Episode 35: Random Acts Of Kindness

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but part of that is because it’s mostly been business as usual for me. Nothing terribly special has happened or given me pause and the desire to write. I’ll grant you, I specifically didn’t want to give myself deadlines so I wouldn’t feel pressured to making less than worthy posts, so technically I did nothing in the wrong, but still I feel like I’ve been neglecting this, and that was not my intention. However, with that said, something has come up, and it’s something I feel I should share with you all.

Yesterday I decided on a whim to perform a random act of kindness. It was nothing major, I simply bought bottles of water for some of the folks I worked with. It cost me very little, and not just in terms of money. And interestingly enough, I heard back from one of the girls that she’d paid it forward and paid for someone’s order at Tim Hortons (a ridiculously popular coffee shop, for those of you living outside Canada). Now alone in and of itself, my act had me feeling pretty good. Here I was, having done something nice for others. But then to hear that my actions had had a ripple effect and passed on to another, I wondered how far that ripple might go. It’s amazing what one simple action can set in motion, sometimes.

But the deed having been done, I soon moved on and went about my business. After all, they’re small gestures, and not truly something significant, right? Well I was wrong. A friend of mine posted today about his own random act of kindness, and proposed a challenge: one act every day for a week. And I thought, why not? I could certainly do that.

And that’s when it hit me. Each small gesture has a grand effect. Not only does it help restore faith in a world quickly becoming mired in selfishness and entitlement, but it also inspires others to do good in their own lives when they hear the story. I wasn’t the one who benefitted from my friend’s actions, but his words inspired me to take up the challenge and to inspire others to do the same. I posted a status to Facebook, urging my own friends to take the challenge, but still that didn’t seem enough. Still I thought I could do better.

Which brings us here. To WordPress, where the world can share in the story, and with any luck be inspired to change the world. You don’t have to take up the week-long challenge like I did. Just try to start with one thing. And should you do so, leave a comment with your story so that others might be inspired as well. Share this post on Facebook so that your own friends will be inspired. I know it seems like a bit of an attention grab, but to be honest, I’ve just always wanted to do something that would make the world a better place. I know I can’t do it alone though. And so I ask you: help me plant those seeds, and together let us watch them bloom into a better world.

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Episode 34: Written In A Drunken Stupor

Okay, so I lied. I’m not actually drunk right now. But hey, what a great segway, because Rob Ford lies too, and he’s who I’m planning on writing about today! Isn’t that great? Sure it is. Because nothing is better than cashing in on a trend while it’s still luke-warm. Okay. Moving on…

Let me first say this. I don’t support Rob Ford, but nor am I strictly against him. I haven’t paid enough attention to his actual politicking to really get an idea of how he did as an actual mayor, and I think some of his scandals are a little overblown. So he was caught coming out of a KFC while dieting. Most diets I know let you have a cheat day anyways. And so he dropped out of his public weight loss challenge. Do you know the kind of inner strength you need to have in order to make a drastic change in your life? Not everyone has that, and to make matters worse, ol’ Rob’s change was a huge public affair, that people were putting insane amounts of pressure on him for. I don’t know that I would have even been able to do it, and I’d like to think I have an incredible amount of willpower.

All of that being said, he has made some incredibly stupid mistakes, and lied about them in an attempt to save face. And it’s true, he does hold a public office. He needs to present a good image for the world.

But part of the problem is that we as a people sensationalized both his scandals, and his… “Scandals”. The world stage might not be so keen to ridicule us had we kept it a little more quiet. Sometimes rather than broadcast your problems to the world whining about how bad your situation is, you need to keep them to yourself and actually solve them.

I’m sure if I looked into things, I could find details of all the good things he’s done as mayor, and just as easily (or perhaps more easily based on the hate he’s getting these days) find a list of his failings. The fact of the matter is, this is still a (barely) democratic system. If you don’t like him, don’t vote for him. If you do like him, then by all means, tick that little box. Wow. Such a complicated concept.

Frankly, I’m getting a little sick of hearing how unhappy people are with their current politicians. If it’s not Rob Ford, it’s Stephen Harper. If it’s not Harper, then it’s Jean Chretien. If it’s not Chretien, then it’s whatever idiot we feel like yelling at in that particular moment. Sorry these are all Canadian influences, by the way, but I am an inhabitant of a suburb of Toronto, so my personal experience is somewhat limited to Canadian politicians. I doubt any of us thought that any of these people would be as bad as they were (although personally I knew Harper would be a tool before he got elected, and I have a soft spot for Chretien, so I can’t hate on that silly man). But lo and behold, we discovered they were. Well, the answer is to ensure that their crazier ideas are shot down either via protest or mass-mailing your local politicians. And if not that, then just grit your teeth, understand that your country made that choice all by yourselves, and live with the consequences. Then, when the time comes that they’re up for re-election, kick their asses out of office faster than the next death in Game Of Thrones (because you all know it’s only a few pages or an episode away, even if someone has already just died).

