Knife’s Edge

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January 26, 2020-

I don’t have to live for adventure.  It finds me, in large and small ways-both close by and farther afield, nearly every day.  It’s likely that this happens because of my tendency, albeit fairly recent, to focus on what’s around me with intensity and alacrity.  The spiritual discussion we had this morning, for example, opened my mind to a much wider view of what constitutes meditation.  As many messages from my spirit guides come during intense meditation, it’ll be interesting to see which messages arise from some of the avenues that were suggested by participants in the group.

Jordan Peterson, in discussing the presence of hierarchy and of laws, in human society, points out that, with all the potential perils and thousands of stimuli that we face each day, multiplied over the lifespan of the human race, it would have been well nigh impossible for humanity to have achieved anything close to what we see in our historical-and “pre-historical” record, let alone what exists today, through human ingenuity, without some sort of organization.  It’s worth noting that most species of animals have some sort of hierarchy.

Life has, indeed, many aspects that play out on a knife’s edge, so to speak.  Just in my small sphere of existence- there is a 69-year-old body, that has remained quite healthy, give or take a few dental issues, some staph infections on my skin and a couple of joint inflammations, which have gone away, with treatment; there is my well-maintained car, which is likely to see me through local driving-and a long journey around North America, this summer-and more local driving next autumn, through winter.  My cars, when not the object of tampering, or abuse prior to my ownership, have lasted a very long time.  My work history has certainly played out, on a knife’s edge.  Each experience, though, has taught me a myriad life lessons-ditto, for my friendships, and other encounters.

So, the large and the small of it will likely long continue-relatively speaking.  20-30 years, if I have left what some have told me I have, is relatively short, but a lot can be packed into it.

 

 

The Queue

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January 6, 2020-

I have long been tagged as “an individual”, mostly in an admiring way.  The practice of setting one’s own course is often seen with adoring eyes, from a distance.  It is at the same time true, of many of those who look favourably upon the people who chart their own course, that there is a compelling need to follow the herd.

I have actually, in these later years, especially, found a fair amount of satisfaction in fitting in with society’s reasonable expectations.  I derive pleasure from honouring the queue, the sense that everyone else is just as entitled to respect, kindness and regard for their time, their hopes and dreams as I am.  Being a Bull in The China Shop stopped working for me, even before I met Penny.  Patience, indeed, has provided me with a keen sense of observing what is going on around me-things I’d have missed, in my late teens and twenties.

These thoughts came to mind, as I read Jordan Peterson’s notions on conformity.   It is true that the majority of things that society at large does, in a day, and the way in which these are done, is composed of what works.

Generations, though, will have their own take on matters, and the practice of the quotidian will change, with time.  I have found some of the methods put forth by the rising generations, in facing our day -to- day problems, actually make perfect sense-and so, I have adapted some of these in my own daily life.  I do so, knowing that I am not a Baby Boomer trying to be a copy cat, but a sentient being, gratefully adapting to a rather promising time.  My use of paper and plastics is down, for example, and I am maintaining a keen interest in the more organic foods and medicines that have emerged, over the past decade.

I do not sense the queue will disappear, nor will its underlying sense of order- but it will be accompanied by a stronger sense of inclusivity-not willy-nilly, but sensible, as we recognize a more unified order.

Authenticity

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January 5, 2020-

In all the debate about sin, evil and the unfortunate events of life, there is a place for consideration of being real versus living in what one knows, deep down, to be a fallacy; of being authentic versus being inauthentic.

Jordan Peterson, in Twelve Rules for Life, points to the allegories of Lucifer, and of the Egyptian demon-figure, Set, as illustrations of the dangers posed by over-rationalization.  It is, in effect, the opposite of taking ownership of one’s life, responsibility for one’s actions.  Satan always comes up with an excuse for what he’s done-and it’s always someone else’s fault-even God’s fault.  This allegorical depiction of wickedness lays it out straight,though.  Only integrity, ownership of one’s behaviours-and of their outcomes, will serve to bring about a life well-lived.

I had to learn that the hard way.  Losing a spouse brings a person to account, faster than just about anything, even if-as in my case- it isn’t directly one’s fault.  I could not, however, blame anyone for Penny’s passing.  Hereditary disease would have struck her down, at some point, regardless, and all I can do is learn from the experiences of care-taking and of widowhood.  I have taken the lesson that a life of integrity may only be lived if the person living it  maintains authenticity.

