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Stairway to Heaven

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Luke Skywalker, where are you? I’ll answer later…

Skellig Michael (in back) and Little Skellig (foreground)

Skellig Michael, Ireland.

High above the Atlantic, on the westernmost edge of Europe, you can cast your eyes further westward across the chilly waters towards faraway lands…

Lands where so many impoverished and starving Irish migrated to over the centuries… but you can also peer skyward to the heavens that drew religious monks here from Egypt, Arabia, and Gaelic lands to commune with God.

This peak, the Monastery of Skellig Michael, 8 miles from the southwestern shores of Ireland’s County Kerry, was home to 600 years of monks (between the 6th and 12th centuries), who created a rocky “home” for themselves on the far edge of the known earth when it was believed you would fall from this flat planet once you ventured further east.

The monks, always counting 13 in number at any one time (representing Jesus and the Apostles), painstakingly constructed the stone steps leading to the top where a nest of beehive stone buildings housed them and their religious beliefs.

We arrived by small boat at the dock of the rocky crag just before noon after a 90 minute rollercoaster trip through the ocean swells, from Portmagee with 10 others.

The surreal scene greeting us at arrival resembled a busy Air Force base with thousands of winged gannets and puffins aloft, circling and dipping in the strong north breezes.

The rocky outcroppings and ledges of the island were dotted top to bottom with literally thousands of the birds… white spots littered like huge handfuls of confetti dropped from above to coat the surfaces.

Our group hopped off the bobbing boat at the small dock of the island with the advisory to return to the same spot in 2.5 hours exactly as the boat would only come ashore for a minute or two before casting off again.

This wasn’t our last advisory…

The warnings were many.

* The website posted warnings.

* The boat operators warned.

* Explicit signage warned.

* A guide at the start of the climb up the rock stairs gave a lengthy and detailed warning.

Yes, the guide was friendly but stern in his words.

The 600 rocky steps up the stone monument in the sea were not to be trifled with, the white-haired scholarly fellow said.

The sandstone and compressed slate steps – typically about 3-4 feet across – were uneven and often with sheer drops on the outer edges, he noted. With care and due attention, all would go well.

But, for those who might try taking photos while climbing, it could – and had unfortunately in the past – spell disaster. Always stop with two feet planted firmly to take pictures, he insisted. Pass others carefully. And if the heights become too much, well… sit down and end your upward journey with no worries or guilt. Every day, of the maximum 180 visitors, there are those some few who don’t manage to see the monastery at the peak.

For those with ADHD tendencies like myself, it was difficult to listen in while simultaneously absorbing the sight of 8 or 9 inch tall, doll-like puffins staring back at us from their little shelves of dirt and rock, mere feet away.

Puffins. Real live puffins. Upwards of 10,000 puffins adorned this small island rock, bottom to top.

Atlantic Puffins – sometimes called Sea Parrots – arrive on the island by the thousands in early July each year to make their little nest crevices among rocks or in burrows in the soil on the mountainside.

The monogamous, pair-based avians produce 1 creamy white egg each season. The parents take turns feeding their young, small fish they harvest by diving into the ocean.

By early August, their fledglings set, the birds desert the island and return to their normal sea-based homes off the coast of Iceland.

Our hike was breathtaking… filled with fabulous vistas and heart racing precipice drops.

The scope of rock building taken on by 13 monks over hundreds of years is a testament to human strength and resilience. Their hardships were many and often painful; all part of their veneration to God.

Ultimately, our hike up the steep rock was as thrilling as it was disastrously uneventful… Woot Woot!

We passed the spots filmed in the movie Star Wars, The Last Jedi where Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley interacted in the upper reaches of the stony monastery. Yes, the elder Luke found his force here on Skellig Michael.

It’s a great day when you can climb a Stairway to Heaven, survive an encounter with a Jedi camp, and come home with an adventure to share.

Slainte

Photo credits: Maureen Miltimore Green, Erin Green, and The Man On The Fringe

What Would YOU Do?

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Today I’m happy to share with you another guest post from Jim Ferguson.

When Jim sent this post to me, I frankly hesitated. Hmmmm… this doesn’t sound like me.

As you likely know, I profess myself as an atheist. Jim (as you may know, and if not, will soon find out) is a devout Baha’i adherent.

Religiously, we are 2 trains on separate tracks. And yet.

While I don’t confess to a belief in God, I do admire and respect many many of the teachings of the various religions. And I respect Jim’s beliefs and understanding of religious texts and philosophies.

Many of you who read this post today share a religious commonality with Jim. And others may not.

Making the world a better place cries for understanding each other. A willingness to listen, and if we don’t totally agree on everything, we know that humans are one, and all have the same right to share this world, so long as we cause no harm to another.

I think Jim’s final paragraph is a lovely summary.

So without further delay, here’s Jim:

Greetings MOTF-ers, tis I, Jim Ferguson, back for another rendition of guest blogger for Larry.

I am, as usual, happy to give the lad a break from the mental strain of coming up with blog topics every week or two. Okeedokee…let’s get at it!

Have you ever come across the old bumper sticker “WWJD”?

It was popular a couple of decades ago as people wondered “What Would Jesus Do” (WWJD) in this situation or that situation!

I’ve been pondering this myself lately as I have witnessed the forces of societal decay and disintegration manifesting themselves before my very eyes. Maybe you are observing it too.

It is hard to be blind to the fast decline setting in with daily accounts of war, rumours of war, mass shootings, poverty, political unrest and corruption, racial prejudice, religious intolerance, crime…need I go on?

Let me state up front that I am not a card-carrying Christian BUT as a member of the Baha’i Faith, I love and revere Christ and His teachings.

I could not be a Baha’i without acknowledging the validity of Christ and Christianity as I acknowledge the validity of the other great spiritual Teachers to humanity-Krishna (Hinduism), Buddha (Buddhism), Zoroaster (Zoroastrianism), Abraham and Moses (Judaism), Muhammad (Islam), and Indigenous spiritual Teachers such as Deganawida (Iroquois Confederacy), among others.

Baha’is believe that the Creator has sent a new Prophet to humanity for this age-Baha’u’llah, who teaches that there is only one God and that all the great religions come from one God and all humanity are members of one family. That’s another story for another blog.

I consider myself a student of religion having studied the history and spiritual teachings of various religions since childhood.

