Sunday, December 24, 2006

Joshua Kreig's Eighth Annual Christmas Message

Every year before writing the current Christmas message, I return to the posts of Christmas past and read them in order. Despite the occasional wince from bad writing, I gain perspective on what I have said, what I want to say, and how it all fits together.

It is a life lesson exercise each year to see my own personal journey. When I reread each, I remember the ‘me’ that wrote it. This year I read with greater feeling than previous years. It was poignant reading of my love and joy and my fear and pain of the last eight years. The realities since changed and the ones that are recurring themes frozen for me to review. The process places me in a mental state to write from a place of hope and not of fear. It strips away the masks of performance I often wear as I exist and allows the heart to inform thought.

This year I became more and more aware of the true theme and core value of everything that I have written. I have come to understand what the highest value we can possibly strive for in life is Peace. I have discovered that it is through peace that we achieve everything in life. A peaceful heart allows everything else to happen both personally and globally. Everything on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs requires the soil of peace to grow. Violence uproots all. I search for peace.

Two thousand years ago the myth of an angel proclaimed, “Peace on earth, and goodwill towards all.” We westerners measure all true success by that benchmark. Sadly, we fall short of that benchmark in so many ways. This is not the view of the cynic or pessimist for the world today screams out for a peace that is smothered in the din of violence.

Violence is anything that destroys global or personal peace. Further tears for the fact that there is so much truly beautiful good news in the world swallowed up in the media roar of violence both global and personal.

These two forces are constantly at work in the world. These two forces are at work in my heart. When we understand what causes violence and peace both globally and personally, we can meet the benchmark. I ask myself, “What would a global peace look like?” “What would a personal peace look like?”

What would a Global Peace on Earth look like? Peace is not a goal but an effect of action. Peace is the result of economic security. Peace is the result of social security. Peace is the result of human security. Any type of violence in economic, social, and human security causes a disruption in peace.

This year I have wondered, “What is my responsibility to global peace?” We westerners believe the way in which our social/political culture evolved is the best model of social evolution. To prove this point think of a system of social/political thought other than your own and ask yourself if you want to have that as your system of thought? Most westerners I know would say they are quite happy to keep Western thought and work out the bugs in the system. The Western system is in constant need of a Service Pack and we accept that and continue to work within the framework.

Despite the imperfections in the matrix, we stick with this one and keep tweaking it. Our systems evolve. Ideologies shift. The major event for all western systems of thought is revolution and often-violent revolution. It seems we forget that the price of our peace was violence. Nevertheless, what part must we play in the violence of peace for others?

I am not sure if Canada sending military to Afghanistan was the right thing to do but it leads me to this thought. Here we westerners sit, the Ivory Tower lot, in our swivel chairs reading this message using a technology we take for granted when 70% of the world has not heard a dial tone let alone have adequate economic, social, and human security.

If our democracy and ideology is to survive, must it be defended? What exactly does defending it mean? Anything from intercultural exchanges to looking down the barrel of missile launchers appears to be the vehicles of peaceful global democracy. This is not a manifesto to pick up arms but an acknowledgement of a real force in the world today.

I finally figured out why I hated the sentence, “We live in a post 9/11 world.” It was too global. Other than Western countries and maybe more important the North American Western countries the rest of the world was already existing in that world. Many holders of Western ideology have been lulled into a false sense of peace the further removed they are from their democratic revolution.

September 9/11 was the return of Western ideals to the global ideological theatre of war. In addition, because of the invasion of media the war is writ large for all to participate. Some participate from the barrel of a missile launcher while others participate from the lap of luxury provide by the spoils of violent democratic revolution.

For peace to exist in our world the systems of thought are going to have to coexist. Can secular and religious societies coexist? Can western socialist/capitalist democracies coexist with communist societies? Can Shari and Islamic law coexist with Jewish law or Western democracy? We westerners do believe that peace is fundamental to democracy. We believe that democracy is fundamental to peace.

Western ideology has tried to create a system of rules of fair play and civility to illustrate itself. However, Western ideology must accept the reality that other systems of thought have a different system of fair play and civility. Then we must ask some hard questions. When peace is not present must Western ideology do whatever is necessary to return to the state of peace? When the rules of fair play are broken, must those following them decide which rules they are also willing to break for the ideology to survive?

Maybe it is because war has changed that we do not see the lines of thought. From history, it was easy to see the global battles of ideology play out. We lined up our plastic soldiers and had at it. However, as war has changed we have had to create another vocabulary to look after such messiness as “collateral damage”.

The two questions we countries of economic, social, and human security have to ask ourselves are:

“What is our responsibility in creating a global peace?”

“Is a fundamental part of Western democracy the obligation to participate in a global revolution of ideologies where there will be instances when breaking the letter of ideological law is needed in order to maintain the spirit of ideological law?”

This is a nice peace of theory but it becomes messy in the face of what one ideology calls violent human rights abuses by another ideology. Maybe first, we have to agree on what we want a global peace to look like. However, trying to guarantee the economic, social, and human security of all is the best place to start.

What would a personal peace look like? I would have to say the perfect model for a personal peace in my life right now is the one I share with my sister. The violence of our personal illnesses has forged a strong peace between us. I do not think I have ever said it like that before. My sister is the only person in my life with whom I have absolute peace. We know the violence intimately but we created a space where we have peace. This peace allows us to survive the violence.

