Sunday, January 30

the more things change…

…the more they stay the same. No? Maybe? Definitely? Discuss.

Friends were over for dinner Wednesday night for my birthday. One is a high school English and History teacher and, after talking about her kids and some of the brilliant and not-so-brilliant things they do, and her 50-hours-to-construct wall collage commemorating the Holocaust (it was her thesis – she’s an expert, a really real one), and how she is rarely tempted to violence but feels so inclined when one of the kids leans on “her wall”, she asked me if I’d be interested in joining her class one day during their creative writing module.

I raised an eyebrow, Spock-like, said sure, and the conversation carried on. But my mind stayed right there. Later on, before she left, it came up again and I said I was actually kind of juiced about it. She said cool and that we’d touch base when the time got closer.

Thing was, I was juiced. Juiced enough that, before I went to sleep, I even managed to brag to a friend online. The next morning she replied with a gentle and kind needle/compliment about how excited I sounded, and how I usually don’t sound like that. She said,

“I like when you get excited about things. You don't express that emotion very often when you write to me. I feel your passion for writing and for being honest … but rarely do I see that more childlike giddy sort of excitement. … It looks good on you.”

I replied,

“I was always a generally un-silly person. Not that I wasn't silly in a general sense. I was very silly about very many serious things, but I mean not giddy and excited, I guess. I was always subdued, never a dancer, voted best brooder in my senior acting class. In a Peanuts play, I would be type-cast as Charlie AND Linus.”

which would all be generally true, but it made me think. I thought about whether we really change or whether we just become more who we always were, with differentiation dependant upon variation in moral position.

Did my early nature and nurture result in a seriousness so ingrained that I was destined to be a brooder? Was there a Robert Frost moment somewhere back in my toddler days when I might have zigged instead of zagged and ended up being a class clown, or dancing fiend, or generally giddy person?

I was watching Zeitgeist: Moving Forward last night. It’s a doc-style film making a specific point, so it’s an echo-chamber, as much propaganda as information – I get that – yet many of the points are compelling. 

One of the points, a point that Noam Chomsky and George Carlin both make, is that the parameters of debate in the modern world are almost always set before the debate begins; that we never really get to talk about truly revolutionary ideas – one that could change everything – because the people who control the dialog and narrative don’t want us to talk about those things.

The other point that pricked me was how little of human life is actually immutable; how we’ve been convinced that everything is genetic and fated and just the way it is, and how little control we actually have; and how that isn't the truth The truth is that, even with genetics, the vast majority of it boils down to predisposition rather than predestination. Even if our code contains a predisposition to develop diabetes or cancer or broodiness or giddiness, it is absolutely not a predestination.

I didn’t have to be the sad clown. I could have been the goof, life of the party, dancer extraordinaire.  I still could – I believe that it’s never too late. Hell, I might have been predisposed to giddiness – the dogs can bring it out of me in a second – and was just detoured somewhere between Mom’s depression and Dad’s intellect.

But I don’t think so. I think my predisposition was to a morose, serious disposition, and I marched faithfully on that path from a very young age. I was always worried about being too silly and looking foolish. When Pearl Jam’s Evenflow came out, my heart strings twanged at the line “When he’s happy, he looks insane”. I think part of me was worried that Mom’s issues were potentially catching and that I had to stay sober to avoid presenting symptoms.

The proverb about pride going before the fall always echoes around in my head too, and I literally catch myself preempting too many giddy feelings at times for fear that I’m getting proud and will soon fall. I think that’s kind of sad, like I have a short-circuit, or allergies to giddyness – a too-robust, fear-of-pride immune system.

But I was never actually predestined to be anything. Just like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, there ain’t no such thing. Which means; I could change it if I wanted. Which means; I don't have to change if I'm good with who I am.

There’s a bad psychology joke: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change.

I’ve decided that the lights above the mirror are the most important – the ones that illuminate us to and for ourselves – and that the truth we see in ourselves is more important than any thousand-candle spotlight or the shiny half-truths that other think they see.

So yeah, the opportunity to go to a high school English class and talk about creativity and writing does make me a bit giddy. If I was giddy all the time, it wouldn’t be as fun to feel like this. I may not have profound highs, but I also left behind the profound lows I used to feel. Fair trade in my books.