The other day as I was pondering and meditating on the destructive and negative forces plaguing humanity and what the solutions were to the myriad problems confronting humanity, I found myself thinking of that bumper sticker and wondering what Jesus had said to humanity in His teachings. What did He tell humanity to do or how to live that could contribute to the betterment of our world? 

I decided to go to the Bible and read only the red-letter words as they are the words of Christ.

My conclusion has been and remains that Jesus brought many teachings for the spiritual upliftment of the individual and of society. If one ignores the man-made interpretations attached to the religion today and goes directly to the red words one can find gems that can inspire goodness in the individual which can then translate into goodness in society at large.

Here is an answer to “WWJD”.

I am providing a sample of His teachings for you but have a more extensive list if anyone wants it. This sampling focuses on basic qualities that I feel relate to making the world a better place. Also…I am not offering any interpretation. I leave that up to you in your personal meditations. 

So…” WWJD”? He would tell you/remind you:

Not to live by bread alone but “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Matt 4:4

To worship “the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” Matt 4:10

That: Matt 5:3-10

-the poor in spirit are blessed “theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

-those who mourn are blessed “they shall be comforted”

-the meek are blessed “they shall inherit the earth”

-those who hunger and search for righteousness are blessed “they shall be filled”

-the merciful are blessed “they shall obtain mercy”

-the pure in heart are blessed “they shall see God”

-the peacemakers are blessed ”they shall be called the sons of God”

-those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake are blessed ”theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

That “You are the light of the world… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matt. 5: 14-16

That “whoever therefore breaks one of the least of the commandments and teaches men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” Matt. 5: 19

That “unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. 5: 20

That “whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement. And whoever says to his brother “Raca” (worthless) shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, “you fool” shall be in danger of hell fire.” Matt. 5: 22

To hold true to your word, “But let your yes be yes, and your no, no. For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” Matt. 5: 37

To turn the other cheek, “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” Matt: 5: 39

“And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” Matt. 5: 41

To “give to him who asks you and do not turn away those who want to borrow from you.” Matt. 5: 42

To “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…” Matt. 5: 44-48

Not to “do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men…But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” Matt. 6:1-4

To say the Lord’s Prayer Matt. 6: 9-13

That “if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matt. 6: 14-15

That “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Matt. 6: 19-21

That “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness” Matt. 6: 22-23

That you cannot serve both God and material wealth and to not worry about worldly affections. Matt. 6: 24-34

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” Matt. 7: 1-2

Not to look at the sins of others when you yourself are a sinner. “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in thine own eye?…Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” Matt. 7: 3-5

That “whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matt. 7: 12

That whoever hears His teachings and practices them “I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” Matt. 7: 24-27

That “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” Matt. 12: 25

That “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” Matt. 12: 35

“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul” Matt. 16: 26-28

That “if you have faith…nothing will be impossible for you” Matt. 17: 20

To be humble: “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. 18: 4

Not to offend: “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” Matt. 18: 7

To forgive your brother his trespasses: “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Matt. 18: 35

Not to murder, not to commit adultery, not to steal, not to bear false witness, to honor father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself. Matt. 19: 18-19

How to be perfect: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Matt. 19: 21

To “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matt. 22: 37-40

To “have peace with one another.” Mark 9:49

Well…there you have it.

A sample of the teachings of Christ on the nature of peace, humility, forgiveness of others, righteousness, turning the other cheek, meekness, not being judgmental, giving to the poor, living a spiritual life, etc.

I conclude that if the world demonstrated more of these qualities, we would be living in a better world. One does not need to be a Christian to appreciate the teachings brought to humanity by Christ and to realize they are good medicine for what ails the world. Next up…WWBD? (What would Buddha do, or, What would Baha’u’llah do? We could do a whole series…😊)

Peace,

Jim Ferguson

Funeral For A Chocolate Eternity

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Today, a spicy little twist from this Man On The Fringe.

As we enter a Northern Hemisphere summer, I’m offering up this rehash/reprint from a younger, stronger, handsomer… me.

Eight short years ago (June 2013) this week I wrote this post, a fantasized vision of my own funeral.

Morbid, maybe… but also how fun really! Let’s hit the time machine on this mini pseudo-philosophical tale…

………………

The rear swing door of the black hearse sitting in the horseshoe-shaped driveway was already gaping open like a Domino’s pizza oven, impatiently waiting for the deceased’s delivery.

.

hearse door ajar

Sun rays were prying their way between the clouds, trying desperately to make this final day bright.

Alone, I hesitated a second at the tall, heavy oak door of the generic staid but stolid funeral home – I pulled it open. Within seconds, a tall, dark-suited bespectacled man approached.

Did you know the deceased well?

He was dignified and compassionate in his well-honed professional approach to terminal matters.

Very, I said, grinning in a sheepish, modest sort of fashion.

In fact, I AM the deceased.

I spoke in a breathy whisper, hoping he would pick up on the discretion I wanted for such an unusual occurrence. He barely blinked when I said it though…

How often does this happen? This guy was a pro. He slide-stepped a quarter turn sideways and gestured with a sweep of his arm that I might like to enter the chapel.

I was worried that I would be noticed when I passed into the dimly-lit open hall so I sat down quickly on one of the empty long wooden pews at the back of the room.

Funeral chapel

Fortunately, in churches and funeral homes, people don’t turn around to look behind them. You only look left, right, or forwards. I haven’t perused the holy book lately so perhaps it’s some religious rule, maybe even a commandment–  that you don’t turn around unless they start to play “Here Comes The Bride“, and then it’s rude NOT to turn around.

Music … I love music. Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” was just ending and the distinctive guitar picking of James Taylor began softly echoing off the high wood-panelled ceiling of the chapel – “You’ve Got a Friend”… I closed my eyes and absorbed one of my favourite songs.

I was adjusting my pant leg when a woman’s voice coming from my right whispered, “Are you the dead fellow?

My eyes were just adapting to the low lights of the room. Surprised, I turned to see an elderly woman scrinching her way, sliding gently towards me on the bench. She looked familiar, but only in the way that any woman of her age might remind you of your grandmother. She was squinting at me through her thick eyeglasses.

How did you know that?

– Well, you might think its a bit strange, but I come to a funeral here every week. IF there’s a funeral on a Friday. I have bridge club on Thursday and my daughter comes to help me out on Wednesdays. The other days just don’t feel like funeral days to me. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m Catholic. Fridays feel like a funeral day.

She slid her hands slowly over the knees of her dark dress to straighten the pleats that had been disrupted on her slide towards me.

