Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

11 December, 2017

TRY LOVE IF YOU THINK YOU CAN'T "TAKE IT WITH YOU"

I am fascinated by Tyler Henry, a 20-year-old clairvoyant and star of a hit reality TV series Hollywood Medium. He was born with a unique gift that enables him to help countless people acquire closure, comfort and proof that consciousness transcends physical death. As an evidential based medium, his ability to provide detail-oriented specifics has quickly captured the attention of millions, even turning the most ardent skeptics into believers.
Tyler Henry

Tyler is articulate and knowledgeable beyond his years.  He said something, almost spontaneously, in one of his televised medium sessions with a Hollywood actress that has haunted me for some time..."In the end you cannot take religion, dogma or doctines with you when you die.  Love is the only thing that really matters and that is what you take with you when you pass over into the afterlife."

You know, as I think about it, what we have in common with all religions and empiricism today is that the afterlife does exist. But not one religion tells us what actually happens when we physically die -- empirical studies (based on actual and objective observation or experimentation) actually do, but that's another story. In the West the Christian view of the afterlife dominated for nearly two thousand years. The Church teaches that the afterlife exists and that your conduct on earth will determine what kind of existence you will experience once you cross over; you will go to 'heaven' if you 'behaved well' or to hell if you consistently misbehaved. Catholics add purgatory -- a stage of continuous purification before one gets to 'heaven.'

Highly credible transmitted information tells us that 'service' -- unselfishly helping others who are in genuine need -- is the most powerful, guaranteed way of raising your vibrations and, hence, your spirituality. Note very carefully: you do NOT have to be religious at all to raise your vibrations, i.e. to become more spiritual. As a matter of fact there are those who are atheists, agnostics and certainly non-religious who by conduct and example are very 'spiritual.' So that although religious people, God bless them, may be spiritual, some 'religious' people may NOT be so spiritual. Being religious does not automatically mean being spiritual. Religious beliefs are irrelevant to having higher vibrations. It is not what we believe but what we DO, or how we LOVE on this planet earth that will definitively determine what is going to happen to us when we inevitably cross over.

From my perspective, only our own limitations, our own prejudices, our own encumbrances will restrict the otherwise smooth transition. For these reasons at the time of crossing over we would do well to have an open mind and NOT have thoughts rigidly set on some expectations taught by uninformed dogmatists on earth.

Love we are told is 'the most powerful force in the universe.' Just because we cross over does not mean love is lost or is terminated. Love survives physical death and true love will mean you will never be separated from your loved ones. True unconditional love will usually mean unconditional forgiveness. It follows then that this will lead to a higher level of vibrations, of spirituality and will be instrumental in graduating to higher afterlife realms where conditions are too beautiful for us on earth to imagine -- certainly something to look forward to!  It's that heavenly reward we hear and read so much about.

I am still mystified, however, that a young man just out of his teens should understand all of this, especially when most young bucks his age are still occupied with cars, electronics and girls.  Communicating with the dead aside, from whence comes Tyler Henry's wisdom?  

05 December, 2017

PATRIOTISM: THE REASONED MELLOWING OF NEWT GINGRICH

Because of my interest as a journalist and occasional commentator on news of the day, I am included in a number of mailing lists from both sides of the Canada/US boarder and political spectrum.  Generally the messages are of a partisan nature, taking sides on a particular issue, typically spouting party lines -- and soliciting financial support.  More often than not I take such releases with a grain of salt.
Newton Gingrich

This morning, however, I received an impressive email message from veteran U.S. politician and former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Newt Gingrich who needs no further introduction here.  The contents were so poignant, topical and applicable to the political climate in North America that I deemed it worthy of Wrights Lane edification.

Here is what Newt had to say:

"In America, we've always had ideological clashes and honest policy debates between opposing parties. I've been engaged in them for most of my adult life.

"But there is a deeper, institutional assault underway by the extreme Left aimed at erasing our past and destroying our principles that is very different. It's a war on our culture, on faith, on the melting pot, on the Second Amendment, on free speech -- on the basic idea of America.

"I'm glad that the American Legacy Center* has decided to focus on this issue in a big way; or in its words, to 'put patriotism back on offense.' I'm glad because if we are to remain a country of citizens rather than subjects, this is necessary and vital...

"As Americans, we are not defined by our race, our religion, our class, or our place of birth. We are defined by a belief in a simple creed, which states that we are all created equal, and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.

"This creed must be taught to every generation using every possible medium. Unfortunately, too many of our schools are failing to do this, so we as citizens must pick up the slack.

"We need to explain why identity politics will only serve to poison the traditional vision of a melting pot; why religious faith is essential to liberty; why the Second Amendment is about protecting individual liberty, not hunting; and why the thought police are a threat to free speech and expression. These are fundamental principles on which we cannot compromise."

NOTE: Gingrich's controversial personal and political life aside, I do not think that there is even one American or Canadian citizen (Left or Right) who could not honestly agree with the context and premise of his message on this occasion.  Crassly outspoken and gruff in the past, he seems to have softened his demeanor and patronage with age.

Further note of interest: *As a nonprofit, The American Legacy Centre does not endorse or contribute to political candidates. While the Centre regularly weighs in on the positions and records of certain candidates and elected officials, resources do not directly support anyone’s election or defeat.

04 December, 2017

OH COME ON NOW...WE'RE ALL A LITTLE WEIRD AND YOU KNOW IT!

Let's begin the following discourse with a general acceptance of the well-worn cliche "everyone is beautiful in their own way."  But, I can't help but think that an honest addendum "...and a little bit funny too", is well in order.

I'll be the first to admit that I am a little bit funny, some may even suggest that "weird" is a better word for it.  Always have been, always will be!  While open to interpretation, I wear the mantel proudly!

Now, with that admission from me, come on reader(s)...own up!  Who have you been trying to kid all these years? You're a little bit funny too...Everybody is!  It's just that we go through life working very hard at covering up our funniness, or weirdness (your choice).  We excel at putting up good fronts, all aimed at acceptance.

While unquestionably impressive, outward appearances of intelligence, strength, wealth, goodness and poise are always somewhat misleading.  No one is completely ideal or perfect.  Behind every facade are weird traits, thoughts, fantasies, doubts, likes, dislikes, persuasions and insecurities; and that's okay because we're all the same...In the end it's the great equalizer.

Just turn the clock back for a moment. The hard part about high school was navigating the rules and expectations of an opinionated teenage micro society, and doing anything possible, including great leaps of effort and imagination, to not under any circumstances do or say anything that would constitute the unshakable label of being weird. Being stigmatized as weird in high school is a death sentence (or at least solitary confinement). So we did our best to look like everyone else, and everyone else did their best to look like us. We were all hiding, with each other and from each other.

The teenage years are sensitive years and high school insecurity is totally understandable. As kids we were still growing into ourselves and trying to map out our place on the spectrum of social relationships. Mistakes were inevitable, but better made in private, far away from the spotlight of the hallways, lunchroom, or — God forbid — school dances. High schoolers are allowed to be nervous wrecks, afraid that their own shadow will make fun of them if they trip and fall. But it should end there, right?

After high school, when we grow into well-adjusted adults, shouldn’t the crippling need for peer approval go away? No way Jose!...The social pressure to conform to the expectations of others remains as strong as ever. Everyone, it seems, both young and old, is still afraid of looking weird. This broad insecurity misses a basic point. It’s okay to be weird. Weirdness usually is, in fact, potential strength waiting to be harnessed. What's left over is, well -- just being human.

Throughout history, the best and brightest among us, the great creators and innovators, have been those willing to stand out and risk being perceived as weird. When I allow you to be you, and you allow me to be me, without judgment or criticism of each other, we are free to harness and grow the strength of our respective differences. Everybody is weird and therefore nobody is.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde

I found the following from the Huffington Post to be particularly revealing and substantiating.

