MOTHER'S EULOGY

Rita Barr 12/28/1915-27/07/2010                                                    Last picture: 13/07/2010

Thanksgiving weekend. What an appropriate time for gathering to
celebrate and give thanks for Mom. Thank you for coming

I am slowing making the necessary adjustments in my life.… Over the past 10 years Mom and I walked about 3000 miles together. We always walked arm in arm... Now for the second time in my life,…I've had to learn to walk on my own.

I have also had to learn to drive without Mom's help.... I had to relearn the red light means stop and the green light means go…. Mom was always able to tell me to go,…before I could move my foot from the brake to the accelerator…. I remember one winter day when there was a bit of snow on my driveway,...I didn't make it up the 30' incline to the flat area at the top. I said something like, "Oh oh, we're not going to make it"; but before I could say "I'll have to let the van slide down and try again", Mom said, "Just let the van slide down and try again."

I am not making as much progress with the house work…. I only manage to do the dishes once a day. It was Mom's job to make sure the dishes were washed and put away after every meal….And I haven't been making my bed every day either. It was Mom's job....to remind her 63 year old son to make his bed.

The adjustments continue.

I would like to thank Uncle Doug for sharing family memories of early years with Mom…. She didn't have many left.

Typical of kids, I didn't notice Mom until I was 12 years old and began delivering the Globe and Mail;…and then it was only because she woke me up every morning for the next 6 years…. On the coldest and rainiest days Mom drove me around my route…. I can't recall how many times during the eight years I practiced,…that Mom sat beside me on the piano bench…. Just one other memory rises above remembering Mom dedicated her life to us. After telling Mom I didn't make the university football team, she asked,..."Do you want me to phone the coach and tell him how really good you are?"

The second time I grew up I paid attention.

The garden we created is a living memory.

I will remember the 3000 games of scrabble we played.… Mom enjoyed winning but always felt sorry for me....when I lost.
Then there are the 2000 games of solitaire I watched Mom play…. She enjoyed beating the computer.

Also among my memories….are the hundreds of trips we made to the farmers market on Sundays. Mom most enjoyed wandering by the tables of pastries like she used to eat before she came to live with me…. It was special for her because I always bought something she liked, then we would find a place in the sun to eat it;…and I would repent.

I can't forget all the meals we prepared together. Mom stirred the porridge every morning, made the coleslaw at noon and cut or chopped everything I needed for supper….except onions…. We always did the dishes after every meal.

Then there was all the time we spent sitting on the bench by the window in our entrance.… We watched the rain and snow fall,…looked at the garden,…planned our chores,…chatted,…generally watched the world go by and time pass…. Occasionally,…we cried over diminished life.

I'll really remember our hugs. They were special. Mom was not a hugger but I was determined to give Mom several hugs a day whether or not she needed them.... I would put my arms around her and urge her to hug me. Sometimes she would…and fairly often….after she had had enough hug time,…usually about 5 seconds,… Mom would grab the skin on either side of my chest and squeeze until I cried for mercy…. But I never quit hugging her,…even though the thought of the next big squeeze made me nervous.

We did have some conflict as well. One of our battlegrounds was the fridge…. When I was growing up Mom bought enough food for seven for a week. On Fridays it was always a coin toss if the fridge door would shut…. I shopped for two and can't organize more than three days ahead…. When Mom first moved in with me she would open the fridge and ask, "Where is the food?".... When I put things in the fridge I'd leave them at the front of the shelves. The first chance Mom got,...she moved everything to the back….I'd ask, "What are you doing?" and she would reply,…"Just making room."

Another battleground was the scrabble board. At least once a week Mom would pick out her seven tiles and then try to put some back. I would say, "You can't put your letters back. You have to play what you pick." and Mom would shoot back, "I can't make a word with four "I's"."… At least once a game we would fight over the score keeping….Keeping score was my job… but often as I was beginning to use the fingers on my second hand,…Mom would finish adding up the score in her head. I never said a word. I just stared at her over my glasses until she reacted. She always laughed and said, "You… are… so… slow."…. We never resolved these conflicts.

Dominating memories of the last 10 years is the laughter we shared,…especially when it was sparked by something Mom said;…and that was quite often because as I discovered in our second life together, she had an acute sense of humour…. I remember the time we were going to buy ice cream cones and I asked Mom for my allowance…. She pulled a 5 dollar bill from her purse that had seen better days,… and as Mom handed it to me she said, "It is just like me,…old and wrinkled."

Most recently while Mom and I were getting our hair cuts, she was finished and sitting on a bench when a mountie big enough to fill the doorway walked in. Before he could say a word Mom asked, "Are you here to arrest someone?"…. "You", he replied…. "Just try it", Mom dared…. "I don't think I will.", he said, adding to the laughter.

I will remember Mom laughing the hardest,…the longest….and most often at our cat Zola…. Every night while I set up the computer so Mom could play solitaire,…Zola stretched out on the bed and looked back at Mom…. Mom would grab Zola's tail and drag her across the bed while she tried to crawl away.…When Mom let go, Zola shot to the edge of the bed where she waited for Mom to grab her tail …and pull her across the bed again….This went on for about 5 minutes and Mom laughed heartily the entire time. Because she avoided us until the next night,…I think Zola played just to hear Mom laugh. I know I did. I appreciated her help.

My final memories are from Mom's last three days.… After a good day, Saturday evening Mom said, "I'm not feeling well."…. Sunday morning she said, I feel wretched."…. At the clinic….during tests Mom said, "The old grey mare she ain't what she used to be."…. Tuesday afternoon while she was out of bed for the last time,…. Mom tried to pick up a kleenex she had dropped. As she sat on the bed before laying down for the last time… Mom looked at me and repeated a comment she had made many times before. "I didn't think I would end up this way." At about 5 in the afternoon Mom said, "I am tired…. I want to go to sleep…. Get me my pyjamas."

Those were Mom's last words;…but I hope they were not her last thoughts. Even after the oxygen,…IV and drainage tubes were removed,…Mom slept for 6 hours…. Because she was sleeping I couldn't give her ice chips,…so to moisten Mom's mouth the nurse gave me several packages of what looked like large Q-tips,… saturated with a fruit flavoured liquid. There was cherry,...Mom's favourite,…strawberry, raspberry and a couple others….

Now in all the years I lived with Mom….I never heard her mention "heaven";...but knowing her,…I suspect she would have agreed that her idea of heaven…was a table of desserts…that stretched from here to eternity…. So every time I moistened Mom's mouth with one of the Q-Tips,…and I used them all,…I was hoping Mom was thinking,…"I'm dying and going to heaven."

Mother's Wake

OLYMPIC LETTERS

These are letters written to the editors of Whistler's two newspapers "Pique and Whistler Question.

 1. One World One Olympic Dream  August 25 2008 (P)
 2. Voyage of the Damned to Olympics  July 20 2009 (P)
 3. Missing Olympic Spirit  July 28 2009 (P)
 4. Olympic Opening  August 16 2009 (P)
 5. Olympic Memories  September 22 2009 (P)
 6. Olympic Pictures Worth a Thousand Words  October 4 2009 (P)
 7. The Light of the Olympic Torch  October 12 2009 (P)
 8. Olympic Security October 25 2009 (P)
 9. Olympic Credibility  October 25 2009 (WQ)
10. Olympic Spirits  November 2 2009 (P & WQ)
11. Olympic Insecurity November 26 2009 (P)
12. Olympic Bookends December 3 2009 (P)
13. Olympic Orgy December 10 2009 (P)
14. Christmas and Olympic Stories: do you believe? December 31 2009 (P)
15. Mom's Olympics January 14 2010 (P)
16. Olympic Afterglow January 28 2010 (P)
17. Olympic Costs February 4 2010 (P)
18. Olympic Bobbleheads February 11 2010 (P)
19. Making Olympic Poetry February 18 2010 (P)
20. Closing Letter March 4 2010 (P)

1. One World One Olympic Dream  August 25 2008 (P)

Both you and Max wrote prose opinions on the Olympics this past week. I wrote 2 poetic opinions, both as usual more like the one on the back page. You might have heard Peter Mansbridge's announcer read "Olympic Nightmare" on the National. A couple days later I wrote to thank the editor for my "Olympic moment". At the same time I told him I wasn't a fan of the Olympics epitomized by the spectacle of the media worshiping at the feet of Michael Phelps after he worked his magic on the water, a spectacle made worse by the announcer's comment when Phelp's won his seventh medal that his endorsement value had just risen to 35 million dollars. I told the editor that it was in both contexts that I wrote "Olympic Dreams".

Last night CTV's Lisa Laflamme ended her Olympic story by reminding us each Canadian gold medal winner received $20,000 while the losers who got the silver and bronze  would received $15,000 and $10,000 respectively. She then informed us that this was petty cash in comparison to the millions awarded to the Chinese gold medal winners who were going to receive 100 times the lifetime earnings of the average Chinese worker. "One world one dream" indeed; unless of course the dream is to win the Olympic 'gold'. Bring on the presidential race to the Gold House.

2. Voyage of the Damned to Olympics  July 20 2009 (P)

In your opening remarks you wrote about how the visa requirements will diminish Mexican tourist visits to Whistler. On the opposing page there is a declaration of war against pay parking. In the letters Harvey Lim and Greg Diamond rant against the sheer lunacy of removing the beautiful median on Blackcomb way to accommodate Olympic traffic to Celebration Plaza. Erin McCann wrote she's "had enough". Alex Wilde wanted "something for us". Linda McGraw and D.W Buchanan lamented the dreadful service in Whistler.

Leading the "news" there is "Anxiety high among business owners as 2010 draws closer". "RMOW staff costs increased 12.8% in 2008." On the last page Max once more counted the ways the mayor and counsel have gotten it wrong and again got a bigger number. Not in Pique but related there was a TV item this past week about our preparedness for the hundreds of visitors to Whistler for the Olympics who will likely bring with them the H1N1 virus. In the news headlines for the coming week on Global there is an item titled something like "the games are coming to BC and Whistler is going to pay".

On the cover of Pique this past week there was the headline "Voyage of the Dammed" and a picture of two beavers in a mountain lake. After reading the paper my impression was the headline and the picture were not connected. It seemed to me the "Voyage of the Dammed" is about the citizens of Whistler.

3. Missing Olympic Spirit  July 28 2009 (P)

Part of the missing collective Olympic spirit everyone is looking for is mine; and if the life of this Olympic monster depended on my contribution of spirit, it would die. I withhold my support only indirectly because of the obscene amount of money (some of it my taxes) being spent allowing a thousand or so elite athletes to decide who is best in a disintegrating world on one day in February 2010. I withhold my support more directly because the Olympics represents a way of life in such a state it seems almost as much money will be spent protecting it as running the event.

Most directly though I have a view of life in which we have unique capacities and that realizing them should be an Olympic journey for each of us regardless of our capacities. In this view there are no parades for individuals but rather a collective parade of human achievement in which we all participate. Rather than periodic competitions to see who is best there is constant unconditional cooperation to make each other better. Life is a continuous celebration in which each of us receives the same reward.

The 2010 Olympics distorts my view and while I am not trying to change anyone else's view I won't help perpetuate another with even my miniscule allotment of spirit. Sadly for humanity but luckily for Whistler I am probably the only one withholding my spirit because of this view. Everyone else it seems is just suffering as if in a bad marriage. When it began six years ago the 'marriage' seemed to fill the void in their lives. However, like all relationships that begin with that expectation, six years into it the partners once again see the black hole that creates a floating anxiety from which they wish to escape. However, rather than abandoning the Olympic relationship, the partners, like good parents, will stay together for the kids. The Olympics will 'succeed'. What comes after is anyone's guess.

