Thursday, November 10, 2016

Remember

November 10th, 2016
Photo by Eric Hill

I awoke this morning to a different world. It is a world I thought we had left behind decades ago, but apparently it was just buried under the facade of political correctness and affirmative action.  The US presidential election of 2016 did one thing very effectively;It shook America with a huge dose of reality.  The effects however, have far reaching aftershocks touching every part of the planet.  On the night of the election, when it was almost fully counted, the New Zealand dollar crashed and it is still trying to recover.  New Zealand.  The other side of the planet.

I could rant for an hour on my personal feelings but there is really no point.  The majority of the seats were elected Republican in alignment with the new president giving them the mandate to govern.  That is how democracy works.  You cannot believe in the process selectively.  The people have spoken (~ 50% of them anyway) and a new government is about to take power.

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans Day in the US.  It is a day we pause to reflect on the sacrifices made by our soldiers to defeat tyranny and oppression and to ensure that those who want democracy have the ability to pursue it.   We thank them for taking up arms against those who threaten democracy.  We remember that they gave their lives to protect our rights and freedoms. We remember that whether it was 1918 or 1945 or one of the many other conflicts this century that threaten the spread of democracy, young men and women have put themselves in harms way to ensure that YOU have the right to exist and express your voice without fear of persecution. 

This Remembrance day it is all that much more important for us to remember their sacrifice.  Remember that democracy is not about what is convenient for you but what is fair to ALL citizens. Remember that brave men and women gave their lives so that you could peacefully protest without fear of retribution. That your voices could be heard and that you matter.  Remember that all opinions are valid, even the ones you don't like and remember that NO ONE in a democracy is more important than any one else.

The events of recent days have left North America in shock and regardless of whose camp you were pulling for, there are extreme emotions everywhere.  Let us all take a long moment to remember that many thousands of men and women throughout history have given their lives to ensure that you have the right to cast that vote, to protest, to write that blog and to be who you need to be in a free society of equals.

On "The Eleventh" please take an extra moment to breathe and Remember.



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Omran's Ghost

Ghosts haunt me from the past this week.

I was brought to tears late last week reading first a post about a 4 year old girl who had endured such thorough verbal abuse that she actually thought her name was "Idiot".   Then shortly after, I made the mistake of watching the video report from Syria of the now famous young "Omran" sitting in the back on an ambulance trying to wipe blood from his face and his hands. That's when the the ghosts crept in.

I am sure there are still a few people out there who remember 1989, the wall, the communist block and the aftermath when it all came down. God help us if we ever forget.

My wife and I were in Romania shortly after the Communist rule of Nicolae CeauČ™escu came to a violent, bloody end. By mid 1990 the world was well aware of the corruption in the Romanian government under CeauČ™escu's rule and the thousands of orphaned children in institutions there.   We traveled there hoping to do something - anything - to change the situation for at least a few of those children.  We left jobs in limbo, barely had time to collect passports and other papers before catching a last minute flight to Bucharest and only caught our breaths for a moment of clarity somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. We had no clue what we were doing, but someone had to do something.  After we arrived, we found that were not the only lunatics who needed to get on a plane to save children.  We met many couples from all over the world who were equally lost and determined at the same time.  I am sure there is a novel worth writing there, but not today.

And we met the children. Hundreds of them. In Bucharest and Braila, in Alexandria and Constanza and Brasov. There were newborns and toddlers and pre-teens in every city, and they out numbered their care givers 300 to 1.   Occasionally we would meet an actual doctor, but for the most part facilities were staffed by two or three nurses or volunteers.  In Bucharest we spent some time with a special group of 3 to 5 year olds who managed to capture our hearts and memories. Children who had no awareness of the politics or the men who placed them there, were singing us happy songs and making their best impression in hope we would take them home, away from that place.

Men and politics and war and economics.... and the lives of children.

Twenty Six years later I can still see them when I close my eyes. I can smell the rooms, hear the cries, feel the sadness knowing we could not bring them all home and keep them safe.  I  often wonder how they are today. I wonder and hope that they survived and flourished. I also know that for most of them it is unlikely.  Those children may never know the names of the  men who's politics and greed for power put their tiny human lives at risk.  If they lived, they would be adults today in their mid to late twenties.  Dozens of couples flew to their aide and like us brought medicines and food and supplies, but we know it was not enough.   There were just so many of them. So many.

There were the twins in Orphanage number 1 who danced for us and there was the 5 year old in Bucharest hospital who sang "Good Morning Romania" at the top of her lungs every morning in spite of a crippling injury to her legs. There was the toddler in Braila who's parents simply could not afford to keep her and the baby who spent most of his time rocking and bouncing his head against the wall of his crib to fill the void created by lack of contact.  So many children needlessly abandoned by a system driven by powerful men and their politics.

