Don’t Judge A Baseball Bat By The Matted Hair…

For years, I’ve heard an old adage that says if you’re going to carry a baseball bat in your car for protection, be certain to include some balls and a baseball glove; your lawyer will thank you. The implication there is that the inclusion of balls and a glove will potentially show your intention to use the equipment for their intended purpose as opposed to as a weapon. It’s always made me smile a little when I’ve heard or read it, because my thinking is the SITUATION should dictate if you’re justified, not the tableau that you create around an item you potentially intend to use as a weapon.

The use of weapons is a thing as old as humanity itself, from our ancestors’ humble beginnings with a wooden stick or club to the shiny ol’ red button that world leaders press to annihilate countries. I don’t think it’s a “red button,” actually. I think that’s just something that’s portrayed in the movies. But my point is that humanity has always used weapons in some way, shape and form. And a weapon may be an important tool for one’s self-defence, depending on the situation.

A lot of people think that a weapon needs to be something structured and specific. The baseball bat analogy is a great one because, a bat is intended as an implement for sport. Its use as a weapon is incidental. Or at least it should be. I know some people keep a bat SPECIFICALLY as a weapon. The reason I bring this up is because I’ve often heard people say that a weapons-based martial art is basically useless because you’ll rarely be caught walking around with a sword or a staff. The weapons one trains with won’t usually be readily available.

Depending on where you live and what specific laws outline, it can cause a delicate situation if someone breaks into your house and you’ve run them through with a samurai sword. But setting the legalities aside for a moment, a weapon can be pretty much whatever you put your hands on. Using the example of a sword, I think we can agree that unless you lived in Japan prior to 1868, you’re not walking around carrying a samurai sword nor do you have one readily accessible in your home.

But all the cutting and strike training you take while studying the sword will be just as effective if you manage to wrap your hands around a broom or mop handle and scythe it across your opponent. It won’t gash them open like a sword would but in a self-defence situation, striking with a blade or a stick can potentially yield the same life-saving result. And that’s the important part. That’s the benefit of karate. It’s a weapon all its own and certain movements, blocks and strike are easily transferable to a weapon, should you manage to obtain one in a life threatening situation.

Weapons are a catch-22 because if things get out of hand, they can be taken away from you and used by the very opponent you were defending yourself against. Another great beauty of karate. No one can disarm me of it, so even if I’m empty-handed I always have multiple weapons at my disposal. Obviously, we’re talking about a home invasion or a situation where you believe your life is in imminent danger. One shouldn’t be looking towards the use of a weapon, per se.

Just Because It’s Buffed Doesn’t Mean It’s Nice…

Lifting weights is an important part of health & fitness, even if you’re not necessarily trying to bodybuild. And to be clear, weightlifting and bodybuilding are not one and the same; weightlifting is only one of the activities that a bodybuilder performs in order to build upon themselves, with a score of other important factors at play. I’m certainly no bodybuilder, nor do I aspire to be. I use dumbbells and kettlebells freely, as gaining and maintaining true muscle strength is important in the martial arts and in maintaining the bodily strength required to keep healthy.

And before I go too far into my opinionated rant, let me just say that I have a reasonable amount of admiration for those who are able to sculpt and develop their bodies the way you’d see on a sports network. The old-school Schwarzenegger look may even suit some people, although I find it altogether exaggerated and a bit much. And there’s a significant difference between true strength and bodybuilding. In actual strength training, a person will use the lifting of weight to increase muscle size in order to increase strength, and can use that strength functionally. Bodybuilders are lifting weights solely for the purpose of increasing their size. Although there will be increased strength during the process, it may not be as effective as proper strength training.

The purpose of today’s post isn’t to bash on bodybuilding. As I mentioned earlier, kudos to the folks who are able to sacrifice and work hard towards making their bodies the way they want them to look. Today’s focus is on increasing the mass/size of your body and how it relates to the martial arts and proper health. As it just so happens, being a little too “buff” can have some negative and even detrimental side effects on the human body.

Let’s cover off the martial arts aspect, well… just because! I’ve seen a number of heavily-muscled people walk into the dojo throughout my youth, only to walk out after a few classes. And why do you suppose that is? Well for one thing, increased size will DECREASE your flexibility, mobility and range. You’re stiffer and tend to move much less easier. Just to be clear, I’m referring to people who are REALLY muscled. But in a combat art such as karate, flexibility and mobility are extremely important, for obvious reasons. Are there exceptions to that rule? Absolutely. But the really buff people who still have all the flexibility and mobility are VERY far between.