4. Olympic Opening  August 16 2009 (P)

I want to thank Max for writing, "Welcome home, troops". He often leaves useful openings in his columns and this past week his statement "I don't know what the appropriate role should be for Canada's military" left an opening large enough to drive a tank through. I know our technology has 'improved' so that we are beyond beating our "swords into plowshares" but I would suggest we really should begin converting our tanks to tractors and training fighters to be farmers.

Also in Pique this week Jim Horner wrote a letter urging us to read the "adopt-a-fry" letter by Alexandra Morton; and to ask for help producing and distributing "adopt-a-fry" fliers during the Olympics. A couple days prior to the distribution of Pique, DFO announced the Fraser River salmon fishery was closed because there were virtually no fish returning to the river. Meanwhile, our defense minister proudly announced he purchased on our behalf a multibillion dollar fleet of helicopters so we can continue to more effectively protect the way of life that seems to have brought the pacific salmon to the brink of extinction. Can there be any doubt we are living in the "Age of Asininity"?

Perhaps my mother and I will be visiting some of the Olympic venues; but not to view the events. While the military planes pass overhead, helicopters hover and troops march through the village in a multi billion dollar effort to protect the Olympic party, we might be handing out about ten dollars worth of modified fish fliers. Superimposed on the "adopt-a-fry" information will be the words "Too late" and what I think could well be the epitaph of humanity. It is a quote I read in an article entitled "Protesting at Climate Ground Zero" by Mark Engler. Commenting on the 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Harvard University oceanographer James McCarthy said, "The worst stuff is not going to happen ... because we can't be that stupid." Where's the proof?

5. Olympic Memories  September 22 2009 (P)

Max has again engaged my mind. Unlike him I could not have recalled the highlights of the Calgary Olympics. However, had he mentioned "Eddie the Eagle" and Jamaican bobsled team I would have been able to connect them with the 1984 Olympics. Having passed his test on my terms I continued to recall other Olympic memories. The first that I don't have to be reminded of with historical video is the 1968 Olympics at which Nancy Green and Jean-Claude Killy were multiple winners. I cannot recall watching their races and more vivid than their results was the memory of the sponsorship deals they won with GM. Beyond being somehow involved in auto shows I don't know what else Nancy did but who can forget J-K, ass back tips up 'free' skiing the powder of the world for GM. My next memory is of the '76 Olympics in Montreal that could "no more run a deficit than a man can become pregnant". It will forever be known as the "Big Owe" and it was at least 2001 and perhaps even 2006 before the city was able to remove the debt legacy from their books.

The '84 Olympics I remember for the boycott and my cousin riding her horse "Dreamcrest" in one of the equestrian events. No one will forget the "88 Olympics in Seoul when Ben Johnson precipitated the war on drugs in sport that now requires a budget to keep the games 'clean' that rivals the budget to keep them safe. In '96 Atlanta there was Donavon Bailey, Bruny Surin, Glenroy Gilbert and Robert Esmie. Because Clara Hughes won Gold in Turin I know she also medaled in Atlanta because the media made such a big deal about the first Canadian to win a medal in both a summer and winter Olympics. However, more prominent than them all in my memory is cyclist Kurt Harnet and only because of a casual conversation with my brother, an avid cyclist at the time. Despite being told Kurt had thighs the size of my 31 inch waist I remember him because his blond curly mullet got him a sponsorship with a shampoo manufacturer so he was called "Pert" Harnet.

I have two memories of the '98 Olympics in Nagano. One is of Ross Rebagliati and second hand dope. The other is an iconic picture of Wayne Gretzky siting on the end of the bench apparently with tears in his eyes after losing the gold medal hockey game. I don't recall the original but the replay was used hundreds of times to justify hiring the now 9 million dollar a year coach of the bankrupt Coyotes to run team Canada in 2002 because "he gets it." That year the Canadian hockey teams did win the gold medals but the Olympics lost to the Sele´and Pelletier judging scandal. I remember in 2006 the Canadian men's hockey team was humiliated by a 6th place finish; and Cindy, Clara, Oh Canada Chandra and Jennifer all won medals. There are two memories of the '08 games that will be forever etched in my mind. The first occurred immediately after Michael Phelps won his eighth gold medal when the commentator said, "That will be worth another million in endorsements." My last Olympic memory is the revelation that the Beijing Olympic committee had a little girl with gold medal looks lip sink the words of their national anthem sung by another little girl with a gold medal voice but with a face judged not pretty enough to make the podium.

I wonder what my memories of these Olympics will be. If we "show the world that we Canadians know how to throw one hell of a party", perhaps it will be one hell of a hangover I remember. Despite persistent assurances, maybe we will all remember the Whistler Olympics were the Big Owe Owe. It could be I will remember my nephew Davey realizing his dream of Olympic gold in skier cross. That would be a pleasant memory as would be memories of Ashleigh, Mercedes, and Julia, daughters of acquaintances, realizing their dreams.  I hope I will remember my mother and I watching figure skating together. It is her favourite. I will have memories because I will be watching some events. I have always appreciated the Olympic effort the athletes put into their activity. In my view which extends somewhat beyond the edge of our paved parking lots, it is this level of effort without 'Olympic' organizing committees, that will be required by all of us if we can repair the legacy our Olympic lifestyle has left. So my most cherished memory of the 2010 Olympics would be if February marked the time in our history when the Olympic movement was flushed.


6. Olympic Pictures Worth a Thousand Words  October 4 2009 (P)

The 'news' in Pique this past week was bookended by two equally inspiring columns that created a momentary dilemma until I saw the connection between the two. Both columns were 'pictures'. On the first page was a professional snap shot of us 'working' on climate change. If I could do it alone I would remove the "taxpayers" from the bottom of the picture. Agreeing we have degraded Nature and it might matter we don't, if we do not remove from the picture of climate change, "taxpayers" and the divine Economy we represent, there is as much chance of us reversing to the extent we can the destructive effects we have had on our environment as melting glaciers have of surviving the hell we have created.

On the last page was an artist's rendering of a future Olympic event. I could but I won't be painting myself in beside Max. Evidence confirms that next to "taxpayers" the greatest source of the conflict killing us are worshipers of gods. If I could do it alone I would also remove worshipers from the picture of humanity for as long as they are in the picture we will not be able to save ourselves. This assessment keeps me away from the church in which I was raised. If I painted myself into Max's picture I would feel like I was back in church.

Even so, neither will I be seen in a picture with protesters against climate or any other cause creating conflict with adherents or true believers who want to worship at the Olympic alter. I have changed myself. That is all I can do. I cannot change humanity.

7. The Light of the Olympic Torch  October 12 2009 (P)

The Olympic torch does not shed a lot of light. In fact it is more like a lightning bolt than a torch so what we see depends on who holds it and the direction it is pointed when it flashes. In your column you noted when "officials (hold the torch) the Olympics are about numbers, dollars, efficiencies, strategies, contractual obligations." When you held it, "They are about people."

I won't hold the torch but from where I watch the light show, in the flashes I see there is an eerie similarity between the Olympics and Christmas except that the former is only a quadrennial economic tsunami. Both have changed. Christians used to celebrate Christmas to thank Christ for saving their lives. Now retailers of every persuasion thank Christ for saving their bottom lines. Athletes used to thank God for sports. Now members of the IOC thank God for athletes who will live in 'stables' for years and sacrifice their lives so the members can live in 5 star inns. Unlike in previous centuries athletes and Christ are similarly incidental to the Olympic Games and Christmas respectively. The motto of Christmas used to be "peace on earth good will toward men" but now it is buy more than last year. The Olympic motto has changed from "swifter, higher, stronger" to good, better, best; and this year Canada has added its own "Buy the Podium". It seems only tradition prevents the respective events from being renamed Cashmass and Olympic Business.

As much as I would like Sara Jennings to succeed in changing the Olympics, changing them by attacking the IOC has as much chance of succeeding as trying to change our focus back to the original motto of Christmas by attacking retailers. The retailers only supply the materialistic stuff with which we try to fill the void in our lives. We create the demand. Given the nature of the void, more is never enough so we have similarly created the demand for 24/7 mind numbing entertainment of which the IOC supplies only a microscopic amount. Attacking it is futile. Nevertheless, if it matters that we survive it is obvious the Olympics must change but not because we change them. Rather they must change as an incidental consequence of us eliminating the demands that have brought humanity deep into the "Age of Entertainment" with catastrophic results. If we care we must hurry for current events are confirming we have already entered the "Age of Asininity" which clearly has the potential of being our last age.   

The 2010 Olympics are coming and with them comes hope. They have already been destructive enough so I hope no one deliberately stands in the way and that we all survive the wave. For the sake of humanity I hope the Games proceed without conflict despite their perverted goal because we need to see in the athletes the rare Olympic effort to "reach out the limits of their capacities..." we all need to make if we are to survive. Finally, I hope someone is able to create a mirror that reflects the light of the Olympic torch in a way each of us can see the source of destruction so the games legacy will be "people" who began the age of peace and good will toward others.

8. Olympic Security October 25 2009 (P)

Is Max still able and willing to speak? Shortly after Pique was distributed on Thursday I heard a commotion reminiscent of that associated with a deployed swat team and my first thought was the IOCops were heading to Max's house followed by a boisterous crowd of beer carrying "professional partiers" who wanted to see Max swatted. I'll be surprised if that wasn't what the noise was about. Sending the "memo to Olympics: F#*k You!" probably evoked the same hostile reaction he would receive from believers were he to lift the Pope's robe to see if he was sitting on his hands while preaching against deviating from church doctrine.

9. Olympic Credibility  October 25 2009 (WQ)

Ingrid Rice's editorial cartoon made my mind work. I scratched my head for quite a few seconds before I made the connection between the childish rhyme "Liar, liar pants on fire" and the flame drawn on Gordon Campbell's ass. It could just have easily been meant to represent one of those burning stacks you see in oil fields that burn off excess gas. In a few minutes of alternating thoughts after I made the connection I ended at the conclusion the cartoon was political which is to say it was created without any thought.

The caption read, "With his record of credibility, Gordon's presence at the Olympic torch lighting ceremony creates a moment of confusion." It implies the belief the Olympics does not have a credibility problem when clearly it does. Even given the divine placement of 1600 guards at the end of "The Rainbow", anyone with even one functioning brain cell cannot reconcile the belief the Olympics brings the world together in peace, and the $1 billion it is going to cost to keep parts of humanity apart. It is impossible for a thinking person not to become confused by Gordon's belief the "Olympics is about inspiring people to be the best we can be" and the fact $15 million has been spent to set up and operate the drug lab to catch those who will do whatever it takes to be the best; but then, we have never allowed the facts to distort a good belief.

No, rather than create a moment of confusion, Gordon's presence at the lighting of the Olympic torch created much more than a moment of clarity. To better represent the occasion a more appropriate cartoon would have been one of Gordon Campbell standing on a podium delivering his political speech while someone lit the Olympic torch with the little flame on his butt. 

10. Olympic Spirits  November 2 2009 (P & WQ)

I am disappointed by the extraordinary effort being made to have the bars and restaurants remain open an extra hour during the Olympic games. It is apparently so important the editor of Pique has now written 2 columns (Oct 15, Oct 29) in support of extended hours, separated appropriately by a column praising the effort required to bring to Whistler an MRI, a machine that will no doubt be used most often to diagnose damage to brain cells.

