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It’s subtle, almost imperceptible;

The sense you’re being measured.

 

It’s not malicious; it may not be conscious,

And it’s not the metric of any ruler or scale.

Rather it’s based on history.

 

Not world history; not even your history,

But a history of pain and joy;

A history of violence and caresses;

A history of anticipation, both eager and dread.

 

It’s a measurement made during a moment’s pause;

Through a renegade lock of hair;

In a side-long glance rather than challenging stare.

 

We measure the people we meet,

Seeking solace that this one’s different,

Checking for warning echoes of past sorrows.

Hoping for the best. Wary of the worst.

 

I am measured. You are measured. And yet,

The result speaks more of the measurer than the measured.

Remembering Johnnie

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It was my nightly ritual, lying in bed in the dark listening to the radio.

Still in high school and living at home, I had finally exercised some autonomy by moving my bedroom to the basement of our townhouse, two full floors from the rest of the family. It was my sanctuary, surrounded by my books, my mattress resting on the floor, the sounds of Toronto’s 1050 CHUM filling the room, disturbing no one.

The music stopped, as it often would for commercial breaks, but this time for a news announcement. Odd for this time of night.

“Reports are coming in that John Lennon has been shot and killed outside of his Dakota apartment in New York City.”

The air then hung silent—for a moment, a minute, an hour, I can’t say for certain—and then the room filled with the simple piano chords that start the song Imagine.

I knew of John Lennon, at that point in my life. Knew his songs from years of listening to the radio.

And I was well aware of The Beatles; from their music, their movies and even the lesser remembered cartoon series of my childhood.

But where my awareness of John Lennon and The Beatles had been a passive thing up to that dark night of December 8, 1980, something changed in me upon learning that Lennon was dead. A fire to understand, to turn my awareness into knowledge, to experience more kindled inside me, overtaking me.

The world had lost a beautiful, elegant poet who I was later to learn could also be a fragile, ego-centric asshole.

The world had lost a magnificent artist who stood atop a mountain of pain, grief, anger, vindictiveness and sorrow.

And in a Lennon-esque stroke of irony, the world had lost a man who had finally come to grips with his frailties, who had finally learned to express love and not just demand it, who could offer his talents to the world as a gift and not a response.

Although at times I found myself worshipping John Lennon as a god, I now remember the artist as a man.

Later tonight, I will play Imagine and I will remember.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

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.

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All victims, all loved

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Participants observe a minute of silence during a vigil honoring the victims of the Paris attacks at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park in Sai Ying Pun. 14NOV15

In the days since the attacks on Paris, I have watched my social media streams explode in two directions.

The one includes demonstrations of support for the victims. Messages of love and commiseration. Prayers for a peaceful future. Shared tears of loss, both physical and spiritual.

But while these messages may represent the majority in my social circle, there are others that I find disturbing. Others that by their tone and content seem all the larger.

I have been surprised and dismayed by the venoms of hate and anger that blots my timelines. Friends and family spewing abhorrent messages against Islam, against innocent refugees, against anyone who does not look or sound like them.

And although I am not the target of these comments—my timeline merely one poster board on which these messages are painted—they cause me pain. They trigger anger and even fear within me.  I want to lash out, to attack.

But I cannot.

These are not discussions of logic that can be ameliorated by a well-considered series of facts. And lashing out would accomplish nothing. Spewing venom on top of venom only makes the world more toxic.

Instead, I must respond with love.

At the same that I extend my arms to embrace my like-minded friends suffering in the aftermath of the insanity, so too must I embrace those who I feel are piling on to the tragedy, exacerbating the fear, the hate, the pain.

They too are uneasy and uncertain about the future. They too are confused and frightened about the prospect of these events unfolding again and closer to home. They too need comforting and a renewed sense of security.

While the words these people write and speak may be abhorrent to me, they themselves are not. And difficult as it may be at times, in the face of my own pain and fear, I must always remember that.

And so, I open my arms to everyone, and will myself take solace in the return embrace.

I truly believe that this is the only way.

Peace and love to you all.

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Bloodied remembrance

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I have no room for anger or hatred in my life, but I find myself perplexed, frustrated and saddened by the events of this past week that saw three men, three soldiers killed or wounded. And all of the efforts to understand or explain the reasoning of the two perpetrators, both killed, do nothing to assuage these feelings.

The two soldiers in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, near Montreal in Quebec, were crossing a parking lot in front of a recruitment centre when they were run over by their assailant. One of the men wasn’t even in uniform.

And in a messed up irony that could only accompany a death, the third soldier in Ottawa was standing guard over a war memorial to his fallen predecessors. His only defence from the gun man that took his life? An unloaded gun pointed at the ground out of remembrance and reverence to The Unknown Soldier.

For soldiers to fall in battle or in zones of conflict is painful, but somehow more acceptable as a known risk. For men to die while pursuing peaceful administrative activities or activities of honour is simply unfathomable.

While I am not yet ready to weep for the deaths of the two murderers, I mourn for their families and their communities, who have suffered losses as well. Without more information, I cannot blame anyone other than he who drove the car, he who pulled the trigger.

But even as I grieve, even as I question, I take heart and solace in the arms of my community. The people of Canada have not cornered the market in fortitude and endurance, but we are strong. And in times like this, times that matter most, we speak with one voice, we grieve with one heart and we love with one soul.

