Re: Stubborn

This word’s structure is smile worthy. Two syllables; stub and born. In a quick dictionary search I found the word is listed as having no origin. I take this to mean that someone blindly made it up during a swearing tirade after having born the pain of a stubbed toe. Anyways, that’s what I would go with, if it came up while playing Balderdash.

I’m a person who admires perseverance, the sweet cousin of stubbornness, even if I lack it in some situations. I once quit a Bronze Level Red Cross swimming program after the first session. I neither had the mental stick-to-it-ness nor the physical stamina required to be a life guard-in-training. An Olympic level athlete has to be gold medal stubborn. Just like striving for the podium however, an unbending position comes at a cost, or at least a consequence. I try to take my time developing an opinion. Once it is set in stone it’s more difficult to retract. Most often in a conflict of interest situation, when my idea isn’t part of the groupthink, I will retreat and find my own ship to captain. Passive/aggressive stubbornness?

The value of stubbornness and its costs is depicted well in the film, ‘Sometimes a Great Notion’. Here, a hard scrabble west coast family owns a logging operation during a state wide strike. In a gasping portrayal of our environmental times we see several scenes of the rape of the planet for profit. Lives are altered, even extinguished in the dogged quest to fulfill a contract. The family motto is; “Never Give a (sic) Inch”. There is added tension when the prodigal son, a hippy, returns home. We watch and wonder if he will bring change. Alas he joins the foolishness of exploitation. The final scene gives us a literal middle finger from the patriarchal arm raised as the family’s tugboat pulls logs to market. The human multitude, following on the banks of the river, only shout and wave their fists at the injustice. I saw a parallel to today’s industrial titans, continuing their wasteful and polluting ways in the name of profit, stubbornly never giving an inch.

Being bull headed or stubborn as a mule can make you as immovable as a rock. Yet a rock can be covered in Rock,Paper,Scissors. A rock can erode over time. A rock can even be sold as a pet. To some, stubbornness is a manly virtue, where you stand tall, face to the wind, unbending until you crack, never backing down. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvlTJrNJ5lA

Being a stubborn force in the world can make you an oak, a rock, an island or a wall. There’s unfairness here in amongst the stubborn, foolish pride of going it alone. The barriers you put up may close in on you as readily as they keep others out. Paradoxically, in my own stubbornness, I feel the greatest need to touch and be touched. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKlSVNxLB-A

Re: Naïve

I enjoy how language can evolve. New words are coined. Words from other languages are kidnapped and tossed into our vernacular. The English Language has always been good at borrowing from other tongues. Words can be usurped and become so familiar that we just assume that they have always been ours. Naïve is such a word that started from Latin and moved through the French before being inserted into regular English discourse.

There are many synonyms for Naïve. I hear people use this word when wanting to disparage an individual. The implication being that they need to grow up, be realistic or just stop being so stupid. I think of myself as Naïve and I don’t like it when someone calls me that, when they really mean I am ignorant. I am ignorant sometimes because I don’t know everything; can’t possibly. My naïveté comes from being trusting; which I try to be.

Certainly naïveté can be ridiculed. You are considered a fool if you are too trusting to the point of being duped. Someone who is naïve is a target for a predator. That innocence can be picked up like a scent to someone who enjoys manipulating others.

The levidrome match for naive is Evian which I find amusing. A character in the film Reality Bites discovers this in a charmingly naive way. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQVw58aDt3Y
I can’t help but wonder if the naming of this product is a sly wink at the consumer who is paying for essentially something they can get for free, from a tap. I have no doubt we are living in a time when corporations encourage us to trust them over mere flesh and blood humans.

If trust is a value we still hold dear, in who/what or where can we place our trust? Many people put their trust in a deity. Faith in God is all about trust. Have corporations become the new god simply to help us mortals who are bombarded by so many competing choices? When we get worn down from so much decision making it’s easier to go with the label that looks familiar.

In politics we are massaged into putting our trust in the candidate who says they have our best interests at heart. Before we cast our ballot, we must separate the rhetoric from the appearance. We must wade through the issues and pick the values or ideas that are presented before we can honestly and objectively decide amongst the candidates. This is tough work!

Some of us worry that we will make the wrong choice in our naïveté. We might err on the side of caution, reluctant to commit because of our doubts. We might choose the lesser of two evils. We might follow our peers, blindly, in an effort to fit in. At the end of the day we must trust that things will work out and hope that we haven’t been conned as individuals or as a society.

Yet voting still matters. No matter the cost, your view matters. Stand tall.

Re: Generosity

In the column of values that define me, Generosity is low on the list. I can be very selfish when it comes to my material possessions: My belongings are just that, my belongings. I think of my house the same way I think of my clothes: I wouldn’t want anyone to put their hands in my pockets. It’s almost a question of privacy. I like to provide for people when they are my guests, but I can’t seem to use the phrase ‘make yourself at home’. I do envy those with such big hearts they can shout, “Mi Casa Su Casa”. These folk likely believe that what you give comes back to you. And I believe that too. However, being an introvert by nature also makes me timid about opening wide too many doors at once.

