Even If We’re Just Dancin’ In The Dark…🎶

I’m usually a pretty big advocate for not taking things for granted, especially in today’s cushy world of electronics, gadgets and comforts that the average household didn’t have, even just 50 years ago. For example, it’s a common assumption that any given household will have working internet. And heaven forbid that it NOT be high speed! But as early as the 1990’s, internet access wasn’t common place in most households and even when it was, you had to ensure a random family member didn’t pick up the phone to gab with their friends when you were 99% done downloading your favourite April Wine song using dial up. Thanks a lot, mom!

My point is, there are certain household resources that we take for granted because they’ve been around forever. Such as electricity. It’s hard to imagine a time when working power wasn’t an option within a household. And of course the power always tends to go out at the very worst of times, such as heavy thunder storms and in the dead of winter, practically always at night. The latter is what we had to deal with yesterday morning when our power was out for over nine hours…

Tea light candles, our only source of heat and light on a frosty morning.

The winds started up on Wednesday evening, a howling precursor of what would soon be coming. We had enjoyed a few days of reasonably mild weather, so I should have assumed a storm would be coming. My wife and I had spent some time on our respective computers once our boys were in bed, and we decided to hit the sack around 11 pm in order to get a decent night’s sleep. Little did we know that sleep would not only be evasive, the weather would go a long way towards being the cause. By midnight, we could hear and feel the house shifting with the heavy winds and blowing snow. At one point, I drifted off to sleep for a brief period, only to be woken in total darkness.

Just to clarify, our house is never totally dark. We have iPads, phones and devices that usually provide some level of ambient light, even in the worst of circumstances. But not this time. this time, the bedroom was pitch black. My wife was also awake, and we discussed the fact that power was out. My phone had a decent charge and an alarm was set, so I wasn’t overly worried about waking up late. And I foolishly assumed that power would be restored within an hour, maybe two. Because that’s what usually happens when you live in a large city. Shame on me for assuming they’d be on the ball…

Despite the howling winds, inclement weather and what sounded like the north side of the house collapsing, I managed to fall asleep at some point and awoke at 6 am with my alarm. Now we’re at yesterday morning. I noticed that it was still pitch black and nothing was powered up. Great. So we’ve been at least six hours without power. This meant quite a number of things. It meant no hot breakfast foods, no coffee and no heat in the house. I grabbed my Cadillac of flashlights, one I had purchased for work. That puppy can light up an entire room when pointed upwards at a ceiling, so I got up and started my morning routine in the dark. Easier said than done.

The first real issue was that the power outage meant that our furnace had not been providing heat to the house for the past six hours and the temperature inside the house was sitting at 16 degrees Celsius (61 Fahrenheit). Just as a comparison, the average walk-in refrigerator sits at 7 to 10 degrees Celsius (45 to 50 Fahrenheit), so it was pretty chill in the Cook household, and not in a fun way. I kept assuming power would be restored anytime, so I started tracking down candles to provide ambient heat and light until it did. Turns out that all I had were the tea lights shown in the photo above.

I started getting Nathan’s school lunch ready, since I had no reason to believe he wouldn’t be attending school. Luckily, making a tuna sandwich, cherry tomatoes and a granola bar require no power and could easily be stuffed into his backpack without issue. Since there was literally no sound in the house, Baby Alex felt the house shift and people moving around and decided to announce his presence with a raucous cry. Both boys were up and confused as to why it was still dark. I had to hold a flashlight while Nathan dressed in the dark while bitching about being cold. Then we came out to the kitchen/dining area.

In the interest of safety, I had my wife and the boys stay in the dining area to prevent injury from wandering about a dark house, then set about lighting candles in the kitchen, dining area and living room. My MacBook Air was still sitting at 100% battery life since it keeps its charge ridiculously long, and I was able to keep the boys entertained with some old episodes of “Gargoyles” that I had on my hard drive. The boys ate a light breakfast of dry Cheerios while they watched cartoons. Except for the dark, it was a manageable morning. I decided to grab a space heater and set it up in the dining area to provide a bit more heat, but my pre-caffeinated brain neglected to realize the heater would need to be plugged in.

