Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Canadian democracy: carousel with a broken gearbox

So Prime Minister Harper did it. With the GG's help, he shut down Parliament for two months.

Whatever.

Away from Ottawa would you agree those Mandarins who operate in the NCR (National Capital Region) are breathing rarefied air? IMO, inhaling such a gas is warping their brains. They create policies that defy logic and common sense. This seems to fit with our parliamentarians too. They are so wrapped up in their partisanship antics, which is meaningless and has no bearing on the common Canadian, they are failing Canada. Nobody in the NCR wants to accept responsibility and nobody wants to have a serious discussion about the issues that matter. As long as they can roar and be chippy these men and women think they are accomplishing something.

Although I have been Conservative in the past, for the present I am present a neutral view. I am struck that Canada's form of government is a carousel whose broken gearbox can go only forward and reverse at most. Every once in a while the blippin' stick shift flips the other way. Regardless of the party that forms the government of the day we seem to get the same carnival. A lot of hollering, scratching, and dancing around.

I don't know what it is? Was it like this before they brought the TV cameras into the House back in the '70s or '80s? When did the dignity of representing constituents get sent into the dung pile? Granted there are some hard working MPs, they seem to go nameless when they should be lauded. However, the day-to-day antics of the most passionate politicians, including the Prime Minister, is spreading a chill on the electoral population. And they wonder why nobody votes anymore. I don't know if its deliberate or not. I am not one to subscribe to conspiracy theories. However, I am worried for the nation, and for the few generations behind me and what legacy we are leaving them.

This Canadian wants a return to the more sober decorum and deliberation that I was taught is to exist in our democracy. I hope you do too.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Conscious Act of Grace

My usual daily prayer in the morning goes something like this:


"God, I pray for protection from myself, and may I be effective and open to wherever you are working in Calgary today."

For there are days where I can be my own worst enemy and be a hindrance to my projection as a Christian. I know that when I am good and actively engaged in relations with others, when I am open to God's spirit and mindful of opportunities to show love, that small miracles can happen. All it takes is conscious acts of grace to make the world a better place.

So it was today that while on my noon walk through the downtown I encountered a man. He was an Aboriginal who was roughly my age. I saw him in a crowd; people wanting to get by to wherever they were going. I wanted to get to a train to go back to work. However, the sidewalk was narrow, and only a single file of people could pass. I took to the side for the sake of others. I spotted that dishevelled look that made him stand out. His hair was shoulder-length, he had a wisp of a moustache, his eyes were dark, and he walked with a bit of a slouch. He wore a blue coat, like a goose-down parka. I sensed that he was going to ask me for money. Thus, I tried to walk past him. He spoke to me in a soft voice. Now, I could have ignored him and kept crossing the street. Something, in an instant, compelled me to turn back to him.

Now being closer to him I smelled his body odour. If you have ever had to walk through where men have been drinking and perspiring on a hot day it's a scent that you'd recognize. It was a sour and foul smell. But I was engaged in listening to him, and chose to disregard this sense. He asked me for a Loonie so he could take a train down the south line. I told him I don't give change to anyone, but I would buy him a coffee; there was a Tim Horton's nearby. He mumbled a reply, and then plainly accepted my offer. 

I asked for his name, which he supplied, and said he was from the Tsuu t'ina Nation west of the city. He admitted to being just released from jail the day before,and said he had an appointment with his probationary officer at 1 PM. It was five to the hour when we stepped into line at Timmy's. I briefly worried that my charity might cause him to be late. He seemed to be aware of that stating that she was in an office above us. He spoke of having had his H1N1 shot at the Stampede grounds clinic; that he was an artisan; that he needed to get his Treaty card down at the Sarcee offices on the south end of town. It could all have been true or it could all have been a lie. I decided it wasn't going t be my call.

I noticed a certain hesitancy in his step as we went into the store entrance. Just as noticeable was the look on the security guards' face when he spotted my companion coming in as well. I suspected the two were familiar with each other. Probably had I not spoken to him he would have been bounced out the door.

We briefly waited in line making chit-chat. There was no "how many goals do you think Iggy going to score this year" kind of talk. Much of what was already said just got repeated. I placed the order for him, and ordered a large half-cream for myself. He wanted a long john, they were out, so he took a donut with maple icing instead. He told me that there had been a study on chocolate, and that the report concluded children who ate high concentration of it turned out to be violent. "Really," I replied, "I love chocolate, and look at me." As I concluded payment he spoke up, thanking me for the food, and asked again if he could get some change. I said,"I don't do that. But you have a good one, buddy." I turned and went out the store. I admit to quickly putting some distance between him when I booked out. I crossed the street and got on the LRT platform, going halfway down to wait for the train. Why did I do that?