The echoes of their voices, their memory ghosts haunt me today more than normal as I think of the children of Syria. I can't get the image of Omran trying to wipe the blood from his face and hands out of my mind.  More senseless politics and violence.
More damaged children.
More ghosts.



Friday, May 6, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

Our mother left this world over two decades ago, but during her life she profoundly affected the lives of many, many people.  I consider myself extremely blessed to be her son.

She taught me to be colour blind.  Skin colour was never part of a conversation in our house that I ever remember.  Looking back now I realize our closest friends ranged through a rainbow of skin tones and it was completely irrelevant.  Watching her, it was clear to me that a person's character was more important than where they were born or the language they spoke.

She taught me to never stop learning.  Our house was always filled with books of every kind.  Her bookshelf introduced me to the magical words of Farley Mowat, Ogden Nash, Pierre Berton, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov to name only a few. In her forties, she took the initiative to go back to school to pursue a degree - which she completed with honors.  Nothing was ever off-limits and no knowledge was ever bad.

She taught me to love unconditionally.  You know how in many communities there is that one woman that every kid calls "Mom"?  There was that one house you could go to when you were too scared to go anywhere else?  That was my mom.  Our doors were never locked and she always had time for everyone - particularly youth.  That inevitably led her to youth ministry and the hundreds of young adult lives she guided.  She never placed judgement, never criticized, never blamed. She was one of the best listeners I have ever had the privilege of knowing.

She taught me to respect all living things.  I grew up engulfed in the stories and the history of the Inuit, Haida, Salish and Maori cultures. The first children's story I remember was how Kiwi sacrificed his wings to save the forest floor.  I learned about Raven and Whale and how all the animals have a heart and sole. I was taught to care for and protect the world around me.

She taught me faith.  "All will be well" is written on her grave marker.  That may sound ironic but it is one of the most important lessons I ever learned from her.  She moved forward through difficult times on the raw belief that it all works out in the end.  Raw faith.

My experience with her shaped my understanding of the word "Mother".  It means strength, protection, knowledge, and faith. It does not require the act of childbirth or any genetic connection at all.  A Mother is caring and loving and enduring.

I hope you are blessed to have someone in your life you can call Mother.

Happy Mother's Day.





Friday, December 11, 2015

December


I awoke early and looked up to see
returning from some eastern sea
the Goddess of Love and her escort low
the morning sky a heavenly glow
December morning

Paints and glue and a particular decal
put together for someone special
A paper heart to hang on the tree
loving reminder of you and me
December afternoon

Discussions poetic and pondering
Hark the herald angels sing
Holly boughs, smell of pine
lingering hint of mulled wine
December evening

Sugar plum stories of a man in red
ballerina figurines dance in your head
candy-cane dreams of cinnamon and spice
hopes that tomorrow will bring snow and ice
December bedtime

Thinking of family and friends
joy that never ends
peace, love, and happiness too
Merry Christmas to all of you
December


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Too Wide A Brush

Not all terrorists are Muslim
I feel for those who lost people in France this month. At this moment, there is nothing we can do to make that situation better, but we can move forward with cautious awareness and avoid irrational backlash. It is understandable that people want justice, but since the Paris attacks, there has been an extreme outcry of rage against "Muslims" including a sentiment of "kill 'em all", burning of mosques, and political wall building tantamount to sanctioned racism.

I have many friends who are Muslim and I can guarantee you they are not terrorists. They are your neighbor, your grocer, your co-worker. People seem to not understand that there are several factions of Islam, just like there are several factions of Christianity and Judaism. Lumping all Muslims into one bucket and labeling them all terrorists is as ludicrous as assuming all Christians share the same values as those nut bags from the Westboro Baptist church. By that logic, you need to consider every Christian to be a homophobic, racist bigot white supremacist. It is irrational thinking in the extreme.

Someone said to me the other day that we feel like we are on the verge of a 3rd world war. I would argue that we are already in it - some people are just late to the party. This war pits logical, compassionate humans worldwide against the specific brand of evil that drives the ISIS engine. This is not a war of countries against countries and it is not about land appropriation. It is a war of ideals and the fight to ensure all earthlings have the right to think freely and express their beliefs without fear of persecution. ISIS is the enemy of all rational thinking humans.

This is not a war against Muslims and those who keep promoting that idea need to stop and educate themselves. As with Christianity or Judaism, there are many interpretations of religious "law". Sunni interpret Sharia differently than Shia and differently again then Sufi and Salafi. This is similar to the radical differences between strict baptists and protestants. Same Bible, different interpretations. ... and then there is Westboro...

