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Better Living Through Invisibility and Time Travel…

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black and white swans

How can you turn bloodthirsty ugly Black Swans into beautiful iridescent White Swans?

The forces of evil (Black Swans) and goodness (White Swans) do battle, each character standing on one of your shoulders, glaring viciously across the divide.

A duel to the depths.

Invisibility vs Time Travel

THEN – Young next door neighbour Gary and my titillated wee self – baby woodies in our pants – gleefully reflected on invisibility while perusing the X-Ray Specs ads in Batman comic books:

We could sit in girls’ changerooms and bedrooms and watch them undress.”

INVISIBILITY. The force of evil and sexual vice.

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Most boys, yes, young and old alike, want to see ladies naked.

I’m sorry, but we can’t help it. It’s in our DNA.

Do you think the porn industry is a fringe element? Nope!

The internet gives us (kind of) Invisibility. 

NOW – Me, reflecting on invisibility while watching the Trump Channel (CNN):

“I’d sit in the oval office laughing in sadness and pity at the smoky haze of profanities and expletives fired by Donald at the poor helpless waifs Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway or any other sycophantic lackey that wormed woefully across the carpet to his desk. And each time he berated anyone? I’d sadistically pull one shocking orange hair from his scalp so his pain reflected theirs’.”

INVISIBILITY. The force of goodness and atonement.

………………………..

THEN – Me, as a young man, reflecting on Back-to-the-Future time travel:

I’d travel into the future and find all of the businesses that skyrocketed from penny status to mega-billion dollar success with huge stock market gains. Then I’d come back and plow every cent I could get my hands on into these sure winners!

TIME TRAVEL. The force of evil and greed.

NOW – Me, reflecting on coulda/shoulda/woulda Time Travel:

I’d go back in time to 1973 and, knowing more about healthy lifestyles, equipped with some CPR and rudimentary life-saving skills, I’d help my Mom look after herself better- stop smoking, lose weight- and failing that, perhaps keep her heart beating a few minutes longer – as she laid dying from a heart attack on our family driveway – until proper medical personnel could revive and maintain her heartbeat and breathing.

TIME TRAVEL. The force of goodness and mercy.

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Time travel and invisibility are like super-power bribes offered by the stars.

It’s intoxicating, that alluring possibility of changing things, making things better – better for ourselves, better for others, better for the world.

The forces of good and evil, with or without the interference of religion, can assume their roles like characters in a Broadway play, or a Faustian bargain. Which road should we travel?

 

……………………

What ever made me think of these things this week? Thanks for asking.

I was meeting for a tutoring session with my young East-Indian student friend the other day at the library – as part of his requirement for passing his IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam he is required to talk – intelligently – for 3 minutes about a topic of the interviewer’s choice.

If you could choose the super-power of either time travel or invisibility, which would you select and why?”

This was the practice question I asked Ramesh. He’s damned good at this stuff. Usually.

To Ramesh, it was merely an academic question, a practice session, but I was interested to see how his mind worked and where he might take this idea.

Initially, he looked a bit stunned at the question, struggling with the proposition, the notion that such a feat was remotely possible.

I’m guessing that his cultural and educational background in the Punjab region of India had never addressed the airy concepts of imagination and head-play.

It’s pretty obvious that he had never read the story Anne of Green Gables – the ebullient orphan waif whose carrot-haired head floats on wings in the imaginary clouds more than her feet are on terra firma. Reality is less real than her inner visions and dream life.

Behind Ramesh’s dark eyes, I saw the question coursing through his mind… This isn’t something that could ever happen, so why would you ask me this nonsense? 

OK“, he said finally as he gave me that intriguing, yet charming head waggle that only Indian people possess.

I’d go back in time and save my country from the corruption that made things bad in the past for the people around me.” He explained the back story and gave me a lesson in Indian politics, succinctly and in 3 minutes.

He chose time travel and the White Swan force of goodness and remedy.

I smiled. I like Ramesh. His heart has a sympathetic rhythm.

Black swans are an unstoppable force. We can’t predict them. We can’t prevent them.

… who saw 9/11 coming and how it would change our world in countless ways… who saw the bullets that stole the breath away from Lincoln, Archduke Ferdinand, Luther King, Kennedy or Ghandi… who saw the tsunami that swallowed the coastlines of Indonesia and Thailand, snuffing out a quarter of a million loves in minutes… who saw the butterfly whose flapping ephemeral wings caused a momentous shift in your life…

But sometimes those real unstoppable forces – the black swans – need to meet an imaginative unmovable object – the white swans – invisibility and time travel… if only in our mortal minds and starry starry dreams.