I’ll leave my dancing shoes on the metaphorical shelf then and stay the course for now. And if the time comes when learning how to dance seems appropriate, I’ll do what I always do – shuffle around for a while, then swallow and jump.

P.S. Yes, that was all over the place. That’s just the way it was this week, and I loved it.

P.P.S (Like this post isn’t long enough already.) There was a fascinating discussion regarding kindness and empathy on CBC Radio’s Tapestry today with UC Berkeley Professor of Psychology, Dr. Dascher Keltner. I think I’ll post on it in more depth, but if you follow the link, there’s another link to the podcast. It’s worth listening to.

Thursday, January 27

poetry #4 - love at altitude

© mdlockhart 2009

it is not wisps of peony light filtered through
amber-hazed breezes of spring pollen
singing the night into being

nor the swollen burning glow of sun being drowned
in the hissing embrace of a tropical sea
the gasps and shudders
of requited passion
or the sigh of virginal stars
chasing the red, failing light into the west
beneath clouds cavorting in the jet stream

not wind through the pregnant sails of the forest
gloaming’s shadow over the verdant pulp of the earth’s womb
all to a percussion of crickets
and a chorus of flying hums

it is mine though

hard and glaring
cold as the heavy sky
looming and foreboding as granite walls
forced into contrasts of bawdy white and grey
weighty with ice and fertile snow
frigid, insistent

endless crease and frozen undulation
the stare of somnolent silver eyes
a forever-white, ocean deep and unforgiving                        
cracked and wrinkled, dry and glazed over

yes, mine, and beautiful to me

© mdlockhart 2009

lest we forget (A Bloggers Unite post)

Today, January 27, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day it is imperative to remember. This is a Bloggers Unite post.

The date itself was chosen by the UN as it marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945.

During World War Two one sub-demographic of a culture, a group in a position of extreme power, utterly dehumanized another cultural group to the most extreme degree. That example of bigotry and prejudice now lives in infamy as an ultimate twentieth century example of man's inhumanity to man.

The point of this day of remembrance is to sear into our memory the vivid, horrid example of that inhumanity, to remember the millions of lives lost due to an utter failure of empathy, and to pay them respect. To me, it is also about remembering that it was and is not an isolated incident; that we continue to perpetrate acts of genocide upon each other today in parts of the world; that we have not learned the lesson well enough yet.

Empathy is not culturally specific. It is not a light switch that can be turned off and on depending upon who it is we are talking about, or which cultural group we are referring to. Empathy requires that we see all humans as equal and valid, and apply the same measure of respect and/or outrage to each situation regardless of who oppresses, or who is oppressed.

This is the lesson: That all life is precious; that no life is less valuable than any other; that when we drift towards a belief that a group of people are less valuable or worthy of life than another, then we are drifting towards genocide; that, in doing so, we lose ourselves; and that to remain silent is tantamount to doing it ourselves.

Respecting those who suffered and died in the Holocaust requires respecting all peoples, especially in defense of those oppressed by a power that does not recognize this fundamental lesson – that we are all human, and all worthy.

"Denying historical facts, especially on such an important subject as the Holocaust, is just not acceptable. Nor is it acceptable to call for the elimination of any State or people. I would like to see this fundamental principle respected both in rhetoric and in practice by all the members of the international community."

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Press Conference SG/2120, 14 December 2006

Tuesday, January 25

locus of control

I remember in psych 101 talking about locus of control, how our lives could be diagramed as circles of influence and how, no matter how large the circle was, it was where the locus of control was situated – inside or outside that circle – that had the most impact on our sense of self-esteem and happiness.

The life inversion was about walking away from a large circle of influence. I no longer manage a staff of forty-odd people, or oversee million dollar budgets and revenue streams, or get to go on TV and do interviews, or do guest articles in Canadian poker magazines. But when I did, although the circle was large, the locus of control usually felt like it was firmly located just right around the edge of the circle, sometimes just inside, usually out.

And I was miserable.

We were standing outside at work the other night, smoking in the cold, and a woman was talking about her dentist. She said that he said (hearsay, I know, but I won’t be taking this to court) that he considered casino workers to be tough people. Apparently they don’t bitch as much about their pain as regular folk do and he’d decided that we must be made out of sterner stuff.

I wanted to suggest that he come spend a few minutes in our break room if he ever wanted to hear some serious whining, but thought better of it – I’m the new guy after all.

Somebody said, “Maybe it’s because we’re already numb.”

