a heartbreaker of a day

13 January 2010

If I thought there was some silver bearded guy up in the sky who was the boss of everything, I’d ask him: 

What did those people in Haiti ever do to you?

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a goldmine of… spirit

23 December 2009

Today I’m back on the shuttle for one more time to the mall near my office for my Christmas “wine run.” I figure the LCBO will be MUCH more tolerable at lunchtime today than it will be tonight or on Christmas Eve when the line-ups at the cash registers trail to the back of the store.

When I get on the bus, the same “Christmas spirit” people who I eavesdropped on yesterday are talking again, and the woman is saying that she’s back to the mall to buy her own Christmas present because it makes her husband “too stressed out” to buy her one himself.

Maybe, as she said yesterday, she should just wait and buy herself a sweater she doesn’t want after Christmas at the end of the Boxing Day sales because it would be simpler for her and she’d get a better deal on it.

Okay, I’m being a little snarky.  But read on.

Then one of her shopping pals says she wants to buy the DVD version of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ and that it was on sale somewhere.

“Is that a Christmas movie?” asks the fella.

“Oh you must mean “Wonderful World” says our gal.

(Huh?)

“No, I think it’s called ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’” says her friend.

“There is no such movie called ‘It’s a Wonderful Life!’” says our champion of Christmas spirit. “Is there?” to me when I turn around in my seat, unable to contain my annoyance at her saying one of my very favourite movies doesn’t exist. (Snarkiness justified – right? Right?)

“It’s a Disney movie, isn’t it?” (Oh man, don’t get me started.  See?  SEE?)

“No. ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is its name. It’s not a Disney movie. It is a great old holiday favourite from the 1940s starring Jimmy Stewart, and…” (to the friend) “…I hope you buy it. You’ll love it. It’s a story that reminds us about the meaning of Christmas spirit.”

Overheard on the complimentary shuttle from my office building to a mall at lunch today – two people discussing their desire to sustain the joy of the Christmas spirit and keep things simple:

Him:  “Yeah, like that Boxing Day shopping craziness – I don’t do that.”

Her:  “Really.  What people don’t realise is you get the sales all week – it’s Boxing Week!  You can avoid the crowds and shop a few days later.  You might not get the sweater you want, but you’ll get a good deal.”

Er… is that called good Capitalist Christmas spirit?

The other day I receive a letter from a very dear and very well meaning friend, giving me an update on the condition of another friend who has had some health issues.  Throughout the letter my friend keeps saying that we are “getting up there” and “getting old.”  I balk a little the first time she says it, but by the fourth time it comes around – me and my so-not-old self are disturbed by my friend’s stream of thought.

I’m afraid I immediately rattle off a response that objects to the whole idea.  “I am not old” I say, and “nor to I plan to call myself old until I am rocking the halls of a nursing home.” 

Maybe it’s because my parents continue to enjoy good health as they enter their seventies, but I don’t consider THEM old.  And maybe it’s because I’ve been feeling so darned good lately that I really, really object to my 47 year old friend talking about reading the obituaries every day.   

I know for sure though that my issue is not so much about her calling ME old.  I think the issue is that I don’t want to see someone that I love dearly standing at the age of 47 with one foot in her grave.  Old is a state of mind.  And one’s state of mind has everything to do with one’s quality of life.  And if I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow, at least they can say I didn’t spend my last day scoping out nursing homes.

Now I think it’s time I pay my wonderful friend a long overdue visit and kick some rocking chair ass out of its reverie.

bad karma blues

24 March 2009

Recently Rick Mercer did his weekly “rant” on the subject of negative attack ads used by politicians, and implored the leaders of the parties to rise above the practice in the next election (which, sigh, we all know will be sooner rather than later).  He points out that most of us profess to hate these kinds of ads, but politicians use them anyway because they say they work.  I’m not sure why we let them get away with it.  Wouldn’t you learn so much more about a politician/party if they tell you what is good about them and what they can do, as opposed to saying what is bad about the other guy?  

The rant was timely for me.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the plethora of bad feeling, mud slinging, anger, name calling and general bad karma stemming mostly from the political world.  It’s got so bad that it has started to permeate my thoughts on a daily basis.  It’s like I’m thinking defensively, having internal arguments with people who would oppose my views. 

I’ve said it before, but shouldn’t those who seek to govern us, more than any other people in our citizenry, be striving to bring us together rather than divide us?   I live in a country where our “leaders” have waged war against liberals, conservatives, greens, francophones, anglophones, teachers, activists, nurses, single mothers, artists and unions.  Who’s next? 

I believe this underscores the importance of Mercer’s rant.  We are in danger of becoming a country of citizens that hate each other.

