Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

21 June, 2015

SADLY THERE ARE NO DO-OVERS IN BEING A FATHER

Fathers Day 2015...Hmmmm!

What kind of father have I been over the course of the last 55 years?  That's a difficult question to answer.  Truth be known, I am rather afraid of the answer.

The only father I was ever exposed to was Ken Wright and he died when I was 13-years-of-age.  The impressionable years of my life were smack-dab in the middle of World War Two.  My father's business was in Chatham during that time period and because of the war "rationing" imposition, he was only able to accumulate enough gas coupons to allow him to make a once-a-week, 18-mile trip to our home in Dresden on Saturday evenings after closing up his shop.  He slept on a cot in the second floor King Street West location in Chatham through the week.  I do not know where he ate or what he ate.  He was subject to migraine headaches and I do know that he went through countless bottles of AlkaSeltzer each week...It was often my job to empty the garbage.

When the war ended, Ken had the better part of five years to be with us full-time at home in Dresden before his untimely death at 52 years of age.  In those few short years he taught me the meaning of fatherly nurturing, support and dedication.  We got by with very little in terms of material necessities, but we were together as a family unit and that was all that mattered.

As a father myself in the 1960s and '70s, I too was pre-occupied with a demanding career and making a living.  In addition, I always had one or two part-time jobs and found time to be involved in minor sports and the Boy Scouts/Big Brothers movements, just to mention a few volunteer activities -- giving back to the community, as it were.  In between times I was the "dad" of two young girls who I suspect grew up to be beautiful women (and mothers) in spite of me...All due credit to their mother.

I was a cautious father, not wanting to smother my girls but at the same time being fully available to them -- when I was not otherwise involved outside the home.  For some unexplainable reason, I fear that I withheld a certain amount of affection, you know of the hugs-and-kisses variety...Still do for that matter...And that bothers me, and no doubt down deep it bothers them too. In retrospect, I fear that I could have done a better job. How much better, I cannot really say.  Maybe it's self inflicted fatherly second guessing in wishing that I could do it all over again

But, know what?...You only get one crack at being a father and you have to live with what was, not what should have been in a perfect world.  With any luck, you do some of the important things right...And your kids love you in spite of yourself, and because in there mind you did your best.

Children are very forgiving in that way...Thank God!

I love you too girls!!!

20 June, 2015

FATHERS DAY, 1938-2015

My father Ken first showed me the light of day, March 1, 1938...In that same context, I've been looking for another glimpse of it most of my life.
Fathers Day 1943

14 June, 2015

WHAT'S A GUY TO DO ON A LAZY, RAINY SUNDAY?


It's a lazy, rainy Sunday...And I planned to do so many outside chores today.

Oh well, I can always do the laundry and some vacuuming.  I also notice that dust has accumulated in certain areas of the house and I really should take care of that too.  Then there's bedding that needs to be changed and a lunch to consider before long.

Makes me tired just thinking about it!

Maybe I'll put wife Rosanne on notice and just lay down for a while with my girl Lucy and watch a bit of the Blue Jays ball game on TV -- and grab a few winks while I'm at it...Whichever comes first.

After all, it's a lazy, rainy Sunday!

12 June, 2015

A DAD WHO TAUGHT HIS YOUNG SON TO BE "A MAN”

Occasionally on Wrights Lane I share with readers stories about people who have touched a certain chord with me.  Now that Father’s Day is just around the corner, I cannot think of a better time to introduce new author Joel L.A. Peterson who brings to his writing a unique personal background as a biracial international adoptee and combines it with penetrating insights into multiple cultures to create an exceptionally enthralling and inspirational story.  By special agreement, I have arranged to publish the following touching story in which Joel writes about “Being a Real Man:  Lessons From My Dad”.  This is really more than a Father’s Day story, however…It is about two people who chose to be the adoptive parents of a young boy from a far-away land and subseqently taught him a life-altering lesson about “being a man” when he needed it the most.  More about his new book later…Meantime, over to Joel.

By Joel L. A. Peterson

“Let us pray!” My dad’s bass voice rumbled as he bowed his head.


JOEL PETERSON
I was a 16-year-old who had been adopted at age six – a fact about me that would play a crucial role this day. Our house was Mom’s pride and joy. Anyone who walked into Ellen Linquist’s home knew exactly what holiday season it was—all the major and minor holidays and everyone’s birthday.  I think Dad loved our home all the more for the “Ellen Lindquist-ness” of it.  He was an accountant and it appealed to him—order, seasons, rules.  But this day Mom’s rules – and Dad’s words – would change me forever.
After grace, I reached over to the box of Raisin Bran when mother fixed her bright blue eyes on me.  “Noah, isn’t that the same shirt that you wore yesterday?” I drew my hand back from the cereal box.  “You need to go back upstairs and change your shirt, young man.” 

“But it’s not dirty!” I objected.
“You know the rules in our house, no son of mine is going to leave this house wearing the same shirt two days in a row.”  Something about her words seemed to pull a grenade pin inside me.  “So changing a stupid shirt is what makes me your son? It’s good to know what makes me fit to be your son. Since I’m NOT your son, I am not changing my shirt!”

I didn’t know what had come over me. I shouted these last words at my mother. There was something about the words “no son of mine” that set off that emotional grenade inside me and shattered the shrapnel of my teenage insecurities along with other inner demons – demons that hide inside most adoptees – who now were screaming things through my mouth at my mother. I was shocked and enraged at the same time.
There was always a trickle of blood inside my soul from a wound that could never fully heal. And there simply existed too many questions surrounding my identity that no one else could comprehend.  And in the mirror, my Asian face screamed at least one of the answers every day, an answer I did not want to hear.  “No son of mine.”

I ran up the stairs and into my room, slamming the door behind me.  A few minutes later, there was a knock on my bedroom door.  “Mind if I come in, Son?” My dad’s voice sounded muffled through the door.
Dad stepped through the door into my small bedroom. I kept staring out my window as I sat on my bed. Dad sat down next to me. The bed sunk down noticeably under his weight. He too stared out the room’s window.

Elmore Lindquist was not a man for elegant words or eloquent phrasing. And though my dad would later completely forget this episode and this conversation, I would not. I would remember every word.  And Dad found an eloquence—at least that day, at that time.
He almost never called me by my name, Noah, but nearly always addressed as me “Son.” It never occurred to my father how much that simple word always meant to me, coming from a man like him. I had never had a man in my life until I was adopted at age seven.  Most of the men that I had met before adoption were through my birth mother, and there was always something off-putting, something not right. I could feel that the men were there for a purpose not linked to me. They were creatures focused on my mother as she prostituted herself to feed and care for me.  And my birth mother was a world apart from Ellen Lindquist.  But they shared the same intense love for me.

