Wednesday, 28 December 2022

A Bite More Than I Could Chew (Another bite turns to Dust)

 In less than a week's time I have returned to the blank page, endeavouring to not so much resurrect the fallen writer I once was, but rather; to sift through the malaise of the last couple years and write with the voice of that this journey has defined and prepared it's release. I'm not attempting to amass statistics reflecting number of views, not looking to assemble a "readership." I wouldn't know what to do with a readership if one were to appear.

When this "blogging" began, perhaps 8 years ago, I've lost track; I had no idea anyone could, or would read my content. Then I discovered, quite by accident, the "back office" and learned in fact there were a growing number of people reading... I put some time and energy into trying to grow these numbers - both for the blog and a book that I eventually wrote. At this time, I need to write for the sake of writing. Writing will be, the end and the means. If history repeats itself, the act of writing will open some doors and close others. At some level the act of writing feeds me. I will let that be inspiration for now - to serve the urge to write. If it so happens that this pursuit produces content that touches, moves or inspires others; well, wouldn't that be wonderful?

A recent experience inspires me and/or restores my faith in the good forces at work in the universe. A couple weeks or so ago, I went to a local market on my coffee break. Along with a wrap I bought for lunch, I bought a cookie that was discounted due to be close to, or past it's best before date. Hey, I like a bargain as much as the next guy. When I proceeded to eat said cookie, I realized it was pretty hard. One would expect some dryness etc. from an a stale cookie, but this was really hard. Anyway, I was going to make the best of it. It didn't taste half-bad once some bites could be broken off. Still, maybe this spoke more about me "Jones-ing" for a cookie than any benefit from the cookie.

I was chewing on a piece that I managed to bite off, when I bit into something hard and "crunchy." At that point I suspected that despite the texture of this aging baked goods, there was nothing in the cookie that would crunch like that!! I spit out a couple of these hard chunks - that simultaneously I recognized and with a swipe of my tongue over my front teeth, recognized as pieces of my dental bridge!

The prevailing wisdom that followed was, well my bridge is broken (or at least the veneer of one tooth is) nothing I can do about it now, I might as well finish the cookie.

I got back to the job site and showed my co-workers what had occurred. This bought me some additional time to contact the dentist's office and see about an appt. They had an appt. that afternoon near the end of their day (which meant I needed to leave work early). They were sure, even if the bridge was repairable, that it would happen then and there. So I went in on the premise that this was to be an assessment.

The dentist was more than an hour behind getting to me - I guess he must have abandoned the idea he was finishing "at 4 p.m. (my scheduled time was 3:30pm - which I was early for).

He came in had a look and indicated that the only way to make an "effective" repair would be to replace the entire bridge (though he then conceded that, this bridge being itself, over 40 years old and himself doing a repair on it 5 or 6 years ago, was withstanding the test of time). I indicated that there's no way I can afford a new bridge - "let's set our sights on fixing this one!" He proceeded to do just that. I was pleasantly surprised to be having it attended to sooner than later, now I wouldn't need another appointment!

As one might guess, this was a costly turn of events, the cost of the repair was $375.00! I didn't have the money in my checking account - so for the time being I put the whole thing on my credit card. I had mixed feeling about that. I was grateful to have credit enough to cover the emergency repair - but I had been for sometime previous to this situation, diligently working on (now here I will say) resurrecting my financial status; part of which involved paying off my credit card. Now, I had a sizeable balance - again!!

I considered the situation for a time, and decided to take the money from an account I had been accumulating for the purposes of taxes next year and pay off the balance. I reasoned I could resume savings while at the same time would not be accruing interest on a credit card balance.

I then decided I was going to contact the store and see if there was anything they would be willing to do to compensate me. I was given a number of their head office - so I recounted the story once again. I was asked to submit to them a copy of the repair invoice and I included the receipt from the store that showed my purchase of the cookie (and wrap) to collaborate my story. I was informed that she would be in touch with their insurance people and get back to me. When she contacted me again - I was told that they would give me a gift card for their store for the equivalent of the repair bill and the grocery purchase, the combined total being nearly $400.00

I was happy that this unfortunate incident - which I had initially thought was going to plunge me deeper into a further financial abyss, had taken a rather unexpected turn for the better.

I had no idea of the significance of that gift card with respect to what the near future had in store. Two weeks before Christmas we were hit with a winter storm that dumped a couple feet of snow - the work week that was to follow was entirely lost and the week between Christmas and New Years, we were already scheduled to be off. Next my employer contacted us all and offered to switch our time off to the week lost to the snow storm and we could work some or all of the week that was originally going to be our Christmas break - by that time the snow had melted.

So as it happens I will have three days of unexpected work, I have been judiciously saving money from the previous cheque, there may be something in the way of "stat" pay included in this coming pay day and I have almost $400.00 on a gift card for groceries (which arrived via the mail today)!

I couldn't have imagined any of this would happen nor the way it unfolded. I might add, I made it a point to speak up regarding all that occurred to each of the various players I needed to interact with next. I did not however come in with "both pistols blazing," I simply shared the facts, and invited the parties involved to suggest what might be possible, from there I let go of expectations of outcome.

After what has now spanned years, of political, corporate, and media deceit, deception, coercion and manipulation (with a complete lack of accountability from any of them) - this recent incident and outcome, as I alluded to earlier was refreshing and restorative.

There is good in the world - for this I am grateful!

R. O'Neill December 29. 2022

Friday, 23 December 2022

Back - For Better or Worse

 As the year bumps and grinds to its finale, from the personal maelstrom of existential quandary, uncertainty, apathy, resoluteness, and now perhaps a decision - I'm called to my long "lost" blog. I don't know whether to apologize to those that have followed in the past or to myself for this longstanding absenteeism. No longer a patron of Facebook which I was recently inspired to deem Zuckerberg's universe of deception; I will no longer be able to draw attention to new posts through that medium.

