The Shopping Cart Theory

I’ve noticed I’ve been writing a fair bit about right and wrong lately. Not really sure what’s prompting that, beyond someone trying to break into my neighbour’s garage recently. But some of it has had me questioning our perceptions of right and wrong, and how good or perspectively bad a person may be. I say “perspectively” because what seems to be bad to one person, may in fact seem perfectly normal to another. The problem is, most people will allow themselves to do most given things if they know for a fact they won’t get caught. Let’s take speeding, as an example. Everyone knows that speeding is illegal. Most people recognize that they shouldn’t do it and that speed laws are in place for a reason but most people will also allow themselves to speed if they believe there are no cops around and they won’t get caught.

Enter: The Shopping Cart Theory. I’ve heard/read about this theory a number of times over the years, and have even had heated discussions with friends and family members over the concept. The theory postulates that in general, people are unable to self-govern unless they’re ordered to do a given thing or may face consequences if they don’t. This is demonstrated by the returning of a shopping cart, once one is done shopping and has loaded up their vehicle. In concept, there is no acceptable reason WHY a person can’t return their shopping cart. It only takes a moment, it’s simple and easy and it saves work for others.

The flip side to that, is that there are no laws obligating a person to return their shopping cart. The reality is that no one will punish you, fine you, harm you or kill you for failing to return your shopping cart. Although most of us will invariably recognize returning our shopping cart as the right thing to do, there is nothing to be gained from returning it. No one will praise you, you gain nothing and returning it is done only out of the goodness of one’s heart. One must accept and recognize that one is returning the shopping cart ONLY because it is the right thing to do and provides nothing of value or reward to the person.

This is why The Shopping Cart Theory basically determines whether a person is good or bad within the scope of modern society. The thinking is that a person who is unable to take five seconds to return their cart after using it, is only able to do what’s right when they are threatened by the law or some show of force. Most people will leave their cart unreturned without a second thought, seeing no issue with doing so. Hell, I’ve been guilty of it myself, on occasion. I like to rationalize that I had my children with me to deal with or that it was a freezing winter day. But what makes me any better or more important than the poor staff person who has to retrieve my cart in those harsh conditions because I chose not to do so?

Are we capable of doing the right thing, even when we have nothing to gain and won’t be punished for failing to do so? I’d like to think so. I’ve evidence to the contrary often enough to make me question it, though. But doing the right thing even when not required to so, plays into the Noble Eightfold Path, which includes Right Thinking and Right Action. So, the moral of this post is simply to ask oneself a question: Am I able to self-govern and do what’;s right, even when it gains me nothing? If the answer is no, perhaps a touch of self-reflection is necessary. Food for thought… ☯️

A Little Mid-Week Motivation…

Having lived a number of years in the National Capital Region, I’m not stranger to protest and people picketing in the street about some dumb shit or another. Given that I now live in Regina, Saskatchewan, which has the Province’s legislative building, it’s not unusual to see people picketing or protesting outside of that property, as well. I’ve seen enough of it to last me a lifetime, and I was even stuck in Quebec City in 2001, when they held protests against the 3rd Summit of the Americas. oh, my bad… As I was often corrected by protesters on site, it was a “demonstration,” not a protest. Idiots. Anyhoo, as you can clearly see, my opinion of protests isn’t the best. Maybe it has something to do with the fact I was there on vacation and wasn’t a protester, yet I got gas canistered. But I digress…

My point is that when one sees someone standing by the road, holding a large placard or sign, one is inclined to think that they’re protesting something or “standing up for something they believe in.” Don’t get my bitterness wrong; if there’s something someone feels they should object to, have at it! It’s still a free country, to a point, and if there’s something you feel you need to communicate, that’s your right. I won’t get into the politics behind what I’m describing as I don’t need my comments section blowing up in my face and that really isn’t the point of today’s post. in fact, today’s post is meant to bring up something positive.

