And On The 7th Day, No One Rested

One of the biggest aspects of my own core beliefs is that I have a profound respect for other people’s religions and faiths. I mean, as long as your personal faith and/or beliefs don’t bring harm to others or yourself, I’ve always lived by a standard of live and let live. Even if and when they conflict or contradict my own. It makes sense that not everyone sees things the same way, right? But how does one consolidate their beliefs, religious or otherwise, when they conflict with the requirements of the modern world?

The best example I can give, takes me all the way back to the early 2000’s. I was management, third in charge of a location, which for liability purposes I won’t name. But part of my responsibilities included the hiring and discipline of the staff. It was a trying position at times, and I didn’t always enjoy the conversations I had to have with employees, especially given the fact that some of those conversations were dictated by upper management and the owners.

One of the senior management attended a local church, where the youth congregation were invited to apply and based on that manager’s recommendation, most were hired and made up a significant portion of the part-time staff. And although I’m not a big fan of this type of nepotism, I’ll be the first to admit that the staff we hired were quite fantastic. Always on time, worked hard and seemed inclined to make a good name for themselves.

But one of my other responsibilities also included scheduling for a staff of almost a hundred. This task was often made all the more difficult by the fact that many of our part-time staff were involved in extracurriculars like sports, committees and hobbies. Trying to provide them with the three or four shifts a week they required while navigating those extracurriculars often proved challenging. Sometimes I found myself having to tell one of the part-timers that a big part of being a responsible person was deciding their priorities and choosing between work and outside activities.

For the most part, it was a smooth conversation, with both parties coming to some sort of consensus even when that consensus meant they’d be parting ways with the company. But one young lad made a point of providing an extremely tight availability and absolutely refused to work on Sundays. When I explained to him that as a high school student with limited availability, Saturdays and Sundays were integral to ensuring that he got his three shifts, it was an unhappy medium, because he demanded three shifts a week but refused to work on Sundays as it was “God’s day.”

As I was raised in a French Catholic family, I am very aware of the fact that scripture states that on the seventh day, God rested. That being said, the modern world makes very little convention for such observances, nor does the business world accommodate one’s belief that a part-time employee with a limited availability can be choosy about the days he works. And why would he? Buddhists have a number of “observed” dates throughout the year, but I’ve never refused to work on any of them.

This put everyone in an awkward position. Although it was just the beginning of the new millennium, this was my first taste of millennial entitlement as a leader of staff. It would go on to be a phenomenon that would become all too common in most workplaces. It was also a very fine line to walk. Disciplining or correcting someone on the basis of their religious beliefs is a dangerous thing, both inside and outside of the workplace. But despite having signed an employment agreement indicating that he’d work the hours that were given, the employee missed a couple of Sunday shifts in a row.

He was lucky in a way, because the first time he missed the shift he had called in the previous day to say he wouldn’t be coming in. I say that he was lucky because he got me on the phone. Any other manager likely would have told him to show up for work or he’d be fired. I, instead, asked him why he wasn’t coming in. I got the “God’s day” reasoning and told him that he had agreed to work any hours given to him and that church services were also held during evenings and many staff members adjusted to make it work. He made it clear he simply wouldn’t work on Sundays. Well. Fuck.

I’m a firm believer in picking my battles, so I simply documented the absence and reported it to the Store Manager and replaced his spot with someone who wanted a few more hours. The battle wasn’t worth the outcome for a 3-hour shift on a first occurrence. But the following week, he got scheduled a Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday shift as per the availability of being a part-time school student. This time, he chose to test his luck and simply didn’t show up for work on the Sunday at all. That’s when shit got real…

This time, he skipped out on a shift overseen by the Store Manager, who wasn’t having any of it. Our staffing levels were based on projected sales calculated from previous weeks and years, so if we had 5 staff persons scheduled to work, it was because we were expected to need those 5. The Store Manager contacted this employee, who responded with his usual rhetoric about it being a Sunday. The Store Manager advised he would take care of this one, personally. I was grateful for that.

So in all honesty, who’s the asshole here? Is it the employee for providing an availability and then reneging on it? Or is it the employer for failing to respect an organized religion’s day of observance? Is it considered a bit much for that day of observance to be every single week, or was this youth right in his thinking that no one should work on “God’s day?” While I’m here, I apologize if putting “God’s day” in quotation marks offends anyone, but I’m of the opinion that EVERY day is God’s day. But the very fact I the need to apologize for it is the very point behind this post.