 I'm not sure that the readership that I once had, entirely came via that portal anyway. More than ever, I wish my musing, rants, missives, anecdotes, prose and poetry to reflect truth - therefore; as far as I'm concerned, most all the "social media" platforms are incongruent with truth. I won't know, whether indeed this blog platform will prove to be problematic - I may well seek alternative media sources for my personal writing and potentially submission recipients in the New Year; whether I experience censorship on this site or not.

If the blog does find its way to previous or new readership I will endeavour to communicate location changes when and if applicable and as I am able. What has not changed, is my fairly minimal acquaintance with navigating the online world. The way things seem to be going these days, is people are shutdown, censored etc. abruptly, so it might then follow I'm throttled before I can communicate anything. Equally true, my "status" as a pretty small fish, may well mean that my "sphere of influence" might be viewed as equally minuscule thereby evading the watchful eyes of "fact-checkers" and censors.

As I sit in neighbourhood cafe and look over top of my laptop screen four images catch my gaze; they include another local artists rendition (oil paintings) of four more artists of note: Jim Morrison, Marilyn Monroe, Paul McCartney, and Elvis - three of four passed over, though their lives have left a lasting impact. If I ever had some concern for that sort of "immortality" or legacy, I believe it is markedly subdued, if present at all. My impression of these four is that they at least artistically expressed themselves authentically. I don't actually know how much they "played to the audience," or media moguls etc. Even if, or despite that, they unquestionably brought their unique selves to their art form and by extension, their lives. None without their personal demons, I guess only they know, to what degree they were able to quiet the inner angst - while they lived.

I believe my writing in the past to have been to the best of my ability at the time, authentically me as much as I could muster, devoid of pandering to social agreement or approval seeking. If these last few years have cemented anything in my personal GPS it would be that if I write, I have no interest in massaging the content for anyone, I have experienced wholesale abandonment, vast "ghosting" - professional transition and I suppose one would say an entire restructuring of social connection. Some of this may well have been the natural attrition of personal relationships akin to Marianne Williamson's attributing relationships to be of three types: "for a reason," "for a season," "for a lifetime." Others, who knows really - in my experience seldom (if ever) do these parting of the ways, come with an explanation. In still some other cases - it can be directly attributed to my stand and beliefs with respect to the events and narratives that have held the world captive over the last three years. Really in hindsight, these were not relationships of any depth or substance if they dissolved so readily - the true colour and timbre was revealed - like it or not thus it was to be (often I did not "like" - it was rather painful) however likely for the higher good.

Given my penchant to "people-please" the vestiges of survival strategies I embodied much of my life - this last few years has shown me, there is zero use in showing up any other way than as my true self. Nothing was gained maintaining the facade and veneer of an engineered persona. Many I experienced in my life only "welcomed" me as long as I echoed their perspectives and beliefs. When I couldn't or wouldn't, no longer able to endure the discomfort of my own incongruence they were gone.

Someone said,  speak and live the truth you may not have many friends, but those that come into your life will represent your true community (paraphrased and without credit - as I don't remember who said it). I suppose I'm squarely in the speaking and living phase of this evolution. As far as I can see, the "decks" have been cleared of false friends & pseudo-community. It has also been said that "nature abhors a vacuum" - so it is possible relational transformation is on the horizon. I recognize that I can very readily bask in my own company - both a gift and sometimes a detriment, if I allow it to carry too far. I don't seek to isolate entirely - nor do I suffer from any delusion of grandiosity or self-importance. I'm just getting older (than God for that) and I have a growing desire for honesty and equally increasing lack of appetite for bullshit, drama and games.

The last three years comprised of lies, manipulation, coercion and full-scale abuse have demonstrated to me that I have a zero tolerance policy for it in my life. I quite honestly don't know where these decisions, forged in chaos, pain, fear, grief and sometimes despair - will lead me. I have decided to live a lie, imbues a life that may well prove to be not worth living - one can run, but not hide from themselves so good luck to those that think they will attain peace by following the crowd, through virtue signalling or looking to false idols for their sense of identity or protection. I mean that sincerely - if this is your choice, blessings on your journey, I don't wish you any ill-will. For me a life built on a foundation of dishonesty, power-seeking, control or fear will never be one of inner peace and satisfaction. Quite the opposite, the collective maw of those influences will never be sated.

Friday, 4 February 2022

I May Not Be "Woke" - But I See the Light of Day

 I have been following for quite sometime, the "morning pages" protocol of Julia Cameron's - "Artist's Way." I never missed a day for a considerable length of time. I was including the "artist dates" doing the various suggested exercises. I dabbled in some sketching a vision board (I should dig that out and see if what I was "visioning" has in anyway been reconciled in my life). It did jumpstart my writing to some degree, though I have not returned to the regularity of previous periods of my life. Also during that time I decided to take up the "electric" guitar. 

This week I haven't done any morning writing at all - until this very moment. I don't have preconceived focal point or subject matter. It will be written and posted as it comes off the keyboard (with a token proof-read). I did manage this week to each morning do my fairly basic stretching/Qi gong routine and morning prayer and meditation. These practices don't define me - however they quite likely shape my willingness to continue, at all (with anything). I don't care about what anyone believes, with regard to what the observance or practice of these things "says" about me. If the last two years has taught me anything, it's that:

 a) I don't look to anyone or "institution" for my well-being; b) I simple cannot define myself by the (often hostile) views, biases, and fears of others.