Speed is another. Your punch may have all the strength of those massive arms behind it, but it means nothing if I can casually avoid your fist because you’re moving like melting butter. The bigger you are, the slower you’ll move. Physics says so. You can only move so fast, as speed equals distance over time. The bigger you are, the more time it takes you to cover the distance, hence slower speed. Picture the difference between a 2-door coupe and an 18-wheeler. It’s easier to achieve a specific speed with the coupe because it takes less time to cover a specific distance due to less weight. There’s your high school physics lesson for tonight. But in the event of a real fight scenario where a person’s wellbeing hangs in the balance, expect that I’ll kick in your knee caps while you’re trying to take a swing. You won’t see it, as your field of vision won’t reach over your massive chest, but you get the idea…

And that’s the other problem is the excess size. You’ll be restricted by your own clothing, for Light’s sake! You’ll have less ability to maneuver in tight spaces, leaving the advantage to the smaller, trained fighter. This is why it’s always been a bit of an issue for me, when people automatically say things like, “Look at how buff that person is. I wouldn’t want to mess with them!” Having big muscles is only one small part of the equation that allows you to use them effectively to protect yourself and others.

And now, because I write about Diabetes, let’s discuss how increased muscle mass relates to health. Don’t forget that the bigger the engine, the more fuel is required to operate it. The human body is very much the same way. The bigger you are, the more calories you’ll need to consume to maintain your body on a daily basis. For someone with Type-1 Diabetes, who needs to calculate carbohydrate intake and take insulin dosages accordingly, this can be a significant problem. I’m not saying it can’t be done; I’m saying that finding that proper balance will be all the harder. And you may cause damage in the process, from a Diabetes-standpoint.

The next issue is the toll it takes on the body. Being too muscular is just as bad as being obese. Don’t believe me? Weight is weight, and your skeletal structure doesn’t grow stronger to accommodate your increase in mass. Your bones, organs and vital bodily systems may not be able to accommodate become too buff. Just think of your heart and how much hard it has to work to maintain all the added mass. That’s why bodybuilders will frequently suffer heart and organ issues. Schwarzenegger himself has had heart surgery. That should tell you something.

There’s nothing wrong with increasing one’s muscle mass. In fact, it’s one of those “happy medium” things where lifting weights a few times a week can decrease the chances of cardiac issues while doing it too much will tax your heart. take it with grain of salt. If we’d pay attention to absolutely EVERYTHING that can be harmful, we’d die of worry instead. Ultimately, the point is that muscle mass for strength good/ Muscle mass for size, bad. Especially from the martial arts standpoint. Just for shits and giggles, here’s a commercial from 2011 for Planet Fitness that makes me laugh every time I see it… ☯

This Is NOT The Way…

I started watching the Mandalorian a short while ago, so I have the main character’s catchphrase “this is the way,” somewhat at the forefront of my subconscious. Hence the title, in case you haven’t seen the show. But what I’m referring to with today’s title, is the use of force or violence. As a martial artist, people have a tendency to believe that I can kick ass on a whim and at my leisure. I certainly have the capabilities and training, despite the detail that stating that fact doesn’t make me out to be very humble. But humble I am, and my training doesn’t mean that I’m like an action hero who will clear a pub of multiple opponents simply for the indignity of looking at me the wrong way.

The world is a violent place, and there are many people who will make a point of BEING violent for very little reason. And those reasons are generally bullshit, anyway. As a martial artist, I take pride in the fact that I have the ability to protect myself and my loved ones. As a Buddhist, I abhor the idea that I would ever have to use it. And use it, I have. I have the benefit of the fact that for the majority of my life, my violent encounters have been in the line of duty. This certainly has never done anything to soothe the dislike I’ve felt or the memories I carry of every encounter, but it’s an important factor nonetheless.

Unfortunately, I’ve also had encounters that have taken place in my civilian life. And those have carried just as much weight as the ones that happened on the job, if not more so. How does one who believes in the prospect of a peaceful life but trains in a fighting art deal with such a scenario? Never the same way twice, is the first answer that comes to mind. That’s mostly because no two situations will ever be the same. And no two opponents will ever be the same, either. But there are some pretty common misconceptions, when it comes to defending oneself.