Deceit erodes that integrity, first within one’s own heart, then gradually outwardly through one’s circle of friends, one’s family, one’s tribe.  A life without trust is a life of emptiness.

I am fortunate, to have reached a point where authenticity is something of which I am no longer ashamed or embarrassed.

 

My Top Reads of 2019

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December 29, 2019- 

I covered a decade, yesterday, but today I will take a brief look at the books which mattered most to me, this year.  I have covered key books of years past, as I finished them.

10.  Abby Wize:  AWAY (Revision)– This Baha’i-themed book was revised to include more detail and to flesh out a previously one-dimensional character.  It is the account of a young girl who has a vision of a spiritually-advanced society of the future, after suffering a head injury.

9. Spiritwalker– This tale, similar to Abby Wize, involves communication between a Hawaiian man and one of his descendants, in the far future.  It is more dystopian than Abby Wize, so expect a description of a more seemingly primitive future environment.

8. Winter of the World– The second volume of Ken Follett’s series of novels on the Twentieth Century, this tale covers several families’ experiences in Britain, the United States, Germany and Russia, in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

7.  Swimming for Sunlight– This novel follows a newly-divorced young woman, as she overcomes her guilt stemming from her father’s tragic death and her fear of life, that results from that guilt.

6. Testaments- (Reading in progress)- This novel is a sequel to Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale”, offering details into the lives of individual women during the period of the fictional Republic of Gilead.

5.  Twelve Rules for Life (Reading in progress)- This non-fiction book, by Jordan Peterson, discusses twelve ethical principles and their application to both modern life and traditional Western thought.

4. The Alchemist– Paolo Coelho’s classic tale of a young man, traveling from Spain to Egypt, across the Sahara Desert and back, and of the spiritual transformation this brings about, in his life and that of those around him.

3. Gulistan (Reading in progress)-  This is a collection of poetry and stories, fdrawn from both the life and from the observations of a doctor who has keen insights into both Indian and American cultures and mores.

2.  Reflections of A Wonderful Life– These are the memoirs of my brother, presented in the form of answers to questions posed by his three children.  They mirror my own memories, in many ways.   Both this book and Gulistan have influenced my own memoirs, in terms of the format in which they will be presented.  No promises, but I look to getting them written, by this coming Fall.

1. The Brothers Karamazov– Feodor Dostoevsky’s seminal novel on the human condition, this novel is not so much concerned with Good vs. Evil, as it is with internal versus external loci of control.  The atheist paints a nihilistic portrait of the bleak Tsarist environment, whilst his own fervently religious brother, alternately optimistic and despairing, sees only the Will of God behind all happenings, both positive and negative.  The eldest brother  is presented as a rake, who fiercely clashes with his simpleton father, over a woman.  The resulting conflict has deadly results, giving rise to the novel’s debates among the brothers on matters of free will and morality.

These are the reads which influenced me the strongest, over the past twelve months.

 

Smelling The Roses

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November 24, 2019-

For the longest time, I went through life being purposeful, and regarding taking time with non-essentials as a waste of time.  Even time in nature had to be for the purpose of reaching a goal.

Penny got me to slow down, just a bit, and to not  look at life as just a thing to be accomplished.  Since I wasn’t really all that ambitious, in the conventional sense, learning to relax and not be time-driven was actually refreshing.

Jordan Peterson’s twelfth rule for life is “If You See A Cat on The Road, Pet It.”.    Although many of the cats I’ve encountered in life are hardly willing to be petted, the sentiment is  a charming one.

Being semi-retired, I now take more time for the gentle pleasures of life.  Most of the people in my life understand this, and many say it’s high time. I have encountered a few who take umbrage at my pastimes, and their words sometimes trigger memories of my past.  This leads me to lash out, as I did in the earlier version of this post.  Time away, reading “Abby Wize”, brought me back down to the level at which I am in a better frame of mind.  Nobody likes being triggered, yet I need to keep above it.

That is the thing.  I have worked hard, at a number of endeavours, both professionally and socially.  I have earned a measure of taking time to smell the roses.  Lest anyone think I was playing the victim card earlier- think again.  Lest anyone think I am dodging social responsibility, think twice.  I  continue to be very much involved in community activities. That, to me, is part of taking time for what is beautiful in life.  Towards that end, I enjoy walking in our lovely town, spending much time in leisurely walks through nature.  I will continue to enjoy time with non-judgmental people.  I will pet animals, especially dogs, which enjoy that kind of attention.  As you may have guessed, I will also continue to travel widely, especially towards the late spring and summer months of next year.  As Dr. Peterson says, taking time for what is meaningful is what keeps us in good health, and even helps the sick to recover.