I have, since commencing with the electric guitar practiced every single day for some nearly 280 consecutive days. Principles that I gleaned from the Artist's way - i.e. continuity, lessening/dropping self-criticism, in this case - being willing to make really bad music (you should hear some of the sounds I can coax/squeeze out of that guitar!!) On some fronts, over the course of this extended "play-date" I have made improvements on certain specific techniques - which is pretty satisfying. There is so much more I want to learn - which at times is daunting and left unchecked could ultimately fuel my giving up. So I go back, to "keeping it simple," what am I working on "today!!" Eventually if I live long enough the weave of assorted techniques and guitar and music fluency I might actually be able to play something.

I look at my guitar practice and my "spiritual practice" as one and the same. Both convey a self-love platform that infiltrates my person and directly influences how I interact with the world around me.  Both have been a saving grace for me over this last two years as my access to more and more of what was considered "normal" day to day facets of society became increasingly restricted and cutoff altogether.

I saw to it that my guitar practice and morning observances for body and soul (while I believe unnecessary to compartmentalize - for the sake of acknowledging their parts of the whole of my being, I will make those distinctions; happened every single day - regardless of what the world was dishing up and my initial and lasting responses to it.

This reinforces for me that no matter what governments and their appointed minions implement in terms of draconian measures, there are some inherent things that those bastards cannot touch or take away!

I have spent countless hours engaged in online dialogue (which has taught me - written "communication" unless exhaustively comprehensive and even still, will be misinterpreted, misrepresented and seldom leads to anything like connection or understanding) to the contrary it opens the door to, slander/libel, abuse, prejudice, shaming,  & character assassination. In short these interactions are in no way fulfilling, fruitful, up-lifting or even healthy.

So I tease out my part in wishing to engage in them in the first place and conclude - I actually don't. I will make my stand,  live my life through seeking the direction of my heart and soul and leave others to do the same. "Live and Let Live." Your Life Your Business! I don't need to change your mind or defend my choices.

As the Course in Miracles inquires: "Would I rather be right or happy." I know what's right for me - my mistake, has been in trying to spend, any of my valuable life time and energy, explaining or defending that to anyone else - the end result has never produced anything akin to happiness.

The fear, the deprivation, the losses - the very real concerns for the future for me are legitimate. They also if left unchecked can become overwhelming and suck the joy out of what is still available to me. You want me to line up to enter you retail store... no thanks - I'll pass (do I actually need what you're selling ... turns out No! I do not) restaurants and gyms lock me out (do I really need to pay for the pretentious "atmosphere" and over-priced food - apparently I haven't gone hungry, with no restaurant access) and I'm not sure, even if gyms did "welcome" me back, that; I would wish to support these establishments, that claim to be about health and wellness, yet they participate in discrimination and policies, that have nothing to do with wellness.

I'm not sure I need to be engaged with "social media" (which often is the epitome of anti-social) but should I choose to continue in any form - I will state my views as I wish. I will no longer engage, trolls and abuse. I may or may not employ a 3 strikes and you're out policy. I would like to give space for "a bad day" - a misunderstanding - even a messy conversation to arrive at mutual understanding (an agreement is not required - except with respect to respect). In the absence of that the conversation is over I have no intention to engage abuse/bullying.

Herein lies the morning musings, hot (or not) for my current stream of consciousness.

R. O'Neill (February 04, 2022)

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Mine for the Finest Ore

 "All that glitters is not gold......" - William Shakespeare ("Merchant of Venice")

This aphorism came to mind for me yesterday. I was taking action upon the "relationship" I've had with this particular guitar of mine, one that has spanned nearly 4yrs. I bought the guitar (an acoustic/electric) brand new. That in itself, could be seen as an act of self love. I had come into some (not entirely unexpected) money through an inheritance. I decided I wanted to get myself a "better than average" higher end guitar. Guitars have come and gone out of my life since I was a teenager, some that in hindsight I might have preferred to have kept. 

This guitar most certainly had "glitter" solid wood construction (made with a coveted variety of "tone-woods") shiny finish, fancy inlays and appointments. I did some "research" before I bought it. I didn't come across a single disparaging review. A point worth mentioning now, would be that when I tried the guitar in the shop, I'm aware that I begun "running a racket.." I effectively shut down my subjective senses and sensibilities, and literally sold myself on this guitar (in the midst of a small shop that nonetheless had a wide variety of choices).  Surely all these reviews, the gorgeous appointments, craftsmanship etc. "should" carry the day.  I simply didn't "love" this instrument and, I bought it anyway.

This guitar sat as much or more than it has been played. I restrung it. Put it in a guitar stand so that it was visible and accessible. I would pick it up and play it some, trying to convince myself that I would, "grow to love it.." I did not. I didn't like the sound of it (to my ear, it sounds "brittle," and its tonal palette reside too predominantly in the mid-range to treble spectrum) - the reviews asserted that it was "bright" and articulate - perfect for finger style playing or flat-picked; I didn't like the feel of the neck in my hand or the action (string height from the fretboard .. for the benefit of non-guitar players).

I just kept deferring to my beat up, aged guitar that has been patched back together with glue, fibreglass and duct tape... inadvertently being subject to various insults and abuses through using it extensively for busking. Despite it's tenuous clinging to life... it still is more enjoyable for me to play and listen to than this much more expensive "impressive looking guitar."

I decide 6 months ago to take up electric guitar (and generally to roll my study of guitar back to basics with design on developing a greater fluency) my previous foray, revolved around taking as many short-cuts as I could to, just be able to play some songs!! How that relates to the other guitar is it created for me a distraction around this expensive guitar languishing about largely unused.

Months extend to years... I still have no love for nor inspiration from this instrument. I simply do not enjoy it. Intermittently I beat myself up for being impulsive... the money I spent (that I would likely not retrieve - retail versus now "used") not to mention time spent, advertising, fielding calls, people bailing/no shows... trying to grind the price down etc.

