Sunday, October 31

second hand things (a Bloggers Unite post)

I‘ve mentioned before, in passing, that I was adopted. I’ve always known I was. I can’t remember ever having “a talk” with my parents about the fact that I was adopted – it was always just out there. I was never embarrassed about it; in fact I think I was a little proud in some ways. My folks emphasized how special I was to them; how other kids were born to their parents, but that they chose me.

I’ve also mentioned that my Mom, the one who raised me, who is my hero, was plagued by issues regarding depression and anxiety from way back before I met her. While she tragically comes by those issues honestly, there were dynamics in her marriage with my Dad that exacerbated them (but that’s a story for another day). What‘s relevant here is that I almost didn’t stay with them.

They adopted a little girl about six months after me too and, between all the pressure, and the issues, and my Mom’s propensity for breaking periodically, there was a time a month or so after they adopted my sister that was profoundly dark for her. She spent some time in the hospital and Child Services almost took us both away. In the end they judged that I had bonded and that the house was still safe for me, but that Mom just didn’t have the resources then to take care of two of us.

I was spared, but my sister – my all-too-briefly-known little sister – was taken away and placed with a different family.

If you’ve read the posts about my Mom, you know that wasn’t the whole story on her. She had reserves of awesomeness that were, as yet, untapped; deep, amazing wells of strength and perseverance that were and are inspiring to me. But then… well, at that point everyone did the best they could and I ended up being an only child.

I have to say that I liked being an only child. I seemed (and seem) to be hardwired for aloneness – I can be alone, happily, without being lonely (although I am also fiercely enamored of my close friends and love to be with them). And I always got spoiled come gift giving time. I got my own room by default, always got the cool electronics hand-me-downs. It was a good deal.

I had a profoundly dark patch from around fourteen to eighteen years of age. In the midst of it, thinking that maybe it had something to do with my adopted-ness (it didn’t, not really, but that’s also part of that different story for a different day), my Mom, with the very best of intentions, registered me with the Adoption Registry in my province of birth. It took ten years for anything to come of that due to the complexities of "closed" and "partially open" adoption policies, but eventually I received a letter from a Social Worker and was invited to start the process of reuniting with my birth mother. We both jumped through their hoops and rang their bells to prove that neither of us were psychotic revenge-monsters and, after a few months, we were invited to speak to each other directly.

Those of you who love the irony and serendipity that is inherent in life will enjoy this bit: After twenty-six years, after I’d moved 1600 kilometers (1000 miles) from the middle of Canada to the left coast when I was seven, and after my bio-Mom moved twice after birthing me, we ended up living forty-five minutes apart. She lived in the next town over from mine. We were neighbors.

Mine was an adoption-reuniting best-case scenario. I met my bio-Mom one morining, had coffee with her and talked for a few hours, and then she took me with her to pick up my youngest brother from school. Then we went back to her house for dinner and I met my middle brother, then twenty-three. I went from just Mom and me, two against the world, to a big, messy, fun family in around four hours. And it worked, seamlessly. We were family before any of us even had time to think about it much. And we are family.

And It blows me away.

It blows me away that they accepted me, the son/older brother that they always knew about (I come from honest Moms, both the bio- and the adopto-), but never knew. It blows me away that, after being an only child for so long, I got to be a big brother to my youngest brother, and even coach him in hockey. It blows me away that my middle brother and I, both adults when we met, are friends in only the way brothers can be. It blows me away that my two Moms became friends (even if Mom, adopto-Mom, doesn't always remember that part of the story these days) and that my whole, massive new family was able to spend a couple holiday seasons together. It blows me away that the little brother I met that day is getting married next spring, and that I get to be a part of it.

I am a very fortunate little camper.

It isn't always like this. I’ve known other adoptees that have reunited with their bio-folks as adults. Their stories don’t always turn out as well as mine did. Often, there’s a lot of ambiguity – some good things and some not so good. And sometimes there are chasms of hurt that cannot be bridged at all. Even in the modern age with open adoptions, modern psychology, resource groups and guide books, the human psyche is just a whimsical, complicated, infinitely inscrutable thing. Sometimes time does not heal all wounds.

But that isn’t just an adoption issue. It’s a life issue. We all get to reap the benefits of that axiom. We’re fickle, fragile things, we humans. But we’re also tough too, tougher than nails by far, and full of surprises. We survive horrid things, and experience beautiful ones. Sometimes they help us grow, and sometimes they hold us back, and that's true whether the moment is joyful or tragic. Ultimately, it’s about what we make of them, what we choose.

To me, that’s perhaps the most beautiful thing about this goofy, bass-ackwards ramble through the tall grass that we call life: We always have a choice, if not about the circumstances, then at least about our reaction to them. And it’s never, ever too late.

Adoption is under fire these days in many quarters, and some of the criticism is valid. When I was adopted everything was done through government agencies, and there was no profit motive involved. Today, too often, there are those who see a buck in everything, and will do utterly ugly and reprehensible things to make one. That’s a problem, and one that absolutely needs to be addressed. That’s part of what Adoption Awareness Month is about: Shining a light on the dark places and dealing with those who treat birth mothers, adoptive parents, and most importantly the children, as commodities and revenue sources only. That needs to change, but those are problems with the industry that’s grown out of what used to be a state-controlled institution, not with the principle that underlies what adoption actually is.