– I never know the dead person, but I enjoy a good funeral. I get to see and hear the sum of a person’s life in about a half hour. I learn a lot about what’s important to different people. Sometimes it’s all just religious rigamarole – sandwich without a filling – almost like the dead person never existed. But sometimes, there’s a whole gourmet dinner laid out of a person’s soul. It makes me see my own life better somehow. I like those ones.

She fell quiet when she spotted the man in the dark suit, the same one that greeted me at the front door, approach the podium at the front of the room.

man speaking at funeral

He paused at the metal-faced lectern, looked down quietly at his notes, then slowly looked back up, and began:

One of the great benefits of living for a number of years, is that we absorb and observe and enjoy the things that make our time as humans on earth special and memorable. We experience the multitude of stages that constitute a life. Birth, childhood, teen years, first loves, fast cars and vehicles, first jobs, the stresses and great joys of family life and interacting with people that surround us. We see beauty, and pain, in so many forms, often those things that we glance past in early years become the treasures of our later lives.

-If Larry was with us here today, if he was sitting right here in this chapel at this moment…

He glanced with a small ironic smile towards the back of the room where I was sitting.

– if he was here, he would want us to reflect on the things that mattered greatly to him and at least take them into consideration in the living of our everyday lives. 

Hallelujah brother, I wanted to yell out.

But I didn’t want to distract the modest crowd of mourners and well-wishers who had broken away from their daily existences to say a final farewell to a small piece, a fragment really, for most of them, of their lives.

Aside from close family, a funeral, at its most basic level isn’t really about the person who has passed. A funeral is about how each of us reacts in the moment, decides our own personal life course, and editorializes how we’re doing so far.

– Highly spiritual but not a typically religious man, Larry suggested in his final requests that I put in a good word about 5 things that stood out for him and that made his own existence special and noteworthy.

spiritual path
  • Love of creativity. Creativity surrounds and envelops us every day. Almost everything we touch from simple kitchen gadgets to fancy cars is there because another human conceived and made it. Our medicines, our clothes, chocolate bars. You name it, simple or complex, it needed creativity. Music, sculpture, yes even Fifty Shades of Grey… they all originated in the amazing mind. We need to observe and appreciate the good and great we’ve created and be mindful of the not so good. But more importantly, we need to be an active participant and create within our own sphere too. Create a garden, create a meal to be remembered, create a poem, create a pair of socks. Perform some idea sex and create something totally unexpected. Absorb others’ creations but take the time to make your own little masterpiece too.
  • Love of at least one other who loves you back. The warmth of another’s love and respect is what makes humans human. It grounds us, it gives us purpose. Giving love to someone else lifts up the poorest beggar to the richest monarch. It can’t be bought, it can’t be sold, but it’s more valuable than the Crown Jewels.
  • Love of health and activity. Our bodies are striated top to bottom with muscle. Bone and blood and muscle thrive on movement, active movement. Our mind muscles and our body muscles all feel better when they’re exercised and strengthened. An internal global sense of health and well-being starts with active movement.
  • Love of the unknown… fearlessness. Stepping to the edge of the metaphorical ledge makes our heart race and our soul sing. Horror movies are so popular because they take us to the edge of our comfort zones, creating a sense of exhilaration, but pulling back and leaving us drained from a cathartic high. Taking ourselves to the limit or into an area that intrigues but intimidates us at the same time is a fantastic journey that puts LIFE into life. I’m told that Larry confided once that running marathons or learning another language in a strange, exotic locale filled him with fear. But, living and pushing forward into that fear is exhilaration exemplified.
  • Love of the senses. This is a world replete with sights, sounds, smells that can overfill our senses, and yet we often downplay or ignore them. We need to learn to slow our breathing and absorb the plethora of beauty in all its forms that surround us. The smoothness of pine needles, the scent of seafood in a crowded marketplace, the roar of a jet piercing the sky overhead, the glitter of the setting sun rays caressing the lake surface at sunset. Our lives can be so much richer when we take the time to appreciate the exquisiteness around us.

– So, Larry asked that we all retreat within ourselves today and reflect on those things we feel an affinity, a love, a respect, a passion for in our days and years living this amazing miracle that brought us to this place, this time, this world that evolved from no one yet knows what or where.

Oh, and one more thing. Larry wanted me to add…  eat some chocolate … always eat some chocolate!

Life can be as simple as that sometimes.

coffin crisp

The time felt right for me to leave.

The old lady next to me turned and nodded knowingly with a small smile. Leaning in slowly, she bussed her lips against my cheek and whispered, “Thank you for the lovely soulful meal you made for me today. I’m going to think about the things that were important to you. I’m glad we had this chance to meet.

I stood and took one last look over the group of my friends, my relatives, my life.

Some were smiling, some were gently wiping beneath their eyes with white kleenex; the ladies dressed in mixtures of short and long skirts, with sweet floral smells and red lips. Men in dark suits, some in clean blue jeans and open necked shirts, a disjointed harmony of style and generation that spoke of honour and fashion.

To my own surprise, I felt good. It was a bittersweet moment knowing that my own few eternal seconds had come and passed so so quickly.

I turned and pushed my way through the door of the chapel. Instantly, a brilliant white light shone through the upper windows of the funeral home, the sun had won its skirmish with the clouds.

I wasn’t sure where the white light led but I felt a robust attraction to first one exit door on my left and then an equally strong pull towards an exit door on the right.

On each door a sign was posted prominently on its surface. The one to the left stated:

Buddha awaits your reincarnation

The sign on the door to my right said:

Chocolate Eternity

I hesitated and thought deeply.

SERIOUSLY? All of life’s philosophies come down to this?

Maybe death can be as simple as that.

I paused for a moment longer, then smiled a little smile and stepped confidently forward. I’d made my choice.

With all my strength I threw open the door.

2 more doors

Christmas Old and New

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That was then. This is now.

Maybe it’s because I’m not a Christian believer.

Maybe it’s because Don Draper and all the advertising Mad Men crawled inside me and wouldn’t stop ringing Christmas bells and playing the jingle-script of Kris Kringle perfection.

Maybe the Charlie Browns and Grinches and Rudolphs and Ebenezer Scrooges were like multiple-personality Sybil’s speaking at me in an unstoppable constant repeat.

Xmas TV

Yes Virginia, I like the modern tradition of Christmas gift-giving.

