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A Man With A Shrug…

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Yes, I shrug… maybe I’m the wrong colour…

My last name should be Grey, not Green.

I see grey everywhere in a world that is often painted and presented to me in binary form… yes or no… black or white.

I change my mind at almost every corner.

You could call me Mr. Wishy-Washy, but you know, I take this as a point of pride.

I’d even humbly suggest it’s a sign of later-life wisdom.

In my late teens and early twenties, my favourite book was Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a book promoting Rand’s political philosophy of individualism. I bought her whole storyline of Darwinian survival of the strongest individual, screw the rest of the weak world. I was strong. I was invincible. I was just like Helen Reddy, minus woman parts!

OK, I lied… my favourite “read” was actually A Man with a Maid, an early Victorian porno version of 50 Shades of Grey.

For a young dude it was erotically titillating with the use of shackles and seductive feathers in a man’s quest to rape women, although it was never laid out as rape; girls really just needed an education in how their bodies could be pleasured.

Seen exclusively through a man’s eyes, women in this tale came around to loving him and embracing their hidden sexual soul once they learned the charming and sensuous ways of his lust. *Nope, sorry fella, it’s just rape*

Today, neither Atlas Shrugged, nor A Man with a Maid find an exalted place on my book reading list. They’re in my remainder bin because…

I’ve changed.

I almost shrug in embarrassment to think that I enjoyed either novel, or welcomed things into my head that I now see as repugnant.

But, along the unending road to understanding, compassion, and seeing the world through the eyes of others, I can take some satisfaction in knowing that maybe, just maybe, I’m smart enough and flexible enough to change my opinion, any opinion, based on new insights or facts brought to my attention.

At times the metamorphosis I undergo is just so GD clear and obvious, while at other times it happens with me flailing on the floor, kicking and screaming. Whichever way it occurs doesn’t really matter so long as the change takes place.

Whether its Rand’s individualism, A Man With A Maid’s rape culture, drug laws, or LGBTQA+ rights, … whether it’s politics or philosophy, science or climate change, human rights or economics, or anything else you might name, the critically important point I aim for is to keep an openness to ideas.

An openness to saying… I think I’m right, but I might not be; I need to consider the issue from many angles.

A wide-eyed openness to scrutinize and question, evaluate and internally debate…continually learn… it’s too easy and lazy and bullheaded to merely rationalize with this is what I’ve always believed, or this is what my parents or teachers or clergy taught me.

And of course, to be fair, it’s equally important to recognize, after reflecting as calmly as a Hindu cow, when a change truly isn’t necessary or desirable when the only good reason is… because… it just is.

Because is kindergarten thinking.

Sure, I’m Mr. Wishy-Washy.

I even get frustrated with myself at times because of my vision of “greyness” in so much of the world.

Oh well…*shrug*… sucks to be ME!! Or does it?

To Be Childishly Wise And Wisely Foolish

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*head to the bottom of this post for my recording this week of a Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac) instrumental piece simply titled STEPHANIE.

The fool doth think he is wise,

but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.

So, am I wise?… or a fool? Oh, what a tangled web…

Good ole Will Shakespeare poured forth his great nuggets of wisdom through the jesters and fools within his plays.

We often absorb serious messages more readily when we don’t know we’re being schooled… it’s a bit like when I’d blend vegetables into what I was cooking so the kids wouldn’t realize they were eating “health” food (shhhh… they’re all in their 30’s and still don’t know).

To write a few words of wisdom – I’ve discovered a thousand times – is no easy feat. To paraphrase E.B. White, the perfect sentence is one from which nothing can be added or removed. Every word plays its part.

You know the power of a mere few words… yes, the classic example of Hemingway’s famous 6-word story of sorrow: For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Like just about everything I do in my blogging and songwriting, I’ve once more been on the hunt for inspiration. And while I’ve been called a jester or a fool many times in my days – wise?… well… I’ve not often stood accused.

It’s pretty clear that most of our wisdom is acquired through the experiences of life… the hard knocks, the tumbles, the luck, and joys… still I believe some can be taken in more casually and obliquely through the process of osmosis ie. reading, playing, and enjoying the simple joy of cartoon characters.

Have you noticed how much of the great wisdom of the world today comes, not only from the Shakespeare’s and Hemingway’s, but… in a complexly simple form… from the mouths of children or children’s writers?