At its root, adoption is about loved children that are given up for all the right reasons. It’s about mothers that want nothing but the best for the lives growing in them, and about parents that cannot have their own children but who still want to provide love and experience the miracle and profound responsibility of raising a human being. It’s about life and love and choices - really, utterly fucking hard ones - being made for the very best of reasons.

And I’m in good, nose-bleed-inducing company here. Without adoption there might not have been a Steve Jobs, or a Marilyn Monroe, or a Malcolm X. Or at least not the versions we know. Adoption can be, should be, one of those things that can make us stronger; that reinforces everything that is best about the world; that reaffirms our faith in the goodness of people and our ability to drag redemption out of imperfect circumstances.

That’s what it’s about to me, anyway. That’s what it’s about to the people I know, birth-mothers like mine who have made sacrifices to provide life to little lives, and parents that have nurtured those lives with all the strength and dignity they have within them. That's what Adoption Awareness Month should be about - celebrating the love and hope and sacrifice and redemption.

I’m profoundly grateful to my bio-Mom for having the grace and strength to give me up when I was born. And you know how I feel about Mom, the one that adopted me (if not, go follow the links). They both gave me gifts that would qualify for Master Card commercial punch lines: Priceless. I have two incredible women that love me as their kid, and that makes me pretty fucking lucky. I get that, I really do.

November is Adoption Awareness Month. Now you know...


A friend, Kelsey Stewart, who I met through Bloggers Unite, tuned me into Adoption Awareness Month. She even wrote a book, The Best For You about her experience with adoption as a birth mother, and it’s pretty cool.

November is also NaNoWriMo, which you should go read about over at IBC in a guest post by the always spectacular Judy Clement Wall, who is also known as @jdistraction in Twitterland, and who fills her own blog, Zebra Sounds, with amazing things all the time.

Friday, October 29

Poetry #2 - wine and mosquitoes

wine and mosquitoes

in and amidst the slow, stuttering detritus of falling apart
i think of you
of summer days spent waving away mosquitoes
bottles of Syrah mourned joyously and resting in peace
and laughing until our faces ached

or the ephemeral elation of coaxing dissimilar butterflies
from the whispering cocoons of world-weary hearts

this crumbling mind wanders in raving gusts
to you
stumbles palsy-drunk into miasmic fantasies
of my hand brushing burnt-offering stone dust from your cheek
your lips chasing confusion from my temple in green whispering drafts

and of a path through tangled leaves
to a finite patio overlooking pregnant vineyards
a small, rusting table, two chairs, two glasses
the syncopated harmonies of laughter
and a lilac sunset among mosquitoes

c mdlockhart 2008

Wednesday, October 27

things that go 'boo'

In my opinion, The Amityville Horror (the 1979 classic, not the new one) was, by far and without the possibility of rebuttal, the scariest movie of all time.

Horror movie connoisseurs (of which I am not one) will undoubtedly be rising indignantly, even as I speak, with rebuttals, but I have already said "no rebuttals", so pipe down and take a seat. I’m not saying that it IS the scariest movie of all time; I’m saying it is IN MY OPINION. This leaves plenty of room for argument except in the little world that is me, so you can have your picks. Mine is sealed and delivered. Let me explain.

It isn’t the scariest because of the scary voices, or the room that filled with flies to chase off the priest, or the red room under the stairs, or James Brolin’s wild-haired, scraggly-bearded, fuzzy-eyed madman routine, or the ax, or “GET OUT!” None of that. Although, to my twelve-year old brain those were all pretty scary. No, the elements of plot and special effect and dramatic tension were only accomplices to my night terrors for weeks after seeing the classic fright-fest.

The real credit goes to my Mom.

You see, The Amityville Horror was a Restricted Movie. I’d gone to see it with my Big Brother, Trevor* (this is all post-parental split) who had, in his defense, not realized it was a Restricted-and-for-old-people-only movie, a fact that my Mom was apparently unaware of as well. They both knew it was a scary movie, but not how scary – so scary that only adults could view it safely. Moreover, to his credit, he was ready to turn tail and go bowling when he saw the rating at the ticket window. That would have been when I did the puppy-dog-eyes thing in combination with the don’t-crush-my-young-dreams-of-coolness thing with a side of the I-will-make-you-pay thing. I cajoled and convinced him that my mom wouldn’t mind (which was certainly true - she didn’t mind at all) and that I’d be fine (oh hell NO, I wasn’t). He signed the release and we went in.

The movie was scary. At least to me it was; Scarier than I’d anticipated for sure. but it didn't kill me. I jumped in my seat often and was thoroughly spooked, but it’s not like I cried or anything. When we left the theater I was buzzing with skittery energy, unnerved but trying to be cool about it. I was, after all, nearly thirteen, and I had been the one to convince Trevor that there should be Restricted Movie Watching.

Apparently my act was convincing. Convincing enough at the very least to make Trevor think it was a good idea to prolong the excitement.

I was quietly trying to hold myself together in the dark car, driving home on the dark road when the car weaved. I jumped a bit and braced my hand on the dash. Trevor chuckled and said, “Sorry ‘bout that”. Then we weaved again. I jumped again. No apology this time. I looked over at Trevor and he had this demented look on his face, all scrunched and bunched and leery-eyed. Then another weave. And finally, the coup de gras: An other-worldly voice that sounded like equal parts chains dragging on gravel and blood gurgling through massive fleshy rents started coming out of his mouth. My Big Brother’s mouth! This, along with a now-continual weaving from one side of the dark road to the other!

