May 28, 2008

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS ?

always drink upstream from the herd
I'm sure you have noticed how politicians and the media move in a crowd and treat "news" like a watering hole. They all crowd around a story and speculate and accuse like cows pee and poop. They trip over each other's opinions while standing and drinking from the same source and adding to the pollution of words just as surely as cows at a watering hole add fertilizer to the very ground they stand on. There's a great example of this frenzy taking place in Canada right now as the media and opposition hop all over the information about a Minister of the government leaving some secret documents at his girlfriend's house. Nothing was released, no actual harm was done, the Minister has resigned and yet, the herd keeps doing what it does best - trying to find fresh water in a pool of crap.
The fact that the woman in the story is gorgeous means that the herd will continue to mill around until the next beautiful woman shows up on the scene. The story has been repeating itself since television ratings and newspaper sales started being measured. The only way to avoid getting some of that "stuff" on yourself is to move upstream and drink from something cleaner, but don't tell the rest of them or they'll show up too.

May 27, 2008

I'M NOT DOIN' NOTHIN'


inaction requires a decision too


Sometimes it is a bigger decision to not proceed with an activity than it is to go ahead. Sometimes it is much harder to make the decision to do nothing than to go ahead and do something. Most of us feel that activity and action define work and sometimes, even define us. Often, as we race through life chasing hopes and dreams, we find that in our need to get into action, we are doing so in order to appear to be busy rather than from a deep-seated conviction. We often feel guilty for not following a path while making much noise about our progress.
It often takes more courage to exist in the stillness, awaiting the light of revelation and knowing that truth and peace are an act of human being rather than human doing.

May 15, 2008

BURMA AND AFGANISTAN

With the best of intentions, we often dash off into doing what we think is best and then discover much later that we have landed in a quagmire. Our original thoughts were created from a need to help others with an innocence of purpose and a purity of deed. We enlist the help of others in humanitarian efforts designed to save lives and assist in times of disaster or upheaval. In North America, these efforts are typically the result of a huge public outcry that insists that our governments and military get involved and stop the suffering of people in remote parts of the world that we didn't even know existed, until some catastrophic event occurs that we see on the evening news.

On a selective basis (determined as much by the proximity of a CNN news crew, as anything else) the Canadian and U.S. governments respond to the voice of their own citizens and rush across the world to assist with boat and plane loads of food, medicine and temporary shelter. Much of the rest of the civilized world does the same. Even though I'm a cynic, I think that this initial response is motivated by the sincere desire to help our fellow human beings both on the part of the public and the government. Aside from disasters like tsunamis, cyclones and earthquakes, we respond to other threats like drought, mass starvation, genocide, military aggression and political subversion that results in massive death tolls. Once again, our need to respond and assist is motivated by a charitable nature inherent in most of us. This element of our humanity has been in evidence since we formed social groups many millenia ago. Recently, we have jumped to help Europe during the first and second world wars and Korea and our initial reaction to atrocities in Vietnam, Cambodia, South Africa, Kosovo and belatedly, East Africa and many others has been similarly motivated. We discovered the plight of Afghanistan five or six years ago and decided to save its citizens from the Taliban regime that had totally oppressed them as well as supplying the heroin trade with its source of poppies and death. It was the right thing to do for the people of Afghanistan and the campaign garnered our support for a short while after we insisted that our leaders "do something." We needed to support this mission of hope with military enforcement to create some sort of law in a society ruled by despots who totally disregarded the value of human life. Good on Canada and good on the United States and others who saw the need and stood up for the freedom of our fellow man.

Our attention spans seem to shorten every year as we, and the media, jump to the "next big thing," and forget our original intentions with regards to previous decisions. Such is the case right now with Afghanistan, as the evening news shows a steady diet of body bags returning to home soil with ours sons and daughters inside. We have forgotten that it was all of us who sent these brave souls into harm's way through our need to help others. Were we unwilling to pay the cost? Some politicians who supported our original involvement find it expedient to disavow support and have created a political football from our good intentions as a nation. They attempt to score points with an electorate that seems to have lost its courage for doing the right thing. It would be nice if politicians would demonstrate the same degree of "spine" that our soldiers do.

The world's attention is now focused on Burma and the death of perhaps 100,000 people and the danger presented to many millions of others, initially in the path of a cyclone and now we discover oppressed by yet another military dictatorship. Burma's leaders are demonstrating a heartlessness and arrogance of unbelievable proportion that causes most of our citizenry and opposition members of parliament to call on the government to once again, do something! Notwithstanding the tragedy that is occurring in that country, be careful if you demand action. For a change, remember that 5 years from now, the consequences of involvement may have a cost attached to them. To the politicos and media - will you turn tail and hide again?

May 14, 2008

JUST WONDERING

For those of you who have already begun to study, or at least read Eckhart Tolle and "The New Earth," here is a question posed at lunch yesterday by the always loquacious HowieJ, "Can you have a conversation without the ego?"