In my view of life there is an "ideal" which leaves no room for alcohol. It is a view in which the "ideal" purpose is for each one of us to reach out to the limits of our capacities. It is the view on which the "Olympic" ideal of "being the best we can be" was based before it was debased by the purpose of everyone involved in the Olympics trying to win 'gold'. Our capacities form a continuum that ranges from the physical to the mental and at no time in the history of humanity has alcohol been shown to help us reach out to the limits of our mental capacities. In fact to the contrary, the only purpose alcohol serves is to diminish our mental capacities so that when we are under its influence we are somewhere on the continuum of less than the best we can be that ranges from slightly incapacitated down to the point our mental capacities are completely "wasted".

Now given our predominant dependency on alcohol to accomplish the declared goal to remove at least the edge from our minds with a great Olympic party, I know closing down bars completely for all time, which I advocate, is not an option. Indeed, if Whistler decided to close the bars during the Olympics no one would come and we would confirm without a doubt what "The Games" are essentially about. However, if we were to at least leave the hours the bars are open unchanged we would in a small way be honouring the athletes' Olympic effort to be the best they can be by not adding to the $1 billion security budget needed to prevent us from moving closer to the worst we can be.

11. Olympic Insecurity November 26 2009 (P)

Max did it again with his column "...Olympic farce". He turned on one of  the lights above my head that has been there for a long time but in the interest of going green I have left it off for quite a while. For the fact it is now on, blame Max. It is my fault it will require a few minutes to find the switch.

In the meantime, the light shines on security but before you turn me off let me assure you this letter is not specifically about Olympic security. Enough has been said about the billion dollars committed to the games security, the troop deployments that would protect Afghanistan, the "mag and bag" booths that would be the envy of airports around the world, surveillance equipment that Google would want to buy and enough tasers, phasers, photon emitters and other crowd control equipment to keep the troops aroused for the duration of the games. The Olympics are coming, all the money is spent, we hope, Olympic security is a dead horse, we hope; and I don't want to beat a dead horse. No, this letter only mentions Olympic security in passing because every two years it erupts like a zit on the amount of money we spend every day on our Olympic insecurity.

Based on 2009 figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute just the top ten countries of the world spend 1.5 trillion dollars a year on their military alone and I don't think that figure includes waging wars. If it doesn't include 'indiscretionary' spending then add to the cost of boots between .5 million dollars (military) and 1 million dollars (civilian) per soldier per year to 'secure' Afghanistan. Is it any wonder President Obama is dithering over sending another 40,000 troop surge on borrowed money. On top of military expense is daily cost of 12 security walls being built and maintained around the world to control crowds of immigrants. The one between the US and Mexico is costing 2.25 million per kilometre for the 3200 Ks. Then there is the cost of surveillance by humans and the latest inhuman electronic equipment. On a smaller scale and more local level, about 2 years ago Stephen Harper bought all our border guards guns; and a few months ago the mayor of Vancouver proudly announced a surge of 500 troops on city streets. The costs of keeping us safe from each other goes on and on and.....

I know we are given regular reports of crime statistics that seem to indicate we are more secure than ever. However, these reports are always separated by as much time as possible from announcements about increased spending on measures to maintain security. I am going to speculate wildly and suggest there is a connection. In 1996 Paul Chamberlain wrote a book called "Can we be good without God". I haven't read the book so I don't know what his answer was but if God is supplying the money we spend on insecurity, the answer is obviously a resounding NO! Indeed, if we continue in the direction we are heading, the instant we quit increasing the money we spend on the effort to eliminate our insecurity, all hell will break loose. That could be life. As I see it though, it is delayed death; and as if I needed to be, I am reminded of the "grim reaper" by the "Olympic farce" every 2 years.

12. Olympic Bookends December 3 2009 (P)

I can't comment on the rhetorical question in Max's column "The Pod People..." without first acknowledging the skill required to write the entire piece about POWs and then in the last few sentences to work in a reference to the "O" word. In his column Max asked "What is it about political office that seems to strip the humanity, reason and ethical gyroscope out of a person?" when all he should have asked is "What is it...that seems to strip the humanity, reason and ethical gyroscope out of a person?" I won't quibble with the 'good' characteristics he suggests we could have. Whatever they are if there are any, political office does not strip them from us. They are gone when we get there, stripped by our collective reaction to"it". The lights in a political office simply reveal their absence in us.

I could tell you what "it" is within the generous extension of your 250 word limit you always give me, for there is really nothing to "it". I won't though because it has been my experience not many, even the highly educated who read Pique, want to read about "it". I will for present purposes say our individual reactions to "it" are a blend of the ideal and the absolutely restrictive and that they form a collective resultant reaction. We can assess the relative amounts of component reactions in our resultant by the amount of conflict that pervades our existence. In my assessment just the amount of conflict over money puts us closer to the absolutely restrictive than to the ideal and when we add to that, religious, political, environmental and every other aspect of conflict, the amount doesn't leave much room for hope because the consequence of the absolutely restrictive reaction is self-destruction.

The restriction is of course on our continuum of physical/mental activity. The restriction on our mental activity strips the "humanity, reason and ethical gyroscope" out of us. As an example of how inhumane we are consider the fact that while we have strict rules about how to treat prisoners of war, we maintain a vertical economy that guarantees the further removed we are from the top the more torturous is our existence. To illustrate the absence of an ethical compass I will use an enhanced version of my mother's most frequent comment. If she killed someone on the street she would be put in jail yet we justify aborting lives at any stage in clinics and in theatres of war.

Examples of our lack of reason have no end but where do I start? I could begin with the observation we can agree on the rules of war but not on the rule of peace. But then there are our 'leaders' telling us we will do nothing to save our environment that will harm the economy. The completely unreasonable perpetuation of religious myths deserves consideration. Though all worthy I begin and, because I am well beyond my allotment of words, end with the lack of reason shown by spending billions of dollars on an athletic 'party' that allows a few individuals and one nation to claim they are the best in a worsening world; and gives thousands of others another opportunity to make the world worse by getting 'wasted' to avoid thinking about "it" for a couple weeks.

13. Olympic Orgy December 10 2009 (P)

Their publication notwithstanding, the response my letters to the editor have evoked has been expiring so I was thinking seriously I should quit writing before I am empty. I was at the point where only God could change my mind. Then this week CTV and Vancouver Sun publicized the fact local health authorities are going to give Olympic athletes and officials 100,000 condoms. God indeed works in mysterious ways.  

The irrefutable evidence accumulates as I write. Taking sex as a reaction to "it" is more destructive than reacting with either alcohol or drugs; and as with all other reactions to "it", more is never enough. If we don't look too deeply it will appear by taking alcohol or drugs we can self-destruct in isolation. By contrast, taking sex intimately involves at least one other person so the destruction of lives is more widespread in any view. Together the three anesthetics cause almost as much self-destruction as other reactions such as defending religious beliefs or trying to accumulate more money than everyone else and still we try reacting to "it" with sex.

As if we needed more evidence Tiger gave us another piece. If early reports are any indication, we will eventually learn Tiger has won more major trophies with his short club than he has with his long clubs. I can imagine upon discovering proof Tiger was not the husband and father he is being paid a billion dollars to be, his wife went ballistic. In response Tiger yelled, "You're nuts!" to which his wife replied, "No, your nuts!", as she lined them up with his driver. Were it not for the safety glass in his Escalade there is a pretty good chance Tiger, along with his bag and balls would have been driven into a hole and marked with a flag.

Do I think Tiger will learn that trying to react to "it" with sex is self-destructive? Not even if his wife becomes the first $1 billion ex. Really and truly---as confirmed by the on going destruction of our environment, human beings have got to be the dumbest species on the planet and perhaps in the universe. There is no other explanation for the 'thinking' behind what I didn't know is the continuing practice of giving condoms to Olympic athletes.  It began in 1992 and in Sydney the initial supply of 70,000 ran out so another 20,000 were ordered. Athens officials ordered 130,000 which worked out to 12 for each of 10,500 athletes . Beijing only ordered 100,000 condoms but they were uniquely imprinted with the motto "faster, higher, stronger". Though there were more athletes than at Athens, they only used 95,000 because the pollution diminished all activity.

To win the gold for condom distribution Canadians are giving 100,000 condoms to 6,850 athletes and officials, a new world record of 14.6 condoms and presumably 19.2 encounters per person. The persons using these condoms will have to be careful though because the officials who approved the plan likely cut the .4 off the closed end. It is rumoured Canadian condoms will have on the packing two curling stones on either side of an erect broom with the motto "hurry, hard". I wonder if a sexual orgy is what Gordon Campbell had in mind when in his sales pitch he said Olympic athletes will inspire young people to be the best they can be. WTF eh? Why we will spend $16.4 million to prevent athletes from taking drugs yet extend drinking by an hour and supply condoms to facilitate equally self-destructive activities is beyond me. I think I must be missing the Olympic equivalent of military intelligence.

Lest you think I am on a "holier than thou" moral crusade I must reveal that in a previous life I learned from frightening experience how self-destructive it was going to be for me, to be involved in another person's reaction to "it" with sex. However, I can see myself being recognized above the rest of humanity as the dumbest human for thinking as long as I have it should matter that we don't self-destruct. Until now I never thought officials will probably hand out condoms in Copenhagen. I don't know how much an actual condom costs, but as a metaphor, it is priceless.

14. Christmas and Olympic Stories: do you believe? December 31 2009 (P)

At this time of the year every year, we are asked to believe in the Christmas story. It seems as if this year all year, young Canadian athletes have been asking, "Do you believe?" in the Olympic story. It has been many years since I have considered either part of the Christmas story credible. I can't remember when Santa died. I know my belief in gift giving began to whither when I noticed people with money were exchanging gifts with each other in a vain attempt to make everyone happy. It died when I discovered I couldn't make someone happy. My unbelief grows with each televised attempt to convince me, giving a stuffed animal to a "less fortunate" child and a stuffed turkey dinner to a homeless person can make them happy for longer than a TV clip.

I have no problem accepting as fact that about two thousand years ago a baby named Jesus was born in Bethlehem. I have no doubt while Jesus learned to be a carpenter he developed a view of life which so threatened the keepers of the prevalent view they crucified him. There is no question the essence of Jesus's view that we "love one another..." will have to quickly become a dominant part of our prevalent view if it matters we survive. However I find the rest of the Christian narrative church fathers created completely unreasonable especially the part about the virgin birth. Knowing Jesus was a child of love is actually more appealing to me than the marketed belief he is the "Son of God".

The multi media Olympic myth evokes similar unbelief. I do believe the torch bearers who become misty eyed because they can't think of anything to say about the experience beyond "it is hard to put into words", because it is impossible to create meaning out of myth. I know it is a fact that to the extent we "reach out to the limits of our capacities..." we enjoy life; and that athletes with the greatest capacities who reach out to their limits, can participate in the Olympics if their capacities fit an Olympic sport. However, believing we need the Olympic orgy, to "reach out to the limits of our capacities..." is as unnecessary to life as needing to believe in the virgin birth.

Several years ago when I suggested we try for Mom, a sister in Vancouver who has committed her life to the Christian part of the Christmas story told me "Your unbelief is an impediment to us getting along." It would not have helped for me to point out it is not unbelief but beliefs that cause conflict and that if everyone didn't believe what I don't believe, we would all get along. I haven't changed my unbelief; but on Christmas Eve my mother and I travelled to Vancouver where we spent an enjoyable day with my sister and her husband. Do you believe?

