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So I suppose after a year of doing this blog you’re probably as bored with it as I am.  If you have any questions for me or anything in particular you’d like me to discuss please feel most welcome to comment.  Who knows maybe together we can come up with some interesting conversations rather than this being little more than a monotonous monologue. 🙂

Reflecting On The Past Year

Just as the rings of a tree mark moments in time, we too can preserve the essence of the world in which we live and of our own unique contribution to it.  You see countless timelines of momentous occasions in history, but what about the history of your own world – that which you have personally perceived and interacted with?

At a certain time and at a certain point on the planet in 2014 Mr. X had too much to drink and was killed in a car accident,  Mrs. Y was in the process of giving birth when all of a sudden yet another child sprang forth.  A baby bird lost its footing whilst climbing out of the nest for the first time and after a bit of a sloppy start finally managed to soar through the clouds as its watchful mother worried with pride.  Not to mention the ladybug that nestled amongst the dandelions with an unsurpassed glee of which it and it alone was imbued with and the deer who, as fate would have it, jumped to the right instead of the left and thereby evaded certain death as the trigger was pulled.

All elements of life in our world in 2014.  Yet you didn’t know any of these people or encounter any of these animals.  So what memories do you have of this year?  Think not only of your favorite songs but where you were when you first heard them and in whose company if not solely your own?  What passages in which books made you pause?  What news on the TV made you think of something similar that had happened to you and how did it make you feel?  Did you encounter a place (ie a new way of getting to work, a new tree in a familiar park that struck your eye, a store where you bought something you never thought you’d be interested in) this year that you had never been before?  How did you find it and what compelled you to go there?  Did it live up to your anticipation?

Take a moment not to just remember the good times and mourn those who are gone but to truly reflect upon how the world shaped you in the past year and what steps you took to make it the place you want it to be.

You’ll never see the same thing twice.

There really is no such thing as a definitive past or predictable future.  Even the present lasts but an indecipherable microsecond before shifting in various ways – whether it be purely a matter of a shift in time, or that in combination with form and function changes as well.

For example, suppose you encounter an old building whilst sight seeing on vacation.  Perhaps you even took a photo of it.  As you attempt to describe this place to a friend you are in essence describing something that existed only at the moment of the flash of the camera.  Never again will every single element of what you saw be the same, nor were all the elements of your photo present at any point in history prior to your click of the shutter.

The cloud formations above the building will have shifted, the ray of sunshine will be illuminating a different pillar and new specks of dust will have formed where there were none before.  Other specks of dust will have been removed on purpose or by an unexpected breeze.  The almost invisible film of dirt on the soles of your shoes that left particle remnants on the walkway in front of the building were not there prior to your arrival and will likely dissipate at some point after your departure. A tiny insect clinging to the front door made a quick stop to catch its breath just as you took the picture, having never landed on that particular place on that particular door ever before nor shall it encounter that very spot under that particular sky on that particular day at that particular second ever again.  And I bet you didn’t even notice did you?

It’s interesting to take a moment once in a while and think of the passage of your life not in terms of years but of microseconds.  It makes you appreciate the infinitesimal possibilities all around us in but a grain of time.

Some things to think about the next time your kids tell you they’re bored. 🙂

Christmas Greetings

There is a great old phrase that goes something like, “whilst the pessimist and the realist are arguing over how much water is in the glass, the opportunist drinks it”.  It reminded me in part of one of my favourite poem’s from Estonian poet Kristiina Ehin which says in part, “in an instant this moment will be poured into the well of the past and from there can never be drawn out again.”

So as most of us begin our holiday celebrating these next few weeks lets make those special moments with our families and loved ones count.  Don’t over think it, just enjoy the memories as they come.  After all it’s not about what’s inside the package, it’s who hands it to you that is the most precious gift of all.

Out of Sight Out of Mind

As a lifelong omnivore I must admit I had never seriously given a second thought to veganism.  Then I watched a play by the Polish company Nowy Teatr Warszawa.  One segment of their play (A)pollonia contains an impassioned plea for veganism.

To their point, it is rare that we contemplate the reality that there are several species on our planet that are bred exclusively for slaughter.  When shopping in the market amidst the carcasses of once living creatures, we look at them as products not as murdered animals.  Perhaps it is an extreme point, but the reality is what it is no matter how pretty the packaging is.

Ironically the vast majority of people, if asked, would swear they would never be capable of killing anything – not just people, but deer, chicken and some would even go so far as to say ants and spiders.  Yet most of these very same people feed off the carcasses of non-human animals on practically a daily basis without a second thought.