Our relationship is the only one that truly reaches my personal peace benchmark. She is the only person I could ask for anything and never feel an expectation. She is the one I feel comfortable saying anything to without fear of an expectation or a balance sheet. This is quite remarkable when seen in the light of previous posts. There is always a checks and balance sheet running to a greater or lesser degree in all of my other relationships. We use our peace together to find individual peace that we can spread to other areas of our lives.

This year I achieved a bit more peace with Bipolar though I know I am nowhere near the peace I desire. In February of 2006, I went on a two-week silent retreat to regain some sanity . On this retreat, I gained an insight into managing the illness that I continue to strive to accomplish. I learned that I have to manage Bipolar lovingly to have any sense of peace. Trying to fight it causes violence.

I also have had to accept that the illness has great violence associated with it. It robs me of peace and time. It robs me of intimacy with people I love. This year I have learned to ride the waves of depression and do what I must to survive. Then as global peacemaker Mattie Stepanick once said, I “Remember to play after every storm.” This becomes a greater challenge for me now as I have also developed symptoms of migraines this past year.

Another great source of peace for me is seeing my sister arrive. She said to me yesterday that this was the first time in her life that she did not feel like the poor foster kid. To be a part of that is a great honour and joy. There will be days when we both shall think that our peace is fleeting but our peace now has a depth that does not shake.

This year she became my big sister, the company is great. As we create a stronger economic, social, and human security with each other, we achieve a greater personal peace. We are now ready to collaborate and join forces to create something greater than each of us. Who knows we just might create global peace as we strengthen our personal peace.

The mystics were right; the individual heart living in peace creates a harmony of peace throughout the world. My responsibility is to nurture peace in my personal life and to nurture peace in our world. When we believe that peace is the greatest fundamental underscoring all life, and accept our responsibility to create this peace, will we learn to stop the violence we perpetuate against peace. Then the angel will not have spoken a myth those two thousand years ago but provided a path towards, “Peace on earth, and goodwill towards all.” Come along!

Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.

xo
Joshua

(December 24, 2006)

Posts of Christmas Past

http://www.geocities.com/jkreig/xmas99.html
http://www.geocities.com/jkreig/xmas2000.html
http://www.geocities.com/jkreig/xmas2001.html
http://www.geocities.com/jkreig/xmas2002.html
http://www.geocities.com/jkreig/xmas2003.html
http://www.geocities.com/jkreig/xmas2004.html
http://www.geocities.com/jkreig/xmas2005.html

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Tony Bennett Versus The Other Guy

So anyway I was on amazon reading some record reviews of Tony Bennett CDs and this guy was saying how Frank Sinatra made better records then Tony Bennet.

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My dear man I guess you have not heard the compilation called JAZZ or how about The Beat of My Heart an amazing experiment in vocal and percussion, Home Town, My Town is a much more well conceived and executed album tribute to NYC than Frank's Come Fly With Me. The Bassie stuff is top quality. Bennett is a singer. A singer who loves the American Song Book. A singer who loved Jazz and constantly did quality side projects that his record label discouraged. Probably one of the few mistakes in the long and disguished career of Clive Davis.

Frank Sinatra was an Entertainer. Was he a Singer/Actor or Actor/Singer. I think Frank Sinatra was a fantastic entertainer and the style of singing was that of an entertainer. I actually think he is more entertaining as an actor. I have never been a fan of his phrasing and have always found it somewhat flat and uninspired. Yeah I just said all that. But yes Frank was a star and a damn good entertainer. I don't think he and Tony Bennett should be compared. The same way we can never ask who is the greater athlete, Tiger Woods or Michael Jordon?

And in the end we can always go with the oft-quoted Frank Sinatra who said, "for my money, tony bennett is the best singer in the business".

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I could ramble on about longevity in career and Bennett actually walking away from the music business and doing his own label to produce his own music.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Simple Things








A boy and firm jello, it must be firm.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

nature's embrace





Every time we stop to admire nature, we accept its embrace. We let nature hold us in a moment of innocent wonder. For a moment, we accept the majestic awe.

Daisuke and I seem to share a similar appreciation for nature. Especially skies. Maybe it is also because we "feel" things in a similar way. It is very nice just to watch a sky. Hold hands. Drink wine. Smoke a joint. There is simplicity of the moment. Everything is in appreciation. We watch clear night skies and marvel at the crispness of the lights on the buildings, the blackness of the sky, and the twinkle of the stars. (There is a story involving a clear night sky at a bed and breakfast in Niagara on the Lake and two high boys staring up at the sky wondering why the stars were turning on and off, but that can be for another day.)

We watch storm clouds roll in and get excited with the anticipation of thunder and lightening – and the RAIN. Clear brilliant spectrum blue cloudless days. Big fluffy cotton billow clouds drifting by. We comment on all skies it would seem. I like to come up with ways of describing skies, Epic, Biblical, Menacing, Gentle, Playful, Majestic; tonight’s sky was Glorious.

I was up on the deck taking a picture of it and was going downstairs to text message Daisuke. When I got downstairs, I found a text message from him telling me, “the sky is so nice, it looks like a painting.” Being in the same moment is nice.

There is something very healing and calming when that moment is with a sky. I guess I am learning the true meaning of the Buddhist “now”. I am calmed when I stop to watch a sky. For a brief moment, I stop competing with nature and allow it to be.

