Archive for the 'World' Category

Using Your Voice

Over the last few days I physically lost the ability to use my voice. Some sort of virus and trying to make myself heard while coaching hockey combined to where I couldn’t actually create sound without pain. Everyone I know thought this was very amusing and it must’ve been extraordinarily hard for me to not talk for a few days. 

While I did miss conversing and talking, the silence for myself was actually very nice. Being forced to slow down how I communicate and look for simpler ways to express myself, was amazing! This experience has truly driven home the message that communication is about so many different aspects. It’s not just about what I say, it’s about how I say it, the environment I see it in, who I see it too, my demeanor, and the words I choose.

Coming back into my voice today, I now have two new goals to work on in my life.

The first is to make sure I take that extra pause and really think about the message I’m trying to communicate and how I communicate it. I know this will be hard for me, and I will fail a lot at the beginning, but in the long run it will be better for how I interact with everyone around me.

The second stems from the first. Only by expressing ourselves can we truly make a difference in our own lives. Before we can ever help others or make a difference in their lives, we have to learn to use our own voice for ourselves. I do not mean simply speaking up, or talking to others. I mean understanding who you are and expressing this in what, where, when, how and why you choose to speak up. To speak up on behalf of others, you need to have a very clear understanding and confidence in who you are and what you believe then. Otherwise when the inevitable pain comes, you will be unprepared to sustain your voice.


The Darkness

Just finished reading the Tale of Despereaux with my children. I was struck (who can avoid it with the point being bludgeoned over the head of the dear reader) by the necessity of the story. How often do we have our own struggle for with darkness so starkly revealed? Is this not why we are so crazy for Star Wars and Super Heroes (among other reasons)?

We know that negativity, bad memories, negative experiences, fear and hate to be more powerful in our brains. Yet, science also teaches us that positivity and happiness are more powerful. This is why tools like taking in the good and holding on to our good experiences just a few seconds longer, are life changers.

Today I saw a woman who literally, spent her whole shopping trip berating her child and the people shopping with her. Making everything out to be their fault and just making the experience an overall painful time for anyone near them. The cherry on top of her hateful day, was cursing at an employee who came over to help with a scanning problem. This woman is a prime example of someone who deserves our empathy, but who also clearly need to desperately work on her struggle with the darkness inside.

The employee she yelled and cursed at, appears to fall on the other side of this line of human interaction. After being cursed at, she not only continued to go about her job, she did it with a smile on her face.

So dear reader, I ask you, which of these human beings would you rather be on any given day? And if the answer is the latter, what are you doing about it? Are you working to keep the darkness that exists at bay? To not allow new darkness and hate inside? And to try and replace all that negativity with strong memories of love, happiness and good?

Why It Matters

In the last couple of years before she passed, my great grandmother was fond of telling stories of her youth. Most of her stories were funny and upbeat, or even if they were a little more somber, she made them funny. Every so often, however, she would share stories of her family being refused service, lodging, and any other form of discrimination you can think of. The key takeaway I had from the stories, was the fact that people saw her and her family as human first when they chose not to discriminate against our kind.

At this point, I’m sure a few readers are asking, why does this matter? What point are you trying to make?

As we struggle with discrimination, hate, and by us moving forward, we should always remember these things have a impacted all of our families at one time or another. Even if we’ve chosen to forget.

Most of Irish side of my family has never forgotten. And for those who have, shame on you. No one, for any reason, deserves to be not denied basic human civility, empathy and the capacity to do what’s best for their family.

I for one will not standby if I am witness to such inflammatory language or outright discrimination. Simply saying that people can be safe with us is not enough, we would make sure that they are safe anytime we are around. We nust be a barrier between those who have chosen the path of hate.

Never On My Watch (NOMW)

Days In Front

Tears are dried, sleep won

Focus now on future need

Hate each other, mutual ruin

As one country we bleed

Empathy for all, needed soon

No more will we cede

Strength of spirit, love human

Opposed to hate we lead 

Heavy Sigh

Just read this article about a book (a same gender fairy tale) twice approved being read in a classroom leading to 2 people having to resign. What immediately came to mind is Mark Twain and I wonder what he’d say. One of the reasons Twain’s books (see Huck Finn) were banned is that they actually depicted slavery in the horrible light it deserved. He also had the audacity to depict Jim as a person deserving of our respect and empathy.

I think Twain might say this ban will increase sales and hopefully poke a finger into all the Sunday Christians with too much time and too little sense on their hands.

Here is a quick hit of banned books that have shaped US culture.

Hate and Love

Now seems as good a time as any to share my ideas on hate and love. To start, I fully realize how I think of, and utilize, these 2 words are wrapped up in how I define them. This definition covers both words and emotions. And while we may disagree on the word definitions, I am confident in the human commonality on the emotional side.

Most languages attach special evocative meaning and importance to the words Love and Hate. They create deeply rooted visceral reactions, and it’s in these reactions that I’m most concerned. For words meant to describe indelible aspects of the human condition, we misunderstand them and banter them around a little too lightly in American English.