There are many reasons why people fight. In many cases, a person feels that he or she has no choice. It may be a question of ego, personality or even honour. Maybe the person just has a shitty personality, temper or outlook on life. Maybe, just maybe, that person is dealing with something in their lives and that something is the final straw and they’re taking it out on you. But the reality is that none of those reasons qualify. If you make the conscious decision to step up to someone and fight them, you’ve already lost. AND you’re in the wrong.

First, let’s examine the concept of self-defence. The term seems to imply that you need to fight someone else off in order to ensure your safety and well-being. Basically, you’re trying to prevent harm to yourself or another. But here’s the thing: that prevention doesn’t mean that you HAVE to fight. That’s what most people seem to misunderstand. You may eventually reach a “point of no return” where you’ll no longer have a choice than to fight, and I’ll get to that. But there are other steps you can take to defend yourself.

Diffusing the situation is a good one. Never underestimate the power of using your voice. Although it may not always be possible to calmly discuss the matter, especially with some liquored up hothead who thinks you were making googly eyes at his lady (true story). But there will be times when you’ll be able to talk your way out of things. The other good one, is getting up and leaving. And I know some fellow martial artists may disagree with this one, but why stick around? If there’s someone there who wants to do me harm, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to stick around.

Sure, some people may call me coward or chicken, but who cares? Know where I am while they’re calling me that? In the safety of my car or home. Away from harm, without broken bones, bloody appendages or criminal charges pending against me for beating the living fuck out of some asshole. But while we’re on the subject of criminal charges, it’s important to know what your rights are and what the laws may apply to your situation.

In Canada, Section 34 of the Criminal Code reads, “A person is not guilty of an offence if they believe on reasonable grounds that force is being used against them or another person or that a threat of force is being made against them or another person, the act that constitutes the offence is committed for the purpose of defending or protecting themselves or the other person from that use or threat of force and the act committed is reasonable under the circumstances.” Section 34, Criminal Code of Canada.

Those are a lot of fancy words, and you can check out the Section yourself to read the before and after, as it can sometimes lend pertinence. But the layman’s version of it, is that if someone comes at you and you genuinely believe that they mean you harm, you can use force in response as long as it’s for your own defence or the defence of another person. They also refer to it being “reasonable under the circumstances,” which basically means you can’t shoot someone in the chest because they try to punch you. But everything is circumstantial to the totality of the situation.

Patrick Swayze had a great line in his movie Roadhouse where he said, “Nobody ever wins a fight.” Kind of ironic, since the movie is all about being a bouncer in a violent bar. But realistically, there’s no shame in walking away. Unless your life or the life of someone else is on the line, fighting just isn’t worth it. Besides navigating the law, which can be open to interpretation, getting into violent altercations will change you in ways you may not anticipate. Peace is easier. ☯

Sinfully Sweet…

It’s difficult to be a good person. No, let me correct that… It can be exceptionally EASY to be a good person, but society, culture and our own personalities MAKE it difficult to be a good person. I recently read a post by a fellow blogger named Jason Youngman who, if you aren’t doing so already you should follow. He wrote a post entitled Dignity Remains Steadfast where he discusses the nature of vice and it’s vicious effect on people. He ends the post with a comparison that I find extremely fitting where, and I’m paraphrasing here, the sweetness of candy is a slow pleasure that doesn’t show the damage it does until your teeth begin to rot.

It got me to thinking about the nature of vice and how we behave in society, a point which I don’t usually address beyond an immediate situation that may have occurred in my daily life. But that in itself is a form of vice. After all, most people are geared towards living in the immediate moment and don’t usually consider the consequences of what’s to come. And from a Buddhist’s standpoint, I’ve decided it would be a good idea to share my thoughts on this subject with you.

Just to be clear, when I refer to vice, I don’t mean the iron clamping device used by a trade’s person or the nickname given to certain American police units. A vice is what’s referred to as a bad habit, behaviour or character trait that a person may have that is considered wrong by their respective society. That last part is important since depending on where you live and what culture you happen to be a part of, something can be a vice in one culture but not another.

Here’s the reality: no matter who you are or what kind of lifestyle you live, you have vices. Maybe you chew your nails. Maybe you’re a smoker or a drinker. Maybe you tend to judge a book by its cover. These are things that can be considered vices and are negative character aspects that we navigate daily life without usually even acknowledging. This is mostly because we don’t consider them to BE bad habits, even if they may have a negative impact on ourselves or those around us.