I love to spend hours watching others  – one by one – open a beautifully-wrapped present. A personal gift given to a loved and/or admired one is as close to my definition of “Christmas spirit” as the other “meanings” of Christmas.

But in days long gone, I’ve been panic-struck while Christmas shopping. If I was migraine-prone, I would have OD’d on opioids from the tension I layered over me like a searing winter duvet.

I can remember years where I drove the streets of my birth-city like a crazy man, battling snowstorms, madly seeking out some sense of Yuletide perfection that could never be possible. Always dangling but never attainable.

Ho Ho How will I ever send everyone – friends, relatives (large families are wonderful until you count up your two dozen nieces and nephews on December 1st) – to the pinnacle of joy unless I have the perfect gift?

Cheery-fluff snowflakes laughed at my misery as they drifted by my face beneath the streetlights.

Anxiety and anguish were my shopping companions. All to the accompaniment of joy and peace and good tidings shared with a thousand (hmmm… felt like a million) other crowded shoppers.

I was captive to my consumer culture.

That’s one hand. And as my good Fiddler friend Tevye says: “On the other hand…

… this old dog has found a new trick.

My culture, my time, has provided me with the greatest shopper’s gift called … the INTERNET.

BUY, BUY, BUY

Yes, I’m still a captive to the consumer culture. I buy. I buy more than my initial budget tells me to. I still agonize over what my peeps will tear open and beam at with delight.

But the anxious hours I used to spend uneasily traipsing the mobbed aisles of department stores and scented boutiques (I really do love the sweet scent in small boutique shops) are pared down to minutes now that I do my window shopping gazing through the windows of the menagerie of online stores.

Once I find the treasure I’m seeking in the “Internet Mall”, I’ll call or visit my local merchants. If they offer the same or similar item at a similar price (I’m always willing to pay a few dollars more to support the local), we have a sale!

Otherwise, Amazon or Hudson’s Bay or LL Bean or TicketMaster suck in my conspicuous consumption $$.

Either way… it’s… Relaxed … Easy … Anxiety-Free.

I love Christmas morning. It’s the same as every other morning, except it isn’t. Does that make sense?

Christmas awakening is a release of all the merry tautness, all of the mental and physical effort that pours out over a month of anticipation and sugar and alcohol.

Even for us non-believers, there’s a sense of spiritual awareness and warmth and a magical aura that comes with the harmony of hymns and cheerful “Merry Christmas“es. Joy to The World feels more real on Christmas Day.

When I was a child, Merry Christmas was all we had.

Today I can share the pleasures of the many cultures that surround me. There’s no need to toss aside the calling out of Merry Christmas, or Happy Hannukah, or Gung Hay Fat Choy or Happy Kwanzaa. And sure, even Happy Holidays…

We can all participate in the joy of each other’s celebrations.

That’s the gladness I find in this “new” Christmas that I want to share with my friends of all beliefs.

Holiday celebrations.jpg

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep… My PRAYER?

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Prayer bed.jpg

GOD… Shmod…

I’m sorry if my words and irreverence are hurtful or disdainful to you.

I don’t want my blog posts to cause anyone pain … truthful (from my perspective) but not painful.

As a child, I was taught to kneel next to my bed, hands pressed together beneath my little chin, and pray to God…

And now I lay me down to sleep…

… before climbing under the covers for the night.

For the next hour, I’d anxiously lie there, blankets pulled up over my nose, hoping that no Where The Wild Things Are monster would crawl out from under the bed or burst through the doorway and cut me into pieces and eat me.

I was an anxious child. I had my own Calvin and Hobbes world.

Sleep would eventually descend over me like a drifting parachute and I was safe from the imaginary devils inside my head for another day.

Whew! Prayer answered.

calvin and hobbes.jpg

Happily, I made it through the omnipresent – artificial – dangers and survived into adulthood where the only – real – monsters that exist show up on CNN routinely.

I’ve told you before that I’m not a believer in an omnipotent deity… male, female or any other non-binary choice.

It’s not a big deal and I don’t want to write evangelically atheistic rants like Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins.

I respect the desire and need for religion…the salve of poverty, war, disease,  interpersonal hell… I wish it wasn’t necessary, but I understand its basis and the comfort it gives to millions.

I don’t want to judge others and their beliefs just as I don’t need or want someone hovering overhead judging me… we all have reasons for our weaknesses and faults. I judge myself pretty harshly and that’s all I can handle.

If I was a devout believer I’d probably be a better person.

I’d probably be more like Lauraine the head lady that I work with when I volunteer to chop and slice and dishwash at the Penticton soup kitchen.

Lauraine is a pious Catholic with a lively sense of humour and a Mother Teresa-like aura of warmth. She treats every person with dignity and respect and sees the inner good that so often doesn’t show on the outside of troubled people, which is everyone.

Lauraine knows I’m a non-believer but if I ever have a difficulty in any area of my life she assures me that she’ll pray for me or my loved ones. And even though I don’t believe it will have any direct impact, I feel good inside knowing that she’s sending some positive vibes.

I don’t believe in a God, but I do believe in the power of individuals to make a god-like difference for those in their circle of influence. Lauraine is real and affects my world.

Also, my inspiration doesn’t flow through the Bible, the Sutra, the Vedas, the Quran or the Torah, though each carries a wealth of wisdom.

Wisdom and understanding is cached away in a multitude of places other than religious texts. Hopefully wisdom informs beliefs.

Sometimes we come to believe in something as an accepted fact even though there’s no rational or sensible underpinning to that belief.

I was reminded of this natural human tendency when I saw a replay of perhaps my most favourite segment of television ever, of course written by one of my very favourite screenwriters, Aaron Sorkin, in the HBO series The Newsroom.

It’s a Shakespeare-style soliloquy spoken by a fictional TV news anchorman (Will McAvoy aka Jeff Daniels) during a university debate.

A young female sophomore student asks a seemingly simple question that everyone in the room takes for granted has an obvious underlying truth.

 

There’s a humungous lump in my throat right now.

Now you might ask where am I going with this whole ramble about prayer and I guess the answer is a simple… I’m not sure.

McAvoy’s monologue is filled with observable facts that would have us examine our belief in the “apparently obvious”. My biases align with his rant. His words are my prayer.

Powerful words delivered with eloquence.

I get it. Prayer is powerful. Prayer makes us weak and strong at the same time.

I love the sense of reverence and historic wonder I feel when I stand or sit in a church, a cathedral, a synagogue, a temple, a mosque.