When the 8 o’clock hour approached, I got Nathan all dressed for the outside and command-started the family vehicle. There would be no walking in this weather on this morning! We drove the quarter-kilometre to his designated bus stop where we listened to the morning news on the radio and heard reports of felled power lines, damaged homes, light poles collapsing and even a local bank on the south side of the city that had caught on fire. The situation looked pretty grim, despite the storm front being done and the sun starting to come up to a mostly clear horizon.

By 8:15, my wife texted that Nathan’s school bus was still parked at its compound, making it over ten minutes late in picking him up, much less being in our general area. By 8:22, we made the judgement call to make it a snow day and simply bring Nathan home, despite transport notices telling us that school buses were running. I offered to run to the corner and grab hot coffee, since we had no option for it at home. As soon as I was outside our immediate neighbourhood, everything was lit up and businesses were open as usual. Of course. Go figure. I grabbed a couple of Tim Horton’s coffees and started driving home, contemplating how I would entertain two small children without the benefit of light and/or devices.

At 8:35, my wife texted that the school bus was now running and was in our neighbourhood. I replied that we’d go sit at Nathan’s bus stop for a short period and see what came of it. Nathan was thoroughly pissed, as he assumed he would get to spend the day at home. Tough break, kid. If that’s the worst fate you suffer in life, things will be pretty smooth for you. Suck it up. We parked at his bus stop and by about 8:40, our bus came to a stop facing the wrong direction. The bus driver was slightly lost as he was new to our area and the street signs were all covered in sticky snow. I had to take a few minutes to describe where certain streets were, and he explained that our usual bus driver had refused to drive his route that morning. Nice.

I got home with hot coffee to a sleeping infant curled up on my wife’s lap and some daylight starting to make an appearance within the living room. The power popped back on at about 9:20, putting us at a bit longer than nine hours without electricity. It got me thinking about how much we take something common like electricity for granted, and just how much we actually depend on it for the smooth running of our household. It also woke me up to the fact that I need some resources in the event we’re ever caught without power for this long or longer during winter conditions again.

Having emergency candles and more than one bright, fully charged flashlight is an important step. Another is to have a rechargeable charging unit for your cell phone. Even if a cell phone is not a “necessity” per say, having the ability to contact emergency services should it become necessary, is. Warm blankets and even rechargeable heaters can be handy, as well. Luckily, we always have SOME food that doesn’t require cooking that we can lean on, but you want to ensure you have adequate water and food stores in the event you’re without a heat source for longer than you can wait. ☯

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Shawn

I am a practitioner of the martial arts and student of the Buddhist faith. I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 4 years old and have been fighting the uphill battle it includes ever since. I enjoy fitness and health and looking for new ways to improve both, as well as examining the many questions of life. Although I have no formal medical training, I have amassed a wealth of knowledge regarding health, Diabetes, martial arts as well as Buddhism and philosophy. My goal is to share this information with the world, and perhaps provide some sarcastic humour along the way. Welcome!

15 thoughts on “Even If We’re Just Dancin’ In The Dark…🎶”

  1. That’s one hec of an ordeal eh. I’ve had similar experiences in the dead of winter. It’s surprising how useful a radio can be under such circumstances. Boiling a cup of tea with those little tea-light-candles requires patience too.

    Shawn, I just wrote a blog on peace of mind that I would like you to take a look at. There are a few relevant questions that might interest you. It would be great if you could pass on your wisdom. The post is titled Attain Peace of Mind

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    1. Good morning Jason,

      It’s surprising how informative the radio was, once we were on the car and had access to one. But now I’m even thinking a small generator for emergencies, like charging a phone in case of injury or whatever may come up. It was amazing how many things we DON’T think ahead on for such instances. your post sounds intriguing. I look forward to reading it and I’ll comment accordingly.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It may also be a good idea to premeditate what it would be like to deal with a power outage while not being able to see at all. If everything has its place in the household, then it will be much easier to navigate. We live in uncertain times and chemical warfare is not out of the realm of possibility, esp if you’re living near a military base.