I’m trying to find the words… Imagine, if you will, the sound of an old, hand-cranked siren, beginning low and rising in volume and pitch. It mixes in a horrible harmony with the basso scratchy gargling coming from the thing that is now driving. Imagine, in concert with those sounds, my twelve-year old, gangly frame collapsing on itself, knees drawing up as I twisted, back towards my door, away from him, hands stretching out to fend off whatever demon had possessed (this cannot be stressed enough) MY BIG BROTHER! Finally, picture that cool effect where the wax heads of the Nazis at the End of Raiders of the Lost Ark melt so that the eyebrows and lids disappear and they are all eyeball just for a second.

That was me, sketchy to unhinged in three seconds flat. Trevor stopped immediately and, between uncontrollable guffaws, apologized with a degree of gusto that was admirable, if somewhat undermined by the aforementioned laughter. I think he felt bad the rest of the way home. I think my hyperventilation helped him feel bad, but that might be giving my discomfort undue credit.

By the time we pulled into my driveway I had mostly stopped breathing hard. I think there was even an attempt at macho bravado and some self-deprecating laughter: “Ha ha, I’m such a scardee-cat. You got me real good, mister,” was probably what I was hoping to get across. This to hide the “Ihateyou!Ihateyou!IHATEYOU!” that was actually running through my head.

Trevor offered to walk me to the front door, but I declined. Seriously, I think he was worried about me, but I wasn’t a) going to let him have the satisfaction of knowing I was almost out of my skin scared and, b) he was, at that moment, perhaps the last person I wanted in a position to be the benefactor of my trust, thank you very much.

I got out of the car and watched as he backed and turned, and then drove away. I turned back to the house.

The front light was on, but the rest of the house was dark. It was a late show too, you see, and it was comfortably after eleven. Late. And dark.

I let myself in quietly and left the light off, not wanting to wake Mom up. I took off my shoes so as to be even quieter. I stopped and steadied myself in the dark, rational me in an all-out war with irrational me to enforce calm and reason. I tip-toed down the hall past my bedroom, towards the bathroom at the end, so I could brush the popcorn, chocolate and pop off of my teeth. Everything was going to be all right. Everything was fine. I was home. It was all going to be just fine.

These are the lies we tell ourselves.

When Mom jumped out from around the corner I don’t think I actually jumped in response. I’m sure the story would be better with a jump, something instinctual and epic, perhaps including hitting my head on the ceiling I jumped so heroically. That didn’t happen. That would have required a degree of coordination that was altogether impossible for me at that point.

Rather, there was a general spasmodic herky-jerky, each leg wanting to move in a different direction at the same time, gravity and connective tissue making that somewhat impossible, arms also flying, completely without heed to what the other was trying to do, in opposite vectors. My eyes probably even looked opposite directions.

There may have been a shriek. Yes, yes, I’m quite sure about the shriek.

And then there was simply an implosion. I crumpled. There were tears of fear and a pathetic batting of arms as Mom, suddenly all too aware of how intense her little prank had been on my obviously fragile psyche, and also suddenly far more scary than I had ever possibly imagined Trevor to be, tried to console me.

I am reluctantly proud to say that there was no soiling of pants in any way. This is not repression; I am sure it is fact.

After a few minutes of inconsolable blubbering, and after I had shamed my mother away from me with accusatory glares and unspoken recriminations, I managed a Tim Conway shuffle into the bathroom on my spasming legs. When I came out the lights were on. Silently, my OWN MOTHER standing there and by now managing to both express profound sympathy and laugh at me at the same time, I trundled past her into my room.

I may have slammed the door indignantly.

I’m not proud of the slam, but then, really, what about the episode is there to inspire pride. I figure the slam was my small recompense.

*All names other than “Mom” have been changed to protect the identity of GUILTY PERSONS!

Sunday, October 24

Sunday Rant: Wikileaks, war and wistful thoughts

It’s been a weird week, one that’s seen me off my feed, out of sorts and definitely not in any kind of groove. It’s left me feeling decidedly… wistful. It is, I have to tell you, a strange frame of mind in which to approach a Sunday Rant.

Not that there was any shortage of things to rant about this week. The United States is in the stretch run to mid-term elections, a campaign dominated by polarities and focused on voter apathy and rabidity, depending on which way you look. Late charging Democrats trying to buck the trend of mid-term decline are thankful for ex-witches and blatant bigots and homophobes, but it’s a case of hoping that the other team is more effective at shooting themselves in the foot than it is of pushing for hope like we saw a couple years ago. It does not inspire.

The latter part of the week was dominated by Wikileaks latest offering, a dump of nearly 400,000 more Afghan war documents. And with that dump, in spite of all of its disturbing statistics and revelations, Julian Assange started tending again. Stories of the internal confusion and strife within Wikileaks seem to be more captivating in some ways than the people that have and are dying over there, or the apparently common blind eyes being turned away from the casual brutality of torture, or the masses of civilian deaths.

The torture aspect caught my eye, perhaps because it was a big story in Canada last winter heading into the Olympics when our Prime Minister prorogued to avoid the shitstorm of attention our government was receiving in regards to our own complicity in Afghan torture. Instead of doing the honorable thing, Harper called it quits and closed parliament then, essentially postponing democracy until the heat died down in an “I’m taking my toys and going home” display of fear and obfuscation.