Let’s take cigarette smoking as an example, and this is a discussion I’ve had with many a friend who actually smoke. The average smoker (if there really is such a thing) believes that their use of cigarettes is a vice that affects them and only them. It’s not such a bad thing, because they’re not hurting anyone but themselves. Right? Makes sense? Here’s the problem: the eventual health complications caused by your smoking will inevitably lead to a strain on health care systems and your family, especially the if they need to provide care for you when you develop terminal illnesses brought on by your smoking habit.

Further, there’s the pollution aspect from smoking, even if you do it outdoors, the littering from all the cigarette butts left lying around and the financial constraints you’re placing on your household due to the excessive rising costs of cigarettes. I have no idea what the current cost of a pack of cigarette might be at the moment, but I’ve plenty of people complain that it’s a lot. Now, I’m not trying to use my blog as a platform against smoking. To each their own. This post is meant to be about vice, so I’ll move things back in that direction. But smoking is a good example of a common vice that many people partake of.

Another good example is sin. I was raised in a Roman Catholic household. And if I’m being honest, just about everything that someone did was considered a sin in some given way, shape or form. I may be exaggerating to an extent, but it sure felt that way as a child. Now, Catholicism differentiates vice and sin as the habit of sin and an individual morally wrong act, respectively. And they list their seven deadly sins or vices as Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Avarice, Gluttony and Lust. Does this means that when I shave and pay attention to personal grooming in the morning, that I’m guilty of Pride? If I go out to a buffet dinner with friends, am I indulging in Gluttony? Perhaps.

I use Catholicism as an example, because it’s what I grew up around and it’s familiar. But most organized systems of faith have a list of vice and/or sinful actions that they consider particular. Buddhism does as well, in fact. So if I avoid those seven indulgences, does this mean that I’m free of vice as a Catholic? And do I still have vices from another culture and/or religion’s perspective. This is the problem with vice. It can be insidious and not always noticeable in the every day.

One thought I’ve always had on vice and something I discussed with Jason Youngman, is how does it fit in the perspective of someone who is unaware of it? For example, if a person grew up in a household where there was no faith-based upbringing, are they genuinely guilty of vice? What does sin mean to someone who knows nothing of it? I think that perhaps some vices (not all) may not be viewed as such to certain people, depending on their circumstances. Some vices should just be common sense; rudeness and criminal behaviour should be a given, and every person should know to avoid them, regardless of upbringing, faith or education. But such is what makes these things a vice in the first place: the fact that people don’t acknowledge them as common sense

He made a very good point in stating that regardless of religious or faith-based upbringing, the majority of households will ensure that their children are raised on some level of morality, be it a personal or system-based one. He also pointed out that it’s necessary to acknowledge the consequences of our actions, whether we believe our actions are vice-related or not. From a legality standpoint in Canada, the Criminal Code is pretty clear on the fact that ignorance of the law is no a defence. The same can be said from a moral viewpoint, as well.

This can be easily tied in to Buddhism, as the Four Noble Truths describe that very same thing. Whereas the first Noble Truth explains the existence of suffering in the world, the second Noble truth goes on to explain that we are responsible for that suffering. The third Noble Truth covers the fact that we need to bring an end to this suffering and the fourth Noble Truth explains HOW to do so, which is described as being by following the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Noble Eightfold Path includes Right View, Right Aspiration, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. Through those practices, one can achieve peace and enlightenment, although the latter can be fleeting and difficult to achieve. The point is that one needs to live well in order to contribute to the overall good in the world and help to eliminate suffering.

I could go into detail and describe each of the Eightfold Path, but I think this post has gone on long enough. I want to keep y’all engaged and reading, not using my blog as a substitute for warm milk. The take home lesson here is that we all have vices. We may not always recognize them or acknowledge them as such, but even the smallest ones will have a negative impact if left unchecked. Like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings that eventually cause a ravaging storm on the other side of the world, actions have consequences. ☯

Surviving “Family Week”

If you live in Canada, chances are that your Province uses the third Monday of February as a means of claiming another statutory holiday in order to get a paid day off. I’m sure that’s important to some people but given that my salary doesn’t change regardless of holidays, I could care less. In Saskatchewan as well as a number of other Provinces, It’s referred to as “Family Day.” Setting aside for the moment the fact that if you’re married with children EVERY day is Family Day, the school systems seem to think that it’s appropriate to include a week-long break for kids to add insult to injury.