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      2. This is quite true. There are risks and dangers that very few people ever consider. one should be familiar and comfortable wandering the layout of their household in total darkness. Most people have the instinct to throw on the lights when something is happening during the night. But from a survival and tactical standpoint, you’re more likely to know your home while the enemy does not.

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      3. A good point indeed, your sword is evenly sharp from tip to guard. I’ve reflected some more upon your response to my post, Attain Peace of Mind, so as to glean as much as possible the gems you so graciously weaved within, and have found your thought on the Serenity Prayer to be most precious. If you could elaborate on this some more, then my ears would be opened wide with eagerness.

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      4. I would be happy to, Jason. As with all things in life, it’s important to have balance. This isn’t always easy in modern times, with so much more distractions and ambient noise than there would have been even just a hundred years ago. Roman General Vegetius once said, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Although this saying has always been open to interpretation, and it certainly doesn’t mean that war or confrontation should EVER be anything but a last resort, one should always be ready to face the negative aspects that may be faced.

        This directly relates to obtaining peace of mind and/or inner peace. There are a lot of obstacles and distractions that will prevent a person from properly obtaining peace of mind, but it can still be achieved if one prepares for said obstacles. This is where the Serenity Prayer came into my mind. There are things in life we simply can’t change. Children’ energy and rambunctious noisiness can rarely be changed. One needs to simply accept that. But for the things you CAN change, you need to have the courage and fortitude to step forward and take the necessary steps. For example, at time of writing this, my oldest is fine to school and the baby is napping for a couple of hours, leaving me with an open window for peaceful contemplation and meditation. There’s always a way, one simply needs to be brave enough to pursue it. And last but not least, one needs to be wise enough to understand whether it’s something one can change or not. It’s really all about balance.

        I’ll include this addition to my comments on your post, as well.

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      5. Jordan Peterson also puts a lot of stock into the value of raising children, so in other words, Shawn, I believe you are saying this: Balance demands ingenuity and virtue. Great quote by Vegetius by the way; it has resonated with me for a long time. If by chance you have a collection of similar quotes that you are willing to share with me, through a private message or a public blog, then it would be an honour to read them. You seem to be right about there being a lot of obstacles to work through. There is another passage by Marcus Aurelius that puts things into perspective, which in fact leads into the quote you commented on:

        “The ruling power within us, when it is in line with nature, takes up a stance towards events that enables it always to adapt easily to what is presented to it. It is not attached to any specific material, but aims at achieving its objectives with reservation. When it comes up against an obstacle, it converts this into material for itself, like fire, when this masters the things that fall into it. A small lamp would have been extinguished by them but a blazing fire quickly appropriates the things thrown into it and consumes them and uses those very things to grow still higher.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Bk 4, Ch 1

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  2. Continued…

    “The ruling power within us, when it is in line with nature, takes up a stance towards events that enables it always to adapt easily to what is presented to it. It is not attached to any specific material, but aims at achieving its objectives with reservation. When it comes up against an obstacle, it converts this into material for itself, like fire, when this masters the things that fall into it. A small lamp would have been extinguished by them but a blazing fire quickly appropriates the things thrown into it and consumes them and uses those very things to grow still higher.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Bk 4, Ch 1

    In view to the passage above, Shawn, what would you say is preventing you from converting the obstacles in your life? Allow me to elucidate this question by way of a real to life demonstration before you give thought and measure to a reply:

    At present [actually it’s past tense] my housemate is puttering around in the kitchen, which seems to be sparking a mild annoyance within me, dulling my concentration, and preventing me from fully grasping your comment. Such mental scatteredness appears to be preventing me from picking up on the subtleties of your correspondence, therefore my response may lack the intellectual vigour necessary to complement and bring additional substance to our dialogue. So to answer my own question to you, perhaps my desire to remain in a state of contemplation needs to be on par with my ability to concentrate, and if either of the two are out of wack, then my performance will be impaired.

    In other words, what is it exactly that thwarts you from converting obstacles/distractions to your advantage?

