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Primal Scream

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Get out… NOW!!”

man yelling

WTH!… where is all this screaming coming from?

In reaction and haste, I try to slot the hot water sprayer back in its “holster” but miss the target and shoot a spray of steaming water onto the back of the trousers of Barb, one of the other volunteers.

She jumps in surprise but doesn’t seem scalded. She even smiles. Hallelujah!

I’m the soup kitchen dishwasher today – and turn around to see what the rowdy kerfuffle’s about in the dining hall.

Joe, one of the scruffy diners in the main eating area of the Soupateria is carrying a tattered plastic Value Village bag filled with 6 small canisters of propane.

I don’t know his why. Maybe he has a small Coleman stove he cooks his supper on in a cramped culvert pipe down by Okanagan Lake.

He’s worked himself into an infuriated lather.

Brawny Liv, the security lady that resembles Lucille Ball, is yelling at Joe to get the hell out of the building with the flammable/explosive material.

Instantly, they’re both lit, flammable and explosive.

Ear-piercing F*-Bombs are flying back and forth like shuttlecocks in a badminton match.

Other wide-eyed diners around the noisy display show a mixture of adrenalinized excitement, some fear. The anti-anxiety drugs may not be enough.

It’s just another round in a daily lunchtime set of mostly minor squabbles amongst folks who’ve lived and felt small, maybe excluded, maybe bullied. I don’t know anything except it’s loud and angry.

Volunteering a few days a month in a soup kitchen has probably been one of the more rewarding things I’ve ever done … partly it’s because of the internal stroking I get helping to relieve the discomfort in others’ lives, but more so because of the greater perspective others – different others – out there have given me in my world.

soup kitchen2.jpg

In many ways, the sights and sounds of this foreign world are surreal to my life’s experiences.

We all live in a rarified, kind of ignorant strata of life, don’t we?

It’s like taking a shovel and pushing into the soft earth. We lift the blade and see the layers, the various types of minerals and tiny pebbles that make up that microcosm of soil.

Then we dig in again and scoop down further and lift another strata of soil sub-structure. Now we notice that the types of minerals and composition of clay vs. sand vs. silt has changed from the first shovelful.

The world beneath us has changed in just one quarrying of the shovel.

Most of us never dig and bore in on the second or third shovelsful of humanity surrounding us. We believe that all of our world is made of the same soil because that’s all we’ve been exposed to.

We live and breathe within our own strata of life.

Growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, I believed everyone lived a similar life to my own. Didn’t every town and city have a mix of British-heritaged and Eastern-European and Italian families that loosely amalgamated as one group to work in factories that produced steel and cars and appliances with an abundance of smoke pumping out of their chimneys?

It wasn’t until I reached my twenties that I learned differently.

Thank God I had a fortuitous phone call with a job offer from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories that flung open the doors and windows inside my head. That clear chill Arctic air changed my life forever as surely as Dorothy and Toto experienced plowing down into Oz post-tornado.

It shocks me that there are so many out there who are unwilling to accept the differences that make our world a special place.

differences.jpg

This year… today… I’m living in this surreal space north of an unguarded, supposedly friendly border where the seemingly unbelievable is bizarre reality.

The usually amiable country to my south is like the soup kitchen, filled with a confused mixture of folks who’ve lived and felt small, maybe excluded, maybe bullied. I don’t know anything except it’s loud and angry.

There are canisters of fiery propane exploding daily with every tweet.

The fetid anger and stink is blowing across the globe like a cloud emanating from a volcanic eruption. There is one mouth, one volcanic spew that’s precipitating a sensation of global chill.

I’m disturbed and gobsmacked by the “Ice Age” that’s descended so quickly.

All of this blah blah blah above really comes down to my need for some self-soothing.

It’s childlike and its primal. My thumb is getting way too wrinkled from spending so much time suckled inside my mouth.

More soothing? Reading through some course materials in the Screenwriting course I’m just beginning brought me this short monologue spoken by the character Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) in the movie, The American President:

……………

You want free speech?

Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.

You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest.

Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms.

Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free.” 

I wrap myself in a warm blanket of comfort when I spot intellectually rational, yet emotional memes and speeches that exude hope and positivity to push back against the rage and fear and ignorance.

It keeps my primal scream in check.

……………

It’s hard for me to put myself in the shoes of others and truly feel their pain.