My opening sentence may catch some people by surprise since most would be inclined to ask, “But Shawn, don’t you WANT a paid day off?” Hey, I love a paid day off as much as the next person, but if you look up Family Day (or Louis Riel Day in Manitoba, Nova Scotia Heritage Day in Nova Scotia and Islander Day on PEI) there are some Provinces that were specifically pressured by their population to name a holiday as well. Some folks just can’t stand it when others have something. But I digress…

Nathan and I enjoying a whirlpool

Just to be clear, I love my sons and a week off with them at home wouldn’t be a problem if the fates didn’t feel compelled to make a whole bunch of shit happen at once. The week started decently, with Valentine’s Day and a particular family event taking place. Due to restrictions outlining the number of people permitted within a household at once, Nathan and I had the opportunity to spend the night in a hotel room once we were done.

Since we had the chance to see people, eat food outside of home and enjoy the hotel’s swimming pool and whirlpool, Nathan became enamoured with the concept of hotels and seems to be of the opinion that it’s a repeatable holiday. Not to mention he enjoyed having a queen-sized bed all to himself and thinks we should get one for his room. Bloody hell. That was our overnight and the trip back home was reasonably uneventful as well so, no harm, no foul, right? But the rest of the week would turn out to be a bag of smashed ass.

Trying to take a photo with Alex (His right had is reaching for my energy drink).

If this week off happened to take place during ANY other season, it wouldn’t be an issue. I’d be taking Nathan to the park, playing in our backyard, taking walks and hanging out in our garage working on projects of some sort (see my post about building a Makiwara with Nathan). But since the Prairies love to do that whole “freezing weather” thing, there’s little to be done outside the house since it’s too cold for Nathan to be outside for longer than ten minutes or so before his face starts to go numb.

This leaves him inside the house to serve up his usual cocktail of making noise, banging into every object in the house while the baby is napping and effectively training his infant brother to become a destructive dynamo as they both whip through the house, destroying everything in their path while making enough racket to shatter glass. Fun times. Not to mention the fact that Nathan feels compelled to say he’s hungry almost every hour, mostly due to boredom. Sometimes I can sucker him into sitting still long enough to ALMOST get through an entire movie, but that’s usually pretty short-lived.

The boys being goofy together

In the end, a combination of frosty, winter weather, a lack of indoor activities and a hyper-active child made for one hell of a long week. To add insult to injury, Alex seems to have started this thing where he goes to bed at night only to wake up screaming blue murder an hour or two later. He seems to be enjoying a particular period of sleep regression, which is just LOADS of fun for the whole family. That’s fine; I’m sure four hours of sleep per night is more than enough for the average adult in his forties (cue the sarcasm).

Nathan gets another week off in April in combination with the Easter long weekend. I don’t know about y’all, but I sure as hell didn’t get all of this time off school when I was his age. Man, that makes me sound old. But they seem to hand out days off for school kids like it’s tap water. At least the weather should be seasonally warmer by April, allowing for more outdoor activities and fresh air. My wife and I survived the week, although I don’t know if I can say it was unscathed (I can’t seem to stop my left eye from twitching) and I’ve come to appreciate the school system and the fact they seem able to deal with my child, five days a week. ☯

Just Because I’m Wrong Doesn’t Mean You’re Right…

People hate to be wrong. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s a well-documented fact. Maybe it’s the fear of showing weakness in front of others, maybe it’s narcism or self-indulgence. But people flat out hate to be wrong. I’d be lying if I said that I enjoy being wrong, but knowing to accept it when you are is one of life’s big lessons. And for some reason, some will go out of their way to prove that they’re right even when they’re wrong.

Here’s the thing: whether or not you’re right will often be a matter of perspective. And a person’s perspective is very dependent on a number of different factors. One’s upbringing, values and beliefs will all go a very long way to molding a person’s perspective and lead them to where they believe they may be right about something, even when they’re not. It can be very difficult to navigate.

Always remember to be open-minded. Be willing to hear the other side of the story. It can mean the difference between fostering peace and causing unnecessary suffering. Maybe you’ll even learn something along the way. Sensei always used to say, “You have two ears and one mouth. That means you should listen TWICE as much as you talk.” Sound advice. Even if something being put out into the world is right, it doesn’t mean that you’re absolutely wrong.

