Wednesday, 26 June 2013


           I was once invited to a funeral while I lived in Thailand. I had been working, trying to sell condos in an area completely devoid of tourists (a rarity in Thailand), and found myself driving around looking for a place to eat.  I had stopped on the side of the road for some gas when a man came up to me and invited me to what I thought was a party across the road.  I agreed and entered the funeral. It was for a little girl I had never met, her little body lying on a bed in front of me. I can remember her family crying around me and the petals of brightly colored flowers.

Grief is such a tough thing to witness and is so rarely seen publicly. When faced with it I think most people are understandably uncomfortable. What do you say to someone who has lost a child? How do you comfort those whose world has fallen apart around them? Public displays of grief seem to strip the participants naked in front of us, showing us the pain that all of us fear to feel.

When I was in high school there was in a car accident. My friend, my brother, and two other boys were driving when they collided with another car. The two boys in the back died, the two in the front survive. My friend and one of the other boys was in the back, my brother and his friend were in the front.  I can’t imagine the pain my friend’s parents felt as they heard there son was not coming home again. Each person involved dealt with grief in their own way. Many cried. I turned against my religion. My other friends wanted to talk. My brother, one of the survivors, became quiet, left with a sadness that destroyed his confidence.   My mother announced that she would write a book.
The book my mother decided to write, her first book, would be a children’s book on the subject of grief.   When she announced it to the family I don’t really think any of us thought she would follow through with it. My mother is a quiet, non-articulate, shy woman. She has battled mental illness for years and is often uncomfortable in many social situations.  She is the woman who stands behind my father with his confidence and clear voice. I think for many of these reason I have always felt a distance from her.We are so different and i admit that she embodies many of the things i fear.
 We encouraged her politely, saying it was a great idea. She interviewed members of the other families involved the best she could and then locked herself away in her sewing room to write her magnum opus. After a several months we all forgot about the book. We all adjusted to living with our grief as many often do. One day she began to talk about a writer’s conference that would be coming up that she wanted to go to. They would read her manuscript, add some constructive criticism and help her with information on the process of publishing. No one had read it but her. We sent her off with the best of wishes, though deep down I think we all felt apprehension and fear. We wanted to protect her but we didn't want to hurt her. It’s strange how we want to protect the emotions of our loved ones, while in turn not allowing them to grow emotionally. She left, off by herself for the first time since before her and my father’s wedding. She left and then one week later she returned. She never talked about what happened there. She never told any of us how it went and if she told my father about it, he never said a word.
After high school I left home. I went across Canada for a year then down the west coast, saw a bit of Mexico, spent a couple months in Hawaii until I finally found my way back. My parents gave me my old room back until I could find a place somewhere downtown. One day I walked into the kitchen and my mother was at the table thumbing through a stack of papers. I asked her what she was doing and she said it was her book and asked if I’d like to read it. I sat down, turned the page and began to read.
It began with my mother explaining what she was like as a child. She described herself as full of fear. The world was a big place and the people, places and things in it often left her with anxiety. There was a tree on the little farm in Saskatchewan, and there she would hide from the world. As I read I realized that I had known nothing of my mother’s childhood. In fact, I realized that I had never even considered that my mother had a childhood, she was simply my mother; she had always been a two dimensional character in my own story. I loved her but I never knew her. Here, on this piece of paper, my mother became a human. The story was short, clunky, slow and utterly personal. As it progressed she wrote about the accident. She described the circumstances around the death of my friend and the other boy. She talked about the grief it brought and how it made her want to hide. She held guilt over the happiness she felt of my brother’s survival and deep sorrow for the parents of those who had lost their own sons. She wrote about how the other families dealt with their grief and how, through family and community, she had found safety.
   I asked her if she had published it and she said no, it needed a lot of work and it probably never would be good enough. My mother’s grief was displayed before me on the table and I didn't know what to do with it… and then I realized there was nothing I could do. For my mother this book was an attempt at healing and, according to her, it has helped. It didn't matter if it was good or bad or whether I liked it or not. It didn't matter if it was published or not. We all grieve in our own way and this was the way my mother chose to do it. All I had to do was just be there and that is often the case with grief. Kind words often fail. We cannot understand what other’s go through and I believe we should not try to. When confronted with grief, all that’s usually necessary is to listen, to witness and perhaps on occasion, to read.

