Change without and within

viaduct

Photo property of Iejano (www.flickr.com/photos/lejano/). Used without permission but undying appreciation.

There is a bridge that crosses Toronto’s Don River—the Queen Street Viaduct—that is itself bridged by an arch inscribed with the message:

“This river I step in is not the river I stand in”

The sentiment, I have learned, is an adaptation of the teachings of Heraclitus as handed down in Plato’s Cratylus:

“Everything changes and nothing stands still. You could not step into the same river twice.”

It is a concept that I have come to embrace deeply through my many walks around and across Toronto, my camera firmly planted in front of my face.

Although I regularly seek new routes to follow in the hopes of discovering previously unknown treasures (at least unknown to me), I also revisit well-trodden routes to explore the changes that occur from visit to visit.

As Heraclitus suggested, our world is one of constant transformation if we but seek to see it.

Every nature walk brings me new species of plants and animals to photograph and opportunities to better appreciate the ones I see regularly.

Every lane way and alley along the grid of thoroughfares that cross my city, offer me windows into the temperments of street artists and social commentators who splash their messages and visions on every surface in dazzling colour.

Grime

These displays and their constant revision is one of the reasons why I will never be bored on any of my walks. But there is another reason that resonates within me much more deeply.

I am constantly changing.

Just as Heraclitus suggested that the river flows and so is not the same from one minute to the next, my life and my experiences continually flow and so I do not greet my world in the same way from one minute to the next.

The same yellow warbler might sit on exactly the same branch at the same time tomorrow and I might never see it. And even if I did, I would appreciate it in a completely different manner for reasons I cannot begin to fathom and recount today.

Yellow warbler

Every experience—regardless of whether I am conscious of it—changes me and influences how I frame and absorb my universe. Acknowledging that helps ensure that I am open to all of these new experiences within supposedly familiar ground.

Thus, to paraphrase the Queen Street Viaduct:

“These eyes I look with are not the eyes I see with”

Believing this, I live in an amazing world and embrace every moment for its wonder.

Shaped, not defined

We are all, in many ways, shaped by our life experiences.

It is important to remember, however, that those experiences don’t have to define who you are or what you become. That is up to you.

wade

Giving, gratitude and karma

Puppet girl

A cherished symbol of appreciation and friendship

When someone contracts me to write or to develop marketing creative, I expect to be compensated. Most often, the compensation is money, but on occasion, it is a service-for-service barter.

But, as often as not, I voluntarily offer my creative services to friends and acquaintances who are pursuing passion projects or who are doing something about which I am passionate.

I’ve Tweeted and Facebooked madly about a nearby restaurant that specializes in bacon sandwiches.

I’ve created promotional posters for crowd-funding campaigns of a short film I would love to see made and a bizarre puppetry show at distant Fringe festivals.

Locked up

Their photo, my verbiage

And in other cases, I’ve merely retweeted and shared posts by favourite bloggers, artists and journalists.

Yet for all of this work—almost universally welcomed by the sources—I have never directly been compensated. And not only am I okay with that, I am actually pleased. Compensation was never my goal.

I’ve had a few friends who’ve witnessed my mania and offered feedback like:

They should be feeding you for free for all this work.

Or

I hope they appreciate what you’re doing for them.

And I smile and shrug, because again, that isn’t my purpose.

Instead, my goal is to apply my passions and skills to help others achieve theirs, even if unsolicited and unrecognized. The point is the doing, not the acknowledgement.

This isn’t to say that such recognition isn’t welcomed and received with gratitude. Pretty much everyone to whom I have offered my gift has expressed his or her joy and appreciation in receiving it. And in a few cases, I have even received wonderful gifts.

After psychotically promoting the anarchic puppet improv spectacle PuppetUp! through social media, the show’s co-creator Patrick Bristow gave me a souvenir puppet from the show to express his thanks. I was grateful for this gesture and cherish the puppet for the sentiment it represents. But the greater gifts I received in this effort were the friendships I formed with the co-creator and the puppeteers that we still maintain years later.