I had grown with up seeing nothing very positive regarding men or being a man -- until Elmore Lindquist.  Elmore was married to a trim, attractive woman who had the classic blond haired, dancing blue-eyed combination of her Swedish blood and an air of energy and efficiency that hinted at her nursing school training. She smiled easily and often and had a musical laugh. She was Doris Day, but slighter and far more intelligent. And she was everyone’s “go to” girl.  Her sense of what her faith required was amazing to behold and led her to embrace the hardest jobs, the least desired tasks.  Every neighbor and community member said so in our small Minnesota town.
Dad was a new sort of creature to me. At six-foot two, he was a physical presence, but was never physical. He never seemed to get sick or tired or impatient or demanding. He would drive endless hours along endless miles of highways during summer vacations, enduring endless hours of children squabbling about touching each other and whining for bathrooms. He could execute unending honey-do lists and chores he would never have thought to invent. He just was. He was a constant, dependable, working, providing presence of strength and good humor, perfectly paired with a smarter, stronger, and more faith-driven Doris Day of a wife.

Dad cleared his throat. “Son, I just want to share with you a little something I’ve learned. There are two people in this world that a man shouldn’t argue with. One is his wife. The other is his mother. Just because.  It’s that simple. A man just doesn’t argue with either.  And your mom is truly your mother in every way that is meaningful.” 
He paused and from the corner of my eye I could see him glance down at me. I didn’t look back at him, but instead, kept staring out the window. “Son . . . because . . . being a man is about . . . it’s about . . . it’s . . . It’s NOT about how loud you can yell or the hurtful things you can say or how hard you can hit something or someone. You’re going to learn that the hardest fights that a man will have in his life will be inside himself . . . with himself. Being a man is about winning against the pettiness of your own ego. It means saying you were wrong, even when you know you were right; it’s saying you are sorry, even though you’re not . . .Because . . . it just doesn’t matter. Of course, sometimes it does.  And if it does matter, if you truly believe in your heart and soul that the world will be a better place, that the course of history and your corner of mankind will truly be better off, then of course, stand up and be a man. But if you know in your heart—deep down inside you—that it doesn’t really matter, except to you and your ego, then be a real man. Say you are sorry, even when you’re not. Say you were wrong, even though you are right. Because a man should only stand up for things that truly matter.”

I still gave no reaction though his words were like a parting of storm clouds that suddenly reveal a shaft of light. But I remained silent and staring straight ahead.
“So . . . Son, if you truly believe the world will be a better place because you wear that shirt, then by God, wear the shirt. But if you know that it doesn’t matter to the world at all—only to you—then be a man, Son. Be a man and wear something else. Tell your mother that you’re sorry – for what you said and how you acted – even though you really aren’t.  And that you were wrong, even though you may feel you are not.”

Dad stopped talking. His big, bass voice stopped filling up my small bedroom.  The silence went on for minutes. He finally stood up. “Well, I have to get going to work now, Son. I’m late. Be the man I know that you are. I know you’ll do the right thing, Son.”  With those words, Dad turned and went out my bedroom door.
I knew that my dad was right with a profoundness I’d never felt before.  I now saw it so clearly and his words made perfect sense.  And I knew that what my mother had really meant was that she wanted me to live up to her high standards because I was her son.  I felt so stupid and so ashamed.   And so not like a man.  I knew what I had to do – be the man that my father was.
As I came down to the kitchen with my book bag over my shoulder, my mother looked up from her cup of coffee. I was wearing a different shirt. 


“Uh . . . hey Mom? I’m really sorry for the things I said . . . And…you were right.” I could visibly see the relief and the release of more tension than she had likely been aware of.  And in her eyes, I thought I saw a forgiveness and understanding – and joy – because she could see that I only saw her as being my mom.  And she could see me trying to be a man, just like my dad had revealed to me.
“Thank you, Noah. You’d better hurry. You’re already late for school.” I could sense she wanted to say more, maybe to say how sorry she was about my bleeding soul, to let me know that she loved me and worried for me.  But she didn’t need to say anything…I knew!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In writing his new biographical fiction book, Dreams of My Mothers, Joel reflects on some very unique experiences, at extreme ends of the human condition, he has been privileged to bear witness to during a time when society struggles to find a shared identity -- with race, culture, and what it means to live in North America. And, through his upbringing, he has realized the incredible influence our parents can have on building that identity, no matter our race.  You can ask for the book at a book store near you.

05 June, 2015

YOUNG WIDOW LEARNING NOT TO DIE WHILE SHE IS STILL ALIVE

Several posts ago I published a short piece on "the secret to carrying a grief suit case."  Continuing in that vein, today I give this space over to an outstanding young woman of Jewish faith who lost her equally young husband, Dave Goldberg, due to a freak accident a month ago.  There is an exceptional message in the words of Sheryl Sandberg published on her web site.  I'm sure you will agree that she brings to a difficult subject meaning and clarity that is deeply inspiring.  This is published here for my readers who would have otherwise missed the story.

By Sheryl Sandberg

Today is the end of sheloshim for my beloved husband—the first 30 days. Judaism calls for a period of intense mourning known as shiva that lasts seven days after a loved one is buried. After shiva, most normal activities can be resumed, but it is the end of sheloshim that marks the completion of religious mourning for a spouse.

A childhood friend of mine who is now a rabbi recently told me that the most powerful one-line prayer he has ever read is: “Let me not die while I am still alive.” I would have never understood that prayer before losing Dave.  Now I do.

Sheryl and Dave 
I think when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice. You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning. These past thirty days, I have spent many of my moments lost in that void. And I know that many future moments will be consumed by the vast emptiness as well. But when I can, I want to choose life and meaning. 

And this is why I am writing: to mark the end of sheloshim and to give back some of what others have given to me. While the experience of grief is profoundly personal, the bravery of those who have shared their own experiences has helped pull me through. Some who opened their hearts were my closest friends. Others were total strangers who have shared wisdom and advice publicly. So I am sharing what I have learned in the hope that it helps someone else. In the hope that there can be some meaning from this tragedy.

I have lived 30 years in these 30 days. I am 30 years sadder. I feel like I am 30 years wiser. I have gained a more profound understanding of what it is to be a mother, both through the depth of the agony I feel when my children scream and cry and from the connection my mother has to my pain. She has tried to fill the empty space in my bed, holding me each night until I cry myself to sleep. She has fought to hold back her own tears to make room for mine. She has explained to me that the anguish I am feeling is both my own and my children’s, and I understood that she was right as I saw the pain in her own eyes.