The storyteller laughed and said, “Yeah, we’re all dead inside already.”

Everyone laughed at that one. Gallows humor. Laughing at shadows to chase them away.

My circle is now pretty small. Inside of it with me are a triple handful or so of close friends and family, about a quarter of whom are in these digital environs, and whom I only know by the tone of their written words, and the honesty and fearlessness with which they write. I love my friends.

My locus of control now feels firmly within my circle. I choose my schedule, I set my agenda, I strive after things that I feel make me a better person and writer, I wrestle my demons, and I do it all on my own time, according to my priorities and integrity.

Even the casino feels like a choice now, not a sentence. I’ve finally answered the question, “So, are you planning on applying for management again?” with, “No way in hell”, enough times that people have stopped asking. I’m not a threat to their advancement aspirations, so I’m not a threat. I go, I deal cards, and then I leave.

I can see on their faces that they don’t get it. They’re working for a career, and making sure that their position is secure, and struggling to even approximate something akin to keeping up with the Joneses. They don’t really get the guy that’s just stopping in, as if I was just topping up the tank before I keep driving, because they feel stuck. It’s in their cynical voices, their scowls, their rolling eyes, and their disparaging commentary.

I feel bad for them, but only because I know what it feels like. Intimately. I remember.

It reminds me why I made my changes – why I’m making my changes. I’d rather be the only goldfish in a free pond than any shark in the ocean, fighting over scraps. I left that world, and love that I left it. I love that I don’t feel dead inside any more.


P.S. After the SOTU tonight, I tweeted, “I feel like I just drank a can of Coke Zero”. “Decaf, no-fat, no-whip mocha” could be a substitute. Was it just me, or was there no fiber and lots of filler? Was that a “Why bother” SOTU?

Sunday, January 23

an award by any other name…

Fair to say, thinking out loud has never been recognized for any awards. I get a quirky, giddy feeling every time I receive notification that someone has left a comment, and my stats are very humble, so the concept of an award is a bit confounding. S’okay, I’m good with staying humble.

This is not really an award, per se, unless you count chain mail awards, but it’s peer recognition from a guy, T Lance B (I know… very hip hop), who I know from twitter. He writes the great My Blog Can Beat up Your Blog and has one of the best attitudes about family, marriage and fatherhood that I’ve seen in the blogosphere.

Anyway, he sent me this:

and while stylish is not something I’ve aspired to since the life inversion, from him I’ll take it as a compliment.

As with all chain mail, even chain blog mail, this one has rules.

1. Thank and link back to the blogger who gave you the award (check)
2. Share 5 things about yourself (Lance, you bastard… see below)
3. Award 5 recently discovered great bloggers (I actually really like this part)
4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award 

To these I would add a fifth:

5. There are no rules. Do as you feel moved to.

On that note, we’ll scrap the five things about me. If you’ve been reading, you’ll have noticed that I don’t hold much back anyway if it’s in service to making a point or trying to be naked in some appropriate way. I’ll throw out one disclosure bone though just to lay the foundation for accountability, and toss in another that I feel comfortable sharing.

     A. I’ve smoked since I was thirteen. Not proud of it. Give me a month or so and I hope to have news on that front.
     ii. In the Pepsi Challenge, I prefer water.

For my five pay-it-forward prize recipients, I choose the following, probably in no particular order, with blog and Twitter linkage:
-          Judy Clement Wall writes the amazing Zebra Sounds blog. Her 2011 blog inspiration is called The Love Project. She is wonderfully obsessed with it. She's also a writer putting the finishing touches on her first lit fiction manuscript. We may have a bloggy crush on each other.
-          Paul Joseph discusses education, bullying, writing, and other worthwhile subjects at - wait for it - Paul Joseph Writes. He's working on his first YA manuscript, is passionate about all of the above subjects, and has an instinct for community and empathy that I find admirable.
-          Melissa Wolfe wrote and writes the amazing Finding Melissa blog, but has recently started a new one, No Such Thing As Never, part of an ongoing evolution that is absolutely worthy of notice, and worthwhile following. She's a fabulous writer and scribes with a passion and honesty that is inspiring and heartbreaking.
-          Annie Q Syed posts at - wait for it - Annie Q Syed. She is a literary writer with the heart of a poet. Her words are lyrical, inquisitive, and often ethereal. Often,her Still Sunday posts are like walking through a magic garden.
-          Michele Hush is the most recent discovery on my list. She writes the Divinipotent Daily blog (such a cool word)  with an astute mind and a massive heart on whatever moves her, from current events to poetry and everything in between.