NATO's complicity in torture was a story that swayed the UK media for a while in the spring as well, so the Wikileaks documents that detail American forces also glibly documenting and then ignoring case after case of Afghani forces abusing and torturing captives is hardly a surprise. This isn’t, after all, a problem typical of any one country on either side of the conflict – it’s systemic.

Which means it’s all of us.

It seems to me that half way through the last century we humans were reaching for the brass ring in some ways, heading into a period of conflict over social justice that would dominate much of the rest of the century, creating organizations like the U.N in an attempt to move past nationalism, away from the atrocities of the first half of the century, stretching towards, perhaps, a better version of ourselves. That’s a bit of romanticism, but there was a movement, a leaning.

Better minds than mine have observed that this might not have been so much an evolution as a reaction, however. Perhaps, they suggest, we weren’t so much leaning into the light and backing away from the abyss. Perhaps the horror of what we had done – twice in less that forty years – resulted in a global revulsion, and that it was our species’ defense mechanism reaction to pursue noble causes and ideals to prove we were not the monsters we appeared to be. “Look,” we were saying to ourselves according to this argument, “we are not so bad. We have learned our lessons and will now embrace those ‘better angels of our nature.’”

But in spite of all of those cenotaphs and the reminders, “lest we forget”, we do and have.

I find the simple fact of Wikileaks, it’s existence, to be a hopeful thing. In spite of the tendency of the main-stream to try to focus on Julian Assange, in spite of his apparent need to be what he calls a lightning rod, I prefer to focus on the organization itself and on what they are trying to accomplish. While the Pentagon and US Government are looking for ways to silence them, Daniel Ellsberg, famous leaker of the Pentagon Papers that so damaged the US campaign in Viet Nam, has applauded the latest dump. He said he’s been waiting for this for forty years.

We’ve all been waiting for this for forty years, and longer.

The Pentagon says these leaks are dangerous, that they undermine operations and put the lives of sources and assets at risk. (Aside: If the danger is so total and obvious, where are all of the stories confirming the assertion?) Assange argues that there is always a risk, but that Wikileaks has made every attempt to protect human lives, and that the cause of exposing military and government dishonesty, of forcing transparency, represents a goal that justifies what risk does exist. Is this a case of the ends actually justifying the means? Or is Assange simply making the same argument that our governments and military leaders do?

The Pentagon Papers revealed a level of government and military dishonesty in regards to Viet Nam that was massive enough to derail the American war effort there and end a useless war. The story here is the same. The dishonesty continues, and our governments strive to make heroes into villains in an effort to hide their own complicity and distract us from the truth.

This quote by Barry Lopez has confounded me in wonderful ways since I first stumbled upon it a year ago. I think it goes to the heart of the matter:

"How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one's culture but within oneself? If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light."

I find myself, in wistful fits like I’ve experienced this week, hoping like hell that we’ll reach a tipping point where more of us lean into the light than not, and where we’ll make choices proactively instead of reactively. Perhaps there will be collateral damage in that movement towards the light. Maybe it’s unavoidable that, in such a fucked up world, there’s no way to avoid breakage no matter how pure the intention, or how just the cause. Like Mr. Lopez says, it’s a paradox.

I remind myself that it’s the journey that counts, not the destination. It’s the leaning itself that is the goal. If we lean (I tell myself) then the light will come all on its own.

P.S. I know, not much of a rant. There was barely even any swearing. Sorry. I have more questions than answers (even more than usual) this week. But that’s not always a bad thing.

P.P.S. And this in late: One of the subjects of last week’s Rant, Alex Hundert, Canadian activist and dissident, was arrested again yesterday. The charges have not been made public.

Friday, October 22

Flash Fiction #1 - Is That It Then?

(It's my second week of creative Fridays. Eventually, I hope to try actually dipping my toes into the Flash Fiction Friday waters. For now I'll start slow and very short...)


"Is that it then?” He waited at the open door, hands at his sides, keys in hand.

“Yes, I think so. I think it is.”

She turned her head and looked out towards the sunset over the Pacific. Light flashed on the water, a glare catching just the right angle of the receding tide. She was blinded, blinking away sudden tears.

“I expected more.”

She wiped her cheek, turning back. “Really? Why would there be more? Isn’t that enough?”

“I suppose, but –“

“But what? It is what it is. That’s all that’s needed.”

“Fine, then.”


The breeze coming in off of the deck caught the door, as it often did, and slammed it shut behind him. She cringed. The sun was dipping quickly and she imagined the mythical hiss of it slouching into the water. A sad half-smile flickered over her face as she ran hand over swelling belly, sighing at the kick beneath her palm.

She surveyed the empty apartment searching for a thought, or a thread of a thought perhaps. His cap was on the sofa, forlorn. Beside the door, hanging on the hook, his jacket remained. Forgotten? Abandoned? She had no way of knowing. He would be cold without it.

Remembering, she whirled back in time to see the final glittering explosion of light as the sun disappeared. Blinded again, she reached for the table, found her phone. It rang in her hands.

His number. His picture. Him.

“Hey, I –” His voice, only less so, diminished by the distance.

“No, wait. I remembered something.”

“Me too.”

“You remembered too?”

“As soon as I drove away.”

She smiled, her eyes clearing as the room slowed.


“Of course, vanilla. And chocolate chips, right?”

“Yes.” She sighed. “Yes.”