15. Mom's Olympics January 14 2010 (P)

I didn't want another week to pass before thanking you for publishing my letter last week. The title was great, the banner a bonus and although I am guessing about this, being at the end of the letter section is the best location. Despite your effort, it didn't help but then even if you surrounded  my letter with lights it wouldn't help those who don't want to see.

I didn't write last week because I "hit the wall" and even now it hurts. Part of the wall was Christmas but it is gone. Another part is the ongoing desperate and oppressive ad campaign to sell the Olympic party and the constant barrage of media interviews with those who believe in the Olympic myth. Mercifully this will be over in 45 days and the relief will be beyond words. The final part of my wall and infinitely more significant than the other two combined was the anniversary of my mother's birthday. She was 94 on December 28. It was the yearly event I no longer need to remind me of what is real.

When Mom gets up each morning she climbs onto the podium and I cheer as she celebrates one more win in the race against time and is awarded another golden day. As she competes I share her frustration and console her when she loses some of her capacity; but I give her several hugs a day whether or not she needs them. I admire her grace in defeat. As we walk up and down the hills of Emerald Estates we hold arms and laugh together as we sing her anthem, "The old grey mare she ain't what she used to be". When Mom wins a nightly "scrabble" game she treats me magnanimously, as soon as she regains control. If she beats my computer at solitaire she ignores her typical reserve. The 'light' in her eyes inspires me as no number of Olympic torches could.

Sixty-three years ago Mom gave me life. When I was able I began spending it perfecting a view of what's happening. I ran out of life just before my parents moved in with me in 2001. When Mom and I continued our journey together three years later, she gave me life again. She allowed me time I would not have otherwise had, to publish my view; and to realize a capacity to write, such as it is, of which I was unaware. She continues to give and if discover I have not wasted her gifts, then I am my mother's legacy. Whatever, I think she likes me.

I know the wall is ahead. I will hit it again and when I hit the wall for the last time the grief will be beyond words; but that is real life. We will face it together without Olympic distractions.  We appreciate your continued support as we walk toward the finish line.

16. Olympic Afterglow January 28 2010 (P)

The global economy almost crashed. Haiti crashed. I won't say it for fear of setting up a self-fulfilling prophesy but just in case the light pollution from our Olympic bus terminal is the only afterglow we see after the Olympics, we should be looking for innovative ways of bringing tourist cash to our town.

The brightest idea I think is to put all the Olympic torches into our parliament. If they unify members of parliament the way they are, according to the advertisers, unifying Canadians and citizens of the world, then the money saved by eliminating political conflict could be used to resurrect our community. If as I suspect the effect of the flame lasts only as long as the cameras roll, then we can sue the misleading advertisers.

Another popular way of attracting visitors to a town is to advertise it as "The Home of the Biggest  ........" We could have three such attractions. The aforementioned bus terminal could be promoted as the latest human installation that can be viewed from space, at night; and the erect hydrogen tank could be a side attraction. We could put a huge trunk at the bottom of the sliding centre and advertise it as the world's largest white elephant.

The third possible attraction doesn't yet exist. We'd have to get Randy at Proteck to fabricate a giant screw. It would be placed on an attractive concrete footing with the pointy end up in front of a "The home of the 2010 Olympics" sign. On the sign we would paint "Home of the Largest Olympic Screw Up (so far). To finish the monument we could staple on the sign packets of unused Olympic condoms, if there are any.

17. Olympic Costs February 4 2010 (P)

I wanted to know how much the Olympics are going to cost so I searched and found an article written January 23, 2009, by Daphne Bramham, a Vancouver Sun columnist . The figures are obviously old. For instance the estimated cost for security was 800 hundred million dollars and the current rounded figure is 1 billion. There was also 600 million dollars of direct federal "Olympic investments". I wanted to see if the amount included the cost of buying the podium so I found the gov.ca Olympic site and clicked on "Olympic investments". The page was filled with "coming soon", which is probably the real reason Stephen Harper prorogued parliament. The underestimates aside Daphne collected all costs associated with the Olympics except perhaps the cost of the bid but including the $300 million bribe paid to municipal employees for a no strike contract. Read it for yourself to see how she came up with a cost of 6 billion dollars and counting, back then.

I also found out there will be 5,500 Olympic athletes and officials. Because it was easier than separating them I considered them all athletes and rounded the number up to 6000 to make dividing even easier. When I divide $6,000,000,000 by 6,000 I get $1,000,000 'given' to each athlete for a chance to realize their dream. It is appropriate that the cost of sending a soldier to Afghanistan is also $1,000,000, for staging both wars make the same amount of nonsense. I searched for the number of events but had to count the award ceremonies instead. I got to 80 plus but rounded it up to 100 and acknowledge the number probably doesn't include all members of the Canadian hockey teams. 6 billion divided by 100 is approximately $60 million per gold medal. If we are lucky we it will cost us $1.8 billion to hear the national anthem sung 30 times while the rest pays for hearing other national anthems; and we didn't get to vote. I hope we enjoy the experience.

So far the total aid to Haiti is $2 billion and change. On the weekend Global/Variety held their annual telethon and raised $7.4 million for special needs kids. Do you think there may be 6000 in BC?  I wonder how many will not be able to realize their dreams of a more normal life because there won't be enough money to get around to them. At this point I would like to ask, "Have we lost our money loving flipping minds?" but that would require I make a questionable assumption.

18. Olympic Bobbleheads February 11 2010 (P)

February 12 marks the end of the government's agreement to match individual donations to Haiti relief and the end can't come soon enough for me because every time I hear about it I cry. I think the government made the agreement official shortly after the earthquake but if not it was certainly announced during the relief concert the three national TV networks organized a couple weeks ago. Prior to the concert Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a video appearance during which he proudly announced that his government would match individual donations. George and his cohosts immediately praised the Prime Minister for his generosity and the audience applauded enthusiastically.

Now, the last time I heard our Government gets its money from us so to say it is matching individual donations with Government funds is not only blatantly dishonest it is incredibly wasteful. When we gave to Haitian relief we most likely gave a dollar we had in our front pocket. Because the Government doesn't even have any of our money on hand it has to borrow to match our donation. By the time it pays interest on the loan and processes the paper work through its labyrinthine bureaucracy it slips into our back pocket a UO US for $1.50 our children will inherit when we give them our pants.

Because we can then applaud the government for being generous while wasting our money explains how we can be so easily deceived by the Olympic marketing and accounting. This evidence that reveals we Canadians are generally such gullible bobbleheads is enough to make a thoughtful person cry. The end of the Olympics cannot come soon enough.

19. Making Olympic Poetry February 18 2010 (P)

At the end of your opening remarks last week you wrote, "We also have the opportunity to make poetry. Not everyone has that chance." I am quite certain you did not mean write a poem but were using poetry to describe an experience like you would be doing if you said when we get the rhythm right, making love is pure poetry. However, inspired by just the slimmest hope you did have writing a poem in mind, here is another one of mine.

"Olympic Dreams"

We all should have Olympic dreams
To be what we can be.
That's what real life should be about.
It's not the life I see.

Life is about preeminence;
To be the number one.
We think unless we win that 'gold'
Our life will not be done.

But winning gold is not life's end.
When there we'll only find
That striving for external 'golds'
Did not bring peace of mind.

The 'golds' we win can't fill the void
Left after we ask "Why?"
That is a race we can not win
No matter how we try.

Too, gold we pull toward ourselves
Is from another's hand;
And conflict that results destroys
Our common human band.

Now if the band we wish to mend,
We must pursue our dream;
But in cooperation with
Each member of our team.

When all of us race to the ends
Of our capacity,
Up on the highest podium
Will be humanity.

You already know I was not invited to recite my poem at the opening ceremonies. I was not at all surprised for it does not meet the criterion of needing to feed the jingoistic frenzy of the Canadian fans waiting to worship their Olympic gods. I do not anticipate being asked to recite my poem as long as we remain addicted to the entertainment epitomized by the Olympic games and as a consequence the televised media continues to inhabit the body of the IOC it snatched four decades ago. In fact, my poem may never be read. It could be our addiction will end as all addictions do so we won't have the opportunity to get the rhythm right and though we may write poems, we will never make 'poetry'.

20. Closing Letter March 4 2010 (P)

I waited until the end of the games to see if VANOC would call and ask me to recite my poem "Olympic Dreams" at the closing ceremonies to insert a few words of sanity into the insane spectacle I watched over the last 17 days. However, like most Canadian athletes I didn't make the podium so I had to settle for forth or worse, being published in Pique, but still a personal best.

Until I saw "Olympism" in the title of Michael Beaudry's feature I didn't know what we just witnessed might have a name. When I heard an apologist for Olympism use the word in an interview a few days ago I checked it out before I wrote this letter. Olympism is not in my Mac dictionary nor in my Canadian Oxford so according the these it is not a word. However, when I searched the web I found a definition of Olympism on the site of the New Zealand OC site. There was a 4 line description of ancient Olympism and a 5 line introduction to modern Olympism followed by a 4 point mission statement which says it "...promotes a way of life based on:

...the balanced development of the body, will and mind
...the joy found in effort
...the educational value of being a good role model
...(edited) tolerance, generosity, unity, friendship, non-discrimination (now predominantly financial) and respect for others

Following this definition was a brief explanation of Pierre de Coubertin's motivation. It seems "...he realized sport...was being eaten away by the same ills that were rotting the life of society: racketeering, nationalism, chauvinism, xenophobia...he denounced the influence of money on betting based sport, which was already sullied by the poison of drugs (and probably alcohol)...He wanted to shelter (sport) from the damaging effects of modern civilization."

Pierre and I share considerable common ground but we have a reconcilable difference in our mission statements. Mine promotes the balanced development of body/mind which generates spirit that I would not mind defining as the "joy found in effort". This inclusive universally funded way of life would require unconditional cooperation which precludes the need for identifying subsequent characteristics like tolerance, generosity, unity and so on; and everyone would be a role model. Although the realization of physical and mental capacities is an ongoing process that generates constant spirit there would certainly be a need to gather and share the joy found in periodic particular realizations but these gatherings I would have to call "Life Games" to differentiate them from the Olympic games and "Olympism".

"Ism" is actually a noun almost exclusively having a derogatory connotation that is used in a sentence like, Olympism is infected by many of the other isms "rotting the life of society" such as nationalism, chauvinism, materialism, capitalism, commercialism, communism, liberalism, conservatism, republicanism, 'democratism', protestantism, catholicism, all other religions and their offspring whether or not they are suffixed with ism, elitism and so on. In addition to indicating views of life, ism can also be added to nouns to denote pathological thus self-destructive conditions such as alcoholism.   

The last 17 days of Olympic games fit the entire definition of Olympism perfectly. Who better to light the Olympic torch, the symbol of Olympism, than multimillionaire superstar hockey player Wayne Gretzky, except of course Tiger Woods but he is an American eh. The day after the torch was lit I saw Lindsey Vonn in a swimsuit for longer than I saw her in a ski suit. In discussing her with Kelly VanderBeek Michael Landsberg of TSN offered that "marketing yourself is what it is all about." Brit and Emily won't be able to sell themselves. Ashleigh will be able to 'sell' her gold if she so decides. She is as pretty as Lindsey but because her sport is the ugly stepsister, she will experience the financial discrimination that pervades life. While Lindsey is advertising Rolex, Ashleigh who "takes a licking but keeps on ticking", might be offered Timex.