One of my friends back home posted a short video clip of a man, standing on the road, holding a large placard with some words on it. My friend was driving by, so the video wasn’t clear enough for me to see what was written. She captioned the video with “every Sunday.” I got curious and thought maybe this person was protesting something, so I asked what the sign said. It isn’t unusual for someone to protest consistently. in Regina, for example, we have a lady who protests almost on a daily basis in front of the RCMP Training Academy. Despite knowing what HER placard says, I’m still not sure what she’s hoping to accomplish. But once again, I digress…

My friend that this person’s placard said “Happy Sunday.” I must admit that hearing this made me happy in a very particular way. There’s so much negativity in the world that hearing of someone who takes their own time and goes out of their way to do something like this is quite amazing. Likely, most people drive right on by without a second thought but when it comes to a positive action like this, if even one person sees that signs and feels happier because of it, this person will have made their difference. And I think that’s beautiful. This is the influence people should have in the world. The reduction of suffering, not the propagation of it. Be a positive force in the world instead of constantly hindering others. If everyone did this, the world would be in significantly better shape. Food for thought… ☯️

It’s Not Them, It’s You…

By virtue of having spent well over a decade working as a police officer, I’ve had the benefit (or detriment) of seeing both sides of society; the concerned, vulnerable populace who need help protecting themselves and the people who just flat out don’t give a fuck and will break every law, whether they get caught or not. Whether you view these folks as criminals or simply willing to “do the time,” I’ve come to learn that it isn’t always so black and white. After all, there’s always the old moral dilemma about a man stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving children. By definition, this man is a thief. By moral standards, he’s doing what’s required in order to feed his starving family. The latter raises the question about whether we should be doing more to help people like this, as opposed to simply slapping them with the long appendage of the law.

I think that most folks in general would agree that they’ve worked hard to obtain their material goods that there’s really no reason for others to try and take what they have. I’m inclined to agree with this concept, recognizing that maybe not everyone has the ability or resources to reach the same stage of life that I have. But this doesn’t entitle them to take what I have, infringe on my home and my sanctuary and endanger the safety and wellbeing of my wife and kids. Such an action can expect a measured result, intended to defend and deter more than harm or injure. Especially since the latter can get you into scores of legal troubles, depending the jurisdiction in which you reside. In Canada, the Criminal Code allows you to defend yourself or your property, as long as that defense is measured and no more than what is required.

At the start of the weekend, I was awoken by the sound of a text message on my cell phone. Considering the only folks who regularly text me are my wife, my boss and my staff, I was carefully choosing some choice curse words to give whomever was waking me up at 2 o’clock in the morning. Turns out it was my next door neighbour. We share a tandem driveway and he texted six little words that had me fully awake in less than a second: “Just caught someone in my garage…” I bolted out of bed and had my hoodie and shoes on in less than a minute. I bolted out the door and found my neighbour’s downstairs tenant stepping outside, as well. He told me he saw four guys running out of my neighbour’s yard and heading to the street.

I got the direction of their escape and watched the street carefully. given that I live in a residential area, I couldn’t be certain that they didn’t dash into someone else’s backyard. My neighbour came out to join me and advised that he was awoken by the sound of his dog losing his mind. He made his way over and found him barking at the garage. Thinking it might have been his girlfriend grabbing something and not even realizing she was still in the bed, he made his way out and came face-to-face with multiple intruders. He backed out quickly and they ran, which was fortunate for him. If their intent had been violence, he would have had no easy defense against multiple assailants.

He had called the city police and to their credit, they showed up within two minutes. They dismissed the downstairs tenant and myself, so I made my way back to bed. My wife commented that she couldn’t remember the last time she had ever seen me move so fast. It was humbling and comforting to know that I still had a bit of the ol’ responsiveness in me… once I was back in bed, my neighbour phoned me and pointed out that he reviewed the camera footage and spotted three individuals going into his yard but only two came out. He was concerned that there may still be someone in his garage or backyard and asked if I would come check with him.

We searched his garage and his backyard thoroughly. Lucky for us, a light powdering of snow had fallen hours prior and we could clearly see that there had been no wandering in the backyard. No one else was found in the garage, either. It shook up everyone involved and I’ll confess that my level of adrenaline took hours to taper off and I didn’t get much sleep. i kept expecting to hear something outside or get another phone call. Hyper-vigilance mixed with PTSD is a hell of a stimulant. The average person will always hear about such things on the news and in the media but one rarely considers how they’ll respond or what they’ll do when it happens to them. Generally speaking, people consider their homes to be their sanctuary, where they can feel safe from the outside world. Something like this tends to slap reality in one’s face and recognize that even the most effective of sanctuaries require safety protocols.