I have learned that I never really knew what to say to others in need. I think I got this all wrong before; I tried to assure people that it would be okay, thinking that hope was the most comforting thing I could offer. A friend of mine with late-stage cancer told me that the worst thing people could say to him was “It is going to be okay.” That voice in his head would scream, How do you know it is going to be okay? Do you not understand that I might die? I learned this past month what he was trying to teach me.

Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, “You and your children will find happiness again,” my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, “You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good” comfort me more because they know and speak the truth. Even a simple “How are you?”—almost always asked with the best of intentions—is better replaced with “How are you today?”

When I am asked “How are you?” I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? When I hear “How are you today?” I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.

I have learned some practical stuff that matters. Although we now know that Dave died immediately, I didn’t know that in the ambulance. The trip to the hospital was unbearably slow. I still hate every car that did not move to the side, every person who cared more about arriving at their destination a few minutes earlier than making room for us to pass. I have noticed this while driving in many countries and cities. Let’s all move out of the way. Someone’s parent or partner or child might depend on it.

I have learned how ephemeral everything can feel—and maybe everything is. That whatever rug you are standing on can be pulled right out from under you with absolutely no warning. In the last 30 days, I have heard from too many women who lost a spouse and then had multiple rugs pulled out from under them. Some lack support networks and struggle alone as they face emotional distress and financial insecurity. It seems so wrong to me that we abandon these women and their families when they are in greatest need.

I have learned to ask for help -- and I have learned how much help I need. Until now, I have been the older sister, the COO, the doer and the planner. I did not plan this, and when it happened, I was not capable of doing much of anything. Those closest to me took over. They planned. They arranged. They told me where to sit and reminded me to eat. They are still doing so much to support me and my children.

I have learned that resilience can be learned. Adam M. Grant taught me that three things are critical to resilience and that I can work on all three.
  • Personalization: realizing it is not my fault. He told me to ban the word “sorry.” To tell myself over and over, This is not my fault.
  • Permanence: remembering that I won’t feel like this forever. This will get better.
  • Pervasiveness: this does not have to affect every area of my life; the ability to compartmentalize is healthy.
For me, starting the transition back to work has been a savior, a chance to feel useful and connected. But I quickly discovered that even those connections had changed. Many of my co-workers had a look of fear in their eyes as I approached. I knew why—they wanted to help but weren’t sure how. Should I mention it? Should I not mention it? If I mention it, what the hell do I say?

I realized that to restore that closeness with my colleagues that has always been so important to me, I needed to let them in. And that meant being more open and vulnerable than I ever wanted to be. I told those I work with most closely that they could ask me their honest questions and I would answer. I also said it was okay for them to talk about how they felt. One colleague admitted she’d been driving by my house frequently, not sure if she should come in. Another said he was paralyzed when I was around, worried he might say the wrong thing.

Speaking openly replaced the fear of doing and saying the wrong thing. One of my favorite cartoons of all time has an elephant in a room answering the phone, saying, “It’s the elephant.” Once I addressed the elephant, we were able to kick him out of the room. At the same time, there are moments when I can’t let people in. I went to Portfolio Night at school where kids show their parents around the classroom to look at their work hung on the walls. So many of the parents—all of whom have been so kind -- tried to make eye contact or say something they thought would be comforting. I looked down the entire time so no one could catch my eye for fear of breaking down. I hope they understood.

I have learned gratitude. Real gratitude for the things I took for granted before, like life. As heartbroken as I am, I look at my children each day and rejoice that they are alive. I appreciate every smile, every hug. I no longer take each day for granted. When a friend told me that he hates birthdays and so he was not celebrating his, I looked at him and said through tears, “Celebrate your birthday, goddammit. You are lucky to have each one.” My next birthday will be depressing as hell, but I am determined to celebrate it in my heart more than I have ever celebrated a birthday before.

I am truly grateful to the many who have offered their sympathy. A colleague told me that his wife, whom I have never met, decided to show her support by going back to school to get her degree --
something she had been putting off for years. Yes! When the circumstances allow, I believe as much as ever in leaning in. And so many men, from those I know well to those I will likely never know, are honoring Dave’s life by spending more time with their families.

I can’t even express the gratitude I feel to my family and friends who have done so much and reassured me that they will continue to be there. In the brutal moments when I am overtaken by the void, when the months and years stretch out in front of me endless and empty, only their faces pull me out of the isolation and fear. My appreciation for them knows no bounds.

I was talking to one of these friends about a father-child activity that Dave is not here to do. We came up with a plan to fill in for Dave. I cried to him, “But I want Dave. I want option A.” He put his arm around me and said, “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of option B.”

Dave, to honor your memory and raise your children as they deserve to be raised, I promise to do all I can to kick the shit out of option B. And even though sheloshim has ended, I still mourn for option A. I will always mourn for option A. As Bono sang, “There is no end to grief . . . and there is no end to love.” I love you, Dave.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
With thanks to Greg Writer for drawing my attention to Sheryl Sandberg's heart-rending story. It is pertinent to know that Sheryl Sandberg is an American technology executive, activist, and author. She is the CEO of Facebook. In June 2012, she was elected to the board of directors by the existing board members, becoming the first woman to serve on Facebook's board. Before she joined Facebook as its CEO, Sandberg was V-P of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google and was involved in launching Google's philanthropic arm, Google.org. Before Google, Sandberg served as chief of staff for the U.S. Secretary of the Treasurer. In 2012 she was named in the Time 100, an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world according to Time magazine. As of January 2014, Sandberg was reported to be worth more $1 billion, due to her stock holdings in Facebook and other companies.  Now you know the remarkable woman behind the story.

04 June, 2015

03 June, 2015

TEASER, JOKER, WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL IT -- I AM ONE

Truthfully speaking, I am a bigtime tease.  I have many ways of venting what I have come to recognize as a compulsion to tease, or one who runs the risk of having fun at other people’s expense.  I even hit on unsuspecting complete strangers and come away with the (misled?) hope that I have given them a chuckle or that I may have helped make their day.

