Sunday, 30 October 2016

The "Three R's" - Regressive, Redundant, Repressive

While I never occupied space upon the "honour roles" while in school - God only knows what I might have achieved if I'd harnessed a larger portion of that "untapped potential." Now, I'll openly admit, my phone is probably, "smarter" than me!

Of course this whole idea of "intelligence" as assessed and determined by the "public education system;" offers a skewed/distorted perspective at best. Much like the analogy of a fish being assessed as a lousy monkey, because; despite it's gills and fins, it can't climb a tree. This system is designed to have it's participants regurgitate a predetermined body of information (not even truth) and then grades each on their ability to do so.

There was a time when I was stellar at "memorization." Then somewhere in the scheme of things I lost interest. As far as I could see, no one cared about what I was good at - or was interested in. Somehow, I then placed myself, on the fast track to "who gives a shit?"

I certainly can't hold the school system responsible for the outcomes in my life; or all of the "belief systems" I adopted. Certainly there was more operating than just my overall impression of the lack of relevance, I was being force fed. Then again as the old saying goes: "you can lead Rob to "education" but you can't make him learn." Oh I learned all kinds of stuff - much of it just didn't happen to be on the "approved curriculum." I also for reasons of my own (naturally) - didn't create a viable alternative so I just half-assed my way through.

Stories abound, about different individuals that were vastly successful in different fields of pursuit despite a "poor academic performance." It's safe bet I'm not going to be the next Gates or Jobs; as I said, I concede victory to my phone; so I'm not likely to develop the "new and improved" line of technology. The phone is apt to be dead, broken, or lost, long before I ever achieve "mastery" of it's various functions. Actually on those occasions when I've been looking to replace a previous phone; pretty much as soon as the sales rep opens his or her mouth (to me, it's just like Charlie Brown's teacher, "Waugh waugh waugh...... waugh waugh") the "cutting edge" doesn't compel me. 

I like the "smart phone" keyboard - but then, I fancy myself a writer. Of course the recipients of my "messages," might wish I had an old flip-phone; requiring me to toggle through the keys in order to get each letter - chances are my text would be shorter! Actually more likely I would bury, said phone at sea! Conversely, I could care less about "scanning my retina" or fingerprint access. For the love of God, I just want to make a quick call!

I suppose what I had running was a combination of; a sense of futility in school, but no clear path or confidence to create an alternative; of course, I'm not done yet. I suppose one way of defining; at least some of my life journey, would be an ongoing quest, to expand my self-assurance, in order to step beyond the boxes of conformity.

Having said that, I can't maintain a victim stance with regard to the "boxes" I perceive, contain me. Even if someone suggests  or imposes a box - I'd have to continue to agree to reside there - so then, who's box is that? (hmm!)

I suppose various people, have a wide variety of "banks to their river;" even those that fancy themselves such, "free-spirits." They might cite some version of : "oh, that's just some of my little idiosyncrasies." Not for a minute, am I suggesting this is a bad thing. My experience seems to suggest, that if one goes about dismantling too many of their banks, to soon - the immediate swelling of the river, can be experienced on a spectrum anywhere from exhilarating to rather overwhelming! So no one else should be dictating the rate at which another goes about seeking such expansion.

There are people that are absolutely brilliant at various things that the "education system" doesn't even acknowledge or recognize. I suppose if your lucky you might be blessed with one of those exceptional teachers that is interested in bringing out the best in individuals. There have been many movies made of these teacher/cum heroes, that bucked the "system" to teach outside the curriculum or the standardized teaching strategies. In these instances students that were deemed incorrigible, chronic under-achievers, were guided to reveal their shining star.

Why are these "stories" the exception rather than the rule? How can it possibly be acceptable to continue to support a system that sets up so many individuals to fail? As a society, why wouldn't "we" look to create learning environments that encourage "success." I'm not talking about something that coddles and carries. I'm certainly not advocating anything that continues to uphold dualistic (i.e. winning/losing mindsets) - in fact if I were to take a stand, I would say I renounce these paradigms entirely. 

It's all well and good in sporting events etc. (as far as such contests go) to conclude the competition with a "winner" and "loser." I believe the disproportionate status of assigning value to winning doesn't serve; it most certainly does not, where "learning" environments are concerned. 