Personally though, I don’t believe we’ll ever see a truly great leader as long as our political system is built the way it is. The choices are almost always: bad, worse, and worst. Because the sorts of people who want the office are almost always not the ones best suited to hold it. Democracy is great, but our candidates should be nominated by the general population, not by an individual’s desire to run. And we need to accept harsh changes sometimes by knowing that it is indeed for the best (which we will of course know to be best by having done the research beforehand). But I’m just living in a fantasy with that hullabaloo. Rob Ford wasn’t the first idiot to hold a public office, and he most definitely won’t be the last either.

The moral of the story? We’re doomed.

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Episode 33: The Only Message You Need

I went stumbling on one of my internet journeys earlier today, and it set me to reflecting on my life. All of the things that have happened to me, that continue to happen, and that likely will happen in the future based on who I’ve grown to be. It’s not a fairy tale. They usually aren’t. But I realized there is one important piece of advice that I can impart. Something I suspect won’t seem like much help to someone in a similar situation as my own. I know I certainly wouldn’t put much store by these words if I wasn’t the one saying them myself. And indeed I wish I had more than just words to give you. But hopefully they’re enough to at least help you through the darkest of your days.

So let me begin by saying that I come from what some people would call a dysfunctional family. Others might call it a broken home. I just call it messed up. I won’t go into too many details because I believe my parents deserve some privacy in their lives, but there’s been any number of different varieties of abuse handed out from all parties. Myself included. I won’t sugar-coat my life and it’s struggles. This is meant to help those in the same type of situation, and it will never do that if you don’t understand the situation in the first place. Alongside the abuse there’s been financial struggles. My parents are in debt over their heads, adding tension and all sorts of other problems to the ones we already had.

I’ve blocked out a large portion of my early life. I have bits and pieces here and there, of both the good and the bad, but from what I can make out, life was generally fairly simple for me. A lot of things worked themselves out without my personal involvement. But the problems still affected me. There’s nothing like being less than ten years old and trying to physically separate your parents so they won’t argue, despite the fact that you’re probably only about a tenth of either of their strengths. I had an older brother, so generally at least it was two against one, but even so we rarely succeeded. I learned very early on to handle failure and move on. So I guess score one point to me. Yay.

The years passed and the problems only got worse. On top of the family problems, I became an outcast in school. It was not my decision, and I can directly connect my home life as the cause for my being ostracized. But I’m not trying to place blame. I’m simply saying that any aspect of your life will affect another aspect. Possibly even every other aspect. Nothing can be perfectly compartmentalized. Thank god I had my small group of friends, who either didn’t realize what was going on or didn’t care. Without them I could have turned out much much worse than I did.

But without feeling welcome in the real world (teenagers can be huge asshats), I turned more often than not to the internet. The soft glow from the screen bathing me in its safety an comfort. It was there I found my closest friends, the ones I felt most comfortable talking to about my hideous situation, and the ones I could most easily forget about it with. My situation never improved, but I was more able to ignore and distance myself from it. It became habit, and I avoided letting myself get truly close with anyone or fully trust them.

I still to this day struggle to trust people, but that’s not wholly my family’s fault. Some failed relationships have really hit close to home. I gave everything I had to them all, in turn. But through it all, I’ve come down hard on myself. Always ready to blame myself for any number of problems, always ready to give my own blood if it will make someone I care about smile. I have very little I can speak of as accomplishments in my life as a result. In fact, I still haven’t moved out from my family’s home at 28 years old, because I’m still giving them all the help I can, including working two jobs and seeing almost none of the money myself. But money is nothing. If my help were actually moving us all forward in a positive way, then it would be a small price to pay.

Through all this though, I still see a glimmer of hope in my own life. It’s buried deeply, and seemingly had no place in the rest of the things surrounding me, but (and here comes that all-important piece of advice)…

It does get better.

