I Apologize For This Post…

I’m sorry. That doesn’t seem difficult to say, does it? Yet, most people are reluctant, even hesitant, to say they’re sorry and apologize, even when the situation warrants it. And why is that? As reasonable, rational people, should apologizing be so difficult? For most people, it certainly is.

I found myself thinking about this recently, when I had a small confrontation with my 5-year old son. I had woken and got my first caffeine of the morning with the intention of sitting and enjoying it before having to deal with matters of the day. My son was playing nicely on the floor with his baby brother, Alex. When I came down to the floor to check on the baby, Nathan and I got into a playful wrestling match. Once it was done, I started to stand, but he was holding firmly to my leg.

When I finally convinced him to let go, I stood and took the first step towards my morning coffee. He grabbed my leg once again, shifting my balance and forcing me to bring my foot down hard to stabilize myself. I very nearly stepped on the baby’s leg. I was not impressed. I sternly told him never to grab someone’s leg when they were walking as he could have tripped me and harmed the baby.

He took direct offence to this, and started pouting. Without getting into unnecessary details, the interaction ended with Nathan being sent to his room for talking back and being the basic little brat he occasionally enjoys being (I blame his damned cartoons!) I instructed him not to move from there until he was ready to apologize and be good.

It took well over an hour before he finally emerged from his room and presented me with a scribbled piece of construction paper. The scribbling apparently was a written apology, which he delivered verbally as well. (Doesn’t it tug your heart strings?) I freed him from his imprisonment and as an afterthought, I apologized as well…

Did I do anything wrong? Did I need to apologize? Maybe not. But I got angry with my child. I raised my voice and I doled out punishment. And I was sorry for both of those things. So I voiced as much. We exchanged a hug and he carried on with his day. I’ll admit that I felt better for apologizing.

So, if it makes one feel better, why does it seem so hard to do? According to an article posted by PsychologyToday, people who fall under the category of “non-apologists” will avoid or refuse apologizing, even in the most required of circumstances. The reasons for this may include trying to separate actions from character, feeling shame from having to apologize, fear of further conflict and assuming full responsibility for the situation.

But even if you’re not a non-apologist, saying that you’re sorry, even when you may be responsible, can be difficult for most people. For some, apologizing can be difficult because it makes them feel vulnerable or humiliated. For others, it can be a matter of self-image as apologizing for something can make a person feel inadequate or lacking in something, since apologizing can often be interpreted as assuming fault or responsibility. Even if that’s not necessarily the case.

Saying that your sorry can be the easiest thing that is so hard to do. But there’s no denying that there would likely be less suffering in the world if we could all swallow our pride and simply say “I’m sorry” when it is asked of us. Whether wrong or not, sometimes it can mean all the difference. Maybe even to yourself. ☯

Good Vs. Evil

Are you a good person? I’ve asked this before in a previous post, where if you were to ask the average person on the street whether they believed they were good or not, the safe odds are usually that they believe that they are. As I’ve said before, most people don’t go through life trying to be inherently bad.

But what about evil? The word is thrown around a lot, usually by people who have had some wrong inflicted on them by someone else, but can a person genuinely and truly be evil? The Oxford Dictionary defines evil as “profoundly immoral and wicked”, with other sources citing the term “evil” with colourful adjectives such as “wicked”, “disastrous”, “harmful” and “injurious”. My favourite is the term “imputed bad conduct”. The point is that all of it is meant to refer to people.

First and foremost, I wouldn’t be the researcher and eternal student of life that I am if I didn’t take a moment to try and put a defined explanation on evil from someone else’s perspective than my own. According to an article posted by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Evil in the broad sense has been divided into two categories: natural evil and moral evil. Natural evils are bad states of affairs which do not result from the intentions or negligence of moral agents. Hurricanes and toothaches are examples of natural evils. By contrast, moral evils do result from the intentions or negligence of moral agents. Murder and lying are examples of moral evils.”

I like this explanation, because it shows that bad things can often happen without the necessarily bad intentions of people, or of people BEING bad. The article was actually quite an interesting read and goes into deeper detail. Here it is, if you want to give it a read: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/concept-evil/

If you were to search your thoughts for a moment, I’m sure that we could all conjure up the name of a person or persons that we consider to be evil. Dictators, murderers, terrorists, that lady who lets her poodle crap on my lawn every morning… Plenty of examples would fit the bill. But is it possible that BEING evil isn’t actually a thing?

I’ve spent most of my life studying and believing that the universe as a whole contains a balance. Newton’s Third Law is a good example of this, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Although this is primarily meant to refer to motion and physics, I believe it very much applies to every thing in general. Because Newton’s Third Law sounds suspiciously a lot like some aspects of karma.

