Friday, January 27, 2012

Another word that is not to be tolerated by some is loser. It is bad to be a loser , it is bad to lose and there is nothing worse than to come in last. I like losing, I like being a loser and I like being last. I do it all the time when I run.

Last about 10 of us ran through the soggy, snowy, and slippery streets of Arnprior for about 7 (okay, 6.85) K yesterday. We did not start the run until 6:00 p.m. and the runners, all women (except for the leader) ,were, to put it bluntly, faster and better than me. Also, for the most part younger than me. So I ran at the back , and the gap between them and I lengthened. So I ran the dark streets by myslef. A red flashing light on my starboard side, and a white flashing light on the port. No iPod, no MP3, no music. Just the scruff of my feet on the ice and snow. Once in a while the lead runner would circle back an bit to see if I was moving and well.
And I was moving and I was well. I have found running very spiritual, especially when I do it by myself. I am conscious of my breath, of my heart beat, of those five bypasses, of my muscles, of my brain as it directs the rest of the body to balance on the ice.
I am free to listen to voices of those living and those passed. I run with the problems of the day, my hopes for the future, of my plans for the world. I run with my mother, I run with the Saints, I run with Demons, I run with my Higher Power. My Higher Power is no Patrick Makau . She huffs and puffs as much as I do , but if I drag my ass out to run so can she, creator of the entire universe, all time, and all that is good and positive aside. So my Higher Power is a loser as well. Losers get martyred, losers get crucified, losers get a lot of abuse. In fact I am not even a worthy loser but that is neither here nor there. Losers get to watch where everybody has been, losers have the best seat in town, losers make winners. I like running where I run, and the humility of being last is very, very, good for me. The lead runner pointed out a shortcut to me, but I liked being a loser so much I would not take it. I joked that I would not let him ruin my day my depriving me of distance - I know that he just had my best interests in mind.
Oh, and in full disclosure: near the end I caught up with three of the slower runners so I still lost, but as by as much I would have liked.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Debt - the new , really bad four letter word. Lines of credit and loans and mortgages used to be good but alas no more. The debtor has become the scourge of the earth. I am a debtor that will be in debt , but I am actually grateful for that. My debt is life itself, which of course I got with my open heart surgery and the saints, angels, disciples, students, healers, sages, technicians, and cats at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, and the West Carlton Health Team. Not to mention priests, ministers, parishioners, believers, atheists, and channelers. Not to mention tax payers. Not to mentions politicians who were free of fear. Not to mention fellow trudgers. Not to mention beagles and cats. Not to mention friends. Not to mention my wife.
I pay the debt in many ways, but would like to briefly talk about exercise; I owe to my healers and payers and supporters to exercise.
So I try to do reasonably aggressive physical activity about 200 to 250 minutes a week. Up until the first snowfall that took place on the morning of Christmas Eve I was running on the street 6K, six times a week. Then I joined the gym and started doing 4 mile runs, maybe 4 to six times a week. I row 40 minutes when I do not run and I take a day off a week (although this week I ended up with two days off. So as long as I don't end up injuring myself that is the plan. Paying off debt one step at a time. Debt was never so wondeful

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I am not an engineer and I am incompetent and challenged in all matters of mechanics. This is no surprise to anyone who knows me. But, I do understand the thermostat. You know, the thing that sits on the wall and controls the temperature. Great minds have figured it out and while I do not understand the mechanics (coils of dissimilar metal and thermistors or something) I do understand the practical application. With a wood stove you were always anticipating ans guessing. If the night was going to be bitterly cold you would pile more wood in the stove, the idea being that this would give you more heat. This worked but had short comings. If the night was warmer than anticipated, you would sweat and waste wood. If the night was super cold but you fell into a deep sleep the house would be cold when you finally woke up and had to walk on an icy floor to get the fire going.
The modern thermostat solved all of that. You would set the temperature, sometime in October, to say 20 degrees C (maybe even the more politically correct 18 C) and forget it until May. Engineers have designed a system that was fool proof. Warm spells in November, Arctic Blasts in January, were no problem. All was 20 degrees in the home, and flannel jammies were something to save for the yurt in Algonquin Park.
My mother never bought this. On cold nights she always cranked up the heat and made me put on a sweater. I am not talking about my childhood. I am talking about me visiting her as a man in his forties . If the temperature hit below below minus twenty, my mother would crank up the thermostat and make me, her middle aged son bundle up.