I found it hard choosing. I adore a lot of blogs. For one reason or another, these ones stood out this week. 

Now I have a mass tweet to send...

Thursday, January 20

poetry #3 - portable wealth

(Because I mentioned it Monday)

portable wealth

pain, now
tends to make me smile 
more than not
i wear my scars with pride
i paid for them 
(as i love them)

each puckered pearl,
a lesson i am learning well
they are jewels of time
coarse reminders too often wished
(but better polished)
they shape us
like it or no
crystals taking on earthly hues
water stains angry on heavy paper 
covered with mad ramblings

and if they leak out
from time to time
rest and sparkle on a cheek
drip from a chin 
if there is an occasional blush
(a learned behavior, expected)
over simple things
(a thought, tree, injustice)
there is no shame, no regret

these are my riches 
carved into skin and heart
(bone and blood)
my portable wealth

copyright michael david lockhart 1997

Tuesday, January 18


This is a test of the Emergency Intense Debate commenting widget and CommentLuv plugin. This is not a really real post. In the event of a really real post the title would not be capitalized and there would be labels and I would not be so obviously frivolous (probably - don't hold me to that).

Seriously, I was just fed up with the boring, no bells, Blogger comment system and jealous of all my Wordpress friends with their fancy shit. So I checked out CommentLuv first and, from there (because they don't do a plug-in or widget for Blogger), hopped over to Intense Debate to install their comment widget so that I could then enable the CommentLuv option for the widget.

I am enabling this for new comments only, so all of your wonderful, pithy, erudite, and heart-warming comments to earlier posts will still be available in the archives. That is at least as much for me as for anyone else. But the new posts (like this one) should have cool new kaka where the old comments form used to be, with neat new bells like direct reply and the CommentLuv option showing a more embellished link to your last blog post if you want to include it.

If I did it right, I will feel aw gwowed up-ed. If it doesn't, then I will delete this post and disavow all knowledge of it.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, will be to comment with something whimsical about butterflies or mushrooms or wearing underwear normally reserved for the opposite gender. Subsequent commenters may, if they choose, make their own comments or test the direct reply functions. This post will be seen only by those who have subscribed in some way, as posting it to Twitter and Facebook would just make me feel dumb.

For inflicting my test upon you, dear faithful readers, I offer apologies and, because we're being all whimsical, a gift. A mystery gift (that may or may not be a copy of the novelty book I self-published thirteen years ago about the rules of the game of Punch-Buggy), which I will mail to you by old-fashioned means.

To enter:
  • Just test the comments features by commenting or responding;
  • Remember - butterflies, fungi, or underwear - no exceptions;
  • Extra points for all three (it will make no difference to the contest, but will engender my esteem). 
  • Not kidding, I really did self-publish said novelty book. 
  • You can joke about that in the comments-this is the only exception to the 'no exceptions' rule.  
The winner, to be chosen at random some time towards the end of the week, will be notified here (so check back on Sunday or something) and will have to provide a mailing address. It's okay, the doctor says I'm safe now.

Monday, January 17

that which does not kill us...

When I was 26 I was driving my motorcycle up the street, about two blocks from home, when a car missed a stop sign and T-boned me doing 55kmh (30mph for you imperial types). It changed the course of my life, as near-fatal accidents are wont to do.

And I will be forever grateful.

It was just an accident, one of those things. She was from out of town and lost, looking for the regional hospital, late for an appointment. It was bright and sunny. A big, white cube van was travelling in the opposite direction to me, on the side of the road from which she was coming, The van missed sparing me by about a foot, her car whizzing past its rear bumper, the light color of the van perhaps making it less visible to her searching, distracted eyes, the van hiding her from me until it was way too late.

In emergency I apparently told jokes while they prepped me for surgery, in between throwing up and passing out. I was a minor hospital celebrity for months. The surgery that day was the first of eleven over the next three years, some big, some smaller, some in my home town, some in Vancouver. I learned cool names for things: Acetabulum and trochanteric femur (neither of which should ever be shattered if at all possible), multiple compound fracture, osteomyolitis, Hoffman external fixator, Portacath central lines, hip-to-knee Mercedes incision. 