There’s nothing wrong with having faith, so long as you’re faithful. So where does the concept of faith fit into the modern world, specifically the working world? There should be room to accommodate a balance of both, right? I’m using the platform of this story as a means of asking for your opinion. If you have thoughts to share, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to share your opinion in the comments. ☯

Zen And The Art Of Toilet Installation

As I’ve previously written, I recently had my basement demolished and the foundation walls braced with steel beams. This was a costly project, but a necessary one. We’ve tried to sell our house twice, with the market deciding to take advantage of us without the benefit of buying us dinner first. We took the house off the market when we realized that almost every potential buyer was commenting on the state of the foundation and the house was more likely to sell with a braced, unfinished basement. I wrote about the excellent work done by Grasshopper Construction here.

One of the big issues we faced because of the basement renovations is the failure of our under sink drinking tap. This is a filtered tap used solely for drinking water. We’ve switched the filter with replacements the previous owner had left for us, but it turns out that the type and model of water filter under our kitchen sink no longer exists. As a result, my wife and I went to Home Depot and found an alternative to replace the outdated filter we currently had. The filter failure occurred when the construction company shut off the water to move piping in the downstairs area and the filter emptied out. Since then, the water’s been clouded and undrinkable. And here we are.

Further to that, I had requested that my downstairs toilet be put back in place when the project was completed. I was assured that it would. It wasn’t. I found myself in a position where I had to replace my upstairs drinking filter and get my toilet re-installed. I phoned in some local plumbing companies, but the estimated costs turned out to be between $550 to $850. This was on top of the fact that I had the toilet, had the water filter system, had all of the hardware they would need to install everything. I couldn’t understand why it had to cost so fuckin’ much.

All that was left of my Buddhist throne!

After a few estimates that ranged in the high hundreds, my wife and I faced the possibility that we would be leaving things as they were, since we simply couldn’t justify the cost with everything being as it was. But considering my level of stubbornness, I couldn’t let things sit as they were. Sure, there were no walls downstairs for the toilet I was trying to get back in place. That was a small detail I could circumvent by throwing a small area rug and buying a couple of Chinese screens to allow for some privacy. But our drinking water was a different story.

I solicited the help of a local neighbourhood FaceBook group, despite my aversion to social media, to help me find a local plumber. They came through quite nicely and I had a number to call. But I was afraid of how much even a local, independent plumber would charge to install something that I already had in the house. I turned to a rather unlikely source to try and learn how to do the work myself: YouTube.

Once I removed as much as the old wax gasket as possible

I watched a number of videos on how to repair and install a toilet bowl from home. I watched about how to properly install bolts on the phalange, properly place the wax ring and properly piping and sourcing water to my toilet. I made a list of all the items I needed and made my way to Home Depot, where the helpful staff were able to help me get all the items together and I left the location, pretty confident I would be able to circumvent hundreds if not thousands of dollars by doing the work myself. After all, there’s nothing I can’t learn, right?

I started by scraping away the remnants of the old wax gasket around the phalange where the toilet sits. Let me tell you, it’s unpleasant work and I can see why plumbers charge so much. It’s rather disgusting. But I got it all scraped away without removing the bag the construction company stuffed into the drain hole, so I didn’t have to deal with any unpleasant smells. Nathan was there to help and bring me tools. I followed up by dragging my toilet near the location so that it would be ready.

Stuck back in its former glory!

The fastening bolts on the phalange were still in excellent shape, so I didn’t have to remove them and install the new ones that came with the new wax ring. I placed the new wax ring and squeezed it in place before lowering the toilet onto the base and twisting it slightly to make a tight seal with the new wax ring. Once this was done, Nathan and I tightened the bolts at the sides of the toilet, ensuring the toilet would be securely fastened to the floor. I ensured the proper placement of the wax seal and the level of the toilet by sitting on it with a level keeping correct measure while I worked.

Everything went according to plan, I fastened a water valve to the toilet, attached per tubing from the valve all the way top to the ceiling and reached the water line dedicated to the toilet, only to discover that the cap that had been placed on the pipe wasn’t threaded and I couldn’t remove it. I contacted that local, retired plumber I mentioned an had him come check it out. He agreed to make the proper connection (which was the only piece I was missing) and install my upstairs water filter.