1) There is no such thing as normal.

Personality exists on a spectrum. There is no right or wrong place on the spectrum. The idea of being objectively normal was created to sell products and political agendas. What is normal for me may not be normal for you. When we chase the normal we lose sight of the natural. Natural is the new normal.

2) What you think is weird is really your super power.

We all have traits — physical, intellectual, emotional, etc. — that make us different. The Ego says that differences are flaws that should be hidden. The truth is that what makes you different is your superpower. You just haven’t learned how to harness the power yet. Instead of hiding your weirdness, learn how to use it. Your shyness, for example, might make you a better listener. Your awkward laugh might make you endearing. Our quirks, when we master them, contain great power.

3) What makes you weird makes you memorable.

When you try to fit into somebody else’s mold the results will be mediocre. Nobody pays money to see the expected; they pay money to see the captivating. Your true self, by its very nature, is captivating. People won’t remember the thing you did that everybody can do, but they will remember the thing you did that only you can do.

4) The world needs more authenticity.

In a world where conformity is the easiest option, authenticity is in high demand. Deep down everyone wants to be more real, but we are all afraid to be the first one. When you start living as your true self, weirdness and all, you give permission to those around you to do the same. We might not say it out loud, but everyone wants to see your honest self. We are starving for realness.

5) All great art was made by weird people.

Every great creative breakthrough — artistic, musical, scientific, etc. — by definition is weird because it introduces a solution beyond the existing paradigm. and requires a new way of thinking. Embracing your weirdness gives you a new perspective, and the world needs a new perspective. Innovation does not happen within the status quo. Innovation happens when outsiders challenge the status quo with weird ideas.

6) Resisting your weirdness makes you dark.

Everyone has unique characteristics. Allowing ourselves to express these unique characteristics makes us feel good. But hiding our unique characteristics, and resisting our natural self, makes us feel less good, and makes our personalities darker. Just like a black hole results from the absence of a star, so also the resistance to our unique qualities, however weird, results in a dark and inverted projection of self.

7) Standing out is how you find your tribe.

Many people who conform do so for fear of being lonely. But standing out will not make you lonely — far from it. By living honestly you will discover others who align with your weirdness. This is your tribe. When you stand up and live according to your purpose, you will find those who have stood up before you, and you will serve as inspiration for those who will stand up next.

8) Everything original seems weird at first.

New ideas, like biological mutations, on first impression appear to not fit in. But, as time passes, biological mutations, just like new ideas, find a purpose that was not expected. Eventually the mutation is replicated and contributes to the evolution of the species. Ideas are the evolution that pushes society forward. What is weird might not be understood today, but by tomorrow it could be the new norm.

9) When you own who you are the world will conform.

When you see yourself as capable, others will also see you as capable. When you see yourself as incapable, others will also see you as incapable. There is power in self-perception. When you stop fitting in and start standing out, it can be uncomfortable, at first. But when you take ownership of your actions, and ignore the fear of criticism, the world will, to the degree of your conviction, adapt to your perception of yourself.

So don't be so smug dear reader...You're kind of weird in your own way too.  Welcome to the club!

03 December, 2017

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS?...YOU'RE ONLY HUMAN!

“Life is filled with unanswered questions, but it is the courage to seek those answers that continues to give meaning to life. You can spend your life wallowing in despair, wondering why you were the one who was led towards the road strewn with pain, or you can be grateful that you are strong enough to survive it.”
J.D. Stroube, Caged by Damnation


“There are some questions that shouldn't be asked until a person is mature enough to appreciate the answers.”
Anne Bishop, Daughter of the Blood


“Indeed, the only truly serious questions are ones that even a child can formulate. Only the most naive of questions are truly serious. They are the questions with no answers. A question with no answer is a barrier that cannot be breached. In other words, it is questions with no answers that set the limit of human possibilities, describe the boundaries of human existence.”
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being


“We have no right to express an opinion until we know all of the answers.”
Kurt Cobain


“I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned.”
Richard Feynman


“Never give up on someone. Sometimes the answers you are looking for are the same answers another person is looking for. Two people searching together are always better than one person alone.”
Shannon L. Alder

I was thinking this morning, with a degree of defeatism, about a number of questions that came to mind and for which I quite honestly had no ready answers in what appears to me to be unprecedented and unsettled times-- religion, politics, environmental and after-life to name only a few.  My initial impulse was to think: "Why waste time seeking elusive answers to any of life's questions?"

The questioning nature of human beings seems to have a huge cost. As we grow older, I think that it is only natural that we begin to question the price we pay for our inquisitiveness.

If I ask myself what makes us human, one answer jumps out at me straight away – it is not the only answer but it is the one suggested by the question. What makes us human is that we ask questions. All animals have interests, instincts and conceptions. All animals frame for themselves an idea of the world in which they live. But we alone question our surroundings. We alone refuse to be defined by the world in which we live but instead try to define our nature for ourselves.

The intellectual history of our species is to a great extent defined by this attempt. Are we animals like the others? Do we have souls as well as bodies? Are we related, in the order of things, to angels, to demons and to gods? All science, all art, all religion and all philosophy worth the name begins in a question. And it is because we have questions that human life is so deeply satisfying and so deeply troubling, too.

Not all questions have an answer. In mathematics and science we solve our problems as well as create them. But in art and philosophy things are not so simple. Hamlet’s great soliloquy starts with the line: “To be or not to be: that is the question.” The play revolves around that question. Would it be better not to exist? Is there anything in human life that makes it worthwhile? When, confronted by the extent of human treachery and scheming, we fall into complete contempt towards our species, is there some trick of thought, some perception, some argument or some appeal to higher authority that will restore the will to live?

When I look at the great artists of the past, I am often struck by the extent to which their work has evolved in response to a question. Milton asked himself how the flawed world in which he lived could be the work of a supremely good God and his answer was Paradise Lost. Bach asked himself how variants and permutations flow from the basic moves in music and his answer was The Art of Fugue. Rembrandt asked himself how the soul is revealed in the flesh and what the lights and textures of our bodies mean, and his answer was his extraordinary series of self-portraits. In art it is always as though the question is what the work of art is really about.

Milton’s poem implants the question of man’s relation to God in the centre of our consciousness. It does not answer the question but instead creates wonder and awe in response to it. Wonder and awe are the diet of the artist and without them the world would be far less meaningful to us than it is.

The same is true of philosophy. Although there are philosophers who give answers, it is usually their questions and not their answers that have survived. Plato asked how it is that we can think about the property of redness and not just about red things. How can finite human minds gain access to universal realities? Plato’s question is still with us, even though few people today would accept his answer to it. Aristotle asked how it is that there can be time and change in an ordered universe. Is there a prime mover who sets it all in motion? Few would accept Aristotle’s answer to this question: but the question remains. How can there be time, change, process and becoming, in a world that could as easily have been permanently at rest? Kant asked how it is that human beings, who are part of the natural order, can freely decide to do this rather than that, can take responsibility for their decisions and hold each other to account for the consequences of their actions.

Kant was honest in acknowledging that the question lies beyond our capacity to answer it; but until we have asked it, he implied, we have no real understanding of our condition.

In the monasteries, libraries and courts of medieval Europe the big questions were constantly debated. People would be burned at the stake for their questions, and others would cross land and sea to punish people for their answers. In the Renaissance and again at the Enlightenment the big questions were asked and answered, and again death and destruction were the result, as in the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries and the French Revolution. Communism and fascism both began in philosophy, both promised answers to the ultimate questions and both led to mass murder.

Certainly if we look around ourselves today, we see a mass of ready-made answers and very few attempts to define the questions that would justify them. Should we then give up on the habit of asking questions? Perhaps not! To cease to ask questions would be to cease to be fully human.