Thursday, 20 June 2013


In religion there is an important rule that should not be ignored: “Knowing” and faith are separate. If someone turns faith into knowing they take away from best parts of anyone’s religion by trying to make it fact. They take away the leap of faith and the unknown; we take away the arguments and discussions that breed a more full and richer understand of our personal walks in life. We close the door to other better or opposing ideals that could raise us up to greater heights. Religions can contain wisdom for all if they choose to follow it, but it doesn't mean it’s for everyone.  There is not one truth but many because no one knows what will happen in the end; we are all taking a chance. No religious person should fall into the trap of stating that they “know “a faith is true. If this is done then religion, as well as philosophy, lose their beauty and power to transform. We are all trying to understand the unknown. Never stop questioning and never stop listening.


How do we define ourselves? What makes us individuals in all the mess of human drama and idea? Do our actions ring out, as we hope, or do they end meaningless?   I realize that my mind often thinks about this when I’m alone. I look into the mirror and wonder.  I have spent half of this life trying to figure out who and what I am and I’m sure that this will not stop. Who is that I see in the mirror and who is that I see is being reflected by the emotions of the people I talk to?
   I want to be many things. I want to be honest though, at times, I lie. I want to be just but sometimes I am selfish. I want to love but I rarely allow it. I give and I take. I am happier now then I’ve been in a long time and yet…I still have not found myself. Many things I have wanted to do I have done. I have seen some of the world though there is still so much to see. I have loved and lost and my heart still aches and will again, I’m sure.  My family is rooted so deep inside me that I will never let them go. And after all this, a list that could go on,  I am left wondering if there is something I am missing in my list that I have not discovered. There must be and there will be and I hope I will find it.
   So I sit and think and question myself in every action. Maybe there is one moment that is yet to come?  I worry that if I get a glimpse of what I could become that I will run away like a coward.  Will I take my chance if it comes?  Will my defining moment come and pass me by? I am afraid that if I wanted to change I won’t be able to and I will stand and question who I am without taking action. Sometimes there are people and I want to speak with them, to know who they are and what they think they are.  Maybe I’ll find my answers in them or see a shadow of what I could become.  

     Every life seems so beautiful that I forget how to see the beauty in my own. Sometimes there are moments when you look into someone’s eyes and you feel you know them. I am not speaking of what they did or how they do things but who they are. You see kindness or perhaps grief. You see trust or perhaps mistrust. But at these times you get a glimpse of what the person truly is and what defines them. I wish I could see this in myself and make sense of it all.

We live the unlived lives of our parents. We enter a world that they never saw, full of opportunities and failures.  We either surpass and impress or veer off the road. I’m now older than when my father had his first child. What does that say about me? When is it time to move on from their expectations or be what they always dreamed you could be? Are they my dreams? Am I something similar to a reincarnation of my father, trying once again to become something bigger than what I was? I see my eyes, my father’s eyes, and they watch me in every reflection.  

We search a world of facts for moments that resemble fiction. Magic is simply when the world defeats our expectations. A miracle is when, somehow, words bridge the gap between thought and reality. These times are rare but searched for like a lost world. We drench ourselves in the unexplainable moments that drive us into understanding.  I am comfortably uncomfortable with the questions life has made me wonder.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013


We must never forget that we are capable, as a nation of power on the world stage, of great atrocities and terrorism. We must also be aware that those who seem to terrorize us might simply be a small fish fighting against a great shark. The story of the pirate and Alexander the great must not be forgotten and is an excellent example. Alexander asked a pirate after he had been caught “what is your idea, infesting the sea?” The pirate replied “the same as yours, as in infesting the earth. But because I do it with a tiny craft I am called a pirate: because you have a mighty army you are called an emperor.”