If someone spends a large portion of their school "career" struggling to jump through the hoops of that system; by the time they complete (or wash out) their view of themselves might not be conducive to "taking the world by storm." I would suggest that the "cost"to society is significant. To begin with, all those that "fall through the cracks" might spend as much time (or more) mitigating their pain than creating a thriving life. 

Why is there more concern for "dwindling natural resources than people;" perhaps a better question is, why is the net not more broadly cast, to include all human life, as being part of these "resources?"  We then insist on the maximization of the potential for everyone - no one is left behind; I suppose, unless they choose to be. Mind you, if people were given the impression that they are going to be directed to the path, whereby, they can best use their strengths and gifts, why would they opt to give up?  Quit pounding people over the head with standardized (blah..blah..blah) the "collateral damage" (though not thought of in these terms) is not an acceptable trade-off.

Of course there are those that enter school with pre-existing traumas and challenges - I'm not saying that the school system is solely responsible, for the infliction of trauma. I believe they could adhere less to the paradigm of pass/fail, one size fits all and do more for those that "fall;" rather than accept this as some form of "natural selection."  I also believe they could play a far more active role in assessing the needs of everyone and then being the conduit through which people access an optimal, (for them) situation. "Alternative" varieties for education models etc. should be made "publicly accessible" - further barriers (such as finances) should not exist which thereby make these "speciality" environments, inaccessible. Investing in people sooner than later, would inevitably pay dividends in the long run. (despite the financially attuned language, I don't intend to equate humanity only along monetary lines - nor do I wish to ignore it's relative importance in our modern world).

When human value attains a more universally accepted prominence above "market value," there would be a quantum leap in the evolution of humanity.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Take Cover - Imminent Storm (ah..... well....... There could have been one.....)

Where, if at all, do you experience, prophecies of catastrophe?
From that set jaw, to that puckered sphincter
What would it be like to draw with regularity,
An unguided "cleansing breathe?"

What are you preparing for?
Do you fear disaster,
Your mortality,
or being seen complacent - therefore caught "off guard."

How much is enough for "a rainy day?"
Knowing you will not, stop the rain.
What did you lose while waiting,
For the storm that never came?

Would the "calm" be of benefit during the tempest,
rather than anxiously frittered away, awaiting its arrival?
Where is the devastation most acute,
External environment or your inner sanctum?

Excessive chronic "diligence" depletes reserves
Without yielding even a modicum of peace in return.
Reach if you will, exerting your utmost
And still you won't see beyond the horizon.

Listen beyond the hype
You can hear the "eye of the storm"
Go into hiding,
Or embrace a walk in the rain.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Did You See the Wind?

Unseen forces weave with vortices of inevitable change.
The standing tall ones bow,
Creaking and groaning.
Self preservation gives way to reverence.

Windsong - Four part harmony,
Melodiously imparted by the directions.
Chorus rising and falling,
Whispers to quaking crescendo.

Diminuendo concealing intended finale.
A Song echoed across the heavens,
Reverberating through the valleys.
Devastatingly beautiful - embracing creative destruction.

Wisely selective.
Outcomes shrouded in mystery.
 The morning after blanketed in fathomless silence,
Soon reveals newfound transformation.

Stepping outside.
The path reveals.
 A walk.
Through the knee deep debris of release.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Heroes (Humble) Journey

Gyms aren't always the first places that spring to mind when one considers humility. Of course all gyms aren't created equally and some court a higher concentration of inflated egos along with the marvel comic (esque) physiques. While I was at the gym which is located at a public recreation centre I met a fellow that was to me both a source of inspiration and humility (not to mention gratitude).

I had noticed that while he was doing some of the various weight machines, he seemed to be having a challenge, getting his body to work in unison. It was a little like each muscle group was firing individually - rather than some providing support for others that were creating movement. The other side of his body was doing its own thing as well. I had thought that perhaps he had M.S.