More waffling, more inaction, more avoidance ... "More" on many fronts... all accept satisfaction, contentment, enjoyment..

More water under the bridge and over this past holiday season, I'm once again trying to manufacture some love for this guitar - Mission Impossible. Back to the reviews and demo videos (surely I must be missing something) - but I began to realize even in the hands of some obviously accomplished musicians, I didn't like the tone of that guitar. The quality, workmanship, finish etc. are not in question nor being maligned by me. I simply don't like it! It's not satisfying to my ear - nor do I enjoy playing it.

What a revelation! Reviews, synopses - marketing, celebratory endorsements - studio demos etc. are not enough to counter my subjective experience! What a wakeup call to realize just how profoundly external influences impact my "choice." 

This was it. Yesterday I had arrived at a decision. The guitar would go! A lightness came over my being  a sense of freedom, the relief of some sort of burden. I took a bus into town with the idea of exploring with the shop I originally purchased it from the idea of consignment sales or possible trades. When I arrived at the shop, signs on the door indicated that he still would not be open for another two days.. (I knew that but had forgotten ... having called the shop last week) in my minds eye his extended time off had already elapsed.

I then decided to walk back home to get some exercise. During my walk I considered the situation. I had already let the guitar go and was now operating from the reality of it not occupying space in my space. I concluded I didn't want to wait two days for the shop to open & I didn't want the guitar coming home with me... I was entertaining the idea of taking it one of the larger chain stores (which wasn't resonating for me) when I remembered there was a smaller local business on my way ... that did indeed carry this brand of guitar... I decided to feel out this possibility and see what happens.

They took the guitar in .... their guitar "tech" is in tomorrow and Saturday. His roll would be to determine if the guitar is in good enough condition to place on their sales floor (the guitar is in immaculate condition if there is any deficiency, it would come as a complete surprise to me) I hope not - it is not my want to put out more money in order to put it up for sale. If anything it might need setting up again .... which is minor and normal in the life of a guitar.

So I will hear from them if they consider it viable for their shop, customer demographic etc. and then get back to me with a discussion on list pricing and the consignment sale spit.

Take-a-ways from this unfolding experience are a deepening awareness of seeking and trusting my inner assessment of any situation and acting in accordance with what I determine in alignment with my needs. For me, this "lesson" reaches far beyond, this perhaps seemingly mundane ("first world" conundrum). Somewhere along the line I was introduced to the idea that how "you" are in one area of your life is how you are across the board. So then, discovery deepened awareness of the forces and influences affecting my decision making process and choices in one area of my life, could be seen to be operating more universally throughout my life. 

How and in what ways to I negate my experience or defer my inner knowing, experience of, intuition about etc. in favour of some "popularized" narrative or consensus operating or sourced from outside myself?

This experience reveals to me that, that which is "golden" for me might well be held in something or an experience/opportunity that may present as lacking in "allure" but later proves to be, "a diamond in the rough." How challenging is it to just be, ones own self - in a sea of cacophony screaming for conformity? What is the price extracted for choosing group acceptance versus self-acceptance?

There continues to be unknowns in this particular anecdote. Will they take the guitar in on consignment? If they do will it be the be all to end of for someone else? Just what they were looking for? A chance to own a high quality instrument at a reduced price. It won't be the whatever the builders are marketing for 2022 - but it might be the perfect fit for someone else's ears, hands and budget.

R. O'Neill (January 11, 2022)

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Insecure - Not Looking to be Saved

 Once again I return to the unwritten page, after a sizeable absence. It's not particularly an explainable departure; either that, or I don't feel the need to explain. As a matter of fact, I haven't felt inspired to write. Also true, I have concluded, I have an intention to write and even so, I still don't "feel" inspired. So then, I'll just write!

I began to exercise this intent last week, only to discover I couldn't access the "dashboard" interface of this blogging platform - therefore, no writing. I could see my previous posts, but that was it! I looped around the site, going and getting nowhere fast; other than a tad exasperated. I began wading through some of the FAQ's links, but couldn't find anything that aligned with my specific issue. I couldn't find a specific spot to "ask for help" so I sent a message through a link called "feedback." So far, sometime approaching a week later, I haven't received feedback or an answer. (at least not in the form of a reply).

My imagination was intermittently, spinning scenarios that I had been "blocked," due to contentious content. Thankfully I didn't go off half-cocked on that tangent, as it didn't reflect the truth, or the entire truth (but then again, what does?) While it may be true that I express, from time to time, contentious viewpoints - it was not true, that I had been blocked.

I had some time yesterday, so I revisited the site, and this time, I did find a clue in someone's question thread. Turns out there are different username/passwords for the "Google platform" in general (my apologies to the purist's if my tech-terminology is not accurate) I'm not a "techie" & I don't care! the blog platform also has its own username/password. I have what I choose to deem, present moment consciousness, by which I mean, at different places in time I may have been called upon to create these different "identities," and then moments later I would forget about them. In the past, I would just come and go from the blog platform; I suppose I must have remained logged in, as I always had access. For whatever reason, I was no longer "logged in," and my attempts to do so, were continually done with one of my other "Google-related" ID's.

Once I used the right combo for the right site ... boom I'm in!! No surprise to the geeks of the world, I'm sure. I use the term geek, uncertain, that won't illicit the same perception, as any other "special interest group" that is comfortable speaking of themselves a particular way, but loathe to allow anyone else to refer to them as such. So at the risk of invoking - "the Revenge of the Nerds," I have done so anyway.. As far as I can see, the world has been living this Revenge over the last two years anyway - so they can hardly expect anyone to be enamoured with them at this point! (but I digress).