Starry Night

 

The Outsiders

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It’s an ugly truth.

Show me the food and I’m there.

For the past month, I’ve been crash-learning to become an instructor, but a sidebar to this story is that I’ll pretty much go anywhere they promise to feed me.

You see I’m in the midst of a 5 session tutor-training program at my local college campus. Cookies, muffins and coffee are provided as a courtesy and an incentive. Damn it, they know me well.

I’m hammering away at becoming a volunteer tutor to literacy-challenged adults (verbalizing the word illiterate doesn’t conform to modern polite discussion I’m told) and since I have a passion for reading and writing, it feels like a perfect Cinderella glass-slipper fit.

Cinderella? CinderFella?… as per my usual state in life, once again I find myself in a classroom surrounded by women. Seven or 8 women, all shapes and sizes, all sharply intelligent, aged between about 30 and 70 years.

YUP, no men… NADA… just me as the solo Testoster-lad. I look around the room and discover myself in that “Familiar as my own face in the glass; as the speech of my own tongue” (Victor Hugo).- role of describing myself as the token male in the group.

I’m an outsider.

outsider

I’m surprised there aren’t some men involved. It seems that almost everything I associate myself with (laboratory career, yoga, spin/boot camp classes, soup kitchen, chick flicks) becomes a hen party where I’m frequently the solitary rooster… what’s with that?

If I felt that I was somehow effeminate… or had homosexual leanings… maybe if I grew a set of breasts (moobs don’t count)… maybe if I cut back on my sugar consumption… then perhaps, just perhaps it somehow would make logical sense, maybe become even a touch understandable. So many maybes and ifs.

I need some sort of translator or transmogrifier to explain to me the reasons behind my ability to GPS the hots spots where women congregate. Do you think Donald Trump might be able to explain it to me?

I’m an outsider.

There are times when I’m conscious of the way Janis Ian must have felt when she penned the tune “At Seventeen“… the heart-rending  anthem for those (young girls) who see themselves as outsiders in their own world, their own society.

Of course Janis Ian mournfully lamented the outsider’s life… in most ways, I happily cherish the outsider role I find myself in, it’s a part of my comfort zone.

The adult student(s) I’ll be working one-on-one with will be an outsider(s). I know this. They live their lives in morbid fear of being discovered for what they can’t do (read/write) that so many others can.

It’s a secret pact they work hard at keeping, like my Alzheimer’s afflicted brother who verbally stickhandles around his deteriorating memory with graceful aplomb.

It’s sad but hopeful too because outsiders are often the ones who become superheroes. Outsiders can see the things and people that need help, need change. They’ve lived their lives with their nose against the glass looking in, watching and listening to the insiders.

……….

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While I was gnawing my way through a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie at tutor-training the other day, Mary, the guest instructor, shared 3 rules for being a good writer. She said:

  1. Read lots.
  2. Write frequently and consistently.
  3. Carefully observe the subtle nuances of life surrounding you.

That third point is critically important in writing.

It’s as if we take a microscope to our world and drill in on the fine points, like a lab tech discerning one type of white blood cell from another in a blood smear. People rely on that lab person to know the details and fine points in order to diagnose and treat their disease.

Similarly, people reading stories rely on the writer to dig in deep and carefully paint a picture in the reader’s mind so it’s as if they were present themselves. It’s exhilarating to feel ourselves within the story.

Blue sky isn’t just blue sky, it’s indigo like blocks of igloo ice at dusk. A richly detailed picture painted in our mind.

It’s the writer that pays attention closely and observes as each day’s seconds press onward into minutes and hours, the world churning and mingling in a semi-organized tangle.

Closely observing and simultaneously participating actively in life don’t go together seamlessly. Knowing this, the writer more often sits in silence, absorbing the shading and subtlety of each moment… the egg yolk tinge of sunset, the subdued upward shift of the speaker’s eye as they concentrate on an important point.

Where was I again? Ah yes… Outsiders. Outsiders show up to life in a huge variety of Halloween costumes, often unrecognizable to the casual observer.

As a frequent outsider myself, I understand my role when I meet with my new student next week will be to look past the costume and find the real person, the real fears and worries behind his bluster and awkward humour.

I’ll need my writer’s superhero observational powers to uncover the true nature of his unease and motivations.

It will be challenging and hard work for us both.

It might be difficult, it might be inelegant, but I hope I’ll work past my own rookie fears to help make another outsider aware of his own superhero abilities.

And if it helps, I’ll even share my cookies.

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