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The Name Of The Game – Today Is Not That Day…

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Loose bowels anyone?

I sucked in high school gym class… I was pretty athletic but…

… getting marked on gymnastics skills by Mr. Dodds, or wrestling prowess by Mr. Griffin was a diarrhea-producing phenomenon for a kid who had slid ahead a grade in elementary school, while at the same time being a slow developer on the physical front.

I was a mile behind most of my peers on strength, size, and *cringe*… genital-area development. I was a shaved lamb in a gym class of hirsute lions.

My brain dashed down the hallways of the academic classes at the same pace as the others, but my brawn dawdled in the areas that mattered to the macho guys and the cute girls. That old TV show Freaks and Geeks held a smidgen of resonance for this hombre.

I wanted to be in the upper echelon of athletic mastery, but my inner construction was delayed until approaching Grade 13 (yes, Ontario had Grade 13 then) by – as is so popular in today’s vernacular – supply chain issues.

Principal’s announcement over PA: “Sorry, hormones for some of our pubescent boys is held up on a barge from Southeast Asia. Your voices will continue to be indistinguishable from your female classmates until at least next year”.

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Fast forward to today and, while my voice may not resonate in the uber-masculine bass octaves, my inclination is to maintain my physique in a fit and healthy state.

A well-tuned skill set – as required by gym teachers in my era – is nice, but a satisfactory life demands good health via the pathway of simple, uncomplicated physical activity; prowess, macho dudes, and cute girls be damned.

I have a healthy competitive bent but really only when comparing within myself.

I’ve never approached becoming Olympic material *could it be because I don’t give a sh@t* since I won’t push myself to extraordinary limits to beat the next Joe.

I’m delighted if I can shave a second or two off my own 10km or half marathon run times, or, stay in the game and get an occasionally decent top-spin on my tennis shots. WIN-LOSE… Bahhhhhhh…

The thing that high school in my day (at least in my viewpoint) sadly missed out on was promoting the enjoyment of physical participation and overall fitness as healthy and desirable – a life skill akin to learning to understand the need to prepare a household budget and comprehending investments and mortgages, something else that was lacking in my schooling. I was left to find these life-essential matters on my own time and dime.

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It took a heart attack in his mid-fifties for my Dad to learn the magic trick that movement and activity was a secret elixir of health. He began a daily walking ritual that brought him a decent measure of heart health. If my mother had joined him consistently she would have likely lived for another decade.

Our personal histories, these high school anxieties, these parents’ health issues, play out in our minds and shape us. We have a whole lifetime of experiences that make us who we are… including those things that perhaps give you loose bowels too.

Regular physical activity is a habit, I think of it as a positive addiction. Happily, an addiction that should never necessitate a 12-step program (how about a 10,000-step addiction) for us.

When I’m walking, or swimming, or running… I hear a little angel whispering in my ear…

There will be a day when I can no longer do this… today is NOT that day.

State of the (Dis)Union

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It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the troubles of the world. To look outwards and stay focussed on all that is positive can be challenging.

Generally I do my best to avoid drinking up the deluge of information that emphasizes things I can worry over but which I have no control.

And yet…

When I read the essay below by my friend and frequent guest-blogger Jim Ferguson, I listen up because, as I know him, and as the way he describes himself near the end as, “Ever being the optimist…”, it prompts the hair on the back of my neck to stand at attention.

So, let’s let the eternal optimist Jim carry you forward now from his unique perspective as a proud Canadian (and prouder HABS fan!) living in the tumultuous American milieu… Sir James?

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Keep a room ready… I may be making a run for the border soon…

As usual, thanks to Larry for giving me a platform to express some thoughts.

As the title of this latest guest edition of Man on the Fringe suggests, I may be making a run for the border in the not-too-distant future.

No! I am not having a hankering for Timbits or the urge to get a hot plate of poutine. What I am witnessing before my very eyes is the socio-political infrastructure here in “the States” crumbling at a rapid rate and the thought of moving home to Canada seems more and more appealing to me.