This concludes my first set of commentaries on the Twelve Rules for Life.

 

 

Both Halves of the Whole Are Necessary

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November 23, 2019-

The practice of chivalry has long taken a bad rap.  For this, I blame the degeneration of the once noble art into infantilization, then misogyny.  What was a system for honouring all that women did for the good of the world, became a means to dominance.

As the old saw goes, “When the worm turns, we all turn.”  It’s been masculinity’s time to take some hits, in the name of a level playing field.  The point of overkill appears to have been reached, about ten years ago.

Both genders can claim a plethora of contributions to the well-being and advancement of society, and of civilization.   There are men and women of distinction, in just about every field of endeavour that comes to mind.  Due to a long-standing system of such things as the disparity in salary between men and women, for the same work and the false equivalence, “whataboutism”, that gets raised, every time lingering issues of misogyny are raised, the temptation to take even more away from men is understandable.

Gender, itself, owing to both the frequent imbalance of gender-determining hormones, in all too many people, has been under a degree of attack.  This is not the fault of anyone who has a greater degree of testosterone compared to estrogen, or vice versa.  There are likely a good many causes of the imbalance, from genetic modification of food and drink to pollutants in the air and water.

However, I digress.  The fact that I was born male, am very happy to remain male and am physically attracted only to women does not need to be renegotiated.  I can be, and am, friends with a fair number of gay men and transgender people.   That, and the fact that I once cried easily, has never had anything to do with my gender identity.

Jordan Peterson’s eleventh rule for life is, essentially, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”    The legitimate achievements of men, those on which a man did NOT piggy-back on the work of a woman, need not be minimized. (There are certainly plenty of the piggy-backed cases.)

Indeed, there is often a tendency for people to not know where to stop, when correcting a past wrong.  The misunderstood term, microaggression,, has been offered as a reason for excess revisionism in history and for an overage of caution in determining a proper course of action.  Microaggression is essentially between  individuals, and is best sorted out, at that level.

Dr. Peterson carries this to the achievements of Western European/North American society.  Certainly, there is much about the “Western civilization” to admire, which is a large part of why it has been so universally emulated.  There is also much that needs correction, and some of the answers to our issues may be found in examining other societies.

In essence, then, no community can long exist, successfully, without equal contributions by BOTH women and men.  In addition, no society can thrive on one set of social practices alone.

Each One, Let The Other One Live

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November 22, 2019-

I am reading the updated version of a young adult novel, “Abbie Wize: AWAKE”.   It is the story of a misunderstood, isolated and battered young girl, who experiences a unique spiritual awakening.  Her main nemesis is her own mother, who appears at this point in the novel as a brutal and controlling menace.

Jordan Peterson’s Rule 10 is ” Don’t Knock A Teenager Off A Skateboard”.  Basically, our task as members of society is to not be so up in other people’s business, that we quash their legitimate joys, experiences and efforts.     This is even true, to an extent, of parents, so long as a child is not harming self or others.

I tend to concur with that sentiment.  My own parents were not brutes and I can count on one hand the number of times I was physically chastised, as a child and teen.  I was not too different, as a father, in that respect.

As adults, many tend to think it is within their boundaries to prescribe to others, exactly how they should be handling their business.  There is a story about an old man, a young boy and a donkey.  As they went on their journey to a town that was ten kilometers away, the old man walked, while the boy rode the donkey.  Some objected, saying the robust boy should let his elder ride.  They switched places and kept going.  Others appeared, berating the old man for making such a small child walk.  The boy joined the old man, riding the donkey.  Animal rights activists chided the pair, for putting the poor donkey under such a strain.  The man and boy decided the activists were right, and began carrying the donkey!  A group of rowdy men gathered, and began mocking the two, for being so stupid as to carry an animal.  The old man and the boy decided to take turns riding the donkey, and so they went the rest of the way in peace.

Dr. Peterson’s point here is not that we should be apathetic towards our fellows, but that we should adopt a posture of seeing each other as they see themselves, and taking steps to encourage right behaviour-rather than aiming our arrows solely at what is being done wrong.

