"A man must know his destiny… if he does not recognize it, then he is lost. By this I mean, once, twice, or at the very most, three times, fate will reach out and tap a man on the shoulder… if he has the imagination, he will turn around and fate will point out to him what fork in the road he should take, if he has the guts, he will take it.” - General George S. Patton
"They used us as an excuse to go mad and then blamed it on us. Gandhi says create and preserve the image of your choice. The image of my choice is not Beatle George - those who want that can go and see Wings. Why live in the past? Be here now.” - former group singer George Harrison of "The Beatles"
“A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back -- but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you.” -Marian Wright Edelman
It is my belief that pretty much everyone has a few defining moments in their lives --- wedding days, first day of school, the best vacation ever, a career path chosen, a welcome hand extended. Everyone's is unique, of course, and some folks are obviously blessed with more of these moments than others are.
Over the past month or so, I have been doing some serious soul-searching, contemplating, planning what remains of the rest of my life, however long or short that should turn out to be, and for better or worse, I have reached the conclusion that it will no longer consist of me yelling "WORLD PEACE" from the rooftops, or demanding that "one person CAN and MUST make a difference". I will never again attempt to do the "anonymous good deed" or apply the "pay it forward" philosophy of life. I say this not because I want to be particularly mean, but because I was taken for the innocent sucker-fool in a big way last year...not just once, but THREE times, and it has been one of those major turning-points in my life that I referred to above (more discussion on this point, naming Shane among others, below).
And to be perfectly blunt, I no longer give a damn if the earth ends up as one environmental mess, garbage-strewn, covered with sick and dying babies and soldiers and birds and politicians and graft and greed and all those other things that it seems I've clearly been misjudging all my protected and unrealistic life, and as expressed as recurring themes in the past two-and-a-half years or so of this blog..
Why should I care about making (leaving) the world a better place for "our" kids....I don't have any kids or even descendants. No sweat off my gonads. Soldiers sign up knowing that they may be killed as a result of their job. So do telephone pole climbers, but no one sheds a tear or concern for them, and they don't make the local news when they shuffle off to their job, do they? So let the soldiers "die" if they think it's the noble thing to do; if they think, by doing so, they are somehow protecting my right to openly write this blog. Honor them in the name of "the country" if that's the politically appropriate thing to do, or if it's a conscience-cleansing process for you and/or the politicians who sent them there in the first place.
In the end, it doesn't matter one scintilla. We all die sometime...might as well die a hero, which, somewhat ironically, is identically the same philosophy that drives a young suicide bomber to do what he does in the name of Allah. Is it not a much greater sacrifice to die as a martyr for your religion than for some artificially drawn line in the sand that someone a couple hundred years ago thought would make something they'd call a "country" and invent things like "patriotism" and "flag-waving" and a "constitution" and "passports" and "custom stations" and "immigration laws" and all that stuff? We condemn them as committing acts of terror, though, not because they're brave to face death in the mouth, but because we don't understand how they could feel SO strongly for their religion that it would be a driving, overriding, compelling force in their lives, whereas, by and large, most of us consider it to be a Sunday-morning nuisance thing. Anticipating the argument that "they walk into crowded markets to "do their thing" and innocents die as a result, I simply ask "What's the current body count of "collateral damage" by "our side" in Iraq, Afghanistan and any other place of conflict?" I believe it's around 90,000, isn't it? Don't even start on the "torture" theme.
Centuries ago, white (Christian) man came to the shores of North America to calm the savage beast that roiled in the breast of every native american. And we treated them, in the name of Christianity, as shit. I remember as a kid, there was a building called "The ShingWak Home" that I was never allowed to ask about, and was never talked about, and CERTAINLY never allowed to go near, even on my bike. Turns out, it was one of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of residential schools that the "Christians" forced native American kids to attend, ripping them from their families and lifestyles unwillingly, only to find themselves deeply abused, confused, grossly beaten and in some cases, disfigured, and afraid.
Only last week, a 5-year commission has been set up (headed by a native American judge) who intends to travel across the country letting the survivors tell their own stories of horror in their own words. Then there will be the "who-cares" lawyer-drafted, carefully-worded, cover-all-bases (read: CYA) official apology put into the record of the House of Commons, and then the several billions of dollars of restitution will be paid out.