All in all, no one was harmed, nothing was taken and the police have indicated they would be increasing their presence in our area. It simply serves as a reminder for me to ensure my doors are secured and that my yard remains well-lit at night. I don’t like to think about what a confrontation with someone desperate in my backyard may yield. My preference would be never needing to find out. But on the odd chance that someone’s intent may include violence against my family, my sanctuary will become their combat arena. The great white hope is that the police respond before I intervene. ☯️

It’s All In Where You Look…

It’s pretty easy to get jaded against life and stay in one’s lane. While doing so, we unfortunately have a propensity to ignore the world around us and this leads to missed opportunities; opportunities for ourselves and for others. Every once in a while, those opportunities can be important, especially if they provide aid to someone who may need it. And helping others is important, if not only because it’s the right thing to do but because we would want the same from others if we found ourselves in need of said help. I experienced just such an occasion while driving home from work yesterday.

My day at the office was much like any other. The day flew by and I accomplished a solid day’s work, satisfied with my efforts. I put in for some prescription refills before going home, which required me to travel to the east end of the city, since I’m pretty picky about what pharmacy I use. one of my many quirks, I guess. I picked up my prescriptions and made my way home, taking a circular bypass road we have in Regina called “Ring Road.” The weather yesterday was quite mild, with the early evening temperature sitting at 0 degrees. Although this may sound nice, the issue it causes is that the snow and ice around the city melts and creates a lot of water. this would prove to be an issue on Ring Road.

As I was driving westward towards home, there was heavy traffic on Ring Road, with many people banking hard towards their end-of-day destinations. All of a sudden, a small, red SUV started to skid and swerve, going into a fish-tail and ultimately clipping a guard rail at an overpass before being thrown into the median ditch. It all happened quite quickly, so most people in the immediate area could be forgiven for driving past. Stopping on a dime would be unreasonable. I turned on my hazard lights and pulled over to the shoulder. I noticed that no one else appeared to stop. I couldn’t see the driver and the passenger area of the vehicle appeared to be filled with smoke.

I grabbed my gloves, which were ironically a pair of police-issued slash gloves that I had left over from my policing days. I slipped my cell phone into my pocket and started trying to cross the highway. The only thing that pissed me off more than people’s lack of concern, is the fact they weren’t stopping for the only person who had any. While I was waiting, another concerned person stopped as well but by then, a young male driver had emerged from the vehicle and was talking on his cell phone. When I explained that I was a retired police officer and would be helping the young man, she thanked me and got back to her vehicle and departed promptly.

I managed to make my way across the highway and checked on the driver. He was speaking to his sister and trying to explain exactly where he was. Once I confirmed that he wasn’t injured, I offered to take him home. I helped him to gather his important items from the vehicle, secured it and brought him to my vehicle. he explained what I had already assumed; he lost control driving over an icy patch of highway. The problem is that as snow and ice melted and trickled down onto the highway surface from the overpass, an amount of water settled in the shade. Although only a few degrees colder, that water froze, causing an icy hazard. As everyone assumed the roads were bare and dry, the young driver couldn’t predict that he’d be facing this hazard.

He was miraculously lucky… Once he lost control, he somehow managed to avoid all the other traffic on the highway AND only clipped a guardrail as opposed to smashing into it, head-on. I suspected some mild shock on his part, as the depth and severity of his situation didn’t seem to hit him until I pulled up in front of his house. Although only acting in a civilian capacity, I still advised him to get his vehicle towed away from where it was before it caused another collision and to file a claim through his insurance provider. he was incredibly grateful and I ensured he had some family waiting to receive him before I pulled away.

As I was driving home, I couldn’t help but think that out of the several dozen, bordering on a hundred vehicles that whipped past the scene, only myself and one other person had the thought to stop and check on another human being who may have potentially been injured and needing help from someone. I couldn’t help but imagine that had that been me… Or worse yet, my wife, I would curse the world for failing to stop and lend a hand. Although I admit that my prior police training would have prompted me to stop, I can’t help but believe that the goodness in people should still be a presiding factor in our decisions.