At one point I was using a machine next to the one that he was using and I had finished and was wiping it down. I could see that he was speaking to me, so I removed my earbuds so that I could hear what he had to say. He was apologetically "suggesting," that if I was in need of the machine he was using that it would take him awhile to complete and that we would need to keep adjusting the weight stack back and forth.  I assured him that I wasn't in need of that specific machine, which was true. Even when I am utilizing a few pieces of equipment in a circuit fashion, if someone else wants to use one of them,  I won't tie it up and from my fitness trainer past I can always come up with an alternative exercise.

He then both proceeded to explain his situation which he said was "Chorea" (a neurologic movement disorder in the same vein with Huntington's disease) and apologize again for "disrupting my workout." Once again I interjected assurance, indicated I can always enjoy a little breather. Ordinarily I am on a mission when I go in to workout. I've usually woven it into other activities of the day, so I like to get in, get on with it and get out; so usually little or no chit chat time. I do on occasions make acceptions and this was one of those times.

He told me it's "like Huntington's" though he didn't elaborate on whether the prognosis was similar. I have cared for people with Huntington's in some of the facilities I have worked in - their future was cut significantly short. I certainly wasn't going to introduce any of that in this guys field and consciousness.  He says to me - "I'm struggling a little - I'm just getting back into it..." I know how that is! It would be so much easier to stay stopped. "I've been the better part of the last year in hospital," he tells me. "Hope you're not in a hurry to get on this machine - I'm not going anywhere fast,"

"Hey, you're going - good on ya!" "Starting back calls for a little ease and grace." "Thanks, he replies." "Don't worry, I'm not not going to let this thing get me, I'm going to beat it!"

"Alright then, I promise you I won't lie awake worried about you!" He laughed, we both agreed life calls for a great deal more laughter!!

I have no idea whether he will, "beat this thing." But I believe one hundred and ten percent that if he was going to, then his belief around that, is vitally important.

I also believe that nobody wants to be seen as "sick," that's why I sensed in the moment, I could joke with this guy and he would be okay with it (which he was). He remarked what a great facility this was and that people were so friendly. "I could go to one closer to home, but I like the atmosphere here." (again of utmost importance - if I can be allowed to generalize for the moment: people are looking for reasons not to work out - so enjoyment, convenience, atmosphere, preferred activity, etc. can easily be make or break points).

Anyway I don't know if it's a "gift" per se - but I have always just interacted with people with various challenges, without any undo focus on that challenge. If they want to talk about it - so be it. Naturally in the course of helping them there will be times when I must take their situation into account. Here at the gym, it was just two guys shooting the shit. Not him with this "condition" and me not. Sure as shit, if you looked in one of those diagnostic compendiums, you'd find they've created some syndrome or "disorder" that you could use to describe me. Unless I ever have something that calls for a specific mode of intervention; then I renounce labels. So I have, "the human condition." Challenging in various ways, at various times and eventually fatal.

Still if this guy can - with what he's contending with, get to the gym and have a positive attitude, there's precious little excuse, for me not to be able to do the same.

What a gift wellness is! How fragile it can be. I'm not suggesting anyone walk on eggshells or assume a hypochondriac mindset (there's a label for ya!)

Just before we parted ways and got on with our respective workouts this guy says - "I met this "Kiwi" recently - (this he's saying to me with an accent that I might have pegged round about, that same part of the world) turned out he's South African; anyway, the "kiwi" says to him, regarding his movements, if you had the right music on, you'd be right in sync!" He smiles as he tells me this. So I said there ya go, you just need the right sound track!! "That's it Mate," he says.

He thanked me for taking the time to chat with him and I said most sincerely, it was every bit as pleasurable and worthwhile for me.

You (which is to say "I") don't have to look far to find a hero; those performing heroic and superhuman feats.

(in case gender is implied or assumed here, I use the term "hero," to be genderless.)

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Give me (Pop) Eyes That I May See!

Yesterday morning I had a vision for my day. I was going to work an early shift at the hospital (7a.m. - 3 p.m.) which would have me off early enough in the afternoon, to go to the gym. The scope of this vision was conceived Sunday evening before I went to bed.  During the afternoon on Sunday, I attended a "energy releasing circle" - that had to do with working with ancestral energies. Though I fell asleep readily enough that evening, I was awake at two in the morning!.