25 feet of Pex tubing to run water to my toilet

At the end of the day, I reinstalled my toilet and my water filter with only minimal intervention from a retired plumber, paid $40 in parts and $100 of off-the-books money to my retired plumber and now have a fully functional toilet downstairs, as well as a source of clean drinking water for my family and I. Considering this was barely an 8th of the total cost of a “professional” plumber, I consider myself blessed to have taken the steps I did. It’s one step closer to getting my basement back to its former glory.

By end-of-day on last Thursday, I had my toilet back to it’s former, running glory and a brand-new filtered source of drinking water for my family and I on our upstairs sink. I have a deep well of respect for people who work in the trades. I understand that they have to study and train, and mostly even apprentice for many years in order to work independently in their respective industries. But considering most sources were trying to charge me nearly a grand to install items I already had in my possession baffles my mind. The $100 I paid to the gentleman who came and helped me seemed like a Godsend by comparison.

This Buddhist’s Throne, in all its former glory!

I’m not a plumber. I could never do what they do, especially when it comes to things like toilets and anything sewer-related, but give me a break! Why gouge people so badly? I was able to save hundreds upon hundreds of dollars by doing the majority of this installation myself. Just goes to show that you can do anything if youngenuinely set your mind to it. ☯

The Possible Light At The End Of The Tunnel…

I was sitting in my living room last Wednesday, basking in the aftermath of a solid supper of two jalapeño cheddar burgers. I’m totally kidding. Not about eating two burgers; I totally demolished those! I’m kidding about the fact that I was basking in anything but pain. The jalapeño burgers were painful to eat, digest and think about. But I digress… Shortly after supper, while I was in the living room with my wife and infant son, I received a text from a friend of mine.

Now, one might be inclined to ask, “But Shawn, don’t you ALWAYS get texts from friends?” First of all, shaddup! Second of all, texts rarely have this level of importance or solicit as much of a reaction from me. This text message contained a link to an Edmonton CTV article indicating that there is a possibility that a cure for Diabetes may have been discovered. No, that’s not a typo. You read that right.

The article, published on November 17th by CTV News Edmonton, opens with a bold statement in its first line, “Scientists at the University of Alberta say they may have discovered a cure for Diabetes.” Apparently, their new process has already cured Diabetes in mice and the research team is hopeful that they’ll eventually be able to test it on human test subjects. You can read the article for yourself here.

The lead researcher is Dr. James Shapiro, who is a well-known rockstar in the Diabetes community as the creator of the “Edmonton Protocol” some twenty years ago. This protocol involved injecting Diabetes patients with insulin-producing islet cells in order to allow their bodies to produce and regulate blood sugars without daily injections. This was a fantastic breakthrough and an amazing step forward in Diabetes treatment. I had even looked into it myself, when it first came out.

One of the big problems is that the protocol doesn’t work for everybody. There are conditions that make the patient receptive to the treatment, and even for those who can get the treatment are usually stuck using anti-rejection meds for the rest of their lives in order to keep their bodies from rejecting the injected cells. Dr. Shapiro and his team have apparently found a way around this obstacle.

According to their new claims, the research team have somehow found a way to turn a patient’s own cells into islet-producing ones, circumventing the need for all the anti-rejection meds and side effects that accompany the Edmonton Protocol. Their current research has shown that they’ve been able to reverse the effects of Diabetes in mice to the point where the Diabetes is effectively cured. If successful in human trials, there is a very real possibility that we could see a cure for Diabetes within our lifetime.

Just reading the article brought tears to my eyes. After all, finding a cure for Diabetes is the “hopeless hope” of every T1D. And I’d be lying if I said that I even remember what life is like without Diabetes. But it’s gotta be better than this. Watching the video made even more misty-eyed (Thanks, Kristen!). As is the case with most scientific research, funding is the main issue. Dr. Shapiro requires additional funding for equipment and research in order to perfect this new treatment.

The video that accompanies the article discusses a man, whose son has Type-1 Diabetes, who has decided on a goal of raising 22 million dollars by 2022. He made a pretty good point; if every Canadian with Diabetes donated simply $22, Dr. Shapiro would be well beyond the funding required to make this work. With over 400 million people with Diabetes worldwide, it would really suck if there’s a cure on the horizon but no one could get it because of funding.