(Don't be gentle. I'll take whatever you got.)

(P.S. To all you folk who show up, stop by, zip through, subscribe, follow, visit and comment: Thank you. No lies: I'd do it without you (because it must have out, yes?), but sharing is way better than not. So yeah, thanks...)

Wednesday, October 20

climbing (part one)

I love to climb. I will never be really good at it, but that’s fine. I don’t climb to be great: I climb to be better. I climb to be.

Ultimately, climbing is about the movement, the dance and magic of will versus gravity. It is touching a vertical wall with as little of you as possible, making it beautiful and powerful and rhythmic. And not falling. But more than not falling; it is tenacity, trust and autonomy, love and fear and courage.

At its best, climbing is a meditation. Attached to the wall, fingers stuffed into cracks or clinging to pockets and nubs that make golf balls seem enormous, and standing on edges the width of coins, the size of pimples, there is nothing else in the world. It all drifts away and what's left is the six square feet in front of you, and that beautiful dance.

Climbing is an impregnable bubble that holds the world at bay. There’s a reverse magnetism in it, an ineffable pushing away of everything that crowds and bumps and forces. When it’s good, there is no sound but the breath, no sensation but the touch of rough and soft surfaces and the internal sway and pitch of balance and counter-balance.

There isn’t any room for the world, crawling up a wall. If the world is there, you aren’t – you’re falling. And there are days like that, days when life can't be closed out and the simplest moves leave you panting or pealing off. But those days are rare. Mostly, just staring at the rock is enough to quicken the heart and stir the wind that clears away the riff-raff, the kipple.

What’s left are clean angularities; natural geometries and puzzles carved into rock and stone, muscles and bone and blood. On a good day it’s ballet. The pivot and sway, pull and friction – it’s effortless, or it looks that way, feels that way.

When it’s done, make no mistake, there is exhaustion and shuddering breaths and hands shaking on the steering wheel driving home.

But it doesn’t feel like it on the wall, the wind blowing softly and the ground receding by inches. On the wall it’s just you and the ageless stone, a connection formed between fingers and toes and something indescribable. Like being plugged into a timeless energy, as stuck to it as it is to you. Welded to the earth and yet fluid. Climbing is like scaling a Telsa coil.

Climbing is submission and assertion, a giving and taking with the stone that is – must be – equal and complete. It is kinetic poetry, the wheel of thought and action flowing so quickly that it blurs. If success is measured by completion, then that completion only comes through symbiosis. It cannot be conquered, the rock. But it can be shared – it can share. And in the afterglow of that conjoining everything smells stronger, tastes better, feels more pure. Everything takes on a clarity that is heartbreaking and affirming.

It is impossible to not smile at the top of a climb. And often, there are tears. They are in honor of the effort and the grace, the fear and courage, and the sheer beauty of being present, truly present, if only for the time it takes to touch the stone and then walk away.

Sunday, October 17

Sunday Rant: on dissidents, criminals and Nobel awards

The Real News published this story on Saturday about Canadian activist Alex Hundert’s ongoing battle for the right to speak in the wake of the G20 debacle in June. Hundert has been an activist, and a voluble one, for many years. Watch the video to get a bigger picture of who he is and what he stands for.

He was arrested back in June in anticipation of the G20 in Toronto, preemptively targeted as one of many activist leaders in a blatant attempt to shut down protests. This, of course, didn’t work. Activists are an anarchistic lot, and while leaders do exist, their role is less to organize than to galvanize, and the dissent goes on with or without them.

This isn't just a Canadian trend. The current criminalization of dissent applies in the US too, where activists have been being rounded up, just like in Canada, while engaging in such subversive acts as questioning policy on LBGT rights, DADT repeal, the use of torture, and America’s ongoing (never-ending) war efforts. Just as it’s happening in Europe and Russia and Israel, all supposedly democratic, developed bastions of human rights.

One of the conditions of Hundert’s original $100,000 bail was to not participate in protests, so he didn’t, in spite of being a fairly obviously infringement of his right to free speech. Then he participated in a panel discussion in a lecture hall, at a university, as an invited speaker, inside, without signs, with an “I want to be here” audience.

Naturally, he was arrested for breach of bail conditions. Apparently a panel discussion is now the equivalent of a protest.

Hundert was just released, after another four weeks in custody, with an additional, coerced condition on his bail, one that makes not participating in protests seem mild in comparison. The new condition precludes him from any public discussion of his political views. A complete public gag order. He might as well be in jail, which is where he was going to stay rather than acquiesce, but they literally threatened him with solitary confinement for the duration if he didn't sign off on the condition.

Offended yet?

Meanwhile, another much more popular story this last week was the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Liu Xiaobo of China, another dissident and activist, a proponent of peaceful, non-violent dissent, a participant in the Tiananmen Square protests and a co-author of the Charter 08 document in support of democracy and civil rights in China. For writing and signing that document he was arrested, convicted of subversion of the government, and sentenced to eleven years in prison.

Except for the Chinese government, the award is applauded. The Chinese Government’s reaction (calling the award antithetical to the mandate of the Nobel Peace Prize and reaffirming their stance that Liu is a criminal) was universally frowned upon as the pathetic attempt at spin and propaganda that it is.

On October 8th, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulated Liu and joined the chorus of world leaders asking China to review Liu’s imprisonment. This was the same day that Hundert was found to be in breach of his ‘no-demonstration’ bail condition.