The universe always tries to find a balance; light and dark, hot and cold, black and white, matter and anti-matter… Depending on your school of thought, there are plenty of other examples you can find. But I provide these examples because for the most part, one is an absence of the other. For example, darkness isn’t a thing. It’s simply the absence of light. Cold isn’t a thing, it’s simply the absence of heat and so on and so forth.

So with that line of thinking in mind, is it possible that evil is not a thing but simply the absence of good? This would have some pretty deep implications as the concept applies to people, as it would mean that a person simply lacks the goodness necessary to fit the standard as opposed to necessarily being evil themselves.

I don’t think that this moral definition will ever be changed, as it is the nature of people to consider anyone who does something intentionally bad to be categorized as evil. But sometimes we need to consider the perspective. I can almost promise you that for the most part, both sides of a violent conflict likely believes themselves to be right and the other side is evil. As Winston Churchill said, “History is written by the victors.”

Is Free Will An Illusion?

Once and a while, I start to dwell on things and ask questions of myself as they apply to life. One of these questions is the title of today’s post: Is free will an illusion? I think that most people would agree that for the most part, people in the western world live as free people with all the choices and entitlements associated with our lifestyles.

But how much of it is real? And how much of it is simply a comforting dream that we allow ourselves to have in order to cope with the prison of our own reality? Not to sound totally morose, but sometimes one needs to question things. This appears to be the mood I’m in today.

As usual, I’ll start by defining what it is I’m referring to. Free will is defined as “the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.” This is according to the Oxford Dictionary, which also provide the action of doing something voluntarily.

So, how much of our free will is real and how much is the illusion. I like thinking that I walk through life doing whatever the hell I want, but I may be incorrect in some respects. Allow me to explain…

For the most part, we get to decide and choose what we will do with our lives. As long as we work hard and study (or so we’re told) we can choose an avenue of post-secondary study and embark on a career that will make us happy and fulfilled. If one is lucky enough to become successful in that endeavour, then we usually slip into the expected and often wanted aspects of societal norm; a home, a spouse, children and vacations…

But what if you happen to lack the financial means to make that post-secondary study happen? You can be as good at schooling as you want to be but if you can’t afford college or university, some of your chosen professions will be off limits to you. Or the other side of the equation would be if you don’t have the best grades in school, some post-secondary opportunities will be off limits, regardless of your financial means.

But is this truly free will? I use schooling as an example, but there are many others. For example, if you decided you wanted to drop everything and spend your life travelling the world as a nomad, could you? Or would there be societal, governmental and familial obligations that would prevent you and potentially ruin you if you tried?

Let’s say that you get everything you wanted: complete your chosen studies, obtain the job of your dreams and everything falls into place. Is everything one in your life now dictated by your free will or is some of it still imposed by outside factors? Things such as work schedules and paying taxes are required of people and are usually outside the purview of our free will.

The importance behind free will isn’t so much in getting to do what you want, so much as it relates to the ability to make a choice. Choice is the true aspect of free will that every person has. In truth, even doing nothing is still making a choice. And even in the face of constraints or restrictions, making a choice will always be the true free will. Food for thought… ☯

Shake It Off 🤝

There are hundreds, if not thousands of different cultures and religious beliefs around the world. Each and every one of these have their own set of traditions and habits that they follow, based on their scriptures and/or cultural and societal habits. But in a lot of cases, some of these traditions can conflict with those of other cultures and religions.

Although this should be fine, and everyone should simply adopt a modus operandi of live and let live, it continues to surprise and fascinate me how some people appear offended or even insulted, when someone does something different than what they do. Although this would make sense if you did something heinous like blowing your nose with a holy scripture or something, I’m talking about the little things…

Flashback to an incident that happened last year when I visited my parents in New Brunswick. My mother happens to be French Catholic and as such, I have the habit of attending a church service with her whenever I visit. I am appreciative of all people’s faith, so it’s always a pleasure to be able to share in the experience with my mother.

One of the Catholic church’s traditions during a typical service is to turn and wish peace and well-being upon your neighbours in a practice referred to as “Passing the Peace.” This is usually done by shaking peoples’ hands while saying “Peace be with you.” From my understanding, it’s a practice that’s observed by a number of Christian sects and churches.

This is an interesting topic, considering the advent of social distancing and most people trying to avoid physical contact with others. For the most part, and considering the nature of my job, I don’t avoid shaking hands as a rule but I do tend to restrict physical contact with total strangers to an extent. My mother is very much the same, and has long discontinued the practice of shaking hands and simply says “Peace be with you” and moving on.