My nephew Davey has skied for 30 years, the last 4 in an effort to earn a spot on the Olympic ski cross team. Despite 2 podium finishes he was excluded from the race until two team mates were injured. He came 6th. He was interviewed for 30 seconds, only because after Destiny brought him to the big final she kicked Chris Del Bosco in the groin and he was in too much pain to speak. The 19 year old Korean girl who won the gold for woman's figure skating is a multi millionaire rock star god. I saw her commercials. The parents of the girl who won the ice dance had to mortgage their house. I didn't see Joannie Rochette in any commercials. On Sunday, while 20,000 screaming fanatics who paid about $40,000,000 watched about $100,000,000 dollars worth of hockey players, Devon Kershaw, who probably lives below the poverty line, was competing in the 50k cross country race in front of the competitors behind him. He was fifth but just missed gold by 1.5 seconds. He was interviewed for only about 15 seconds. Perhaps the interview was short because they had to go back to hockey and interview every Canadian player and his mother; or it could have been because Devon's sentiments which echoed those of all losers in the insane games, would rhyme with they suck.

It is not Pierre's fault. When Olympism is superimposed on all the other isms of life, despite what he says not even John Furlong can keep any number of them from showing through. I will eat Pique if as he said in his closing remarks, "...Canadians are more united than ever before." To be fair though I insist I wait until after our government begins 'working' again on March 3. If our 'leaders' show any sign of characteristic disunity I will further wait until we are told how much borrowed money everything related to the Olympics cost and how much of its share the federal government will download onto BC and Whistler as it tries to trim its ballooning deficit. By then I am confident I will not only not have to eat shredded Pique, there will be talk of BC separating from both Canada and Victoria. I hate to be a skeptic but I wonder too how patriotic athletes will remain when their funding is eventually cut. I wasn't personally affected by the patriotism. To help pay for it last year, our BC government cut $8 million (80% of its budget) from the environmental protection agency we wouldn't even need if we had half a brain, and I find it impossible to be a proud Canadian when I am embarrassed to be a human. What embarrassing cuts will there be this year?

I must say though, the entire Olympic experience was not negative for me. When I separate Olympism from athleticism I am amazed by the performances. If I get twisted the wrong way when I get up at night, I can't find the way to the bathroom so any activity that involves flipping and twisting leaves me particularly awed. Not counting the number of times I fell while learning how to snowboard about 15 years ago, I can count on one hand the number of times I have fallen while enjoying the slopes over the years. So anyone who races on the edge especially with three other people also amazes me. Because I have my own dream I enjoyed sharing the "I did it" moments of the athletes. I have had my dream for 40 years. It is a life dream not related to the Olympics so I have had to fund it myself. I now rely on my mother for support. I think of having my own moment and you publishing my Olympic letters has helped keep my dream alive. I thank my mother many times a day. I thank you one last time.

Even your negative comment in your opening remarks last week, that the "extra half hour opening for bars...hasn't signaled the decline of civilization" revealed a glimmer of hope for the future. During one of the myriad interviews during the non-stop Olympic celebrations I heard a bar operator brag that they had sold 2 or 3 times as much beer in a day than they usually sell in a month and when I read your claim I did a search to see if I could find the clip. I couldn't but while I was looking I found an article about Prime Minister Putin's ambitious program to cut Russian alcohol consumption in half by 2020. He will fail of course unless he can "promote the balanced development of body/mind and the generation of spirit,... the joy of effort." Nevertheless, at least he understands the factual relationship between increased consumption of alcohol and the further decline of civilization. Perhaps I will send him a copy of the February 17 Pique in which you published my poem. Maybe he will read it at the $11 billion 2014 Sochi Olympics, if they get the town built and there is enough snow.

GM: wanted dead or alive?

It is a time of crisis for the automotive industry. All related companies and employees are in emergency waiting rooms. GM and Chrysler are in ICU’s hooked up to IV bags filled with money. For the moment governments are holding the line clamps open. Thousands of ‘knowledgeable’ tax payers who believe they are not connected to the business are urging governments to let the “dinosaurs” die. Those tax payers who give the “dinosaurs” their life are pleading with governments to let the money flow. In an attempt to save their companies managers are planning extensive reorganizations. While they are still in the planning stage I would like to suggest an improvement that would gain my support. It is based on the few experiences that have had with GM dealers over the years.

I gained the first experience about 30 years ago during my two day career as a car salesman, neither my first nor obviously my last career choice. I went to university with vague thoughts of teaching but graduated confused so I thought I should clear up the confusion before I began teaching. I tried for four years, working at odd jobs, before deciding trying to figure out life was a dumb idea. I got a job at GM instead but after only 2 years I decided I would rather continue wondering than live a life that was decided. Still I needed to work so I tried what I discovered was a really odd job.

During my first day as a car salesman I Iearned that to stay in business a dealer has to sell a car for a given percentage above what it is charged for that car. If I sold a car for any amount up to $500 more than that base amount I would be given for example 10% of the difference. If I sold the car for any amount between $500 and $10000 dollars above the base amount I would be given 15% of the difference; and if I sold the car for any amount over $1000 above the base amount I would be given 20%. Until that day it never occurred to me two people even on the same day of the week do not pay the same amount for the same vehicle. This lesson was contrary to what I had been thinking so I didn’t sleep well that night. On my second day while I was learning more lessons of life from the sales manager another salesman asked the manager if a particular extended warranty was valid in a given jurisdiction. His reply was, “No, but sell it anyway”. I slept better that night.

My next job was sorting pop bottles at a soft drink plant but I can skip what I learned there and fast forward to 2001. I had invited my parents to live with me in British Columbia. To deal with the car my father left in Ontario, we decided to trade it for an Astro van to replace the 15 year old one I used to transport my carpentry tools and the furniture I built. My father had worked for GM for 35 years and because they offered employees discounts he had been getting a new car every year. Dad had been buying his cars from the same dealer for so long that in the latter years he had been dealing with the son of the original owner. Given the longstanding relationship I phoned with hope and told the dealer I needed the complete details of our transaction so I would know how much I owed Dad. All he would give me is the difference. I hung up in despair. The methods hadn’t changed. I had been treated like a mushroom, kept in the dark and fed bullshit.

In order to get some light I phoned an acquaintance I had first met when I was 14. Bill had just started working for GM under my father’s supervision. Dad being Dad, probably bragged about my ability to play hockey so Bill came to watch a game with him. I next encountered Bill when he became my manager during my brief stay at GM 14 years later. The only other time I had talked to Bill was in 1991 when I happened to see him in a hotel lobby in my home town. He didn’t even recognize me. He had retired from GM Canada as vice president and bought a dealership. He was on a ski holiday and I treated him to a ski day he said he will never forget.

Bill answered the phone as if I were his long lost younger brother. He asked about Mom and Dad because they had socialized, and said he had been thinking of him because the month I called was the 40th anniversary of the year he began working with GM. He and Dad chatted and he reminded Dad that someone else thought he had been useful. When I got back on the phone and told Bill why I had called he insisted on selling us our van. Bill’s sales manager phoned once to see what we wanted, a second time to give me the details of the transaction and about three weeks later the van was delivered to my door.

A couple years ago I considered buying a smaller vehicle. I looked for a second experience from heaven; I found two more experiences from hell. That was enough for me. I told the last salesman I had reconsidered. I apologized for it wasn’t entirely his fault. Like us all he was born into an economy we have created from which we inherit the self-destructive need to make as much money as we can anyway we can, an economy which puts us all in conflict with each other to various degrees including conflict that ends in death. I hope I will never have to experience the part of this conflict with dealers again. With luck and good maintenance, in 30 years or so perhaps I’ll be able to drive my van to the crematorium and we’ll become “ashes” and “dust” together.

Under the present system even if the decision that determined whether GM continues to survive depended on my buying a vehicle, I would not buy one. If the demise of GM then precipitated the total collapse and death of our current economy I would eagerly attend the wake that sends this economy which demands human sacrifices, off to hell where belongs. I will buy what I have to, but sorry Mr. President, though I would spend every precious second I have growing humanity, I will not spend one worthless penny trying to grow this sucking economy. My parting words would be, “Economy is dead. Long live Humanity.”

However, if GM changed their method of providing them so that when buying one everyone had the same heavenly experience, I would buy a vehicle. Such a change would mark the beginning of a new economy that serves our need to make as much life as we can every way we can, an economy which puts us all in unconditional cooperation with each other. Consequently, I would enthusiastically participate in GM’s transformation and their effort to grow this new economy. My greeting would be, “Long live GM. What is good for GM is good for Humanity.”

AIG: altogether in greed

The AIG bonus boys and their apparent greed are just the most visible aspect of our economic problem. The rest of us are the variously less visible aspects. We are all being directed by an inherited, primitive, economic religion. It is not universally accepted or commonly supported but more of us support it more than less so the resultant activity dominates our existence; and its dominance is increasing. The more money we have and the stuff it buys the more meaningful our lives will be, is the motivating myth of our religion.

The void can not be filled with money and the stuff it buys so our religious activity is a constant struggle to make more; and we pass it on. From an early age we are taught to hunt and gather better deals; and if we don’t “get ahead” we will get behind and be trampled. We are trained to get as much money as we can any way we can for self-worth is equated to net worth and wealthiness is considered next to godliness. We learn the golden rule is to do unto others before they do unto you. We discover the evolutionary principle is the survival of the financially fittest. Our religion puts greed before need.

In our ability and desire to compete for more we are not created equal. Consequently, our ‘house of worship’ is cone shaped. Bill Gates by virtue of his $40 billion net worth stands alone at the top. Beneath him are increasing numbers of less and less wealthy individuals. At the bottom are about 1 billion individuals countless thousands of whom each day become too weak to stand, and fail to live on less than $1 a day. We can’t live outside the cone; and we compete separately at the level determined by our ability and desire. Cash is valued more than compassion.

We are told the Economy is god, the provider of the jobs and money that maintain our ‘house’; but that it is not a self-sustaining creator. It requires a constant supply of cash to keep it healthy. Indeed, Economy’s ‘doctors’ have determined two thirds of its lifeblood comes from consumer spending so in essence whether hewers of derivatives or drawers of UI our ultimate purpose is to spend. We are taught failure to maintain the health of Economy is a sin for which we will receive “wages” from hell. We accept the teachings without question.

It seems we have recently begun working in hell. Economy is in the global ICU. Doctors have diagnosed a critical case of monetary anemia caused by toxic assets. Its condition is so critical priests of business have begun sacrificing increasing numbers of fellow humans further removed from the routinely sacrificed bottom dwellers. To compensate for the loss of normal cash flow Doctors have prescribed massive IV infusions. Now we wait on Economy, look for someone to blame and waste time planning to prevent future infections with more regulation.

Blaming and wanting to crucify the bonus boys at AIG for their part in infecting Economy is typically myopic. The IRS spends most of its budget catching “cheaters”. For years Mom and Pop’s have been sacrificed for better deals at Wall-mart. Kids play basketball with hoops having no nets; the president installs a basketball court in his house. US Legislators receive a million dollar benefit package; tax payers pay for one or do without. A bonus “by any other name is still a” bonus. Now, who will drive the first nail, the Pope? I think not. Though unequally, as Pastor Obama didn’t want to imply, “We are all in this (greed) together.”