I am also a slow learner…It has taken me all of my life to come to the conclusion that my teasing is not always understood or appreciated.  I walk a very fine line with my teasing.  Psychologists liken it to balancing a teeter totter.
I do not really understand what it is within me that makes me want to tease other people.  Maybe I have a personality shortcoming or a suppressed need of some kind, but it has become second nature and it seems to roll out of me with little provocation.  Many times I am half way into a tease before I actually realize it.  While most of my teasing is accepted good-naturedly, there have been times when it has backfired as if going over like a lead balloon, especially when done by means of the written word in the absence of body language and associated nuances.
I feel terrible on those occasions when my weird sense of humor (as my wife calls it) hits someone the wrong way and I am hard-pressed to make amends or to explain myself.  Usually, I end up with the justification that the particular other person “just can’t take a joke”…And maybe they could not but in retrospect I should have been sensitive enough to take that possibility into consideration before inflicting my kind humor.
Often, teasing is done in a spirit of affection and playfulness, and teasers attempt to convey these intentions through subtle nonverbal cues. However those who are being teased tend to miss these benign aims.  And that is where we get into trouble.  I have been rebuked in no uncertain terms by individuals whom I have offended with what I thought was a good-natured quip or tease.  Needless to say, friendships fall by the wayside at times like that.  I have learned the hard way.
Synonyms of teasing are joker, mocker, clown, josher, teaser, tormenter, and leg-puller.  All of the above apply to me. Guilty on all counts.
In an effort to curtail the jokester within, I have had to take a look at a continuum of communication possibilities: 
-- Humorous jokes, funny remarks, perhaps a pun or play on words, with no personal target.
-- Teasing, poking fun, wisecracks, directed at another person.
-- Picking, needling, short negatively toned messages directed at another person.
-- Biting humor, hostile remarks toward another person purported to be funny.
-- Sarcasm, clever comments which belittle others under the guise of humor.
-- Cynicism, insults, communications to another when hostile intent is less disguised.

The fa├žade of humor is increasingly lost across this continuum, while the amount of direct hostility increases toward a personal target. Pure jokes are not a problem. Any of these kinds of communications delivered without a real personal target can also be funny or entertaining. Many standup comics use this type of negative humor which does entertain because the intended target is not a real person. Sarcastic comments can provoke spontaneous audience laughter based upon the comedian's wit and dexterity with words. The audience laughs with relief that the hostility in the comment is directed toward a hypothetical other person. For example, a few remarks by Groucho Marx: "No, Groucho is not my real name. I am breaking it in for a friend." "I have had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it.”
When can teasing be ideally playful, affectionate and bonding between two people, one might ask? The answer:  When it is reciprocal between individuals of equal personal power, mutually agreeable as to the tone and content of the teasing, and when there is no direct or indirect hostile undertone
It is certainly true that some people are more able to use teasing — i.e., making fun or mocking someone playfully — in a nice way.  Some people like me can use teasing as a way to make people feel closer, as a way to show friendship — which is obviously a good thing. But maybe that’s more in the nature of “joshing” (teasing lite) than real “teasing.” Some people are good at using teasing as a way to bring up a difficult subject in a way that’s a relief to everyone — very tricky to do well.
In the final analysis, the true test of whether or not you’re being funny is when someone else finds you funny. The test of whether or not your teasing is friendly is when the person being teased finds it friendly.  Simple as that!  But there is always the risk of having it all go wrong.
I have engaged in this test numerous times recently and have come to the conclusion that it behooves me to make a concerted effort to refrain altogether from the impulsive teasing that heretofore turned my crank so gleefully.  It is safer that way!  Cold turkey as it were.
I simply cannot be a selective half-teaser any more than I can be half pregnant, if I could be pregnant.  But you know what I mean!!??
Please bear with me friends if I fall off the wagon from time to time though…It is going to be tough.  No joking about that!
Withdrawal symptoms are about to set in.  I they had a support group for recovering teasers I would be the first in line.

02 June, 2015

"ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN, ANYTHING HAPPENS ALL THE TIME"

I don't know what it is lately, but I have been picking up on poignant lines from television movies. There is something about them that stimulates a thinking exercise for me and I like that.

Take the Hollywood comedy, "This Is Where I Leave You," starring Jason Bateman and Tina Fey, for instance. Documenting the dysfunctional family of a man who lost it all, the film — based on the novel by Jonathan Tropper — follows members of a Jewish family who come together for a period of mourning after a father’s death. Along the way, they’ll probably find love interests and a new sense of respect and pride for their truly God-awful family.

One of the lines in the recently aired TV trailer for this production was, "Anything can happen. Anything happens all the time." What was is it about this prominent line, spoken by a couple as they lay on the ice of an abandoned arena, that haunts me since hearing it?

Well, there is a strong message here...Life is short. Anything could happen, and it usually does, so there is no point in sitting around thinking about all the ifs, ands and buts. Give anything a chance to happen in due course; if it is meant to happen it will. Believe it or not, the late singer Amie Winehouse expressed similar sentiments in one of her more sober moments.

But there were other lines in the trailer that also stood out for me, like:

"It would be a terrible mistake to go through life thinking people are the sum total of what you see."

"Today has other plans for both of us."

"Secrets are cancer to a family."

"Your father loved YOU, not what you did."

"It's hard to see people from your past when your present is so cataclysmically screwed up."

"I'm way too old to have this much nothing."


I'm still trying to wrap my mind around those exceptional utterances.

So much brain exercise for me stimulated by means of one well-written trailer script by the talented Jonathon Trooper. Hopefully the This Is Where I Leave You series is not cancelled by the network before I get a chance to see its debut in September. I'll be ready for more poignancy by then.

01 June, 2015

THE SECRET OF CARRYING THE "GRIEF" SUITCASE

"Grief is like a suitcase lying at the foot of your bed and when you wake up and take it with you in the morning sometimes it is too heavy to carry, and other times it is as light as a feather...That is what is known as getting through the day."

This was a line from the ABC network premier of "The Wispers", a TV special that I watched with my wife this evening. We agreed that it was a profound statement in an otherwise ho hum production.

Bereavement is an inevitable part of life and learning how to cope with loss is therefore an important life skill for young people and adults alike. Worden's theory of bereavement processing, outlines three tasks that must be accomplished in order to adapt to the loss: 1) acceptance; working through the pain of grief; 2) adjusting to the new environment without the deceased and, lastly, 3) forming a new and appropriate bond with the deceased that allows the bereaved to move on and reinvest their emotions.

Incomplete grief tasks can cause complicated or unresolved grief (Shear and Shair, 2005) which occurs when normal grief symptoms become acute and persistent and interfere with day to day functioning. Complicated grief can result in physical symptoms and is linked to higher levels of suicidal ideation, increased risk of depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Indeed, grief is a heavy suitcase to carry, but CARRY IT WE MUST!  It is HOW we carry it that matters.

