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What Would YOU Say to You in YOUR Valedictorian Speech?

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Time travelling time… close your eyes and settle back into the days when you were first an “adult”… living on your own, supporting yourself, making your own life decisions, taking responsibility.

Look closely at the picture of young you, a you without wrinkles or sore joints, a brain not totally cluttered with information overload, a full head of hair that doesn’t resemble thinned cotton batting, firm of voice and musculature.

You consist of all those desirable things that physically are optimum, humming along at peak operation, a brand new Tesla with a full battery… BUT…

… you are green and inexperienced, naive and over-confident, perhaps supercilious even?

Now, imagine yourself in a cozy chair by a warming fire, sipping a cup of tea and chatting with the YOU that was THEN.

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What would you say to yourself? What words of reflected wisdom would you share from a life lived through an additional decade or two, perhaps 5 or 6?

This is deep stuff to mull over; to review those things you would like to change or strengthen or eliminate, or… hopefully celebrate… in the choices you’ve made, the directions you’ve taken.

I remember reading a book a number of years back titled Letters From A Businessman to His Son… I don’t recall it really well other than I liked it and took away some helpful ideas to digest. There are a number of other books out there of a similar nature… notes of wisdom learned and earned through life lived.

To take on this introspection is akin to giving a Valedictorian Speech to yourself… ponder yourself as someone like David Foster Wallace (This Is Water) or Steve Jobs or Mother Teresa, people who had immense life experience and made not only great successes, but also terrible mistakes. To live is to be HUMAN, in both the good and bad.

Today, I’m going to give a brief “Valedictorian Speech” to myself with 8 small thoughts on just a few of the things I think of as important in what I’ve done and what I could have done, knowing then what I know now. Too, some are reminders of what I should be doing today where I continue to slip despite knowing better.

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None of this is new or original, but repetition is always helpful, right? So let’s go…

  1. SLOW DOWN/SHOW PATIENCE – I’ve generally tended towards living life in a rush. My inner to-do list each day typically includes 3 more items than I can reasonably do and do well, so I run from one item (or one person) to the next so that when my head hits the pillow at night, I feel like I’ve checked most of them off my list. So I say, slow down just a bit young man and yes, “smell the roses”… revel a bit in the moment… see the smiles or frowns, taste the tastes, hear and see the nuance in so much of what you are involved with. You may accomplish less, yes, but you will appreciate more. Appreciation of all that is good and feeling more deeply the less good, makes for a richer life.
  2. FOCUS – this has connection to the point above. By slowing down and focussing, by taking time and patience to work hard and intently at fewer things that you feel passionately about will give you a greater connection and sense of satisfaction and well-being. I’ve learned this over a long period of time through my love of making music, but I also know that it extends to anything that is truly important for us. FOCUS, for me, has been my great A-HA discovery in life.
  3. LISTEN AND APPRECIATE – If I have a “beef” with my fellow humans (and I won’t exclude myself from the category), it is the lack of true listening and attempts at understanding that keeps us at a distance from a better, more humane world. Listening intently to each other is a lifetime learning quest that EVERY ONE of us should work at daily.
  4. HELP AND PROTECT THOSE WHO ARE WEAKER – despite all the talk of us being created equal, we remain fathoms away from any true resemblance to equality, which means that we, as individuals, and as a world, need to strive to protect those who for whatever reason are thrown into the world with unintended disadvantage(s). I’ve said many times here in this blog and to myself that I won a lottery prize in where and when I was born. I’d be foolish to suggest that we all deserve exactly the same life and benefits, but the ideal to move more in that direction would benefit us all.
  5. BE WILLING TO LOOK STUPID IN ORDER TO BECOME SMARTER – as a young man I know you hate to look stupid in front of others, to ask the dumb questions. But you know what? Very few others can look outside their own internal thoughts and worries to care much if you look dumb. Worry not – so long as you have an honest intent to grow smarter by asking and doing the dumb things to better yourself, then DON’T WORRY BE HAPPY!
  6. REMEMBER TO SEE THE WORLD IN GREY – EVEN TECHNICOLOUR – AND NOT SOLELY IN BLACK AND WHITE – the world is filled with nuance and complexity… don’t let yourself fall into the trap of seeing only the surface of what is said and done around you. Many will spew opinions (or what they believe are facts) with only a tiny understanding and no wish to know more. Take your time in weighing the meaning of those things that look simple but in fact have so many more aspects and ripples. Showing how convoluted and contradictory life can be, also heed OCCAM’S RAZOR that says, often the simplest, obvious solution to a problem is the best solution.
  7. BALANCE LIFE – try to avoid a seriously concentrated life that focuses only on one or two aspects of a complete set of human traits. Health and happiness will follow…. Belonging. Community. Creativity. Curiosity. Family. Love. Mental and Physical Health. Purpose. Fun.
  8. ACCEPT THAT CHANGE IS CONSTANT AND INEVITABLE – the world is a metamorphic thing… change always has, and always will be with you, day after day after day. Accept it, and don’t let it make you bitter or disillusioned. The world you know as a young person will not be the same world you live in 30 or 40 years from now. Your children and grandchildren will experience the world differently from you. Some things will be worse, and some will be better, so get used to it. Be willing to listen, learn and change your mind a hundred times during your years as you discover more along the path. Learn from the changes, interpret and resist if it makes real sense to resist, but don’t resist merely because something is different. Learn to tell the difference. Enjoy fully the positives.