I guess the lesson here is that dissent in China is noble, but in Canada, the US or the rest of the “developed world”, it’s just criminal.

The hypocrisy is fucking nauseating.

This seems to clearly fall into the “we’re going to look back on this and feel pretty stupid” category. I’ve talked about this before, about our social myopia when it comes to doing the most convenient thing now while ignoring the consequences (and the irony).

So, while the world applauds Mr. Liu’s Nobel (appropriately), and he enjoys it from his cell, the Canadian dissident Alex Hundert will be appealing the coerced condition of his bail denying him free speech. He’ll do it in a month, the earliest opportunity that the law allows.

Until then he'll essentially be under house arrest, his dissident thoughts locked and ankle-braceleted inside his head, away from the flaccid, apathetic ears and minds of the Canadian public. Just as Mr. Liu is closeted away, all reference to his award banned and scoured from the Chinese internet.

But that’s the way we like it, right? If only those trouble makers would stay quiet, we seem to believe, it’d be so much easier to go about doing the bigger-better-faster-more thing, accumulating our toys and our debt, making the fat politicians and greedy capitalists happy and rich. That’s the way we do it in the developed world, right? Like in China.

You want a quote? Here’s one:

How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think. - Adolf Hitler

Maybe it’s time we did more thinking.

(P.S. Micheal Bérubé shut down American Airspace this week. This makes me very sad for he is a great thinker and his blog was a wonderful experience. His last post is here.)

Friday, October 15

Poetry #1 - and now for something completely different

(There was a promise, and I'm still stupid busy, and it's a thing, so here: It's a poem I wrote about seven years ago at right around this time of year. Sharing my poetry isn't something I do much. Yes, I'm that lazy...)

aching to be born also

i watched an umber leaf
tumble and spin
cradling the newborn mewling breath
of a wind, air
born of a planetary dance
in golden faltering light
amongst elephantine stalks
of a slower life
measured by the lurch and sway
of a slouching, stalking history

beneath a ceiling of exquisite
cerulean pain
leaf danced and played coy with the mottled light
and your hand
all to the chiming innuendo of your voice

dancing ended, bows were made
the cradling of the wind
as leaf and hand

then you were the leaf
cradling a fragrant breath
that air born of the planet's waltz
had gifted you

and your smile burnt all my world away

in that vanishing moment
i remember
i remember
aching to be born also
to dance against the end worm gyration of the world
and be the leaf within your grasp

c mdlockhart 2003

(Happy weekend, fellow travelers. Go play in some leaves...)

Tuesday, October 12

the day the life-inversion started...

(I'm really busy this week. Stupid busy. So I'm taking a shortcut today and re-posting something. Technically, considering that I didn't post it here, it's new. At least to here, it is.)

My very first blog post wasn't on a blog, per se. At the end of February, 2009, I made a choice. A big one. I felt so good about it that, sans blog, I posted it as a Facebook note. One day I may grow up and migrate everything to a fancy blog-site with pages and stuff. Until then, I thought I would save this for posterity.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

I quit my job today...

The scariest part of any climb, for me, isn't going up or coming down. It's that moment in between when you have to lean back and trust the rope and let gravity have it's way. When you let go and just hang there. I've been on the edge for months now, clinging to the lip, afraid to let go. Today I finally leaned back all the way.

It's a good feeling, overcoming that little fear in the pit of your stomach and fully leaning back into the rappel. You never really know until you do it whether the rope will hold you, no matter how careful you are, so the trusting is like a small victory. It's the commitment that feels good -- knowing there's no going back and doing it anyway.

It was a long time coming, the letting go, certainly longer even than the two years I worked at River Cree. I'd be lying though if I tried to say that RC didn't make the decision that much easier, or that it didn't expedite the process. It would also be tempting to say that I quit in response to my boss being fired, but that also would be a lie. It may have affected the timing, but not the decision; That one was already in the bag.

I've had problems with the casino industry for a long while, and made a promise to myself back in 2004 that I'd be out of gaming within five years. I promised myself I'd finally write that novel I'd wanted to write for forever. I promised myself I'd do something better. Until the last six months I thought I'd be breaking that promise, but here I am. I guess somebody or something was watching.

I am finally and fully disenchanted with everything that makes a corporation tic: The disingenuous leadership practices; the ties; the duplicitous peer interactions; the utter lack of concern for the well being of employees; the legally-mandated disregard for everything except the bottom line; all of it. All of these things make me more than a little queasy now, and every day spent having to make compromises to get the job done in even the best work cultures felt like a day lost. RC exemplifies the worst of these characteristics in every way I can think of, so my experience there amplified my profound sense of unease and dissonance. Right now, sitting here, I'm fucking thrilled to be free of the morass of ineffective leadership that typified my experience at RC. Absofuckinglutely thrilled.

But there are drawbacks to leaving without notice as I felt compelled (released?) to do today. The worst is not being able to say goodbye to all of the truly terrific people that work there who didn't happen to be handy this afternoon. I wish I hadn't made people go in on their day off. I wish I hadn't messed the schedule up. I wish I'd had the chance to speak to everyone that I respected and appreciated, to say thanks and goodbye, but that didn't happen.

That said, I'm still glad that I'm gone.