27 May, 2015

FAITH IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE RISKS

Abraham believed and trusted God when he risked it all and took his family to a strange land. He did not question the Almighty, he simply packed up his family and went – even without knowing where he was going. Now that is a risk! Some call it blind faith and perhaps that is why Paul reminds us that if we saw where we were going we would not go there (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Thinking of God may give people the courage to seek out and take risks, a new study suggests.  The study was particularly relevant to me because I had engaged in a controversial exchange on this very subject on a Facebook church group site in recent days.

I have never liked the word "risk".  To me there is just something negative about it.

It is my contention that a more biblical way of talking about risk is using the phrase "to step out in faith." It is something that can really change lives. When you take a risk for the Lord, it means you are going out of your way to do something for Him and you have positive thoughts about the outcome. When you take normal risks that involve something other than religious faith, there is at least a 50/50 chance of negative results and you keep your fingers crossed. It is important to know the difference between positive and negative risks. Criminals, after all, are perhaps the most notorious risk-takers...They risk the consequences of breaking the law for the sole purpose of personal gain at the expense of others.

The aforementioned study findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, goes against previous research that indicated religious people are less likely to engage in risky behaviour. To me, there is nothing new or surprising in that disclosure.

Lead researcher Daniella Kupor of Stanford University Graduate School of Business, noticed that the risks examined in the previous studies tended to focus on negative behaviour. She and her colleagues reasoned that thinking about God may have a different effect when the risks are morally neutral, such as skydiving, because they believe God will protect them from harm.

To investigate, they issued online surveys to nearly 900 people and found that those who were reminded of God – either by working on word scrambles that included God-related words or by reading a paragraph about God – were more willing to take risks than participants who weren't prompted to think about religion.

In one study participants were asked to choose which version of the survey they wanted to complete. One version would give them a small bonus payment, but involved looking at an 'extremely bright colour' that they were told could potentially damage their eyes, while the other version involved looking at a harmless darker colour.

The researchers found that participants who had been reminded of God before making their choice were more likely to opt for the dangerous version of the experiment (96 per cent) than those who hadn't been reminded of God (84 per cent). 

In a different study, the researchers posted variations of three advertisements online and recorded the click-through rates for each. Some adverts promoted an immoral risk, such as 'learn how to bribe,' others promoted a non-moral risk, such as 'find skydiving near you' and another set promoted no risk, such as 'find amazing video games'. In some cases, the adverts included a mention of God – for example, 'God knows what you're missing! Find skydiving near you.'

The research revealed that when the ads included a religious reference, people clicked on the non-moral risk of skydiving, more often. However, they clicked on the bribing – moral risk – less often.

"We were surprised to find that even a simple colloquial expression – 'God knows what you're missing' – influences whether people click on a real online ad that is promoting a risky behaviour," Ms Kupor said.

The study also indicated that people who were reminded of God perceived less danger in various risky behaviours than participants who were not reminded of God, suggesting that Christians have the courage of their convictions and do not consider a risk to be a risk when acting on God-inspired impulses of faith.

I publish the foregoing knowing full well that there will be those who say "so what?" and others who will not appreciate this risk-taking disclosure nor my reason for engaging it, choosing instead to believe that a risk is a risk no matter how you look at it, who takes it -- or how it is taken.

To my mind, however, it is better to have "faith" when taking a positive risk.  I'm no gambler, but it helps put the odds in your favor!

25 May, 2015

HERE'S TO A MORE FREQUENT "HALLELUJAH"!

I listened the other night to the magnificent Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra perform the "Hallelujah Chorus" composed by George Frideric Handel.  It is absolutely my all-time favorite rendition.

It reminded me of something written by my alter ego "Old Humphrey" some 200 years ago.  I have not consulted the old guy recently and was long overdue for a visit.  Here is what Old Humphrey had to say about the use of the word "Hallelujah":

"...Daisies and buttercups are to be found in the every day occurrences of life, as fair to look upon as the flowers of the field.  I love to bend down and pick a few.

"There is a text of Holy Scripture which says, Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God.  And a letter that I have but just received from a Christian correspondent in the country supplies me with an excellent practical illustration.  The whole epistle has in it but four short lines; the last two of these are as follows:  'I am going out to dinner.  Country delightful.  Crops abundant.  Hallelujah!'

"Now that is just what I like.  Most people know what Hallelujah means -- 'Praise ye the Lord;' and we can all thank God for great favors, but how few of us put a Hallelujah to the record of our common mercies.  It strikes me that it would be no bad method to find out the lawfulness of our pleasures and the spiritual state of our affections, if we were each to ask this question in the midst of every enjoyment: 'Can I put up a hearty Hallelujah at the end of it'?"

"Hallelujah!" for sure Humphrey.  I'll try not to be such a stranger.

Note:  Humphrey always spelled Hallelujah "Halleluiah"...I have taken liberties with the old English gentleman's text here.

21 May, 2015

COMING TO GRIPS WITH THE THINGS I AM NOT...AND THE PERSON I AM

I recently took a five-month sabbatical from writing of any kind and refrained from involvement in the social media scene.  It was a time of reflection, soul-searching and coming to grips with the person I had become – or had not become, depending on how you look at it.  A truly revealing and rather humbling exercise, to say the least.  It is a process that some of us engage in with more intensity than others.

It has been said that the transition to true adulthood occurs when you recognize that you won't get most of what you dreamed about in childhood. Childish dreams are always lofty -- every child imagines themselves climbing to the top of society's hierarchy, usually inspired by a particular hero. Almost none of them will make it. Some will go very far, but still fall short.
For the rest of us, peace comes from putting away these childhood fantasies and all the imagined future versions of ourselves that never came to be. We finally accept our place in the world, knowing that we tried our best and did what we could. That is when we truly become an adult.  In that context, I cannot help but think that there are some individuals who may never completely achieve adult status per se.  It has taken me most of my life to come to that conclusion.

I know people who have clung to youthful dreams and ambitions all their lives.  They live out their fantasia by embellishing certain experiences and accomplishments to the degree that they come to believe the embellishments.  They will go to their graves convinced that they are legends in their own minds…And God bless them for that!  Far be it from me to rain on any parades.
 
For me, I’m just the opposite, however…I have never tried to fool myself and have bought in to the theory that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.  An honest personal appraisal tells me that I have never fully realized the expectations that I had for myself as a young man and I am left having to rationalize the person that I am as I write this on the 20th of May, 2015.  The chore is to stop telling myself that I have under-achieved and fallen short.  To dwell on this any further would only serve to be unnecessary public self-debilitation and dear knows I have done enough of that when exposing innermost thoughts and feelings in past writings.