I’m glad I was able to help this young man. I wished him the best and hoped everything worked out for him when I drove away. Before he stepped out of my vehicle, he made a point of how lucky he felt that I was there to help him out. He attributed the miracle of his survival and the fact I showed up to the “Big Guy.” I made a poijnt of explaining to him that no thanks were necessary and that there were still good people in the world who simply want to help. It’s all in where you look… ☯️

From This Life To The Next One…

Walking in martial arts circles usually brings with it a fairly rich family tree of karate. One is generally taught by one’s Sensei, who is taught by their Sensei and so on and so forth. For many, if not most students, being able to trace that lineage beyond the first step is pretty rare. After all, most practitioners in the western world open a dojo and may have a photo of those who taught before them, but general contact is pretty rare. I was fortunate n the fact that Sensei has always kept contact with me. Sensei has always kept contact with HIS Sensei and as a result, I had the pleasure and opportunity to take steps up the ladder to train with those individuals.

One of the most notable individuals that I’ve had the pleasure to meet, was Sensei Bob Blaisdell. My Sensei first met Sensei Blaisdell through a magazine advertisement in the early 1970’s. Sensei jumped into his rundown Mustang and travelled on his own to Massachusetts, intent on convincing Sensei Blaisdell to train him in the Okinawan art of Uechi-Ryu karate. Sensei Blaisdell was leery of this random, French, New Brunswicker who left behind his wife and daughter to travel across the border to learn karate. But something in Sensei’s eyes convinced Sensei Blaisdell to take him on and he became his trusted teacher and mentor. He became his friend. He became his Sensei. Over the years that followed, Sensei would travel down to Massachusetts intermittently for coaching, testing and guidance on teaching at his own school.

Me, Sensei, Sensei Eva and Sensei Blaisdell

I just found out yesterday that after 49 years of being my mentor’s Sensei, Sensei Blaisdell has passed away.

I first met Sensei Blaisdell in the early 1990’s, when I was still a skinny punk who thought he knew it all without the common sense to prevent trying to prove it. We had arranged to bring Sensei Blaisdell up to New Brunswick to help us celebrate Sensei’s 30-year anniversary of teaching. I had the privilege of training with him and getting to know him over the weekend. Armed with a heavy Boston accent and swearing as heavily as a Maritimer, it was an instructive and enlightening weekend. The fact he had embarrassing stories about Sensei certainly helped. Usually, it’s the other way around and Sensei shares embarrassing stories about me.

For the years that followed, Sensei Blaisdell’s influence would carry on through all of us. And rightly so, since my Sensei learned directly from him. The thing that most students fail to understand is that their skills and capabilities are a direct result of those who came before them. Had my Sensei not trained with Sensei Blaisdell and then subsequently trained me, I wouldn’t be the martial artists that I am today. Through his actions, Uechi-ryu karate was brought to Northern New Brunswick and endured as one of the only traditional Okinawan karate schools under Sensei’s teachings in that part of the Maritimes for almost five decades. The man’s signature is on my black belt certificate, for light’s sake…

Sensei Bob Blaisdell

It’s always important to know where one’s roots come from, in order to acknowledge where we’re going. We’ve lost touched over the past couple of decades. Some of that is my doing. Life rarely cares about one’s plans. That makes his death all the more tragic. Time is fleeting and can never be taken back. And maybe that’s what makes this loss so hard. Or maybe it’s the knowledge that death comes to us all, and that Sensei may be the next loss I suffer. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s making me acknowledge my own mortality. In either scenario, Sensei Blaisdell’s influence continues to teach me something, even in his passing. Rest in peace, Sensei Bob. You will be missed. ☯️

Not All That Is Cracked Is Broken…

You know, we’re at an interesting point in human existence right now… We boats being more enlightened, more tolerant and more understanding of others; all while both verbally and physically attacking those who are different or don’t share our views, opinions and/or belief systems. Although not the only one, it remains as one of the biggest societal contradictions that I see and recognize on a daily basis.

When I was growing up, I was shunned, bullied and picked on for being different and not sharing the same interests or abilities as my peers. This concept carried on into my adult life and brought me to a time and place where self-image and my acceptance of it, became an important tool to repair the cracks in who I felt I was as opposed to how the rest of the world kept telling me I should be.