In the event that you have not embarked on this particular path to enlightenment yet, here's another question to ponder. The ego makes itself known through six different games it plays when engaged in conversation with another person (ego):

1. I am right
2. You are wrong
3. I dominate others
4. I refuse to be dominated
5. I play games of guilt and manipulation
6. I defend or cover up

Is it possible to engage in any meaningful conversation without engaging in one of these games?

May 12, 2008

DEATH BECOMES US

none of us will get out of this thing alive
I assume that it is a result of my own age rather than some sort of chronological or environmental phenomenon, but I seem to be going to a lot of hospital visitations and memorial services these days. Not surprisingly, this causes me to spend time thinking about my own mortality and that of the people around me. It seems to be coming up in conversation as I share these thoughts and concerns with friends who are experiencing grief or dealing with mortality in their own ways. Life is full of dualities and apparently death is too, as I have come across two completely different outlooks in recent days that are both unconnected to the two services I will attend this week.
I encountered one viewpoint over lunch with a friend of several years, who is busy being the parent to one of his own parents, who is aging and in need of 24/7 care. While putting his father's affairs in order, he naturally began to consider his own mortality and what he would like to see happen when he, himself leaves this mortal coil. I was a little surprised to learn that he had met with his daughter and informed her that he wanted no memorial service, no obituary and no notice paid to his passing. No opportunity for his family and friends to pay their respects and share their feelings.
Over the weekend, I came across a different point of view when a work colleague of someone whose mother-in-law had just passed away, took an entirely unique perspective to his own funeral service. He was a successful local businessman with a rich sense of humour who had been given the "cancer" word for the first time, six days prior to his demise. Rather than suffer through chemotherapy that would have had the same results without the quality, he chose to go home and spend his remaining time with his family for the few days left him. He inspired his daughter to write a humourous obituary inviting family and friends to a service that would include door prizes for all of the attendees - so that they might remember who he really was.
I was a little churlish in my response to my friend when I observed that he wished to leave no evidence of his having been here. Everyone has a right to live and leave in a manner that best suits them but I certainly appreciate the way the second person is moving on. In my own case, I think I would prefer a party with lots of food and music and a good bottle of wine or single malt scotch to the person who tells the funniest story, using me as the butt of the humour.

May 7, 2008

WAYNE

For those of you who pop into this space from time to time, you may recall my blog of March 21 in which I talked about Wayne. He left this world last night after a hard fought battle with cancer. He leaves his wife Adele, his son and daughter and two grandchildren, along with a long list of friends and clients.

Here's to you Wayne - tee it up and hit it straight.

THE GOD BLOG

When I was young, I spent considerable time arguing with my mother about religion. I distinctly remember sitting at the kitchen table and questioning why we couldn't eat meat on Fridays and being told that God said we couldn't. I just couldn't figure out why God would care. I always felt a certain resonance with a spiritual element, but had great difficulty with rules that didn't seem to have a purpose, other than that they were "rules." Both feelings persist to this day. There always seems to be an intolerance for questioning anything about God or the Church and we are admonished to simply have faith. "Faith in who?" I used to ask. "Faith in God." I was told. "Who is God?" I would ask. It was the wrong question. The question should have been "What is God?"

Somebody decided to write the line that mankind was created in the image and likeness of God. A couple of thousand years ago, this probably helped the downtrodden masses to find a certain affiliation with a stern father figure who demanded that they behave with some sort of integrity and in a manner that helped to keep the peace. The threat of hellfire and eternal damnation kept the religious leaders in food and power without the messy human sacrifices demanded in some cultures. Truly spiritual people found it easier to explain our connection with a higher level of consciousness by creating a human personality that people could both revere and fear. Our forefathers could relate to the concept of an all powerful god who had dominion over the lesser gods of sky, water, fire and earth and so religion was born and God was created in the image and likeness of man.

Throughout this time, scientists of every stripe have been trying to explain how things work and have been busy reducing everything to smaller and smaller pieces in an effort to deduce why the universe is as it is. This activity has been referred to as Reductionism and has resulted in the discovery of everything from atoms to bacteria, quirks to quarks and nits to nanoseconds. This process of reducing everything to its smallest unit of measure has helped to explain how things operate, how things change and how the world has evolved. This desire to understand how, has created ever decreasing lines of vision as scientists concentrated their studies on smaller and smaller areas of interest. The move towards specialization and concentration of focus has created a large body of knowledge at the cost of understanding, or even recognizing, the bigger picture. While science has been trying to find "smaller" no one appears to have been bringing the information together to locate and answer the bigger question of "why." That is beginning to change as some scientific minds are beginning to shift their looks in the other direction and communicate across disciplines to find and explore some new theories beyond reductionism.

The conflict between religion and science can be oversimplified by stating that religious fundamentalists hold that without God, there would be no morality and science continues to attempt to explain away the wonder, awe and random creativity with theoretical rules. A band of brave cross-thinkers are beginning to emerge, who accept that the randomness of evolution shows a level of consciousness above our historical understanding. Science continues to work hard at explaining how the universe operates but ignores what created it in the first place, while religion takes the simplistic stance of an almighty personnage doing so in six days. Both schools would have us choose one side or the other - God exists vs. God doesn't exist.