God bless those who find a definitive answer to any question, even if it is only in their own mind!

30 November, 2017

ATTENTION AND INTENTION KEYS IN OPTIMIZING FULL MEANING OF LIFE

As a world peace worker, holistic physician, and highly trained spiritual teacher, Dr. Gabriel Cousens weaves a comprehensive, unique background into his holistic healing and writing approach to support and inspire people into the sacred joy of being free and fully alive.

Dr. Cousens contends that we relate to our worlds through attention and intention. Attention is how we relate to our respective circumstances. Attention also means being part of the cycle of the Earth, Sun, Moon, and, in part, it relates to your own mind.  His thoughts warrant a closer look here.

Unfortunately, today, many people are not particularly paying proper attention to their lives, to their life cycles, to their meaning, how they eat, think, and live, and the result of this lack of attention is chaos. "This happens if we don’t pay attention to what we’re letting into our minds, and to how we are living, and to creating holiness in each action, if we aren’t living in a way that tunes us in." Cousens states.

His "Six Foundations" helps people to tune in to the Divine, which means increased sensitivity to all of creation. This includes: 1) spiritual nutrition and fasting; 2) building life force, chi, or prana; and 3) service and charity, where we are opening our heart to the world around us. (This contrasts the closing of hearts that we also see happening in the world.) 4) Are we meditating? Are we praying? 5) Are we working with spiritual teachers that support our unfoldment? 6) Are we putting ourselves in situations where we are with people of increased spiritual intensity?

I have never been involved in the practice of yoga, but I buy in to the suggestion that if we’re not paying attention, none of those things particularly matter, and we move more and more into the chaos and more and more into being slaves to our social imprints rather than masters of our situations. First, comes attention...Where are we in our lives? What is life about?

Intention is organizing ourselves in alignment with the Divine to fulfill our life purpose. We each have a different life purpose. In yoga, it is called "dharma". Are we creating an intention to move into dharma and to become masters of our life situations – masters of our lives? That intention focuses the energy. Many athletes know about this and do visualizations of themselves winning the gold medal, etc. This is not so esoteric. It is the way to optimize mastery. It is paying attention to how you are living and what you are letting into your consciousness, and the quality of your life. Are you living in alignment with the greater picture of life, of the greater picture of the society, and of the planet?

The intention is the internal, spiritual will power that focuses our energy so that we can build our destinies. Everyone has a destiny and there is a spiral of time. Are we fulfilling it at the highest level of that spiral or at the lowest level? Everyone has a soul. Everyone has a spark of God. Are we intending in our life to turn that spark into a flame of awareness, or is this something we are unconscious of?

Personally, I am conscious of that spark within me -- I just have to finally find a way to let it shine more brightly in what little time I have left.  That is the elusive fulfilment alluded to in previous "Wrights Lane" posts of late.  I'm keeping my options open...I may not be done yet!

Attention and intention are key ways of interfacing with our own life so that can optimize the full meaning of our life. May everyone be blessed that we are able to pay attention, and, with that attention, act with intention to reach the highest octave. --Amen.

26 November, 2017

THE NAKED TRUTH FROM A STRIPPED DOWN WRITER EXPOSING HIS SOUL

"Feelings are sometimes difficult to discover--and often even more difficult to acknowledge. Yet hidden in our deepest feelings is our highest truth."

As a young lad of limited means and struggling to find his way in the world, it did not take long for me to realize that I was slightly below average in all the ways that really mattered.  Before my 21st birthday I had already swallowed the bitter pill of disappointment as a professional athlete and my first foray into the business world of retail sales was less that stellar.  Still to be explored and developed was a sense of inquisitiveness and a creative nature that I really did not understand, let alone appreciate.

Shy and inhibited, I suppressed personal opinions and outward displays of ambition because I felt everyone else was smarter and more experienced than me.  I held back...Deep emotions of seething volcano proportions percolated just under the surface.  I tended to float through those unfulfilled early years of discovery, probably my own worst enemy.

It was with this less-than-desirable cloud hovering over me that I found myself fatefully and almost miraculously being hired as an untrained $45-a-week newspaper cub reporter while still a virtual newlywed with growing responsibilities and associated life distractions. Unrealized at the time, I was given an opportunity to step outside of myself in ways that I never knew possible.  I cut my teeth as a general assignment reporter covering the local police and court beats.  The go-to-guy for obituaries and at the call of an editor for everything from retirements to special community events in the predominantly "Railroad City" of St. Thomas, ON.  I was required to extend myself in areas not altogether familiar or comfortable for me.  Following the who, what, where and when rule-of-thumb for news item leads and the inverted pyramid formula of story structure, my job was to present the facts available to me -- nothing more, nothing less.  No editorializing, no personal opinions -- a perfect scenario for an unassuming journalism fledgling who was years away from finding his own voice as a writer and life experience commentator.

It was as a sports writer that I would eventually be introduced to the art of colorful prose designed to impress faithful sports page readers following their favorite teams through the medium of print.  I learned to let my copy flow as though I was having a conversation with the reader and it made writing so much easier and less laborious.

In retrospect, my imagination was was always ignited by stories of people, real or fictional, whose actions were worthy of admiration or amazement. Whether being regaled with the feats of famous national sports, religious or cultural figures, or hearing about ordinary people performing extraordinary deeds, I loved a good tale.

As I advanced from the role of editorship into the more lucrative field of professional public relations, that passion for a good story was put to profitable use as I worked to obtain positive media exposure for my companies and business associations. An interesting story — conveyed in a single news announcement or a multiphase publicity campaign — became a proven method for breaking through the communication clatter and ensuring that strategic messages reached their intended audiences.  I knew that in a way I was prostituting myself but, what the heck, I was bringing home an all-important pay cheque in order to keep the wolf from the door.

Out of vocational necessity, I always wrote with other people (employers and audiences) foremost in mind. That tendency even carried over to a period in retirement when I served as a well-intentioned lay preacher, delivering messages that I thought church congregations wanted to hear, often going so far as to compromise what I truly believed in my heart of hearts.  I struggled with the conscience of a false profit and against the expressionless faces of people in the pews who (I felt) must have seen through me.  In the end, I walked away with the feeling that as a minister of "the word and sacrament," I somehow fell short, misunderstood and unappreciated, not taken sufficiently serious enough.  Discretion dictates that I not elaborate on why I chose not to follow through on the "call" I had prayed for so fervently.

It may have been my imagination, but to me resentment toward my expressed beliefs and deepest thoughts was culpable in some familiar quarters, as if unwarranted coming from someone like me with a perceived lack of qualifications and the unmitigated gall to impose on the minds of others.

Perhaps my expectations have always been a bit too unrealistic and consequently self-debilitating. Then again, maybe I haven't quite known what to expect.  Be that as it may, in retrospect I came to understand that my deepest fear was not that I was inadequate. My deepest fear was that I was powerful beyond measure and that I may not take full advantage of it. Generally, it is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, appealing, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are we not to be? We are all children of God and playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around us. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. Idealistically, as we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others; or so I wanted to believe.

I say ideally, because it seems to me that every time I let my "little light shine" and exercised the glory and power within me, I got myself into trouble for some strange reason or another. Talk about a living and breathing contradiction.  I'll never understand it, only to divulge a resultant paranoia and a once-bitten, twice-shy philosophy.

Almost a decade ago I launched this Wrights Lane blog site with the belief that I was capable of delivering inspiring human interest material based on my own life experiences and discoveries.  If something was on my mind, I was convinced that the same thoughts and questions were was surely on other people's minds too.  It was my fervent hope that I could use my differences to make a difference, a personal mission of sorts. In truth, after approximately 1,000 individual posts, I have no way of gauging the impact of that initial motivation and sense of mission.  I can only speculate.