I still have, mostly disdain for technology! I acknowledge the on-boarding id I was attempting to use was erroneous, and I maintain, I would never be locked out of my journal. Why the need for multiple "platforms" - id's, passwords etc. I would have likely named them all the same thing, if I was given that option. As that seems to be generally discouraged, there's not a prayer, I'm going to remember all this malarky!

All in the name of "security." So feck'in secure, I can't access my own stuff!! Brilliant that is! Of course the flip-side of this "security" analogy, is increasingly, the public at large, is being denied access to the truth (on multiple fronts). I don't know about you, but I don't feel any sense of security, having one select group, dictating the "truth,"and censoring the rest; resulting in large swaths people arguing for, and living a lie (or series of intricately woven lies). The only ones secure in that scenario, are the ones seeding the lies!

Fortunately, or so it seems, though those scripting this tale of lies, as long pre-meditated and diabolically ingenious as it may have been; seem to have missed the grade-school lesson; that once one sets out to lie and weave a path of deception, it becomes increasingly difficult, to conceal the lies, or remember each lie, that has been expressed. The result, the house of cards becomes destabilized and falls; exposing the illusion and those that spin them. I don't sit and contemplate the demise and punishment of those involved, this to me, would be a fruitless endeavour. I am reminded though, that any number of individuals have chided me or have public spoken the same, regarding choices and consequences. I have been living the "consequences" of my choices for two years now. That has been my path & those were my choices.

It will be the same for those that orchestrate deception! "Live by the sword, die by the sword.." I don't need to wish any of them ill-will. I suspect they are planting the seeds of their own demise ("consequences..").

My aim and responsibility is to live my best possible life and version of myself. That means to me, I don't harbour resentment. I don't ruminate about the acts of others and what they "deserve" in exchange. I do the best I can, with what I've got! I look to bring my gifts to bear, in service to the world.

I don't grind axes, point fingers and wish dire consequence toward anyone. I disagree, I look around and much of what I see, occurs to me to be misguided, but I have spent enough energy trying to change others. I now, bring the focus back to myself. What do I have the power to change. The entire Charter of Rights can be re-written or burned and I still can say No!

Security is such an illusory quality. How many have been, or were, "secure" in career paths, societal institutions, family, friendships, public amenities, only to find each of them, was unraveled and revealed nothing, in the blink of an eye!!

How many lived a life, that included a rather passive or apathetic attitude toward discrimination? (until they found themselves the target of discrimination). I have been examining my apathy for quite sometime, however, I never expected to experience the level of discrimination, that currently is occurring. (all calculated).

Behold the voluminous acts of betrayal .... as so many, cloak themselves in self-righteousness and turn on any they consider unworthy of their allegiance. Not so "secure" in those relationships any more eh?

Look around and reckon with the power of addiction.... so vast and so all-encompassing, that thousands with throw their neighbour "under the bus," so that they can continue to access those distractions, that may well "amuse them to death." 

Consider the behemoth fear, and all that it conjured! People have sold their souls, put themselves and potentially those they "love," at dire risk. 

All this made possible by an insatiable thirst for "security." I think as history has shown, and is likely still to prove true, one ought very carefully consider, where or to whom, they are looking to, for "security" and the price being extracted. It may well become more evident, first of all they are offering something that they cannot (or never intended to provide), second it never was theirs to give and lastly one will never find it outside themselves.

R. O'Neill (January 04, 2022)

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Passion - The Sequel

 I effectively have become estranged from my own blog. It's interesting to consider. According to the "backdoor" features (my term) the "stats" indicate somebody is still reading.  For quite some considerable time after creating the blog, I didn't even know you could track readership. Then beyond that I didn't know there had been some readers trying to interact through the site. I believe I attempted to reconcile my, what must have seemed to be perhaps a lack of grace in not responding; while literally I didn't know there was anything or anyone to respond to. 

Today I've decided to write something. For those who read, whomever you may be, I thank you! Truly I hope that something I share touches you in some useful fashion. Whether my "natural" evolution or the aftermath of the last eighteen months (and counting) - I perceive more than ever, that I have very little to proclaim. I don't know that I ever really did, I certainly spent a period of time trying to present my perspective as more than it merits - I understand that now, to have been a deep-seated "need" to compensate for believing I'm "none of that..."

Certainly I continue to have my own beliefs, perspectives and life experience. I don't need anyone to cosign it, agree with it, follow it - I just need to live it.

I do love to write (as I discovered some years ago now). I'm also aware of the contradiction created by the absence of anything in written form juxtaposed along with the previous claim. I actually write every morning, have for some period of time now. There has been a couple mornings (maybe the time frame is 6 months) where I hit the floor running, probably more accurate spinning off in some various forms of un-groundedness  and rather than employ one of the practices that generally centers me before beginning my day, I just decided to continue to spin... no writing occurred on those occasions. Gratefully those morning have been minimal (it's a good reminder of how most everyday of my life was spent at a different place in time).

So today, I was acknowledging to myself in my journal, that I had now completed ninety (90) consecutive days of guitar practice - since deciding to follow my passion to learn how to play electric guitar (and to generally more comprehensively become better acquainted with the guitar. I considered that I don't need to wait before I can play the guitar like (insert your own guitar player of choice) in order to acknowledge my successful commitment so far, that progress is being made (even if it's the establishment of regular practice of practice) - I probably not going to play like whomever you might (or I) might imagine... I'm going to play more like me. 

I would still identify writing as a passion... I would also say it has given way to other pursuits and considerations. It may well return - which is to say, beyond what is currently sprawling across my computer screen.