Between drying all the tears the article caused, I tried finding where one can donate for this specific cause. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything so if one of you does, please include it in the comments so I can share it and pass it on. Diabetes has taken up such a large portion of my life and has helped mold me into the person I am today. I’ll admit that I would likely feel a bit lost if I suddenly found myself clear of it. But I’d adjust. Definitely. Read the article. In case one link wasn’t enough, HERE! ☯

When Winter Becomes The Workout

I had a bunch of fun last Thursday when Nathan and I went outside to clean up the snow that had fallen the previous day. We had a heavy snowfall, which resulted in a few inches settling nicely on my driveway, vehicle and sidewalk. Homeowners are responsible for clearing and cleaning the stretch of sidewalk in front of their property or risk being civilly liable, should someone not understand that snow and ice on concrete is fuckin’ slippery. Go figure…

The point is, I started by using my newly-purchased snowblower to eliminate the two inches of loose, powdered top snow. But I still had to get in there and scrap away all the nice, packed stuff that sat underneath. My sidewalk was an absolute disaster, since people have been walking on it for days and a lot of the snow got packed down. I spent the better part of an hour, scraping, lifting and tossing heavy chunks of packed snow.

In light of the fact that I had been at it for an hour, I counted it as a workout. Why not? I had been stretching, twisting and lifting heavy weight for an hour. I’m inclined to think that this is pretty close to the definition of a workout. I wouldn’t want it to be my usual, of course. But it makes me feel better about not having time to log a traditional workout.

There are a lot of “chores” a homeowner can perform that can be intensive enough to constitute a workout. So if the winter blahs are starting to get you down and you just can’t quite seem to find the energy to do a traditional workout, turn that frown upside down by using the chores you’re forced to perform as a means of maintaining your fitness. Just be sure to keep an eye on your blood sugar levels and remember that despite the colder weather, hydration is still important. ☯

The Masks We Wear…

“If You Wear A Mask Long Enough You Begin To Forget Who You Are Beneath It.”

– Alan Moore

I don’t have cable, nor do I watch the news or carry any subscriptions. I’ve recently taken to listening to morning news radio when bringing Nathan to school so that I won’t be completely in the dark with what’s happening in the world. And it’s a little difficult to avoid writing about issues surrounding COVID-19, considering we all get slapped in the face with it on a daily basis. Literally.

With this clever pun, I refer to the wearing of face coverings or masks. Although I’m uncertain about the state of this requirement around the rest of the world, many if not most Canadian Provinces have made the wearing of a mask or facial covering mandatory by law in public places, with Saskatchewan being no exception. In fact, facial masks have, until recently, been required on a location-by-location basis, being entirely dependant on the business itself to impose the wearing of the mask.

Most Provinces have legislated the wearing of facial coverings or masks with heavy monetary fines imposed on those who are caught without them. In Saskatchewan, fines ranging as high as $2,000 plus surcharges were imposed on the participant of a protest against the wearing of masks, which took place in Saskatoon (Star Phoenix). This isn’t something new, although most of Canada is starting to jump on the “mandatory” bandwagon for any towns or cities with a population higher than 5,000 people.

There’s a growing number of people with some very strange ideas and concepts related to COVID-19 and face masks… It isn’t all that surprising, since even the most common sense of concepts are often met with conspiracy theorists and the typical bullshit that people try to come up with, either due to ignorance or mental health issues. It’s a bit like trying to convince people the Earth isn’t flat. It doesn’t matter how many scientifically-proven reasons are given, these folks are still stupid enough to think the planet is a flat disc.

Sometimes, there’s just no convincing some people. And that’s fine! People are entitled to their opinions, so long as it doesn’t endanger others. And this happens to be the category we fall under, when it comes to wearing masks. I could spout the information that’s basically become general knowledge by this point, wearing the mask is more about protecting the population than the one person, it prevents spread by blocking virus droplets, it isn’t a substitute for social distancing… blah, blah, blah!

We’ve heard all of this stuff on a weekly basis for the past eight months, so I won’t regurgitate it. What I AM going to do, is discuss some specifics about the proper wearing of a mask. Take these for grain of salt and I encourage you to do your own research if you have any doubts. So long as you do your research somewhere reputable like the World Health Organization or Health Canada. If you get your information from The Onion, then I can’t help you…

First and foremost, cloth masks are just fine. As long as you ensure that they contain two or three layers and are made of a tightly-woven but breathable fabric such as cotton, you’re good to go. You shouldn’t wear masks that have exhalation valves, as these are designed to prevent particles from coming in and may not stop them from going out. This means you may inadvertently be spreading the virus, should you happen to be a carrier who doesn’t show symptoms.