I have gained some followers and most certainly lost a few along the way.  That is simply a fact of communications life.  I amassed almost unbelievable views or hits on my Internet posts -- the majority anonymously and from sources unfamiliar to me (the mystery of Google); sought after, meaningful feedback being virtually non-existent and leading me to believe one of two things -- either readers were in total agreement with me or, given my frame of mind on a particular day, that my offerings were not worthy of response.

All I know is that I kept coming back with the courage of my convictions in the only way I knew how, because that is what writers do!  I stood up for principles and continually fought against biases and misconceptions because I wanted to set the record (as I saw it) straight.  On the rare occasion I was told that I had hit the nail on the head, other times I was accused of pontification.  Generally, the label "funny guy" may well have applied -- a frequent sentiment that always amused me.

I have now reached a stage in life where I no longer have the warrior's impulse to keep on coming back and, know what?...The world continues to turn on it's axis, with or without humble input from me.

...In the end, I cannot think of a single soul who really gives a damn any way! I fear that it may have been ever thus.

I bow out much the same unfulfilled writer as that young newspaper reporter of 60 years ago.  Sadly, I would have preferred a much different legacy from all the time, blood, sweat, tears and idealistic convictions exhausted sitting in front of the only tools of my trade -- a computer keyboard and formerly a trusty old hand-bomber typewriter.  Both now destined to gather dust as I increasingly forget as readily as I am forgotten.

If only I could have been slightly better than average when the world still had potential to be my oyster -- and made more sense to me than it does presently.

...I coulda bin a contenda!!!

02 November, 2017

WHAT NEXT?...AN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE GOD!?


The world we live in today is completely different from what it was 20 or even 10 years ago. Advancements in technology have both improved and disrupted our lives. Take, for instance, how artificial intelligence has transformed the way we communicate and get things done. We also can't overlook how machines are replacing jobs we as humans have been operating for decades. If Siri can answer our questions and Uber can develop self-driving cars, what's next on the horizon for AI? Here's one possibility.

It is not uncommon to hear people claim that God is man made – a belief that all religions and deities are human constructs. Religious folks laugh off such claims, citing a lack of evidence. But what if we, as human beings, were able to create a brand-new God? By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI), one fledgling religion seeks to do exactly that.

“Way of the Future” is a religious organization founded by a former Uber engineer named Anthony Levandowski. Its mission is to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence”. By worshipping this Godhead, the organization hopes to “contribute to the betterment of society.”

No more is known about the specifics of Way of the Future's Godhead, so it seems unlikely that a figure will be revealed any time soon. The emergence of documents filed with the State of California, however, demonstrate how the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence and bioengineering is forcing discussions around how humans and robots will eventually coexist on earth.

But is creating an AI god even possible, or is this just another Silicon Valley pipe-dream? Levandowski believes it is possible – and if we ought to believe anyone, it should probably be him – Levandowski is famous for starting the first autonomous trucking company and paving the way for a future full of driver-less trucks.

Way to the Future seeks to capitalize on the idea of Singularity – a belief that at some point down the line, artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence, creating drastic and unprecedented changes in society. When that happens, Levandowski and his followers hope to find themselves on the side of the machines. By creating their own AI god, they hope to curry favor with our future robot overlords

The topic of robot takeover has historically been confined to the pages of science fiction books. However, it’s become an increasingly popular hypothesis in recent years as technological progress has continued at record pace. In fact, some of the brightest minds in the world are lending credence to the idea of Singularity. Both Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors, and renowned physicist Stephen Hawking have warned that an AI-dominated world is no longer a matter of “if”, but “when.”

Considering the vast (and frightening) consequences Singularity will have, should we really be comfortable with groups like Way to the Future delving into the arena? If the group succeeds in developing an all-powerful AI god, is there any scenario in which things end well for the rest of us?

Think about it: for one, they are assuming that this ultra-intelligent creation would be interested in being worshipped as a deity. Isn’t that a massive gamble? What if it has violent or insidious tendencies? At this point, it’s just as likely that an AI “Godhead” would see humans as an enemy; an obstacle that must be eliminated to make way for further technological expansion.

From what little we know about Way of the Future, at first glance it may seem to be an organization that is trying in good faith to fill a spiritual gap among those who believe in a technological singularity. But where some see a quirky organization, others may just as readily see a group worshiping false (and potentially dangerous) idols.

The organization hasn’t provided further details on how things are progressing, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility of significant advancements occurring in secret. If Way to the Future gains traction, it could easily become popular enough to bring in converts from other religions.

Personally, it is hard to imagine ever worshiping a bot that lacks any real personality, wisdom, or ability to become relevant and personal, no matter how much more intelligent it is than any human. An AI god would be cold and impersonal, an intellectual “being” that’s not capable of love or emotion, yet it would be capable of telling people how to live, going so far as to even rewrite the Christian Bible.

Are there those who will actually worship the AI god? The answer is obvious — they will. We tend to trust and obey things that seem more powerful and worthy than ourselves. The GPS in your car is just the most obvious example. But we also trust digital assistants Alexa and Cortana; we trust Google. When an AI becomes much more powerful, in 25 to 50 years, there is a great possibility that it will be deified in some way. (Apple and Google loyalists already have a religious fervor.)

If an AI god does emerge, and people do start worshiping it, there will be many implications about how this AI will need to be regulated, or even subdued. Truth be known, it is all beyond this mere mortal's comprehension.  Little chance of me becoming a convert in this rapidly shrinking lifetime of mine...And that in my way of thinking is a good thing!

NOTE:  I have intentionally not capitalized the artificial intellegence (G)god referenced in this post.

01 November, 2017

LET'S PAY MORE THAN LIP SERVICE TO PLANET SUSTAINABILITY

Fires last month burned thousands of houses in California and British Columbia to the ground. Record hurricanes have devastated Houston and Florida. And global warming predicts more such “extreme weather events” in the years ahead.

What can you and I do, in our small corner of the world, to take responsibility for the ecological and cultural crises in which we find ourselves?  Good question.  In the end, would any individual contribution make a difference in the real picture?...An even better question.
for the complete sustainability problem to be
solved all three pillars of sustainability must
be sustainable. The three pillars are social
sustainability, environmental sustainability
and economic sustainability. Of the three 
pillars, the most important is environmental
sustainability. If this is not solved, then no
matter how hard we try the other pillars
cannot be made strong because they are
dependent on the greater system they live
within, the environment.


The non dual perspective says that everything is connected to everything else. There are no independent relationships and thus nowhere in particular to “point the finger.”  But in another sense, as people awakening to whatever degree of choice we have, we realize responsibility is distributed throughout the human system, so we each do have some real responsibility to the future. It’s important to feel and act connected to the moral implications of everything happening in our time, knowing that what happens in our lifetimes matters profoundly.

A third way to view our predicament is as an inevitable crossroads and an evolutionary opportunity. Natural selection, superior intelligence, opposable thumbs, and the acquisition of language would perhaps cause any species on any planet to overpopulate, choke on their own wastes and begin to destroy our life support system. Humans are not unique in this regard.

God help us, the writing is on the wall...We are going to suffer tremendous losses in the days ahead...This is no dress rehearsal. An ethic of sustainability is essential, not simply because it preserves the environment, but because it allows the discovery of a lifestyle that can continue for generations. It is far preferable to recognize the most egregious violations, and correct them as quickly as possible, so that people might ease into their new roles voluntarily instead of being thrust into by necessity.

By all accounts, this isn’t some abstract timescale of centuries, affecting a world we can’t yet imagine. Our actions are already affecting us. They will continue affecting us. The people who will have to make these radical decisions are our grandchildren, our children, and even ourselves in whatever time we have left on this planet. 