FINAL CAVEAT: Unless the “positive” above is a positive result for a sexually transmitted disease, then don’t enjoy fully.

The Predator

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Chase

“The hot blazing sun shone like a flaming ball of fire over the cobalt ocean horizon…”

Yuk… I detest cliches…

Write what you know … that too is a cliche, but one that makes a lot of sense.

I write a great deal from what I know (could it be that I’m too lazy to research what I don’t know?)… and now, as I *gulp* advance in years, from memories stored in my data-bank of experience.

Some of the most formative adventures in my life occurred in the late 1970’s.

I accepted my first hospital lab position and moved to the Northwest Territories in Canada’s Arctic. I had scarcely turned 20, whiskers barely making their presence known on my chin.

There was so much to learn about so many things, jobs, new geographies and climates, and yes, romance and relationships were right near the top of my “need to know more” lineup.

In my late teens in Hamilton, I had dated a bit here and there and lived and cried through one “serious” relationship.

BUT.

All of my life experience to that point was reflected in the western cultural norm of boy chase girl, boy ask girl on date, etc… the formula, the standard pattern of  young women playing coy and hard-to-get was ingrained in me by everything I saw around me in real life and in TV and movies.

And then I moved to Yellowknife (YK).

YK Winter 4

The rules I knew, my life’s accumulation of dictates, were tossed out the window of the PWA Boeing 737 that carried me from Hamilton to Edmonton and then finally YK.

It was thrilling and it was tumultuous and yes, it was even a bit scary.

All of a sudden, my role as a masculine “gentle predator” was turned on its head and I was as much prey as predator.

Who knew that the fairer sex could have a strong inner urge and bold approach to relations and boudoir activities? One young lady even gifted me a copy of the HITE REPORT. Clitoral …. what????

I won’t go into intimate details here, but all of this backstory leads me to today’s lyric writing.

This song lyric, THE PREDATOR is my little story of being pursued – pretty aggressively – by an attractive young nurse who, for whatever reason, set her sights on me as her sexual prey.

Sure, it was a bit thrilling and stimulating, but in this new world I’d entered, like Alice Through The Looking Glass, it sent a tiny shiver of uneasiness into my core.

So, here goes:

THE PREDATOR – Larry Green

VERSE

Icy YK nighttime
anticipation staggers the line
where mukluks crunch the snow
trembling northern lights that show
the trail of yes opposing no

VERSE

Delicious fever salsa dance
where my reason stands little chance
bestial hormones thrash and fight
my body tingles flight and fright
her instincts master o’er this chill night

VERSE

Seductress graces, sweetly talk
her witchcraft lays a winsome plot
sips of wine poured by Eros
the flame is set, the kindled spark
I’m prey that knows it’s marked

CHORUS

The ghost in my rear view mirror
is a smile and a tear
The cards once dealt were turned
the chase came clear
temptation’s game is rigged
Eden’s curse freshly learned

eden curse

Oscar and The Side Effects That Might Make You A Better Person

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AStarisBornBlackKKlansmanBohemianRhapsody

BlackPantherGreenBookRoma

TheFavouriteVice

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Frankly Scarlett, it’s almost Oscar time again.

I can’t wait to tear up during the In Memorium section. I love the melancholy, the bittersweet.

I’ve seen slightly more than half the 2019 Best Picture nominees so far, and it’s a rich crop this time around the sun.

But which movie made me a better person?

Aside from the sheer entertainment value of watching a great movie, what are the lingering side effects?