“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.” (E.B. White – 1956)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Daisuke Daisuki

7000 spoken words



"Let's face the music and dance!"

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Black and White Colours

Feeling a thousand times better. See the two thousand words below!



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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Storms Passing

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Confessions of a Cyberslut

I have always considered myself a lazy writer. Actually I am. But recently I was going through my back catalogue and found I have been a bit more prolific than I thought. So I thought I would dust some off for my new blog readers and those not familiar with some of the older stuff. Also it saves me the trouble of having to sit and be original for a while.

This piece was first published in a local Toronto mag called Celebrasian (circa 1998). Celebrasian was the community mag for a group called Gay Asians of Toronto. An acquaintance, Jimm Tran, took it on as a volunteer project and asked for my assistance. After a falling out with GAT Jimm and I went on to found DRAGUN magazine.

The article was also republished by the now defunct CODECODE the NYU website exploring the advent of the internet and relationships (circa 1998).

Enjoy!

Confessions of a Cyberslut!

by Joshua Kreig

It's 3:27am. Friday. I am trying to get off. Offline. I've been chatting with some guy from Australia in cyberspace for an hour. I yawn. He is typing nothing to get my blood pumping or anything else for that matter. I had my hand in mind. I thought I was beyond seeking out sex, or in reality -- intimacy, on the net. This is a remarkable achievement, for I am one of those people who thought he would never go to a bathhouse or a porn theatre: and has since gone to both. Now a cyber-whore.

I am considered easy on the eyes by many. I have been in a few relationships with men who are even easier on the eyes. My real-time sex life is satisfying; I enjoy a man's body regularly. But yet I find myself irresistibly drawn to anonymous sexual exploits. Something tells me I should be above and beyond such base desires.

In true St. Augustine fashion I must confess. I engage in cyber-sex. At one time a lot. I enjoy the challenge of seduction. Though there are many projects I should be working on; channelling my libidinal energy towards more fecund endeavours... it is 3:27am, Friday and I'm trying to get off. It is easy. It strokes the ego.

Sexual release is a drug. Safe, easy, ego drug. Hmmmm. That is enough of a sociological, physiological, and psychological reason to explain my behaviour. No wonder I am having so much trouble getting that screenplay on paper. The little head has a much more direct and powerful line of thinking for its actions. The big head gladly surrenders its lofty erudite ambitions for a share of concupiscence.

I can even rationalise it as a writer. It is an act of the creative muse. I have been doing it for so long now that I approach it as a challenge; to have a different sexual exchange with each person I encounter. I have become quite proficient at describing sex acts. I have even tried a few activities I would never contemplate with a corporeal partner, water sports for starters.

And who needs a condom in the virtual bathhouse. It can be as raw and as nasty as one may wish. Cyberspace has become the largest purveyor of safe sex. Yes, viruses do abound and are sometimes passed on maliciously, but cures are created contiguously. The relieving of computer ills ranks higher than that four-letter acronymic health crisis and many others to boot. Though I run the risk of catching something from a cyber tramp, I will always walk away, sexually relieved and healthy, at least physically.

The debate rages on as to whether the super highway has/is causing us to be supra alienated from one another. Like all good questions, the answer is both yes and no. For gay men, there are a few extra nods on the yea side.

I believe that the Internet has been a godsend for the gay community. On many occasions, I chat with young gay men in their late teens and early twenties, from all over the world, who have no gay outlet, except the Internet. The Internet is their sole avenue of homosexual expression. It is the first meeting place for many gay men as they search for meaning to their sexual identity. The Internet is allowing them to not be isolated with their feelings. Millions of ones and zeroes screaming out for attention. Lonely voices tapping out at 33.6kbps, searching for another to confirm they are not alone.

I remember growing up as a teen, long before computers, and feeling I was the only gay person in the world. I was very alone and had not a soul with whom to share my quest. Today, gay men around the world are able to reach out to each other and say, "Hi, you are not alone! I am here!" That is AWESOME!

Though the hunger is temporarily satiated, in the end the appetite still yearns. Therein lies the cyber shortfall. I believe long-term Internet relationships cannot work. They cannot work because they leave us wanting! They do not match our ideas and traditional assumptions of what relationships should be. We can blame bad theological interpretations of the Letters of St. Paul for this.

We are taught from a young age that we consist of a body and a soul, or spirit. These two parts are linked together by the act of conception and birth. Even though most people put a greater emphasis on the spirit, placing it superior to the body, such is not really the case. The body and spirit are in a synergistic relationship. Kinda like you can't have one without the other and one plus one equals three.

It is through the five senses of the body that our spirit grows to understand what life is all about. It is our unique ability to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch that lends the spirit its life and meaning. They are intertwined. In the end, all our experiences in life have to be the body feeding the spirit. The more senses involved in the experience, the stronger the experience, and thus more fulfilling for the spirit and hence the total person.

Now the Internet. When communicating with others, it is a very limited experience on the sense level. We have not been trained to accept anything but a full sense experience of people. As time goes on, we may accept that we will have relationships with people with whom we will never share physical touch. We are nowhere near that time.