Now, it's not unusual (in my experience, for sleep to be fragmented after undergoing various forms of energy work; so I wasn't "concerned." (Well except that I intended to get up at 4:45 a.m.) I laid awake for sometime and just as I felt I was nodding off again, I was abruptly awakened once again; by the most bizarre voice. Holy shit it was surreal. I shook my head and ensured I was awake (and not dreaming) and listened again.

Sure enough "the voice" sounds once again. Though perhaps not a perfect match - imagine the voice of Popeye and you'd be in the ball park. The difference was instead of proclaiming "I Yam what I Yam" and ringing endorsements about "loving me spinach," this individual was muttering a very colourful and creative mix of obscenities; the source of which, sounded very close to my bedroom window. My condo faces out onto what is a fairly busy crosstown thoroughfare during the day, and at night, it's not unusual that there can be the foot traffic of those, in various forms of inebriation and sometimes the discourse, is chemically infused passion; other times same infusion of lubricants, but the emotion of choice being expressed is rage. Aside from being jolted awake (and sometimes upright) these nocturnal exchanges usually fade; as the participants continue on to wherever it is that they are going.

I waited to hear the status of "Popeye" and intermittently the sound of his voice indicated he was still there. Now those hacker/slasher movies are not my usual fare anymore, but I've seen my share at one time or another. As such, I know better than to go sticking my head out the window to see what's going on. To do so, would invite a meeting with the chainsaw or machete, of some goalie-mask wearing fiend.

It got quiet for awhile and I surmised "Popeye" must have carried on his merry way. And the reason it sounded so close was just the stillness of the night and my bedroom window was ........ OPEN!

The night fell back into silence and I mindfully set the intention that if I didn't fall entirely back to sleep, I would still arise rested and refreshed.  I have no idea what time this would have been; I didn't want to look. What I can say is that the simulated harp "alarm" at 4:45 a.m.; seemed about 15 seconds later!

I forgot all about Popeye by the time I went to bed the following night (until precisely 2:00 a.m. when I first woke and then realized I was now living "The Return of Popeye - Part Deux.") There is also an owl out there somewhere; which I have heard on the occasion of my nocturnal stirrings in the wee hours). I was convinced I want to go out and see if I can locate the owl; now I'm not so sure, it might be one of Popeye's minions!!

This morning Popeye was more vocal than the previous morning. Far more expressive within the context of what sounded to be, a demented dialogue. I listened for awhile and Popeye neither moved on nor quietened down. In fact, he got louder and more agitated. I could also hear what sound like the sound of plastic tarps rustling every so often. I thought to myself, great he's taken up residence out there. The grounds in front of my building slope down from the road; then there is a garden at street level; full of various kinds of the perfect kind of foliage that would offer one privacy down below. My unit (and balcony) are on the second floor so Popeye would need to be Spiderman to gain access. However the folks on the first floor would have an eye to goalie mask view, if they looked out their windows.

I could hear stirring in the unit below me - but Popeye wasn't settling nor did "anyone else" seem to be doing anything about the situation. I decided enough was enough, Popeye could get hypothermia out there and I wasn't going to go without another night's sleep. If he'd piped down (pardon the pun) I might well have gone off to sleep and let sleeping Popeyes lie.

I called the non-emergency police number and was flabbergasted to be answered by a automated call queuing recording (in their defence they did indicate that if this were an emergency to hang up and dial 911). It wasn't much more than inconvenient as I'm placing the call and wading through the cue options; however, they needed to realize, any moment Popeye could flash up the Husqvarna and then it's a whole different scenario.  Finally I get a real live dispatch person and proceed to give them the nature of my concern. (I refrained from describing the visitor as having a voice like Popeye and just went with "sounds disturbed" - which was the truth, the content of his rambling was troubled to say the least - however if I included the voice like Popeye, I wasn't sure the dispatcher would be able to discern whom was the "disturbed" one here.

All the while I'm on the phone with the dispatcher who is now asking me to give him the coordinates of the front of the building (north/south etc.) and by extension, Popeye; I'm thinking, " I said my name is Mason, not Magellan; I can still hear Popeye cussing up a storm!