I love the sound of the archaic words, thou and whence and messiah, and the swell of pipe-organ music reverberating off high arched ceilings.

So, even though I miss the halcyon days of kneeling next to my bed and talking to something or someone greater than my tiny mortal being, I can’t truly recapture those moments of prayer with the same innocence and sense of awe.

The only prayer that exists for me now is the active voice in my head that observes and confers and sifts and debates like crazy.

It’s the godless prayer of observation and wonder, confusion and fear, respect and admiration, love and desire, hope and optimism.

If I should die before I wake… well, I guess the monster under my bed finally got me.

Monster under bed

 

 

 

I Love The Church But I Hate Religion

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christmas-basilica.jpg

Sometimes I wake up surprised by a long forgotten memory that hasn’t passed my way in years, like a hazy ship coming into sight over the horizon. My mind is a mysterious maze.

The clock had just stroked past midnight ushering in Christmas Day, 1970, and my friend Renato and I were snickering – sacrilegiously so – as the Bishop, dressed in his flowing robes and ornate finery slowly made his way, like a blushing bride, down the aisle of sacred St. Eugene’s Church.

Slowly swinging a heavy gold thurible bubbling over with the sweet smoke of heady incense, the Bishop’s voluminous robes and the thurible’s hypnotic oscillating motion brought a vision to my head of him tossing sugary Christmas candies – Santa-like – to the children in the pews.

When I whispered this to Renato, he burst out laughing which made me crack up as well. Disapproving eyes turned our way.

A firestorm of lightning and hail should have rained down upon us.

That was my very first and to this day, only, visit to a Midnight Mass.

I sometimes wonder now if perhaps my photo has been placed in all Catholic Churches worldwide as a “Wanted Dead or Alive” reminder to those who might laugh out loud in the presence of God.

Wanted Dead or Alive

The mass was mystically ephemeral and awe-inspiring, the cavernous hall filled with deep-bassed bone-rattling organ music reverberating off the rock solid walls and high ceiling of the church.

The genuflecting, recitations, prayers and hymns filled me with a mix of reverential wonderment, and even a tiny bit of fear that I would somehow be exposed, singled out to the large congregation as a blasphemous outsider, and stoned to death as a sacrificial Protestant offering.

We were young teenagers and Renato had invited me to the special annual event to join with his Italian family: Mom, Dad, older sister and brother.

Just a couple of blocks away from my own family’s St. David’s Church, St. Eugene’s Catholic Church was all “Paris high-couture” compared to my United Church’s “dressed-down Levi jeans”…

Catholics took Holy Communion with real drunk-inducing wine, we United’s merely sipped on wussy Welch’s grape juice. OMG, we were amateurs at this religion stuff.

Compared to the much more casual, laissez-faire services at St. David’s, it was like going to the Queen’s Coronation in London. It reeked of splendour and religious gravitas.

Religions are like bird species… they all fly about in pretty much the same manner but their plumage and songs can look incredibly different.

Bird church

I’m not a religious guy but I love going into churches, all churches: tiny, mammoth, simple, ornate.

I’ve been in Cathedrals and Basilicas and Chapels.

I’ve entered Mosques and Synagogues.

I’ve stood in a Rain Forest Cathedral.

Without exception, they all impart to me a sense of grandeur, an inner feeling of the greatness of all that exists in a world that none of us can explain with any certainty.

And yet I call myself an atheist, a heretic, a heathen, a non-believer of a God.

But in fact, I have to admit that I’m really a nothing because I have no belief or knowledge or wisdom that allows me to say with 100% confidence that I know an answer… THE ANSWER.

And I hesitate to say it, but really, does any human know the answer? I don’t think so.

Not me, not you, not the Pope, not the Dalai Lama (actually, the Dalai Lama puts it this way: “God exists or God does not exist. Leave it for us. Your task is to learn how to live peacefully.”) or any other religious figure that we use as a conduit to a God.

I trust my eyes and ears and science more than I trust biblical texts written thousands of years back by fallible, earthly men. I tend to throw back most of the faith and religious fish outside of those caught that instruct us in morality and good-living.

For many years, I felt bashfully nervous about releasing my inner beliefs.

My views were contrary to the God-steeped teachings I was raised with and I felt insecure running against the non-secular crowd. It came down to that pee-my-pants insecurity that people would think less of me if they knew I was a non-believer.

Well so be it. Not any more. I don’t mind the smell of my own shit.

I’ve grown older and more confident in my beliefs. Hallelujah!

confident.jpg

And… I think those around me who do believe in an omnipotent deity are today more flexibly tolerant and understanding of others’ beliefs (Donald Trump aside), much in the same way that many, maybe most of us, accept gay love as just one more normal way of loving another person (OK, the whole American Republican Party aside).

Religion, like Communism, holds out for utopian ideals that are heartwarming and based on love and caring for our fellow travellers. When these visionary ideals are taken to heart and observed, which they often are… then… I love religion.

But when those teachings are twisted and malformed into a monstrous means of shutting out and rejecting and hurting others, when horrific wars and jihads and death squads are unleashed, when innocent women and children are shamefully abused, when obfuscation and lies are used to protect and hide those bastard transgressors, THAT is when I hate religion.

Religion can be a wonderful, rich philosophy of living a life, just like many other non-deity based philosophies that teach and promote love and humility and kindness.

Religion supports the needs of those in pain and suffering of which there is no shortage in this world.

Religion offers shelter where disease and poverty and injustice strike mercilessly upon the weakest.

There have been numerous times in my life that I wished I could embrace an inner belief that someone was looking out for me, protecting me. What warmth that blanket holds in the chill of the night.

Be religious. Don’t be religious. Be caring. Be thoughtful. Say thank you.

And be prepared to catch sweet candies tossed your way when you least expect it.

Christmas candy

 

Did God Create Cream Cheese ?

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cream cheese mug

I don’t personally believe there is a God

…………

but if I did, it would have to be because of cream cheese.

 

I was raised in a household like a million other Canadian households.

We kids went to church on Sunday because … just because. My family worshipped in the United Church of Canada.

And being United was sort of Christianity Light.

You could pretty much be any kind of devil-worshipping witch and the church elders would smile and hand you the tiny glass of non-fermented purple grape juice (I secretly wanted to be Catholic so I could drink real alcohol-laced blood-red wine… c’mon, did Jesus offer Welch’s grape juice at the Last Supper?) and tell you you’re just fine.