This is evident by the fact we want to know what a person looks like, sounds like. We exchange pictures and .wav files. I am not saying we cannot have relationships over the Internet. I am saying there are limits as to where they can go and what we should expect. There is a man I have been chatting with in Singapore. I know what he looks like and sounds like; I've chatted with him on the phone. I was supposed to go visit him recently but that got cancelled. I was rather disappointed. I was hoping by being with him, our relationship would become stronger and better... or maybe even end... those are the risks of full sense experiences. We finally did hook up here in Toronto and discovered we are good friends and not the material of lovers.

We are a physical species. In the end we want to hold people and be held by people. And as far as a lover goes, IBM is kind of non-responsive. The Internet will never replace staring across a room and making eye contact with the cutest boy, holding hands in the dark, or that first passionate kiss with someone new.

In the end, I think the Internet is a great thing, a great place for relationships to form, but we either have to lower our expectations as to what the end of that relationship will be or our understanding of what exactly a relationship is. I think it is impossible to have a lover on the Internet. Sharing one's mind and thoughts is great, but with a lover we want to share our body as well. The Internet may introduce people and begin a relationship, but it will always have to end in a physical consummation (soon) or it will remain a friendship or a heart yearning. Not a bad thing but a limit.

Who knows, the advent of cyber worlds and virtual realities may increase the senses we feel, but that again will be a brave new world with its own expectations and limits.

See you online!!!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Lesson learned, relearned, and learned again.

One of the most important books I have read in the last five years is don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements.

Something or more correctly someone hurt me recently that made me go back and reread part of the Ruiz book.

The Second Agreement - Don't Take Anything Personally

Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.


So easy to read so hard to live.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Not Ready To Play Nice - Dixie Chicks

(You can hear it all here. Just wait for the chorus to kick in then turn it loud. Dixie Chicks.

Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I’m not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I’m still waiting

I’m through with doubt
There’s nothing left for me to figure out
I’ve paid a price
And I’ll keep paying

I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should

I know you said
Can’t you just get over it
It turned my whole world around
And I kind of like it

I made my bed and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets and I don’t mind sayin’
It’s a sad sad story when a mother will teach her
Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they’d write me a letter
Sayin’ that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over

I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should

I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should

Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I’m not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I’m still waiting

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Everybody Is Free (To Wear Sunscreen)

This is a rather interesting piece that I have used in my advanced ESL classes. The piece has an interesting urban myth history. Here is the back ground:

http://www.bondon.com/sunscreen_song.html

I have included the original version and title. But if you can track down the original music mix by Baz Luhrmann have a listen. I have it if you desire a listen.

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"ADVICE, LIKE YOUTH, PROBABLY JUST WASTED ON THE YOUNG"
by Mary Schmich.

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Best Bitchy/Heartache Breakup Song

I was chatting with a friend and he asked me what I thought was the best bitch slap breakup song. For me the hands-down winner is Tony Bennett's version of I Wanna Be Around . BUT I also volunteered the best rip your heart out breakup song, Bonnie Raitt's I Can't Make You Love Me. Please don't get the George Michael version of the Raitt song.

I Wanna Be Around

I wanna be around to pick up the pieces
When somebody breaks your heart
Some somebody twice as smart as I

A somebody who will swear to be true
As you used to do with me
Who'll leave you to learn
That mis'ry loves company, wait and see

I mean, I wanna be around to see how he does it
When he breaks your heart to bits
Let's see if the puzzle fits so fine

And that's when I'll discover that revenge is sweet
As I sit there applaudin' from a front-row seat
When somebody breaks your heart
Like you, like you broke mine.


I Can't Make You Love Me

Turn down the lights, turn down the bed
Turn down these voices inside my head
Lay down with me, tell me no lies
Just hold me close, don't patronize - don't patronize me

Cause I can't make you love me if you don't
You can't make your heart feel something it won't
Here in the dark, in these final hours
I will lay down my heart and I'll feel the power
But you won't, no you won't
'Cause I can't make you love me, if you don't

I'll close my eyes, then I won't see
The love you don't feel when you're holding me
Morning will come and I'll do what's right
Just give me till then to give up this fight
And I will give up this fight

Cause I can't make you love me if you don't
You can't make your heart feel something it won't
Here in the dark, in these lonely hours
I will lay down my heart and I'll feel the power
But you won't, no you won't
'Cause I can't make you love me, if you don't

Monday, March 27, 2006

Horoscope Horror

When trying to come to terms with a final decision one has made one should NEVER read horoscopes. This afternoon I saw an article on the Canadian music scene from yesterdays Toronto Star and how it is at an all-time high. I turned the page to see if the article continued and BAMN there were the horoscopes. Now I rarely read them except as the last ditch read on public transit. Yesterday's said:

Just because a certain arrangement has a history of going wrong, doesn't mean that it's bound to go wrong again. This time around, you'll be far more successful.


That's just plain cosmic chance mindfucking evil. Read below and by the end it will all make sense.

Stepping Out of the Shadows of "WE"

I have discovered that life is a process of learning the same lesson repeatedly. I hope that each time the lesson comes around I learn it at bit of a deeper level than previously. There are many metaphors: the onion, the concentric circles, the mountain.

The onion is pretty cool because the peeling back of the layers can cause a lot of pain and tears and there is very little and often nothing at the center. The Buddhists probably like that one. The concentric circles work as often we are going around in circles and it takes a dramatic event or force to bump us into an inner circle or maybe we may end up farther from the center circle. This is maybe a good one for the Greek Aristotelians. The mountain offers much as an incline requires constant energy and hopefully the higher up the clearer the air and the better the view. The movement upward despite struggle is probably good for the Christians and most religions.