To avoid any awkwardness that might surface. I didn't know his frame of mind. Therefore I cannot guess what he must feel standing on the corner begging, being ignored and maybe even being rudely told off. Does anyone become immune to that? Honestly, I wasn't feeling for him at that moment. I wanted to avoid be worn down into giving up my cash. I didn't want to be delayed getting back to work. The reasons start to pile up on why I didn't want to interact with the guy anymore. I responded to the call of grace; I did my job. Nevertheless, questions surface: How much of a difference did I make? Could I have gone farther? Why the heck wasn't that prayer of protection from myself kicking in? Committing random acts of grace should not leave you feeling neurotic.


The Apostle Paul implored the ancient Galatian church to carry each others burdens -- to love your neighbour -- to do not is risk of deceiving yourself into thinking "...he is something when he is nothing…" (Gal. 6:3, New Testament, NIV).


JAPB

Friday, September 25, 2009

Shake It Off Susie and Get Back to Work

This is a message borne out of pain. Last night while out grocery shopping with my sister, Linda, I bent over to place an item underneath the grocery cart. When I did that, my back went out; more precisely, in the estimation of my chiropractor, Dr. John Dean, one of my spinal discs bulged and tapped a spinal nerve. I pray that you never experience that kind of pain or the weakness that ensues. The inability to bear your own weight in an upright manner is frightening.

I have seen stooped men and women crossing busy roads going at a snail pace, and have shaken my head. Not any more! I had the experience last evening of trying to get down the hallway toward my apartment ladened with two bags of groceries, bent over and biting my lip so to not scream out. It was a revealing moment. Good for the old people if they can get underway on their power. Today I walk with a recognizable lean to the left.

Today I went for chiropractic treatment. I have a walking stick that's to be used on hikes. I started using that immediately to manoeuvre around my apartment; I even used it to help get my sandals on. Out the into the hallway, I had to be sure not to get my left leg too far behind or ahead of me. The pain was excruciating; how anyone could have ignored my grunts and tomcat wails from there is beyond my understanding. I was almost reduced me to a puddle of tears on the floor where my neighbour found me. Bernadette (thank you) offered me assistance, coaxing me to call an ambulance. I countered saying I just needed a cab. She had one waiting -- a regular car -- and escorted me down to the street t where would share the ride. I couldn't get in it. The driver recognizing the situation called me a van type of a taxi. The coolness of the morning was refreshing, and I knew I should have dressed warmer. Still, I was doing my best to relax. In case that van didn't show I was counting out my change to take the bus. The cab arrived. The driver, I didn't get his name, was kind and assisted me getting in and out. I got through the treatment that ended in a wonderful massage. It resulted in that I have less pain, however I still lean and will need recurring treatment for probably a week.

What does this have to do with the title? Twenty years ago I worked in a packing plant. My job was to haul product in and out of freezers using electric pallet jacks. On one of those occasions I dismounted and slipped on some ice, landing on my tail-bone. Have you ever done that? There is something about that doesn't leave you on the ground for very long. I wonder if its a self-preservation thing. You dance like there is no tomorrow because it feels like you are going to die right that minute. Then the pain relaxes a bit, and life resumes tenderly. Twenty years ago or so I wasn't very smart. It would seem I didn't have many caring people surrounding me then either. Because I took the obligatory three days sick leave and saw no doctor about it. The attitude of the time, not expressed exactly was "shake it off Susie and get back to work." I seem to recall I had people from the plant calling me not to see how well I was, rather asking, "when can you come back to work?" Eventually I did. It wasn't until ten years had past before the injury started to manifest in disabling ways. It was with almost uncanny ability that the first chiropractor that I saw then was able to state, after reading my x-rays, "Ten years ago you fell and fractured your tail-bone, didn't you?" I had to almost think of it; to remember the event. "How did you know that?" was my reply. the x-rays showed the untreated damage. It's been ongoing ever since. At some inopportune time the injury resurfaces. Now I see my chiropractor every two weeks whether I like it or not.

