirs in me, brings the tears to my eyes.  Last year, we moved and now we are only a couple blocks from the Victory Square cenotaph.  Alas last year I watched it on TV, lazy me.

But this morning I felt I should go join the others gathered at the Victory Square cenotaph.  I went down there and joined the crowd.

Crowd at Victory Square in Vancouver, BC
Crowd at Victory Square in Vancouver, BC

It was such a great connection there in the midst of the crowd and it was chilly, but the rain held off and everyone with their friends, children quietly listening to the speeches, to the choirs, the bagpipes.  My emotions were swirling standing in the midst of so many people.  Had a bit of a struggle to keep from weeping openly, damn these sentimental emotions of mine.

Then at the eleventh hour a singular trumpet “Last Post” played, accompanied by a fly over of military and civilian aircraft, and the booming of the 21 gun salute.  It was as the drone of the aircraft faded a lone train horn, I assume from the train station at main street, broke the silence and echoed through the buildings around us.  In this moment I looked around and saw the many tears.  Indeed it’s such a noble thing to share with a great many people a singular note of emotion.