For most people, there’s nothing wrong with this. But some people always seem to see the negative in a situation. During this particular service, my mother and I were seated behind some people who took some… liberties with their time within the church. The woman took her shoes off and appeared to be picking at her feet throughout most of the service.

I’m not here to judge. I wasn’t THERE to judge. Especially in a church whose holy Bible reads, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” But perhaps shaking your hands after you’ve been picking the light knows what from the crevices in your feet is NOT in my best interest. So when the time came for Passing the Peace, I respectfully bowed to the woman while saying “Peace be with you.” The look of utter shock and judgement on that woman’s face caught me completely by surprise.

Now to my mother’s credit, she makes a point of telling people that she doesn’t shake hands. Pretty clear cut. But in my case, I don’t know if it was my refusal to stick out my hand, the woman’s embarrassment because she HAD stuck out her hand or the bow, but I had somehow rubbed her the wrong way. To the point where she felt it necessary to approach me after the service to say that it was customary to follow the church’s customs when visiting.

Here’s the joke: I grew up in the Catholic church. Up until my teens, when I started making my own way, I followed my mother to church every week. So I knew her point of view was skewed and incorrect. Could I have corrected her? Sure. Could I have explained my religious views? Probably. Was it easier to leave her in her ignorance and walk away? It was, and you bet your keister I did!

Unless your traditions and beliefs bring harm to yourself and other people, we should all be able to share a respect for each other’s faith. They may all be different, but they should all be meant to evoke acceptance and understanding. Otherwise, what is faith for? The appropriate response from this woman would have been to ask questions and perhaps learn about our respective differences in faith. Given the way the world has evolved, haven’t we reached a point where said acceptance and understanding rule the day? Food for thought… ☯

Pebble In The Pond

“Just As Ripples Spread Out When A Single Pebble Is Dropped In The Water, The Actions Of Individuals Can Have Far Reaching Effects.”

– Dalai Lama

One of the most important aspects of our existence is karma. Lots of folks refer to karma, usually in an angry context. “Karma will bite you in the ass” or “Karma will get you” are popular ones. People rarely concern themselves with their own karma or how to influence their own lives through their own actions. And I think it says something about modern society when we’re more concerned about someone else’s negative actions rather than our own.

Karma is the totality of everything you do in life, and the resulting energy that ultimately decides the outcome of your life and potentially future lives (if you subscribe to such beliefs). In layman’s terms, what goes around, comes around. So if you do bad, you get bad. If you do good, you may get good. Clear enough?

Another way to look at it is causality. Cause and effect. This is a phenomenon that describes that an action or event will result in the production of a new action or event, usually believed to have been at least partly caused by the original action or event. This means that every action has a result. So if you do something wrong or bad within the scope of your own existence, you’ll likely cause a negative result.

I find that a lot of people tend to do things on a whim, good or bad. And they’ll move on with their lives and forget about the things they’ve done, regardless of the result it may have had on someone else. This is a big part of the issues I’ve been dealing with in recent years. One person’s negative actions have caused immeasurable damage and chaos within my own life. But despite the fact they may have moved on and forgotten about the problems they’ve caused, eventually karma will catch up with them and everyone at some point needs to pay the piper.

As described in a movie I once watched about Bruce Lee’s life, you drop a pebble in a pond, you get ripples… Soon, the ripples cross the whole pond. I believe that the message was that your influence can be far reaching. However, it can also mean that any action on your behalf, good or bad, will affect other people. So make sure you make them positive. You never whose life you may damage. Or improve. ☯

Social Distancing ≠ Social Dissolving

One of my biggest fears when faced with the current state of the world is the after-effects that will continue to linger within our society. For the longest time, we’ve been a society that tends to ignore the world around us. Unless we happen to be online, where most people suddenly become activists, politicians and armchair warriors who always seem to know better. But I digress…

There are many cultures around the world who have ALWAYS practiced social distancing, so the recent pandemic hasn’t create anything new. However, for the folks who haven’t done it before, social distancing may have effects that will take years to recover from. If you’re an outgoing person who enjoys being among the masses, suddenly being locked away in your home can have detrimental physical and emotional effects.

I’m sure you’ve all seen some of the memes and jokes online about social distancing; like the group of dads having beer in the street in a large circle, standing six feet apart. Social distancing has been blatantly difficult for some people to accept and maintain, despite its necessity in helping stem the current spread of COVID-19.