However, here is the thing. Today's culture is set to be more wary of industrial safety and accidents. We are more keen to do something. Yet, I caution you if you have young sons, don't let them get sucked into that "shake it off Susie and get back to work" syndrome (Its a form of masochism). Because those guys that press it on our young men to be tough, they won't be around to help pick them up off of the floor when they are unable to do so themselves. Don't let these macho guys sell that crap. We all need to treat our bodies like the temples they are. Take care.

JAPB

Sunday, August 16, 2009

America: Representative of Humanity as a Whole

Trolling through the news feeds I monitor was an editorial by Justin Webb, former North American editor for the BBC. He makes this observation as he and his family departs for their home in south London:

"The immensity of America, the energy and the zest for life remind me sometimes of India. And as with India, where I spent some time for the BBC many moons ago, America shines a light on the entire human condition.

Few other nations really do. Italy reveals truths about Italians, Afghanistan about Afghans, Fiji about Fijians. But America speaks to the whole of humanity because the whole of humanity is represented here; our possibilities and our propensities.

Often what is revealed is unpleasing; truths that are not attractive or wholesome or hopeful.

On the last day we spent in our home in north-east Washington, they were holding a food-eating competition in a burger bar at the end of our street. The sight was nauseating: acne-ridden youths, several already obese, stuffing meat and buns into their mouths while local television reporters, the women in dinky pastel suits, rushed around getting the best shots.

You could argue that the sub-prime mortgage crisis - the Ground Zero of the world recession - was caused mainly by greed: a lack of proportion, a lack of proper respect for the natural way of things that persuaded companies to stuff mortgages into the mouths of folks whose credit rating was always likely to induce an eventual spray of vomit."

Source:
Webb, Justin. Checking out of 'Hotel America'. From Our Correspondent, BBC News, 1 August 2009 (Accessed 16 August 2009)


What do you think? Can that be said of Canada too or do we just represent ourselves to the world?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Moving, I Do Not Like

Next week our office moves to new quarters within our building. I have had a chance to see our new digs, and they are looking quite alright.


Regardless of the situation, my own or as a group, I do not like to move. From deep within I get a chilly feeling; I procrastinate, and look at those moving crates as if they were the plague. Do you ever feel that way?


I think I can link how I feel to my history that as an orphan who was relocated many times within thefamilies of my relatives I always dreaded where I might end up. Now, some people may look at moving positively as a new opportunity. In my maturity I can see how that can be. Moving can lead to a new job, new set of people to meet and know, and happy times to follow.


As a child I never understood that. It was suddenly being in the house of this aunt and uncle and tomorrow finding myself somewhere else. Then there came the newbrothers and sisters I had to share the house with (cousins, really); a new school; a new way of doing things. This wasnt all bad, oh no. I still count the members of one family as my sisters, and their brother, as my own. Some good memories have travelled with me, like feeding the cows with my Uncle Vern on a real cold winter morning. We made our way down to the creek in the hollow to chop ice so the cattle could drink. I can still hear the crinkle and the shatter of the ice as I stepped on it. Oddly enough I can still feel the coldness on my cheeks even though that was some thirty or more years ago. The there were the trips with my cousins Brent, Scott and Sharla from Angel Drive to the library on 33rd Street North in Saskatoon, passing the old A-frame United Church and crossing the expanse of park near Henry Kelsey School. These were mini-adventures to a kid who was only seven or eight years old.


As an adult I have moved myself many times since. However, it seems the unsettledness that comes with moving at a young age has stuck with me the unknown around the corner. The older I get the more I wish I could abdicate the responsibilities of moving to someone else, take a vacation while it’s getting done. Come this week, that wont happen. I am in the centre of it; the right hand of the boss. I will be the one seeing that all is done, including the pieces someone will not want to do. So I have to resign quickly any foreboding that comes with moving and have the courage to press on. Lord preserve me with all that I have to do.


JAPB

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson

As tragic as it is that Michael Jackson is dead let us not forget that his was only one of very many yesterday.


Each one was just as important as Jacksons. Dont get me wrong I liked his music. I dont know how many times I have watched the videoThriller with delight. No matter who copied or parodied him, none were his equal. He was born into this world, one might think, for the express purposes of innovating music and dance. He did his piece, albeit at the end things got weird, and now he is gone. Where, I dont care to judge. Lets leave it at that.