Try to avoid solid or non-breathable materials like leather or plastic. Masks with a clear, plastic window are all the rage right now with people believing they’re great for allowing people to see each other’s smiles and facial expressions. But realistically, they just make it much more difficult to breathe through. Although they potentially have their place in situations where a deaf person may need to lip read, this isn’t the norm and you should stick to something snug-fitting, made out of cloth material or the single-use paper masks. Same goes for those stupid masks with built-in straws. Just drink your damn Slurpee when you get home!

Wash your masks! I can’t stress this one enough! I wear reusable masks and my wife and I made a quick grocery run after eating at a burger joint, the one day. I accidentally burped into my mask and nearly passed out! You wouldn’t wear your underwear indefinitely without laundering them (or maybe you would, I’m not here to judge) so why would you continue to wear a mask that you’re exhaling bacteria into? Just like hand-washing, you need to maintain proper hygiene when it comes to the wearing of these masks.

There have been a number of posts circulating online about how wearing a mask for long periods can increase the amount of carbon dioxide that you breathe back in, but it’s all bullshit that’s been disproven ten ways from Sunday. Masks are far too breathable for you to take in any significant amount of CO2 from your own exhalation. Not to mention that every breath you exhale is still oxygen-rich enough to constitute a second breath. Why do you think giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is acceptable? But the bacteria build-up is a very real thing and your masks should be laundered after a couple of outings or disposed of, if they’re the disposable, paper kind.

Cover your nose. This one drives me up the fuckin’ wall, honestly! What’s the point of wearing a face mask if you simply leave your nose uncovered for all your COVID-19 boogers to come flying out like mortars on a battlefield? Use some common sense and wear the mask properly! It’s kind of like wearing a condom, if you don’t wear it properly, there will be consequences. Except those consequences likely won’t kill you like COVID-19 could. But I digress…

First responders and medical professionals wear facial masks for hours and hours on end, most for a minimum of 8 hours during scheduled shifts but some for very much longer, with no lingering negative effects other than putting up with the mask itself. That’s been happening for longer than I’ve been around. So, a long time. Unless you have a serious, diagnosed pulmonary issue, are someone with cognitive or mental health issues making comprehension difficult or have suffered some trauma involving the covering of your face, there’s really no excuse for simply not obeying what is now the law and WEAR. YOUR. DAMN. MASK.

To the conspiracy theorists, I offer a question: what possible benefit could there be in convincing the population to wear a face mask? From a conspiracy perspective? Seriously. Give me an answer. I’ll wait. No, honesty I won’t. At the end of the day, maintaining social distancing is something that should have started years ago. Many countries have taken to wearing face masks in public for decades. None of this is new. And considering there have been almost a million and half deaths from COVID-19 worldwide, I think that slipping on a mask for half an hour while you pick up your groceries won’t kill you. But COVID-19 might. Food for thought…☯

Even A Smile Shows Teeth

There have always been those who would bring harm to others, either physically, emotionally or professionally. Although it may seem like a pretty cynical view, learning to acknowledge and understand that not everyone can be trusted is a significantly important way to protect oneself. I’ve come to realize over the years, through my personal and professional life, that trust is a dangerous commodity, albeit a necessary one.

It can be difficult to know who to trust. Even when a person is nice and welcoming, they can forget you in a heartbeat, or fail to be there when you need them. This can lead to the distrust of people in general. Meanwhile, even when certain people seem like absolute assholes or ignorant, they may give the shirt off their backs if they think it will help you out. It can make navigating the social world extremely difficult.

It reminds me of a story I heard from a character in a movie I watched years ago. The story always stuck with me, and I think it applies quite well to modern society. Here’s the story:

“Once Upon A Time, There Was This Little Sparrow, Who While Flying South For The Winter Froze Solid And Fell To The Ground. And Then To Make Matters Worse The Cow Crapped On Him, But The Manure Was All Warm And It Defrosted Him. So There He Is, He’s Warm And He’s Happy To Be Alive And He Starts To Sing. A Hungry Cat Come Along and Clears Off The Manure And He Looks At The Little Bird And Then He East Him. And The Moral Of The Story Is This: Everyone Who Craps On You Is Not Necessarily Your Enemy, And Everyone Who Gets You Out Of Crap Is Not Necessarily Your Friend, And If You’re Warm And Happy No Matter Where You Are You Should Just Keep Your Big Mouth Shut!”

– Electra, Assassins (1995)

The delivery of this revelation comes during a point in a Sylvester Stallone movie where there’s a lull in the action, and is meant as a mild comedic diversion in the middle of an otherwise dark movie about contract killing. It elicited a laugh from me, the first time I watched the movie. But I feel it provides an important lesson in the modern world as well. Trust, as I said, is a valuable commodity. And it can be extremely difficult and frustrating knowing when to share said commodity.