I appreciate everything that the last nine years has taught me, about the world, business and me. I appreciate knowing that I'm off to a better whatever, and that the worst day after today will still be better than the best day I spent making compromises. Even more, I appreciate getting out alive and truly understanding how much that world simply doesn't fit for me: How uncomfortable it felt, like a cheap suit or a tie.

I like an adventure, and turning my world inside-out like I plan to do over the next few months or years will qualify nicely. I'm feeling excited as much as anything else, like everything is about to get scarier and shinier at the same time. I told my brother today that turning my frown upside down seemed like too much work, so I thought I'd try inverting my life instead. This is my life-inversion. This kind of change can be damned fun.

I will not, will not, miss the ties.

(Thanks for joining me in this jaunt down memory lane. I'd love to hear your life-inversion story if you have one you want to share. If the world doesn't end, I promised a friend that I'd *gulp* post a poem later this week as another escape from writing a new post. I guess it would be a bit histrionic to wish for the end of the world, yeah?)

Sunday, October 10

my lack of empathy: on laws and DUI's and the loss of profits

There’s a new law here in BC. It lowers the legally acceptable blood-alcohol level for drivers of motor vehicles from 0.08% to 0.05%, gives police more authority to require breathalyzer tests and, in the absence of compliance or the failure of the test, impound cars, suspend licenses and give tickets. Even refusing a breathalyzer is now an offence. It’s making a big stir.

Why, you ask? I mean, it’s only 0.03% difference, isn’t it?

Yes, but that difference translates into an actual, practical difference when it comes to managing one’s state of impairment in anticipation of driving home from the restaurant or club or pub or casino. 0.05% means that, to be legal, we could have one drink with dinner, and then only if we wait half an hour or so after finishing it before we get in the car to drive home.

This difference has many restaurant, bar and pub owners up in arms. Apparently, this is going to hurt profits in a big, big way. The government, it is argued, has just impinged on the right to make money. Revenues will suffer. Jobs will be lost. It’s not fair.

Imagine my ambivalence.

Don’t get me wrong: Where people actually will lose jobs, I understand the stress and complication that eventuality will cause. I’m all for employment.

And I have nothing in particular against business owners making their profits…

(…even if I also think that most of them could do better things with said profits than get fat and own Hummers from which they phone into the radio station to complain about their lost revenue due to new blood-alcohol level laws in direct contravention of the other BC law that prohibits the use of handheld electronic devices while they drive.)

It’s just that I don’t see a real downside to this law that can be argued without said arguments making us all look like real dicks. (Because, remember, there is no ‘them’; there is only ‘us’.)

Here’s the thing: Laws are society’s way of managing the behavior of those of us who don’t care enough about our neighbors to do the right thing. If we were all reasonable, intelligent, compassionate human beings, then we wouldn’t generally need many laws. Pretty much every religion/belief system/philosophy recognizes the simple validity of the golden rule (or a version thereof): Act towards those around you in the manner that you would have those around you act to you. In “I-learned-everything-I-need-to-know-about-life-in-kindergarten” terms, this means that we should all play nice in the sandbox. If everyone could do that – hell, if even almost everyone could do that – there would be fewer laws. Common sense and empathy would prevail.

But we aren’t all reasonable, intelligent, compassionate human beings, so we need negative reinforcement to encourage us to play nice. We need the looming, impending doom of the law to try to keep our baser instincts in check.

And in this case, the law has been changed because too many of us bent or simply ignored the previous law. We did it when we didn’t imbibe responsibly. We did it when we over-served without giving a fuck. We did it when we didn’t take keys away and make people take taxis.

For the record, I’m guilty of all three charges. I got away with it. I know people though, people that weren’t so lucky.

And people will try to bend and ignore this law too. We’ll drink too much, get behind the wheel of our cars and trucks, and then we’ll drive, sometimes home, sometimes to other places for more drinks, sometimes to other people’s homes where various lascivious acts may or may not take place. Many of us will get away with it.

But some will not. Some will be caught. We’ll lose our cars and have our licenses suspended. We may even face jail time. It will be inconvenient for those of us that get caught. Life changing.

Some will have our lives changed in a different way. We’ll be the drivers, passengers, and innocent bystanders. We’ll be counted among the injured, the paralyzed, and the dead.

For families and friends, it will have everything to do with absences – lonely visits to graves, terrifying anniversaries, and gaping, monstrous, bleeding voids in our lives that will never, ever completely heal.

In time, the number of those that think we can bend or break the law will diminish because of those of us that try and fail. In time, the law might make a real difference. Not soon enough, but in time.

So if my compassion for those of us who make our livings selling alcohol is somewhat restrained, you’ll understand why: That inconvenience is somewhat minor compared to those of us that will be injured, or die, or remain behind after someone we love is killed. That inconvenience, in the face of all the suffering, is simply selfishness.

My apologies, forgive my lack of empathy.

Thursday, October 7

all these moments will be...*

So my dear Mom, fresh back from a road trip with her BFF (she's feeling that good these days - modern medicine has its virtues) is telling me about all the friends she was able to see at the holiday trailer in Harrison. One of them, Jane**, a woman about her age, is apparently having some memory issues herself.

Not able to remember that she, too, was feeling pretty anxious about it herself up until 4 weeks and new meds ago, she says, "And poor Jane, she's having such a hard time with it." She smiles and laughs like Jane is somehow just missing the point and I have no heart to bring up people-in-glass-houses truisms.