The question is, why aren’t we doing these things already? These problems aren’t new. They have been identified, we know they exist, and we know that they’re accelerating. We are uniquely equipped economically in Canada; we have enough wherewithal to make the economic transition to sustainability. We simply lack the willingness.

While we work to slow climate change, we must also invest in efforts to protect and preserve our air, water, lands, and native animals. Figuring out how to persuade people to make necessary changes in their lifestyles to ensure the sustainable use of this planet will end up being the great question of our generation. It is up to our federal and provincial governments to lead the way and to make hard decisions in dealing with corporate polluters.   

I suggest that whether we succeed or not at turning the corner to a sustainable future, the sacred invitation of this lifetime is both spiritual and social — we can awaken into a different way of being human, individually and together — and a new relationship to the earth, our fellow creatures, and one another.

Let us all give this serious thought -- please!

29 October, 2017

HOW AUTHENTIC AM I? WELL, YOU BE THE JUDGE!

I worked on this piece several months ago when something (I honestly can't remember what) was bothering me.  I came across it in my draft file this morning and thought "what the heck".  On review, I have scored myself on an authentic scale of 1 to 10 and am not too surprised with the results.

Being authentic has become somewhat of a catchphrase for people, but what does it mean? What is it to be authentic as a person?

Authentic is something that is real or genuine. It is easy to create a completely fake or misleading life on social media and carry that over to your actual life with people who do not know you intimately. Being authentic means that not only do you not present a false face to the world, but you are comfortable and happy with yourself as you are. 

Being authentic means having the courage to be yourself regardless of what people will think about you or what they will say behind your back. Authentic people are easily spotted by their traits, their actions and the way that they interact with the wider world.

From research and some soul-searching, here are what I found to be 10 traits of truly authentic people.

1. THEY ARE SELF-REFLECTIVE

They spend time looking at themselves and really trying to understand who and what they are, what they want out of life and what kind of person they want to be along the journey. They study their mistakes without obsessing over them and try to use those experiences as a springboard to being a better person.  *Personal rating: 8

2. THEY ARE NOT JUDGMENTAL

Because they look at themselves and their mistakes on a regular basis, they do not judge others for theirs. They understand that mistakes are to be learning experiences and are a valuable tool for growth and change. They take others as they are regardless of color, orientation, national origin, religion or anything else. *Personal rating: 9

3. THEY LIVE IN THE PRESENT

They do not dwell on their past, their regrets or mistakes. Likewise, they do not spend all day fantasizing about the future either. They live in the present and they take things day by day. Someone who is authentic understands that everyone changes and that life is a day by day struggle to make the most of our short lives here on earth. *Personal rating (a tough one for me because of a contradiction): 7

4. THEY ARE FOCUSED ON THE LONG-TERM

While they live in the present, they have a plan for the future. They are focused on long term goals and not on the short term gains they could make by lying to, cheating on or stealing from others. They invest their time for long term benefits and do not follow the mercurial crowd of trend chasers. They know who they are and what they want and so make a plan to achieve that in a reasonable amount of time. *Personal rating (another tough one): 6

5. THEY HAVE CHARACTER

They value their character, or their honor to put it another way, more than they value making a fast buck. They will do what they said they will do and when they said they will do it. They are dependable and honest. You can count on someone who is authentic because they hold themselves accountable for their actions. *Personal rating: 10

6. THEY LISTEN

If they are talking with you, it is because they want to hear what you have to say. Otherwise, they would not waste their time. You can tell because they are not just waiting to reply with their own thoughts or opinions but are actually trying to digest what you are telling them. They pay attention to the little things you say because they are trying to understand what you are telling them. *Personal rating: 9

7. THEY ARE CONSISTENT

Because the authentic person spends time reflecting on their own actions and hold themselves accountable for their actions, they are much more emotionally consistent. They know what they want already. They know who and what they are. They are on the path they have set for themselves and so do not chase ephemeral things like wealth or status. They are grounded in the here and now while they make their way into the future they have planned for themselves. There is no flip-flopping or indecision because they have already decided where they want to be in life. *Personal rating: 6

8. THEY ARE HONEST

Because they are honest with themselves about what they want out of life and who they want to be, the authentic person has little choice but to be completely honest with everyone. They don’t hold back. They call them like they see them. They are open and honest about their opinions and thoughts. They see no need to deceive others about their intentions because they are not insecure about themselves or in competition with them. The only thing that drives them to excel is themselves. *Personal rating: 9

9. THEY RESPECT THEMSELVES

Because they are honest with themselves and spend time in self-reflection and value their character, they respect themselves. Many of the things that they do revolve around making sure they can still respect themselves afterward. They won’t compromise their beliefs because they wouldn’t be able to look at themselves in the mirror the next day. They respect themselves and hold themselves accountable for their actions which gives them integrity and strength of character, which they value more than money. *Personal rating: 10

10. THEY ARE COURAGEOUS

They have the courage to be themselves and to be true to their ideals even when those things are not popular. They have the courage of their convictions and the strength to stick to their guns even when the whole world is trying to shout them down and bend them to their will. They do not succumb to societal pressure and instead march to their own drumbeat. Authentic people stand out because they refuse to conform to what others think they should be doing. They have the courage to be the unique individual that they are. Personal rating: 10

So out of a possible 100 points, I score myself an 84 on the authentic scale.  Sounds about right for a guy like me.  Not too much that I can do about it now anyway.

I'm about as authentic as I can get.  So live with it folks! 

26 October, 2017

CMA: Advancing Quality of Life and Quality of Care for Seniors

Okay fellow seniors, here's a news report that you are not apt to read in tomorrow's local newspapers.  It is information very important to all of us.

This afternoon (Oct. 26) the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) made a "seniors care" presentation to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. The committee has been studying the need for a national seniors care strategy following a motion introduced by Nickel Belt Member of Parliament (MP) Marc SerrĂ© earlier this year.

The CMA’s submission, Advancing Quality of Life and Quality of Care for Seniors, outlines 15 recommendations for how seniors can remain active and engaged citizens of our communities.

This is an important milestone in the work of Demand A Plan and the much-maligned federal government is at least to be commended for acting on the pressing needs of Canada’s seniors. More than 52,000 Canadians like me have lent their support to the CMA’s efforts by becoming supporters, and together we’ve sent over 100,000 letters to local MPs.

Canadians are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. The number of seniors expected to need help or care in the next 30 years will double, placing an unprecedented challenge on Canada’s health care system. That we face this challenge speaks to the immense success story that is modern medicine, but it doesn’t in any way minimize the task ahead.

Publicly funded health care was created about 50 years ago when Canada’s population was just over 20 million and the average life expectancy was 71. Today, our population is over 36 million and the average life expectancy is 10 years longer. People 85 and older make up the fastest growing age group in our country, and the growth in the number of centenarians is also expected to continue.

"The Canadian Medical Association is pleased that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities is studying ways Canada can respond to these challenges," said CMA President Dr. Laurent Marcoux in presenting the 15 comprehensive recommendations that "would help our seniors remain active, contributing citizens of their communities while improving the quality of their lives."

These range from increasing capital investment in residential care infrastructure, to enhancing assistance for caregivers, to improving the senior-friendliness of our neighbourhoods. "The task faced by this committee, indeed the task faced by all of Canada, is daunting. That said, it is manageable and great advances can be made on behalf of seniors. By doing so, we will ultimately deliver both health and financial benefits to all Canadians," Dr. Marcoux added.

Here are the recommendation:

RECOMMENDATION 1: the federal government include capital investment in residential care infrastructure, including retrofit and renovation, as part of its commitment to invest in social infrastructure.