My life has been steadily improving as the years press on, and the more incredible the circumstances or the way you deal with them, the harder your struggle will be, but seeing the positive is the only thing that will truly help. I can’t even begin to explain it, unless you’re already in your own transition period, in which case I don’t have to. But that’s as simple as I can make it. Life will improve. Not on it’s own, not by a long shot, but it will. You’re going to have to fight for every inch you gain, and for every three steps forward, you’ll likely be forced back two and a half, but progress is progress. And at the end of it all, you will be a better person for it.

Now, you might ask: who am I to say these things when I haven’t even freed myself from the mire I find myself in? And I would say I fully understand and agree. You don’t have any reason to listen to me. Other than the fact that you want to. Because we all need hope. A very dangerous commodity to be sure, but handled properly, it can be the single greatest tool in your arsenal. But hope’s fickle nature is an idea for another day.

For now, if you need someone to remind you just how strong you are, just remember that I do believe in you. I fight my own fight for you.

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Episode 32: The Whys Man

I watched a TED Talk this morning, given by a fellow who has himself a YouTube channel. He goes by the name of Michael. You might have heard of him? Or perhaps his channel, VSauce? An interesting fellow, and one who’s always curious. A valuable trait.

But I started thinking about what he said in his TED Talk. About people always being willing to learn if you relate it back to them somehow. And I realized he’s right. But if I’m allowed to explore his own concept a little deeper (I’m sure that’s what he was hoping would happen), why are we more interested then? Why not be curious about things that don’t relate to our own lives? I have no science to back me up, only personal experience and my own perspective. This isn’t a science blog (although maybe it should be considering how popular those are these days). It’s an opinion piece. An editorial. A look into my own twisted psyche, and hopefully something of a life guide at times.

So what do we see from my perspective? We see that on an individual level, we’re all the centres of our own universes. This isn’t to say that we’re all egotistical and over-inflate our own sense of selves. But rather we simply can’t see things from any perspective other than our own. We can try to approximate someone else’s perspective if we know them well enough, but it will never be truly another perspective, because ours will always colour it. As such, we only see things as they relate to ourselves. If it happens half a world away, it’s not truly going to matter to us, nor will we seek the information out, unless it involves us on a personal level.

Let’s take an example. A natural disaster like an earthquake. Unless you had family affected by it, or else you’re the sort of person who always feels the need to get involved in disaster cleanup or donations, then you might not have even heard that the event occurred, and would likely live your life just as you had before.

So how do we get people interested in something? Show them they have a personal stake in it. Show them that there’s something to be gained from it. You’ll have their attention and might even further your own goals.

That’s it. If you want more, go watch the video yourself and explore your horizons.

Oh, and Michael, if you happen to be reading this, then… As always, thanks for teaching.

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Episode 31: The Deepest And Darkest Finale

Okay, internet. Here comes a big one.

This will also be the first time I’ve really spoken on a grand scale about this one. Not because it’s shameful, but rather because I’ve never really felt the need to trouble anyone with it. But I recently (like as of last night) decided to see what popular opinion is, and just how common it really is. Assuming my readership is broad enough right now to make it worthwhile. But even if not, I find writing cathartic, and it’s a good way to organize my own thoughts into something coherent so that I can more easily make sense of them.

This is a problem that’s been troubling me for twenty-odd years, and I still have yet to truly find a solution. Most days I get by by ignoring it. It doesn’t affect my day-to-day life, and when all is said and done, I can’t reasonably expect it to even be a concern until many years from now. But the problem I face is death. Yes, death. That most final of periods to complete the sentence of life.

Let me be clear, it’s not the dying that troubles me. That might be painful, or even peaceful, but it’s still something to be experienced. What terrifies me some nights is the moment when life is extinguished. And the reason it terrifies me is because I don’t know what comes after. I suppose you could say it’s more a fear of the unknown, but usually I’m intrigued by the unknown. Driven to find what’s out there.

I am a curious soul by nature, but therein lies part of the problem. My passion is everything and nothing at the same time. I’m passionate about learning, but almost never delve too deeply. Just enough to get a good understanding, and then I move on to the next thing. I’ll get to how it’s part of the problem in a minute, but first I have to explain the other parts. See, they all tie into each other.

I also happen to be a generous soul. Often much more so than is sound. I will gladly keep nothing to myself, if it means helping others. But I would quickly end up broke, hungry and homeless if that happened, and how could I continue helping if I went that far? I couldn’t. So I fight my urges when necessary to ensure my survival and continued help.