Frankly, I have seen this coming for many years. No! I am not the great Kreskin or Nostradamus, but one does not have to be a rocket scientist to see the glaring evidence of a society in collapse.

The U.S. is such a society.

And believe me, when the tipping point is reached, it will impact my family and friends north of the border and globally. As the saying goes “As the U.S. goes, so goes the world”. I don’t know who said that but I’ve heard it down here for years.

For those who are history buffs, go back in time to the Holy Roman Empire and its collapse. Read Gibbons’ Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. History has a way of repeating itself over and over and over and…well you get the point.

Obviously, humanity A. hasn’t learned from past idiocy or B. doesn’t give a rat’s arse and keeps putting its proverbial hand on the burner over and over to see if it is in fact hot when turned on!

For those who have read my guest blogs before, you may recall that I am not involved in partisan politics. I do not belong to any party. Partisanship I find to be divisive and destructive to the general welfare of society, so I avoid it like the plague.

Oh yes! I vote but I try and examine the candidates and vote for character…not party. There’s a novel idea, eh! Having said that, the comments that follow are general and any likeness to any candidate or party is purely coincidental. Ok…I’ll do my best, but I am not perfect…😊

So… back to the collapse of American society.

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Let’s look at the facts as I see them. I present my views in short, compact paragraphs. There’s no way to do a deep dive on each issue. I simply state them and offer a comment from my personal viewpoint and observations living in the States for the past 42-years.

First, this country, and so many others, is heavily driven by unbridled materialism.

Any nation that has such a leaning towards material pursuits at the expense of morality is doomed to fail. Think about it. If the almighty dollar is the ultimate value even more than human life itself, then human life will easily be sacrificed in favour of the almighty dollar and those in power who push such an agenda will not lose a moment’s sleep over it.

There must be a corresponding moral/spiritual/ethical code that leads to balance in society and brings out the nobility inherent in human beings so that the materialism is kept in check. If such morality does not exist what we see is what we are seeing now in the U.S. in the political realm where each party is accusing the other of being Godless, of killing the “others”, of lying, of cheating, etc.

When this occurs so freely, is anyone surprised when people fall into their “rigid identity” camps of their religion, their political party, their race, etc. and from inside those walls they can easily “other” those they feel are the cause of all of society’s problems?

It is happening before our very eyes and the result is societal collapse. When a group can “other” another group based on whatever criteria they choose, how long before it becomes acceptable to imprison the others or even kill the others.

I have seen this firsthand as a Baha’i with the persecution and execution of my co-religionists in Iran where many hundreds have been imprisoned and executed simply for their beliefs.

Second, I will state it for what it is. Pure and simple. Political corruption at all levels of government.

Corruption is rampant and the news daily is filled with glaring examples of the corruption. Here in the States, it is supposed to be government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Those days are long gone.

Special interests have control of the direction of the country and sadly the people suffer. There is evidence of this tragedy in every aspect of American life – politics, healthcare, education, equality, voters rights, etc.

I heard this joke about two honest politicians going into a bar… the punch line involving the fact that there is no such thing as an honest politician. How tragic is that!

It reminds me of one of my favourite movies – Gladiator – with Russel Crowe as Maximus and Richard Harris as Caesar Marcus Aurelius. Marcus Aurelius is talking with Maximus after the opening battle victory and asks him to be the protector of Rome after his death and give the power back to the people to which Maximus replies “this I cannot do sire”. Caesar states something like “that’s why it must be you Maximus”. In other words, the only honest politician is the one who would have the humility to decline the opportunity for such leadership.

America is struggling to find politicians of this type, and subsequently the nation has been dragged to the edge of the precipice and is teetering precariously on the edge. The notion of truth has been perverted to the extreme and people now hang their truth hat along party lines no matter if it is true or not. People often say that their truth is just as valid as someone else’s truth. They are willing to accept the poison as Kool-Aid and to continue to drink with healthy relish.

Third, I have talked about racism here in blogs but believe me when I tell you that racism has once again openly and freely reared its ugly head here in the States and it is frightening to witness.