Despite the pain of our loss, we only grow stronger when events like this happen. And when faced with the uncertainty and fear of these events, that strength, that resolve will keep us whole, will keep us secure.

The coming Remembrance Day will be a touch sadder this year because the poppies will be more bloodied and the graves they mark will be a little fresher.

Peace.

 

Only the names of the deceased officers have been released: Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, 24 (left, above), and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, 53.

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Robin

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Laughter has died,

But for a moment,

As the jester reposes

Into tranquility.

Frenzied fantasies

Silenced of a sudden,

Cut off from a world

Unable to keep up.

Rest frightened clown;

Be still and be whole;

Clap hands with peace,

As we clap hands in mourning.

The hurricane is stilled;

Black clouds soften;

Yet we will laugh anew

Bearing scars of ache.

Robin Williams meant the world to me. A supernova of mirth and tears, bravery and anger…and always, just a man.

Today, the man found his end, as so many of his ilk have.

But his legacy will echo for eternity to brighten our nights and nourish our souls.

Sleep, noble prince, assured that we are better for knowing you.

 

No time to hate

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I’ve seen a lot of hate and anger in my social media feeds lately, directed at people of different religions, heritages, philosophies, and lifestyle choices, and it makes me sad.

I am sorry that the individuals who have posted this stuff feel this way and think these things. They are not bad people. They have their reasons of which I cannot possibly fathom. I can only offer them my love.

If I have contributed to these feelings in any way, through my humour, sarcasm or cynicism, I am sorry. That was not my intent. I meant only to induce people to smile and think.

The world can be an amazingly shitty place that naturally prompts fear, anger, hatred. The challenge is that these feelings only serve to make a shitty situation that much shittier.

The world can also be an amazingly beautiful place that hopefully prompts feelings of wonder, awe, unity and love. And just as in the previous situation, these feelings too serve to make a beautiful place that much more beautiful.

I cannot ask you to set aside your negative feelings. We all feel pain in our lives. To even suggest that you ignore these feelings is to invalidate them. That would be wrong of me.

I can only ask that you try love whenever you are able.

Not in the hope that it will cure your ills or diminish the slights you have suffered. Merely in the hope that a surfeit of love in the world will make those ills and slights easier to bear, if only because you will find you do not have to bear them alone.

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(Images are property of their owners and are used here without permission but in the hope that I have done them justice.)

Top 50 Events – A personal perspective

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On Monday, November 18, I celebrate my 50th birthday. To commemorate the half-century, I have tried to look back and capture my fondest memories or most life-changing events.

The following list is not in order, although the subject of event #2 would likely have no problem believing she ranks after #1 and possibly as low as #5. She can be assured little of this would have nearly the meaning or significance to me without her presence for much of it.

  1. Had my sketch comedy performed at Second City Toronto
  2. Married an amazingly intelligent woman
  3. Interacted with a Henson puppet
  4. Saw Star Wars (you cannot overstate the impact of this on me)
  5. Wrote my first screenplay
  6. Met Nicholas Lemon, puppeteer, actor, friend
  7. Coached adult hockey (beer league but it was hockey)
  8. Performed stand-up comedy (never again)
  9. Discovered the Beatles (not saying I was first to)
  10. Was bylined in a magazine
  11. Wrote sketch comedy for a television show
  12. Attended Patrick Roy’s last game as a Montreal Canadien
  13. Watched a Habs game at the Forum and the Leafs at the Gardens
  14. Snorkeled in Barbados, Costa Rica and Hawaii
  15. Became friends with my brothers
  16. Was a scientist
  17. Performed improv on the Second City stage (as part of SC Training Centre…don’t want SC mad at me)
  18. Visited Chichin Itza
  19. Taught college/university students
  20. Owned a collie named Rebel
  21. Photographed orcas in British Columbia
  22. Went to Disneyland
  23. Attended the Austin Film Festival
  24. Met Chris Vogler, author of The Writer’s Journey
  25. Published my own magazine Aliquotes
  26. Experienced 9/11 from Washington, DC
  27. Impacted by murder of John Lennon
  28. Visited Iceland
  29. Played with ferrets
  30. Saw Shakespeare performed in Stratford, ON
  31. Eloped to and married in Algonquin Park
  32. Received spread in Globe & Mail from my PR efforts
  33. Saw George Carlin, Bill Cosby and Billy Connelly on stage (Gods)
  34. Skated on the Rideau Canal during Winterlude
  35. Eulogized my grandparents
  36. Traveled to both coasts with grandparents
  37. Had my heart broken
  38. Discovered bipedal locomotion (hey, it was the 60s)
  39. Watched the movie My Favorite Year
  40. Received an electric typewriter for Christmas
  41. Saw the crystal structure of the active site of a GTPase (it’s a geek thing, but beautiful)
  42. Watched the Toronto Marlies make the Calder Cup Finals (see also ‘heart broken’)
  43. Saw an ad I created on the Toronto Transit system
  44. Met Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits
  45. Discovered sex (again, not first; obviously, this list is not in order; strangely, Star Wars still ranks higher)
  46. Witnessed Toronto Varsity Blues win Vanier Cup on blocked last-second field goal attempt
  47. Rode in a submarine in Hawaii
  48. Did astral photography on a mountain top in Hawaii
  49. Birth (it meant a lot to me)
  50. Celebrated 40th birthday at pool hall with wonderful friends