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Do You Really Need the Ten Commandments?

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I am the Anti-Christ!

Many Americans think that Barack Obama has already filled the job, but it’s a big world so I think there’s room for a few of us out here.

Barack-Obama-The-Antichrist

Lionel, a jet-black man from Guyana said to me,

How can you be a good person and not a Christian?”

He looked at me as forthright and innocently as anyone has ever done.

Home for me at the time (1982) was a small basement suite in a little house in the bucolic, fruit-growing countryside of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. Lionel, the ebony-skinned Guyanan, lived next door with his wife and 6 kids in a tiny wooden rental house that was more like a poor southern bayou shack than a true house. They were poor but happy people, and their little kids were the absolute cutest things going.

Lionel and I would get together a couple of times a week and lift weights and chat in the basement laundry room beside our suite. He and his burgeoning family had moved to Canada so that he could study theology at Acadia University in Wolfville. He wanted to be a man of Christ and God. He wanted to share his beliefs and his love of Christ. He wanted me to be like him.

I was the antithesis of his belief that to be a good person, one had to believe in Christ. He’d been taught this all of his life, and though he knew he should dislike or reject me, he couldn’t dig up a reason to hate or at least pity me. It was frustrating for the poor guy. I needed (and need) lots of help, just not the kind that Lionel was offering. I liked Lionel a lot.

To Lionel, you couldn’t NOT believe in a God and still live a moral life. A moral person must read and follow the scriptures laid out in the Book of Exodus.

Charleton Heston knew it too in the movie. A moral person needed: mosesheston

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

  1.  You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. 

Commandment numbers 1 through 4 are really just protection for the benefit of the Creator and don’t hold a lot of sway in the life of the average person. But any business or operation out there needs some rules to protect their property, and God is no exception. God, in today’s multicultural and technological world, is a brand like Coca-Cola or McDonalds and we don’t want anyone mucking up that value. Competition from outside could sully or detract from the brand, and so some rules are necessary to keep the religion lawyers in litigation heaven. These rules all make sense when you consider the outside forces that would attempt to corrupt or steal the product. Just like Steve Jobs protecting the iPhone specs, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” doesn’t want or need someone stealing His flock.

         5. Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

If the land the Lord has given you happens to be your parents’ home, then I think that today’s generation of young MAN-BOYS have taken this commandment to heart. The modern concept of “Failure to Launch” is buried within this commandment. Large numbers of 20’s to 30’s males, hands clenched to their joysticks, are camped on the basement sofas of their parents, some drawn in by the siren call of computer and TV screens, others too paralyzed by the nervous fear of real world responsibilities. I don’t think this is the land the Lord intended to give young folk to live long in, but how could He have anticipated the rise of X-Box and internet porn 2,000 years ago?
       

         6. You shall not murder.

This is a great commandment. From early childhood, it’s pretty clear that most of us have an innate desire to bludgeon and kill our friends and neighbours, right? This command is probably the only thing that has held us back from wanton bloodbaths. Alright, you know this isn’t true. The really neat thing about having a brain is that it helps us realize that if we choose to go about killing others, there is a very clear and present danger that we are going to come under the same threat ourselves VERY VERY soon. Humans may not have a long list of instinctive characteristics, but I’m pretty sure that self-preservation is at the mountain peak of the list. The expression Live and Let Live is as good a commandment as the one provided in Exodus. It’s called a Basic Truth.

         7. You shall not commit adultery.

Our intimate relationships are enormously complex and varied. A commitment between two adults of whatever gender involves a great deal of trust and emotion. The core structure of our society rests on a bed of family stability that works best in the presence of a pair of parents. Screwing around with another hottie could be great fun and pleasureful, but knocks a leg out of the tribal chair that we sit upon. This one can cause a lot of bruising. “Look but don’t touch” might do the job here except it kinda messes with commandment #10.

        8. You shall not steal.

This is really just a copycat version of the You shall not murder commandment. It comes down to the Golden Rule, doesn’t it? Every religious and philosophical organization out there believes in the concept, “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You”. Civilized groups know logically that a society that indulges in theft can’t move forward and think about anything other than guarding their refrigerators and Big-Screen TV’s. When I go to work in the morning, do I want the nagging thought to be, “I hope that chicken leg is still waiting for me when I get home”? Reminder to Self: Pay for the next Justin Bieber download!