When political leaders make blatant racist statements (as recently as today) publicly and make no attempt to hide their racism, it does not bode well for the survival of the nation. When police gun down innocent African Americans one after another, it does not bode well for the survival of the nation.

Racism did not end with the civil rights movement. There was no gathering around the White House with all colours singing Kumbaya! Dr. King’s dream of black and white children playing together in peace is still mostly a dream to many. Yes! There are models of unity throughout the country, but more is needed. Racism went underground and the guerrilla politics of the past few years have brought it out of its cesspool, and it is ugly and the stench is rank.

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Fourth, the rich keep getting richer while the poor keep getting poorer.

This will not surprise any of you. This has been going on forever.

The problem today is that there seems to be no way out for the middle class and the poor. The economy, with its ups and downs, is collapsing and the “have nots” are in even worse shape. They cannot get decent jobs and subsequently cannot afford decent food, health care, etc. Their quality of life i.e. that mythical American Dream has been tossed out into the streets along with the families who bought into the nightmare. The current economic landscape does not bode well for survival of this nation.

Fifth, the loathing people have for their neighbours is palpable.

This hatred and antipathy are related to status, race, religion, economics…you name it!

I live in a small town in Oregon and maybe you have read about the great divide in Newberg, Oregon involving the school board and the tremendous disunity here.

It is sad as it has divided this community. I look out on the street where I live and there are yards with Republican candidate signs or slogans followed by Democrat candidate signs or slogans. Neighbours don’t talk to neighbours. Another sign of a decaying civilization.

Friends, I could go on. There are numerous other signs of the decline of American society.

It is now common talk among people here that depending on how the mid-term elections go it could lead to all-out civil war.

The BBC recently had an article on this. The reporter was interviewing people and one elderly couple in Arizona said they were ready for civil war and had armed themselves and were ready to fight to preserve “their way of life”.

Ever being the optimist, I am trying to be a catalyst for the positive and directing my energies towards the forces of light and away from those forces of darkness noted above. That’s all one can do I feel. No matter how dark things get, keep being a beacon of light in the darkness. Eventually others seeking the light will be attracted.

Keep your porch lights on and the spare bed ready in case I make a break for it. Thanks.

Peace,

Jim

SKELLIG LULLABY – The Song

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Awe and Amazement.

There are only a few breathtaking and spiritual sites I’ve been to in the world that have left me with a hangover…

… a lingering sense of wonderment and near incredulity of the power – not always beneficial – of human struggle, labour, and aspiration.

I think of visits to Machu Picchu (Peru), the Terra Cotta Warriors (China)… and most recently… an island in the Atlantic, Skellig Michael (Ireland).

None of these are spectacular natural wonders like Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, Mount Everest, the Great Barrier Reef, or the Northern Lights.

These are constructs of human imagination and toil – toil by thousands of living souls in the cases of Machu Picchu and the Terra Cotta Warriors, but in the Skellig Michael instance, exertions by a mere 13 souls (at any one time) over 600 years, from about 600 CE to 1200 CE.

A grouping of 13 Augustinian monks migrated to the 22 hectare (54 acres) island about 12 km. off the southwest coast of Ireland to create a monastery from which to praise God.

The rocky island is defined by its twin peaks and intervening valley (known as Christ’s Saddle) which make its landscape steep and inhospitable.

Six hundred upward steps from the ocean, these monks built a stone monastery situated near the peak of the crag about 180 m (550 to 600 ft).

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The island is of special interest to archaeologists, since the monastery and outbuildings are in unusually good condition. And for 180 fortunate travellers each day during spring and summer – when weather allows – a boat trip and hike up the treacherously steep steps to the monastery is a pilgrimage into the past.

