• Life

    30 Days of Gratitude: Wrap Up

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    So that’s my 30 Days Gratitude, and an end to this little experiment. But I think, in a couple of months, I may revisit this experiment, as frustrating as the technology often was. The whole auto-post thing, which has worked well for me in the past when I’ve used it, let me down repeatedly on a couple of levels. If/when I do this again, it will be planned a little more manual up front.

    And I don’t need to do Gratitude again, although I’m certain I could think of 30 more things to be grateful for without too much difficulty. No, I think things will be on a different subjective abstract concept next time. Perhaps I’ll begin drafting the 30 Days of Awesome, or something along those lines. Same size posts, in general, and I actually already have about 2/3 of a list in mind. Nothing drafted yet, and certainly nothing edited, but I’ve got some thoughts on some pretty awesome stuff. Simple things and complicated things, little things and big things.

    Everything is a journey, or a signpost along the way, or a brief rest between legs of the trip. Today, I’m taking a breath. Tomorrow, well, some tomorrow soon, join me for awesome thing number one.

    Be well, everyone.

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  • Life

    30 Days of Gratitude, Day 30: The Wheel

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    30-WheelIt may seem strange end this series on something as simple as the wheel. I certainly covered science and technology in a couple of ways during the early days, but the wheel is special, and if fire is the basis for our technology, in many ways the wheel is its true inspiration.

    Capturing fire was all about survival, making it through the cold season with all of your body parts intact, killing the parasites in our food, and pushing the predators further back into the darkness because a lot of things that might’ve liked to eat us are a little more primitive a don’t appreciate fire all that much.

    Some of the early bits of technology, wood based things like spear heads, we hardened with the fire. But that was about survival, too, since a fire-hardened spear wouldn’t break as easily, it was less likely to let us down on the hunt. Most early technology was about survival, really, with a little bit of personal adornment and decoration.

    The wheel, on the other hand, was potentially the first invention, the first piece of technology that came along specifically to make things better, easier. To be able to do bigger and better things, to move bigger things and change what we could do.

    The wheel led, eventually, to pulleys. Pulleys led to gears. Gears led to clockwork and ever finer details. Clockwork, I would argue, led to the great deal mechanical engineering bled over into early electronics. And electronics, more or less, have given us what we consider the modern world.

    The wheel, along the small handful of other basic devices, gave us the world, and are slowly giving us the universe.

    So yes, I am absolutely grateful for the wheel.

    Be well, everyone.

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  • Life

    30 Days of Gratitude, Day 29: Negative Examples

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    29-NegativeTo provide a counterpoint, or perhaps a couple, to heroes, negative examples are important too.

    I worked for someone who was fond of saying, when presented with a particularly brilliant piece of stupid behavior on the part of one staff member or another, “You’re never completely useless. You can always serve as a negative example.” I live in hope that she never said it about me.

    Simply, a negative example is someone who provides behavior that you very much don’t want to emulate, and maybe even that inspires you to fight against what they stand for, in however small a way.

    Some illustrative examples are worthwhile here, too. I should say that perhaps your mileage will vary. I’m sorry if any of these offend anyone, but I won’t back away from any of them. I would encourage everyone to look for examples of their own, though.

    Stephen Harper, as I write this, is still Prime Minister of Canada, though hopefully not for much longer, who brought neo-conservatism to the Great White North and has done his level best to remold Canada into his own image of how the rich elites run everything for everyone else.

    Ken Ham, whose belief in a small piece of the Christian mythos is so strong and unshakable that he is able to take a hundred million dollars and more than a decade to recreate the work of a 600-year-old man and his two sons with stone age tools. And, of course, he isn’t afraid to look like a complete tool in front of anyone in a debate on the same.

    The entire lineup of people seeking the Republican nomination for next year’s US presidential election. So far, they don’t appear to have two brain cells to rub together between the bunch. While I’m almost certain that can’t actually be the case (biologically speaking, if for no other reason), it’s certainly the image they’re projecting to the rest of the world.

    The Taliban, ISIS, and, as far as I’m concerned, any jihadist terrorist group. I suppose it’s nice to be able to have someone in point to and say, “Well at least we’re better than those crazy fools.” But that sets the bar awfully low.

    Still, is it that much higher in the West? The Westboro Baptist Church, the remnants of the Ku Klux Klan, the Catholic Church, Orson Scott Card, … I’m never going to run out of examples here. Why don’t I just extend this to any group, extremist or otherwise, that promotes hatred, intolerance, or willful ignorance for any part of their belief system.

    A little more thought, a lot less dogma, a little more tolerance, and a lot less slathering hatred would be nice from all those folks and many more. They could all be better than they are.

    But while they keep trying not to be, I can look to the examples they’re setting and find behaviour to work against.

    Be well, everyone.

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  • Life

    30 Days of Gratitude, Day 28: Heroes

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    28-heroThe definition of hero often changes from generation to generation, or even week to week lately. I’m not going to argue anyone’s definition here, but instead simply present my own and perhaps a handful of significant examples.