The cats and beagle are the same, on cold nights they do insist the fire place is on and huddle by it, even thought the living room temperature is the same all winter. And , more than a decade after my mother's passing I too now like to huddle by the fireplace on a cold winter's eve. A tummy full of food, cats, and the singular beagle and I all warming by the fire. Who would have thought that it has taken all of these years to figure out the engineers were wrong and my mom was right?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Well the Magi are at the cradle on the manger. Or to be a little more accurate, they are the home of Joesph and Mary , having followed the star, and dropped off the frankincense, myrrh, and the gold. There is an air of intrigue because Herod wanted to find where this little Jesus was so he could off him, being very stressed that this baby could grow up and off Herod. But the Wise Magi are forewarned in a dream to take a different path home and avoid having to lie to Herod about the whereabouts of Joesph and family. Obviously diplomatic immunity did not play a role in and around Zero BC.
Well what to take away from this little tale ... a tale tightly edited by Matthew to tie in with the prophesy of Isiah. Well, the Magi, or the Wise Men, or the Three Kings came from the east, east of Bethlehem .... East of Bethlehem? Syria? Iraq? Iran? Maybe Afghanistan? India? Didn't Abraham start the whole ball rolling by emigrating from the East in the first place? Interesting that the part of the world that seems to be in the biggest mess today was the topic of reconciliation 2000 years ago. Is that the message for us today?
Three Kings bringing gifts to a baby? isn't that a bit backwards? Aren't the little supposed to bring gifts to the great? Doesn't the waitress, working from five in the morning through to the lunch shift , on her feet the whole time, pay a bigger % of income on taxes than a big corporation? Don't we line up for the big events that the corporate masters tell us about? But here is story telling us that great and powerful men will cross the threshold of a simple abode and pay homage to a small baby on faith alone. Is this not the antithesis of the Corporate West?
What's more the Magi were mystics. They spent time looking at the heavens for signs, and when they saw a sign, they acted on it. They logically must have been the only ones who saw the sign, it clearly was not a historical astronomical event. But something within them, compelled them to act. Is not the message here that we sometimes should listen to the voice that calls us and act, instead of analyzing something until it is starved of oxygen?
I guess the Christian Churches view this day as the moment that God became human but that nuance of that timing is beyond my mollusk brain. But my epiphany is just this: Take time to forgive, Take time to serve, Take time to follow a dream. Thanks for the lesson Matt: A great end to the formal Christmas,but I am very lucky and very blessed, for like Ebenezer Scrooge, it lives in my heart all year and most of the time I am smart enough to know that.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Raymond Lahey, the former Catholic Bishop of Antigonish was released from prison today for possessing child pornography and I am trying to think out what I feel about that. Certainly the creation, possession and viewing of pornographic images of innocent children is horrid, but fortunately beyond the imagination of most people. I think that sexual attraction of an adult to a child is indeed a sickness, in the same way that addiction to alcohol is a sickness. Yet the alcoholic is responsible for all that he or she does as a result of alcohol use, be it impaired driving or other criminal act, damaging relationships at work or at home, one’s personal health, and on and on. Similarly the individual, who may be indeed sick in their sexual attraction to children, has to be responsible for any and all consequences of that act. In Lahey’s case, he went through the system, was found guilty (by confession) and even volunteered to go to jail immediately, even before sentencing, which got him the “two for one deal”. The bottom line is that he confessed to the crime, went through the system, and justice was dealt. I am in no position to judge whether this justice was properly dispensed and with all that is going on in the world, I am going to give it no further thought. As for the issue of what the Administration of the Catholic Church does, well that is the business of the Administration of the Catholic Church.

This entire long winded preamble brings me to me. What would I do if I encountered Raymond Lahey? Could I look him in the eye? Would I shake his offered hand? What if he attended a retreat with me? What if he sat beside me at a Contemplative Eucharist? What is he wanted to talk to me? What if he wanted to share a fear with me? What if he just wanted some company for half an hour and just chat over coffee?