This, combined with his earlier point about listening to one’s critics, calls for a balance in our interactions with one another.  I have learned to measure my criticism carefully, as well as to sift my own naysayers’ words, with a view towards continuous self-improvement.

 

A Humble Posture of Learning

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November 21, 2019-

One of the things our parents instilled in my siblings and me is that it’s possible to learn from anyone.  I took that as a dictum to listen and to draw lessons from what someone does, as well as what is said.

Jordan Peterson’s tenth rule for life is just that:  “Learn from those who know what you don’t know.”  Watching and listening is always a good thing, when combined with the ability to discern right from wrong.  I can listen to someone describe how they snookered gullible people, in their old neighbourhood, and LEARN:  1). How not to let that person, or someone like him/her, take advantage of me; 2.  How not to treat a gullible person.  On the other hand, I can watch and listen, carefully, to a seasoned automobile engine mechanic demonstrate how to remove and replace the rings and valves of the engine, and maybe, given the right circumstances, perform the activity myself.

A Roma man, in Paris, after failing to con me into taking a ring that I had seen him drop on the sidewalk, decided to tell me of  other tricks that his rivals, on the Right Bank of the Seine, might try on me.  These tips came in handy, especially as when it started pouring rain, I only wanted to get back to my hotel.  Yes, the scams included “Monsieur, look! My uncle is coming, with his pedicab!!” (There was no pedicab, as my Roma friend had told me there wouldn’t be.   He had said that, if I looked on cue, two deft fingers would search my back pockets.  As it happened, I had only a soiled handkerchief in my  back right pocket, and nothing in my left, as my valuables were secure, elsewhere.)

One can also learn from observing others, and from overhearing them.  I try to keep that to a polite minimum, but it has often been beneficial, so long as I don’t try to inject myself into their business, without cause.

The greater point is:  None of us knows everything, and those who pretend as much, fool few outside of their own circle-if even them.  Baha’u’llah prescribes adopting a humble posture of learning.  It is that which leads me to read, to observe what goes on around my Home Base, to stay abreast of  current events and to travel, when time avails itself.

The Conscious Step Away From An Abyss

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November 20, 2019-

So, it now happens that, if I want to truly understand what Jordan Peterson is trying to say, in his Twelve Rules for Life, I will have to actually read his book.    The reason is the depth of Rule 9.  A simple synopsis is: Understand Your Dark Side. Know exactly that of which you are capable, and resolve not to do it.

Each of us has a dual nature, which is exactly why Christ endured 40 days of temptation and His Crucifixion.  He wanted us to know that the path away from self-destruction lay totally in following the Teachings of the Divine, which derive, essentially, from the Golden Rule.  Not only acts of goodness, but consciousness and dismissal of, the darkness within.  Baha’u’llah endured the indignity of His tormentors, who included many within His own family, that we may see the two paths down which we might each go, and that we may choose  the Path of Light.

I have had struggles, all throughout this life, and only after enduring Penny’s disease, vicariously- and as her caretaker; only after wrestling with left-over baggage, following her passing, and making a conscious decision to turn aside from the darkness, have I ended up in a place of Light.  So, I get the gist of what Dr. Peterson speaks here.  Seeing the dark, and teetering on the edge of it, is debilitating. Seeing the goodness, and nurturing it, sends the spirit soaring.

 

Fulfilling vs. Expedient

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November 11, 2019, Santa Monica-

A few days ago, back at Home Base, I found that some javelinas had knocked over a couple of neighbours’ trashcans.  Although it was early morning and I was in relaxation mode, there was the element of “We don’t have to live like this”, which has long been my mantra, with regard to tolerating a squalid environment.  I went outside and picked up the entire mess.

Jordan Peterson’s seventh rule for living is “Do what is fulfilling, instead of what is expedient”.  My mother never let us slide, when it was time to get a task, chore or school assignment done.  God knows, there were plenty of times when I would have loved to hang loose and slack off.  It is a blessing that I never got away with it.

Many times, people have said to me that I do things “the hard way”.  Mostly, if I do such things, it is so I can remember how to do them properly, the next time.  As for not being necessarily expedient, I have found that cutting corners almost always returns to haunt me.  It’s better to go the extra mile, the first time.

That is also the way of the veteran, whose service rarely, if ever, allowed for expediency.