Can anyone spell "R-O-M-A-N C-A-T-H-O-L-I-C P-R-I-E-S-T?.
Has anyone noticed the censorship that is not-so-slowly-creeping into our language now WAY beyond any thought of "political-correctness", so you don't alienate a particular race, religion, color, creed, handicap, mental ability, or sewing circle they belong to (or, more specifically, George Bush's extreme right-wing-religious coalition of nut-crackers)? The "secret police" (and don't kid yourself for a second, this blog is likely being monitored, and websites are shutting down by the thousands every day just because some folks happen to enjoy experiencing what God gave us --- the human body --- and others think it's something filthy and to be ignored? That these same "secret police" now have the right to break and enter into the private sanctuary of your home without a search warrant on the "suspicion" of illegal activity (mostly committed by middle Europeans, of course, all in the name of national security....what a joke! Are they not full citizens as you and I with all the same rights?). Why is there not civil riot at the least over just that if nothing else?
Can anyone spell B-O-S-T-O-N T-E-A P-A-R-T-Y?
Have we gotten that complacent?
Can any one spell M-c-C-A-R-T-H-Y-I-S-M?
My answer is a decided "Yes!", and so I'm joining the masses. I don't give a shit anymore. It's someone else's worry. I have enough of my own, thank you very much.
One of my insights over the past month of belly-button-gazing is just that. My 60 years of life have been literally stolen from me by the threat, or implied threat, that I'm trash, not worthy of the title "human being". Well, for those who think that way, I have just one (rather harsh) thing to say to you "Piss on you". Many in the past have said encouraging things to me about what a great and helpful person I am. Please trust and believe me in your heart when I say I honestly and truly appreciate that feedback (who doesn't thrive on the occasional pat on the head). Thing is, up until now, I've needed the impossible....I've needed more....I've needed approval from everybody. We're talking at two totally different planes of existence here.
I am gay. You know that many times over if you've been reading my blog. I truly acknowledge and thank you for allowing me to say that out loud and repeatedly in public. You have helped me peel off a thick layer of shame and disgust that has enveloped me all my life. I am kinky gay in that my body reacts with an extra "high", an "adrenaline rush" like a downhill skier or a racecar driver, or a tight-wire-rope walker, or the housekeeper expecting the wife's new boss for dinner, and hoping he's thought of everything, or a stage performer. This is the sort of thing I feel (most of you know it....it's that "groin" feeling, magnified many times over) when I contemplate stimulants of bondage and leather (and weed, for that matter). They are all absolute, irrevocable signs of giving up control (i.e. experiencing "trust" and "love" in the truest sense).
I didn't ask for it, I just was dealt that card. I can hold it forever, which I've pretty much done up till now, fearing against all reasonable fear that somehow it will work against me and thus deny me any sense of human caring or I can play it, with daring and risk, as I'm doing here now. If that is disgusting to you, Stop reading. Go away. I don't need your opinion or input. Simple as that. One of the nurses attending me in the hospital a few months back, when I had been assigned him for his shift, and we were chatting,he told me he thought bondage was "pornographic" and changed assignments with another nurse when he found out so he wouldn't have to deal with me any more. It was his f**king job....on the psych ward no less!!
If I get "gay-bashed" to within an inch of my life (or worse yet, become another Matthew Shepard.....look it up if you don't understand the horrific reference), so-be-it. I have never felt the love enjoyed and the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual sharing of my body with that of another who loves me back in much the same way. I don't believe I have ever felt the emotion of "love" as most people mean it. (oh yeah, I say things like "I just love the job you did on re-modelling your kitchen", or "I love that photo you took with all the subtle shadows"), but I can't say, like my niece in Chicago said in front of a gathering of over 100 witnesses this past weekend, that she "loves" her new husband from her heart, till death do them part, and he hers.