Although I may once again be showing my cynical side, we live in a world where a date gone wrong may result in claiming sexual misconduct, where online purchases can result in the money being taken without any goods ever being delivered and of promises made but never kept. It makes navigating through all the bullshit not only difficult but somewhat dangerous. It also makes friendships difficult to establish and maintain.

I’ve had so-called “friends” who have smiled and been nice and fantastic in person, but have either stabbed me in the back when I wasn’t looking or simply weren’t there to provide the basic elements of friendship when they were needed. One good example I can provide, is a friend who has good moral value similar to my own, expresses the existence of our friendship, yet time and again I’ve been stood up without warning when trying to meet with them or get their assistance with something. This person may be the nicest person in the world, but they still suck as a friend.

On the flip side, I have associates within my social circle (if I can really call it that) that are often loud, opinionated and rude. But during times when I was lowest, these associates will be the first to step forward and lend a hand. Like I say, it can be confusing. It would be nice to simply have people in one’s life that share common interests, goals and values and that you never have to second-guess. But that simply isn’t how the world works.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that I’m suggesting in ANY way that one shouldn’t have friendships. Friendships are an integral part of a normal human existence; normal being an extremely subjective term, of course. But the idea is to protect yourself, especially during online interactions where you can’t ever be definitive about a person’s motives. Take your time with people and trust only so far as it allows the association to develop without putting yourself in a compromising position.

Last but not least, appreciate the friendships you do have. My inner circle is so small, it’s basically a dot. But I consider friendship to be a “quality not quantity” consideration. I prefer to have the friends whom I only speak to about once a month but that I can trust wholeheartedly, than the ones I hang out with every week but may be stealing the money out of my swear jar when I’m not looking. And trust me, that fucker’s full! ☯

Home Should Be For Rest

Listen, I’ve heard this argument for well over thirty years. There’s never been a satisfactory answer, at least not to me. But even when I WAS in school, it was a well-worn argument that apparently would never have any resolution. Should homework be included as a part of a child’s education? Should students be expected to perform school work and studies once they leave the classroom and go home? The answer to that question depends on which side of the fence you fall on.

Personally, I was always the kind of student who managed to get most work done within the confines of the classroom. YEs, I know! That sounds like bragging. And it probably is. My parents never really had to pester me to read or study or do anything that would be considered studying, because I usually did it on my own. But when I did get homework, I knocked it out of the park first thing.

But even in modern times, what does this say about our modern educational system? When I know that my son has spent seven to eight hours in the care of the school system, I usually feel that it’s inappropriate that I have to push my child to perform schoolwork outside the confines of his classroom. I consider that if I put in an 8-hour shift at work, I assume I can relax and unwind when I finally get home to my family. Familial obligations considered, of course. So why wouldn’t the sam be true of my son, who is only a child?

Honestly, my personal opinion is that if one’s lesson plan is properly drafted and executed, then students should be in a position where they need to do “school work” once they get home. This doesn’t include studying things that may be coming on a given day. For example, if my son has a spelling test at the end of the week, he can fully expect that he’ll be practicing that shit at home. But serious homework assignments should take a bench and wait for the following day, if the teacher hasn’t managed to fit it in to his or her full day of class.

Do you agree with this perspective? Let’s consider that some students have extracurriculars to consider. In Canada, many students will participate in dance, hockey or martial arts outside of class hours. If they spend an 8-hour day in school then head off to said extracurriculars, that leave very little time for homework. And extracurriculars are extremely important. They can help train and groom a perspective youth for the future. But by the time I usually got home from karate, I was ready for a hot shower and bed. Homework was about as far from my mind as it could get.

Nowadays, I deal with my 5-year old who complains that if he isn’t in school, he shouldn’t be doing schoolwork. I hate to agree, but he has a point. You wouldn’t be expected to put in a shit-ton of work beyond your 8-hour shift. So, why are our children expected to do schoolwork once at home? It’s definitely food for thought, because I’m straddling a sharp, splintery fence where this issue is concerned. I think there are some things that NEED to be passed on to be completed at home. But for the most part, home should be where kids can do what they do best: be kids. ☯

What’s Your Type? Hopefully Not Stereo…

Hey, the world is full of stereotypes. Especially when it’s about something we know nothing about. For example, did you know that not all people who cut me off in traffic are f$%kin’ idiots? Holy shit, right? I never would have guessed that one. But seriously, as a people we tend to lean on our stereotypes and assume things before truly getting to know the very thing that we’re judging. One good example of this is the fact that I’ve been studying Buddhism for over twenty years.