Tolerance R Us should be the United Church motto …

Salt and Pepper-haired Reverend Buchanan at my family’s St. David’s United Church in Hamilton spoke in a tenor Scottish brogue that was fascinating to watch and listen to during his tedious sermons – he had a divine way of making an hour feel like a whole day – not because of any amazingly insightful wisdom he brought to the congregation, but it was his teeth.

Words hissed through his teeth that gleamed with gold fillings, front tooth fillings that glimmered in the pastoral sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows of the church.

gold-teeth1

If I found myself dropping off during his sermon, which I invariably did … sorry Reverend… BORING!!!! … a shaft of sharp sunlight would reflect off his golden teeth. Piercing through my eyelids, it was like a blast of tropical sunshine on a Mexican or Hawaiian beach, minus the ready availability of a cold, fluffy drink on my right and the mesmerizing sounds of lapping waves beyond my feet.

At the age of twelve my folks gave me – or more probably I insisted (as the youngest of five kids born to worn-down old parents) – the opportunity to choose not to attend Sunday church.

I jumped at the chance. No more Reverend Buchanan.

I rejoiced when I could park my shiny Sunday hand-me-down leather shoes and stay in my Montreal Canadiens’ wool jersey. I could go play hockey on the outdoor ice rink across the street in the park. I loved the cannonading sound of hockey pucks ricocheting off the wood boards set up by city workers far more than the dull, sonorous tones of Reverend Buchanan.

Unlike myself, many folks find reassuring comfort with a God presence in their lives and I respect and understand that. There is a score of reasons and explanations for believing in a God.

Life can be filled with difficulties and trials where the sense of a loving, helpful, understanding deity is too great to not believe for many.

I’ve wished a dozen times in my life from the days of my mother’s death, to my young son suffering a terrible illness that threatened his life, to crushing romantic relationship break-ups that there was someone, something … anyone or anything that could help ease the pain.

NOW.

But for me, that something, that anything, has always been time.

Well … Time and cream cheese.

Pain doesn’t ever really disappear, it just dissipates… which brings me to the raison d’être of this blog.

My point here is that like a law of physics, pain must always have a corresponding rebound or response in joy … yin and yang …  balancing opposites. Can a meaningful life exist without both?

And what brings the world more joy than, you guessed it … cream cheese. Especially cream cheese icing.

mini-cinnamon-bun

You might think me disrespectful and trite to make a comparison and case for a simple thing such as cream cheese relating to something as soulful and complex as God.  But, as I grow older, I find that simple things are ones that often bring me the greatest joy.

For example:

  • I’ve come to realize just how much I love to sit outside on a mild spring day, eyes closed, absorbing the heady scent of the spring flowers – lilac, daphne, daffodils – and the early warmth of March or April sunlight playing through my closed eyelids.
  • In summer, I thrill to the hugging caress of cool Okanagan Lake water swishing over my torso as I dive beneath its surface.
  • I sense an exhilaration when I read a book chapter where the writing leaves me breathless with its originality of word use and creativity. I had this feeling a number of times reading Stephen King’s 11/23/63, strangely never while reading 50 Shades of Grey!
  • When I munch my way into a gooey cinnamon bun thickly swirled with cream cheese icing, or feel the delicate smoothness on my tongue of tangy key-lime pie, or bite into a crunchy toasted bagel with a swish of cream cheese, or taste a square of carrot cake lushly layered with cream cheese icing.

These are all simple things in today’s complex world filled with luxury cars, Rolexes, and high tech gadgets.

Depending on your belief system, you may tell me that these are all reflections of an omniscient being, a God.

And, you may also say to me that it was the devious work of the devil and that cream cheese icing was the culprit in Reverend Buchanan’s gold-shiny teeth in the era before top-notch dentistry.

But that doesn’t matter to me because I inhabit a world where cream cheese, a perfect blend of nature and man-made wonder – gives me a spiritual lift that lights my days.

You and I and our 7 billion human neighbours will never know the true answer …

… but if anyone would like to convert me, I can’t conceive of a better reason that God just might exist than cream cheese.

carrot-cake

What Happens in Vegas … is it Spiritual?

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Spirituality …

Spiritual

… it’s powerful, it’s all-embracing.

I used to hate, maybe even fear the word and now I hold it close to my bosom (do guys have bosoms … anyone?).

So you ask: “Larry, why would you fear a simple word like spirituality?”

In a nutshell, I’ve shied away from writing or talking about spirituality because it has a way of sounding like a synonym for RELIGION.

And, as you probably know by now, I’m not much of a player on the game field of religion.

Spirituality – 1 … Religion – 0.

A greater omnipotent DEITY just isn’t in the cards for me.

Hang on … just as an ADHD aside: Even though I’m not devout or God-fearing, I like hanging out with people who are religious in the traditional (but NOT Evangelical) sense. There’s a warmth and genuineness and often an atmosphere of “all will be OK” that floats in the mist surrounding a true believer. It’s comforting to be in their company.

But today I’m going to drag up the courage to voice some thoughts –  you may agree somewhat … or you may just hate my perspective.

I’ve spent most of my life refraining from this discussion because I care what you and everyone else thinks about me and so it’s easier to avoid the topic than to offend you.

Today, the water looks inviting and I’m boldly plunging in.

In my mind, Spirituality is the NEWS HEADLINE,

everything else is the Subtitle.

Religion is just one of the subtitles along with

  • nature
  • music
  • dance
  • pets
  • children
  • visual art
  • love

You might have others to add to this list.

What I’m saying is that spirituality is the overarching feeling that plunges deepest into the heart of our personal earth.

There’s an aura or ambient meaning that accompanies something that we describe as spiritual. It’s otherwordly, even though it may or may not be religious.

We all have our outer crust that protects us from the dangers of life, great and small. But way down below there is the molten core that is warm and liquid and exudes the inner strength that rejoices in the beauty and wonder we encounter, and supports us in our darkest troubling times.

I suppose sex, drugs, alcohol, and gambling might be considered as spiritual subtitles too but they’re loaded with downside potential, so I can’t include them. I don’t think that Las Vegas will soon be changing its motto to:

What Happens in Vegas is Spiritually Healing and Good in Vegas

Jesus in Vegas

We all have monsters inside us needing some spiritual calming.

Calm is a good word. I used to think that spirituality and religion were the same thing. But now I’ve discovered, for me, the synonym for spirituality isn’t RELIGION, it’s CALM.