Lately there seems to be a disturbing linkage between "Muslim" and "Terrorist" which is miss-leading. Are we forgetting Timothy McVeigh? Paul Jennings Hill? John Salvi? The "Army of God" is just as insane as ISIS, but on the Christian side of the coin. Not all Muslims are terrorists and not all terrorist are Muslim.

Having said all that, there is still a very bad segment of world population that are ISIS and supporters and they MUST be stopped. For the sake of all other humans on this planet, ISIS must be stopped. I only hope we can effectively target that evil segment of the population without unjustly harming our own neighbors because we painted with too wide a brush.

Be Awesome.  Change The World.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Exercising Demons


Hi.  My name is Tom and I am a writer.
I went cold turkey about 11 months ago on some advice I read about managing your demons.  It was bad advise.

My last post before this was December and I was closing out the year, reflecting and being philosophical. Shortly thereafter I read something somewhere about writers who tend to spend more time writing and ranting rather then "doing" anything actually useful.  After some introspection I decided I would drop writing as an active thing.  No more blog, no more deep posts, no more serious non-fiction.  I was going to focus on "doing" as opposed to "writing" - also known as thinking about doing.  I lasted a whole 11 months before falling off the wagon.

As it turns out, the writing part is actually the catalyst for the doing part and it took me a while to figure that out.  Like I said - bad advice.  I much prefer the advice of Will Wheaton on making life changes and the value of writing (and reading and other stuff).   Sadly, anyone I would turn to for advice - my mentors, coaches, would-be-sponsors - well, they are all writers too so I find no sympathy there. 

I am a story-teller.  It is what I do and denying it is just soul-crushing, it is just wrong.  While I tried to contain my need for literal expression, I was not successful at all and instead, it crept out in other ways.   Last week, a co-worker asked a simple question by email and I replied with a three-page diatribe on the proper use of the acronym for P.O.C.  Yesterday, I wrote a Facebook status update that was so long, it spilled over the edges of my 19" screen.  That one will likely become a more formal blog post at some point.  Another coworker commented that if I added up my business communications for the first half of November, I probably had already written the 50,000 words needed for the NaNoWriMo competition.   It is a sickness I am happy to surrender to.

I held back diligently during the Canadian election in October which was really really hard to do.  I restrained myself from commenting on yet another mass shooting or the one a day killing stat in the US.   I even  stopped myself from bursting with excitement when we finally got high-res photos of Pluto's moon Charon.   I will not apologize for being a science geek.

For what?  Nothing, that's what.  Holding back from expressing myself in written form did nothing to make the world a better place, nor did it help me focus on physically doing any more than I normally would.  In fact, the opposite happened - which in hindsight is obvious.  Writers are visual thinkers - they blurt out thoughts and emotions and chaos all over nice clean pieces of paper, permanently defacing them for the better.  Sometimes they are just words, but sometimes they bring people and ideas together.  Sometimes they stir up emotions and drive people into action.  Many times, they cause controversy and force people to express their own opinions just to counter yours.  Writing is good.  It is valuable.  It has meaning.

I am a writer.  I am a story teller.  I create worlds in my head and cast them out onto printed works for the universe to consume.  I generate controversy and conversation and I bring people together more then I tear them apart.  I am the physical engine at the business end of a pen.  My words inspire, challenge, examine, and thrill.  My thoughts are deeply consumed in the inner-workings of the human experience and I will not be swayed by political pressure to ignore a story screaming to be told.

Be Awesome.  Change The World.



Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy 2015!


Dawn.
End of darkness.
Creative thoughts start here.
Creative thoughts percolating in my brain over night like an unwatched pot on the stove boiling over finally emerge here -  at dawn.

It is New Years Eve,  December 31st 2014.  I look back over the past 364 days and try to compose a picture in my mind of what I have accomplished.  Who have I helped? What have I changed? Is the world a better place because of something I did? Is it? I hope so.  I hope that I have taken enough time out of my day to help others with their problems, to help someone get a better view of reality, or to make someone else's life more livable.

This past year I logged over 50,000 miles (80,500 Km) of air travel and transited through 65 airport stops.  In those travels I have to wonder if I made anyone's day a little better with a smile, or just by having a little more patience with gate staff.  I am sure I did in at least a few cases.  With that much travel you tend to see the same flight crews and gate attendants several times a year.  I often see the same same captain making sure she gets her box of TimBits for the crew before she boards her RJ700 for the leg to Denver at 7AM.  Those american pilots love their Canadian donuts :)

We all come in contact directly or indirectly with dozens of people every day and making just one extraordinary gesture can have a cascading effect.  Pay it forward.  Do something for someone else just to make their day better.  Be awesome just because the world needs more awesome.

I won't make any new year resolutions, they are fleeting and easy to dismiss.  We all need to work daily on self improvement, being better to the planet we live on, and being better neighbours to each other.  The day on the calendar should not make a difference.



Be Awesome. Change the world.