Once again, he was not the only person that died yesterday. Yes, Farrah Fawcett died yesterday too. Her cancer story might even be regarded as far more tragic. Somehow her death has been pushed aside by the spotlight that now shines on Jackson. How about all those people who have never achieved celebrity or hero status (except in the hearts and minds of their family)? I bet if we were to open the obits in the local paper there would be a number of people whose lives lived should be celebrated; whose achievements improved their communities and professions. Wheres their spotlight?


Wheres the limelight for the many that are dispossessed, hungry, poor and persecuted? CNN reported that Jackson’s death almost caused the Internet to crash yesterday. Youll never hear of calamity caused because some nobody was cold and hungry. I never understand what causes such outpouring of adoration that we give to celebrities. Apparently last night Larry King, the talk show host, said if you were astounded by the media coverage and gossip given to Anna Nicole Smith's death, you aint seen anything yet. Oh, I have to admit I did turn to CBC and CNN to confirm the Jackson tragedy when I first heard about it. Well, short of learning why he died lets give him back to his family. End of story, literally and please.


JAPB

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I Took a Fall

At lunchtime a group of guys from the office and I were going for some Indian food.


Due to a sidewalk closure on 1st Street SE we cut through the Telus building and exited on 5th Avenue SE.


There is a small plaza area in front of the building with a two-step staircase that goes around the whole thing.


I was leaning in to talk to my colleague Amin when I took a misstep and tumbled to the sidewalk.


Theres no thinking when you do these stunts. Theres no,oh, I remember how to do this from watching some stunt guy on TV. No, you fall. That sidewalk hurt. My round body absorbed the shock and I rolled. I dont recall how many times, but in the end I came back up onto my feet.


Everyone asked me if I was okay. I sustained some scrapes and I will have a terrific bruise on my left leg tomorrow. Luckily, my noggin didnt come in contact with the cement. My wristwatch, a recent birthday gift, was slightly damaged. However, it was my ego that probably took the greatest injury. At least I regained my composure quite quickly, and it was like nothing had happened, thank you very much.


This, kids, is how we roll.


JAPB

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

To Ride a Bike

The past two days have brought some real nice weather. Maybe, now that is past June 21, that summer really is here.


The cold of the past forty-five days deterred me from riding my bike. Today I am going to take it out.


I really need to get my body moving again. I have put on weight since Christmas; almost thirty-five pounds. It concerns me not just for appearance sake, but that our family history includes diabetes and respiratory disease. I also find that my weight compounds a lower back injury I have.


This isnt just about fitness. When I was a kid, and even into my early adult years, I used to ride a bike everywhere. I really enjoyed it. I want to feel that excitement again: the sensation of wind rushing past my face; they rhythmic pumping of the pedals; the whirring sound of the tires on pavement. I used to ride fast. As kids we would have races around the block or who could get to and from the old Idlywyld power plant first. More times than I wish to recall did I wipe-out and bruised my knees. I now attribute some of my arthritis to such folly. So, I am not looking for spills or thrills, although the lure of the racer lies shallow.


I see a number of people commuting on their bikes everyday. Man, they sport expensive bikes and the gear to go with it. I am not going to knockem. Its their gig. But whatever happened to putting that spring clip around your pant leg and hopping on? You know I cant even find a spring clip for sale in any of the bike shops in Calgary. Do you have one? Can I buy it? My bike is not very expensive. I wish I had something better only to be able to add some fenders and bags. I think my bike was built especially for a retailer and those items werent a big consideration. Oh well.


Hey, what am I doing here typing? I gotta ride.


JAPB

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sibbald Flats and the Grand Valley Road

I had this past Friday, June 19, off from work. My girlfriend and I had planned a day where we would go have a picnic. It didn't quite work out that way as we got off on a late start, and the weather wasn't all that great either. We headed out on Hwy 1 to go to Cochrane, AB to pick up some supplies before going up the Grand Valley Road. However I had a moment of spontaneity and suggested we go to Sibbald Flats first. My argument was the wildflowers should be blooming about now, and be in abundance. Off we went.

I have hiked Sibbald Flats area before. There is a day-use and group camping feature of the provincial park. so it was my expectation that we could park our car and strolll not too far to find our subjects. Unfortunately, the car access areas were locked up. We did find a forestry demonstation area with an interpative centre instead, and nearby were able to find some flowers to photograph.
There were tall bluebells and the classic Indian Paintbrush. There were others had it not been for my friend I might not and still don't know.