RECOMMENDATION 2: the federal government take steps to provide adequate income support for older Canadians, as well as education and protection from financial abuse. Improving the overall quality of life and well-being for seniors Improving how we support and care for Canada’s growing seniors population has been a priority for CMA over the past several years.

RECOMMENDATION 3: the federal government provide targeted funding to support the development of a pan-Canadian seniors strategy to address the needs of the aging population. Improving assistance for home care and Canada’s caregivers.

RECOMMENDATION 4: governments work with the health and social services sectors, and with private insurers, to develop a framework for the funding and delivery of accessible and sustainable home care and long-term care services. Family and friend caregivers are an extremely important part of the health care system.

RECOMMENDATION 5: the federal government and other stakeholders work together to develop and implement a pan-Canadian caregiver strategy, and expand the support programs currently offered to informal caregivers.

RECOMMENDATION 6: the federal government improve awareness of the new Canada Caregiver Credit and amend it to make it a refundable tax credit for caregivers. The federal government’s recent commitment to provide $6 billion over 10 years to the provinces and territories for home care, including support for caregivers, is a welcome step toward improving opportunities for seniors to remain in their homes.

RECOMMENDATION 7: the federal government develop explicit operating principles for the home care funding that has been negotiated with the provinces and territories to recognize funding for caregivers and respite care as eligible areas of investment. The federal government’s recent funding investments in home care and mental health recognize the importance of these aspects of the health care system. They also signal that Canada has under-invested in home and community-based care to date.

RECOMMENDATION 8: the federal government convene an all-party parliamentary international study that includes stakeholders to examine the approaches taken to mitigate the inappropriate use of acute care for elderly persons and provide support for caregivers.

RECOMMENDATION 9: governments at all levels support programs to promote physical activity, nutrition, injury prevention, and mental health among older Canadians. For seniors who have multiple chronic diseases or disabilities, care needs can be complex, and they may vary greatly from one person to another and involve many health care providers. Complex care needs demand a flexible and responsive health system.

RECOMMENDATION 10: governments and other stakeholders work together to develop and implement models of integrated, interdisciplinary health service delivery for older Canadians. Every senior should have the opportunity to have a family physician or to be part of a family practice that serves as a medical home. This provides a central hub for the timely provision and coordination of the comprehensive menu of health and medical services.

RECOMMENDATION 11: governments continue efforts to ensure that older Canadians have access to a family physician, supported by specialized geriatric services as appropriate. Prescription drugs represent the fastest-growing item in the health budget and the second-largest category of health expenditure.

RECOMMENDATION 12: governments and other stakeholders work together to develop and implement a pan-Canadian pharmaceutical strategy that addresses both comprehensive coverage of essential medicines for all Canadians, and programs to encourage optimal prescribing and drug therapy. Optimal care and support for older Canadians also depends on identifying, adapting, and implementing best practices in the care of seniors.

RECOMMENDATION 13: governments and other stakeholders support ongoing research to identify best practices in the care of seniors, and monitor the impact of various interventions on health outcomes and costs.

RECOMMENDATION 14: governments at all levels and other partners give older Canadians access to opportunities for meaningful employment if they desire. The physical environment, including the built environment, can help to promote seniors’ independence and successful, healthy aging. The World Health Organization defines an “age-friendly environment” as one that fosters health and well-being and the participation of people as they age.

RECOMMENDATION 15: 
governments and communities take the needs of older Canadians into account when designing buildings, walkways, transportation systems, and other aspects of the built environment.

The Canadian Medical Association is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA’s mission is empowering and caring for patients, and its vision is a vibrant profession and a healthy population. On behalf of its more than 85,000 members and the Canadian public, the CMA performs a wide variety of functions. Key functions include advocating for health promotion and disease/injury prevention policies and strategies, advocating for access to quality health care, facilitating change within the medical profession, and providing leadership and guidance to physicians to help them influence, manage and adapt to changes in health care delivery.

The CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing the majority of Canada’s physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial divisions and over 60 national medical organizations.

As a seniors depending heavily on the services of our health care system, Rosanne and I greatly appreciate that the CMA has spoken on our behalf.  Somebody had to do it!

Pray that the government not only continues to listen, but ultimately acts on the recommendations of front line health care providers.

25 October, 2017

THERE IS FUTILITY IN "CAN'T WIN" RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL DEBATES:

In retrospect, I am absolutely convinced that I was a much happier person when I was not influenced by politics and religion. In fact, for the first naive third of my 79-plus years, I flatly refused to become involved in conversations relating to either subject…And that is an unusual concession coming from someone who eventually became a newspaper editorial writer and in later years, an appropriately-designated lay pastor.

Life plays funny tricks on us and we do indeed experience twists and turns at various stages of our journey to senility. There was a time when I did not think that I had anything of significance to say and when I eventually did discover my voice, I found that by and large no one really listened. The world that I lived in had become confrontational, complicated by stubbornly-held opinions and biases.

Generally, today we beg to differ with just about everything and we do not hesitate to vent our spleens, regardless of who we offend -- even our friends. In ignorance we become over-night experts. In obscurity, we feel safe to become very bold on worldly issues. In a way, I guess, it is symptomatic of frustration in a society struggling to find a common voice at an agenda-driven-time in our history.

I struggle to balance the onset of age-related cynicism with a sensitive, non-biased, common sense rationalization of the crazy world in which we now find ourselves. There is reason in all things -- some times we just have to make an effort to find it and adjust our thinking accordingly, especially in this day and age.  Otherwise, we ere when jumping to conclusions!

22 October, 2017

"GOING BACK" IS NOT ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA

I often find myself relating to the writings of Rev. Bob Johnston. as if he and I went to the same "old school". The retired Saugeen Shores minister this week talked about his decision not to attend homecoming festivities on the campus of the University of Debuque several years ago. Here is what he shared:


"While I cannot live in the past, I can choose to let my memories of those long ago years be uncontaminated by the reality of the passing of time. In other words, when I close my eyes in a quiet moment of recollection, I can once again find myself back in 1959. All my teammates are still fit, young athletes, proudly wearing the Spartan blue and white uniform. We can run six miles and finish strong. My girlfriends remain Prairie-fresh beautiful, pony tails bouncing and Pepsodent white smiles radiant. My profs are dynamic and idealistic conveyors of truth. Eisenhower is President!
Rev. Bob


"Were I to return to my campus in 2013, nothing would be the same: My teammates, those still alive, would be old men much like me, now content to climb six steps, not run six miles, without puffing. Those “young women” would now carry the added wrinkles, sags and grey hair of long life. My profs are all dead and a man named Trump is President!

"I know the counter-arguments: I would be accused of being superficial, my long ago friends are still the same good people despite inevitable superficial changes in packaging, I could relive the good old days of athletic success with teammates while we mildly exaggerate to one another about post-university life achievements. I suppose I could flirt harmlessly with the widowed grandmothers as we exchange photos of our grandkids. We could all studiously avoid talking politics. Above all, by revisiting my old campus, I might even reawaken half-forgotten memories of good times when I was single and carefree, not yet having to shoulder major life responsibilities."

Bob concludes that he has no regrets over his decision. Sometimes cherished past memories, like precious old photos, are more valuable when left un-retouched.

I completely concur with his sentiments...Those are the very same reasons I choose to avoid "going back" to my old hometown of Dresden these days. Likewise St. Thomas, Simcoe, Prince Albert (Sask.) and Brampton where I left a lot of myself behind during my working career.

Memories, good and bad, are better left in the past. They are the markers of the journey through life. It is necessary to know where we come from because only then can we know where we are going. But why attempt to revisit what was? -- and in the process risk spoiling what is!

Come to think of it, who cares anyway. I can literally count on one hand (with at least three fingers left over) the times that I have been invited back -- anywhere, and by anyone.