Religion and the other items I’ve listed above are where we find the soothing calm that carries us over the mud puddles that are the bad days, the hard times that inevitably seek us out and try to suck us into the muck.

Doesn’t matter where it comes from, we all need spirituality. When we don’t have it, we cease functioning properly.

As an illustration, the other day I finished reading a book by Jodi Picoult entitled Nineteen Minutes. It’s a wonderfully crafted book about a young teenaged boy, Peter Houghton, who is bullied his entire life before he finally snaps in late high school.

Over the course of 19 minutes, this distraught soul wanders the halls of his school shooting the dozen or so classmates who have made his life a misery, catastrophically changing his life and the entire town’s future. It’s as sad as it is telling.

It tells of his inability to find a source of spirituality to carry him over his miseries, leaving, in his mind, only one way to find calm inside his head, even though it means spending the remainder of his life in a jail cell.

Calm

Here are a few examples of where I find my spiritual base – that impression of heaven-on-earth (I’d be pleased if you shared some of yours too!):

  • I awake at 6 am on an early summer’s day and step outside into my yard. Immediately, I inhale the light sweetness of Lily-of-the-Valley in the air, hear the notes of robins chirping and mourning doves cooing. Then I feel the glow of the just-risen sun striking my eyes and cheeks while a dewy dampness in the air cools me from behind.
  • I’m standing still on my cross-country skis in the frigid mountain airs of January. There’s an unearthly calming quiet as I gaze out on the the sun reflecting brilliant off the snowy banks of the side of a frozen lake scraped clean for skating or sliding.
  • I’m perched in the momentarily-hushed darkness of a movie theatre with the intoxicatingly warm, salty scent of popcorn rising. My mind is floating backwards to my childhood as I sit in the same darkness of the Palace or Capitol Theatre in my Hamilton boyhood where I’m mesmerized by the colourful brilliance of … movie classics of the time like Bonnie and Clyde, Bullitt, Sound of Music, Mary Poppins.
  • The sands of Sunoka Beach are hot beneath my beach towel, my torso is absorbing the heat from beneath as the blazing sun burns decorative red lines through my closed eyelids. I feel the sand sift between my toes while children’s screams of delight zoom left to right by the water’s edge. There’s a mixed aroma of french fries and coconut suntan oils drifting over me like the little wiggly heat lines on a scorched highway.
  • It’s 11 pm and the living room is quiet at the end of the day. I pick up my acoustic guitar and stroke the first few chords of Fire and Rain or Dan Fogelberg’s Leader of the Band and I drift away on a cloud where time is meaningless and my mind is still like the morning surface of Lake Okanagan.
  • Shavasana … the end of a yoga session. It’s the only time I feel comfortable lying prone on a cool, hard surface. The room is semi-dark, filled only with Marsha’s soothing voice telling me to release, relax and let go. It’s also the only time in my life where I get to lay down beside 20 women in the dark and not feel guilty – every man’s dream …

Pets-At-The-Movies

 

CALM … SPIRITUAL …

I’ve finally lost the hate, the fear, the confusion over spirituality … SHHH, please pass the popcorn – real butter, of course –  I can’t wait to see how the rest of this story plays out …

 

Do Something …

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Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who bought a Volvo.”

-> Donald Miller

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

 

From time to time I feel a rant coming on and that time is now.

I want to stand on the pulpit like Jerry Falwell or Oral Roberts, my welcoming arms spread wide, and preach to you about how to live your life.

I can sense a warming Pastor’ish aura descend over me, like a rich multi-coloured woollen cloak.

And the really wonderful thing is I won’t make a pitch for you to send money… hmmm, hold on a minute … if you want to send me a few dollars I won’t object.

So, friend … Join me today in the esteemed CHURCH of LAWRENCE.

Church Sign

Do you want to be the one who left this earth and they said at your funeral:

he read a lot of books.” (although that’s good too!)

 

I want to be the one who reached his final breath, where they said :

there were a lot of books written by and about him.”

 

In other words, I DID something.

Do you see where I’m going here?

Lose the passive, lose the inertia … become the active. Physical. Mental. Spiritual.

It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, really important stuff to anyone other than yourself or the small world around you. If you want to be Nelson Mandela or Maya Angelou… go for it. But it’s good enough to be a better Joe Schmidlap.

In Grade 13 Physics class at Sir Wilfrid Laurier school in Hamilton, Mr. Miedema tried to teach me all about the various forms of energy. I was bored stiff other than when I was ogling sweet-faced brunette Charlene, dreaming of what she looked like naked, but this much I absorbed:

It isn’t enough to have potential energy… you can store up all the energy in the world but unless it’s released, there ain’t nothing happening.

I need my energy to become kinetic … active energy that makes things happen.

potentialkinetic energy

 

Because I’m preaching and ranting today, you might think I’m claiming to be perfect.

I wish.

I know people who brag to me about not watching any television. BULLSHIT…

Not me …

If you don’t watch “television” you’re most likely watching your iPhone or Netflix or downloading movies and TV series from the internet … it’s all semantics. I love good TV and there is some very good TV available, just like there are great books, great movies and great music.

Like the food I eat, I try to limit the junk TV (did someone say Reality TV) and seek out the quality screenwriters and performers that nourish my mind and inspire my funny gene or my idea machine after I click the box off.

I even like to watch nighttime soap operas like The Good Wife, House of Cards, and Nashville (of course the music negates the “soap” component here).

But if I sit in my La-Z-Boy hour after hour, day after day, after sitting at an office desk 9 to 5, my muscles atrophy and I slowly dwindle. My strength shrinks and fades as surely as my gut swells and my chin clones multiply.

If I think and do … build chicken coops, write books, ride bikes up mountains, play some piano, cook a gourmet meal … my kinetic energy builds and multiplies.

growth mindset

We have to measure our time carefully so we don’t become strict observers of life.

The kinetic energy that makes us grow smarter and better needs to be used over and over again and then it grows like a voraciously hungry trumpet vine or a wisteria, wild plants that once started, sprout new tendrils at an astounding pace.

It takes sweat and effort. It’s hard work to think and grow and generate ideas and make things.

Just like in the gym though, the muscle won’t grow until the effort creates heat and rivers of sweat.

And sometimes it’s not what we do, it’s what we don’t do that makes the difference.

For example, I’ve stopped buying the Globe and Mail newspaper every day. I can spend a couple of hours easily each day, reading news that means nothing to my life.