There are no shortage of celebrity crooks like Martha Stewart, Kiefer Sutherland, Conrad Black, Paris Hilton, Rod Blagojevich, Roman Polanski, Rob Ramage, Robert Downey Jr. and others who have done time in prison. Martha Stewart is more successful than ever and Roman Polanski continues to make movies abroad. Are there lists of crimes like the A List, B List , and C List? Martha Stewart is funny and stylish so she gets a pass. Roman Polanski is a great talent and it is uptight Republicans who are after him anyway and Kiefer Sutherland was just a bit careless with his booze. So was Rob Ramage but he killed Keith Magnuson, but of course Magnuson should have never gotten in the car in the first place.

But where does leave Raymond Lahey? Is his crime more heinous because he was a bishop? Would it have been less heinous had he owned a strip joint? He said he was sorry, he confessed to his crime, he went to prison, and his life is now shattered. Of course we will never know the pain of the young children who are the only true victims, but this man’s life is certainly ruined. It is hard to have sympathy, his life is ruined by his own choice, but the young victims had no choice.

So it comes to the hardest word of all – forgive. Raymond Lahey did no direct harm to me, so it is easy to forgive without pain, but I choose to forgive him. I would shake his hand, would not move if he sat beside me, and would have a coffee with him. I do not have the power to see in his soul any more than I can see in anybody’s soul and I am confident that he will be judged at another time and another place by a power greater than myself. I am glad that I do not have that responsibility. But I do not think that I can be forgiven unless I forgive. And a good as any place to start is with that coffee. No one ever said that faith is easy.

Monday, January 2, 2012

I remember the first night, almost ten years ago that we spent in our house here in the country. The movers were only coming the next day, so we had to sleep on pads on the floor of the bedroom. It was comfortable enough, the house was warm enough, and I was tired enough, but I could not fall asleep. I was perplexed, I was a bit excited but not apprehensive, and unlike some other moves the paperwork and legal side went smoothly yet I was not falling asleep. And then it dawned on me, after over 20 years of living in the constant dull roar of Toronto suburbs, the silence was deafening (not to mention the total darkness)
Of course the country is not always silent. Your ears tell you it is spring with the chatter of red winged black birds and that is followed by the spring peepers and together they make an spring’s eve almost deafening. I will address the sounds of the rest of the year later but the one characteristic of a winter’s eve is silence. It seems the colder it is, and the darker it is, the quieter it is. Once the river freezes the flexing ice will do whale sounds but tonight, even though it is going to dip to minus 22, the river still has lots of open water. So tonight it is quiet. No birds, no people on snowmobiles, no distant traffic, the trains are long gone, thankfully (as rare as they are) no sirens, no chatter, not even the coyotes or wolves are howling.
As the secular recognition of the Christmas Season winds down there are no more Christmas songs on the radio. The tinsel is down in the malls and the Boxing Day sales that started in November are all but wound down. Never mind that churches with wandering Magi have not moved them next to the stable yet; Christmas is over.
But I am sitting in the silence of the country, in front of a blazing fire (which, for nit pickers is not silent) and the Christmas Tree is still up and the white bulbs are singing in full voice. We had a party at our house yesterday (well more of a New Year’s Open House, although New Year’s Levee for the Beagle sounds better) so today, before work starts tomorrow is a day of lazy reflection and a day of silence. With silence I can hear the messages within me that get buried and I have the chance to reflect upon these little voices. I think of Mary and Joseph and their little baby and how frightened they must have been. The heavenly hosts have turned on their wings and are back in heaven, doing whatever heavenly hosts do for eternity. The baby is crying, the baby is hungry, the baby is cold, they certainly have not been given a plan for the future.
I like to think that Joseph went for a walk to get away from everything. I am sure that he had enough faith to leave the baby and Mary alone for a bit. I like to think that he went to the place where all those shepherds had come from and just hung out in the hills for a bit. Bethlehem would not have been that noisy then to start with and by the time he got in the hills, it would have been pretty quiet, except for a bit of wind and the occasional complaining sheep. I think that in the silence, Joseph heard the answers that he needed to hear. I don’t know of course if that happened at all – maybe the whole story is just a dream , but I do know that there is a lot to hear in silence, if one is willing to listen. I am sad that most people fear silence. Are they afraid of the message?