I’ve been told I am a good host. I’m attentive and often a good listener.
My dad taught me that the best thing you can do for someone is to make them feel they are special. When someone is in my company I try to keep the focus on them. I’d actually call myself bashful if the focus turns to me so I’m more comfortable asking questions that lead to storytelling.

I once got an evil eye for commenting about a heaping plate of salad, “That’s a generous helping you have there”. I can certainly be generous with my opinions. I try to appreciate that being opinionated can be construed as being judgemental yet I so often find that life is just such a big, sometimes overwhelming, bag of curiosities. I don’t have the time or desire to proclaim judgement, just to comment.

I wonder if one can be generous in receiving? If so then I can do that. I think that’s what makes me a great audience member. I have the utmost respect for performance, which is in itself, an act of giving generously. I get such a thrill after a show, if I can speak to the artist personally about what their effort has meant to me. Certainly I am one who is generous with praise. Some would say lavish and others might say I am too gushy. No matter, my generosity extends to cheering on my fellow citizens whenever I see the merit, and I refuse to hold back. Those who are willing to make themselves seen; either in politics, sport, art or as a citizen concerned with justice, deserve to be acknowledged for their effort and leadership. I do not wish to wait to sing someone’s praises after their death.

One of the quickest ways to feel a part of a new community is to volunteer. Giving generously of your time and talent gives a boost to you and others. Since retiring I have found great value in volunteering. I have enjoyed working in this way with several groups who have shown respect for my generosity by inviting me into their special world. This in turn has made my world larger and more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.

Re: Assurance

There is great satisfaction in figuring something out and then taking the time and energy to make it all work. Artists rehearse and rehearse. Editing has a purpose: to try to remove doubt, to seek assurance that the work will be the best it can be.

I think of the word assurance in a forward way. By planning ahead I feel I can cover whatever eventualities might occur and then “come hell or high water” I have some assurance that my plan will reach a preferred outcome. I’m not one for leaving things to chance. I don’t want to gamble my life with a ‘wait and see’ attitude.

Assurance is different from insurance in my mind. Insurance is a bet you make that something is going to go wrong and then you will be compensated. I don’t want compensation. I want confirmation that I have taken steps to reduce the inevitable risks of life. Shit will happen. Assurance is what I provide for myself by checking. I look to see if I am on the right track. I refer to my self designed map to assuage doubt.

I can be slothful, but only after my plans have been made. My plans often come in the form of forecast. I like to see the future as I would like it to be, then take the steps to arrive there. It’s logical to me. Sometimes I will plan down to the smallest detail, laying out various scenarios in my head. The downside of this is that I will often be disappointed.

Being a planner has its benefits and its baggage. When you wish to be in control you must commit time to planning. Truth is, I am not a ‘random’ person. That philosophy appeals to me on a Zen level; live for today and all that. But randomness is too close to chaos for my liking. My planning is my security blanket that I wrap around me when chaos reigns. I feel I have developed a set of strategies for when I have to surrender control. I’m getting better at going with the flow when others are making the decisions yet my patience is still tested until I have some assurance of the outcome.

Some have said that plans are for fools because there is always the unknown eventuality. Robbie Burns in his Ode to a Mouse captured this in the oft repeated line; “the best laid schemes o’ mice and men”. By seeking assurance I am not so naive as to believe that I can eliminate all random acts. I know that you can’t plan for everything. There are some things that we just can’t imagine might happen, these are the unpredictables or the “unknown unknowns” as Dick Cheney once said. He also spoke of known unknowns, which I believe, with planning, you can ameliorate to some extent.

I want adventure in my life. I want to explore even the deepest forest. Assurance to me is about feeling confident that, even if I do get lost, I can find my way back home.

Re: Parent

This word can be used in various places in a sentence and in public. Everyone has an opinion, whether they are a parent or not, about what constitutes good parenting. I have seen a lot of changes in people’s views of parenting during my lifetime. The proverbial pendulum has swung from letting your kids go free range to hovering and now there is a return to a more loosely guided parental approach based on reasoning that includes plenty of dialogue between the elder and the growing child.

Most people my age can tell tales of being out in the world at an early age. I lived my formative years in Scarborough, Ontario. From grade three onward I was what some have called a latch-key kid: Apartment door key tied to a shoelace around my neck, I left before eight in the morning to walk the two miles to school, making it safely back home in time for dinner. No, the journey wasn’t uphill both ways. On weekends I would play outside all day at a nearby urban creek until my dad would come calling for me. When I was nine I was allowed to go to the annual end of summer Toronto Exhibition for the first time on my own. Mom checked my wallet for bus tickets, free entry pass and a two dollar bill and some coins. She gave me a pat on the bum and told me the usual, “Be back before dark.”

In today’s culture, I wonder if my parents would be put on charges. I can say I felt they were both good parents. I can’t say my mom was a stellar role model (especially for my sister) but both she and my dad gave me the essentials. My mom had a ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ style of parenting and I generally obeyed whereas my sister used my mom’s contradictions and absences to full benefit. Both my parents worked (my dad had three jobs for a stretch) so I was often expected to be the guardian older brother to my only sibling. That role gave me parental insight, but mostly I felt saddled by unwanted responsibility at too young an age.