If you look real close, you can even read my name - don't tell them I stole the x-ray though
If you learn the lingo, the doctors pay more attention to you – take you seriously.

I learned much of the usual near-death stuff too: Life is short and fleeting and ridiculously precious; pain is temporary, and when it isn’t you can either let it make you mental or stronger, occasionally both; people handle tragedy and trauma different ways, but how they handle it doesn’t always tell the whole story about them.

For me alone, I learned that almost any amount of pain is better than to be made dumb by drugs. I could not wait to be off the morphine pump. I went from accident to T3’s in five days. The morphine stole my mind, and I could not forgive it that insult. That’s maybe just me though, I get that.

I learned that, while shit simply does not happen “for a reason”, we can impose reason on anything if we really want to. For me, the accident didn’t change much beyond the length of my left leg, my range of hip flexibility, and the parameters of possible strength for that leg. Everything else can be overcome. After the accident I took up climbing, martial arts, hockey (I play goal – I’m weak on the low glove side, but I compensate), and returned to writing. These things aren’t why the accident happened; They happened after it, in spite of it, to prove that the accident didn’t define who I would be.

If I was inclined to believe in that “a reason for all things” argument, the writing would be, possibly, the only circumstantial proof in support of it. I was forced to go back to school, to university, which I had skipped after high school. Uni led me back to writing. The return to school was the best thing to come out of the whole mess.

But whether you argue design or “shit happens”, it’s what we do with it that counts. It’s what happens after we wake up that defines us, not the accident or the injuries or the staples or the scars. They shape what happens, but we impose the reason and order and purpose and wildness and joy and everything else that is only a potential, the possibility of a possibility, when the trauma happens.

In this sense, trauma is much like waking up every day. We get to impose our spirit and will. Every. Fucking. Day.

I was reminded of this today when a Twitter friend informed me that she was creating a new blog and a new Twitter account. Melissa, my friend, is doing this because, in some fundamental way, she’s more now than the old account and blog can define all by themselves. She’s moving forward from a trauma that has shaped who she is, what her first blog and account were about, and onto new adventures and joys and frustrations and triumphs.

Her choice inspired me and made me smile.

I know other amazing people, both in RL and online who, like Melissa, have transcended far more serious injuries than mine, and who bear scars that run much deeper than my fleshly ones. They fight paralysis, or cancer, or traumas that make my broken bones and scars and really cool x-rays looks small in comparison. And still, they aspire and ascend and are beautiful doing it.

We all have scars; that’s just life. And... scars are beautiful in their own way. I call mine my "portable wealth".

We are not what has happened to us, as much as it may affect the path we take. We are who we choose to be, and who we will choose to become. Any time I doubt that, I check the scars and remember how far I’ve come from there. Or I see someone like Melissa and the amazing things she’s doing for herself and others.

The evidence is all around us. Nietzsche was right. 

Thursday, January 13

the conundrum of moral orienteering

On Saturday, when I heard about the Arizona shooting, I was writing this:

Who are you? I mean, if someone walked up to you at a party and asked, “Who are you, really?”, after you raised an eyebrow and maybe looked at your shoes for a second, what would you say?

The always sparkly Judy Clement Wall said this on her always delightful Friday List post:

I was wondering what would happen if we sought only meaningful connections. What if we tried, always, to see the person and not the title – neighbor, parent, cashier, waitress, mail carrier, homeless guy, child. Would it be exhausting to live like that? Would we long for the freedom of not really caring? Would we crave superficial conversation, goodbyes that don’t hurt? Or would we feel alive, surrounded by love, connected to each other in a big, beautiful, messy human tapestry, each of us a piece of the breathtaking whole?

I responded with this:

I hate how, so often, we ask what people do instead of asking who they are. I hate that, just as often, when someone inquires about who we are, we answer by saying what we do. I am not what I do. I am me, more than the sum of my actions.

And then I heard about a supermarket parking lot in a warm place and thought about little else all week.. There were long stretches of soul searching, periods of despondency, frustration, anger, a couple arguments with people I generally respect, and a relapse of the cold brought on by too many sleepless nights. Yesterday I crashed and slept for thirty out of thirty-four hours, so I guess I needed it.