I am bipolar; obviously I'd rather not be, but I am, so I'll live with it. The doctors keep guessing at which meds, how much and when I should take them, so I do. I have Menieres Disease....no known cause... no known treatment....no known cure. Obviously, I'd rather not have it, but I do, so I'll live with it. It's making me go deaf, 100% deaf in my left ear now, with about 70% left in my right. I'm told I have about 3 or 4 years left probably before I'm totally deaf. I throw up randomly, and get undescribably intense spinning/dizzy sessions lasting sometimes up to half an hour or more. Obviously, I have to be very careful of any impending signs, because I don't get a lot of warning, 30 seconds to a minute or two maybe. I always drive in the curb lane now in case I have to pull over in a hurry. I'd rather not have to do this, but I do. I'm not, and never have been, very strong physically. Up until now, I've blamed others for preventing me the opportunities, but that one's all my fault. I could have and can do something about it. I have never considered myself at all physically "attractive", but that's out of my hands and for others to judge. Besides, it's totally unimportant in the grand scheme of things. I even had the thought that if, for instance, teenagers laugh at me for wearing the wrong style of clothes for instance, at least they're laughing. That's gotta be good for something. .
That's my reality.
Can anyone spell L-O-O-K O-U-T F-O-R Y-O-U-R-S-E-L-F,
N-O O-N-E E-L-S-E W-I-L-L?
A political candidate can't use a single (truthful but not "political") word in his campaign (witness a week or so ago in Pennsylvania) without both the press and his opponent making it the major news item for a few days, not to mention that the word was sometimes intentionally and conveniently taken out of context to suit the speaker's needs. For God's sake, aren't there more important issues to deal with?
Peace, however you want to define or describe it, is an illusion, never be to be achieved, but, at best, hoped for by a few. Dreamers. Some people use their dreams as a motivator. I used to be one of those people, I think.
Suffering babies, and adults, will continue to be tortured and die in countries that we don't "control", not to mention the millions of our own citizens that we shamefully neglect while the politicians fly around the world for photo-ops and carefully pre-scripted meetings in multi-million dollar jets at our..MY...expense, spend TRILLIONS of our money....unaccounted for, largely....and I can't do a damn thing about it. I don't give a rat's ass anymore that you literally need to BUY political power now (witness the $18,000,000 (That's pronounced "million", folks) spent by Obama just for advertising in Pennsylvania recently....in a losing cause). Sure.....convincee me again what used to be a believable truth that "anyone can be President, son."
The following is one of the parts that I've debated long and hard including in this, partly explaining its delay in posting what will most likely be my final blog entry. I say that because it goes against everything I have tried to be, and am no longer willing (or perhaps selfish enough)to give the effort. But, perhaps out of selfishness, perhaps for that pat on the head, perhaps for balance in my life, I am going to give a partial list of things I've done and folks I've helped in the past.
You of course can put this list into any category you wish. The "new" me says it doesn't matter anymore to me what you think. Just what I think. Numero Uno. This is who I think I've been....who I've tried to be, at least. I am embarrassed, humiliated, shocked, appalled, disgusted, revolted, shamed by the price that three separate individuals have made me pay for my mistakes during this past year, but MUCH more significantly, for my life.The three are: David, Luc and Shane. They were the main driving factors beyhind my very serious attempt at suicide in February. I acknowledge that "the bad guys have won now, and I'm laying down my sword", but not at the expense of my life. No, that's mine to keep. They can take everything else.
The three "big" rip-offs that I suffered, endured and was totally and publically humiliated by during this past year, all the while being laughed at as a simpleton sucker undermined whatever fragile self-esteem I had built up.
1) David: The owner of the paint company who painted my house gave me a price, and after the job was complete, raised it by $2000, and asked for the extra "in cash". I knew as well as the next guy that he was simply avoiding taxes, and felt very uncomfortable doing it, but I did. I was a "mark" then. And I went against one of the few principles I've tried to lived by. I failed....knowingly and intentionally.
2) Luc: Two of the four kids that did the painting live very close by, and he, sometimes with one of his buddies, would come by every day for a toke. Simple-minded, pollyannic me believed him. I thought I could make a difference, slow and sure, with the kid. I truly thought I saw potential in him. I didn't discover till months later that he was just coming to also "help" himself to other things, mostly weed, to get him through the day, and that was the sole purpose of his visit. His friend, I found out, stole $100 among other things directly out of my wallet. I felt raped. Turns out, he laughs in my face and calls me a "sucker", adding that I am "exactly the type of easy sucker they prey on." Not an iota of remorse. I can't grasp that. And not a single penny reimbursed.