Then, no sooner did I hang up and get back in bed, than it becomes "dead" silent! First I'm thinking, oh ya if and when the cops show up, I'm going to look like a monkey cuz Popeye's buggered off. Then I realized, ah, this is just a ploy, the silence is to lull me into a false sense of security, I stick my head out the window and then ushered in by a cello generated crescendo - I become the ghost of unit #204.

It was quite sometime before a police van pulled up on the street. I could hear him calling to Popeye (of course he didn't know his true identity) and shining his flashlight which lit up my room as the blinds aren't all the way down (I certainly wasn't going to tip my hand by dropping them down and then Popeye would have a fix on my coordinates and then it's curtains for me!!!!) Yuk..yuk...yuk

I guess the cop must have worked his way down to the lawn in front of the window and now he is engaging Popeye in conversation. But wait a minute, Popeye's voice has morphed! Not only does it not sound like "his" voice - it is the voice of a women? What the hell....?

I'll refrain from any dime store (pop-psychology assessments) but now I'm thinking Popeye is "Sybil"!!!

It probably took a good three-quarters of an hour for the police supervised breaking of camp. To his credit he interacted with her with a great deal of patience and humour and deescalated her a few times during the proceedings (even suggesting she head for the park if she's intent on sleeping outside where she would be less likely to be disturbed than when choosing "private property" - she indicated that it was her preference to sleep outside).

Anyway my digression to the Popeye epic was to create the context that despite the setting of intentions, literally anything can transpire in the midst of it all (not always of this nature but....) I did get up the first morning at the call of the harp. I got ready, observed my morning rituals and set out on my bike to go to work. It's a good thing I left early; in order to arrive there with plenty of time for perhaps a cup of tea and or, a little reading. I got within a few paces of the bike storage locker at the hospital and I suddenly realized, I don't have my electronic access card! If it were only for the bike locker, I could have locked my bike else where. However, I need it to access the locker/change room, various areas in the hospital that I might go if I was doing the "porter" job and even to operate the "staff" elevator. So, I did a quick one-eighty and now I'm pedalling my butt back home to get the card. My sleep deprived being was now called on to pedal three times the distance before I began my day of work!

By the time I got back with my card and changed, I showed up in the department a couple minutes late. Nobody made a fuss about that and I explained the situation to one of the supervisors after morning report (excluding Popeye - just the forgotten access card/staff i.d.) The work day itself was uneventful and not exceedingly busy. When I left after my shift was over my continued intention was to go to the gym. First I needed to go to the mall where I had purchased a new shirt on sale. When I got the shirt home and was going to throw it in the wash to begin working it in - I discovered they had left the security tab on. I had left the store without tripping any alarms, but learned upon returning with the shirt, that the contents of the tab was ink (under pressure) and if you tried to dislodge it; ink would be infused into the garment and potentially in your face (hence the written warning :"unauthorized tampering could result in damage to the garment or personal harm) - seems a little heavy-handed for a shirt! Needless to say, I wasn't going to try and take it a part at home.

I got the shirt dealt with and hopped back on my bike. It was plenty early enough still and the gym wasn't far from the mall. However, then it started: "I'm tired!"  "I could just go tomorrow and make a fresh start" I've already ridden three times the distance to work and now to the mall and still need to ride home!"

I rode to the exit of the mall parking lot where a directional decision was necessary: Left (home) right (gym). I went right! (Even still it didn't mean with a zig here and a zag there I couldn't still - "go home.") I got to the intersection that required another turn to head toward the gym; I made the turn. I parked my bike and locked it. Even while approaching the front door - I'm thinking, I could still just turn right around and go home. What the hell difference does it make? (there is invariably a price to pay for such "selling out." Certainly legitimate fatigue can call for a rejigging of the scheduled intentions - this was not that!

I walked through the door and dug out my membership card - even scanning in, wouldn't make a great deal of difference. I have a three month unlimited pass so even if I left without doing anything it wouldn't be like I used up a "visit." However I would have created a deficit in a different ledger. It is my experience that these inner conflicts are like exercising a muscle - one needs to hold to the intention in the face of this "inner racket" it doesn't mean you won't encounter it again; but it does give you a growing confidence that you can override it.