Since we have no one to blame but ourselves, I find the scene of humanity gathered around its hospital bed waiting for Economy to recover, utterly depressing. Economy has no power except what we give it and we have given it absolute power. Without us Economy doesn’t exist and we act as if we can’t exist without it. The specter of its death has so flustered us we can think of nothing better to do than to inject into a pathetic junkie trillions of dollars we have borrowed from ourselves and have to pay back to ourselves. DUH.

We are so focused on Economy we do not see the background of the present scene, our critically injured Mother Earth. I have not heard a scientist from this planet who does not concur our religious activities have wounded her, perhaps mortally. She is in worse condition than Economy yet she sits in the waiting room while we try to restore its health; and we need her, to live. Our obsession with Economy is obscuring the fact that if Mother Earth dies, nothing else matters. Not long ago I thought we would come to our end in this present mindless Age of Entertainment. Now I am thinking our end will be in the new Age of Asininity.

I take full responsibility for my depression. Had I no vision of what facts indicate life can be without the myth I wouldn’t be depressed by seeing that believing in it has diminished all life and accordingly if Economy recovers, we will continue to diminish life until there is none. Does it matter if we self-destruct? It may not. There are no facts to support it matters that we survive. I won’t argue it does. However, it is a fact we won’t discover it might matter that humanity lives, if we die. If we grow Economy we will certainly never know. If we grow Humanity we may discover why.

The process of change from certainty to possibility would involve simply getting rid of the myth. If we did, the boys at AIG would be sacrificed, for money making industries would become extinct. However, they would be treated with compassion by the millions of individuals who having already been laid off, know how to live with just the essentials. Those who do what they do more or less to make money will only have to shift to doing what they do to make life. To make life, everyone would need to be fully employed.

Without the myth the cone would become a plane and we would come together. Accordingly rather than increasing, the rules, laws and restrictions needed to maintain the cone would disappear as collective need replaced individual greed. As we became aware that financial differences are not what make us strong we would begin discarding other myths that make us weak. All conflict would diminish as we all became peace makers. Without restrictions individuality would flourish and humanity would thrive.

It is only by getting rid of our myths, by emptying the void, that we will be able to bring about “change we can believe in.” It is a dream but we do not know if it is an impossible dream. We know the alternative will be a worsening nightmare. I am not certain but I think we have a choice.

Barack Obama: attack on greed

GM: wanted dead or alive?

HUMANS SACRIFICED to ECONOMY

My mother is caught in this economic crisis. It could have been me. I worked at GM for about two years but left when a Human Resources clerk called me a misfit. I tried but just couldn’t quit reading the writing on the wall. My mother didn't work at GM because she was too busy looking after me and my four siblings. Mom is still able to look after me because my father managed to work at GM for 35 years and she is the beneficiary of his pension. Mom hasn't yet been told if she will be losing her pension but it would seem my mother will be one of many millions sacrificed to an Economy.

Unlike the pundits who know what they are talking about, I see no hope in an Economy its high priests insist demands human sacrifices. Watching efforts to restore the functions of a mythical junkie addicted to ever increasing infusions of cash leave me in despair. It is beyond reason why we cling to an imaginary god who organizes us into a giant pyramid scheme with a relatively small class of wealthy people at the top riding a larger workhorse middle class over a relatively huge class of poor living in horse shit.

I was utterly disappointed to learn President Obama's idea of “change we can believe in” was to strengthen the middle class and to restore the "American Dream" so kids playing basketball with hoops having no net could dream of having a basketball court in their own house. Each time I see President Obama I urge him to ignore the possibility of political crucifixion and inspire the transition from an out of our control vertical economy to a horizontal economy in our control; and in which though all of us are created with unique capacities, each of us will have for the first time in history the right to equal "life", "liberty" and "happiness".

Sadly he hasn't heard me and he probably never will without help for in a world wide web of experts I have absolutely no credibility. I am a 62 year old carpenter, a misfit, still supported by my mother, whose writing is off the wall. I am doing all I can alone; I can only hope for the collective effort needed to end the sacrifices.

AIG: altogether in greed

ECONOMIC REPORT 11/08

AMERICAN NIGHTMARE: the dying economy

ECONOMIC ABSURDITY

CHRISTMAS WISH '08

ANTS WRITE HUMAN HISTORY

When the ants write the final chapter of human history, and if we leave them any environment they will survive us because they know how to cooperate, they will make three observations. They will note that after a miraculous beginning as a single cell and a billion year evolutionary journey through the successive "Ages", the process came to an end in the "Age of Asininity". Their evidence will be billions of wide screen TVs all playing the same episode of the CBC's award winning show "Dragon's Den". They will further observe that our journey came to an end under the influence of the evolutionary principle "survival of the financially fittest". The ants will conclude the actual cause of our extinction was an economic asteroid, possibly around the year 2009. In their museum they will place the last in a line of human fossils. They will call it "homo sapiens sapiens materialisticus".  In the accompanying description they will draw attention to the skull and note that while all previous skulls in the line of evolution had some cranial cavity, this one is solid bone.

 

DEMOCRAPY

Anyone who has given humanity the critical thought we deserve should realize if humanity could reach consensus on our common purpose, we wouldn't have elections. We would just get on with it. "Common good" and 'democratic' election are as oxymoronic as "military intelligence". "Democracy" as it is being defined through practice is the way of governing designed to accommodate our shared inability to see common purpose at any level of organization. It involves allowing those persons looking for an individual sense of purpose in 'leadership' to participate in formal crap throwing contests to decide who looks best in front of a group of people who can't agree on where it is going.

These contests can vary in length and cost. The recent US presidential contest for instance, lasted an agonizing two years and cost $2.4 billion. Mercifully local elections last only about two weeks and cost around $2.40. Regardless of the cost or the length of time, contests are decided by "the people" who vote for the persons who at the end have the least amount of crap on them. The unlucky winners then discover their purpose is to be a target for the informal crap throwing that lasts until the next contest. Poor George Bush will never be able to crawl out from under the pile of crap that has been thrown on him during the last 2 years not to mention the previous 6; and it wasn't even his fault he 'won'.

Such is the degradation of our so called democracy, my sense is unless we become enlightened en masse by an event such as the impending economic collapse, certainly in my lifetime lexicographers will be forced to change the spelling and definition of the word we assign to our system of government. The word will become "democrapy" (de mo' crapy) from the Greek word "demo" meaning people and the refined English word "crap" meaning shit. The definition of "democrapy" will be: "a self-destructive system of organizing people who for lacking knowledge of common purpose, throw shit at each other." The consequence will be a society polluted to the point it will be unable to sustain life.

DEMOCRATIC SELF-DESTRUCTION

LEADERS

Bill Gates is the leader of the rich. It is not possible to mention the leader of the poor because the name changes too frequently, probably at least every second or so. Other known leaders are Mohammed, Caesar, Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Pope Benedict, George Bush and Stephen Harper. Among the unknown to me are local priests, pastors, imams, mullahs, other religious leaders and all manner of secular leaders. I could have gone on and on but I only need a short haphazard list to make the point each person that makes the list was or is now the leader of a group that was or is now a division of humanity. I could be missing the significance of leaders, groups and the conflict between them but for the life of me I can’t see that they are of any benefit to humanity whatsoever. In fact, I believe, to reword the second half of the old saying “united we stand, divided we fall”, in division there is self-destruction.

Leaders do not cause self-destruction; nor as a consequence can they prevent self-destruction. Not even God can do that. We cause self-destruction. It is with our collective choices, active or passive, that we create and maintain the groups that leaders lead. Every great leader needs great followers. Indeed, leaders must be constantly looking behind them to keep in front of their respective groups. The only reason we need leaders is that we don’t know where we are going and they give us someone to blame. Egotistic rhetoric notwithstanding, leaders are at best indicators of division. As long as we continue to ‘follow’ leaders they will 'lead' us to self-destruction.

It should be obvious that we won’t prevent self-destruction by getting rid of leaders. We have tried that and the rate at which we are approaching this destination has only increased. The only way we can prevent self-destruction is for each of us to take the lead in making the choice to empty the void and consequently eliminate groups. Without groups there can be no leaders; and when we have no leaders we will know there is no self-destruction. With no self-destructive divisions there will be unity; and to reword the first half of the old saying, in unity there is self-realization.

(see) HEALING CHANGE, DEMOCRATIC SELF-DESTRUCTION
the last why: the poem; the last why: the precisthe last why:  the essay

DEMOCRATIC SELF-DESTRUCTION

Democracy is the consequence of a society that does not yet know we could have a common direction. Democracy is created by two or many more groups, but ultimately by individuals, wanting to go in our own opposing directions, each believing our direction is right. The chief function of democratic elections is to illuminate the resultant self-destructive divisions within humanity. Democracy pulls us apart; and because of it we can not pull together. Democracy may be the least destructive way of organizing ourselves but the resulting conflict confirms it is only a matter of time before "government of the people, by the people, for the (self-interest) of the people (will) perish from the earth"1 with the people unless we vote for change.

 If it is not already too late to change we can if we want to, save ourselves from democratic self-destruction by 'voting' to replace our sense of "rights" to fill the void in our own way, that gave birth to democracy, with the "ideal" part of the law controlling  our human nature. It dictates that "we reach out to the limits of our capacities, to others and to God." These individual dictatorships compel us to go in the same direction on parallel paths so there could be no conflict for  "...there would be no sides". The ultimate consequence of our "ideal" dictatorships would be an undivided humanity pulling us all together toward individual and collective self-realization.   1 Abraham Lincoln

(see) DEMOCRACY: a debacle, DEMOCRAPY


HEALING CHANGE

Years ago one of our ancestors, probably and most appropriately a woman, questioned the meaning of life. She asked "Why am I?", and gave birth to humanity. Her man most likely provided the answer because being a man he already knew everything there was to know about life. His answer though, was different  from all the other answers he had ever given. It was certainly obvious why hungry predators were avoided and why particular plants weren't eaten; but the answer to “Why am I?” was difficult to grasp. After chasing it around his mind for awhile the man became so sure his answer was right he shared it with a friend. The friend saw things differently however, and humanity was divided.

They began arguing about the answer and before long the former friends were enemies. Eventually what began as a fight over an answer progressed into conflict over aspects of life increasingly removed from the answer. The argument never was settled so in the years between then and now this same process was repeated many times with successive answers. The consequences are Judaism, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, their thousands of recognizable, variously rigorous, religious/philosophical offspring and literally billions of misinterpretations, one for each of us. Each division is cut in the face of humanity.

They are life threatening; but if we care and if it is not too late, a  simple  change will heal the wounds. All each of us has to do is accept the fact that in the traditional sense there is no answer to “the last why”. Granted, given our history of trying to fill that void, releasing our 'philosophies' will be most difficult. Still, if we don’t make this healing change we will continue to cut humanity into parts until we self-destruct. If we do accept that there is no answer to “the last why” we will stop trying to fill the void under it; and this unnatural activity will be replaced by our innate natural activity of reaching out to the limits of our capacities, to others and to God. With this “ideal reaction to the void” we will change courses from our present heading toward certain self-destruction; and return to the one that leads to self-realization, where we might discover why.

Barack Obama: professing change

KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING

(This entry was created as a post to the philosophical forum, Ilovephilosophy.com.)