To wit, I’ll share a tiny morsel of the “accidental” sagacity that, like seeping slickness, comes our way in cartoon word’ish wizardry.. I give you THE TAO OF THE ‘TOONS

Dr. Seuss rhymed these wads of wise thought:

Today you are YOU, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You. YOU are the only YOU. Isn’t that awesome? There’s nobody alive who can be you better than you. So never aim to be just like someone else. It’s a waste of a perfectly good you.

I’m afraid that sometimes you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ’cause you’ll play against you.

Be who you are and say what you feel because the ones who mind don’t matter, and the ones who matter don’t mind.

Linus van Pelt (of Peanuts fame) is the thinker and philosopher. He’s thoughtful and respectful and is often the voice of reason among his Peanuts gang. Linus clings to his security blanket while remaining perpetually hopeful.

Linus blanketed us in great perception:

Brothers and sisters should never be in the same family.

Most psychiatrists agree that sitting in a pumpkin patch is excellent therapy for a troubled mind.

• I dread getting old… I don’t want to have to wear bifocal teeth!

There’s a difference between a philosophy and a bumper sticker.

Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.

Calvin (Calvin and Hobbes) is an Obi-Wan of a kid too.

I think night time is dark so you can imagine your fears with less distraction.

Getting an inch of snow is like winning 10 cents in the lottery.

Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.

People always make the mistake of thinking art is created for them. But really, art is a private language for sophisticates to congratulate themselves on their superiority to the rest of the world. As my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance.

……………………

And finally, let’s leave the jesters and wise folks behind with their nuggets of words, and try out a nugget of music magic from the songwriting artistry of Lindsey Buckingham (written in 1973), interpreted by me “duetting” with myself on my guitar!

When asked where the name of the song Stephanie originated, Buckingham said: “The song Stephanie, well that was really just an instrumental piece that didn’t have a title, and, uh, Stevie said why don’t you name that Stephanie, and I said, OK, and that’s what it was.”

The Flight of Wisdom to the Centre of the Universe and Back…

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Centre of the universe

Please fasten your seatbelt. Your adventure begins…

When you’re a really little kid, you’re the Centre of the Universe.

You can do anything you want, and Mommy will still wipe your messy bottom and call you the BEST and CUTEST, right?

You are golden stardust, a Princess or Prince.

This is the perfect time of life to make your hit-list and murder anyone you hate and walk away with an impish smile. You have a short-term Get Out of Jail Free card. Congratulations!

Time and timing are everything… yes…

Time is a beautiful gift that’s lost on the young and naive.

Time is forever. Time has no bounds or borders.

But we mortal humans do.

No one tells you this but… for the next 40, 50, 60, 100 years… you’re just a tiny dot of a planet surrounded by infinity and black holes.

It’s a f*&%ing shocker when all that golddust sloughs off and responsibility is in your own hands. No one will wipe your bottom anymore. What’s with that?

Nobody will offer to shave your face in the morning, or insert a tampon on your behalf (if they do, get out your can of bear spray).

You’re adrift in a world of others who are also tiny planets. Try killing someone now – even accidentally – and you’re sporting a stylish orange jumpsuit before you can say Dead Man Walking.

The “adrift” shock wears off, evolving into a sense of independent power when you feel your muscles grow strong and agile and energetic. Your mind absorbs and synthesizes and swells like an empty sponge in a full bathtub.

Like the universe, you expand and expand and learn incalculable facts and lessons until after a long period of decades and trial, you begin to understand the meaning of the word wisdom.

Wisdom’s not a mere jumble of letters in a dictionary anymore, but something that is earned and real. You’re now a Guardian of the Universe. Congratulations again!

guardian

Time, which has always been an endless renewable resource, somehow sheds its disguise and begins to have real meaning too. You can almost touch it and gaze at it with wonderment, and perhaps… even a germination of fear.

Wonderment because important stuff (physical, emotional, spiritual) can only be acquired through the passage of time, and fear because time soon becomes an hourglass of diminishing sand.

And one day… one day… hopefully far off in the future…. your universe slowly and then more rapidly, begins to draw back, picking up speed, and shrinks.

Days are passed searching for reading glasses and keys and removing body hair that surely no caring god would ever inflict on his/her/their worst enemy.