There is much to be said about the journey with my guitar (well there's two electrics in the stable at the moment) - that's a journey in and of itself. I'm learning about the different gear - a learning curve and a field that in itself is vast. Within that I'm looking for my place, I seem to spend considerable time in my life with that pursuit.. More frequently I locate myself where my head, heart, hands and butt are - that feels good to me. As for guitar equipment, well I'm trying to determine where in the spectrum of available "tools of the trade" do I care to roost. What is hype? What is crass commercialism? How much is the group mind in the world of music influence by the hype and commercialism? Do I care to have those "Strat" tones? Can my taste, ear, values and sensibilities be appeased on my terms? Where does "entry level" end and junk begin? There are some tones that I just love - no question about it!! But even with the equipment I've acquired thus far (all "used") there are literally infinite combinations of settings and variables - that influence sound. Not to mention the hands of the person wielding it all!!!

Nonetheless celebration is the name of the day! I recognize a milestone has been realized and, it's all part of the bricks being laid in a foundation! Even as I sit here writing, the guitars are staring me down!! I fully intend to practice tonight. I decided to strike a balance and answer the call to write. I was a near -"terminal" perfectionist in my life prior. To be clear, I'm not talking about excellence, or doing one's best. I talking about a shame-based belief that I was and never would be, good enough; looking at life, through that lens, I was not often inclined to try new things and had very little patience, compassion or willingness within myself to "be a beginner."

That has changed! 

Today was another triumph! I'm vaguely aware the "Olympics" are occurring. For me that is so far in the background of my awareness - it's almost not happening. Anyway I make the reference to conjure the contrast around said triumph. Is it the stuff of "Olympians." I imagine in the minds of many - not at all!

I purchased a used amplifier, maybe a couple months ago, from a fellow up-island. I was aware that it was "programmable" not something I really wanted to get into - I just knew it had some features my original amp (which I bought along with the first guitar) did not. It is, "more amplifier" - by which I don't just mean "louder." I've also come to learn there is more to be had from the first one than I first realized! So much to learn!! Anyway I wouldn't have bought this amp new, but the price he was asking was pretty reasonable, a third of the new retail price!

I got the thing home (I did try it some at his place before buying it.... had him play some and run through the features)... after playing with it some, I decided I didn't want all his programmed "preset" sound patches - so some online research informed me I could invoke the reset sequence and put it back to "factory" specifications. I reasoned I wanted to start from just clean sound and then maybe layer in some effects. This reset could be accomplished just pressing a few buttons on the amp simultaneously - ready, set, go!!

The good news was it still made sound after I let go of the buttons!! I just played on it through the "clean" channel - alternating back and forth between the two amps. Reading this, reading that - trying not to get lost in all the "tweaking" and not get any practicing done. 

One day I decided to try some of the "over-drive" channels. Well first I created something a kin to a "sonic boom.." scared the shit out of myself!! Then I turned it down some and tried it - seem one could get some of those "rock and roll tones" but they would be present and then not... I was somewhat emboldened by any knob-turning was all being done in "manual" mode nothing would remain once I turned the amp off and back on.

I looked on line for some local or even in this country service centers (the amps are out of Britain) meanwhile I just kept twisting dials - as close as I can figure the volume I had on the clean channel - could not be selected on over-driven channel, lest one wanted to crack plaster, windows and eardrums - once dialled back, the other features seemed to be available. 

I heard back from someone from the service centre.. they suggested I go online to the website where there is a platform you can patch into through your computer to interface with the amplifier and download updates, change parameters and settings... 

I'm like, yes I could (or I can just keep playing it on the one channel... it's sounds pretty good) it didn't cost me a fortune) somedays the other amp seems okay as I do some more experimentation - keep in mind, I live in an apartment, I can't be dialing in some simulated "arena-rock" setting and cutting loose!!!

Anyway, last night I decided to try and determine if this amp is up to date (internal software etc.) also keep in mind, any reference I'm making to the techie-side of the spectrum here is not in anyway to be confused with fluency ..... I'm pretty much a leave well-enough alone - and don't f... with it (unless absolutely necessary) I downloaded the application that would allow me to interact with the amplifier then I searched my bag of random cables for something that looked like it had connections that would work at either end. I found just such a wire - however it yielded an error message and indicated that the cable must be data-capable) how the $#%& was I going to tell that - other than, I concluded it quite possibly isn't because the computer is unable to talk to the amplifier. Off to London Drugs electronics department this morning with the cable I tried to use (so I could give a visual of the connections that were necessary) and a hand written note transcribed from the error message so I could communicate what was "supposed to occur." 

Dude is like, oh you want a data cable - rather than just a charging cable!! (like this is painfully obvious!!) I get in step and reply, "why yes, I believe I do, do ya have anything like that?). Yes, he answers - in the computer department... (in hind-sight I consider, I suppose that is where you would find a data-friendly cable alright!!

This evening - I unpackaged said cable connected the cable to both the amplifier and my computer and voila I have imagery on my screen of a control panel that tells me where all the amp settings are currently - and has an endless array of effects etc. that could be selected and saved. (It was also helpful that I watched a couple guys on youtube last night - reviewing amps by this same company and one was doing a basic tour through that interface environment, so at least it looked a little familiar).

 I looked around a little saw the one labelled "bass" - "I think I might have a little too much of that going on!" and there is not a external equalizer to dial it back - played a few chords and scales to appreciate the changes - it save and got the hell out of this "electronics" "beyond the pale...." When all was said and done, a pretty "easy" procedure - and yet in some ways I ventured into alien space - with not much in the way of innate "sense of direction" - but a willingness to pray liberally and consult the hinterland of the inter-web and nothing short of a miracle unfolded!!

I don't need to be messing with anything else - just now! But I know how to get in there now!!