Can you imagine, trying to explain that the religion you study is NOT the one you were baptized and raised on? My mother sure has an issue with it. She attributes it to “all that karate stuff,” but it sure makes frank conversations about Buddhism difficult, at the best of times. The only gratitude I have is that I never had to explain this to my grandmother, light rest her soul. She would have bathed me in Holy Water and probably would have tried to have me burned at the stake (NOW who’s using stereotypes???)

The point is, I’ve been faced with a number of stereotypes in the past two decades. And despite the fact that I can understand some if not most of them, I thought it would be ideal to dispel and/or explain some of them. For example, did you know that not all Buddhists shave their heads? Some will shave their heads in observance of someone’s death. Others will observe Tonsure (shaving of the head) as a means of discipline, humility and devotion to their order. But some Buddhist can and WILL have a full head of hair. You’ve been warned…

Another aspect is meditation. Believe me, if I could spend six to eight hours of meditation every day, I’d be in nirvana-based heaven. The truth is, it doesn’t happen all that much. At least not in a modern, family-based times. When I do get to meditate, my 5-year old son loves to run circles around me on the floor to see how long it takes to break my concentration. If I’m lucky, his mother will come take him away before I end up giving him a free karate lesson, but the chance to meditate seldom comes along.

I feel that it’s important to point out that five minutes of meditation is better than none at all, but some days, it just can’t happen. And that’s okay, so long as you make some time at some point throughout your week, to meditate in some given way, shape or form.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced in decades is likely control over my emotions and demeanour. People think that someone who studies Buddhism is supposed to be stoic and without outward emotion. Well, for one thing, Stoicism is something totally different from Buddhism, although there are some similar aspects to both. But the reality is that I am not Buddhist because I am calm and controlled. Rather, I am calm and controlled BECAUSE I study Buddhism.

In reality, even when I present a calm exterior I usually have a roiling storm of raging waves beneath the surface. I feel and experience emotions and reactions in the same manner as ever John and Jane Doe on the street, although they usually don’t get expressed externally. And even when they could be expressed externally, I often don’t have the normal, every day emotional tools to do so. But the assumption that a Buddhist will be passive and emotionless is pretty inaccurate. If someone threatens me or someone I love, I’ll hand them their ass in the same manner that any respectable martial artist would.

The important thing to remember is that most of us are open to conversation. Although most people don’t go around screaming their religion from the rooftops (unless they’re writing a blog about it) we’re always open to questions and education. If there’s something you’re not sure about, just ask. If you’re dealing with someone who IS screaming their religion from the rooftops, you should probably be concerned. But that a different issue. ☯

Fake It ‘Til You Make It…

Something that drives me absolutely batty is when I see folks intentionally going out of their way to prove martial arts as something fake. It’s one thing if someone takes steps to expose someone they know for a fact is teaching a fake form of martial arts, but I’m referring to those who simply have a blanket belief that ALL martial arts are fake. As someone who has spent over three quarters of his life studying traditional martial arts, I can promise you that genuine fighting arts, such as they are, are anything but fake.

Unfortunately, movies and television make a pretty good attempt at portraying martial arts as something mystical and almost ethereal. But the true reality of martial arts, if it’s a genuine style, is that it requires a shit ton of hard work and dedication to hone one’s skills in this respect. I found myself falling down the YouTube rabbit hole last week, and ended up watching a bunch of videos where “fake” martial arts were being exposed.

Some of the stuff those videos showed was beyond borderline ridiculous, if I do say so myself. With this thought in mind and with all due respect to the hundreds of YouTube videos exposing fake martial arts, here is my top 6 list of things that the martial arts does NOT do:

