Category Archives: wondering

“The highest form of wisdom is kindness” — The Talmud

“Our soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.” — Marcus Aurelius

I like reading the words of the wise.  I think most of us can agree that life can be a bit confusing at times. At other times, ‘confusing’ doesn’t begin to describe it.

It is almost certainly true that life doesn’t come with a training manual or a guide book.  We are simply born one day, and somewhere along the way we become self-aware and then we just sort of go about living, and trying not to die.  Days and weeks and years drift along, and we do what we can to occupy, distract or amuse ourselves, only vaguely aware for the most part, that sooner or later the ride must come to an end.

If at some point on our journey down the river of life, we are to feel a bit tired or lost, stopping and asking for directions is not really an option.  The river never stops, and even if it did, there is no map.  Different people find ‘maps,’ of a sort, in different places, whether science, philosophy or religion, but the near-universal disagreement on which map is ‘true’ really doesn’t lend any specific map a great deal of of credibility.

Still we are fortunate.  I imagine the experience of life must not be very different for a fish, or for a deer, or perhaps even for a bacteria.  They are born, have hungers and fears, and do what they can to occupy, distract and amuse themselves while trying to avoid death for as long as is feasible.  It would seem, though, that we have one up on them, in that the written languages of human beings provide us with something resembling context.  We may be unable to get off the river, or to look at a map, but we can share our insights, and can share in the insights of those who have come and gone before us.

While only the revelations (or lack thereof) that come with death can really define for us the meaning of a “good” or “full” life, there certainly seem to be many human beings who have, on the surface at least, approached such ideals.

Perhaps they excelled in their fields, exploring the limits of their potential.  Perhaps they broadened our understanding of life or the universe.  Perhaps they left a world behind that was better off than they world they were born into.  Perhaps they simply lived happily and at peace.  Many of them wrote, in their youth, their prime and their age, and I believe that their words – their thoughts, ideas, insights and imaginings, are among the greatest of human treasures.   It may amount to nothing more than the blind leading the blind, but many blind men and women have lived lives of misery and toil, while many have found achievement, happiness and serenity.  Though it’s impossible to know what the point of all this living is, it certainly seems likely that experiencing joy, love and completion for as many  of these few short hours of life is preferable to squandering them away in suffering and self-loathing.

Not unexpectedly, many of these so-called wise tend to agree on a lot of things, including an approach to living, and an attitude on life.  To be continued …

Well, each beautiful thing I come across tells me to stop moving and shake this riddle off.  Oh well.

And there was a time when all I wanted was my ice cream colder and a little cream soda.  Oh well, oh well.

And a wooden box and an alley full of rocks was all I had to care about.  Oh well, oh well, oh well.

Now my mind is filled with rubber tires and forest fires and whether I’m a liar and lots of other situations where I don’t know what to do at which time God screams to me “There’s nothing left for Me to tell you!”

“Nothing left for Me to tell you!”

“Nothing left!”

Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well.

Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well.

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“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in an American flag, and carrying a Cross.” — Unknown

Apparently Glenn Beck, champion of such gems as:

“This president [Obama] I think has exposed himself over and over again as a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture….I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people, I’m saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.”

and

“I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can.”

and

“Good for you, you have a heart, you can be a liberal. Now, couple your heart with your brain, and you can be a conservative.”

… decided to throw a rally at the same spot as Martin Luther King Jr.  Apparently a few hundred thousand people showed up.  I wonder who sponsored it?

Apparently it was “non-political,” even though it was headlined by a bunch of Republicans.  Instead of being political,  it was instead a tribute to the Christian faith and the military.

Now there is lots to say about Glenn Beck and Fox News, but I am going to restrict myself to this one point.

Christian faith … and … the military.

I wonder if any of these people have actually read the words of Jesus Christ?

I’ve never met the man, but I’m pretty sure “The Prince of Peace” is not so big on trillions of dollars spent on war instead of love.  I could be wrong though.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”

I’m continually impressed by how effective this crew of greedy, power hungry, egotistical bastards are at accusing the other side of the very things they are guilty of.  I take comfort in the fact that, if they are in fact correct about Jesus Christ being the son of God, he is going to be so terribly upset with them for spreading anger and hatred in his name.

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“God has no religion.” — Gandhi

September 11, 2010

The ninth anniversary of the so-called terrorist attacks against the United States.