The arguments centered on whether this was a time for recriminations or reparations, division or peace. I find the blame game incredibly frustrating right now, and appreciated that Mr. Obama worked hard to avoid it yesterday. The only blame I think we should be laying is on ourselves; all of us, regardless of political, social, religious, or sports affiliation.

I said Saturday that I thought – think – empathy is the key to getting out of this place of polarization. If we could spend a bit more time wearing the shoes of other people, even if just in our head and just for moments, then we’d be less inclined to despise them unreasonably.

We’d still disagree; at least I hope we would. Growth, progress, enlightenment - these depend on the grain of sand stuck in the shell, causing friction and forming those pearls we need to pull out of the mud and make our own. But we wouldn’t hate as much. We’d see people across the aisle, street, border, and ocean instead of enemies. We’d see faces instead of silhouettes; individuals instead of mobs.

It was tempting to get lost in the spiral of confusion about what we’re doing these days, to think about how little empathy there is instead focus on the evidence of it that fills my life. I think yesterday’s physical collapse was as much about rebooting emotionally and mentally as it was about being physically sick. I just shut down, had to, needed it like I needed the soup and liters of water and the absolute quiet. It was a migraine of the soul that I was getting over.

I also think that the identity issue is a key. People who know who they are tend to be empathic. They’ve done or are doing the work, or have simply been blessed with a better internal compass, and there is no question about what it is that defines them. They give strange answers when people ask them what they do instead of who they are, intentionally trying to confuse the interviewer. If we don’t speak the language of self-awareness, we don’t understand.

I read an article last week about how new studies are redefining how language affects the way we interpret the world around us. One example they gave involved Aboriginal peoples of Australia, how they don’t have words for ‘behind’ or ‘front’ or ‘beside’. Their language evolved in a world that was wide and expansive and centered on the sky and the stars and the sun, so all of their directions are based on cardinal points. They don’t say, “I was standing beside him when the kangaroo jumped out”. They say, “I was standing to his east when the kangaroo jumped out of a bush to the north”.

When they tell a story, their hand gestures are always cardinally accurate to the event. If they describe the arc of a person falling out of a boat they were in, they don’t gesture relative to themselves, but relative to the compass position, so that if they tell a story facing north one time, and south the next, the gestures will adapt to show the exact direction of the fall in cardinal space.

And, for these people, it’s not just language. Put them in a dark room, blindfold them and spin them around, and they’ll still, infallibly, point to north without hesitation. Perfect sense of direction is built into them so deeply that they can’t help but know where north is.

I wonder if it’s even possible to have a moral compass so right and so sure that everything we say would be true to it, infallibly, unassailably, perpetually.

I don’t know, but if it is, I want that super-power. I call dibs. 

Saturday, January 8

polarization, empathy, and the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords

As I was sitting here, writing about identity, about who we are not being the same as what we do, news broke about the Arizona shooting today that took the life of a child and resulted in the shooting of several other people (specifics are still sketchy) including Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, members of her staff, and Arizona Federal Judge John Roll (also deceased). I was in a great mood, optimistic, hopeful, full of good-natured inspiration. Now, not so much.


When two people sit in the middle of a teeter-totter not much happens. But when they slide out to the ends things can get violent, even when one or both people have the best motives and intentions. It’s just the physics of polarization.

We’re at the ends of the teeter-totter right now. It’s uglier than usual and I honestly can’t begin to imagine how it’s going to play out. I hope that empathy wins out, the kind of courageous, fully spent, "damn the torpedoes" empathy that my favorite people advocate, that I love the idea of. One where we see people for their hearts instead of for their clothes or titles or the cars they drive or the party pins they wear on their jackets.

Somebody reaching for that kind of empathy would not have used a gun on a crowd of people today in Arizona. They just wouldn’t have. Somebody embracing that kind of empathy would be repelled by violence and insanity. People that are committed to looking into others and identifying with them as human beings don’t use guns to express a point. They aren’t cowards or murderers.For them, violence is anathema.

Events like the one today are like having a giant mirror held up in front of us, collectively, as a people, a species. Whatever Jared Loughner’s motives, we still have the opportunity to recognize that our culture of violence, extreme polarization, and extreme hate plays a part in creating people like him. We all get to own that, have to own that, and use it as motivation to keep reaching for the kind of empathy that would make hate obsolete. Or at least endangered. 

I'd settle for endangered.

I listened to the following speech earlier and just had to sit back and shake my head. It’s amazing and as applicable today as it was then. I’ll leave you with it. Please take care of and with each other.