Ideas are aggressive. They do battle and there is a winner. Two may have different views, which sit in their own reason, but one will conquer if the will behind that view is more powerful.


I think therefore I am.... In our age things are made to be faster, more user friendly and more efficient. The hope is that these objects will be so easy to use that they become an extension of our body, successfully transforming us from human to cyborg. The less we have to think and the more intuitive technology becomes, the happier people are. Though I am guilty of these desires and I understand the pleasure of technology, I fear we are losing, or perhaps even sacrificing, parts of our humanity. Our social lives are now a constant with text messaging, e-mails, instant messengers, and social networking sites. We are closer than ever before but still we feel a distance (one that many feel comfortable with) growing in the human condition. I would not be surprised to hear that 70% or more of our social life is digital. How has the need of human touch, the beauty of a smile, or perfect words with a hand on your shoulder been pushed aside by technology? The machines we use have become mother and father, confessor and forgiver, lover and betrayer; where there once was flesh there is now the World Wide Web. This technology may make you feel, at times, like you are part of something bigger. You may feel that because your consciousness can travel through to the other side of the world that we are all connected. This is a lie. We were always connected through the bond of human nature. Now we can talk about reality and get what we want more efficiently from farther away, be it entertainment or commodity.  The internet is a selfish thing in most cases, though it asks us what we want and it delivers to us. It satisfies the individual’s desires in the now. One no longer has to think about what is good and bad because the time to think is over; true love is just a click away. Thinking is a thing of the past, live in the now. But thinking is what defines us. It is all that is our being. For thousands upon thousands of years man has been using his brain to think, to understand, to reason, to dream, and now we let machines do it for us. Yes, technology can be used to bring our imagination to life but we would not cease to be creative without it. 
Thinking is not just the reading of information, it is the searching for it, the time one ponders on it and rules if it is applicable to one’s own life. I think therefore I am.  But I think that when we think, when we sit and contemplate, we cannot help through introspection to think about others. We are drawn to the idea that happiness, peace and the common good of all is in the best interest of society. When we think of others, we realize that typing a message is not enough and that a hug is much more efficient in expressing love. There is a word in an African language, UBUNTU, which means “I am because we are”. We need each other in not just a mental sense but in a physical one. We must think, so that we are aware of each other and how much we need each other. We must always understand that we exist to be with one another; we exist because of one another.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013


 How the immortality of nature surrounds us
 As we move around it and above it
Who is it to be blessed with so many faces?
And we with our roles in these short lives
We unlucky inhabitants of nature
At all times we are so immersed in things that live on
Like the sun rise, or the flight of birds
Dark water and blue skies
Oh, our love affair with it runs deep
Perhaps that is why it is so hard to sleep

The people we meet affect us so deeply: their ideas, their hopes, and their needs. It is impossible to live apart from this. We are inextricably guided towards interaction and drama, whether it ends in tragedy or comedy. How easily the touch of a loved one can change a day, or how the distance from one can bring it down.  How beautiful a breath can be; the moments that fall between words when we just are. To describe these connections is like trying to explain a dream.  You know of if its importance but can’t understand what it means. Have I searched the whole wide world just to have these connections? Have I searched the whole wide world just to find you? For up to these meetings there is nothing but the past, a past you weren't apart of, and from now on you are a part of me, into whatever future that comes.

Love has to be one of the most difficult and most sought after experiences in human existence, though the genuine article is so distant I sometime assume it doesn't exist. The closer I get to real love, the farther it is from me.
When you fall in love, you’re not yourself anymore. You lose control of being natural; showing the beautiful parts of yourself. All anyone recognizes is total desperation; a fool trying to run on water. 