This reminds me a bit of kintsugi. Some of you might know what this is or may have heard of it. Kintsugi is a Japanese practice of repairing brown pottery using gold to fill the cracks. The idea is that just because something is broken, it’s no longer useless and can be mended in such a way to make it even more valuable and endearing than it previously was. The idea behind this philosophy is to learn to embrace imperfection and recognize the value in something, even when it’s flawed.

Although potentially beautiful and pleasing on the eyes (you can Google “kintsugi” for examples of what I’m talking about here), there is a significant flaw in this philosophy; one that comes back to a much different viewpoint as it relates to the breaking of ceramic or pottery. I once read a story online where a philosophy professor asked a student to smash a plate on the floor, and the student did so. The professor then asked the student to say “sorry” to the plate and the student did. The professor then asked if the plate had been repaired and when the student said that it hadn’t, pointed out that words can have the same effect.

Although the concept of kintsugi can make a piece beautiful and interesting, there’s no denying that not causing the damage in the first place is equally, if not more so, important. Also, the vanity of believing one can repair something they believe is flawed flies in the face of accepting that not all people share same views, same thoughts, same beliefs… It’s accepting those differing aspects that make us a rational, civilized society. Unfortunately, based on what I’ve seen, we aren’t there yet. ☯️

Are You just Listening Or Also Hearing…?

Relationships involve a lot of work. I’m sure that isn’t news to any of your reading this post, but people often forget that the Beetles were wrong… You most certainly and absolutely do need more than love. I remember a few months before one of my close friends got married. We sat in my garage and had a few cold ones and smoked a couple of choice cigars and talked about his upcoming nuptials. One of the things I explained is that’s although it’s extremely important to love the person you’re with, there are other important components that are required.

Arguably, compromise, understanding and the ability to communicate honestly and openly with the person in question are just as important as loving them and in some cases, more so. And this applies to any relationship in one’s life, friendship, marital or otherwise. Having the ability to be honest and communicate are integral to maintaining the relationship AND maintaining good mental health through it all. Often, relationship failures can be traced to a failure in one or more of these other components and not so much the fact the pair didn’t love each other. But I digress…

The important lesson in today;s post is that as one makes their way through the challenges of life, one needs to do more than just sit and listen. It’s important to actually hear what the other person is saying, as important as it is for them to actually hear you. Often, one person will be trying to start a conversation or impart a message that the recipient simply isn’t getting and this can often be attributed to a lack of hearing, or stubbornness. this can lead to misinterpreted messaging, hurt feelings and a general sense of misunderstanding that will often lead to a breakdown in effective communication. Certainly not conducive to any sort of relationship.

each person is a free-thinking individual with their own thoughts, opinions and positions on whatever matters of the day may be facing them. But the only way to approach such things is with an open mind and an ability to hear what the other person is actually trying o communicate and asking for clarification if you don’t understand. only then can you begin to truly communicate effectively and find the means to compromise and understand the other person’s perspective, which is important to maintaining good relationships. Food for thought… ☯️

One In The Hand Is Worth What?

Listen, life is hard! And rightfully so… Can you picture how badly humanity would falter if everything was simple and easy??? Hell, take an objective look at the world’s rich and elite. All the people who are livin’ large are almost ALWAYS found to be the subject of controversy, crime, affairs and/or drug and alcohol abuse. And there’s a good reason behind that. As human beings, there needs to be challenges and goals to life in order to help us grow and develop. A lack thereof will result in a sort of boredom that can lead to trouble.

This is why it is so important to appreciate the now. Appreciate what you have and where you’re at. Too often, people will always crave and want what they don’t have, instead of appreciating what they already do. Got a three-bedroom house? Boy, I’d sure love to have a five-bedroom house with two bathrooms. Got a four-cylinder car? Boy, I’d sure love to have a high-end SUV. I don’t wanna work… I don’t wanna pay bills… Things are hard and I just want them to be easy…

People always want what they don’t have, and that’s a terrible way to live. I used to live this phenomenon when I was still with the Force. Since they have a propensity to transfer their officers every few years, it was common to move and assume that the next place would be better than the one I currently occupied. Although in many cases, I found myself burned out at my current location, there was no debuting that I had no idea what the next location would bring. This made it extremely important to appreciate living in the now and enjoying whatever positives I had in the current state as they could potentially not be available at the next posting. The same can be said of life in general.