I like to give credit where credit is due. I was in coberst's thread "Will understanding be extinct in 2050?" but I can't give Chuck all the credit. I didn't even answer his question. I was there because a bad habit I am trying to kick suggested "knowledge" and "understanding" should perhaps not be separated. I concurred but then after the second of my two replies another poster requested from coberst, definitions of "knowledge" and "understanding". I considered offering my definitions there but more often than not my posts seem to end a thread. So I decided that rather than see my effort die at the end of coberst's thread, if it is to, I should see it die at the beginning of my own. ILP works in mysterious ways.

I was never an epistemologist. I learned that word today by searching "knowledge" and clicking on Wikipedia. Had I been interested in epistemology 40 years ago, I would be still be occupied with it. There is a ton of leads which could be followed; and one of the entries stated nothing has been decided. My interest was in explaining life and a definition of knowledge was required by the definition of human nature I created to explain life. If you would like the complete context of my definition click "THE LAST WHY" in my signature and spend 10 min. reading it. Whatever, to make a slightly longer story shorter I settled on the definition we are a seamless integration of body/mind/spirit/ in reaction to the void. "body/mind/spirit" I contracted to "life" when I began my thread "Life:a reaction to the void". Since this aspect of our nature is dealt with there I won't elaborate further in a post about knowledge. Similarly I'll leave "spirit" with the definition "light of life". For body/mind I needed definitions that make us identical but individual; and that recognize the physical/mental continuum. So I decided to define body as the integration of realized potential physical capacity, physical activity, and physical knowledge; and mind I defined as the integration of realized potential mental capacity, mental activity and mental knowledge. The integration, maintained by a continuum of physical/mental activity, is identical for all of us while our capacities make us unique; but now I needed a definition of knowledge.

I began my definition by suggesting there is a continuum of knowledge from the entirely physical to the purely mental but acknowledging a physical brain is a prerequisite. The physical knowledge begins with that necessary to transform a single cell into an adult form and along the way we acquire the knowledge of how to use our arms, hands, legs, feet, bodies and senses. I hope for ease of understanding, I 'put' mental knowledge in a cube containing four equal cubes. Looking down at the large cube I 'put' factual knowledge in the upper left cube, theoretical knowledge in the lower right cube, sensory knowledge and emotional knowledge in the other two cubes respectively. Along the line that forms the inside corners of all four cubes I put concepts like the void, belief, faith and God that don't fit into the cubes of knowledge. I imagine the sides the cubes share are at least porous.

Mental activity and to a certain extent the physical activity through our senses, fills the cubes. The capacity for association, memorization, interpretation, speculation, deduction, induction, extrapolation, question, rationalization, organization, categorization, analysis, recollection and... is innate but can be expanded. Understanding is similarly innate but I think not expandable. I see it more as an autonomic activity like breathing except we seem able individually to exist without comprehending life. I think understanding is a secondary activity dependent on primary mental activity thus joined to them. Metaphorically speaking, at the beginning of our mental life I see us standing on the bottom of the big cube, ideally, precisely in the center, over the point shared by the four cubes. I suggest understanding is the mental activity that solidifies under our feet, the knowledge we accumulate with our other activities.

On my most optimistic days I see our ideal collective understanding rising us up to a level at which we can comprehend life. On my other days I see us being off center which causes our understanding to be unbalanced. As a consequence we spend our time trying to maintain our balance so that though we can understand aspects of knowledge, there is no possibility of being raised up enough that we will comprehend life. While I don't believe our collective understanding of life is "extinct" I am inclined to think it is endangered and will become extinct if we don't make the effort to become "centered". If our understanding of life becomes "extinct" I believe we will cease to live. I'm not sure how long after we cease to live we can exist; but then it won't really matter because we will not be unable to understand the possibility of comprehending life.

AN ANGEL 12

I was  in the kitchen just starting to make our luncheon soup. Mom was downstairs doing I don't know what. I heard a crash so I went to investigate. As I descended the stairs the scene that came into view sucked the life out of me. My angel was on the floor. Mom was on her right hip but she was twisted at her waist so that her back , head and arms were also on the floor. As I knelt beside her restraining my tears of agony she managed to say, "I missed the step".

While I was thinking of phoning 911 Mom made an effort to get up so I knew I could help her. As I gathered her into a sitting position I tried to console her and  asked her if she had hit her head. "Yes", she replied, so I checked it  and discovered a lump that fit nicely into the palm of my hand. Not one to sit around however, after a few minutes of hugging Mom rolled onto her hands and knees and with my help she stood.

Mom sat on her bench by the widow and composed herself as I continued to fuss. When I told her I wanted to take her to the clinic she said she didn't want to go. I insisted, she refused. I said, "Yes". She said, "No". I said, "Yes", so we went. On the way to the clinic Mom kept insisting she was all right and at the end of an hour the doctor confirmed Mom's diagnosis and lessened my concerns.

Throughout the entire ordeal Mom did not shed a tear either in pain or self-pity. Over the next few hours she apologized several times for putting me to so much trouble and for frightening me. I accepted her apologies without mentioning the true extent of my 'injuries'. I will now be thinking of her fall every time Mom goes near the stairs. Her fall was also a brutal, unbelievably painful reminder of the coming time I will not be able to console her.

AN ANGEL 11

I was upstairs sitting on the couch writing when I heard the sobs. I ran downstairs immediately. Mom was sitting in her favorite spot on the seat by the window, looking out, unable to control her tears. I sat down and put my arm around her. Mom tried to divert attention from her sad attack by asking me what I was going to do. I told her I was going to sit and comfort her and asked  if that was alright.

It was a stunning surprise when Mom said yes. During all previous sad attacks Mom stiffened and did what was necessary to get herself under control. That was the way it had always been. This time however, Mom relaxed against me and said, "I don't know what happens. Every once in a while I am simply overcome by a great sadness". 

Not too long after I sat down the black cloud over Mom showed signs of thinning. The downpour of sobs became just the occasional shower of tears. During one of the more frequent sunny breaks Mom said, "You know, I just wonder sometimes where all the time has gone". She could have gone on to say, "90 years behind me and very few in front of me, sitting on this bench waiting for the last bus out of town. It is so sad to think that the trip is almost over. Where have I been? What have I done? Does any of it matter?" 

Is it any wonder Mom has sad attacks. These are troubling thoughts that can form a cloud over any one of us if we let them. Most of us don't because we maintain a life  that leaves neither time nor room for these thoughts. However, the older we get the less able we are to avoid them. I thank God I don't have a life so that I am able to help Mom end her sad attacks before she is able to cry enough to drown in her own tears. This, is a blessing.

 

 

LIFE: after death

I have and continue to devote all my time in serious thought, to life. I am not the least bit concerned with life after death. I am betting my life that if we simply reach out to the limits of our capacities, to others and to God in life, God will look after what follows. There is no question that death is a fact of life. However, despite anecdotal evidence, until we actually get there to verify it, life after death will remain a theory.

The roots of our present day theory go deep into our past, probably back to the point in our evolution where our ancestors realized they dreamed in a different 'place' than they lived. With a short step from fact to theory they could easily have equated sleeping with death and then come to believe the part of us that dreamed went to that place where we dreamed, after death. As they began to think more about the hardships of life, life after death evolved into a better existence to compensate for the difficulties.  Over time primitive beliefs became more complicated religions in which the after life was an existence we entered only if we accepted a particular religious belief and followed prescribed religious practices during life. 

In the early days of an evolving commerce, religious leaders began selling memberships in their religions, which included advance bookings at the Paradise Valley Resort. It was advertised as a place where life after death is everything we wish life before death could be. Entering the resort was supposed to be like winning the lottery in perfect health and living forever after life like the rich do before death. Membership in one religion even offers special privileges for martyrdom. As an added incentive most warn that failing to sign up guarantees an eternal stay in Hell's Hole Lodge.

When I do give the possibility of life after death slightly more serious thought I wonder if the marketeers might have it wrong. I consider the likelihood that if there is life after death it is the mirror image of life which at the present time would not be a desirable place to be. A more worrisome thought is that existences on both sides of the 'border' are linked; and thus life after death is contingent on the continuation of life.

If this is a possibility then we are in serious trouble because our present apparently self-destructive activities are not only destroying life, they are also destroying what might be  "after life". This means eventually we will have neither our present place nor "a better place" in which to be. Faced with the prospect of limiting our future it seems to me both believers and non believers, should be trying to save our present the only way we can, by reaching out to the limits of our capacities, to others and to God, our common natural activity which replaces self-destruction with self-realization. (The Last Why: the prose)

LIFE: a reaction to the void

Although we don't think of our lives in this way, I suggest they are reactions to the void. I see the void being simply what we discover when we question the meaning of life, ask the question I call "the last why". The missing answer cannot be a force that acts on us; but I suggest merely being aware of the void causes us to react. If we haven't already, we will get a sense that life is this reaction to the void when part of an 'inheritance' we probably didn't even know seemed to be giving meaning to our life, is removed and we experience the emptiness most often referred to as the void. Once its effect is felt, we don't take long reacting to  the void.

We can think of our reactions to the void as weaving fabrics of existence with 'threads' of activity. There are only two types. Natural activity is reaching out to the limits of our capacities, to others and to God. Its consequence is self-realization. Unnatural activity is trying to fill the void. There are eight ways we can try to fill the void and the consequence of each is self-destruction. 

We weave our fabrics of existence according to the law of human nature which has only two stipulations. First, we must be using some natural 'thread' or we will cease to exist. The law also stipulates there is a limit on the amount of 'thread' we can use. Thus, when we are at our limit, if we wish to add more unnatural 'thread' to our fabric, we must displace an equivalent amount of 'natural' thread. Conversely, if we wish to add natural 'thread', it must replace that amount of unnatural 'thread'. Within the unnatural component we can use any amount and any number of the unnatural 'threads'. Depending on the ratio of natural to unnatural 'thread' we choose to use in our weave, our fabric of existence is either  dominantly self-realization or self-destruction. 

Though we each weave a fabric of existence they have no boundaries. They weave together to form humanity's fabric of existence. We become part of this fabric the moment we are conceived. When we die naturally we fall away from the edge. When we die unnaturally we leave a hole in it. We are influenced  and restricted  by the fabric of humanity; but at the same time we can change it and  the restrictions by changing our individual fabrics.

To 'see' the fabric of humanity, imagine the 'threads' of unnatural activity are different colours and the 'thread' of natural activity is clear. At present the fabric is a mess of clashing colours. We can see through it quite easily but only where there are holes. If we continue to weave with our present mix of 'threads' the fabric of humanity will self-destruct and God will not save it. Nor can any of us alone  prevent self-destruction; but together we can. By reaching out to the limits of our capacities, to others and to God, the ideal reaction to the void, we can create a clear, flawless fabric of existence through which we may see "God's Glory". (see  THE LAST WHY: the poem

 

AN ANGEL 10

Mom had really become hard of hearing. Even when looking right at her, inches from her face, she was having difficulty understanding what I was saying. I had mentioned hearing aids on several occasions but I had never pressured Mom to get them. A few weeks ago during a particularly difficult conversation after a sad attack I mentioned hearing aids again. Finally she agreed to get them.

I was both elated and sad. I was elated because the most used word in her vocabulary would no longer be "pardon" which would mean I would no longer need to repeat myself more often than  normal. I was sad because Mom fights the battle against aging with every ounce of energy she has and denying her hearing loss though misguided, was one of her 'weapons'. So I was sad to see her surrender it. 

Having agreed without coercion I made an appointment to have Mom's hearing tested in Vancouver. We drove down last Monday. At the beginning of the appointment the audiologist asked Mom a few preliminary questions, none of which Mom heard. Then she looked into Mom's ears and calmly stated she couldn't test Mom's hearing because her ears were plugged with wax. I bit my  tongue. 