I am by no means a perfectionist, suffice to say I concede that there were times along the way when I could have applied myself more to the task at hand and done a better job. That is simply a live-and-learn admission.  I regret that in my 78th year, time has just about run out for me and I will never have a chance to do some things over again.  That has been the downside to the aforementioned period of self-examination.
 
Too little, too late, I understand that expectations are meant to be energizing, motivating and serve like a guiding light towards living a purposeful life – very much like a lighthouse is to a ship sailing in dark seas. As people mature from infancy to adulthood, they begin to understand the differences between appetite satiety, and the deeper emotional appreciation of fulfillment, after accomplishing a cherished goal.

I accept too, that goals are based on what is valuable at certain points in life and they vary according to personal priorities, relationships and professional challenges. People change from being self-centered as infants, to meeting needs and expectations from a wider perspective, so much so that family, friends, and work are all factored in as we mature. Far from being static, expectations are ever changing in value, and, should be viewed as being based on a life continuum.

Failing to come to terms with unmet needs or not being able to achieve a goal is the perfect set-up for frustration, anxiety and stress. Whether to raise the expectation bar or lower it a bit for the moment is a personal decision, but it is a choice. All people want to experience their efforts inching towards getting what they desire, the dream, and the expectation. What truly matters is the sense of fulfillment that we receive at the end of the day which reinforces the fact that efforts were not in vain. This also means staying grounded and focused as failures have a way of eroding self-confidence.

I have had to recognize that stress and anxiety are part of the process of attaining any goal and I am trying not to let accumulated pressure erode the sense of inner joy with at least having tried my hand at more than my share of life experiences and challenges.  I was going to itemize the things that I have tried with varying degrees of achievement over the years, but the list is far too exhaustive to include in this space

We all need to forgive ourselves for having some shortcomings. There is no need to beat yourself up or be needlessly embarrassed over a failure or some imagined ill-doing.

How many times have we heard these three defiant words, “deal with it” when people are annoyed at shortcomings, and endlessly remind us that we are not perfect, every chance they get?  This strain of constantly trying to measuring up to fit a certain mold, just to get the affection, triggers an uncomfortable feeling that does not go away. This feeling of not measuring up gnaws constantly until some people despise themselves just a little bit, and then, a little bit more. The craving for love, acceptance, belonging and approval is normal, and is ingrained in our psychological makeup, but the cravings may go on overdrive, if we cannot cope or accept or own humanity in a kind, mature, rational manner. Simply put, no one of is perfect!

Certainly not me…I have a record to prove it!  And I now accept that fact as I get on with what is left of the “mellowing out” stage of life.

Thanks for sticking with me dear readers…and for hearing me out.  Hopefully, you know some of whereof I speak.

15 May, 2015

CRIMINAL KILLER COUPLE, MERE KIDS

Bonnie and Clyde Killed: May 23, 1934

Bonnie and Clyde Killed: May 23, 1934
Posse that killed Bonnie and Clyde
Posse that killed Bonnie and Clyde
On May 23, 1934, the legendary criminals Bonnie and Clyde were shot and killed by police while driving a stolen car in Louisiana.

Both Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker grew up in the slums of Dallas, Texas, but while Clyde ended up on the wrong side of the law by his teen years, Bonnie seemed to stay out of trouble. The two met in 1930, when Clyde was 20 and Bonnie 19; Bonnie was already married but was separated from her husband. Clyde was sent to prison for robbery not long after their meeting, but the two reunited when he was released in 1932. Clyde initially appeared to try to straighten out his life but soon returned to small-time robberies, this time involving Bonnie in some of his criminal activities.
Bonnie and Clyde, along with various accomplices, began a crime spree that would last two years. They mostly robbed gas stations, restaurants, and stores, sometimes hitting small banks as well, and in 1934 they engineered a prison break. Whenever the police caught up with them, Clyde and his accomplices rarely hesitated to shoot, allegedly killing nine officers of the law—and 13 people total—while they were on the run.
Clyde with gun. Photo of Bonnie at right.Bonnie was often portrayed in newspapers as a “cigar-smoking gun moll,” after police raided a hideout and found photographs of her with a gun in her hand and a cigar in her mouth. (Bonnie vehemently denied she ever smoked cigars, only cigarettes, and there is little evidence that she ever murdered anyone.)
Their crime spree finally ended in May 1934 when Frank Hamer, a Texas Ranger, and his posse tracked down Clyde and Bonnie in Louisiana. The group set up an ambush, hiding along the side of a road. When they saw Bonnie and Clyde’s car, the posse let loose with a hail of more than 100 bullets, killing both of the car’s occupants.
Clyde’s and Bonnie’s gunshot-riddled bodies were taken back to Texas, and thousands of people came to see their corpses. In accordance with Bonnie’s mother’s wishes, the two were given separate funerals and Bonnie was buried apart from Clyde in a different cemetery. At the time of their deaths, Clyde was just 25 and Bonnie 23 -- remarkably just the age of two of my grandchildren.  Today they seemed much older than that.

A "BRUSH" WITH RUB-A535 THAT I WON'T SOON FORGET

Yesterday I wrote about the freedom of aging...Today I write about "the stupidity of aging."  Well, I guess it could apply to any age but it is nice to have an excuse.

It's one of those things that happen to other people, but never to you.  The odds are however, that given time, most things will.

This morning I was habitually hovering over the bathroom zinc and reaching for the tooth paste that I keep in a drawer.  I applied a liberal dollop of paste on my tooth brush and began dutifully scrubbing just as the dentist once told me.  But wait a minute!  Something was wrong -- not the usual "extra fresh" minty taste of my Aquafresh, rather it was a medicinal taste that rapidly took on a penetrating heat that I had never experience before...At least not in my mouth.

A quick, all-too-late check of the tube from which I had dispensed the paste(?), revealed the shocking truth.  It was the RUB-A535 "extra strength" liniment that I ill-advisably keep in the same drawer.  I  couldn't believe it.  After a slug of mouthwash and a proper application of tooth paste, the heat sensation in my mouth gradually began to subside.

My usual coffee this morning did not taste the same though.  I wonder why?

The upside of all this is that I have the freshest mouth in town today.  The RUB-A535 is now kept in another drawer.

14 May, 2015

12 1/2 CENTS TICKET TO RIDE...IN 1957

The other day I was going through an old jewelry box that I hadn't opened in years...Who uses cuff links, tie tacks and clips, collar pins, pocket watches, lapel pins, money clips and fountain pens in this day and age anyway?