This is a journey that I, my wife Maureen, and my daughter and her partner undertook this summer. (see post I wrote earlier)

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And now… to bring all of this into lyric and song… a lullaby, for the past and the present of this magnificent rock jutting from the depths of the Atlantic off the County Kerry coast of Ireland…

SKELLIG LULLABY

by Larry Green

Rest in your rocky bed

pilgrims of god’s command

perceive the ocean’s lapping lilt 

where only rock and wind withstands 

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These spikes of Kerry rock

this hidden hav’n discovered

mere 13 souls, a million birds

escape the sins of humanity suffered

CHORUS 

Today we trod this fearsome cliff

hearts dance to hymns of awe

watch clouds shift watch colours drift

each minute stands alone

brushed o’er

the medieval lens of yesteryear 

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As little dolls in children’s beds 

the wings, the coos of puffins 

through grey and shrouded mist

great gannets soar, in so many hundreds

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But in the dreamer’s sound 

I hear the breath of faithful toilers

piling stone with consecrated care

rising ever upwards upwards to the cloister

BRIDGE

Aristobulus conveyed them here

through plagues and pagan tales

6 centuries travails

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Ah, the mysteries of humanity

each rocky step’s salvation 

embracing faith and obedience

abiding isolation, bearing desolation

CHORUS 

Today we trod this fearsome cliff

hearts dance to hymns of awe

watch clouds shift watch colours drift

each minute stands alone

brushed o’er

the medieval lens of yesteryear 




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NB. A recently released historical fiction book, entitled HAVEN, by Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue (author of ROOM and THE WONDER), highlights the monks’ story of Skellig Michael

Who’s The Boss Of Your Housework?

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In my next life, I’m coming back as a rich SOM (Son Of A Moose… so much more polite than SOB)…

… a Jay Gatsby, Tony Stark, or Bruce Wayne-type who never has to work another day in his life…

  • someone whose clothes are precisely laid on the settee at the end of the bed for me each morning (with a valet to dress me like Lord Grantham)
  • someone whose windows and bathrooms are meticulously cleaned and polished each week
  • someone whose sumptuous meals are set at the table when I return from my tennis match and dirty martini afterwards
  • someone who breathes for recreation rather than need.

My appeal is modest really.

I’m not asking for much in a world that houses Bezos, Gates, Musk, the Kardashians, and Putin (why do we ALWAYS compare our lives UP the wealth scale rather than downwards into poverty?)

Happily, I acknowledge that I live like a king by historic standards… my food is plentiful in quality and quantity, health well-tended, housing comfortable year-round, free time to enjoy “toys”.

But every self-respecting king or queen aspires to live higher, to reside at the Mount Everest of human existence moneywise. It’s natural and I try my very best to live my life in harmony with nature. Call me a financial environmentalist!

Bottom line here is that I want to do: what I want, when I want, where I want, whenever I want.

Want. Want. Want.

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Waste not want not, the idiom goes… ie. if you do not waste that which you have (waste not), you will not later want that which you have wasted (want not).

NO.. that is how the IDIOT goes

But why are you talking so flippantly today Larry? Where does all this spoiled nonsense come from?

Simply, it’s comes down to housework.

Not homework where you learn valuable and fascinating things, enriching things… no… housework, where you spend hour upon hour doing those things that merely get you back to the beginning of the spinning rat wheel, turning and turning to only end back in the same spot where you began. To everything there is a season, turn, turn, turn…

Tajine making in Marrakesh, Morocco

Don’t get me wrong here… I actually enjoy handwashing dishes, vacuuming floors, ironing shirts, and cooking (but please don’t ask me to clean a toilet), and I really love cooking … these can be stressless distractions to a busy mind… BUT…

… I’m also a spoiled First World guy… I ONLY want to do all these housework chores (see definition of chore: an unpleasant but necessary task) when it suits me and my timetable.

I do not want to do any of these merely because they dictate to me that it must be done.

I want to be boss and do them on MY terms.

Of course, this doesn’t bode well for a mere plebeian… a middle-class lout like me.

It’s a paradox, a conundrum… maybe even an inner frustration, because…

Upon further introspection, while I pine for the ultimate freedom to do what I want when I want…

I also realize that my very human nature knows that given the extra “free” time to do my desirables, that freedom would likely end up squandered by: social media distractions, deciding which pyjamas I’ll put on at 5 pm, checking the colour of my pee to see if I’m hydrated, or reading labels on every wine bottle at the liquor store.