Now all that is wonderful theory to state but hindsight is what makes it palatable.

Last night I had dinner with my friend Bao and he was telling me about his latest relationship gone wrong. It turns out that my friend becomes too attentive to his partners. He practically dotes over them. He quickly becomes a combination of friend, lover, and mother. He treats his partners too good too soon.

Now I am not saying he should change who he is as a person but it is very easy to be taken advantage of or to be taken for granted in such situations. There is a fine line between attentiveness to a partner’s desires and wants and smothering and mothering.

I am always reminded of Kahlil Gibran’s words on marriage in Chapter Three of The Prophet:

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.


This passage is a staple at Christian weddings. Many people forget that before they became a “we” they were a “me” and a “you”. It is only by continuing to allow the “me” and “you” to grow as individuals will there be a strong “we”. I want a partner who is pursuing his life with passion. I want him to be able to say, “Guest what happened to day?” and I not know. That is where the excitement and fun is.

As I was listening to my friend I was paying my usual attention to eyes and body language. I think he is getting disillusioned with repeated failures. He hates the dating part of relationships which is why he moves into the acting like partners too fast. He said that he has known very soon after each of his relationships started that the fat lady should have gotten on stage and belted out her requiem. On some level I think the over-attentiveness is somehow fueled by the need to hang on to what has come his way. He settles for partners because the fear of having to date and go through it all again is too distasteful.

To me it is all about loneliness. As a species humans really hate being alone. I think being alone reminds us of the possibility of having nothing and no one to share our lives with. Deep loneliness reminds us of death. I am happy to say I have not felt lonely in a long time. I enjoy my solitude. I enjoy the time I spend lollygagging around the house or out about town alone. To me a good book or movie is as rewarding as a good conversation. They each have a place and time.

So much of living is a struggle against loneliness.

My friend is looking for someone to share his life with. He is happy with his career, his financial world is stable and profitable, he has a good circle of friends, but no one to share it with on a “we” level. I think when he learns to be single he will learn to be a partner.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.


We also talked about how easy it is to give such advice but not to follow it. He once told a friend, “Relationships are like plants that need the right amount of water and sunlight. Too much water they drown and die. Too little water they dry up and die.” The quest is to find the right balance between support and nurture for our partners and ourselves and the right amount of independence for each. This is easy advice to give but hard to follow when the consuming fires of love and passion, fear and loneliness, commingle in the lovers dance.

One thing that I notice about all past relationships, and this is true for me as well, is the lingering of memory. There is a need to swim around in the pain of goodbyes. There has not been a day since I came back from my retreat that Allan has not been on my mind: his smile, his humour, his passion, his cute butt. The moment I stop being busy he is there. But then the devil on the other shoulder says, “DUDE!! Don’t forget all the pain and trouble. Just because you really like someone does not mean you should be with that person!” Nasty little devil.

The other day I was thinking about him for an hour and a half. I had a student from the Philippines. She would probably be a little younger or the same age as Allan’s mother. I taught her for two classes. Hearing her talk about the Philippines and the concerns of immigrant mothers made me wonder if his mother was similar. The student is raising her 11 year old daughter by herself. She is a talented woman but being in a foreign environment where language sophistication can be the difference between success and merely living, I could see the fear and insecurities and how they were keeping her from passionately exploring her life’s possibilities. I wonder if she is passing those fears and insecurities on to her child.

She is afraid to sit and read at length and journal because of the difficulty. And her daughter has the same problem. I said to her that if she wants her daughter to read and write well she will have to model those for her child. This seemed to affect her deeply. I could see it in her eyes. She now realized that becoming a better reader and writer herself was also for her daughter. I suggested she have a reading hour on the weekend with her daughter. They sit and read together. They each get something they want to read by themselves and then when they finish reading they tell each other what their reading was about. Her daughter will only do what is modeled. Giving her daughter the gift of books will change both of their lives, especially as immigrants to an English language country.

Also I got her to start a gratitude journal to practice her writing. This is something I discovered on my retreat. Everyday in a journal I hand write one page with the heading, “Five things I am grateful for today!” I have not missed a day and it really helps me celebrate my life by focusing on the good things. Well sort of focusing as this part of the post is proving I am still focusing on someone.

The Filipino mother took to this idea very well. When I told her she would be one of my five things for that day you could see her face light up. Someone was listening to her and helping her achieve her goals. Not merely pointing out grammar mistakes and pronunciation problems.

I think that is what we have to do with the people in our lives. We teach and learn by example. But we need to give, and have for ourselves, the space to grow as individuals. Then and only then will the “we” be a healthy combination of the “you” and “me”.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Suicide in Canada

Thank you to all those who wrote me personal emails regarding my last post. They are greatly appreciated. Here are some statistics for Canada.

http://www.suicideinfo.ca/youthatrisk/professionals/trend.htm

"Each year, on average, 294 youth die by suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth aged 10-24, following motor vehicle collisions. Although suicide rates for 10- to 19-year-olds have remained consistently below the overall suicide rates, suicides in this age group began to rise in the early 1960s and tripled by the late 1970s. In recent years, the rate for 15- to 19-year-olds has begun to approach the general population's rate of 13 per 100,000. Suicide rates for 10- to 14-year-olds have also increased, but remain below 2.5 per 100,000. Studies show a significant percentage of adolescents contemplate, plan or attempt suicide without seeking or receiving help. Males are less likely than females to seek help from any source."