Also, the first annual “International Burn The Koran Day.”

This seems like a pretty good idea to me.  It reminds me of why I like religion so much.

I like how my good friend in the video implores all Christians to be Christ-like.  That was actually one of my favourite quotes by Jesus: “Anyone who disagrees with me is evil, so you must destroy what is sacred to them.”

It ranks right up there with “judge not, lest ye be judged” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

It seems the ultimate rationale for this whole celebrate-good-times-come-on is that Islam, and the Qur’an are just fundamentally violent and evil.

“put to death everyone in the cities, men, women, and dependents”

“kill every male dependent, and kill every woman who has had intercourse with a man, but spare for yourselves every woman among them who has not had intercourse.”

“All who are found will be stabbed, all who are taken will fall by the sword; their infants will be dashed to the ground before their eyes. . . .”

“kill without pity; spare no one. Kill and destroy them all, old men and young, girls, little children and women. . . .”

etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.

I guess my friends at the dove church are right, the Holy Bible is a terribly violent book, and must be burned.  Because Jesus is God, right?  And God spends most of The Book killing people, or having them kill and maim and burn and torture each other.  And we are supposed to be God-like in thought and action … right?

And really, how can any religion that has started so many wars be called anything but ‘evil’?  It seems that pretty much every major conflict over the past four thousand years (and how many minor conflicts?) has cited the God of the Old and New Testaments as its motivation.  Then there was also slavery, colonialism, the atomic bomb, genocide, imperialism, ………………..

Please, my friends, the time has come for action!  Join us at the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainsville, Florida on September 11, 2010, for International Burn The Holy Bible day.  It is our duty to impose our higher morality on those who would inflict their evil ways and laws upon us all.  I tell you truly, this is the ultimate path to world peace.

Wait a minute.  Ummmmmm.  Yeah, never mind.  Just send me a donation or burn in hell forever you filthy sinner!

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“The future ain’t what it used to be” — Yogi Berra

I live with a couple of artists from France.  They are every bit as delightful as one would expect – creative, soft-spoken, kind, generous, quietly confident, etc, but with none of the negative ‘typical French’ stereotypes that I have been warned of over my 27 years.

I am sad that soon our ways will diverge, and as they have done so much for me, while I so little for them, I thought they might enjoy a proper North American night out.  Last night, with this in mind, I gathered a few friends and took them to see a baseball game in the famous Skydome/Rogers Centre.

After playing quite a lot of baseball in my life, I can say with some confidence that it is the most pathetic sport on earth.  It has its charms of course, but none outweigh the ‘edge-of-your-seat’ tension generated by sitting in a seat for 5 hours, watching a bunch of overweight white guys scratch their balls and wander around looking casually uninterested for $5,000,000/year.  Like all sports, playing and spectating become a whole lot more fun with a healthy dose of alcohol, but that doesn’t say much about the sport itself does it?

Anyway, the Rogers Centre is a huge dome that can be opened and closed when the fates dictate.  Apparently, in spite of the absurdly hot spring weather, the dome has thus far remained closed in 2010.  This is good for us, as once the sun goes down, the temperature remembers that it is April and not June, and takes a few logs off the fire.

Good for us, but bad for two pigeons that somehow managed to infiltrate the human space.  Here is the trippy bit though, that has stuck itself under my skin.  Rogers Centre is huge, and in spite of it being a divisional game against an old rival, the stands were only about 1/4 full.  Lots of empty seats.  Yet the birds hovered constantly among the people.  They truly were almost more entertaining than the game itself, flying and swooping only feet above hundreds of humans desperately in search of any kind of entertainment.

Now I’m sure most people don’t get why this bugs me, but it does.  Why were the birds near the people?  Of course, they were probably foraging for dropped hot-dogs and pizza crusts, but doing so the midst of a crowd of relative giants does not seem the ideal time, does it?  And every time they landed they were violently shooed away by more bored spectators desperate for distraction.  So why keep flying and landing among the people, with so much empty stadium in which to frolic in their birdly ways?  As I understand, birds are actually quite intelligent, so really, WTF?

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“Dead man lying by the side of the road, with the daylight in his eyes. Don’t let it bring you down, it’s only castles burning.” — Neil Young

I think often of the role played by elders in a society.