We were turning around to go back to cochrane when we received a phone call that caused us to return to Calgary. But afterwards we resumed our day and headed up the Grand Valley Road. We came to the junction of GVR and Wildcat Hills Road and headed west. I should add this is all northwest of Cochrane. We did see a Great Heron in a creek. But being jittery birds that they are it flew off as soon as I applied the brakes. So we didn't get a photograph.


This is ranchland. some of the oldest ranches in North America still raise cattle out here. We drove past the Simpson Ranching Company homestead and the Beaupre Ranch. The district we were in is actually named Beaupre. The area consists of rolling hills; one after another like waves they go until they crash like breakers into the Rockies. You could imagine cougar and bear live here too. But, you'd never see them. We did see plaenty of deer along the ditches and the fringes of scrub brush.

My girlfriend and I had time to talk about life and present events. She is normally a happy person, but some things right now are causing her a lot of tears. I have joked that I should buy shares in Kleenex for the amount we use these days. I spoke to her of how life will improve in time and came up with a little ditty, parts of which I borrowed from Hank Snow, which i sang to her.

There's a bluebird at my window
He sings a song to me
He tells me of all his blessings
And then he flys away
I often think of my little friend
During my day
Especially when things aren't so swell
His songs reminds me to smile.


The weather was full of small showers. Soon we reached a junction with the Forestry Road where we knew we needed to turn back. We traced our route back and back at the junction of GVR and WHR we came across a big ol' Hereford bull. with all authority he stood there taking a whiz. We were opportunistic and snapped off several pictures of him. Isn't he grand?

We also came across tow calves that somehow got under a fence. they were grazing near the road. We got down the highway a bit when we came to a ranchhand residence. Driving in I reported the strays to the young woman who answered the door. Her dogs were inside and quite eager to get to know me, and she struggled to get them to quiet down. She thanked us for the news and said she'd get some cowboys on horses to go herd the ccalves to safety.

We headed back to Cochrane where we had a beautiful supper at the old hotel (one of the first in the town back in the 1890's). After eating I attempted to pay the bill. Feeling the service given to us along with the food being great I calculated a tip and went at the debit card machine. Being stubborn and not wanting to wear my glasses I entered my amount and concluded the transaction. Initially, when the server mentioned the final amount I thought that it was kind of low. Only the next day did I realize why. Because I couldn't see I had failed to add an extra zero. So, what should have been $6.60 became $0.66. I looked at my discovery in horror. I have never been so cheap with wait help. I dashed off a thank you note to explain what occurred and mailed it promptly. I expressed how I felt and that I wanted to make it up to them the next time we returned.

We travelled back to Calgary satisfied that we had seen much and made good of our plans.

JAPB

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Looking for Butts

I watched with fascination today as a haggard-looking man with grime under his fingernails scoured the sidewalk looking for thrown-away cigarettes. "What decision," I asked myself, "or event could have reduced this man to satisfying his habit through the sheddings of other smokers?" With the toe of his shoe he checked over two butts, decided on one, picked it up and lit it. He inhaled and went on his way.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Always Fresh

Recently the coffee chain Tim Horton's has been running a commercial informing that their coffee is always fresh; never older than twenty minutes regardless of the time of the day. I worked in a Timmy's store for three and a half years, and I can testify this is a well-adhered policy.

However, I took notice how most of the people featured in the commercial are not the typical people I worked with in my time with the chain. You see, the spokespeople in the ad are women in their mid-twenties, with the exception of two individuals, of even complexion and lovely smiles, good enunciation; clearly they were models. I write to state they were very few people I encountered who were like that.

A greater number were either old or teenagers; not beautiful people who looked out of place behind a coffee counter. These were people who were either using Timmy's as a stepping stone or worked there because their friends did. For the older people, seniors or others in their thirties, they worked there because they had to; society wasn't giving them too much options. Either their pensions weren't cutting it for them or they were part of the strata that didn't succeed with their dreams after high school. I worked with a number of immigrants whose English wouldn't have allowed them to be spokespersons for Tim Horton's.

In the scheme of Canadian advertising Tim Horton's commercials are quite good. I once read that the chain has used the same media agency from Day One. They are now moving into social branding -- capitalizing on the social networking universe of Facebook and MySpace. They are not corny like McCains were for so long a time (it was getting to the point I would have leave the room when a McCains French fries ad came on). In 2007 Strategy Magazine wrote that "Canadians consider Tim Hortons a definitive Canadian brand, with values they can relate to, such as inclusiveness, honesty and approachability. The brand's social strategy is a reflection of these values." I believe this to be the case. Yet, you are now likely to walk into a Tim Horton's store, regardless of location, and be greeted by someone under seventeen years. The labour market, particulairly in the West, is not there (although that might change with the present recession). It is in this respect that I don't think Timmy's has been honest. I guess, drawing on this demographic, they will always be fresh.