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    1. I believe that there is a deep difference in what Marcus Aurelius describes and some of the obstacles we face in daily/modern life. I interpret his words as meaning significant obstacles that need to be overcome. Working towards overcoming such obstacles can certainly add “fuel to the fire,” as it were. But some of the small scale distractions we deal with in our daily lives, such as my children’ boisterous behaviour while I try to meditate or your roommate making noise in the kitchen are, as you put it, annoyances that honestly, we assume don’t need to happen or shouldn’t happen. In my children’s case, I’d LOVE to assume that they could stay quiet for fifteen minutes in order to let their old man meditate. My 6-year old has a light grasp of “daddy’s kneeling time,” but I’d be kidding myself into thinking my infant son would understand or stifle his cries under any circumstance. This is what can make daily wants/needs/expectations such as meditation, reading a book or watching the last five minutes of a show difficult.

      When it comes to the larger obstacles or difficulties in my life, I always function on the premise that responsibility for any problem or obstacle is divided into three: some of it is my doing, some of it is someone else’s doing and some of it is simply life and can’t be avoided. There are some major obstacles that can be easily converted. Performing a much needed renovation on a part of the house can be converted into a few workouts while completing a project, something of that sort. But other obstacles, such as protecting one’s job against opponents who seek to have you lose it, can be trickier. It’s impossible to control others’ words and actions, despite the fact that they can still have an effect on me. Life is life. It rarely cares about one’s plan, so learning to be flexible in that aspect is important. I can certainly work towards improving and bettering myself, a practice that I assume will follow me into the grave. But dealing with the words and actions of other people? That’s the real challenge, one that is definitely the biggest factor that prevents turning a given situation to my advantage.

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  3. Indeed, there seems to be quite a difference between ours and Marcus’s understanding of obstacles. Then again, I believe you nailed it down to wants/needs/expectations. The stronger we feel about the way things SHOULD be, the more we end up SHOULDING all over ourselves; i.e. the more SHITTY we make a situation become.

    Your tri-part responsibility view allows for flexibility and ease of acceptance; some of it is my doing, some of it is someone else’s doing and some of it is simply life and can’t be avoided.

    As to dealing with the vicious nature of gossip there’s little we can do. Socrates was also attacked from all sides but was never in a position to directly face his enemy. Those who resort to underhanded means of disparaging another are without peace of mind, and in some respects deserve our compassion and understanding. To out a family man of his livelihood is a crime against humanity, not just the individual. Perhaps the best we can do is let go of the things that overly concern us but remain outside of our control, so as to focus on the things that are within our circle of influence, while trusting that our practice will make us ready for whatever attacks might come our way.

    Would it be accurate to assume that you kneel for your meditation sessions, rather than sit cross legged on a cushion? If so how do you deal the stiffness in your knees? My preference is to kneel, partly because my body is unable to adopt the lotus position, so I’m wondering if there are ways to habituate to kneeling for longer periods of time without experiencing intense pain in my knees.

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    1. It depends on where I’m situated. For the most part, if I’m on the foam mats of my home dojo, I’ll kneel as it’s made of a polypropylene/foam mix that has an ever-so-slight give to it, allowing it to be comfortable enough for the impact on the knees while sustaining the body’s weight. I also prefer the kneeling position because it is the one we use in karate, referred to as “seiza,” which is a formal sitting posture. So I’ve had decades to get used to it. It also allows for a better posture as you’re more likely to remain straight when in seiza, as opposed to the lotus position, where I find that once I’m in deep meditation, I tend to slouch at the upper back and shoulders.

      That being said, I sit cross-legged if I know I’ll be meditating for more than twenty minutes or so (which hasn’t happened in a long time) since circulation issues related to Type-1 Diabetes makes sitting on one’s knees uncomfortable for long periods. If I’m having a cool-down meditation after a workout or during karate, I’ll always use the kneeling position. I’ve occasionally tried traditional sitting or lying down postures, but I find the latter makes it a little too easy for me to fall asleep once I’ve reach a certain level of relaxation. I’m a big fan of naps, but that usually isn’t the goal when I meditate…

      This has given me great idea for a post! Thanks for asking about it!

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