The 17th century philosopher, Descartes declared, "I think therefore, I am" and philosophy profs ever since have told us that this statement proves our own existence. We are beginning to see that it means more than that. The fact that we can think about the fact that we think, raises us above the level of existence and proves a higher level of consciousness. The fact that we can discern the beauty of a sunset, the majesty of mountains, the pain of loss and the joy of love precludes the necessity to measure as we acknowledge the presence of a power to create them. More important is the fact that we even recognize our ability to appreciate this level of existence itself. Our ability to live here and now and leave history in the past and the future to be experienced, puts us in touch with something outside of ourselves yet connected to us in an intimate relationship that continues to create and keep in harmony, a universe beyond our current level of understanding.

Evolution continues and it is as much reaction as it is proaction, as it continues to march on toward change and the opening of new levels of understanding and consciousness oblivious to the man made rules of good intent. If you want to call that God, that's OK with me. God is here and present and fully capable of leading us to the next step that reveals what we need to know to move up the ladder of enlightenment. Spending a couple of hours on a Sunday morning in a church thinking about thinking, probably isn't such a bad idea, but I think that I will think about thinking, on the beach instead.

May 2, 2008

REGENERATION


answers sometimes come before the questions

I often think that I will make life altering decisions when I go away on vacation but usually come back without having made any concrete decisions on anything that I originally intended. Somehow I find myself more in the moment when I'm on holiday and allow the problems, decisions, indecision's and worries to recede from my conscious thinking process. In many ways, it is like a meditation as I let the day to day thoughts, the day to day voices in my head go to some sort of quiet state of unconsciousness. This could be my way of avoiding things too. I'm not absolutely sure this time, but it seems possible that I had more stuff rolling around in my head than usual (yes, I know there is lots of extra space for it) and needed to spend a couple of weeks in which the day's most important decision was where to have dinner. Having said that, I have noticed some changes percolating through the tan as I try to move my brain into "real life" mode. One of the biggest things that has popped up is defining "real life." The lines seem to continue to blur between work, home, vacation, retirement, family, wanna do's, hafta do's, can't do's and honey do's. But the definition of real life is beginning to morph into doing only the things that I really want to do. My attitude towards people is beginning to follow a similar pattern as I find that I prefer to spend time with people who support my life, not necessarily agree with me but are at least interested enough to ask and listen.
This attitude is very rapidly spilling over to business relationships as I become much less tolerant of poor or indifferent service. I'm beginning to vote with my feet as I move certain areas of my business life to new companies who express the wish to create partnerships and place value on what I bring to the table. There is a certain selfishness creeping in but when I realize that I have more birthdays behind me than in front of me, I find that my time is becoming more valuable and more precious. There is a lot left undone, unwritten, undiscovered, unexplored and unexperienced and I am coming to realize that the only one who will know, let alone care, is me. Notwithstanding the protestations of love and friendship, I look around and find that in the final analysis, the legacy we leave is completely up to us as individuals and if we don't care enough to fulfill our own dreams, no one else can or will do it for us.
Sitting on a beach in Hawaii inspires me to think that real life is represented by the sound of the waves rolling into shore and that I should spend more time in natural settings drinking in the smells, sights and sounds. It's easy to shun the responsibilities of commerce, child rearing, taxes and the millions of other distractions for a short time but the business of living life is always there, just below the surface, begging to be let out to play. Ilsa, my favourite personal trainer, helped me gain enough strength and agility to find balance on a surfboard, now I get to stretch a little further to find a new balance point on a higher wave. The questions I thought needed answering still await, but perhaps from a new viewpoint, a vantage point built on knowing and doing what is best for me. Maybe there was more going on than just creating that new Olympic sport - power tanning.

May 1, 2008

OH GEE


open hearts create open minds

I tossed out a comment to someone yesterday without much forethought, "Open minds create open hearts," said I. The reply I received was "Oh gee...." and at first, I was a little miffed as I considered what that might mean. The gift of that reply was that I began to consider my original comment and realized that open minds might create open hearts, but that the opposite - open hearts create open minds had more of the ring of truth to it.

I began to consider the idea of open heartedness and came to realize that being open hearted creates a space in our spirit for "possibility" to enter. Being open hearted allows for the possibility of joy, freedom, abundance and love to enter and at the same time replaces feelings of anger, lack, limitation, envy and something called, small mindedness. We can spot a person who is open hearted from a great distance. They seem to have a magnetism and a glow surrounding them that causes us to want to be near them. The other thing about being open hearted is that it eliminates the need to be "right." Open hearted brings an aspect of "acceptance" that allows other people to have opinions and beliefs that are different from our own, without the need to judge those differences. Another friend has explained over the years, that it often takes a broken heart to create an open heart and that it is through the experience of pain, that we come to the realization that love of ourselves is the first step towards finding the life that we want.

Opening our hearts to life and possibility, creates the road map to accepting the views of others without compromising our own beliefs, which equals the definition of "open minded." And I thought it was just an "Oh gee...."