That old Scout’s song, The Quartermaster’s Store called it right…

My eyes are dim I cannot see, I have not brought my specs with me…

But when I visit the soup kitchen, I pop on my specs and see that I’ve been “segregated” from parts of my own world that are difficult to understand.

When I travel to other countries and grasp the way others live and survive, I grow out of my ignorance.

Like any stressful period in human history, we all need to hold on and know that this moment, this challenging epoch… yes, This Too Shall Pass.

Brrrr… It’s a chilly autumn day here as I scan the grey, clouded Okanagan hillsides.

Chris, today’s chef du jour, has made 3 deliciously amazing soups for the folks in the Soupateria today: Tomato Vegetable, Bean and Bacon, and Seafood Chowder.

Why don’t we sit down together, and share a calming bowl of hot soup?

eyeglass of ignorance

 

 

 

I know I KNOW!! Seeking Answers? … Life is …

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Questions

Put your hand back down, or do you need to visit the bathroom? Can you wait just a minute? Thanks …

I don’t have the answer to your question.

Actually, I do have the answer, but you won’t want to hear it.

I’ve always found it funny that we expect definitive responses to all of our uncertainties.

Most of us seem to believe that humanity has solved the majority of life’s big hairy questions.

I beg to differ.

We’re not even close.

I know I’ll feebly inhale my last breath with innumerably more questions about everything I’ve seen and done than I’ll have answers. And this is in a GOOGLE world where “apparent” answers are instantly available.

A hundred years from now, hell, maybe in 10 years, I’ll bet dollars-to-donuts that we look back and juice our jeans in laughter at many of the things we swear to be true today.

You want an example? Sure …

We know with confidence now what causes heart attacks and all forms of cancer, right?

Of course NOT!! That was a trick question and you knew it.

The level of knowledge in the medical field is such that we believe our “experts” know the answer to every issue, every disease, every ache and pain-in-the-ass concern that comes running after us or our loved ones. Or they should know.

Doctors, trained to believe in their God-like abilities, often try to explain something, anything! to give their patients an answer. We all want answers. “Just tell me what I have and I can move on…”.

But so many questions ooze as seeping slickness out of the probing grasp of blood tests and MRI machines.

doctors god

Thirty years ago we believed that stomach ulcers were solely related to mental stress. WRONG!

Forty years ago we believed that homosexuality was an individual’s lifestyle choice. WRONG AGAIN!

Fifty minutes ago we believed that global warming brought on by human activity was ludicrous. WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!

But here is the BIG answer, the definitive response to life’s most difficult quandaries…

Are you ready? Brace yourself …

The answer to so many of life’s biggest questions?

… “WE DON’T KNOW”

don't know

WTF?? Beat’s me….

 

We really don’t know…

Life is mysterious. 

  • We don’t know if there’s a God … faith isn’t the same as fact …
  • We don’t know why some of us live to 100 and others sadly succumb before their 10th birthday… fairness has never entered the mathematical equation of life.
  • We don’t know why your friend has dramatic bipolar episodes … the brain is beyond Einstein’s or Elon Musk’s level of understanding …
  • We don’t know why some people with high cholesterol never suffer a heart attack… while others with rock bottom LDL levels who run marathons succumb to a life-ending myocardial infarction.
  • And, especially, we don’t know where you set your car keys down or where your reading glasses have disappeared to.

… there is no end ever to the creative magic we all contain within ourselves…

… there is no end ever to the riches we can create (both literally and metaphorically),

… there is no end ever to the questions we’ll face and not understand.

Life is mysterious and messy.

Because we don’t know all the answers, we can torture ourselves, constantly questioning, constantly worrying. Unanswered questions can be a necrotizing fasciitis, an internal flesh-eating disease in our minds.

For me, it comes down to the old Serenity Prayer, or at least my variation of its wisdom…

Grant me the serenity to acknowledge the things I know, The courage and determination to seek answers to the things I don’t know… And the wisdom to realize that not EVERY question I have WILL have an answer.

Mysteries will always overwhelm us if we allow them to.

Life is mysterious and messy and joyful.

Survival is about not expecting answers to every question. We can drive ourselves crazy if we believe we’ll truly know the who what where why when and how to everything.

Once we accept that mystery and shitty messes are a part of the human condition, the sooner we can return ourselves to a state of contentment and the pursuit of happiness … or … just like the Johnson & Johnson commercials say… whatever your State of Happiness is.

Now, what was I sa … Oh yeah, you had your hand up… Did that answer your question?

Fine… you may go to the bathroom … Dismissed!

bathroom break?