I clicked on some other buttons that were for menus etc. and found one that allowed me to determine that the amplifier is up to date with system downloads. Thank God! I can just get back to my scales!!

The other thing I'm celebrating today is the sale of one of my books!! I don't know when it sold exactly - it's been a couple weeks since I have been in the cafe - but it was inspiring for me to know that another of my passions is still bearing fruit. I also had the opportunity to give the 30sec. elevator speal about the book, to another fellow in the shop (who got curious when he heard the owner ask me if I was still interested in doing an "author's evening" (now that some of the other madness has subsided ... at least for now)..

Yes I absolutely am, was my answer and as I was leaving, he was looking at the last remaining copy of my book there in the shop. I will drop off some more copies tomorrow.

The book has also found it's way into a local addictions centre - where I have been meeting with some residents "one on one" & offer a group, when necessary combination of residents are present and simultaneously have the willingness or curiosity to attend.

I'm intrigued at the various ways passion finds its way to become expressed. My part seems to be to neither give up on passion nor myself. To do my best to get out of the way, so that passion can do what passion does best.

I want to facilitate others and their relationship with passion. I have no doubt of its existence and I'm aware on can be the vehicle through which passion is delivered or the dam in the river. I seek to become more consistently the former, rather than the latter.

I big part of that is to not allow myself to succumb to the fears and opinions of anyone else (and especially not those of my own!!)

R.O'Neill (July 28, 2021)

* (I gotta get practising, so I tried to "proof-read" along the way... however this post is largely raw & unedited) - of course so is the author!! I'm going to hit "publish!!)

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Would the "Last Man Standing," Be "A Good Man?"

People 65 years and older, especially men, have a high risk of suicide. As Canada’s largest population group, the baby boomers, approach the plus 65 age range, we may see an increase in suicide in years to come (Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health (CCSMH), 2009; Van Orden & Deming, 2017).

A growing body of research indicates that a significant number of men and boys are facing substantial psycho-social difficulties, which manifest in a number of worrying statistics involving mental health, addiction and suicide.

To start, males account for more than 75 per cent of suicides in Canada. That's an average of 50 men per week dying by suicide.

Similarly, surveys indicate that Canadian men are around three times more likely to experience addiction and substance abuse compared to Canadian women. This includes alcohol, cannabis, and opioid abuse. Highlighting the scale of the problem, the British Columbia Coroners Service reports that males accounted for 81 per cent of drug overdose deaths in that province in 2020. 

(Taken from the Opinion Piece - "Alarming Numbers Around Men's Mental Health Indicate Need for National Response). Written by Rob Whitley, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at McGill University and a research scientist at the Douglas Research Center.)

So why is it that in a world that by many accounts, is "a man's world," and advantages men and only men etc.; are the male suicide statistics so disproportionately high? I have no academic credential, in its stead, I offer, I am at least for the sake of this discussion male, and I have in my lifetime, seriously contemplated and scripted, my own premature exit strategy. My perspective is not "peer-reviewed" - though I suppose, if you could get enough men that have considered ending their own lives, walked away from the idea, or failed in the attempt to speak up; one might consider that "peer-affirmation."

My view and experience runs directly contradictory to the supposition, that men are innately weak - I would say that the problem is that men collectively operate under a well-entrenched idea that they must be strong; the uncompromising grip held on this mind-set (and that it is often vehemently "policed" by other men (and no small number of women) that it becomes, all too frequently, a terminal pathology.

There have been enough variations on a theme to recognize that no amount of material wealth, fame, or power ensure an inner domain that is defined by connectivity, equanimity, what I'll call a healthy self-satisfaction - even though there are many cases of those that acquire worldly riches and personal empires of a staggering magnitude. It often doesn't add up to enough to "make life worth living!"

The whole idea of "male-privledge" (though it is very real in some contexts) - seldom if ever, includes the discussion of what it denies and the cost it extracts from its adherents.

The stoic, never seen flinching - (would take or deliver a bullet and then go for night-cap) - never saying die, winning at all costs - etc. has got to maintain a significant detachment (from anyone - often anyone, that is seen as an adversary or competition) consequently themselves as well. That doesn't mean they've got no humanity it means it is intentionally repressed (training that begins very young) - the thing is all those feelings and the pain of denying those fingers doesn't just vanish - it requires ever increasing quantities of a compulsion/s of choice - to keep those feelings at bay.. and I suppose maintain "their edge." That would be something I'm not really personally familiar with - I don't think I've ever had an edge. I've been "edgy," nerves have been decidedly on edge (but that would about it).

There is far more comprehensive coverage of addiction (and it myriad presentations) than I will visit in this post. I have had 15 yrs. of chemical addiction (which included alcohol and drugs, tobacco, sugar and caffeine) the first three were addressed while the others (along with over-eating and intermittently  soothing with all the "wrong foods" the last two have proved to be reoccurring challenges - an array of "substances" that one can freely indulge without any particular social objection). Through what is now 34+ years of "sobriety - I have become increasingly familiar with the "whack-o-mole" nature of addiction and realized that if one doesn't get to the heart of the matter, "lopping off one head," presents with a couple more perhaps with a new face - but potentially just as life-limiting.

Addiction and it's many faces has multi-generational impacts, left un-arrested those impacts fan-out through the ancestral lineages and form societal collectives of the "walking wounded." The prevalence is far more significant than many would care to acknowledge (in part, because a classic presentation of addictive/compulsive behaviours, is the denial of its presence, by the one most completely in its clutches).

I would say that a significant percentage of what is so commonly deemed as "normal" in our modern world is the manifestation of addiction and the cascading "domino effects," - it's why so many can continue to operate with such self-appointed impunity with no regard for the world around them.