JAPB

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Human Condition

A lipstick-stained filtered cigarette
Rolling in the wind
Across cold asphalt road
A flash of red hair
Contrasts a bleak Monday morning.

The canyon walls above
Block sunlight
Casting shadow on people below
Where is the happiness? With the trudge to their jobs
What is their expectation?

Keys clack upon touch
Screens illuminate faces
Faces and books stare back
"What are you doing right now?"
Dreams of faraway resorts fill imagi-nations.

A glimmer of sunshine
A glimmer of hope breaks forth at noonday
The coldness returns in time
Time in transit; time commutes home
This is the the human condition.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Roots: Using DNA and Google Earth to Find Ancsestors

I was watching African American Live 2 on PBS tonight. The host, Henry Louis Gates Jr, demonstrated how with new DNA testing it is possible to determine ancestral identity for African Americans. Indeed, he did that with some prominent celebrities in that community. The precision applied indicates that it is possible to prove what tribe, country within Africa, and perhaps even what slave boat voyage brought their ancestors to America. Scientists have been able to match DNA sampling with Google Earth to visually represent where certain groups of genetic matches congregate.

This is incredible stuff. To someone like Don Cheadle (see right), who has travelled through a number of African countries, being given this information was profound; it was knowledge he was going to share with his parents, and on which it seemed he would also act on by travelling to Cameroon for that is where his DNA told him he was from.

My family from originates from England, from a place in Derbyshire called Thornhill in the Hope Valley. I knew this when I was young from the few records I found in my parents belongings after they had died. However, It was my cousin Lloyd Darwent who did the heavy lifting over a course of a decade (maybe more) to give a bigger picture of what our family tree looked like. His hard work determined that we originated in that village around the 1630's. He/we know this due to the public records that were kept. I have been fascinated, like anyone else, about my heritage because I did not have parents on whose knee I could learn these things.

Now, having seen the series episode referred to above, I am left wondering what else could be known about our family. What could geographical genealogical mapping used to trace Don Cheadle's roots tell us about the Darwents. did we have origins that take us back to some other place in Europe? Saxons? Danes? Romans? Or were we homegrown Angles? Another question that is in mind is where does one start to obtain this kind of testing? How much does it cost?

I find it exciting, even though as Morgan Freeman said this information cannot be turned into silver or gold. Its definitely something to explore.

Monday, February 23, 2009

There's No Such Thing as Isolation

Reading Romans 14:7-9:

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself

If we live, we live to the Lord; if we die, we die to the Lord. Whether

We live or die we belong t the Lord. It was for this purpose that Christ

Died and rose to life again. – that he might be the Lord of the dead and the living.


William Barclay in his commentary on the Book of Romans1 states that no one lives in isolation. We live in the past by virtue that all we encounter we take a little bit of each and it is added to our soul.


We live in the present. Nothing we do only affects ourselves. You may have heard of the Butterfly Effect, which is associated with Chaos Theory, that refers to the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter, delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a weather pattern half a world away.2 The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of a system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events. Now whether it’s cockamamie or not, it is a good illustration of how we impact others, and perhaps persons we have not even met. By virtue of our actions on a brother or sister – good or bad – it causes a reaction by making them happy or sad that is transferred unto others by their own actions. “We are all bound up in the bundle of life, and from that bundle we cannot escape” (Barclay). Former U.S. President Jimmy Cater once wrote (I paraphrase) that we are presented two choices in our moments with people. We can either smile at them or make them enemies for life. It is easier to smile at them and receive the rewards than it is to make them life-long enemies and pay the costs.3


We live in the future. “As we receive life, so we hand life on. We hand on to our children a heritage of physical life and spiritual character. We are not self-contained units; we are links in a chain” (Barclay). CBC News reports today4 that a “team of scientists found early child abuse changed the expression of a gene that is important for responding to stress.” The news story further reports 36 males were studied post-mortem, and included twelve individuals who had suffered severe childhood abuse. Their brain tissue was compared to 12 accident victims who had not been abused and 12 controls. The researchers concluded the men who were abused were programmed to be more vulnerable to overwhelming feelings of despair. Researcher, Louise Newman, a professor of perinatal and infant psychiatry at the University of Newcastle in Australia, she said, "This impacts directly on how the brain develops and the stress regulation mechanism. It becomes highly stressed so it's like setting the thermostat on high, setting up a system which regulates stress less efficiently.” The study identified the area of the victim’s brains that are impacted. Newman says this region , “…controls feelings, so they're more likely to be highly stressed, have difficulties with anger and emotions, and be prone to self-harm, anxiety, suicide and depression." Anybody who has lived with a person suffering from anger issues, anxiety or depression knows of the reality of transfer. Without intervention the cycle only continues.