In elementary school growing up, we learned quite a lot about the various cultures of Canada’s aboriginal peoples.  I remember clearly the respect that the words of their elders carried, and the position of esteem and prominence that they played in their social units.  Elders, both male and female, were the leaders, the teachers, the decision makers and the judges that enabled their cultures and traditions to survive for thousands of years.  I imagine this wisdom played a role also in the survival of the people themselves, having chosen a particularly harsh environment in which to call home.

Traveling through Africa’s deep-rural areas, I regularly encountered much of the same reverence for the wisdom of the aged.  I was fortunate to witness many quiet deliberations, long minutes disappearing in silence with looks of distant concentration written in the deep lines of old faces.   I was fortunate also to hear the subsequent judgments, on issues ranging from agriculture to religion to love.  Universally, their words emerged with a slow and quiet caution, each carefully considered and weighed before being given a voice.  While many of those I happened to witness couldn’t read or write, and had certainly never studied logic or rhetoric, they spoke with lucidity of mind, and an intelligence which drew its source from a place far deeper than that available in books and displayed on expensive pieces of paper.

A few weeks ago, chance brought me into the foyer of a “retirement community” in suburban Toronto.  There, tucked in an out-of-the-way corner where they can’t bother anyone, is our culture’s store of wisdom.  I have been in a handful of such places, and I am always struck my the impression that everybody is waiting for something.  They sit, frail and gray, scattered about in comfortable arm-chairs, staring vacantly into space, or napping silently.  Hours later, I pass again through the same space and am slightly taken aback at just how little has changed in so many ticks of the clock. Perhaps the nappers are now staring vacantly, and the vacant starers are now napping.  Either way, precious little seems to be said of the thousands of years of collective life experience brought together in a single room.

There is something unsettling to me about all that waiting.  What are they waiting for?  After a life-time lived, one doesn’t expect the grand conclusion to be a drawn out hum, like the vertical coloured bars and mono-tone of an old television station, signed off for the long hours of the night.  Often, the comfortable arm-chairs seem to have arranged themselves around the main-entrance – spectators waiting for a show, any show at all, to punctuate the hum, even if only the Fed-ex guy dropping off a package. Do they have a choice, or is their actually their best-of-all-possible-options?

True wisdom is that gained from experience.  How tragic that this very moment, thousands of life-times of experience sit silently across our country and our continent.  Are we better off, for their silence?

We have little patience for such non-sense as wisdom anymore.  When the kids need to get to soccer practice, the truck needs an oil change, the neighbors just got a new TV, and there is talk of lay-offs at work, who has the time to bother with wisdom.  What place is there for slow and cautious consideration in a world ruled by a rule called “time-is-money”?  None, it would seem, except perhaps a nice, quiet corner, where they can’t bother anybody.

I’m not sure how it happened, but it does seem undeniable that reverence for the wisdom of our elders has been usurped by the indulgent whims of our children.  I grant, of course, that I am effectively comparing so-called “primitive cultures” with our so-called “developed world.”  I recognize how our quality of life differs across both time and space, and I am certain that, by what I have said so far, one could argue that the whims of children are superior to the wisdom of elders.  But does anybody really believe that?  The children may choose the most interesting paint job for the car, but do we let them drive, determine the destination, choose the path and look after the maintenance as well?

It’s obvious that modern technology and thought has brought us many wonderful things, but at what cost?  Those “primitive cultures” managed to survive for thousands of years, and provided we don’t kill them all, will likely go on for thousands of years more.  Our culture, on the other hand, though an infant itself in the grand scheme, has been compared to locomotive racing off a cliff.  We have created a world defined by unsustainability, instability and inequality.  No fancy computer modeling can sustain our level of resource consumption, and yet every day we consume more than the day before. Every day we consume more than the day before.

This is to be expected, I suppose, when the growing three-year-old in the backseat, tired of watching his personal DVD player, tired of playing with his various movie-themed, but creatively stagnant toys and tired of the wide variety of processed snacks his mom was able to gather (on sale) for the trip, begins to cry out for something else, something different, something new.

Kids are annoying when they cry.  I really wish there was something I could do to entertain him, to distract him, to just shut him up.

Old people are also annoying when they cry.  Good thing we have retirement communities to shut them away in, or we might have to listen to their slow, rambling and obsolete ideas about our flawless society.  Hurry up and get the kid in the van, or we’ll be late.  See you next year grandpa.

Peace and Love.

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