I read something recently that said that the famous quote, “When one door closes, another one opens,” is attributed to Alexander Graham Bell. I’ve spent my life hearing that quote and the first surprise was who penned it, but apparently the quote goes on to say, “but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us.” Of course, a more recent quote I read says, “When one door closes, open that bitch back up. That’s how doors work!” Either way, the lesson is to focus on the positive, appreciate what you have and don’t ignore the entire parade of life so that you won’t miss the caboose. ☯️

A Little Touch Of Perspective…

I’m sometimes surprised at the places I manage to find the oddest hints of inspiration. Places I would never have intentionally gone to find ideas and inspiration will often slap me in the face with a sudden bout of wisdom. It surprises me, every time it happens. As the old saying goes, we most often find our destiny on the road we least thought to travel. The same can be easily applied to inspiration or good advice. I was reminded of this recently, when an old high school friend posted something on their Facebook page. It’s author unknown and written in French, so y’all will have to bear with me as I write it out and translate it…

Modern-day Priorities…

Books: $25? What’s it about…?
Pitcher of beer: $25? I’ll have a second one…

Groceries: $100? That’s fuckin’ ridiculous…
Eating out at a restaurant: $100? That’s not so bad…

Gym membership: $500? I can’t afford that shit…
Tattoo: $500? That’s a great price, sign me up…

Education: $1500? What am I, rich???
Southern vacation: $1500? When do we head out?

30 minutes of reading: I don’t have time for this, I have things to do…
30 minutes of social media: Wow, time seems to fly, where’d the day go?

60 minutes of sports: I don’t have enough free time for that…
60 minutes of binging a series: Just one more episode…

All things are a matter of priority and perspective. What are yours?

This post speaks to me because I find myself allowing quite a number of the differences listed above to take place within my own life. The most important is the last one, where people would rather binge-watch a show for an hour than workout for an hour or less. Priorities have become skewered and laziness has become an acceptable trait in some people. I see myself checking facebook and social media before taking the time to read the plethora of books I own, some of which I’ve had for years and never opened. The first and second ones speak to me on a personal level, as well.

The important lesson here is simply to realize where one’s priorities lie and work towards steering them in one’s best interest. Self-care and self-improvement are important, no matter what one needs to do to in order to achieve it. It’s human nature to do what’s easier but it takes a slightly stronger force of will to make the better choice. Does that mean you can’t occasionally binge-watch your favourite show or eat out at a restaurant? Of course not, so long as moderation and common sense rule the day. Food for thought… ☯️

All The Little Things… ( A Matter Of Perspective)

Sometimes it gets easy to forget that the important things in life will often be a matter of perspective based on one’s circumstances. For example, most of us take for a given that we’ll get home at night and have food on the table. While we may consider this a little thing, barely worthy of thought or attention, for the family struggling to make ends meet, having food on the table can mean the world. And that‘s what I mean by perspective. What seems like such a little thing to one person may be integral to a better life for others.

I was reminded recently of just how lucky I am, in life. I have a warm, stable home and household, food in my fridge, clothes on my back and I want for nothing. There are things I want out of life, obviously. But there’s no shortage of warmth, safety and love within my life. Not everyone is so lucky. That’s why when a friend reached out for some help for someone else, I was able to say yes without hesitation. There is a prevailing belief that if you find yourself able to do good, you should.

What I did or who I did it for is not important. But knowing that I was able to help someone in need not only made me feel better but I’m certain the person obtaining the help is grateful, as well. We all need a bit of help sometimes, regardless of where we are in life. The irony is that it’s sometimes the richest people with the biggest entourage who need the most help but are the least likely to ask for it.

If you have the ability to help someone else, I highly recommend it. Although no one will line themselves up to give everything away, there are always ways to help others. And not only does it make you feel good to help others but karma will love you for it. Granted, if you do it to get good karma, you’re kind of defeating the purpose. But any good is still good. So go out and spread that good. Doing so will go a long way towards eliminating suffering in yourself as well as others. Food for thought…☯️