Meanwhile in true addictive fashion the widespread quest to attain the by now, venerated "Western world" vision of "success," which itself is built on unsustainable suppositions, has defined more "failures" than "winners," tears at the hearts of thousands as they walk step by step ever further away from themselves - convinced, "the promised land," is just around the corner of the next, self-sacrifice only to eventually become more aware of the illusion and delusion of the whole schtick. 

What does the self-perpetuating "real man" do when he gets glimpses that he's "failing" at being a success or the "success" he championed leaves the after taste of what's left of his undigested soul - he works longer, harder - a shot of bourbon here - a few lines there (gotta maintain "that edge,") stay "ahead," if he can't make the grade - there's a hungry young guy only to ready to "take one for the team," that can replace him in a heart beat (of course with at least some shift in trajectory in the workplace toward equal opportunity/gender equality everybody's vying for the same promotion).... of course his undying focus on career advancement has alienated him from any family that may still be "at home," alone with or without their company, he wonders when success will deliver him from his angst... The pain of loneliness demands more self-medication (maybe it's the "understanding" found in the arms of a co-worker) maybe it's less "involved and personal" found in the company of those that provide "physical satisfaction" without a lot of complications - maybe it's up all hours trolling internet porn sites and seeking the release of compulsive masturbation.

All those pent up feelings and the pain of "purposeless" living have got to go somewhere!

How long is it before the dude is jumping out the window of his corner office suite, found in his garage having giving himself "the ticket to ride" via the exhaust pipe of his BMW - swinging from a drain-pipe by his designer tie or made himself the last of his trophy-hunting targets?

Or maybe he manages to remain functionally detached and "comfortably numb," will he live long enough to enjoy "the fruits of his labour?" How many eulogies, actually capture the truth of a man's "inner world," in many cases, those "closest to him," won't even know it existed (maybe the same for him - well beyond the pain, he is trying to keep at arm's length or one-step ahead of) - "he was a pillar in his community," a tireless "provider," "always there when you needed him, (he suffered from chronic self-abandonment) - the life of the party!" Once the cliche's have been exhausted - the reception attendees are swept awash by the momentary reckoning with never actually having known this guy and a brush with their own mortality which is readily remedies with another dozen appetizers and another visit to the complimentary bar.

I haven't written anything much for quite sometime - I found this piece amongst the dozen or so open tabs on my computer, so I decided to reign in my "attention deficit," and see where this particular "unfinished symphony," was going to go.

Is this account the outcome or truth for all men? Not entirely yes, not entirely no! It would be a composite of my known awareness of a cross-section of male lives mixed with no small amount of my own life experience. As such it's clear to me now, why I started to write it and abandoned it - I don't consider it particularly courageous, definitely not "absolute truth," though it is based on more truth than meets many an eye. For me, it just needed to be said - what healing does it offer or purpose does it serve? I would say, my experience is teaching me, there is more pain in withholding the truth than ever is to be experienced in expressing it.

I'm both knocking at the door of the age group that is encompassed in the "stats," and not concerned that I'm off to join their ranks anytime soon. Having said that, I am hosting considerable angst at times (some of which I continue to address throw a multi-tiered avenue of tools and support - some of which might occasionally awaken from dormancy, some compulsive, if not impulsive, eating or spending money - both which feeds the gaping maw of the God of the "Economy and capitalist consumption;" so nobody is going to give a shit, one way or another, if I were to become another "collateral damage" statistic - as long as I was "a good man.")

I would be remiss (if to no other than myself) if I didn't mention, the events of the last nearly one and a half years (and their myopic and oppressive management) do not in any way, shape or form; give me any reason for optimism, trust or confidence in government, the medical community or would be authorities & drug corporations (to be fair - I had no glut of any of the above, for those institutions pre-"Covid"). I wouldn't have thought it possible, but I have even less now. They all have their place in the mosaic - I for one have no intention of giving them carte blanche in my wellness. Most anyone would have declared (at least) that the government of one strip or another was not to be trusted - suddenly, they are the champions of altruism and champions of health and well-being?? (As if!!!!!!!)

When they aren't making "public service" announcements about their latest Covid restrictions and compliance expectations - they are carrying on their business as usual pandering to corporate agendas, further approving - ecological degradation and generally continuing to approve the very things that are threatening the health of the planet and it's occupants. None of the newly released spectrum of experimental vaccines, is going to change any of that.

If, there were to be a return to anything like what defined the previous "framework" of "Normal," (which I neither think is likely, and in many ways, may be the only reason for hope) thinking the vaccine/s (or yet to be released news, that the chemical cocktail, or some variation thereof, is to be a regular part of your diet, for the rest of your life) is going to be the great Panacea... I would say, would be like having had a gun to your head, for the number of years prior to Covid you've been alive - just in case, you ever see fit to pull the trigger - now under the "New Normal," you've emptied out the nickel plated cartridges and replaced them with a recently developed titanium bullet - but when you pull the trigger???????????????

Maybe this signifies the end of my writer's block.... maybe the block was comprised mostly of some misguided notion that I had to pander to a particular viewpoint - I do not (nor does anyone else, but not my business). 

The Hans Christian Anderson story of "The Emperor's New Clothes" keeps coming into my consciousness.. the theme I realize keeps demonstrating itself, over and over again in my life....

I recognize that there has been a significant portion of my life, that was spent - cooing, oohing, and awing with the crowd at the various narratives ("he must be wearing the finest of garments," everyone else seems to believe it's so - there must be something wrong with me)....

Am I perfect (far from it!!) however I can tell you in a great many experiences I've lived through the "Emperor" is butt-naked - plain and simple!! (it doesn't matter how intricate the story is woven to represent his "finery).

R. O'Neill (June 22, 2021)