By the time we had completed the 200k return trip, my  tongue had healed enough to make an appointment with Mom's doctor to get the wax removed the next day. When I told the doctor why we were there she filled the sink with warm water and got out what looked like a huge stainless steel syringe and filled it. I told Mom the doctor was going to stick the syringe in one ear and blow the wax out the other. She didn't hear me otherwise she would have come back with something like, "I hope she doesn't blow out more brains. I haven't got any to spare".

What actually happens is that the in going water softens the plug and after hitting the 'wall' it turns around and forces the plug out. Half way through the third syringe full of water a plug about 3/4 of an inch long and the diameter of a dew worm popped into the basin; and Mom could suddenly hear again. The doctor repeated the procedure on the other ear and Mom could hear even better. No wonder she couldn't hear before. You put a dew worm in your ear and see how well you hear. 

On the way home Mom and I had an almost normal conversation. Of course she asked me if she still had to get her hearing tested Friday and I said yes. After a couple days however, I cancelled the appointment. Mom's hearing isn't great but it is workable. When I told Mom we weren't going to have her hearing tested after all, she looked at me as if I had taken her to the fountain of youth and returned her favorite "weapon". 


SIN

My cousin Carolyn sent a Kincaid e-picture to me. The picture was pretty and particularly captivating because I could see the rain falling. Under the picture was a commentary by the artist's young daughter. Apparently they were driving in the rain and the little girl observed that sin was like rain and God was like the windshield wipers wiping the sin away. When Kincaid noted that the rain kept coming his daughter implied that was just like life when she replied, "We keep on sinning and God just keeps on forgiving us." Kincaid thought his daughter's revelation was profound; I thought the little girl was tragically misinformed. Yes we sin but God can not forgive us.

Sin and forgiveness are concepts thought up by uninformed humans trying to explain life, a long time ago. I use the word sin here as a useful synonym for the concept of deviation from the ideal in my explanation of life. After evaluating the biological evidence it seems that to live as perhaps God intended is to reach out to the limits of our capacities, to others and to God. This is natural activity which is incidentally, the ideal reaction to the void. The ideal reaction has biological rewards the ultimate being, self-realization, life.

Although life is its ultimate reward, the ideal reaction to the void is not legislated by the law of human nature. It allows us to deviate from the ideal in either of two ways. We can try to fill the void, the absolutely restrictive reaction to it; or we can give up, the absolutely permissive reaction to the void. These deviations are both unnatural activities and there are biological punishments the ultimate being, self-destruction, death. In theory we can deviate from the ideal to either of the two absolutes; but in practice we deviate, or to now use its synonym, we sin by degrees. Our punishment, dependent on the degree to which we sin, is a measure of self-destruction. Indeed, the "wages of sin is death". 

God can not forgive any measure of self-destruction nor the contribution our individual sins make to the self-destruction of humanity. Look around!  Clearly we are all sinning and coming far "short of the glory of God". Asking for forgiveness can not wipe away self-destruction. Only by reaching out the limits of our capacities, to others and to God can we save ourselves from sin and self-destruction; and see perhaps "God's glory" in self-realization.
(see poem)

 

AN ANGEL 9

Because a lot of the "Angel" entries are about sad attacks I might have given the impression that Mom is sad most of the time. That impression could not be further from the truth. Sad attacks are noteworthy incidents of life but in our life together laughs outnumber sad attacks by at least 50 to 1. This has been a complete surprise to me because Mom laughing is not a vivid childhood memory. Sadly it was only after 54 years that I learned Mom has a wicked sense of humor. Happily, I have enjoyed it more and more over the last 5 years.

Mom is not as steady on her feet as she once was. A couple days ago while hitting tennis balls for an hour I warned her to be careful backing away from a ball so that she didn't fall backward. She replied, "Yeh, I don't want to fall over and crack my head. I am having enough trouble with my brain already". Tonight after a hug had continued long enough for her, which is about 5 seconds, she grabbed me with all her strength where my love handles would be if I had any. As I screamed in real pain and mock anger Mom tipped her head back and laughed for twice as long as the hug lasted. Now she won't grab me again until I have forgotten she does that and then she'll  do it again. 

One day I was showing my brother Don and Mom an ad in a magazine for a sky light I thought I would install in the dark corner of our kitchen. To emphasize the amount of light the sky light transmitted the picture showed flowers growing in a hallway carpet. Mom causally asked, "Will we have flowers like that on our kitchen floor?" Mom is always poking fun at my culinary efforts. A few years ago I was cooking a meal for both my parents, my sister and her husband. Because I balance ingredients scientifically and my brother-in-law can't tolerate onions, I substituted more green peppers in a recipe that already had a sizable quantity. Mom was cutting them. As my sister and her husband headed out for a walk Mom said, "If you see two green peppers sitting here when you get back, they will be us." On another occasion while driving to the village I asked Mom for my $5 allowance . As she handed me the $5 bill she looked at it and said, "Hmm, it is kind of old and wrinkled, just like me."

Last week late in the afternoon I was coming out of the downstairs bathroom. It was dark and I had my head down so I didn't see Mom in front of me. Just as I got to her my 90 year old mother yelled, "BOO!!!" I have to tell you it was lucky I was coming out of the bathroom and not going in. Mom laughed so hard I thought I would have to grab her to keep her from falling over backward. She continued to laugh as she walked to the laundry room to collect clothes. Sad thoughts of the future flashed through my mind but I enjoyed the moment and looked forward to another laugh.

BATHROOM 3

So far the renovation of Mom's bathroom has not gone according to plan; but does anything ever go according to plan? I had no schedule. They only create a lot of tension and often conflict  between the people involved. However, I must say I am somewhat surprised the project I began six months ago remains unfinished. In self defence I am not proof of the theory that guys tend to allow the time line of a project to expand to fill the perceived time available, and I do have the rest of my life.

I was delayed in part because I wanted a bone colored toilet which is not a stock item. Apparently it only required a week to make but it was made in south Mexico and then shipped by jackass so it took over two months to arrive. I installed the toilet about two months ago and even I don't take two months to build a vanity. It has been delayed because I was forced out of retirement by a former brother and a now lost friend.

Although I didn't have a schedule that I needed to maintain, I did have one time related concern. Being aware of the age thing, it didn't matter what Mom's bathroom looked like, I didn't want it to be without a toilet for any  time at all. However, despite my greatest effort not even this tiniest issue of time went according to plan. I needn't have worried though; I was always able to make it to the downstairs bathroom on time. 

When I finally got to the task the toilet installation did not go according to plan either. I had to install it three times. The first time the toilet seemed to settle right to the floor with no resistance from the wax sealing ring. However, I left it and caulked it. Two hours later I discovered a pool of water soluble caulking at the side of the toilet. I figured a thicker ring would solve the problem.The next day I used the thicker ring and two hours later I discovered a pool of water soluble caulking at the side of the toilet again. During the second installation the toilet rocked as I tried to seat it on the thicker wax ring. A rocking toilet is not good. So prior to my third attempt I lowered the flange which was originally set for a thicker floor.

The second new thicker ring resisted a bit and the toilet bottomed on the floor without rocking, both really good signs. Still nervous about a leak though I left a paper towel on the floor where I found the two previous pools of water soluble caulking. When I returned two hours later the towel was gone. My mother thought it looked messy. I put down another towel and threatened my apprentice with dismissal if she moved it again. When I next returned to the toilet the towel was still there and it had a spot of water on it, right under the tap that supplies the water. The toilet never did leak but now  neither does it rock.

It looks good too despite a change of plan. The plan was to place the toilet with its back against the wall but I didn't have the toilet and I needed the toilet to install the venting for the Panfan. So I thought I would go against convention and turn the toilet 90 degrees placing its back against the vanity. The vanity would cover a larger hole in the wall allowing me to determine the height of the venting after I got the toilet. Before making a final decision I checked with Mom. She thought it was a bit weird but assured me she would not get confused.

The more I thought about it the more inspired the change seemed. A 30" toilet comes half way into a 5' wide bathroom. By turning it sideways it would no longer seem like we had to detour around the toilet to get to the shower. It is more efficient as well. To use a conventionally placed toilet you must first make a 90 degree turn in front of the toilet and then back up. Turned as it is you can drive straight in, veer slightly to the left and then back up. If you are in a real hurry you can jump on sideways. Try doing that with a toilet with its back against the wall without hurting yourself. 

As you should expect by now my bathtub/shower construction didn't go according to plan either. Before starting I imagined replacing the tub with a full 60x30 inch custom built shower enclosure. Imagine my panic attack when after removing the tub I found this ugly black pipe jutting into the corner of my space. I shouldn't have been surprised. I could see the pipe in the ceiling of the basement. It was the vent pipe that had to be in the bathroom wall. However, rather than bore through the beam that supported the wall like some might, my plumber offset the pipe just above the floor. This was possible because the offset is hidden under the flange of a standard tub on which you place the soap dish, shampoo and rubber duck. The reason I was surprised is that though I saw the pipe in the basement a hundred times,  on each occasion by the time I got back upstairs I forgot it was there.

After my initial panic attack subsided enough for my brain to function, I decided to simply cut the corner. Then, I didn't even get to the ceiling of my imagined 45 degree block out before planning to cut it off at 16", put a granite top on it and call it a seat. One of the motivations that inspired my design was the memory of having to steady Dad with one hand while holding a hand held shower head with the other. So I wanted to be easily able to accommodate a seat. Had I had this one while he was alive I could have sat Dad in the corner, turned on the shower and let the soothing water fall. He would have loved this built in seat. Mom and I might too. I call it my serendipity seat.

I hesitate to tell you I have begun the final phase of my renovation in case you hold your breath until I write the final report. I didn't want to rush into it so I started with a towel rack. When I finish that I will assemble the parts of the vanity that have been collecting dust for two months. I will keep you posted. In the meantime if you want to see how far I have come click here to go to the bathroom. If this door is locked enter through the photo album.

 

LOVE

Love is an emotional force which we generate when we reach out to the limits of our capacities, to others and to God, the ideal reaction to the void. This natural activity is the only source of the emotion that makes us feel like hugging ourselves, wrapping our arms around humanity and embracing God. Natural activity is a condition of life so without some we self-destruct. It is also optional; consequently, we all experience love to some extent but not all to the same extent.

If we engaged exclusively in natural activity we could not contain the love we would generate. However, reaching out to the limits of our capacities to others and to God exclusively, though ideal, is also the most difficult reaction to the void. Trying to fill the void or giving up are easier but these choices are not without consequences. Specific to love, when we replace an amount of natural activity with that amount of unnatural activity the love we generate diminishes accordingly. 

As we move away from the ideal, giving up is simply more and more of a drag on others. On the other side of the continuum however, as we increase our efforts to fill the void we begin and continue to consume more and more love of others while generating less and less until we reach bottom where we generate no love and too late discover not even the love of God can fill the void in just one of us. 

We clearly generate less love than we consume. The wreckage of humanity trying to fill the void with the love of another litters the landscape of life. Furthermore, where there is love in our life there is no room for hate and we are not turning it away. We are in such a self-destructive tragedy. We can try to fill the void with love  for an entire lifetime and remain unfulfilled. Yet in a moment of reaching out to the limits of our capacities, to others, and to God we will experience love. Still, we keep trying to fill the void.
(see the last why: poem)