...And no one has used up more ink on nostalgic reflections than me. Rev. Bob at least has the satisfaction of being asked to go back and there is something to be said for that.

18 October, 2017

SAUGEEN SHORES WOMAN A CLIMATE REALITY PROJECT MENTOR

With this post I continue to champion local citizens who generally fly under the radar in serving the community and country in which they live.

This week, Victoria Serda of Saugeen Shores has joined former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore's non-profit Climate Reality Project as a mentor at its three-day training event in Pittsburgh, October 17-19. This afternoon, Serda was scheduled to join the “Climate Reality Leaders: Who We Are” panel with Gore and three other mentors to share her experience in front of the 1,300-plus new trainees from around the world.
VICTORIA SERDA

Since being a teenager growing up in Owen Sound, Ontario, she has encouraged rural action on climate change as a public speaker and grassroots organizer, later as an organic farmer, then as an elected Municipal Councilor in Saugeen Shores.  Serda holds a Bachelor Degree in Independent Studies from the University of Waterloo and she has a long-standing interest and passion for community service and environmental protection.

She also has the honour of being one of the first 20 Canadian Climate Leaders trained by Al Gore and, in 2007, along with her then 11-year-old daughter Corrina, they presented over 90 times to more than 25,000 people across Ontario. After having run millions in programs with indigenous and settler governments, non-profits and companies, she now has her own consulting corporation, StepFour, that specializes in implementing community dreams.

Serda’s mentor group will include 25 people from around the world, including leaders from Sweden, Israel, Italy, Norway, Finland, Morocco, Albania, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Hungary and the United States.

Their life experiences include being a student, professor, business owner, sustainability consultant, a food industry processor, farm researcher, lawyer, doctor and a father and daughter team.

As a mentor in the panel discussion, she will be asked questions by Gore about her own experience, to help the new trainees understand how to tell their stories, connect, and empower their audiences.

“This personal training from Al Gore and many experts in science, communication and community organizing will change over 1300 people’s lives, just as it did for me back in 2007,” Serda said. "They will join over 11,000 people already empowered to be effective local Climate Leaders around the world.”

What is The Climate Reality Project Canada?

The Climate Reality Project Canada (Climate Reality Canada) is a charity organization that serves as the Canadian component of a global movement.  Climate Reality Canada motivates Canadians to become active participants in solving the climate crisis by:

-- Training a diverse range of citizens from numerous geographic regions and walks of life, who will then communicate to the public about the urgency and impact of climate change.

-- Engaging the public through presentations, news media and individual conversations as well as non-partisan grassroots advocacy so that Canadians will make informed choices about public policy matters related to climate change.

-- Promoting personal, local, domestic and international initiatives to solve the climate crisis.

Originally named The Climate Project Canada, the organization was created in May 2007 with the objective of educating Canadians about the science and impact of climate change as well as solutions to address it. Based on the model of The Climate Project founded by Nobel Laureate Al Gore, the primary means of disseminating this information is through trained Climate Leaders like Serda from all demographics, regions, sectors and backgrounds. Leaders originally presented adapted versions of a slide show as featured in the widely viewed documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," which made the compelling case that global warming is real, man-made, and its effects will be cataclysmic if we don’t act now.

16 October, 2017

IT TAKES A COMMUNITY TO RAISE AN IMMIGRANT FAMILY

Members of welcoming committee help immigrant family get settled in their new home.
Many commendable humanitarian programs are carried out in small communities across Canada with little, or no, fanfare.  That's just the Canadian way!

A case in point is Saugeen Shores where the second newcomer family arrived this past weekend.

The two parents and four children had a long, exhausting journey from Tanzania to South Africa, and then all the way to Toronto, but they showed up at Pearson International Airport wearing big smiles and their Sunday best. Upon arriving in Port Elgin, a welcoming committe drove the family past their rental house (which they’ll move into on November 1st) and they clapped excitedly. They were also thrilled to see the school that the youngsters will attend.

For now, they will stay in temporary accommodations and begin the long process of integrating into the Lake Huron community and learning English. They speak only a few basic words, no French, only Swahili.

Many local residents have kindly expressed a desire to donate household goods and clothing to the family. Just as an example, here is a list of specific items needed at this time.

– Bathroom supply kit (toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet paper, soap, shampoo, deodorant, sanitary pads, dental floss, washcloth, etc.)

– First aid kit

– Minor medications kit (Tylenol, Gravol, etc.)

– Grocery carrier or wagon (for making trips on foot to Walmart) – Toys for kids (baseball gloves, soccer ball, Frisbee, colouring books and craft supplies)

– Clothing & footwear (running shoes and winter boots) for specific ages: 12-year-old girl, 9-yr-old boy, 7-yr-old girl, 4-yr-old boy, 2 parents (both are slight and small). At this point, they need everything

-- Pants, skirts, shirts, undershirts, etc.

The parents will be subsequently enrolled in English classes at the ESL school in Owen Sound. Classes run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through the week, Monday to Friday, and volunteer drivers will be recruited.  All volunteers of course, are required to complete a vulnerable sector background check, as is required of anyone working with refugees under Canadian law.

The family of six comes from Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has been residing in Tanzania. It has been two years since The Saugeen Shores Refugee Fund began a campaign to sponsor a family from Syria. That first family arrived in January 2016. This will be the group’s second and final sponsorship, made possible by donations from the community, Bruce Power, and local service groups.

“We decided to expand our criteria for sponsorship to other parts of the world, not just the Middle East. There are so many refugee crises happening all over, and the conflict in East Africa has been ongoing for many years,” says Katherine Martinko, SSRF coordinator.

SSRF works together with Mennonite Central Committee to make the sponsorship happen. Financial support is provided to the family for one year, with half the funds coming from fund-raised money and the other half provided by the federal government.

As they say: "It takes a community...!"  Perhaps more accurately in this case -- a country.
Happy faces of welcoming committee.

10 October, 2017

COME TO FIND OUT, I HAVE BEEN A RELUCTANT EVOLUTIONARY

For the purpose of a brief exercise, think about a time when you really wanted to change something, whether it was your lifestyle, your behavior, or to be just a bit more conscious about the world: what and where you buy, what you choose to eat, how you give back to society. Truthfully, often we hesitate, or don't act at all; sometimes, we make a good start, only to find our enthusiasm and motivation fade after a few weeks. We go back to old behaviors.
Enlightenment and evolution.

There's a lot that plays into our struggle to change, transition and transform. To start off, our brains love a good (and a bad) habit. It just has to be a habit for our brains to want to keep doing it. Secondly, we have in our DNA the struggles of the agricultural age, and the early industrial age. We thought progress was something that would free us, make life easier. We're not so willing to give any of that up, even if it really hasn't freed us at all; even if it means making a more sustainable world for future generations.

From my perspective, after decades of earnest spiritual seeking, I find myself falling into a pattern of settling for a transformation far less profound or complete than the one I aimed for when I started. Is it that—as some ancient eastern traditions tell us—enlightenment is such a lofty goal that we should not expect to experience any radical transformation in one lifetime? Should we instead see our current incarnation as but one of millions of baby steps toward that supreme goal?

Or is it, as many contemporary teachers are fond of saying, that any attempt to change ourselves is in fact misguided—that we should simply “accept what is,” “call off the search,” and realize that ordinary life in all of its neurotic frailty is enough?

With all due respect to those of differing opinion, perhaps there is another possibility.

Could it just be that the reason some of us find ourselves in a spiritual standstill is the fact that our spiritual path is just too small. In a word, it’s still about us—our own fulfillment, our own happiness, even our own enlightenment. It’s not that we’re selfish people. Indeed, most spiritual seekers are among the most selfless people on the planet.