Within the first few sets of different exercises I was "into it." The gym wasn't very busy so I was able to keep to a steady momentum and intensity level and be in and out under an hour (one of the best workouts I've had lately). That's what I'm saying, I wouldn't be able to say that or have experienced it had I caved in.

I went home energized and ready to enjoy an relaxing evening; after which I anticipated a good night's sleep, which was not in the cards.

As an aside, how does this act of inner victory have application in life? Well beside the gym intention, it is transferrable to most anywhere an intention is set (that is in jeopardy of being derailed). Today, after another night with Popeye I was glad to not be booked to work. A mid-morning shift offer came through via text, but by then I was intent on completing the online "on-boarding" process for another casual position that I successfully interviewed for. One of the requirements was a Criminal record check - no problem I have no reason to not submit to the requirement. Besides that, I had one "not so long ago" if I can just put my hands on the letter...... Bingo I found it! I emailed back and forth with a contact at Human resources who responded with some instructions re: contacting the "Ministry of Justice" - a conversation with them, punted the ball back to human resources. More emails to the H.R. office - now with different instructions (which were presented in such a way that, I would have seen them had I thoroughly read my online package - despite the fact that I had already received and tried to implement her specific contrary instructions) - translations, they messed up and wanted to tag me with it.

As you recall my intention was to see this process through (that would include even in the face of mounting frustration with "run-around.")  I just kept doing what I was able to complete and then informing H.R. where things were at. Nothing more, nothing less. Invariably I would receive more contradictory direction - still I followed the guidance. Even now, eight hours after I began this process this a.m. I fielded another email with new instructions (which failed upon implementation) - the ministry website indicated there is no previous record to share with my new employer (despite their representative bringing that document up on her computer when we spoke this morning.

I began the process again, this time selecting the option to submit a new record check application - naturally the system allowed me to engage where the requirement is to submit more money! So I have written H.R. back, informed them I now have a "new application" underway; as well as the original and a copy of the one, that is supposed to be good through December 2019. Step by step, "flustered" and "overwhelm" be damned!! I just do what's in front of me to do. I will not let "my racket" take me out!

What I am transforming for myself is a life long practice of throwing in the towel. Of course there are times when one's time and energy value have been exceeded and therefore to continue to engage, is fruitless.

There is also times when one might cite the above scenario, however in truth, they are quitting on themselves. (ouch) I'll let you decide which it is, for yourself.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

River Dance

While meandering upon a sun-clad path,
 Brimmed with trees awash in Autumn's splendour,
The labyrinthine journey revealing first,
The roar of a river intent on reaching its destination.

Not the least bit shy or concerned, with concealing it's presence,
Seasonal rainfall has quenched it's summer drought  induced thirst.
Now as the banks clamber to contain it's swollen volume,
It's song audible, as it harmonizes with the rocks, that presumes to impede its progress.

Enraptured by this haunting melody
You are enticed to follow the river
Surely after traversing this valley for eons,
It can be trusted to "know the way."

Along its course granite basin forged by the hands of time,
Are kept filled and renewed, with a non-relenting flow.
The crystal clear pools reflect a mirrored image,
Of all that are contained, within its scrutiny.

You stop to consider the image of that which holds your gaze,
What do you "know" of him/her?
For sure.
The timeless river flows,
Continuing to refresh the pool.

If you consider your inquiry long enough,
While minute by minute,
The very identity of the pool has transformed.
What now could be said,
Of the image it reflects?

Not an invitation to follow the lead of Narcissus.
Who is that - staring back?
Is the image held upon the surface of the water?
What of the depths?
What do they contribute to what you see?

If from deep within the abyss,
A stirring eddy,
Were to add an element of mineral rich silt,
To the image rendering palate,
What (or whom) presents now?

At any given moment,
Conditions can be such,
That viewing the depths, in their entirety,
May be fleeting at best.
The topography exists nonetheless.

Impatient resignation can be allowed,
To obscure hidden mystery.
While continued curiosity,
Rewarded with limitless discovery.

Perhaps then, you are not as familiar as you think!
Even those as close as your next breath,
Might be strangers,
Awaiting the invitation to introduce themselves.