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        9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.

Simply put, “DON’T LIE”. This commandment needs a touch of interpretation, in my view. Many lies are hurtful or injurious to those we love, and just as often to those we have no use for. Our court systems are jammed to the rafters dealing with this commandment. When I tell the National Enquirer that I had amazing hot sex with Britney Spears (this may or may not be a lie!) and they spread the good news to the world at large, Britney has a right to be pissed off with me. Apparently her latest boyfriend or husband thought he was her one-and-only. He gets mad and sues her for millions of bucks for hurt feelings and loss of reputation. MY LIE…MY BAD!

But, when Britney asks me if I think her ass looks good in those jeans, I’m going to be the first (and for sure not the last) to break this commandment. Break this commandment judiciously or DIE young, I’m afraid! God didn’t think the consequences through fully here or hasn’t had ANY lasting relationships.

I absolutely love your new hairstyle Britney...

I absolutely love your new hairstyle Britney…

       10. You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

Most of us are pretty susceptible to this covetness stuff, and all the advertisers know it. Billions of bucks are spent every year on Super Bowl and World Cup advertising to play into our weaknesses on wanting what our neighbour has. Is the Apple iPhone so much better than all of its competitors (well, probably yes) that we’re willing to pay a big ransom…OR….could it just be that maybe we want to be cool like Candace or John at work? I’m not sure about wanting someone else’s ox or donkey, I can make a big enough Ass of myself without taking someone else’s.

10 Commandments

The Ten Commandments are not a bad basic set of rules to govern human existence. It could probably use some updating and bits of revision, but all in all, not too shabby.

My old friend Lionel was a good man with a heart of gold and a list of commandments to keep him on the straight and narrow. But do we really need a list of rights and wrongs from on high? The list IS valuable, but these are values we humans could figure out, accept, and follow for ourselves. Still, even when we know the good from the bad, we get our fingers caught in the cookie jar over and over again.

We’re human.

We try our best.

Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail.

Even if Moses came down from Mount Sinai to give ME the hows and whys of being a good person, I like to think I could figure it out all by myself!

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All we HAVE to do is Die…

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It’s kind of cheering to read this, isn’t it? ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS DIE…everything else is a choice (yes, even taxes!).

This may not be an original thought – what is? I read this line in another blogger’s post the other day and it pierced like a sharp Hattori knife through to my core. It’s harsh and perhaps a bit unsettling, and probably even complicates life somewhat, but I think it can also be freeing.

all we have to do is die

And it reminded me that choice in life is one of my core beliefs. We can choose to do. We can choose to be.

Sure we have to eat and drink to sustain life, but so many things we think we have to do are things that we choose to do. It’s like the difference between needs and wants.

Do we make the choices we do because:

  • society (family, friends, media) dictates it
  • we feel an obligation to do it
  • we fear loss or punishment
  • we don’t see any other options
  • the benefits are greater than the drawbacks
  • it’s enjoyable or rewarding
  • it’s the easy thing to do

Life is like WalMart (this is in addition to Forrest Gump‘s box of chocolates!). We wander the aisles of selection, the shelves are stuffed to the rafters, full of alternatives, and we can choose to nab the items we want or amble by to another aisle. For example, we could put a career choice, a partner, a pair of shoes into our basket. Do we ever ask ourselves, “Why did I pick that job? Why do I eat? Why did I get married or not get married? Why do I go out with friends? Why did I buy a new car?”

And even after make our selections, do we then ask ourselves, “Am I happy? Is what I’m doing really fulfilling and meaningful? When I arrive at the time of my death, will I look back at my life and be happy about what I did, or will I have regrets?”

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 The only thing people really have in common is that they are all going to die”

-Bob Dylan

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Choice in life means lots of good things but it also brings with it…wait for it…responsibility. Being rational and adult means there are consequences to every choice. This is why choice can be so rewarding but also so damned messy and difficult. It takes thought and judgment and it can be painful. It’s hard work!

I can choose to quit my job tomorrow, but the consequence becomes a loss of a paycheque and all of the details that entails. How will I pay for food and lodging and entertainment and a hundred other things? So, do I absolutely hate my job? Could I find something I might like to do instead if I went to college for a year? Could I move to a smaller town where the costs of living are lower and the need for more income would be lessened? With enough thought, effort, and often courage, we can find a more satisfying choice.