Maybe, after all, this SOM just isn’t cut out for the giddy freedom of mega-rich’dom…

… sometimes the life we lead is really the one we deserve.

On Being An OLD Young Grandpa

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Take these wrinkles and shove it!

Honestly, there’s a rising bowl-full of yeasty dough swelling with things about getting older of which I’m not a fan.

Good God, I have wrinkles spreading from my forehead to my hair-sprouting ears. I’ll just try to think of myself as sexy like Leonard Cohen (without the great voice!)

I’m definitely not a fan of elder sports such as watching my generational cohorts and family members become ill and begin to drop off, especially when I know that this slow rise up the graph will pick up logarithmic pace with each passing year.

Woody Allen … “I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

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But, you know, as with just about everything, there is a possible positive for us in aging too.

It’s called grandparenting.

And because I know that many today don’t or won’t have grandkids, let’s add in grand’aunting and grand’uncling, even grand’friending and grand’neighbouring! Cast the circle wide and enjoy the fruits.

Grandparenting caught me by surprise… not the fact that it actually happened, but I’m shocked in discovering how MUCH I adore these little people.

This discovery reminds me of my experience of backpacking in Europe in 1979; I had no expectation of finding it thrilling or life-changing… HA! Turned my world upside down for decades following… and now it’s grandparenting that has me gobsmacked.

It’s an Ode to Joy, seeing a new face welcomed to our world, knowing that this mini-person will likely be walking our ground-space, breathing our expired air, drinking our excreted water… seeing, hearing, smelling us inside their head for decades, maybe even a hundred years or more. It’s an eternal and exciting Circle-of-Life miracle.

I’m a relatively new grandparent… I have 3 grandkids all under the age of 5.

So, 3 of my own children and 3 grandchildren.. could this be what they call “replacement theory”?… *oh no Larry, watch where you go man, that’s a different kettle of fish*

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I love the title of a recently published book I’ve run across in another’s blog… “The Mindful Grandparent: The Art of Loving Our Children’s Children

Mindfulness is everywhere these days. Mindfulness entered the zeitgeist during the 1990s when Jon Kabat-Zinn chose the term to express a central idea of Buddhism. Mindfulness means “sustained, focused nonjudgmental attentiveness to the here-and-now.”

These words caught me up in thinking about my role as a granddad and my unexpected enjoyment of this new experience and all of its learning moments. To be a cheerleader and non-judgmental. I do love my children’s children.

Playing grandparent for a full day each week has brought me full-force into the world of mindfulness… there is no ignoring a 1 yr old or a 4 yr old who wants your attention… NOW.

And even if they aren’t asking for attention, the opportunities provided to a little one by a non-mindful grandparent can lead to crazy, even occasionally dangerous consequences.

This week my toddler granddaughter and her 4 yr old brother were left alone for a few moments. Within a minute or two, his underwear was off and she was wearing them on her head as a hat! Not dangerous… but crazy?? Absolutely!

One of the big things I really love about grandparenting is reading children’s books to the kids.

To see the look in their eyes, and watch from outside the thoughts and dreams… the swirl of imagination, is as startling as it is powerfully compelling. As a young parent I was likely too tired or overwhelmed by a busy life to notice such big small stuff.

So, if you have a small child in your world, here are a tiny few of my favourite books that I’m reading with my 4 year old and 1.5 year old; our newborn grandson will join this thrilling fraternity in the coming months.

It shouldn’t be surprising, but my very favourites, for the 0-5 age crowd, and mainly because I have a little boy’s scatological mind inside myself, are the absurdly silly Robert Munsch books:

I HAVE TO GO [pee]

MOIRA’S BIRTHDAY

GOOD FAMILIES DON’T [fart]

THOMAS’S SNOWSUIT

or the poignant LOVE YOU FOREVER

BIRDFEEDER BANQUET (author Michael Martchenko)

THE MAGIC HOCKEY SKATES (author Allen Morgan)

Today, you can tell by the furrows across my face that I’ve been around for awhile, but I’m working harder, as a grandparent, to make all of the new crinkles and creases across this mug… SMILE LINES...