In fact, according to an online article posted by USA Today, large-scale social distancing is required in order to prevent the virus from running rampant and overwhelming the healthcare systems in respective countries, leading to large numbers of fatalities in the coming year. The article goes on to explain that we are nowhere near to ending social distancing and that we NEED to maintain it, in order to stem the propagation and bring an end to the pandemic. (https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/03/26/coronavirus-pandemic-growing-too-fast-stop-social-distancing-column/5083173002/)

Despite this requirement, the need for everyone to come together has never been greater. Isolation, whether with family or alone, can involve a number of problems that we may not recognize before they become serious. Depression, hopelessness and the use of drugs and alcohol can become very real aspects to cope with the current state of self-isolation. It’s important to remember that there are a lot of ways, especially in today’s modern world of technology, to stay in touch and communicate with people, thereby maintaining social contact and preventing the dissolving of society.

This is one of the rare occasions where social media can be an asset. Although still a nasty source of false news, misinformation and a destructive means of sharing private information, social media’s ability to help people stay in contact despite long distances can’t be denied. I know that a number of my family members make use of Facebook and other means of online communication in order to stay in touch with friends and loved ones.

A handy tool that many people seem to forget about these days, is the telephone. What with texting and social media, most folks seem to forget that the plastic brick in their hands is actually intended as a means of verbal communication that was invented over 140 years ago!!! Despite the fact tat we live on opposite ends of the country, my mother and I speak by phone every few days, even if only to stay in touch (cue the mama’s boy jokes, here).

My point is that we need to ensure that we don’t begin to accept social distancing as the norm and begin to shy away from in-person contact with each other. It may be necessary in the here and now, but when the smoke clears and the pandemic is over, we will need to rebuild social bridges and allow ourselves the benefit of each other’s company. The worst thing that could come out of all this, is to survive it all just to become xenophobic against society for fear of what else may happen. After all, there will be a lot of work to do once every steps back out into the sunlight; and we’ll need each other more than we probably understand. ☯

One Good Turn…

With all the difficulties in the world and how much suffering everyone seems to enjoy spreading, sometimes it’s nice to share a story of something nice done by others. I always try to push karma in the right direction, and it makes me happy when I see that others are able (and willing) to do the same.

We have a family SUV that we use for daily errands and such, but I have a personal car that I use for going to work and any medical appointments and such that I may have to attend. Given the current state of affairs in Canada, and the fact that saving money is always an important concern for any family, my wife and kids travelled with me to Saskatoon for my last eye injections.

This means that my car has sat idle in our garage since sometime in January. Despite the fact that it’s not really an OLD car, it tends to die out if I forget to unhook the car battery between Saskatoon appointments. This is exactly what happened in this instance. I had the car parked in the driveway at some point in January, and our neighbour (who goes way out of his way to be helpful and we love him) asked me to move the car so he could snowblower our tandem driveway.

I pulled the car into the garage, which is unusual for me. I normally back it in so that I can unhook the car battery. But I didn’t. So the car sat there, with the latent background electronic systems using up battery power, for about two months. So yesterday, I decided to check the car and get it some fuel. I turned the key. Nothing. Brutal. So I used an energy pack to boost the car and headed down to a local gas bar to fuel up.

The beauty is that gas prices are actually REALLY good right now. It cost me less than 40 dollars (Canadian) to fill the tank from less than 1/8th. I had two twenty-dollar bills on me, so I gave it to the pump attendant and told him to use the change to buy himself a coffee. Seems like a trivial thing, but I’ve been where he is, so I figured it would be appreciated.

I was walking on air from the low gas price, until I paid for my fuel and tried to start the car. Not a sound. Fuck. It’s only a five minute drive from my house to the gas bar, so I had to assume that I hadn’t driven long enough to allow the car battery to build up a charge to allow me to stop and start it again.

I ask my pump attendant if he had a power pack to boost my car. He, and one of his coworkers, came out and hooked everything up in order to jumpstart my car. It didn’t seem to be working. A random stranger came over and offered to help push my car so that I could pop the clutch to start the car. Luckily, the car turned over and started. I was unconditionally grateful and thanked all three men for their help and assistance before driving away.

Rest assured, I drove around the neighbourhood for a while and charged up the car before backing it into the garage and unhooking my battery. But it got me to thinking about how some people will still go out of their way to help a total stranger. I mean, those gas bar employees didn’t HAVE to boost my car. And that random customer didn’t have to come offer to push my car to start it.

Sometimes we forget that a random act of kindness can mean the world to someone. It may seem like nothing to us, but it can make all the difference to the person you’re doing it for. Those guys probably carried on with their day and totally forgot about boosting my car, and hour after I pulled away. But the fact they helped me without any gain showed me that there’s still good in the world.

We get so busy with our daily grind that we sometimes forget that there’s an entire world around us. Don’t be afraid to do something nice for someone, even if it’s someone random. Not only is it good karma, but you’ll better for it. ☯