My father use to keep national geographic magazines on the bottom shelf in his library.  I’d look at them and realize that the world was big. I’d imagine my body floating around the world and standing beside the people I saw on the pages.  I wanted to be there.  I made mental notes to one day go to these places. I’d get there but I didn't know what I’d say to them, but I knew they were real.  

There was a time when I was in Vietnam where I closed my eyes while I was riding over a bridge with other commuters. The sound of the engines around me and the smells and heat prompted it. I was happy. In that moment I had gotten what I wanted since I was little.

 I know so little and will ever know so little. I could travel all my days, talk to all I meet, read books and study maps and still be lost. We don’t need to look to the stars for the infinite but to the world around us. The possibilities, the people we can meet and the places we can go are beyond our understanding, for new creations are born every second and the world is ever changing.

So many of the people I’ve met, in the countries I’ve been to, will never travel abroad, hell, even out of their city. And they are content and live full lives. Travel is the luxury of the rich. Many of the travelers I meet are either running away from something or want something new. Its funny how, when we travel, we spend most of our time trying to capture moments of a simpler way of life. Like it’s out of our grasp and we get a glimpse of it by going to foreign countries. We envy the Farmer toiling in his field while we would never trade our lives … I understand this. The grass is always greener. What a lie! Life is simply life, Complex how it may seem, for every person on earth. You deal with what you got. It is by our choices, our desire to change or to be content that we shape it. I think travel, at its core, is just a way to put proof to statements like, ‘’it’s a small world’’ or that we are all part of humanity. One giant entity. People are the same everywhere. They want a place to sleep, things to eat, and people to talk to but we don’t fully understand it till we see it. But still, the grass is always greener.
Then maybe, we should travel to take advantage of a gift so few have. We should travel to gain experience and to open our minds to different ways of life. Maybe just to appreciate what we got. Traveling is often a selfish act but it breeds selflessness. Being anti-social or an asshole will only ruin experiences around the world and thats a lesson to take back home. You learn to depend on and appreciate a conversation. There have been days where I haven’t talked to people because I don’t know anyone, just to realize that it’s my own fault and that I have the power to change it (even if we speak different languages). Fuck self-help, go traveling.


 If you look back on the video cassette tapes that my father documented our childhood on, you see some footage of me standing and starring into a TV screen. I’m four feet away with glazed look and a slight lean forward. The TV enraptures my 4 year old brain and I am too weak to fight back. I am told this was some of the last days of cable tv in our house. I think this was a wise decision. My parents obviously saw a danger here and the cable was canceled.
 After the cable went we were strictly on a movie diet of entertainment and, being a religious family, that meant only classics. Ben-hur, The wizard of OZ, Lawrence of Arabia, Citizen Kane, Treasure island (1932), Abbot and Costello and Gone with the wind. If they predated the 1970’s, with some limited exceptions, we had seen it. I would watch the same black and whites over and over again. These movie’s pop into my head from time to time or a quote I’m reminded of when someone talks.  They have become some part of me. They were my moral compass as a child, educating me about a world in grey.

Childhood, more often than not, is destroyed quietly. We read something or a friend informs us on the truths of the world and we take it in and add it to what make sense. We breathe in…and then out. Not every story is romantic. Not every battle is glorious. Reality isn’t a good story and it is rarely ever black and white.