Much to my surprise, in the bottom of the box I came across three lonely Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) tickets from 1957 when I was without a car and working in Toronto.  The tickets at the time set me back 12 1/2 cents each or four for 50 cents.  A single cash fare in those days was 15 cents.  Today, that same single cash fare for a bus, street car or the subway is $3.00 and you can buy three tokens for a money-saving $8.40.  Boy, how times have changed!

Of course, the current TTC fares may still be a bargain considering the price of gas and astronomical parking lot rates in the city.  It's all relevant, I guess.

It would be interesting though to see if I could still use those old 12 1/2 cents tickets for a $3 subway ride on my next trip to Toronto.

11 May, 2015

WE'VE GONE TRANS CANADA

Click "View online" at http://www.tidbitsmj.ca/ to see "Wright Words" columns now appearing weekly in a Western Canada publication, "the best little newspaper you ever read."

29 April, 2015

THE GREAT FREEDOM THAT COMES WITH AGING

I am publishing this for my "Senior" friends because it is so well written. I do not know the author. It was sent to me by another senior friend who thought I could relate...And I do!

Who's business is it anyway, if I choose to work on the computer until 4:00 a.m., or sleep until noon?  Without apology, I will day dream, sitting idly by myself on my front porch or in a quiet setting on the Lake Huron shoreline. I will marvel at God's handiwork in the nature surrounding me.  Who's to care if I take the better part of an hour to get dressed in the morning...I don't have deadlines to meet any more.  What's the difference if I don't get my hair cut and grow a beard...At my age I don't have to impress anyone.  And I'll have a cup of coffee (and people-watch) at Tim Hortons any time I damn well please.  So how do you like them apples? 

 I fully subscribe to the following anonymous words.

"I will listen to the wonderful music of the 1940s, 50s and 60s.  And if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love or a sentimental moment, I will.

"I will walk the beach, in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves, with abandon, if I choose to.  Despite the pitying glances from the jet set. They, too, will get old.

"I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And, eventually, I remember the important things.

"Sure, over the years, my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody's beloved pet gets hit by a car?  But broken hearts are what give us strength, and understanding, and compassion. A heart never broken, is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

"I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.

"As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore.  I've even earned the right to be wrong.

"So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever.  But while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be.

"And I shall eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it)."

I'm with you all the way, my "senior" friend...And I'll gladly accept a senior  citizen's discount any time it is offered.

20 March, 2015

YOU CANNOT TELL A VEGETABLE IS UGLY AFTER IT'S COOKED


(W)right on…
Waste not, want not

It’s astonishing and rather disgusting that $31 billion in food is wasted annually in Canada – or 40% of the food we produce.
The alarming statistic speaks directly to the amount of food that’s left to rot or spoil in our refrigerators, the food left uneaten at kitchen and restaurant tables, and the truckloads of food never considered or offered for public consumption because that food is not considered to be attractive.

Forget about toddlers and other young children who are called picky eaters. It looks as though we’ve become a nation of picky eaters.


An ugly carrot?

The issue of food waste was again raised recently when Loblaws announced it wants to sell “ugly” produce in its Ontario and Quebec stores. The produce – apples, potatoes and other goods that appear to be imperfect (imperfect, only because they are judged by their appearance, not their quality of substance) – will be sold at discount as part of the food company’s new line of no-name brand produce.
Loblaws deserves credit for offering to the public food that in the past was difficult to sell. The discount – of up to 30%, according to reports – will give customers reason to pause and consider the value of the food they’re purchasing, even if that food doesn’t look like the fresh fruit and vegetables we’ve been conditioned to believe are attractive and therefore acceptable.

If the gambit pays off (and it likely will, especially if other grocery stores begin to offer the same), the idea of purchasing such goods could have an impact on Canada’s food efficiency. Billions of dollars in labour, fuel, electricity, water, seed and fertilizers are consumed annually to grow food in Canada. The fact our society has been conditioned to reject some of that harvest (or isn’t even given the opportunity to reject that harvest) because it’s misshapen or odd-looking or doesn’t meet our picky expectations, represents a monstrous economic and environmental loss.
Never mind the fact we already waste tonnes of food in our own kitchens, either through neglect or indifference. A study by the Value Chain Management Center found that vegetable waste in this country in 2009 was the equivalent of 80 kilograms for every Canadian.

But that waste occurred AFTER truckloads of so-called ugly but nutritious vegetables were rejected and not offered for sale. If we can begin to reconsider the value of food that’s thought to be ugly, perhaps we’ll take better care of all of the food we purchase and consume.
In January, engineers Without Borders covered a table at the University of Saskatchewan with food reclaimed from dumpsters to make its point that too much food is being trashed. The group says one-third of all food around the world is wasted.  "Food waste is a huge issue," said Co-president Angela Howell." It contributes to rising food prices around the world, it contributes to environmental costs, it can create a lot of social inequities."

While Howell says around half of food waste is generated in the home, a large percentage of waste is generated in grocery stores and restaurants. She says the system should be made more efficient to avoid wastage.
"Say you're buying carrots," Howell added. "You get these beautiful long carrots that are all the same length. All of the ugly carrots may get thrown away. "The group hopes the very visual display helped spread the word.  "It's a very easy thing to visualize, and we thought it would make the biggest impact" said group member Alyssa Kimber.

Chapters of Engineers Without Borders across the country are focusing on food issues this year, planning events on themes like food deserts, growing local food and inefficiency in the food growing and distribution system.
Something for all of us to think about! 

MOTHER NATURE'S HANDYWORK



The weather in the past week may have moderated but it is still a winter wonderland along the Lake Huron shoreline at Southampton.  It will take many weeks for the picturesque wave-like ice formations to melt away.

13 February, 2015

A SPECIAL DAY TO EXPRESS LOVE


In keeping with the February "love" theme, did you know that in the 19th century, sending paper Valentines through the mail got to be so popular that during some years, post offices had to hire more workers just to get all the cards sorted and delivered?  Here are a couple of rather historic newspaper articles from 1811 and 1846 that I find interesting.

The first is a 1846 clipping from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporting that the Brooklyn, N.Y., postmaster had put on eight extra hands to deal with the deluge of Valentine's Day mail.  The second is a news report from London announcing that England's Two Penny Post Office had hired almost 100 sorters to handle the Valentine's mail in 1811.
 
I don't think that post offices experience the same kind of Valentine's crunch of "scissar(sic)-cut hearts and darts" in this day and age, but the heart-felt messages have not changed much over the years...and it is kind of a nice tradition that makes us feel good, regardless of age.  Everyone is somebody's special Valentine!
 