It’s commonly said there is no such thing as a ‘parental handbook’ and there is no sure way to predict if your particular parental approach is going to deliver the perfectly well adjusted child. Yet everyone seems to be watching and providing a critique on how you are doing.

I used to lead a series of parenting workshops with my late wife. First we were asked by other folk in our church congregation to play host to circle discussions on child rearing. Word spread of our apparent success as facilitators and soon we got a gig with the city to run a series of night classes. Our qualifications? Parenting three sons and having a willingness to learn with others.

Two of my sons now have babies. Time for me to watch and learn some more.

Re: Science

I was a science geek in high school. I loved the natural sciences in particular so I chose that stream of study that eventually gave me the prerequisites to attend university where I initially enrolled in a Marine Biology program. Jacques Cousteau was my idol during my teenaged years and I could think of no better goal in life than to sail the seven seas with him as my mentor.

I ended up being an elementary school teacher, but that is a story for another page. My early study and appreciation of Science, however, persists to this day. Science is my discipline, a way of seeing the world, a methodology and a category under which I can sort problems. It fits me.

The scientific method can be summarized as testing an idea, observing the results, drawing a conclusion based on those results and then allowing others to check those findings. Faith is not required, neither is hope, nor is belief. The experiment will either answer questions or not. This method doesn’t have to be applied in a lab setting, although it’s often easier to control the variables in that enclosed environment. I can relate to the character Data on Star Trek; The Next Generation when I am using Science to solve a problem in my life. I know I can come across as cold, even android, when I am being so Captain Obvious.

To some people Science is more like a religion. They might reference our current Global Warming crisis by saying, “Science will save us!” Scientists would reject this association, as the work of science is empirical; it must be tested and tested again. It is not something that you can believe in. Science is measurable and it can be frustrating when the data doesn’t make sense. There will always be inexplicable things in our world but I believe there is pleasure to be found in the search for truth. For example, we know that gravity is a fact: Isn’t that why we are careful, or thrilled, when we walk near a precipice?

Our chemical makeup is also obvious. Changes in our bodies are often the result of atoms and molecules behaving in response to certain external or internal forces. What we eat or drink affects us, how we move about, what we breathe and even how we sleep, affects our chemistry. We can take medicine to alleviate symptoms or do drugs to bring on a self imposed perceptual shift. Our chemistry doesn’t define us yet it certainly affects who we have become.

In a social setting, if you come across like Star Trek’s Spock you may not make many friends. Other imaginary humans like Sherlock Holmes become more relatable when you discover that they too can appreciate beauty and form bonds with other humans. In real life we are not scripted. The truth is, it’s not always easy to find balance before making a decision.

However, the artist and the scientist dwelling within us all, can create a beautiful dance. Maybe finding the right music is the problem!

Re: Massage

I like to massage my mind with quiet moments spent reading or writing. While the left side of my brain is digesting the vocabulary, the right side is creating wonderful pictures. These images in turn cross my midline and activate a basketful of homonyms, synonyms and antonyms. Crossword puzzles tease my cerebral cortex with clues that reveal facts and help me recall information that I thought was long gone.

A body massage can work in a similar way. When I get a massage I feel my cells communicate with each other. I think of the body as a whole world unto itself with transportation systems, electrical systems, support systems, security systems, waste management systems and communication systems. Your body, like the world, needs these systems to function effectively. The instant my massage therapist lays hands on me my cells become aware of each other and start processing shared knowledge. My toes are appreciated by my pelvic muscles and my ears are aware of vibrations in my intestinal tract. I see humour in this admission but the sense of oneness I feel is nonetheless profound.

I like the spelling of the word massage: It’s one letter away from message. Whether my brain or body is getting massaged, I am experiencing a state of inner communication. I am sending and receiving messages. Advertisers know this connection well and use it to sell products and/or ideas. “The medium is the message” is a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan. I say the medium can also be a massage. We become vulnerable to suggestion and manipulation. We can be massaged into believing we need a product. We are sometimes manipulated to see a candidate in a certain way, to feel soothed by voting for someone based less on fact and more on promises.

Massage is often made fun of in the way that North Americans tend to be uncomfortable with any notion of touching. Massage is often associated with sexual experience rather than therapeutic practice. We live in a time when touch arouses suspicion. Boundaries are being declared. Consent is being redefined. Privacy issues are becoming more important as we acknowledge that almost everything in our life is being recorded. We are being massaged into believing that everything is going to be all right. Yet we have doubts. We wonder if we can trust others when we are not quiet sure if we can trust ourselves.

We need to be touched. Baby massage has been promoted for some time now as a way to help the infant relax and to strengthen the bond between parent and child. I remember how my dying mother responded to someone who massaged her head while cutting her hair. Humans respond instinctively to the warm message that a touch can provide. When I am being massaged by my trusted practitioner I can relax for a spell. In quiet contemplation I can focus on a few singular things and not run headlong into a future that is uncertain. My mind and body can feel in harmony.