So is it acceptable to either benefit from or ignore the reality of creatures losing their lives?  Do we really believe the animals are not aware of their environment?  Or that they feel no fear of those who imprison them or sorrow for those missing at the next scheduled feeding because after all we kill them humanely by making it quick?  Animals cry out when we injure them, they shiver when they are cold, how is it possible for us to dismiss them as nothing more than expendable products under our complete control?  It’s an extreme point to be sure, but as Nowy Teatr pointed out it is an attitude not dissimilar to Nazism.

It isn’t a very far leap to consider that our ability to turn off our compassion switch when it comes to animals carries over into apathy towards our own species as well.  Out of sight, out of mind.  We haven’t participated in the act of killing or even witnessed it, so somehow we aren’t responsible for its consequences although by silence we condone it all the same.

Robin Hood wasn’t a hero

I don’t think Robin Hood was a hero just because he benefited the poor.  He did so by stealing from the rich.  I don’t see how we can equate theft with benevolence.  If that be the case we need to empty a lot of prisons.  They’ll all tell you the rich guy was very evil and that they righted the scales of justice by taking in order to give.  I’d rather earn in order to give and teach those I give to how to do the same in turn.

I’m not a politician.  I don’t look out for only the “middle class.” I don’t think it is a crime to be rich.  I’m not mind you, but I don’t hate those who are.  They’ve either worked very hard for their money, been lucky enough to benefit from family members before them who did, or lets face it some people are just flat out lucky.  I should hope that those with means would feel the need to give to those that don’t, but of course I fully recognize that few do.  On the flip side of that coin though, I’ve known many, many financially challenged people in my life who would rather live off government social programs than earn their way out of their crises.

I was sitting around with a group of people the other night and they were talking about all the work they do with “at risk” children.  (These would be kids from financially impoverished homes with parents in prison or drug addicted etc. ) What struck me was how those listening kept saying “aw” and how wonderful that kind of work was and how positively saintly it was for them to do it.  Well yes and no.

If they were tutoring kids from middle class or rich homes somehow the halo glow seems to diminish – instantly.  Why?  Everyone wants to be cared for, taken an interest in and encouraged – your financial situation shouldn’t have anything to do with it. Oftentimes it is emotional deficiency and not financial that is leading people of all ages down miserable paths.  Don’t tell me rich people never divorce, take drugs or feel depressed.  They’re no more immune to the pitfalls of life than the rest of us.

The bottom line is I prefer not to be selective about who I try and help.  We’re all the same species.  What irritates me a bit is when people want my help and they feel the need to give me a backstory in order to get it.  I don’t need to know your baggage and to be frank I really don’t care, it doesn’t involve me.  If I see a need I try and fulfill it.  I’d rather Robin Hood had cared enough to sit down with the evil Sheriff and tried to help him see the benefits in being kinder to his fellow man.

A box of rocks – alternative Christmas gifts

I’m part of a local group that gets together once a month to admire, collect and study rocks and sand.  They are mainly geologists, but there are a few like me who simply enjoy taking photos of natural formations.

Last night we had a Christmas party.  Everyone brought in a wrapped up rock to give to someone else.  Not polished diamonds mind you, just rocks you find in your backyard everyday.  It was a fascinating scene whereby people opened the gifts like they were priceless.  They tried to guess what kind of rock it was, admired its shape, symmetry and every speck of colour in it.  It was lovely – I thought, this is the true spirit of Christmas.  None of us spent a dime to give a present that gave a lot of joy to its receiver.  We simply took the time to walk outside our door and pay attention to all the free gifts laying around us.

What an interesting idea it would be to have one gift under the tree this Christmas from our free shop.  Not necessarily a rock – it could be a branch you see laying on the ground that has a unique shape that resembles abstract art, a piece of bark from your favourite tree (tell the story of why the tree is meaningful to you).  Even a tiny green leaf or small tuft of moss growing out of the concrete in the middle of the city is symbolic of the capacity to thrive in the seemingly most impossible of environments – a great gift for those feeling crushed by that 24/7 job.  I think it would be fun for children to run around picking up things that catch their attention as well.  After all their young eyes often see beauty in the most unlikely things – a trait we sadly lose more and more as we age.

Obviously such a gift is unlikely to be the only thing under your tree unless you have a really, really understanding family.  But, I would encourage you to reserve one final gift as a complete surprise that they’ll never guess and will probably talk about for years to come.