Here is a collection of some of the most famous quotes on the subject of "love, not just on Valentine's Day but every day:

Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.- Aristotle

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.- Lao Tzu

My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite.- William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Young love is a flame; very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable.- Henry Ward Beecher

Age does not protect you from love. But love, to some extent, protects you from age.- Anais Nin

Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward in the same direction.- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Love has no desire but to fulfill itself. But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires; To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully.- Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.-Helen Keller

Love does not dominate; it cultivates.- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.- Zora Neale Hurston

Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love.- Leo Tolstoy

Love is like quicksilver in the hand. Leave the fingers open and it stays. Clutch it, and it darts away.- Dorothy Parker

I have learned not to worry about love; but to honor its coming with all my heart.- Alice Walker

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride; so I love you because I know no other way than this: where I does not exist nor you, so close that your hand on my chest is my hand, so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.- Pablo Neruda, “Love Sonnet XVII”

05 February, 2015

A LOVE STORY ON STICKY NOTES




It’s February, the month of looooove! In times like this it is easy to get distracted by STUFF — boxes of chocolates, jewelry, stuffed bears, and all that jazz. And though its always nice to give gifts to that special someone, it is even nicer to take a moment and remember the reasons why you love having them in your life.

So take a couple minutes and watch this awesome short film about a love story that was formed from sticky notes!

24 January, 2015

ANGELS FOR ALZHEIMER'S, A COMMENDABLE SCHOOL ACTIVITY


A good news story worth passing on
 
The entire school body at G. C. Huston Public School in Southampton learned about Alzheimer's on Friday (Jan.23rd) and what it could feel like for someone with the disease.

Organized by Alzheimer's 2015 Walk for Memories Coordinator, Jodi Eagleson, the students were asked to lay quietly as she asked them to image what it must be like to have some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's so that they might have a better understanding in the event a family member incurs the illness.  Chances are that one in three of the youngsters will experience Alzheimer's in their family.

The activity also served as a fundraiser by donation for the Alzheimer's Society and all monies raised locally stay in the community. Once the exercise was over, it was outside for everyone where all the students made their own "Snow Angels for Alzheimer's".

The 2015 final winter Walk for Memories will be held Saturday, January 31st in various venues throughout Grey and Bruce counties.
 

13 January, 2015

Free Speech, Reform, and the Paris Murders

How should we respond when people are murdered for insulting the religious sensibilities of radical jihadist Muslim terrorists? Should they stand on the side of free speech, or that of political corrected religious tolerance? The recent executions at the office of a satirical magazine in the center of Paris force us to navigate the tightrope between the two. While violence is never the answer to religious mockery, nor is the undercurrent of racism and religious prejudice which some have argued, lurks beneath the surface of religious satirical journalism in the West.

The bloody killings, which took place Wednesday, the 7th of January, were among the worst attacks on the public in modern French history. The attackers, who were radical, fundamentalist Islamic French brothers named Said and Cherif Kouachi, stormed the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine and opened fire, killing 12 people, including two police officers. According to witnesses, one of the gunmen shouted, “We have avenged the prophet. We killed Charlie Hebdo”. Yes, they avenged a 4th century cleric revolutionary who believed the world was flat and your heavenly reward was a harem of virgin little girls and boys (see QURAN 52:24: “And there will go round boy-servants of theirs, to serve them as if they were preserved pearls”).

On Friday, police cornered the suspects in a printing warehouse near Paris. They fled the warehouse firing at police, who granted their wish to meet their maker.



It was the end of a bloody and horrific massacre, but the beginning of an important dialogue about the state of freedom of speech and other democratic principles in a world increasingly besieged by religious terrorism. Almost immediately, demonstrators held vigils in cities round the world, holding signs that read “Je Suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”), in solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting. And almost just as soon, a global conversation began about the threat of religious extremism to free speech and freedom of the press. But on the sidelines some suggested that, while the shooting was inexcusable, it was provoked by racist mockery on the part of the cartoonists.

Free-Speech Martyrs, or Racist Provocateurs?

Among those defending the satirical cartoons produce by Charlie Hebdo is Iranian-French graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi, the author of “Persepolis”. Although she disagrees with some of the magazine’s messages, she believes their mockery of Islam or other religions deserves to be defended because “[p]eople have the right to have a different point of view, and to provoke,” and she warns that “[i]f we allow acts like [the Charlie Hebdo shooting] to create a climate of fear, we will have lost our freedom.” For people like Satrapi, those who died at the Charles Hebdo offices sacrificed their lives for free speech.

But others are more careful about what kind of speech, art, and journalistic expression deserves to be defended, pointing out that younger generations have a more sophisticated understanding of the position of privilege from which such cartoonists launch their attacks. As 24-year-old Michigan cartoonist Jacob Canfield points out, Charlie Hebdo’s “white editorial staff” members were not simply free-speech martyrs but frequent, deliberate peddlers of “a certain, virulently racist brand of French xenophobia.” Acknowledging the indefensibility of violent attacks on dissenters, he says that “[i]n the face of a really horrible attack on free speech, it’s important that we don’t blindly disseminate super-racist material”. One questions if there is any issue here about race, or rather appropriate questioning of religious ideology.

Personally, I think that we should defend the intellectual and artistic integrity of those who share different, sometimes highly contentious opinions. While feeling insulted is never, ever an excuse to retaliate with bloodshed, it is a good idea to re-examine the method by which we critique others’ belief systems. Rather than with the gun, we should respond with the pen; or, as Anonymous has vowed to attack crazed Islamic terrorist websites and social media accounts in revenge for the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is on the right path. He and Pope Francis are calling for change in the doctrines and practices of Catholicism and Islam, respectively. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi argues that it is time for a revolution in interpretations of the faiths over the centuries. Notwithstanding, “Who am I to judge?” and “all people and animals are creations of God’s work,” says the popular Pope Francis.

Should we not take it one step further and pressure all religions to update their archaic, unprovable doctrines? Spirituality and faith are great for mankind, but statements to corral the masses into blind obedience and violence on the behalf of any deity needs to be removed from teachings. Sadly, I am not holding my breath!

There are those in our society that question why any so-called religion is exempt from bigotry and discrimination, allowed to sell and receive property and operate without paying taxes for programs that are antithetical to social reform and equality. In essence, why can religion benefit from a modern society while hindering its progress and evolution in the 21st century of mankind?

As Canadian police are on the alert, as never before, I am uneasy about the increasing threat of acts of terrorism by radical religious factions in our beautiful country.  We may never be the same again as we collectively look over our shoulders in the 21st Century.

Sources:  BBC News, The Huffington Post, The New York Times