Using this line of argument Barclay also claims that we cannot disentangle ourselves from Jesus Christ. Whether you believe in Christ or not, he is a living presence in our lives. All life is under his gaze. Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920).5, a Christian Reformed pastor and former Prime Minister of The Netherlands wrote that “Every square inch of the Universe belongs to Jesus Christ.” We are his slaves; we cannot escape him. Our existence is linked to him for the sacrifice he paid to save us from eternal damnation. Now, because of his brand on us he sees us in all that we do and he shall be our Advocate in our deathly hour.


In that time, Barclay adds, we shall see Jesus in his visible presence. Death is not the chasm that ends in obliteration; it is the gateway that leads to Christ.


References

1. Barclay, William. The Letter to the Romans. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002 (The Daily Study Bible Series).

2. Butterfly Effect. Wikipedia. Accessed February 24, 2009

3. Carter, Jimmy. Living Faith. New York : Times Books, 1996.

4. "Scars of child abuse reach down to genetic level, scientists find." [http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2009/02/23/child-abuse-brain.html {accessed February 24, 2009}]

5. Hexham, Irving. Christian Politics according to Abraham Kuyper. [First Published in CRUX, Vol. XIX, No. 1, March, 1983:2-7] Found at [http://www.ucalgary.ca/~nurelweb/papers/irving/kuyperp.html {accessed February 24, 2009}]


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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Structural Awareness

Lately I have been spending a considerable amount of time with someone -- growing an acquaintance into a friendship that I hope is long lasting. Through this my self-awareness has increased. I see how have ordered my life into neat structures. I have self-imposed these structures to keep me honest and lessen procrastination. My friend jokingly refers me to being anal for having the seams of the lampshades in the living room turned to the wall. I am sure this is not what Dr. Sigmund Freud meant when he coined the term. It is both annoying and amusing to see that my friend has turned them "out."

What other rules do I daily apply? Electrical cords need to be coiled, not bow-tied. Hey, it makes sense if you want your stuff to last and provide you with safety you need to treat it well. I don't swear (much). I like tidiness. I have my countless alerts and alarms set in my Palm device so I am getting things done; getting to bed before eleven o'clock. I have been advised that I am formal person. This is funny because it is not how I see myself. On the other hand, I sometimes think I was born in the wrong era, and would like to believe I would have thrived in a more formal period.

My friend is more loosey-goosey in approaching life than I. The saying, "Life is short, live," is a real mantra in this person's walk. I have come to realize that there is no harm in this philosophy. We should live. I fear that as I get older I am being trapped into being too routine and too complacent. So I now know it is okay to be spontaneous. It is okay to have the lampshades turned out (just not all the time).

Even with this discernment I also know I can never be as care-free. I am a slave to my personality type. In my case, as it would be described by Florence Littauer (1) (2), I am a "melancholy." I require logic and order, lists, downtime and spurts of creativity. I used to resist the notion that I could be typecast. "Aren't I unique?" I asked. However, as I mature this insight has become more palatable. It actually helps me to know how to deal with other people not like me (there is still much to learn). Melancholy-patterned people have a tendency to be perfectionists. Well, I know this: I will not reach perfection in this life. Hopefully, by Christ's love for me, on the day I die I will be made perfect in heaven. What this means by present-day application is that I could wish/search for the all the "right" attributes in a partner, but the likelihood is I would never be satisfied. To find one Godly-person who isn't as curvy as a Heidi Klum, rather who is spontaneous, and who can bring laughter in great doses is better than most -- indeed is perfect. For eventually, all that which I desire in the flesh retires with age. It either will be the love of my partner's heart that sustains me and for which I will see as adding physical value as well or I will be hopelessly chained to the World and all that it values.