Little owies become daily companions, like a hot morning latte.

Seriously, in my younger days, when some wise senior said “life is pain” I thought it was metaphorical; not, like, “everything from the neck down is arthritis and joint replacements.”

If you’re fortunate, your ability to shave yourself, and slip on your own absorption pads, will last until you’ve squeezed the last droplets of time from the sponge, the final grains of sand from the hourglass. This is my wish for me and for you.

Now, with the wisdom – the mystical treasure you finally possess – you see yourself slipping back into a time and space where once again, you’re the Centre of the Universe. Congratulations on completion of your roundtrip adventure.

All that wisdom sits proudly on a revered library shelf in your head, waiting for an inquisitive young mind seeking guidance in their daily challenges.

A young mind that knows what it is to be the Centre of the Universe, and is heading out on the great journey to the stars building their own bookshelf of wisdom.

wisdom bookshelf 2

 

The Day My Dad Was Sick And I Began My Journey to Wisdom

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father son

My Dad and I were never close.

Nope, not even close to close.

We were acquaintances who happened to live under the same roof for 16 years. Ghosts treading the same floors in different dimensions.

I’ve spent many years feeling bitterness and resentment towards the man who housed, fed and clothed me.

There was no abuse … sure, the occasional routine spanking – it was still the era of spare the rod and spoil the child – no, my beef with my father was benign neglect.

He never joined in with my mother at my school events, attended my hockey games, or helped with delivering my newspapers when the snow was deep the way Mom did. He never helped with my homework or joined me in making little plastic car and airplane models, never threw a baseball my way. He didn’t teach me how to drive or tell me that one day I’d have to shave hair from the edges of my ears (really?!?).

I think that many of us harbour some ill feelings towards at least one of our parents.

It’s pretty amazing that these childhood feelings can linger for decades afterwards, which perhaps helps me understand why we prosecute war criminals and sexual predators (yes, YOU Harvey W.) many years after the acts occurred. The hurts stick to you like flypaper.

In the early winter of 1974 I was on a French class school trip to Quebec City … what joyous fun and freedom it was for a 16 year old to share a hotel room with two buddies in a “foreign” city…

… to experience the Quebec Winter Carnival, taste the frozen maple taffy, cavort with Bonhomme Carnaval, eat filet mignon in an historic old restaurant, and sip French wine (yes, underaged!) with classmates from long plastic canes designed to secretly tote alcohol.

And there were girls on the trip! Even more, there were teenage girls in the Quebec streets who spoke… French! Oh Mon Dieu…

Bonhomme carnaval

Then the phone rang in my hotel room and the fun ended all too soon.

Only a few months after my Mom’s unexpected death, my Dad had been diagnosed with acute leukemia and was being aggressively treated in hospital with nasty chemo chemicals to combat the blood cancer. There were yeast sores all through his mouth and he could barely drink. The chemotherapy designed to save him was brutal and life threatening all on its own.

The voice on the phone said that he was dwindling – quickly – and I should perhaps book a train ticket and return home ASAP if I wanted to say a final goodbye.

I “bravely-in-a-boys-don’t-cry-sort-of-way” held back any tears and began packing and lamenting the end of my teenage frolic en francais.

Shortly after I received another phone call… Larry, don’t worry, he probably isn’t as bad as we first thought, he should survive the next couple of days. Stay there and enjoy your time in Quebec.

Right.

Turns out my Dad survived the chemo (and leukemia) and lived another reasonably healthy 7 years.

And you might think that we became close (or closer) as a result of his illness and the near-death experience, but we didn’t. The big chill remained. The Hollywood happy ending never occurred in real life.

But. Over many years I’ve let the bitter taste dissipate. Melt and absorb back into the universe. It becomes so dilute that it can’t do any harm anymore.

I’m not perfect. I’ve realized that I’m a product of my upbringing and environment and so was my Dad. In his shoes: with his parents, school, and life experiences, would I be any different? I don’t know.

My Dad wasn’t a bad guy. In many ways, he was a good fellow, just not a good Dad to me.

I will never totally understand the man he was, but I understand now through my own life history how a life is molded and shaped … how diamond is often imperfectly formed over time from coal through heat and pressure.

You might say I’ve grown a tiny bit … which is really a synonym for older and … wait for it …

WISE?

WISDOM?

Maybe?

buddha