Over the years, I’ve learned not to eat a sandwich in a New York restaurant next to Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. I’ve learned that to escape the claws of police after a bank heist, one needs only race across the next State border (why a Canadian should know this is another question) in a depression-era Model T Ford. I’ve learned that a chance encounter with a famous drunken country rocker can lead to untold fame and wealth (but ultimate sorrow).

But should movies have side effects? Not hangovers and tummy aches but … positive side effects?

Of course they should. We pay money to see these artistic creations. There’s gotta be more than awe and catharsis and greasy popcorn fingers.

We often read books with the conscious notion of becoming more intelligent, rounded, complete people. We grow and become better people with each chapter consumed.

Should movies be any different?

Most films are like reading a trashy novel on the beach. Tawdry and easily defecated out the back door of the theatre as we leave.

But … some … some movies are epic and long-lasting, unforgettable, priceless and timeless in their message and format. Like a great song, they get inside your head and linger like the aroma of a beautiful bolognese sauce simmering on the stove.

A couple of positive side effects? Examples?

A Star is Born.jpg

I watched A Star is Born where Bradley Cooper (Jackson Maine) knocks Lady Gaga (Ally) out of her sleepy repose:

Look, talent comes everywhere, but having something to say and a way to say it so that people listen to it, that’s a whole other bag. And unless you get out and you try to do it, you’ll never know. That’s just the truth. And there’s one reason we’re supposed to be here is to say something so people want to hear. So you got to grab it, and you don’t apologize, and you don’t worry about why they’re listening, or how long they’re going to be listening for, you just tell them what you want to say.

That is a reminder, a reinforcement of a life lesson. The raw ingredients … talent, ability, intelligence are only the first steps to making a statement. Delivering that statement with confidence and balls, courage and sustained effort is what is needed.

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Green Book is a Shakespearean adventure where the “Fool” Bronx-born Tony Lip learns lessons of the world from his “colored” employer Dr. Don Shirley. In turn, Tony reflects back some unconventional teaching moments that inform the life of an “educated” man:

Dr. Don Shirley: Pull over.
Tony Lip: What?
Dr. Don Shirley: Pull over.
Tony Lip: I ain’t pulling over!
Dr. Don Shirley: Stop the car, Tony!
[Tony stops the car and Don gets out and starts walking in the rain]
Tony Lip: What? What are you doing?! Doc? Doc, what the hell are you doing? Doc, get back in the car!
Dr. Don Shirley: Yes, I live in a castle! Tony. Alone! And rich white people pay me to play piano for them, because it makes them feel cultured. But as soon as I step off that stage, I go right back to being just another n****r to them. Because that is their true culture. And I suffer that slight alone, because I’m not accepted by my own people, because I’m not like them either! So if I’m not black enough, and if I’m not white enough, and if I’m not man enough, then tell me Tony, what am I?!

Classic.

The side effect message? To make something special, something great, we have to accept the possibility of setting ourselves apart from our comfortable world. There is a bitter price to be paid for the exceptional.

Bohemain rhapsody

How about the flamboyant Freddie Mercury? Bohemian Rhapsody?

Filmmaker Bryan Singer presents Mercury’s father as having been disappointed with his son’s penchant for nightlife and theatricality, urging him over and over again to get serious about his life and follow his refrain:

Good thought, good word, good deed.

Mercury ends up living by his dad’s words, but in his own way. In one scene, the mercurial singer tells a potential manager that Queen is the champion of the oddball: “We’re misfits who don’t belong together, playing for the other misfits. The outcasts. The ones right at the back of the room. Who are pretty sure they don’t belong either. We belong to them.” His good thought, word and deed, in other words, is for them — the stigmatized, marginalized and misunderstood.

Finally, eventually, Mercury’s father seems to recognize that his son has lived up to his expectations in their last interaction on screen. Mercury goes home to introduce his family to his boyfriend, Jim Hutton, who remained his partner until the singer’s death from AIDS-related complications at 45, and tell them about his plans to perform in a charity concert (Live Aid) to raise money for famine relief in Africa.

Good thought, good word, good deed.

Just like you taught me, Papa.”

The resulting theme from each of these flicks? The life lesson? The side effect that can make you better?

It’s simple. Occam’s razor simple.

No matter the “size” of one’s existence, greatness is a Herculean struggle. To be better tomorrow than you are today takes effort and strain and pain.

It takes a sizable tub of popcorn to impart these side effects into my brain, because…

… Frankly dear, I do give a damn!

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