Over twenty years ago, I chose to work just 3 days each week so that I could actively participate in raising my kids (now there’s a decision they regret!). There were lots of questioning glances at my withdrawal from western culture’s expectation of what a father’s and breadwinner’s role should be. This choice meant a lower income and driving slightly older cars, and not having magazine-perfect furniture as society told me would be appropriate. But it’s a choice my wife and I made and have never regretted. Believe me, not every choice that I’ve made has been as easy to declare a success.

stay-at-home-dad

As we go through life, we need to ask ourselves tough questions and then answer honestly. Living life like there are few choices can be a simpler existence. But for me, life is richer when filled with choosing the paths I want to wander. The paths may be tangled by weeds at times, but at least they are heading in the direction of my choosing.

I think making choices consciously gives us freedom and a sense of honesty within ourselves.  Most of us spend much of our lives making choices based on false assumptions and beliefs drilled into us as children. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy promotes “thought challenging”- questioning our basic assumptions from different angles to help us make better choices.

When I was a kid, I was told that God and Heaven existed and that there was no need to question that belief. I was also told that going to university was necessary if I wished to live a “good” life. I was told that sexual intercourse was something preserved until marriage vows had been exchanged. I was told that men marry women and women marry men. I was told that after I married a woman, I would buy a house and have children. I was on a pre-determined train track and would chug along in the direction that track took me on.

All of the above were absolutes. But now I know that they are all choices. Everything but dying is a maybe.

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Lance Armstrong made choices that most of us likely think of as flawed and of poor moral backing. No matter what he says, he knew what he was doing was illegal and cheating. He lied to cover it up. BUT…he made a choice to use drugs and illegal methods to accomplish something that was deeply desirable to him. The benefits were greater than the consequences in his mind. The possible outcomes were something that he chose to live with in order to win big.  That he didn’t believe he would be caught and disciplined suggests to me that he wasn’t making conscious AND conscientious choices. Narcissism perverted his ability to make respectable choices, for himself, and others. Choices can be messy.

mommy_puts_out

Mommy made the choice to “put out”…here’s her consequence…

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We try to find our happiness through periods of life that include birth, aging, sickness and death. Any pleasure and success we have is not going to run in unending, neat straight lines. But we can make the conscious choices that reflect our own core beliefs and desires, not those dictated by what’s going on around us.

Didn’t we all have childhood dreams of what we might do or be in life? It’s never too late to be what you might have been.

We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us.”

–Ken Levine

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Another Year… Another Marathon… Another Baby!

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I’m a man and I’ve experienced the equivalent of CHILDBIRTH and it hurts.

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MAN Childbirth

The last hour of a marathon or Ironman race can be excruciating. There is a titanic game of struggle and dialogue that goes on in your head when your body is bellowing to stop the trial you’re putting it through. This happens regardless of your level of fitness because you are pushing yourself harder than you’ve ever made yourself go during training. Competition, whether against others or just yourself, does this to you.

I’ve always said that participating in a lengthy race of any sort is akin to self-inflicted torture…an agony that we seem drawn back to time after time.

Just like childbirth.

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Go ahead m’ladies, hit me now for making this comparison!

And then there are the occasional crazies who want both experiences simultaneously and run a marathon while pregnant, like the 27 year-old woman that completed the Chicago Marathon in 2011, only to deliver a full-term baby 7 1/2 hours later.

pregnant_runner

I feel qualified to make this comparison since I’ve competed in 2 marathon races, 2 Ironman competitions, a countless assortment of other running/swimming/cycling contests, AND (it’s rumoured!) I’ve fathered and assisted in the delivery of 3 children. Absolutely none of which, I freely admit, I excelled at! I have a box full of “participation” ribbons and medallions.

Both pregnancy/childbirth and marathon races require a substantial investment of time and energy with the result that our bodies are changed in significant ways over a period of weeks and months. There is a voluntary – except, I suppose, in unplanned pregnancies –  commitment to lifestyle change with an end goal in mind… one where you get a medal hung around your neck, and the other where you get a baby laid upon your chest.