The problem is that we’ve all been steeped in a contemporary spiritual subculture that sees the entire purpose of following a spiritual path as personal. It tells us that the reason for working on spiritual growth is so that we can live happier, more fulfilled, more peaceful lives.  And, as long as our own happiness is all we’re seeking, we’ll never awaken the depth of spiritual passion and conviction required to propel us into genuine evolution beyond ego.

That conviction only arises when we realize that the spiritual path is not about us, but rather is about participating in something far greater than ourselves. Imagine for a moment that the fate of the entire human race rested on your shoulders alone--that humanity’s evolution out of brute self-interest depended entirely on your willingness to transform your consciousness, to rise above your smallness, to evolve beyond your negative conditioning, and become an exemplar of humanity’s highest potential for the world.

Imagine too that, for you, evolving beyond ego became an evolutionary imperative.  Would you approach your path any differently? Would the energy you brought to your spiritual practice intensify? Would the quality of awareness and care with which you approached your interactions with others become more profound?

Would you find yourself reaching with inner muscles you didn’t even know you had to actually stay awake to the depth you’ve tasted in your most profound spiritual moments?...If you knew it all rested on you, would you have any choice but to change?

The Indian sage Ramana Maharshi once said that the spiritual seeker must want liberation like a drowning person wants air.  But the painful truth is that even when we recognize that we are drowning spiritually, most of us don’t care enough to struggle to keep our heads above water.

The challenges of authentic spiritual growth and transformation are so great that most of us will choose to continue suffering in our smallness, rather than feel the pain of allowing that smallness to die forever.  But how many of us would stay there if we realized that it wasn’t only our own suffering we were perpetuating, but the suffering of the entire human race?

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “That’s a nice thought experiment. Sure, it makes me realize I could be more earnest on my path, but what does it really have to do with me? I’m no megalomaniac. I know that my growth and evolution alone isn’t enough to liberate the human race.”

Consider, however, that modern science has in recent decades been verifying what the ancient traditions intuited long ago: that, in both tangible and mysterious ways, we are all interconnected. Any one of us can have a profound effect on the whole. Add to that the reality that we are evolving beings living in an evolving universe—that we are all part of a grand, cosmic evolutionary process—and the question of our obligation to the whole starts to cut close to the bone.

To reframe my earlier question: What if we realized that the entire human endeavor, the evolution of consciousness itself, depended on our willingness to evolve our own consciousness?  Would it affect the choices we make every day if we knew that in a very real sense, those choices were either contributing to the evolution of the whole—or holding it back?

At this time when it seems that our very future depends on our willingness to evolve as a species, would you have any choice but to act in alignment with the greatest evolutionary good? The point I’m trying to make is that when we take a closer look at what spiritual work and growth is actually for, it quickly becomes clear that the path of awakening is not primarily about freeing ourselves from suffering and securing our own happiness.

Sure, that’s a nice by-product. But, as long as that’s all we’re seeking, we probably won’t get very far.

Where the spiritual path really begins to get interesting is when we recognize that transforming ourselves in the deepest possible way is in fact an evolutionary imperative, with profound consequences far beyond ourselves.  If we begin to embrace the fact that our lives are not simply our own to do with as we please—that in everything we do, we are in fact accountable to the Whole—something truly miraculous begins to happen.

Faced with the palpable responsibility to evolve for a greater good, it just may be possible to find that we suddenly have access to a seemingly infinite source of energy, intention, passion and courage to confront whatever challenges present themselves on our path. What’s more, all of the personal issues and problems—all of the fears and doubts and resistances that once seemed so insurmountable—may well begin to seem a lot less significant.

Why? Because our attention is now captivated by something much bigger than ourselves. This is the power of context. We see our individual concerns, the worries we fret over day to day, from a different vantage point. Held up against this larger picture and greater purpose, those concerns suddenly seem very small indeed.

Realizing “it’s not all about me,” and ignited by a noble calling to participate in the grand adventure of conscious evolution, there is a very real possibility that we could find that we no longer even want to waste a moment of our precious life energy on those worries. And in this freedom from self-concern, before long we actually discover that the deep inner peace and joy we were seeking all along has become the very ground we are walking on.

Stay tuned.  You will be hearing more about the emerging field of evolutionary spirituality. The younger generation should definitely be alerted to it.

05 October, 2017

ABOUT THE (MIS)USE OF TERMINOLOGY IN POLITICAL RHETORIC

I believe in "democratic" government.  I am "conservative" by nature and "liberal" with my time, energy and limited resources. Apart from politics, I think that the majority of us share similar personal virtues and no single one of those philosophical qualities completely defines us.

It is pertinent to note here that I have never aligned with a particular political party, choosing instead to vote for candidates on the basis of character and qualifications.  In the end, I accept the will of the majority and allow for the fact that there is no perfect government, just as there is no perfect politician.

The reason I mention the above is that I have increasingly heard those same terms spewed out in a political context, and not in a complimentary way.  In the United States, ‘liberal’ is often used as an epithet. To some degree, the terms ‘neo-liberal’ or ‘social conservative’ or ‘socialist’ are also used as negative descriptors in Canada.

Certain acquaintances in the USA, for instance, are extremely vocal in condemning "bleeding heart liberals" for everything that is wrong with their country.  A closer look at American politics reveals that historically liberalism has been associated with the Democratic Party while the Republican Party is influenced by conservative principles.

Part of the problem with the word ‘liberal’ is it’s used differently across time, and across countries. In Canada, the word mostly means a supporter of the Liberal Party, or someone in the political middle. In the United States, it means a strong social progressive, and in some circles can mean a socialist or a communist. In Europe it’s associated with internationalism and free migration. In Australia, in the words of Australian Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull, it means the primacy of “freedom, the individual, and the market.”  (That last one, the Australian definition, is probably closest to what political scientists consider a classical liberal view.)

The concepts of liberalism, both classical and modern, are political philosophies and ideologies not specific political affiliations, and these concepts, among others, influence parties across the Canadian spectrum.

To my mind it is not particularly helpful to use philosophical terminology as a pejorative, or to try and sum up a person’s character or values with a snippy line about liberals, conservatives, socialists, or anarchists.

I worry that sometimes we throw out terminology as weapons and rhetorical jabs when aggressively expressing political views. Understand that behind all of the different perspectives and ideologies, there’s some claim to justice there. And even if I disagree in large measure with much of what’s being said, there is some truth that is being expressed. There’s something good in it. As good as it is to be engaged in politics and to really care about what’s happening, it’s also good to step back sometimes and to understand that when we use terms like conservative, liberal, progressive, socialist, they’re all reflecting a certain claim to justice, and there’s probably something in each of those that we can agree with.

If we could only understand that behind all the terms we throw around to describe people, there is a rich intellectual history, we could have more respectful and constructive political debate.

20 September, 2017

WIARTON WILLIE PASSES AWAY, UNDERSTUDY IN THE WINGS

Sad news folks...Wiarton Willie has passed on to that heavenly burrow in the sky. He was 13 in groundhog years.

Willie, an albino groundhog, came out each Groundhog Day (Feb. 2) to prognosticate whether or not spring would make an early arrival.  Last year, 2016, was the 60th anniversary of the Wiarton Willie Festival that has drawn thousands of visitors over the years and media from every corner of the province of Ontario.

"It's a sad day for Wiarton," said Mayor Janice Jackson. "Willie was a wonderful ambassador and we will be forever grateful as he put us on the map. We did give him 13 years however, as life span for a groundhog is approximately four years and less than that for an albino."

Willie lived in a 'house' designed by the Toronto Zoo and that was thermostatically controlled and where visitors could visit and see the star attraction at any time.

According to Jackson, there is an understudy, 'Wee Willie' who will assume the responsibility of his predecessor.  Wiarton will be holding a 'send-off funeral' for Willie on September 30th at Blue Water Park in Wiarton.