Let's play with some Numbers (approx)

33,000,000 = Canadian population

4290 = Suicides per year based on 13 suicides per 100,000 people (source above).

26,000 = total suicide attempts: source - The Hospital Morbidity Database: 87 attempts per 100,000 people

Let’s compare!

26,000 = population estimates for Pickering, Ontario. People between the ages of 5-24. Source - Stats Can 2001.

19,000 = The Air Canada Centre in Toronto seating capacity – Source ACC website.

6000 = Starbucks stores in 30 countries around the world. Source Starbucks website.

12,000 = Sheridan College student population. Source – College Surfing

37,000 = Full-time student population University of Toronto downtown campus.

3330 = Deaths from motor vehicle accidents in 1997 (Stats Can)

If 4290 committed suicide and each only new 10 people that would be 42,900 people affected by the death.

If 26,000 people attempted suicide and each new only 10 people that would be 260,000 affected by the attempt.

That's a lot of people needing attention!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Retreat Treat (Part Two) The Big Insight

Retreat Treat (Part Two) - The big insight!

From experience, I can say retreats are a curious thing. Prior to a retreat there is a list of things that one feels they need to look at or work on. I thought I was going to be looking at some of my family ghosts. I thought I was going to have to look at my lack of motivation and focus. I thought I was going to have to look at what am I doing with my life. Boy was I wrong.

The big insight arrived when I came face to face with my Bipolar II Mood Disorder. I learned a lot about my illness. Though I had come a long way since my diagnosis in September of 2001, I hit a dead zone this past six months. I used pot as a crutch; it got me through January and February. Between November and January, my alcohol consumption was higher and solo. I was in so much pain that I had to numb myself to the world in order to make it to the retreat.

Moreover, like many bipolar people I was able to conceal all that chaos. I kept my work schedule except for a few crashes here and there. I maintained most of my social engagements and between January 4th and the beginning of my retreat on February 27th I even started exercising on a consistent basis.

However, beneath all that I was falling apart. I was going mad. I was cycling through highs and lows at a break neck pace. Sometimes I would take my meds; sometimes I would forget, and never on a fixed schedule. I kept a smile on at work with my students and colleagues.

One thing I am thankful for is that I have learned to turn my illness inward as opposed to previously thrusting it outwards. There is a little collateral damage in my past. Now some people might say that internalising all that garbage is a bad thing. I on the other hand would rather hurt myself than hurt other people. I do not lash out anymore.

On my retreat, I realised that I had a lot of anger, fear, and frustration towards the illness. I was fighting it consciously and unconsciously. Whenever I would feel a dark spell coming I would get upset and that would cause it to get even worse. Before you knew it, I was spiralling downwards in a quagmire of negative emotions. On my retreat I read, “Loving Someone with Bipolar” by Julie Fast. The book is written for the partners of bipolar people. Because the book is not written for me, I was able to read it with a cool intellectual detachment. I was able to sidestep the emotional baggage and look at it as eavesdropping on a counselling session.

During the reading, it was all resonating with me. Every page had a new insight that helped me understand the illness more. I had to accept that bipolar is not going to go away. To complain about it and fight it is like complaining about or fighting being right-handed. It just is. The main point is I have to manage bipolar first. Only then will I be able to get on with life. I have to manage it lovingly. I cannot beat myself up over this. I have to manage it lovingly.

If I cannot love myself and treat myself well as I deal with all this then how can I invite anyone into my life to love me and treat me well.

This management philosophy is a difficult one. Since returning from my retreat there have been some bad days. What I have found is my new level of awareness is helping them not be so bad.

"You did what you knew how to do and now that you know differently you do differently." Maya Angelou (paraphrase)

(more to come)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Damn You Jerry McGuire

This afternoon I spent a few hours with a Bipolar Comrade in Arms. For someone all of 21 he has a great handle on life. Sure, he has all the highs and lows of most semi-lunatics, and the fear, anger, and frustration that go along with it all, but he has a warm fuzzy center that is wise beyond his years.

After the bonding over our respective serotonin swirls, and like most gay men having chitchat, the conversation wound its way to relationships. What struck me as profound was that this young man knows what the most important thing in any relationship is. Now when you ask most people they will say chemistry, compatibility, or list various other traits they wish to find. The biggie I hear most often is PASSION! He said communication. To which of course I agreed. The most important characteristic of any relationship is communication. The ability for two people to try to understand each other through open dialogue is the cornerstone of any relationship.

We then began a discussion about how movies, songs, books, and other forms of entertainment down through the ages have really screwed up what people think relationships are. DRAMA!! All of the above have created basket case drama queens of most people when it comes to love. Most people’s ideas of what a relationship is come from movies. Case in point Jerry McGuire.

Oh how the masses swooned to the line, “You complete me.” What a bunch of rubbish. If you need to be completed by another person, you will never be whole. Only when we are comfortable within our own “aloneness” can we truly appreciate the togetherness. If you are running to the arms of another person to escape your own feelings of isolation and loneliness you will always live in fear of losing that person. You are not in the relationship because you want to enjoy the person you are there because you cannot be with yourself.