And lastly (for the time being anyway), I have a very logical, analytical mind. I don’t curse it, because it’s been the single greatest skill I have, but it makes belief in a higher power (God, Gaia, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, etc) difficult at best. There’s no evidence to support it, truly. And yet still I do want to believe. There are certain things science has yet to explain, and may never explain, so wonder and faith is still technically a possibility. And I see it in the fact that when I’m in my darkest moments, or at my most desperate, I will pray. I still have little hope that it will change anything, but that’s more to do with me knowing that even if a God does exist, he has no reason to help me necessarily. And quite often does not (at least in my perspective).

So those parts all together lead me to one thing. I have no real faith in an afterlife, a soul, reincarnation, or any such thing. As a result, I see this being my only shot at conscious thought. And if that’s true, then what of my passion for learning? What of helping others? All of that will vanish. But there will always be more to learn. People will always need help. And the really scary part is… I see death as a dreamless sleep you never wake from. I will simply cease to be.

And I don’t know how to reconcile any of it. I don’t know how to be comfortable with losing literally everything. I don’t know how to be okay with leaving the world in the condition it is. And so I reach out to what is probably the least likely place to find comfort and knowledge: the internet. To you. Tell me of your own way of solving this, the greatest of final problems…

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Episode 30: The Soul’s Battle

Just a very short post today. I randomly thought up the first line of this poem on its own, and then decided to write a second line so it could be more poem-y. But then as I finished writing the second line, my hand kept going. So, not being one to turn down inspiration when it strikes, I let it go and came up with the rest. I hope you enjoy “The Soul’s Battle”.

——————–

An artistic soul in an industrial world,
Taking its toll as his thoughts swirled.
Beating him down with mechanical precision,
Making him frown as he can’t make a decision.
In fleeing the pressure of an insane deadline,
Light as a feather he feels in his mind.
But it won’t last much longer than the day,
Damn and blast, that deadline is here to stay.
He needs to find a better way out,
To leave behind the fear and doubt.
Turning finally to nature he instantly feels at peace.
And with that last gesture, he’s finally silenced the beast.

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Episode 29: It’s All Politics

I’ve been seeing a lot of attention directed towards Jared Leto’s Oscar speech. It’s pretty evenly split between love and hate, from what I’ve seen. But strangely the split is easily categorized. The media seems to love him, and everyone on my Facebook feed seems to hate him.

I’m inclined to agree with the masses, personally. I think it was something of an attention grab, and his speech should never have gotten political the way it did. Him talking about the struggle of people with AIDS? Well that’s entirely different, because I’m given to understand that was an issue dealt with in the movie he got the award for. But how was the situation between Russia and Ukraine related to any of that at all? There’s being concerned for your fellow man, and then there’s tossing in an off-handed comment as an attention grab. And that’s just it. If he’d put more effort into what he’d said, maybe it wouldn’t have seemed so blatantly unimportant to him. Maybe we would have been fooled into thinking he cared. But it’s like he threw it in as an afterthought. Sort of like “Hmmm, how can I make sure people remember my little moment in the spotlight? Oh! I know! I’ll say something about the current world political hot-topic! Now what was it again? Something about the Ukraine, I think”… I just didn’t buy it, Jared. I’m sorry, I wish I did.

But speaking of politics, how about that crazy Rob Ford, eh? Now I live in a suburb of Toronto, so I’ve been privileged enough to see the whole thing as it develops right from the very start. It quickly became clear that he was a bumbling fool. But to say he’s the worst mayor Toronto’s ever had? Debatable. I have a bit of a soft spot for Rob Ford the Person. I think the media hounds him far too much, and they’re much too ready to pounce on every little thing he does (I mean, come on. Are they The Police or something?). As for his actual politicking? I don’t know, and I don’t care too much. He’s not my mayor. Whether he saved a billion dollars or not isn’t my concern. I think globally we nee to ease off the guy. Yes, he smoked crack. I’m not supporting that behaviour, and if what I heard from someone who used to have him as a football coach said is accurate, he probably should seek some help. But those are all personal issues. If you’re all so embarrassed by him, then make sure you go to the polls in October and vote him out of office. But until then, remember it was your votes that got him in there. Take your lumps like an adult and suffer the consequences of your choices.

But above all else, please, stop making everything so political. Humans do stupid things. Plain and simple. No one is above that rule unless they’re secretly not human. And then I think you might want to worry about your own sanity if we’re electing someone who turns out to be… Well, a tiger maybe. Or a badger. Maybe even an alien from another world. That’d be totally out of this world. I might like to see how a badger does as Toronto’s next mayor. Can we get one on the ballot? And for those of you who hate Ford… Vote for the badger! I mean, he couldn’t possibly be worse than Ford, right?



Right?

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