Let’s start with hate. A standard dictionary definition is “to feel extreme or passionate dislike, enmity, or hostility toward (someone)”. As our dictionary’s get updated to reflect our cultural meanings and uses of words, the word “someone” seems to have disappeared. Is it really possible to hate a movie? Or a sound? Or an inanimate object? I would argue no.

Any hate we feel towards a non-living being is misplaced and inaccurate, transference of issues we experience in our journey through life. We “hate” how those things make us feel and/or remind of us of bad times, things of which we have no control and situations that are damaging our life force (what some call a soul).

Hate is meant to define and display the extreme end of a spectrum of feelings. True hate is indeed visceral and indelible. If I hate someone, I am creating a change in my being and how I perceive and interact with the world. While my hate may be reserved for a specific individual, it colors and impacts all I do moving forward. I would argue that true hate actually hurts us as intensely as we feel it towards another.

Not allowing self-damage to occur by practicing hate is something I work on everyday. I share with my girls an idea that words are important, especially in how and why we use them. When I hear I hate this food, hate this song or hate this inanimate object of the moment, I gently remind them we don’t want to hate anything, but we definitely can’t hate something not alive. When necessary I re-share with them my fear of spiders.

I have been to the hospital 2 times in my elementary and early teen years from excessive spider bites. Now I have good reason as an adult to fear spiders, some would say even hate them. Yet I remind my girls, fear does not have to equal hate, and although spiders are alive, and have caused me harm in the past, I do not hate them. My fear is still present, yet I recognize hating them will only continue to cause me damage and ongoing harm.

Love is on the far opposite end of that spectrum of feelings from hate. A standard dictionary definition can be “strong feelings for another” or “affection based on sexual desire”. How these miss the mark! Love, like hate, should be reserved for feelings towards a living force; animals, plants other people perhaps. You don’t really love that song, or that book or that phone.

Unfortunately, even once we move past the inaccuracy of loving non-living things, we still don’t seem to grasp love. Love is not because someone makes you feel good about yourself, it isn’t about sex, nor is it simply feeling good or affectionate towards another person. All of these things can be part of love, but they are not love. Yet love must start from the recognition that this other person or living entity is equally capable and deserving of my love.

Concentrating on another person, love is an acceptance and appreciation of our shared human state. From this, love builds towards placing others on an equal footing with oneself and being willing to place their humanity, happiness and safety on equal ground. For some, love can even build to placing others humanity before themselves. Notice I did not say needs; needs and wants are a slippery slope in others and ourselves. Love is not about needs, but about caring for the whole person.

Just as we need to actively let go of hate so as not to damage ourselves, Love must be actively built up in oneself. The more love we hold, the greater healing that occurs and the better we feel about ourselves.

I know this is amazingly hard to do in practice. So if this idea interests you, but seems a gargantuan task, I’ll share how I started working on it. I started with myself, then my girls and then a few close friends. This is the first time I have shared with a larger audience.

On a daily basis stop using the word love and hate for ideas and things, use like/dislike instead. Stop loving that color and be ok with liking it. Don’t hate that song, accept disliking it. Once we de-emphasize love and hate from material objects, they regain more and more of their power.

Once that power is returned, we need to respect it. If you find yourself using the word hate towards another person or living being, ask yourself is this feeling truly hate. If you are feeling physically changed by an intense feeling of animosity, then it’s probably hate. If you are being emotionally and physically altered by hate, this is an unhealthy state to remain within. The first step if getting here, the next is in letting go the hate. If you’ve reached that step there are many amazing books and ideas out there for this. I personally work out, do Yoga, Qigong, play hockey, play disc golf, hike and meditate for the stage of letting go hate.

Love starts from the same place of de-emphasizing the use in the material aspects of life, from there it shares nothing else with hate. When you think you love someone or some entity, ask yourself is it because how they make you feel or how you feel towards them. This is an important distinction. Love is more than how something makes you feel, this is key to not loving inanimate objects and why we mess up love all the time with other people. Love is the outward flow of feelings and about how you feel toward that person and how you share that love.

I hope my sharing of this has been positively helpful for any readers out there! I will post 3 songs on this topic as well.

What’s the Real Worry Here?

We are undergoing a port lockout right now in more than half of our ports in the US. Previous to this there was a work slowdown occurring. This article at Gizmodo does a good job of introducing the topic and the apparent issues. However, if one takes the time and reads the corresponding articles linked within, another set of questions and concerns arise.

Is the real issue the current dispute between the two parties or do we have 2 much deeper issues laying completely naked, yet unaddressed, in front of us?

Are the longshoremen really upset about arbitration clauses and technology? Or are they expressing what many Americans are feeling? If things are so good and the ports are so busy, where is our piece of the pie, where is our thank you? When the average worker hears how great things are going and how record numbers are being set, they anticipate and expect that some of the good times will roll in their direction.

Also, why are the ports and rail-lines at and past capacity? Why have we not partaken in capacity building and expansion? The private sector and government are equally culpable for this travesty and yet the average person is completely unaware that we have spent trillions on war, bailing out certain sectors of the economy and a stimulus package, yet don’t seem to have a single mile of  additional rail capacity or waterfront for unloading containers.




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