"She's so embarrassed by it," says she, my indestructible Mom. "It's like she can't just live in the moment." She makes a pompous face; chin in, shoulders back. "She takes it all so seriously!"

We laugh, because it's funny (not Jane's anxiety - I know, even Mom knows, that it's not especially a laughing matter - but the delivery and expression are perfection) and also because it's just great to hear her laugh.

Then she gets serious. "I just wish that I didn't feel so guilty."

I shake my head. The change of direction is kind of stunning. "Guilty?" I say. "What about?"

Her face scrunches, my fragile Mom, equal parts sorrow and confusion. "Oh, all the things. Your Dad. Everything. I'm so worried that God won't forgive me even though I ask. Every night."

This both breaks my heart a bit, and raises my gorge. Of all the people.... It's just wrong.

The god issue is one we rarely discuss. She knows my thoughts are... eclectic. She was raised Mennonite Brethren - strictly hellfire and damnation. Her utterly illogical and overwhelming guilt, and the institutions capable of using it so carelessly and intentionally, are a big part of the "why" of my eclectic agnosticism. Guilt was injected into her DNA at a young age and we haven't found an effective gene therapy for it yet.

Somehow, I seem to have escaped permanent infection. Maybe it's because I was adopted.

"Mom, don't you think that a god worth believing in, a god that would die for you, would have heard and delivered the first time you asked?"

We've had this talk before, and she's heard it in her heart before - where truth really rests - but like so many things now, it requires re-visitation.

She smiles, remembering, like a star peeking out of the twilight. "Yes, I know. I suppose He would. It's just so hard sometimes. To remember that. You know?"

"I know," I say. "But it's worth remembering. Let's make a post-it and put in on the computer. You can remind yourself every time you sit to play Spider Solitaire."

She gives me that look, very serious like when she used to tell the teenage me that smoking was bad. "That's a great idea. I'll see it every time I e-mail you too."

"That you will. Any idea where your Post-it's are?"

"Oh, I just saw them earlier. Now where did I put them...?" There's a pause and she looks around her, lost. Forlorn.

And she pulls them out of her little emergency bag. Presto. Haha, the jokes on me. And we laugh.

* Extra awesome points if you can name the movie this fragment of dialog came from.
** All names except "Mom" are fictionalized. Everything else, as best as I wish to put it back together, is pretty much true.

Monday, October 4

trust your friends

A brilliant friend of mine, Judy Clemet Wall, posted a beautiful blog earlier today chronicling the Ten Things She’d Do if she could. She’s a wonderful writer and just reading her list was (and is) inspiring. When you’re done here and have left a comment, I’d highly recommend popping over to Zebra Sounds ,checking it out and giving her a follow.

One of her ten things, a truly remarkable and beautiful thing, was this:

“I’d loan my eyes to some people I love so they could see how beautiful they are.”

I know. Fucking awesome, isn’t it?

That item informed a brief online conversation about wishing that we could actually do that; share in some fundamental, elemental way how much we appreciated certain people so that they could, in essence, see themselves as we see them, as we love them, as we appreciate them. It would be an inestimable gift to be able to express our respect and love that clearly, on demand, and shoot it out when it was most needed like a love missile.

No… dirty, dirty… not that kind of love missile. A deeply honest, positive regard smartbomb kind of missile.

And then I had this thought:

What if we tried seeing ourselves as others saw us once and a while, not assuming the worst (as is usually my inclination), but instead seeing the best? You know, actually believing the things that people say to encourage us instead of just brushing them off in some sort of ode to humility.

How many people do you know that have heard and ignored the same, consistent advice and encouragement from their friends and then, like a bolt out of a clear blue sky, finally get it when they hear the same advice from a therapist, or a counselor, or a book, or even on Oprah, ferchrissakes.

Yeah, you’re nodding your head now. I know. Me too. We’re way to willing to accept negative opinions from anywhere, and way to slow to accept positive ones from the people we trust most. Tell me how that makes sense.

This isn’t a self-affirmation thing. I’m not suggesting that you are a precious and unique snowflake. I’m not talking about flowery expressions of positive self-regard here. I’m not telling you to say nice things to yourself or apply the law of attraction. This isn’t about giving your self a hug or creating a self-realization mantra and saying it three times before your next job interview.

I just wonder what it would look like if we stopped once and a while, really stopped dead still, and then saw ourselves through the eyes of the people that care most for us. There’d be some honest, realistic critical observation in that view, sure, but I think we’d also be struck dumb. I think we’d have to just sit down and weep for the overwhelming joy of the love we’d feel. I think it would break us in the most complete and wonderful ways.

So here’s a thought exercise: Try to remember the last few compliments you’ve received from people you respect, admire, love and/or trust. Make them into a sentence about yourself. Like this:

“I am pretty, sensitive and I write like a motherfucker.” *


“I am strong, punctual and I work harder than anyone my friends know.” *


“I am creative, have great hands and am profoundly empathic.” *

Whatever…Do it. I dare ya.

And when you have your sentence of compliments, think about it. You don’t have to repeat it to yourself. Just think about it. Just stop… and think about it. Let it settle on you. Accept that your friends or family or boss actually think that about you, think you're pretty fucking wonderful in your own inimitable way. They sit alone sometimes and think, like Judy does, like you do about those you love, “I wish I could give them my eyes so they could see how beautiful they are.”

Thanks Judy. You’re amazing.

* These are not necessarily autobiographical in any way.