But when we open ourselves to other perspectives and beliefs, it’s amazing how often it dissolves conflict. Being open-minded isn’t just something that happens on its own. It’s a choice. And a practice. ☯

What To Look For When Joining A Dojo

The decision to join martial arts can involve navigating some pretty choppy waters. And knowing what to look for in order to ensure you’ll get what you want/need out of martial arts can be important. The video below explains what I believe you should be watching out for, when you walk into a dojo for the first time with the intentions of joining. This is not an exhaustive list, by any means. And if any of the martial artists reading this post and watching the video have anything to add, please feel free to include them in the comments. Enjoy!

What To Eat While Travelling

Deciding how to manage your diet while travelling can be a bit tricky. You have your Diabetes to consider, since sitting still for long hours while on the road will affect your blood circulation, insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels. And the temptation to eat fast-food and easy gas station snack items can be really difficult to resist. This video is a quick blurb on my thoughts related to that very thing! I was “lucky” enough to have my son Nathan as a co-pilot, along for the ride.

Don’t Look At My Privates…

Privacy is a dying creature, with the vast majority of society simply rolling over and giving up when it comes to having any modicum of anonymity. I remember dating someone, what seems like a lifetime ago, who thought it was a good idea to go through my things to see if there was anything “secret” she could learn about me while I was out of the room. Much to her dismay, I caught her in the act and it didn’t take long for me to ensure that she never set foot into my bedroom again. But it was one of my first experiences in having my privacy violated and it left a lasting impression…

I grew up in a small, Northern New Brunswick town of approximately 3,000 people. Despite how small the area may have been, I got through most of my youth without knowing the vast majority of the population or even my specific age group. I lived in a comfortable environment of anonymity and I’ve always been a private person, with little interest in having or allowing other people the opportunity to dig beneath the surface. If I wanted what was below the surface to be known, it would be ON the surface as opposed to sitting beneath it.

Privacy is important because it helps a person to set the boundaries by which they live out their lives. No matter how good and noble a person you may be, there will always be a demographic that sees things differently than you. For this reason, most people like to avoid the unnecessary judgments that may come from having your life exposed in an unfiltered way. Privacy should be a right, whether it relates to your work, your personal life or your relationships.

I often hear about occasions where a dating partner or spouse will ask to see their partner’s phone so they can look through it. If the partner refuses, they’ll often be confronted with, “Why? What are you hiding? If you aren’t hiding anything, it shouldn’t be a problem!” Although some may think this statement is accurate, a smart phone or device is one good example of where boundaries need to be set. Even in a committed relationship, there needs to be respected boundaries and one person should never obligate another to hand over something as private and personal as a cell phone.

The irony is that I’m in a relationship where I would have absolutely no issue in handing my phone over to my wife, should she ask for it. But I’ve been blessed with a spouse who has enough respect to have never crossed that boundary. I also like to think that she’s never felt she’s needed to. I use the example of a smart phone because unlike fifteen to twenty years ago, a smart device contains the vast majority of what a person would like to keep private. What with social media, text messages, e-mail and contact information, it’s no surprise that a person may clutch their phone close to the chest, if for no other reason than to help protect someone ELSE’S information.

But even simple incidents prevent the most rudimentary privacy in modern society. Because of the same aforementioned smart devices, everyone’s impulse these days is to whip out their phones and snap photo or take a video at everything they’re confronted with. Although this can be extremely handy in the right situations and can even help bring some offenders to justice in the right context, people have exchanged genuinely helping people with documenting what’s happening instead. Light knows I’ve dealt with a number of situations where I’ve asked people, “What did you do to help?” only to have them reply, “Nothing. But I recorded a video so you have all the evidence of what happened.”

I remember an incident from almost ten years ago, when a young guy was being physically beaten at school. A small crowd had gathered while two other guys took turns striking him and trying to damage the victim’s vehicle. I don’t remember who started the altercation or why, not that it mattered. But the guy suffered some moderate injuries and had damage to his vehicle that rendered it inoperable. When I looked into the matter, I discovered that absolutely no one stepped in to help this young man. But there five separate videos showing what happened. Ridiculous.

But the same can be said of simply going out and performing daily tasks. Do you know how many security systems, traffic cameras and peoples’ phones you’ve been recorded on while picking up your milk and eggs today? I can guarantee you likely don’t. This means that even on a rudimentary level and without intending to, your movements, locations and activities are tracked, pretty much throughout your entire day. Anonymity and privacy are no longer an option.