There truly are some striking similarities between marathons and childbirth, so hear me out:

  • Growing the body, stamina and mental strength to start and finish each for most takes about 9 months.
  • Specialized diet planning with a concentration on calcium sources, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and quality protein makes a big difference to the end result.
  • Coaches and specialized classes pass on the most up-to-date and leading scientific knowledge to achieve the optimal end result.
  • Smoking (and alcohol)  is a huge NO NO for both.
  • A collection of stretchy and often colourful new special-purpose clothing is needed to accommodate the growth of muscle or baby tissue. Gear is gathered, whether baby strollers and snugglies and nipple creams, or chafing lotion and gel carrying belts and water bottles.
  • There are moments, sometimes days, or weeks during training or gestation where the will to continue dwindles and fades. Sleep patterns can be disrupted, pains materialize, gastrointestinal distress pops up.
  • Going into labour is like the start gun firing at the beginning of the marathon. You still feel reasonably comfortable but know that the coming hours will bring on increased intensity and pain.
  • The cheering, encouraging crowds and family support along the course of the marathon resemble the nurses, doctors, and family members urging and firing up the expectant Mom to push to the finish of delivery.
  • There is a huge sense of elation at the finish, knowing that the pain and discomfort are largely finished and the rewards are tangible. This is the point where they either hang a medal around your neck or a latch a baby onto your breast.
  • Afterwards, you don’t feel like walking for a day or two as the stiffness and  pain below the waist begins to heal. In both cases, the cards and flowers brighten the recovery period and celebration.
  • Wound Care: Stitches and sitz baths for mommys…blister bandaids and hot tubs for the marathoner.
  • And finally, posting the glorious results. eg. A 7 lb 4 oz. baby girl, 70 cm. in length born after 7 hours of labour…or a 4 hour 16 minute marathon run of 26.2 miles on a sultry 30C day!

Blisterfoot

Childbirth and Marathoning both bring out the best in an individual human’s strength and resolve. Life would be fairly simple to pass through without experiencing the pain and sacrifice needed to complete either of these, or other singularly difficult ventures. But we know that any positive experience or accomplishment comes with the challenge of overcoming obstacles. Jumping smoothly or haphazardly over hurdles is what makes the end result so satisfying.

Our DNA builds a desire within us to make something from nothing. The sense of living a life well-lived entails the feeling of having helped ourselves and/or others to be or do something over and above the everyday. Beyond getting up in the morning, eating, working and going back to sleep at night. Making a mark means doing something creative, or arduous, or selfless. There is no end to what any one of us can do to cross the threshold into the realm of memorable or noteworthy.

I’ll be honest…

When I compare marathon racing and childbirth, I mostly get bemused or frankly scornful looks from women who have participated in each of these events. Most willingly acknowledge the similarities, but ultimately, childbirth wins the competitive match for supremacy for discomfort (excruciating pain, if you will!), disruption, and the pleasureful reward.

Deep down for most, a marathon medal hanging from one’s neck just isn’t the same as holding and nurturing a living, breathing, warm bundle of new-life, regardless of the pain endured.

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My youngest baby and me at the end of the Vancouver Marathon run 2012…

Welcome Aboard Virgin Air

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I was seducible.

She seduced me.

End of story…sort of.

She was a cute, long-haired blonde nurse from Alberta, a couple of  years older than myself, and for some unexplicable and unexplainable reason, she wanted ME. So, on that icily frigid Yellowknife-arctic evening there was very little romanticism or long, languid looks involved. Love didn’t play a part for either of us. Lust held the key this night. We were young and friendly and fun. It was dark and chilly in her bedroom when our limbs and externals and internals mingled and tingled together.

In my later teens, I’d been close to the final destination on a number of earlier journeys with other sweet travelers, but never quite finished the trip- by choice. I was now 20 years old and decided the time had come for the train to finally enter the station.

What made me think about this stuff is that I’m currently reading Richard Branson’s autobiography “Losing My Virginity” and his stories of starting the VIRGIN business empire. He’s one bold and flamboyant dude, that Branson. But here and now, we’re talking about a different Virgin version.

Every life and every lifetime is filled with firsts…first tooth, first walk, first grade, first kiss, first job. Firsts can be scary, exhilarating, illuminating, freeing, intimidating, terrifying. I’m choosing to dive into one of the FIRSTS on most of our taboo lists when it comes to sharing with others.

VIRGINITY.

Virginity box

To be more accurate here, we’re talking about the loss of virginity.