    I hero has done something hugely significant, really awesome, or just plain cool in such a way or time or place so as to inspire or help other people, to push individuals for our whole species to new heights, or to push themselves to be better than they were.

    My heroes are not rock stars or famous actors more professional athletes. Or if they happen to be, the fact that they are a rockstar, famous actor, or professional athlete is incidental, and basically irrelevant.

    Some examples are clearly in order.

    Albert Einstein, who more or less created an entire branch of physics merely because he was curious about how things actually work.

    Rosa Parks, who, at the right time and place, gave a giant middle finger to racists across the world, and particularly in the United States, simply by refusing to give up her seat.

    Chris Hadfield, perhaps Canada’s most famous astronaut, campaigns tirelessly for innovation and exploration and space sciences, and who really should get into a major public office to help build some real change, because I’m not always sure we can wait for all the people he’s inspiring to grow up.

    Neil Degrasse Tyson, was done more for science education and popularization van pretty much anyone in the history of science, except maybe Carl Sagan, who also belongs on this list.

    Bill Nye, for similar reasons, but also because he’s not afraid to stand up and debate for rationalism in the face of ultra-right-wing religious dogma. In fact, he’s doing it so well doing so that a recent high-profile ultra-religious opponent had to later publish a book explaining why he won.

    Rebecca Vitsmun who, after surviving a tornado that ripped apart her home and neighborhood, told Wolf Blitzer live on CNN that she did not in fact thank God for her good fortune, because she was in fact an atheist, and then went on to help build Foundation Beyond Belief, a humanist disaster relief and recovery organization.

    Remember what I said about famous actors, rockstars, and so on? Ricky Gervais, who is a famous actor, is also incredibly outspoken and unafraid on the subject of animal rights, and damn whatever the consequences might be to his career.

    It’s not hard to go on, but maybe this is a good place to end the post. Heroes are people actually do stuff, good stuff, and inspire anyone paying attention to be better.

    Who are your heroes?

    Be well, everyone.

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  • Life

    30 Days of Gratitude, Day 27: Humour

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    27-HumourOn the heels of yesterday, to pick one specific emotion, humor is critically important in my life. I would rather be happy than sad, and I would rather laugh than cry. There’s a lot of humor to be found in the world, and if not all of it is my type, that’s okay too.

    George Carlin once said that the comedian’s job is to think up goofy shit or to point out the things that you forgot to laugh at first time. This is a good description of what I want from my humor. Find me some goofy shit or find me something I should have laughed at but didn’t think to.

    Don’t show me humor the takes pleasure from someone else’s pain, even if it’s simple as a practical joke or prank, April fools or otherwise. If it needs misery, I’m not interested.

    Don’t show me humor that single’s someone out, or group, or makes fun of anyone for who or what they are. Show me crazy stuff, stupid behavior, ridiculous ideas and situations. Show me funny things.

    I love to laugh, and that’s never going to change.

    Be well, everyone.

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  • Life

    30 Days of Gratitude, Day 26: Emotion

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    26-EmotionSo if I look back at the original series of Star Trek, as I frequently do, I come to the conclusion that Spock is my favorite character. I love them all, really, but I think I identify closest with Spock. In a lot of ways, outwardly at least, the Vulcan first officer of the original starship Enterprise was defined by his lack of emotion. Except, as the series goes on, you discover it’s not so much a lack of emotion as it is an ironclad control.

    And I very much identify with that. I am an emotional sap.

    I feel everything very intensely, and I keep as much of a grip on my emotions as I can, not necessarily because I want to, although sometimes I do, but because I feel like I have to. Which is silly, because in the last decade or so society has loosened up to the point where men are permitted a broader selection of emotions. Although, we’re still not always allowed (and I use the word loosely) to express them effectively.

    But while control is a wonderful thing, instead I’m thrilled at having those emotions the first place.

    I love me a happy ending, where boy gets girl, or boy, or amorphous alien life form, or whatever. I want the bad guy to get what’s coming to them. I get irritated with commercials that play my emotions in order to try selling me something. Playing to my emotions often works, but I’m quite well aware of the commercial purpose, and find it distasteful, so that doesn’t. if anything, it backfires.

    As part of my oldest daughter’s graduation ceremony, they juxtaposed a baby or toddler picture of each child with their graduation photo. My eyes were definitely moist when her picture came on screen. The same thing happened for my son’s graduation three years ago. I have every expectation that all fight tears again during my youngest daughter’s graduation two years from now.

    I love my wife and children, and just contemplating the absence of any of them from my life, and knowing that all of my children are, in a relatively small handful of years, departing for post-secondary education, breaks my heart just a little. I read things and see things in the media on a regular basis the provoke a variety emotional responses, from laughter to disgust to sorrow and even desolation.

    Life would probably be a great deal quieter, simpler, less stressful, and more straightforward without emotions.

    But it would also be bereft of meaning in so many ways.

    If sometimes I seek the way of the Vulcan, it’s not because I’m ashamed or embarrassed by my emotions, or because I don’t want them, but because they are mine, and I should get to choose what you see of them.

    But I’ll take all the joy and pain and everything in between, and make it part of who and what and why I am.