  1. We’re not undefeatable: Masterhood is something that should happen organically. A student should never get into the martial arts with the thought of “I’m gonna be a master” in their heads. Although I’ve often said that no reason is inherently bad, there are some obvious exceptions. But no matter how long you trained and developed yourself, there will always be someone stronger and better skilled than you. Even though I’ve had the benefit of being the victor in the fights that mattered, there are some that I’ve lost. Martial arts does not make you invulnerable;
  2. We don’t keep secrets: The true goal of every traditional martial artist is to develop a student who will pass on the teaching in order to guarantee the continuation of the style. The concept of a master holding back a “secret technique” so that they can win any fight. Once we take on a pupil, we teach them everything there is to our style, albeit in due time. Advanced techniques obviously aren’t shared with someone who JUST started. The material is doled out according to experience level and skill. But we don’t hold anything back. Our systems wouldn’t survive if we did;
  3. We can’t move or affect people/objects without touching them: Some of my favourite videos are the ones where you see some fuckin’ idiot holding a hand out to someone charging at them, only to have the charging pupil pass out or fall over from an “unseen force” or energy that the “master”is projecting. This is, without exception, only effective against the master’s own students and never works in a real environment. Because it’s fake;
  4. There’s nothing “mystical” behind what we do: Martial arts isn’t some magical or mystical thing that originated from a spiritual source. Not to be mistaken with the fact that some us are “spiritual,” but martial arts is based strictly on how the human body moves, responds and functions. That’s it. Strikes, blocks and movements are all based on how the human body allows them. Even the styles that profess their origins from animal movements are still using natural movements of the body. There’s very little more natural or instinctive than a punch or a kick. We’ve been doing that for as long as we’ve existed;
  5. We don’t feel the need to compete: With the exception of a couple of times where I’ve demonstrated forms, I have never participated in tournaments. The need to pit myself against another person or style has never been necessary, nor do I want to. trust me, when I say that my martial skills have been proven in the line of duty on more than one occasion;
  6. We don’t hide our history: If the instructor or “master” you speak to can’t answer some basic questions about the style, where he was certified or who he’s trained with, he or she is likely a sham. I was trained by Guy-Sensei in New Brunswick. He was trained by Nakama-Sensei in Okinawa who was trained by Uechi-Sensei. I’m third generation, directly under the style’s Grandmaster. I obtained my black belt in 2002 in Dalhousie, New Brunswick after training in Okinawa during the previous year. I can explain the lineage and creation of my style with ease, and any true martial artists should be able to do the same (beginner’s being the exception).

There are a number of fakes out there, as with any sport or industry. Even though it can easy to watch all the uploaded videos and assume that martial arts are fake or ineffective, the important takeaway is that even someone who has spend decades training in a style can still be defeated on camera by someone else. This doesn’t mean that martial arts are fake; it simply means that you need to keep a keen eye open for some of the things I’ve pointed out.

Otherwise, recognize and acknowledge that like boxing and MMA, someone who has trained for long years in martial arts of any style and has put in the effort will undoubtedly have the skill and capability to defend themselves and others. So maybe it isn’t a fight you wanna pick. Granted, the YouTube videos are definitely good for a laugh. Some people will do anything for a buck… ☯

Best Of The Best

Listen, anyone who reads my blog regularly, knows that I’m not here to endorse any specific source or product. But once in a while, I feel it necessary to speak about particular books or films that have had an impact on my life, training or beliefs. A few days ago, I had the opportunity to re-watch a movie from my youth that had a definite impact on my choices regarding the martial arts. I’m talking a little movie called Best Of The Best…

Released in 1989, the movie follows the journey of five American fighters who are chosen to be part of an American Karate Team intent on competing against five fighters from the Korean team… In Korea! The team couldn’t be any different from each other, with a traditional Korean Tae Kwon Do champion, a dedicated karate practitioner who has a young son (sound familiar?), a chubby, hillbilly asshole who challenges everyone’s patience and even includes a caucasian Buddhist to add some flavour to the group.

I tried to find a promotional poster to share with the post, but there was nothing that was free or wouldn’t have cost me a ridiculous amount just to share, so I’ll satisfy myself with sharing the movie’s IMDB link here. IMDB is a phenomal tool for reading about a movie, but if you have Canadian Netflix, it’s on there right now and you should stop what you’re doing and watch the movie immediately! Starring Eric Roberts and Philip Rhee, the movie includes many aspects that I can relate to (minus competing, of course) in relation to my own martial arts journey.

This’ll be a short post, especially since I don’t want to provide any spoilers. But if you want a decent, realistic martial arts movie, Best of the Best is definitely the movie for you. It can feel like a bit of a slow burn at times, but the story is solid, the training is realistic and factual and the message is timeless. I’ve seen this movie almost a dozen times, and I never hesitate to sit through it when I see it cross my path. If you want a story of true martial arts prowess and dignity, pop a bag of Orville’s best and fire up your Netflix and watch Best Of The Best. If you love martial arts, you won’t be disappointed. ☯