By cutting this back, I can use that time to do and create, or maybe just think. I still buy the Saturday Globe, it has the Books section and lots of pretty pictures of models wearing swell clothes, so I won’t give that up.

Our electronic world is filled with wonderful time consumers, little bastard time-wasters that vacuum up precious moments of our lives.

Time waster

I’m learning not to waste my time with negative people or those that are draining … I want positive interactions with those who plan to live life in an uplifting fashion.

I have a friend Henny who seeks out newness in her life to the tune of her birthdays. For each year of her age, she finds something that she’s never done or seen, or even eaten, to accomplish in the year between birthdays. So, for example, at age 35, she finds 35 new things to be a part of her life.

They’re not all big items – most aren’t actually –  just something unique and different to her.

It keeps her fresh and excited about her life.

Things like a trip down a zipline, a bottle of wine from a country never tried before, reading a book about something totally foreign to her, riding her bike down every street in her small town at least once in the year.

These are little exploits that take a touch of effort but reward her with an ongoing profusion of experiences and enthusiasm.

So, my friend, dive in … I’ll cheer you on.

Do something that makes you catch your breath, even if just a little.

We can all become minor Superheroes. No cape required.

Maybe your earthbound days will roll to the finish line and the immortality of your name will live on as an eponymous adjective.

Wouldn’t it be cool to have the newest “IT” thing described by the masses as … not Kafkaesque, Orwellian, Wagnerian or Napoleonic or Shakespearean, but … maybe Fergusonian or Fisherite or Swidzinskian … or perhaps  best of all… Greenesque.

There you have it good friend, this concludes today’s sermon.

Go forth and be kinetic. You have the potential.

Ordinary superheroes are just like you and me ...

Ordinary superheroes are just like you and me …

Do We REALLY Have to Work?

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I have a strong tendency towards laziness.

I love to just sit and think or allow my mind to wander in whatever direction it desires.

I’m so lazy that I don’t even give my brain directions about what it should think about. It decides and I just watch and follow. It’s a stream that meanders in all directions with no riverbanks to restrict its flow.

laziness

The other day my brain decided that I’m going to stop working for a living.

Just like that, no job.

I’m not retiring, I’m quitting. And it’s not because I don’t like my job or my boss. My boss is great, and most days my job is pretty good.

So … What’s Up, you ask?

Jesus didn’t have a job.

Well, some say he was a carpenter, but I can’t find any pictures, descriptions, or drawings of his work, and I did a full Google search.

jesus_carpenter

Unlike Muhammad, he didn’t become a Dad, so he wasn’t a stay-at-home working parent while his wife was out making the bacon (she wouldn’t be Jewish I guess). Some suggest he was a bootlegger who turned water into wine and then sold it to his followers who grew in numbers because they liked his stuff, but that’s just idle rumour.

Jesus had a dream job of being a saviour. How many kids tell their Grade 2 class they want to grow up to be a Saviour? None in my school certainly.

But truthfully, I don’t want to be a saviour… too many liability issues and guilt. And then you end up crucified.

I’m seeking out a sunny field of tranquillity. It’s a kind of mid-life crisis of form and understanding, a nighttime retreat into the womb of safety and comfort.  To be childlike and carefree with only the smell of green grass and sand between my toes, swing sets in the park, ice cream on the beach. A job implies responsibility and worry over bills and leaks in the roof.

Engagement and enjoyment of life is defined both by what we do for a paycheque and what we do as passion. Sometimes they coincide and often they run separate roads.

I don’t think I’m alone in my thinking. After all, millions have read the 4 Hour Work Week and The Joy of Not Working . How many of the thousands of people working at WalMart are there because they love to work? –Damn, ANOTHER clean up in Aisle 7. Hell, even the CEO is only really there because he gets a HUGE paycheque that lets him do the things he really wants to do.

Money-spewing lotteries are over-the-top popular because the multitudes hope and pray that a few lucky numbers will give them their dream job of a life of no work. It’s an ubiquitous feeling that work is a penance we pay so that we can eat and have a boat to fish from off a sunny Caribbean beach for 2 weeks every winter.

4-hour-workweek

I’ll admit that jobs have their place. A job is an important source of social capital, it provides daily structure for many, a place to meet friends and kindle romances, a detouring path away from crime and prison for young men, an example of industriousness and duty to children and a source of self-respect for parents.

But really, nobody has a born purpose in life to buy and sell stocks. Or create an ad agency. Or ride a dusty tractor all day long. Or work in a cubicle. Those are tiny side effects of being alive. We’re conditioned in western society from Day 1 to build ourselves into a work machine that produces something of value that others are willing to pay something for.

No matter how much talent and ability and know-how we possess and want the world to beat a path to our personal toll booth, dropping gold coins into our pocket of wealth, unless what we have to offer is desirable at a reasonable price, we starve.

People start up businesses by the hundreds and thousands every week, and then a short year later they shutter the front door forever because their incredible (to them) idea for sponging up currency that couldn’t go wrong, didn’t connect. Dreams are shattered and bankruptcies are born.

The real purpose is to do the things you enjoy, with the people you enjoy and who inspire you, as much as possible. If this happens in a job setting, great. But for the majority in this world of billions of souls, work life is lived as Bob Cratchit under the heavy thumb of their own Scrooge.  Work is a necessity, undertaken as a servitude for a turkey on the table at Christmas and some coal in the winter stove.

So we’ll continue working to survive like we always have. Maybe someday we’ll devise a way to put a million dollars in each baby’s bank account at birth and the work week will become a relic of an ancient era. Robots and technology will run our factories and our supermarkets and our transit and sewage systems.

Robot in home

I wish I could live to see such a day, but I consider myself lucky to see this moment in history when I can push a switch and my house is instantly made cozy warm, or refreshingly cool. In winter, I can fly like a bird to an exotic beach with loads of fresh, juicy fruit and cold bottles of beer laid out for my picking. If I want to read any magazine or book, I can open an electronic gizmo and have it sent instantaneously through the electronic ether to my lap. While I sit in front of a huge entertainment centre in my living room with 1000’s of movies and other media delights at my fingertips.

Most of my weekly blog posts are about 1,000 words long.  It’s a good length that doesn’t usually tax you, the reader, too much.  I was going to quit at 800 words today and just relax on my sunny, warm deck.

But this luxuriously wandering, creating mind that wants me to quit my job just wouldn’t listen and take direction from me.

I guess I’ll go on being lazy, starting tomorrow…

Lazy cat

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