Ironically, if I have struggled of late, it is in the simple acceptance of acts of kindness from others, whether unsolicited or in response to acts on my part. As much as I eschew the same behaviour in those to whom I offer kindness, I feel like I should at least compensate people for theirs to me. Instead, I am making an effort to simply say thank you.

If nothing else, you’re setting up some good karma.

And I smile and shrug, because ultimately, I don’t think you can force karma in any direction.

To my mind, the very desire of and attempt to create good karma negates it. Doing so implies a need for compensation for kind deeds.

It must be enough for me to do the good deed. Karma will do what karma will do.

I used to dismiss my efforts with a waved hand and a quick: It’s nothing. I now realize that is a discredit to myself, to the gift, and to the recipient.

It is not nothing. It is decidedly something. But it is something that I wish to do and offer gladly.

It is, perhaps ironically, a symbol of my gratitude to the recipient.

Hockey calendar

Sharing a passion with fellow fans

[And now, to completely deflate the seriousness of my message, does anyone else hear the music to The Little Drummer Boy?]

12 Days of Gratitude – Honourable Mentions

13 days

I have the great fortune to be surrounded by love and support from a variety of sources. But with that boon comes the curse of trying to select only 12 people for whom I am grateful.

And I failed…because I now present you with the handful of souls who didn’t make the original list but who I cannot NOT thank and honour. You all mean the world to me.

Mike & Lee

Mike & Lee: Truly devoted friends who ask nothing and offer everything.

Victoria

Victoria: Always quick with a supportive smile, heart-warming giggle and welcoming spirit.

Marlies

Marlies family: Collective chaos and maniacal wit with as many facets as faces. (not all members shown here)

Asmara

Asmara: A glowing spirit who befriends all.

Mike & Nana

Mike: The buddy for when you need to bury a body, no questions asked. Devoted friend, father, husband.

agah

Agah: Debate master and brother-man from another motherland, all packaged with devotion and dedication

12 Days of Gratitude – Leela

Leela

This is Leela, a woman who could easily have occupied all 12 slots in this countdown.

A woman of many passions and indecisions, she easily ranks as my best friend, my confidante, and likely the only one who truly understands my soul…probably better than I do. No matter what I accomplish in life, in times of my greatest darkness, or when I simply need a soothing voice, Leela is the person to whom I turn first. And I hope I offer even a smidgen of the same to her.

It can take some effort to get to truly know Leela, but the rewards of doing so make any effort seem insignificant.

 

(Part Twelve of my 12 Days of Gratitude…because the rest of the news sucks)

12 Days of Gratitude – Me

I’d like to introduce you to…well…me. I’m a true Renaissance man…and by that, I mean someone who under the best of conditions feels about 500 years old.

I’m a writer, scientist, photographer, comedian, puppeteer and hockey fanatic; and yet, despite having a lot in common with me, I have not always been my biggest fan. No matter how well I succeeded in life, I always thought I could do better, or that I would be discovered and shunned as a fraud. Well, screw me!

Now, I recommend that as many of you get to know me as possible…I’m pretty damned cool!

 

(Part Eleven of my 12 Days of Gratitude…because the rest of the news sucks)

12 Days of Gratitude – Alayna

Alayna

This is my friend Alayna. For every reason that I told you Ned was a good man, Alayna defines what it is to be a good woman.

Friend, mother, wife, educator, nut-bar, science nerd: all qualities that make Alayna a very special woman, someone who blesses my life with every witticism and wise-crack. Buried behind a veneer of sarcasm is a passionate soul who is both demanding of and deeply dedicated to others.

To know Alayna is to have your life enriched, your mind expanded and your passions empowered (and sometimes your ass kicked).

 

(Part Ten of my 12 Days of Gratitude…because the rest of the news sucks)