The language we use around this is full of negative context and confusion. For many – especially men I guess – virginity loss is more like a gain. And in another bizarre twist we talk about women as being deflowered, defiled, impureWords from a different century. Having crossed the Rubicon makes you a Non-virgin. It’s all loaded in a way that is so generally negative that I find annoying and distasteful. In a world that celebrates BDSM stories like Fifty Shades of Grey, this just doesn’t cut it .

I propose we coin some new terminology on the Virginal vanguard.  How about some bright new positive terms for non-virgins like Bloomer (a pregnant female could be called a “Baby Bloomer“) or Coiticulated, or Post-Nooker or Carnalist or Intercourvet?

I haven’t heard or read any statistics, so I’m only guessing, but it seems pretty clear to me that 90+ % of us will experience this “loss” at some point in our lives. Virginity is one of those areas that is tied in with much of what explains us. The adjectives that describe our personalities can often also define or describe the time and nature of our first sexual intercourse…timid, bold, distant, careless, cautious, energetic, enthusiastic, patient, polite, considerate, cold, adventurous, sensitive.

RELIGION-SEX

Now I’m describing the heterosexual experience here…I don’t know if the term virginity even applies to gay/lesbian relationships. I’d appreciate any guidance you might offer on this front for people like me who are ignorant. Just one more qualification here…I’m a naive old fellow and I tend to think of sex as an equal, reciprocal, and consensual adventure. I can’t conceive of a violent or forced event and won’t address this in this blog. It makes me feel too sick to think about.

Anyway, loss of virginity is all tied up in a maelstrom of religion and social mores and pregnancy and love and alcohol and hormones and insecurities and elation and pain and drugstore condoms and the meaning of relationships and experimentation and modesty. The circle of meaning and importance is HUGE and so most of us agonize or at least contemplate deeply what, where, when and with whom this first will occur.

My early years were bounded within an ideology of family and social mores that dictated marriage prior to consummation. So even though I lost my belief in a god and a heaven just as I was entering my teen years, the belief that intercourse was something we save until marriage was deeply ingrained. Anything less would bring about great guilt, shame, and regret. And probably pregnancy and gonorrhoea to boot. Sex was a pool filled with circling piranhas.

Bunny and pope

There was huge discord between what I was being told in my home, school, and church, and what the movies, TV, books and Playboy were laying out for my hormonal schoolboy absorption. Sex was liberating and fun and blissful in those arenas. Who do I believe and who is right was the fulcrum on which I balanced precariously. The devil had begun to sink his horns into me and I was horny.

But human decency suggested that anything beyond self-stimulation (blindness be damned!) necessitated taking into account the physical and emotional needs of my potential partner…this tango was not an easy dance.

And it shouldn’t be, but not for reasons of religion or moral righteousness. Sex at its best is fun and it’s fantastic and a hundred other orgasmic adjectives. But we’re all complex beings with needs and desires and an assortment of very heavy baggage. Having intercourse has many different meanings (even within the same person), loaded meanings that can change depending on the time of our lives, the time of day, who we’re contemplating doing it with. Paramount, for me, was respect and knowledge of what sex meant to me AND to my lover-to-be. For years, I struggled hard with carrying virginity into marriage until one day… I didn’t. Sometimes, just waiting brings a clear answer in its own time.

 I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.”

………………………………………….— Mae West

My days spent in the Arctic as a young person threw me into a foreign milieu with lots of attractive, confident, young ladies and attitudes towards sex that I’d never encountered before. This was happening at the same time that I was jettisoning my own internal voices and shackles of religion and guilt.

My virginity wasn’t a holy grail to place on the altar of life to observe and protect at all costs. Sex, whether solely for recreation or serious intent, was one more additional benefit to a full life. It always has risks – swimming and driving have risks too but at the appropriate time we take precautions and dive (or drive) in. Sex doesn’t have to be ALL or NONE, but I was finally released from the NEVER.

Life spent in the teeth-chattering cold and long nights of the north made me sometimes question the wisdom of my decision to take my first professional job in the Arctic. I realized that virginity wasn’t a Boy Scout badge I needed anymore on that frosty Yellowknife night.

one-cold-day-in-yellowknife

This was one way to stay warm in the Arctic…

love-in-the-arctic

…this was another…