    Be well, everyone.

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  • Life

    30 Days of Gratitude, Day 25: Voice

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    25voiceTaken literally, a voice allows us to express our thoughts aloud, share our feelings immediately with other people, add words to tone and body language to communicate so much more in person than mere words in print alone. And yes, everyone has a different voice, distinct and unique to them as fingerprint or retinal scan, and some of us control our voices well enough to be good storytellers, or readers, or singers.

    I don’t sing very well, but that doesn’t necessarily stop me. I feel that you should always sing as if no one’s listening (and dance like no one’s watching). I haven’t always liked my voice, but it’s mine, and I suppose I’m stuck with it, though it certainly shifts and changes with time. I’ve come to the understanding that I might as well love my voice, if only because it’s mine.

    But the word voice suggests an audible sound, and not everyone has one of those, nor does everyone use theirs effectively. Your true voice, your actual, unique, true voice, comes from how you put your thoughts together and express them in words, whether that’s aloud, into the keyboard, on paper. Your voice is an expression of self, a thing to be molded and shaped, and held onto.

    I’m grateful for my voice, and more, for the ability to recognize that I have one along with the will to learn to use it for more than just simply saying hello.

    But that’s important, too.

    Be well, everyone.

     

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  • Life

    30 Days of Gratitude, Day 24: Language

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    24languageI suppose that, as a writer, language should become somewhere closer to the beginning of the list, but I don’t stress too hard about the order of things after family.

    It is worth stating outright that I love words. I love to play with words, to create and manipulate words. Poems and articles and stories, working within and around the rules of grammar built by generations gone before me in their quest to communicate ever more complicated ideas to each other while not losing the simpler, more fundamental one.

    Language is awesome. We can do so much with it, express so many things. Language, and its child writing, allow our society to exist and grow beyond the spoken tradition and the limits of individual human memory. What I write today might be read idly by someone a hundred or a thousand or a billion years from now. As long as it’s stored somewhere, and there someone who understands the language, it will never be lost.

    Language can preserve my thoughts and feelings, create stories, and send ideas.

    But I almost think the most wonderful thing about language is that there’s more than one. And while the world shrinks and more of us can come together and communicate with each other using common languages, none of us use our own language the same way, much less the thousands of others spread across our tiny planet.

    Hello.

    Bonjour.

    Goddag.

    Guten tag.

    Hola.

    Konnichiwa.

    Përshëndetje.

    Saluton.

    Geia sas.

    Namastē.

    Hujambo.

    Salom.

    NuqneH.

    And that’s only the tiniest tip of the iceberg.

    English is a frustrating, inconsistent, obnoxious joy to work with, but it’s not the only language available. I doubt I’ll ever learn enough of another to write competently in it, but there is great pleasure to be found in trying.

    Be well, everyone. Soyez bien, tout le monde.

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  • Life

    30 Days of Gratitude, Day 23: Thought

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    23thoughtHuman beings have the most wonderful ability to think, though sometimes it seems as if we seldom use it. Part of the basic functioning of our brain, thinking allows us to understand the world and the universe around us, to ask questions, and to figure things out. Thought allows us to learn and change and grow.

    Of course, it’s not unique to humans. While I’m not a scientist or psychologist, or anything like either, I will suggest that there are a large number of creatures on this world who have the ability of thought, a by-product, or special feature, of the brains they use. You can watch other creatures learn, figure out new things, change their behavior based on what they’ve experienced. Where the line is, and how fuzzy it is, between pure programmed instinct and actual learned, considered behavior, I have no idea. But the capacity for thought is much broader than mere humanity.

    Learn, understand, grow.

    Be well, everyone.

     

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  • Life

    30 Days of Gratitude, Day 22: Time

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    Infinity time. Digital generated
    Infinity time. Digital generated

    Time flies.

    Time heals.

    Time waits for no one.

    Time changes everything.

    Time is what prevents everything from happening at once.

    People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to affect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective point of view, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey… stuff.

    Rosemary and thyme. Okay, maybe not.

    Tracked on a calendar, whichever one you want, we divide time into various slices from the projected lifespan of the universe all the way down to Planck time. But however you think of it, we each only have a certain amount of time and there’s no way to know how much.

    There are a lot of things you can do to take care of yourself and increase the amount of time you’re likely to have, and yet almost none of those do anything to protect you from random chance. Shit, as the old cliché goes, happens. So I’m teaching myself to be grateful for every scrap of time I have, to not waste anyone else’s, and to always be doing something important. Important to me, really, because I’m the only one who can decide what is important for me. You may pick different things. You probably will.

    Time is precious.

    Another, and not very original way to look at it is this: the universe existed for billions of years before I was born, and it will go on existing for trillions more after I die. My span of time, however long I have, is that little blip in between. So whether or not I have fewer days ahead than there are behind, and however many days I have left, I can’t, at this point, lament the time I might have lost or wasted. There’s no point. I still have to live what I have left. I still have to fill that span of time with important things and recognize that there will be an ending.

    To cliché, I don’t intend to cry when it’s over, but hope I can smile because it happened.

    Be well, everyone.

     

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