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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Willing to Love Easier, Cry More

I can remember of a time back around Grade 4 or 5 where I was reading a book called "Run Silent, Run Deep." It was a story of submariners during the Second World War. At some junction of the plot a tragedy occurred where there was a loss of life. It is the first memory I have of where a literary work caused me to cry.

You know when you are really young you'll cry at almost anything. However, with boys there is a stage in their lives where they are expected to "suck it buttercup." That would be the teenage years. Probably the next time I cried, after my Dad died when I was twelve, was around my 21st birthday. The details to the why are not so important. I remember I had been playing the soundtrack to "Chariots of Fire" on my car stereo when the first tear rolled and the last almost didn't stop for fifteen minutes later. I guess I had been holding back on a lot of emotional items, and that day was intended for a huge withdrawal.

Probably as much as a good belly-laugh is good for you, then so is a good cry. It is a known among therapists that crying keeps us healthy by relieving tension, and crying also lubricates the eyes. and provides a physical catharsis that allows the body to discharge certain toxins, according to Carol Forsloff, journalist, mental health counsellor and teacher. Crying also releases a chemical called endorphins that make us happy.

As I am getting older I find that crying is now a legitimate antidote to sadness. Now that sounds all made up for the truth, which is, I am unashamed now to cry more often at age forty-seven. I am not one of those SNAG's -- Sensitive New Age Men. Heck no! Rather I will acknowledge when a well-composed literary piece or a slice of cinema catches me in the throat and gut. I will mourn the loss of friends and family. Probably because of the tragedy that has touched my life I hold tighter onto relationships than most. Then, when they depart I am sadder for longer periods than most. I recall that Florence Littauer, author of Personality Plus : How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself maintains that those who exhibit the Melancholy personality this is normal; for these people are deep and thoughtful individuals.

There have been times where I have felt really alone and unloved. In some cases I felt I needed to be resolved and macho to get through the situation. Subsequently I didn't shed tears. Now, I know that there was always somebody loving me, but from a distance. I don't necessarily mean God (although I am sure he was there), but that love did emanate with a family member or a friend. I also know that love continues to exist regardless of circumstance. Appreciably, I am willing to love easier than before and cry for others more often.

Friday, January 02, 2009

A Mission Statement and NOT New Resolutions

I subscribe to a number of blogs that send feeds to my email account. At last count I have 162 unread blogger entries in my index.Initially, these blogs were quite interesting to read. Oh, they probably still are. However, I fail to have enough time or lack the discipline to keep on top of them immediate to their announcement.

Therein, failing to have a discipline over much matters has caused me and continues to plague me in some areas of my life. I don't make New Year's resolutions. What's the point? I never achieve all of them. Banish the list-making, I say. The creators of Betty, a daily comic strip to which I subscribe has been making that exact point. Betty is a housewife. The discussion between Betty and her husband has been on making resolutions, in which his first resolution is not be self-critical. "Of all the resolutions I have made it's been the first one I have ever kept...and the only that has made me happier right away." Funny stuff. Because who has never had a self-doubting or critical thought? Certainly I have. Just knowing I had created some resolutions that, upon reflection, were never kept or completed could throw me into the chasm of doubt and censure.

In substitution I decided to write a mission statement that would help determine the direction of my life. I have no idea if it concurs with what god wants me to do. Yet, I did not write this up hastily (like most do during the last week of the year). Oh no, this statement became a creation of several years of work; testing and correction. I know I cannot get them all right. Yet, I will keep trying. So it is that I share that statement with you now:

  • I wholly and humbly belong to Jesus Christ. As a Christ-follower I am seeking to know and serve God in all ways. I am leading a life centred on the principles of fidelity, friendship and holiness as prescribed in the Bible.
  • I will be open to experience new quality relationships and working on existing ones.
  • I will keep myself healthy by reducing my weight through sensible eating, exercise,and play; I will listen to my health advisors.
  • I will be an informed and caring citizen who is conscientiously making a difference in my community and the world.
  • I experience a communion with God while learning and when expressing my creativity. "The path to building anything good in life is to Source: Dr. Henry Cloud
  • I am doing work that is fitting to my skills and personality. I will not allow myself to grow complacent in my Public Service career - I will seek opportunity to grow my skillset and in my ability to influence and lead. I will seek career assignments.
  • I will experience an increase in annual income through my own enterprise. I am enjoying life. I am prudently managing my finances and household.
I have to admit their definition is fairly broad. But its by the room between each furrow that I am enjoying some success.

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