It’s got so that I’ve decided I have to do something about it on a personal level, because I refuse to be ruled by negativity.  What exactly that something is, I don’t know; but at the risk of sounding saccharine and “Oprah-esque,” I do know that it starts from personal action.  I thought I might boycott politics and news altogether, but the problem is, I genuinely care about what goes on outside my own little world.  I’m a current events junkie, and that’s not going to change (probably thanks to my Grade 5 teacher, Mrs.  Chavis – but she’s a whole other blog post).  And anyway, if a politician, representing you and me, acts like a dumb ass, or threatens the fibre of our wonderful country, then he or she needs to be called out. 

It’s time to be more mindful of my focus, and centre the weight of my attention on my own little world.  I haven’t volunteered since leaving my last job.  And the Buddhists know what they’re talking about – when you serve others, when you work to make others happy, you achieve happiness. 

Years ago my sister and I resolved to generate the positive, and I do make a conscious effort to do that every day, even if it’s just look strangers in the eye and smile at them, rather than treating them like they’re invisible.  Yes it’s time to readjust my view, less on the large, more on the small; less on the far more on the near. 

Unfortunately, it might all have to start with some letters to those purveyors of negativity, the politicians, stating that my vote will be withheld from anyone or any party that resorts to attack style campaigning.  And following through.  But then turning off the news and going outside to see what’s going on in my neighbourhood.

I’m not sure what I’m missing.

My government has said today they see the sense in bailing out a certain private broadcaster, but for weeks they’ve basically told our (yours and mine) public broadcaster to “deal with it.”  Even though the public broadcaster made it clear they didn’t want a bail out, just an advance on pending funding.  Let’s not even go there about how the public broadcaster functions on way less money, and way fewer resources, and produces high quality, competitive product anyway.  Not to mention some of that product (news, docs, sports) is exceedingly higher in quality than that produced by the more moneyed, privately owned organizations. 

And other public ones. 

Anywhere.

Someone please tell me why it is acceptable, remotely right, even the slightest bit moral for a government to throw money at a private broadcaster over a public one?  Why can’t WE advance some previously allotted money to the cultural entity WE OWN?  Why should OUR money go to prop up a broadcaster that mostly exhibits foreign (American) product?  Would we Canadians really rather spend our spare change taxes on Friends reruns and screw all the regular Canadians people, who are working to produce Canadian stories and material for Canadians?

It would seem to me that the Canadian government, is saying, on Canadians’ behalf, to Canadians who will lose their jobs making Canadian information available to Canadians, in favour of other broadcasters who make American content [more] available to Canadians, “deal with it.”

As an old boss of mine used to say, “it’s a wonder your head doesn’t fall off for shakin’ it.”

First item to be checked off my new and improved BBC reading list is Brideshead Revisited, plucked from my own bookshelf.  I bought it years ago after studying, and enjoying, Evelyn Waugh in a literature class.  And I really enjoyed that miniseries based on the story back in the 80s with Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews.  Apparently there is a new (2008) movie version, but I’ve not seen it.  So far so good; as before, I’m charmed by his language and humour.

Anyway, I get to a passage wherein Charles is walking out on a Sunday morning heading to a cafe for breakfast:

I walked down the empty Broad to breakfast, as I often did on Sundays, at a tea-shop opposite Balliol.  The air was full of bells from the surrounding spires and the sun, casting long shadows across the open spaces, dispelled the fears of the night. 

The passage reminded me of a radio documentary local CBC talk guy Kevin Sylvester did recently about church bells, and how they are starting to become a thing of the past here in North America.  Church bells have never been as fixed in our culture as they have been in Europe, mainly because such things as cathedrals – and as such their place within a community – are relatively rare.  And in today’s world, even the smaller churches, with their reduced populations and increased money problems, don’t end up repairing those bells that become damaged or deemed unsafe to use.   

One part of Sylvester’s story that really astounded me was that here in Toronto, in the area where there are several large and historic churches with beautiful bells, the churches are not ringing them on Sunday mornings because of threats from the neighbourhood people that they would sue the church for disturbing the peace.

On reading Waugh’s passage, I was filled with grief, for yet another tearing away at beauty for beauty’s sake because it’s not seen to fit in with modern day needs.  I understand that beauty is something us immigrant North Americans might never have really valued as a people – those early settlers had to first conquer the landscape and just survive.  And then it was all about the worship of modernity and all things new; all things came to reflect that focus, including our values.

I was filled with grief because the sound of churches all sounding bells together was once experienced as a weekly ethereal escape from the drudgery of weekday life, and is now, in Toronto at least, considered a disturbance of the peace.

I was filled with grief for us at losing, bit by bit, the value of beauty as an important and defining endeavour.  I worry what this is doing to our psyches.  And what have we replaced it with?  Money?