Monday, 17 June 2013


  Let’s start at the beginning. As any good child raised in a Christian home can attest, the beginning of our human existence begins with Adam and Eve, be it mythology or truth.  They are naked and without blame. An unnamed and untouched world awaits them and they can do no wrong but one: they must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. With no history behind them and the vastness of future ahead, they are without shame. Shame… this word, as a child, was always what stuck with me. They had nothing to be ashamed of. Innocence had its blessings.
  The story goes that one day Eve is walking in the garden and the devil, in snake form, tempts her with the fruit of the forbidden tree. She eats of it and then shares it with Adam and God finds out and searches for them. Like any good father that knows their children has done wrong, he gives them the chance to come clean. When they finally come forward they are hiding their nakedness. No matter what this story is trying to tell us or symbolizes of our early existence, the loss of their innocence stays with me. There is shame in the innocence they once had and the realization that they were once so na├»ve.
  When I was younger my family use to go camping a lot and one place was always Eden: Bay view. This campground on the North West coast of America was my adventure into the world outside Christendom. Here, in the big open field surrounded by campsites I would learn the lesson of a world foreign to my upbringing, here would begin my fall from grace. Here children cursed and talked in hushed voice about the things we overheard our parents say. The knowledge of good and evil hung heavy from these limbs.  But, in the beginning, my innocence held me back. In the beginning, these new words didn't need to become part of my diet.  In my world, the problems and conversations of parents were akin to a higher power which did not concern me. My innocence was all encompassing.
  To describe myself at this point would be to say I had no grasp of the judgement of others.  I was still in that eager learning period where my opinions were still protected by a child’s mind. I was malleable but had created a comfortable view of how the world around me worked. It is not till we grow old that we feel our lives are incomplete. I could act in this world as one without a character picked out for it. I was free to be what I wanted and, for the most part, lived in the moment as most small children do.
  This memory is one of my earliest. Is so clear to me in my life I feel I can touch it, though, at the time, I did not know how to interpret it.  This was the moment where I became ashamed and aware of judgement. This was my fall from grace.
  We were all playing in the field and I began to laugh. I cannot remember what it was that had made me laugh but it had been something I was thinking about. While all the other kids played on, I stopped and laughed harder and harder. I think I even forgot about what I was laughing about but the laughter had caught me and I reveled in it. I fell on the field and laughed. The other kids must have noticed and made their way over to me. I can remember looking up with all their faces looking down on me. My brother’s face was there along with the faces of other children. I remember not caring and simply laughing but then suddenly one of them told me to stop. They asked my brother why I was laughing and he said he didn't know. They began to kick me and became angry. I suddenly realized that something I was doing was wrong.  Before this moment, their opinions of me didn’t matter. In fact, the idea that people had opinions of one another was foreign. I realized that what I did and what I said mattered to others and changed how they saw and treated me. I had now realized that I could be judged. I had now eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I was ashamed of my innocence. I was ashamed that I hadn't cared what others thought of me. I ran back to the trailer that we had borrowed from our grandparents and cried alone, hiding this shame from my parents.
   Though I know the statement is bold, I believe this was the moment that defined how relationships in my life worked. Every word I said, every move I made, was not mine but someone else’s to take. I was not defined by myself but by the others around me. I wanted to be loved and so I created my character to the world set forth by what it wanted. I learned not to laugh out loud at things I thought were funny but to think of what others would find funny. Still, to this day, I sometimes find it difficult to truly laugh in public. I learned self-control and fitting the mold was what they all wanted.  I internalized. I constantly worried how others perceived me. My innocence was gone; my fall from grace, complete.

  Now, as I sit here, I feel the judgement of the world surrounding me but I have learned to live within it and have begun to laugh at it. I am starting not to care. Still, I have my moments where I hold back and follow the inertia of the group but they are less frequent. The innocence and wonder I once had now does not seem so buried or hidden behind the leaves of shame. I wish I could talk to myself and tell him to not care and go on living in that world.  I find myself trying to draw out that younger self in me, like God trying to find out where Adam and Eve are. I am beginning to realize that paradise is not lost but simply hiding.  For me the story of Adam and eve is the story of what all of us face at one point or another, though many may not remember it. It is the loss of our childhood and the discovery of a world full of the views of others. But who, I ask, who are the ones we lift up and praise? The ones with the curiosity and wonder of children; the ones who break the mold and bare all to be judged. They are the ones that define our culture. Strangely, like the fruit on the tree, we are given a choice. Do we choose to be defined by the world around us or to define the world? Luckily, unlike the story where Adam and Eve are cast out of paradise, we can, if we have the courage, re-enter that world of wonder; a paradise that is not defined by others but by what we want it to be.