Thursday, January 6

the last twenty minutes

First of all, it’s 2011, so I’m changing the font. Fuck yeah.

Turns out I wasn’t nearly as “over” my cold as I thought on NYE. Turns out that working that night from eight until four the next morning didn’t help. Casino hours… what are ya gonna do?

So I stumbled through the weekend of dealing cards and then slept Monday and Tuesday, literally. It’s Thursday and I almost feel mostly human again.

All that down time did let me finish watching the World Junior Hockey Championships though, so it wasn’t all bad. I just set my phone alarm to get up for the games and, in between, slept in medicated bliss. I was back on my feet yesterday though, running around, catching up on stuff, and ended up watching the final (Canada vs Russia) in a pub.

Canada lost in a monumental third period meltdown, going from a 3-0 lead at the start of the period to a final, dismal 5-3 loss, allowing five unanswered goals in what will surely go down as one of the greatest chokes of all time. I’ve mentioned before that I watch hockey now for the joy of the game and not to cheer the home team. Mostly. I was a little disappointed.

It was disappointing to watch the Canadian team blow the lead, but not world-ending. More disappointing was that it was a boring game to watch. Canada dominated for forty minutes, and then Russia dominated for twenty. There was very little of that exciting battle between two equals when they go toe to toe in the kind of display of skill and speed that makes hockey the fastest, most exciting game in the world. (Yes, I’m biased. My blog, I’m allowed.)

So I was less disappointed in the final score than I was in the fact that neither team came out to play a full sixty minutes of hockey.

That sounds uncharitable, and it kind of is. These are kids after all, every one of them nineteen or under and subsequently susceptible to vagaries of emotional vacillation tempestuous enough to sink the Titanic.

Nobody will ever know what exactly happened. It looked to me, though, like Canada spent the intermission between the second and the third imagining what the gold medals were going to feel like hanging around their necks, and then came out worried about not losing them. The Russian team, on the other hand, spent the intermission realizing that they had absolutely nothing to lose, and twenty minutes left to them to reach for the brass ring.

And that, I think, made all the difference.

The team that won yesterday didn’t play the whole game as well as they could have, but they played the most important part – the end. Life is like that, yeah? Not too many people manage to figure out their personal legend, to use a Paulo Coelho-ism, early enough to say they were able to play the whole game. I know a lot of people, like me, that didn’t figure that part out until later on.

Most of the time, we give up. We say that we made our choice and now we have to stick with it. We get fixated on the destination and lose sight of the journey, hung up on holding onto what we've got instead of risking it for the sake of the path. We have a career, families, kids, mortgages*, obligations, responsibilities, and we convince ourselves that personal legends have to come second to those things, because we’re used to lists and priorities that have to be linear.

News flash: They don’t have to be. You can love your kids and spouse and still love yourself and pursue whatever it is that makes your blood sing. And if you can, and if I can, then we all can.

When it comes down to it, how we start is less important than how we end. Lots of us have great ideas, brilliant starts, and then, somewhere in the middle, lose the thread. It’s a marathon, a journey, after all, and there’s lots of time to get distracted, or sidetracked, or bogged down. Win or lose, it truly is how we play the game, the effort we put in to the end.

I lucked out. I truly feel that I found my little bit of destiny to chase after, and I was in a pretty flexible personal position to make drastic changes in order to chase after that fucker. I get that it isn’t always appropriate to flip everything upside down in a life-inversion like I did in order to make changes, but there are always ways. I’m surrounded by amazing people, online and in the 3-D world, that are doing it, chasing personal legends, making it up as they go along, carving out a path through the jungle towards a mountaintop and a cave full of bliss.

They’re reaching for it as if there was nothing to lose, and I find it inspiring to see. It inspires me every day to get in the chair and finish stronger than I started, the skate to the buzzer. Because I have nothing to lose except me, and the only way to do that is to stop trying. Let me say that again: We have nothing to lose but ourselves, and the only way to do that is to stop trying.

I don’t usually do the question asking thing here, but I will today, because I’m truly interested in hearing your truth. What is it in your life that’s worth playing hard for right to final buzzer?

* The word mortgage finds its roots in the French. It literally means “death pledge”. Not surprisingly, they don’t use that particular phrase in French-speaking lands to describe contracts to buy houses. Go figure…