I have often said I want a lover who has 101 other options but has chosen to be with me. Not because they NEED me but because they want to enjoy me as much as I want to enjoy them.

The other thing we talked about is that movies and other entertainment have somehow made people believe that love is supposed to hurt. That love and pain are somehow caught in a twisted dance of fate. Anger and fighting are okay to these people. Word up, LOVE DOESN"T HURT!

I was recently dating (“dating” for lack of a better word) a guy who thought yelling and screaming and fighting were part of what made relationships passionate. Again someone misled by media. I use to fight and argue and get major pissed off, scream, and shout. But not anymore. It is destructive and anti-communication. When anger exists, love has taken a vacation. It is impossible to be angry and love at the same time. They are mutually exclusive. This does not mean a relationship will be without its tense times and misunderstanding that lead to hurt feelings. However, anger, which of course can only end in lashing out, is a destructive force that negates love. I know! I know up close and personal. I’ve tried, it don’t work.

Conflict in any relationship is an invitation to greater intimacy. An intimacy of vulnerability and trust where you know you will be treated with care and respect regardless of how difficult the situation. Sure, we will all lose our cool from time to time. As I like to say, anger is the face your heart puts on to keep people from seeing it cry. Anger is pain thrown outwards instead of inwards. The pain can be so hard that to acknowledge it would be too much.

I think the person I was “dating” actually thought less of our “relationship” because I did not fight with him. I was not showing passion. All the pop songs have anger and fighting, all the books have anger and fighting, all the movies have anger and fighting, and dare I say it, most of our homes when we were growing up had anger and fighting. The wrong behaviour is modeled and we blindly accept it as the way it should be. That is screwed up passion.

I refuse to fight in any of my relationships anymore be it family, friend, or lover. It hurts and is a total waste of time and emotional energy. I would rather hold someone and cry then be the person who screamed and yelled and made them cry. I’ve tried that, it sucks.

So if you are dating a person and his idea of romantic is Marlon Brando screaming Stella!!!!! Or good ole Jerry McGuire all teary-eyed saying, “You complete me.” You can bet you are about to get involved with a drama queen. I suggest you watch Chariots of Fire so you can learn to RUN! FAST!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Retreat Treat (part 0ne)

Having the feeling you are going mad is not the most pleasant of feelings. Being conscious of it and thinking one is powerless to stop it is pretty damn scary. That was the last few months for yours truly.

On February 27, 2006, I scrambled together my last ounce of sanity and found a smidge of courage to take my ass to a retreat centre in Arnprior, Ontario. For the next 10 complete days, February 28 - March 9, I was in silence and solitude.





The beautiful thing about silence and solitude for me is it forces me to come face to face with my reality. There is no place to run, hide, or escape. All the scary places become your companions. Only when you befriend them do they lose their ability to kill you.

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about some of the insights that came to me. While on retreat, I hand-wrote 80 journal pages and will share a few here. For anyone wrestling with some monsters I suggest a retreat to help you begin a healing process.

I was first introduced to the retreat process when I was 24. At that time, I was studying to be a Roman Catholic priest. Over the next four years, I went on a retreat twice a year. After leaving the seminary to explore life in a better way for me I gave up on all things Catholic and Christian.

In 1996 I decided it was important not to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. I realised that retreats were nothing about God or religion but about finding ones balance and learning to live a little more in harmony with oneself and the world. So in 1996 and then in 1998 I went on one retreat each year.

In 2001, my life fell so completely apart that I badly needed a retreat but did not have the mental clarity to realise it. Now here we are in 2006 and something inside of me told me my life was out of control and I had to do something about it.

The answer that came to me was, "Go on a retreat!" So began my 12 days of reconnecting with and in some cases finding myself.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Planetary Valentine

When will time end? Glad you asked. Geologically I cannot say. But I know spiritual time will begin when all things in the would are living in harmonic balance. But how do we get there? Good question. Harmonic balance is achieved through world peace. It looks as if geological time will not be ending anytime soon so we better get to work on spiritual time.

The only way to achieve any of this is to live respecting all life. Respecting all life does not mean we have to go and be vegetarians for the rest of our days or turn our lives upside down running off to join a third world missionary. It means we are good stewards of life. A good steward of life knows the ultimate goal of our world should be achieving world peace for that is the way to truly live. I think we would all be living longer healthier lives using a good stewardship model.

This happens through a simple choice. Love - the verb. Action. When we choose to love we engage life with a profound respect. Not merely love of ones own friends and family. Not merely love of ones own country or religion. Not merely love of ones own beliefs or politics. Love of life - all life. If you love life then you respect all life. You are a good steward of life.

It is when the love of life breaks down that the messy stuff happens: hate, violence, intolerance. And that messy stuff is not only in the scenes to be seen on the evening news. We all see the violence in our own lives. A dirty fight between lovers or friends is an act of violence. Every butting of heads in the professional world that leads to resentment and spite is an act of violence. Every “watch it asshole” or finger given a cabbie is an act of violence. Aggression is fine. We need that to survive. But there are so many tiny little acts of violent aggression. And the worst? The ones we commit when we know we should not. Because to choose to love at that point in time takes more courage and vulnerability then there seems to be in supply in our world right now.

To choose to love and stop acting out in violent aggression is the simple decision to not react out of anger and fear. Can you imagine if we completely stopped acting out in anger and fear. If violent aggression, and that being any aggression that does not respect the sanctity of all human life, was no more, we would have world peace. We would be good stewards of the world and there would be plenty for all people to live in harmonic balance with each other, with the planet, with life, with love.