3) Shane: You all know about Shane. I posted a few vitriolic and negative entries awhile back when it became obvious he never had any intention of paying me back a dime of the several thousand I lent him. At his request, still being the simple-minded fool that I was, I acquiesced to his request and removed the blog entries that "offended" him. I got an e-mail from him directly after saying he would have a partial payment to me by Western Union by the Friday of that week, and was taking on extra assignments to make up the difference.
That has been the last I've heard from him, and if I recall, that was sometime back around Christmas, give or take.
One, okay....I made a bad judgement. Two....caution flag is up...be careful you don't go overboard here. Three....intolerable. Especially when perpetrated by someone who has "worked" their way into your kindnesses. For that, I say collectively, "Piss on all three of you".
There is another, more historical side, however. This is the part I find difficult, because it betrays the original intent, but I want those three assholes named above to understand what they've destroyed, if they're capable of it, which I sincerely doubt. IF not, just to clear my conscience, and put my "whole exisitence" out there, and not just the crap.
This will BY NO MEANS be a complete list, but certainly representative. Also, it will primarily consist of monetary help, even though I have offered far more of my time (read "life") than money.
-I have paid for the tuition and fees of three single moms to go through our two-year program when I was teaching, because I could easily see their potential for success, but they couldn't get past the budget part without working 3 jobs, etc.
-I lent/gave $5000 to a friend who was struggling with a primarily-seasonal business she was trying to get off the ground, intending to help get her through her first "dry spot" as she got established. Unfortunately, she went bankrupt.
-I have paid for the airline tickets for I-don't-know-how-many family members and relatives to attend things like weddings, funerals, etc, when they couldn't afford it themselves (mostly the college-age ones!)
-I have paid for four airline tickets to strangers on the net whose buddy/loved one was shipping out for Iraq much earlier than first expected, and wanted to see them for what literally could possibly be "one last time", but they simply couldn't afford it. Three of them, BTW, wrote me awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping tributes after the fact.
-I have given hundreds of dollars to panhandlers in the streets over the years (I'll never pass one up if I have any coinage at all...and we have a $2 coin here in Canada now!). Often, instead, I'll take them into a close-by burger joint and get them a salad and burger or whatever...probably the first decent food they've had in days, and listened to their stories. Mostly very sad, abused, neglected, alcoholic, but the occasional one that stirs the soul in a positive way. Some are getting to know me! Now, though, I'll cross the street to avoid them.
-When I was teaching (20 years) I used to drive cross-country in the summertime (3 days), pick up my Mom, and then we'd make the "family tour" of visits (Mom never learned to drive). When it was over, I'd have a 3-day trip alone back across the prairies. I never turned down a hitchhiker, no matter what they "looked like", as long as I had room in the car. And I Never let them out of the car without at least a $20.00 bill sticking out of their jeans pocket for emergencies, food, whatever, including my address and phone number, and a standing invitation if they were ever in my neck of the woods and need a place to stay over for the night, well.... I got "thank you" notes from lots of them over the years. Only one came to stay overnight, though.
-One, in particular (I found out a few days after I had picked him up) was a 14-year-old (he could have passed for 19 or 20!) was on parole, had a warrant out for his arrest, and just wanted to get out of the province (Ontario) as fast as possible. (I found all this out much later). He was a lad of few words, but he kept "changing" his destination as we moved further west, until finally, we reached my hometown, and his story came flooding out of him like Niagara Falls. I almost had the feeling that he had been "testing" me for a couple days to see if I was someone he could truly trust and confide in." It was one of the common, tragic, beaten-by-parents and thrown out on his own type story. (by now he was headed to an uncle on the coast). Long story short, I had the police check me, a group of "concerned parents" checked me out, I flew his Mom out to meet me and check out my house (and took her in to talk to my lawyer once. He asked her to leave briefly at the end of the session, and said simply to me "The best thing for that lad right now is to keep him as far away from her as possible." I flew his uncle from the west coast (who also was gay) to "see" if I was a threat...he committed suicide about 4 months later, I spent 3 hours with my lawyer discussing all the repercussions (for which he didn't charge me one red cent). The upshot of it all was I had his parole transferred here, I got him enrolled in school, and I guess (subliminally, probably) tried to treat him as the son I never was and knew I'd never have.