Privacy is important because as individuals, we need safe boundaries to avoid unwanted judgement. It’s a matter of having control over one’s life and being able to have some freedom of thought without being picked apart. And at the end of the day, it’s a matter of respect and trust. There’s nothing quite like having your life picked apart and opened by someone who has no right to your privacy. The level of exposure it leaves you with is immeasurable and can leave you feeling vulnerable and powerless within your own life. I can speak to this personally. It’s very much what I’ve been dealing with in recent years.

To be honest, I’m not really sure where I was planning to go with this post. And maybe it’s just one of those days where an idea popped into my head and I had to rant about it. Who knows? Not every post can be Shakespeare. But I guess the lesson is that you should trust the people around you enough to respect their privacy. If you don’t, then the solution isn’t to violate that privacy but to step away. And as a people, we need to learn that person-to-person interaction should very much be the norm over snapping photos and recording everything around us. ☯

A Weak House Of Cards

You know, I’m a big fan of how far society and technology have come. If it weren’t for said advances in technology, my Diabetes control would likely be far less than what it is now. But there’s something to be said for the good ol’ days; the days when people actually dealt with the situation in front of them instead of taking the easy way out. And like a fragile house of cards, it can be amazing how removing one card from the pile will usually make the whole, planned thing fall asunder…

Life rarely cares about one’s plan and it can be pretty frustrating when things don’t go according to them. A week ago, I had an appointment to travel to Saskatoon for my eye injections, which take place every eight weeks. After only about six hours’ sleep, my wife and I began receiving multiple text messages followed by phone calls. It seems that due to cold weather, the bus system that would transport my son Nathan to school was being cancelled.

Not classes themselves, mind you… Just the buses. Weird. Must be a Prairie thing. This is one of those times when I become the old man who complains and tells the epic story of how every day was a 4-mile walk to school, uphill, through ten feet of snow while fighting wolves… The problem is, I really DID have an 4-mile walk to school. Not the rest of the stuff, mind you. Living in Northern New Brunswick, I used to leave the house an hour and a half before first bell in order to walk half way around the base of a mountain to reach my school. Y’all can look it up, it was a small town called Dalhousie, New Brunswick. Both French and English high schools are STILL at the top of a mountain. Granted, I had the benefit of walking on a groomed snowmobile trail. But I digress…

In my day, they cancelled schools not the vehicles that transported the students, which meant that cancellations would be announced via radio WHILE I was on foot to reach school. I would only find out that classes had been cancelled once I walked in and some cranky janitor would ask me why I was there and to go home. This would be followed by my inevitable trek back home, regardless of the cold or weather, since classes had been cancelled.

But these text messages and phone calls my wife and I received were to advise us that the bus systems meant to transport my son to school were being cancelled due to the cold weather. Not classes. Classes would still be taking place. Just the buses. Fuck. I won’t get into the specifics as to why it made it unlikely that Nathan would be going to school other than to provide that our schedules as well as the distance and location of the school meant that Nathan couldn’t walk and transporting him there ourselves couldn’t happen, either.

He missed school on Monday and Tuesday because I was absent for my eyes and we don’t have a second vehicle. The school bus system got back into the groove for Wednesday, but that was short-lived as they started cancelling it out on Thursday again. This is where that question of technology from my opening paragraph comes into play. It’s 2021, people! We’ve put people on the moon; surely there’s a way to have school buses running during winter weather. This is Saskatchewan, the cold ain’t going anywhere!

And just like that, the house of cards with which the week was standing on came tumbling down. Now, I’m not a mechanic or an expert. And I can admit that my son’s school bus is likely older than our family vehicle. I use the term “likely,” because they all look the same, regardless of their age. So it can be hard to gauge. But I can guarantee that since block heaters were invented in 1947 and covered transportation hubs are a thing, I find it hard to understand why the transportation option would be unable to run while they would still expect teachers and staff to start their own vehicles and make their way to school.

And it’s a pretty safe guarantee that most parents are not in a position to get their kids to school themselves, present company included. I don’t do the whole “wind chill” thing. If the weather says -35 degrees, then it’s -35 degrees! And I’m sure that Nathan was more than happy to have a couple of snow days, sleep in and relax at home with his baby brother. But it’s pretty weak sauce that they don’t seem able to start industrial transportation vehicles and clear them of snow in order for our children to be transported to school. Kinda makes me reconsider how advanced this whole technology thing really… (end rant). ☯