When we are inside of love time is meaningless. Its significance ends. The end of time. When there is an absence or loss of love, time holds no promise but eternal bleakness.

And though I may have employed a little hyperbole here, in the end it has to be acted out in the small movements of our lives. And again the courage runs thin. I am guilty. Many times love is not fuelling my actions. If love was fuelling our actions that fuel would become energy for all of how life works. The energy of love transforms. I think life will evolve to the next level of consciousness when that happens. It makes so much sense but so hard to believe in - harder to do. The next evolution of consciousness has to be a creation of a global spirituality based on the guiding principles of love that allows for local expression but global respect for all.

Exactly how does love fuel our daily choices? I recently read this paraphrase of the popular1 Corinthians 13:4-8: of the Christian New Testament.

The love of which I speak is slow to lose patience;
It looks for ways of being constructive.
It is not possessive.
It is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish
inflated ideas of its own importance.
Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage.
It is not touchy
It does not keep account of evil.
It is always eager to believe the best.
Always hopeful
Always patient.
It is a love which knows no limit to its endurance
Not fading to its hope.
It is in fact the one thing that still
remains when everything else has disappeared.


Also I came across this little list things to consider in your approach. Good luck with the application and the courage needed for it.


WHAT LOVE DOESN'T

Love doesn't abuse or take you for granted
Try to change or re-arrange you
Blame you or carry angry grudges
Manipulate you by anger, loud voice or tears
Get you into win-lose situations
Give you unsolicited advice
Judge or tell you what is wrong with you
Just tolerate you as a condescending favor
Make you prove yourself again and again
Need be right, to have all the answers
Pout or refuse to talk to you
Punish you vindictively for being wrong
Remember the things you have done wrong
Seek and call attention to itself
Show off—to let you know where you stand
Undermine your confidence in yourself
Use you for his or her own gain then discard you
Ventilate its emotions on you as a garbage dump
Write you off because you didn't meet its demands




WHAT LOVE DOES

Love accepts you wherever you are
Affirms your goodness and giftedness
Cares about and wants to know if you are OK
Challenges you to grow to your potential
Empathizes—what it's like to be you
Encourages you to believe in yourself
Is Gentle in its way of dealing with you
Keeps confidences—your secrets are safe
Is Kind—is always for you on your side
Laughs a lot, always with never at you
Looks for goodness in you and finds it
Makes you feel glad that you are you
Overlooks your foolishness and human weaknesses
Prays for your needs and your growth
Sees good in you that others haven't noticed
Shares itself with you, by self-disclosure
Speaks up when you need someone to defend you
Is tactful even when confronting you
Takes responsibility for its own behaviour



Happy Valentine’s Day.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The James Frey Incident

(the background)

How's this for armchair psychology. Addiction is a collapse of the ego. A collapse of the moral compass. A collapse of the conscience that helps us monitor our own behaviour. We are all looking at James Frey as a healthy individual. The first question to ask, “Is James Frey chemical free?” And even if he is, he has not done the real work to heal his ego. He obviously has no moral compass nor a conscience to monitor himself. The reason “AA” and other support organizations work is because they help rebuild the person that has been broken.

As a Bipolar Mood Disorder sufferer I feel actually sadness for James Frey. I can easily see the man is trying to cope with many demons. Its in his eyes. Sadly at the time he wrote his story he was not a healthy man. And maybe still is not. I am sure it is common knowledge that severe drug addicts have disassociations of reality. Often reality and fantasy blur and then commingle make each indistinguishable.

Beyond the story of literary ethics is the story of a man still out of control. He just happens to now have international fame and money. So I guess with noteriety and money he gets to be called the tragic artist. If he does not get help he will probably self-destruct.

And the good news is someone gets to write the James Frey scandal biography which will then become a bestseller.

HBC - Sold or sold out?

(the background)

What’s at stake here?

The Hudson’s Bay Company’s goals are that of a viable business operation. Profit. That has been its goal from the early days of trading. When the point comes that the ownership has to question the viability of operations then choices have to be made.

No one would argue that HBC has become a piece of Canadian Heritage. But the heritage has been an after thought that has been provided by time and not a line in a business plan. Heritage costs money, it does not make money.

I would be interested to know how many of the “bleeding hearts” spend money at HBC. We cannot bemoan the loss of history if we have not been an active pattern in its survival. It falls into the category of saying, “I really like our Canadian literary and film offerings.” And yet then the only Canadian books/films digested by the same person are the ones on reading lists in high schools and universities.

I am as proud a Canadian as any and as un-American (as opposed to anti-American) as any in this country. I want us to be a country of culture and commerce. But if I am not proudly spending my money to support Canadian culture then I should shut my mouth. As Elvis sang, “A little less conversation a little more action…”

I too feel that Canadian identity is being swallowed up by the “Media Colonization and the Occupation of the Mind” that the USA is currently spreading. We do need not need more laws and tariffs to protect Canada. We need Canadians spending their money on Canadian Cultural endeavours. Buy a Canadian book, movie, CD. Go to our galleries, festivals, and museums. THEN when your precious source of culture is taken away? THEN you get to bitch.

So in the end behind the selling of HBC is the selling out of HBC by the Canadian consumer.