He paid me what I consider to be one of the greatest compliments of my life when he said to me one day at breakfast (we did a lot of talking at breakfast!);" You know what's different about you, Rick, from all the others who have tried to help me? You're the only one who's doing something because it's not your job to do it." Eventually, unfortunately, things soured past the point of redemption (he was making "bombs" and the like in my basement, was not taking school seriously (missed much more than he attended) set fires on neighbour's lawns, you get the picture. I know a leopard can't change spots overnight, but reluctantly I eventually decided that I couldn't handle him, and sent him back home. He kept in touch regularly by letter, with no sense of bitterness, but more of at least trying, until he ended up in Juvie Hall, and I haven't heard from him since. I was down visiting a few weeks after I sent him back, and he invited me around to their "new" house, but the door to one of the bathrooms was closed, and he said "We're not looking in there. That's where my uncle killed himself yesterday".
It was a great 4 or 5 months I had with him. Did I make any difference? Only he knows, but I doubt it. Is it worth the effort? My answer now is a resounding "NO!"
-I put up 12...count em....12 students from an International Baccalaureate school based in B.C. who were travelling across the country,in my house when they were on a tight budget to get back home to Europe!) My nephew attended the school many years ago now, and assured them they'd all be welcome....as they were, of course). (7 or 8 of them didn't speak very much English.
-I billeted 3 kids on the advance team for "Up With People" group a few years back because no one else wanted three guys for that length of time. One was from Germany, one Switzerland, and one Holland. I had them for 5 days, and could write an entire series of blogs just on that one experience, from white-water rafting and hot-air ballooning, to extensive community service, to helping an alcoholic fit his wheel chair in the trunk of a taxi on Whyte Avenue, a major thoroughfare here, with lots of unique shops and boutiques and cool drinking spots. As he was thanking them with a slur and a few tears, he mentioned it was his birthday and they instantly broke out singing an impromptu "Happy Birthday" right there. People just don't that sort of thing here...do they? After that, a bit of a crowd gathered, and there was about a half hour impromptu concert right on the sidewalk until the police sent us on our way because people were starting to stand in the street, causing a danger. (We went pubbing every night with a bunch of the other kids, and I think there were a dozen or so this particular night).
-I paid for the books of a college student so she could continue her dream of getting her diploma. I got an invitation a couple days ago to her graduation. Honours Role. President's List. Not too shabby.
-I have made anonymous donations to funds set up to help kids who lose both parents in a car accident, or donated unused furniture and clothing to families burned or flooded out of theirs, or "Coats for Kids" r any of the other places I can give "things" to.
-I never left my office at the end of the day while I was teaching (20 years) until there were no more students waiting to ask a question, or seek help of some sort (any sort!)
-I always had a year-end student party at my place for each class that I had taught that year.
-I have bought and paid for Christmas presents for families with kids, knowing they couldn't afford them on their own, and left them on their doorstep anonymously on Christmas Eve.
-A few weeks back, I donated $600 to "American Idol Gives Back", figuring I'd put my money where my mouth is and feed the starving kids in Africa. In the meantime I'd reduce my food budget by $50 a month for the next year. So, I won't eat out quite as often, and I'll have the occasional frozen pizza instead of fresh, or mac & cheese instead of grilled steak on the Bar-B-Q. Is that a sacrifice? To some, maybe. Not to me. I'm not going to let it. I understand what "grace" before a meal is for now. It has meaning. It has human significance.
Perhaps that is a list of some significance to some of you. It isn't to me. I have one simple reason for saying that. THINGS are replaceable. PEOPLE are not. I have a shortage of PEOPLE in my life, and it's almost over. That saddens me when I dwell on it.
So, am I changed person, or just a confused, manic/depressive who is letting off some frustrated steam? I think the long delay in publishing this post may help answer that question. Who truly knows?
It truly has been a pleasure communicating with you....all of you, and while I may be back sometime, I doubt it. Bless you in whatever way you consider to be the most important and significant way that one human can give another.