An algorthm for wisdom

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Sitting on the porch tonight, staring off into the darkening sky, hoping to catch a glimpse of an alien craft, or two. And I got to thinking of less exciting things. . . . .

This is not an easy game, this game of constructing puzzles and sorting things out (whatever game you play, insert your career path for the word puzzle).
Many want to make this a simpler game, because wrestling with the deep wells of complexities can be daunting.
Some things are just not simple, period. Sure, there is that saying that if you cannot take something complex and explain it in simpler terms, you do not grasp the concepts. And that is true, mostly, often, but not always.
But it still doesn't mean the topic is not complex.

Without enough knowledge, things can only appear to us based on that limited knowledge. If you are color blind, things are just going to take on a different perceived reality than to someone who is not color blind.

Like in this photo here, if you cannot understand that the orientation of a light source can take something bent and make it look straight, then there is no way it can exist in your mind as a possibility.
Playing this game of "figure out the human puzzle" is often about specific knowledge. And without that specific knowledge there is no way we can get the honest answer. But, do not ever dismiss the power of taking that knowledge and blending it with decade of experience, plus a little perspective of course.

Remember, it all starts with the data. Without all of the necessary data we never get there. Without context we do not get there. Data is merely noise without context. Without experimentation and error (private practice) we do not get there. (*This by the way, is where the teachers, lecturers and so called experts might fail if they do, they might not have enough experience. I know this because I have been that young lecturer, even the older lecturer, and far too often I realized I was not the person with enough experience to be at the front of the room spouting off truths that my experience could not defend. It still happens to me even today. It is humbling. How does the saying go? "Don't let your mouth write checks that your ass cannot cash." I've been there, done that.)

And so where is "there"? What is this destination? It is quiet simply, Wisdom.
Most of us will never get there, maybe we get some toes and a foot dipped into the pool of wisdom, maybe even a whole leg in there from time to time, but rarely does anyone gets there. Knowing that fact, we can truly remain students of the journey.
The algorithm cannot be cheated or "short-coursed".
There are no short cuts.

May your clinical "humblings" this week be gentle on your ego, as I hope mine are.
The journey continues its beatings and humbling, but that is why we play the game, in the hopes of reaching the next stage of enlightenment, in the hopes of helping one more person truly in need.
So let the beatings continue.
Have a great week gang.
Shawn

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Data = Noise

Data + Context = Information

Experimentation + Error = Experience

Information + Experience = Knowledge

Knowledge + Humility = Wisdom

-Fergus Connolly

When things are working out, you are losing.

What would life be like if we never failed? Empty. That is the most logical and reasonable answer.

When everything is working out as planned, we are losing. It is the struggle, the grind, that is what makes it worth it. In our vocation, our art, our writing or hobbies, it is the failed ones that frustrate us and make us grind. That is the stuff that keeps us coming back. If it is easy, walk away. There is nothing to be gained from being the smartest person in the room; nothing positive comes from such an ego reinforcing place. You are in the wrong room.

We want the ones that capture us, make us sit and struggle, captivate us and keep us returning. The struggle is the mystery that grows its roots into us, tangling and tethering our intrigue to its elusive soul.

It is only fun when we are wrestling to get that thing to within our grasp. And when we are lucky, we catch it. And if we are truly lucky, we only catch it for a moment, until it slips from our hands forcing us to cast the line back into the water. The journey is in trying to catch it again.

The things that matter most to us often have an elusive mysterious component to them. We hate the struggle, and we also love it, both, at once. We want to get to the inside, we want to be in that group, we want to get on that team, we want to learn the tricks, we want to figure out how to become a master.

The saddest thing just might be reaching mastery. But, anyone who truly knows, anyone who gets close to that level knows, once we step over the line to the other side, we start over again. The game resets to a higher level, another dimension opens up. Perhaps this is when the true understanding of something opens up to us. Some will call this the birth of wisdom I would imagine. In thinking we won, that we have arrived, we realize we are just getting started.

Being on the journey is what matters most. We really should not want to reach the destination, and we shouldn’t want things to work out, at least not too often. If we are truly lucky.

“Once you see the way broadly, you will see it in all things”. -Miyamoto Musashi

-Shawn

In capturing it, you missed it.

photo credit/courtesy of Pixabay.com

photo credit/courtesy of Pixabay.com

In this new age, where everyone has a camera in their pocket at all times, I have been noticing the habits of many of us. I have come to realize, at least in my opinion, that In capturing it on “film", we have actually missed it. We have missed the depth of the moment.

Now more than ever before we are, perhaps, spending more time filming and photographing our lives than we are experiencing them. The act of archiving and documenting the events and moments of our lives just might be causing us to miss the true depths our lives might otherwise experience. Instead of being in the moment which includes the original sound of the band, the sounds of original audience, 360 degree HD views with our own eyes, the smells of the venue, the buzz of being globally “there” in person, the true depth of the original moment is lost. In the reasonable act of capturing the moment forever on our phones, I think perhaps we are fooling ourselves into thinking we are saving the memory. When in fact, perhaps the truth is that in the act of capturing the moments we hope to forever treasure, a digital memory we can replay at any time we want, we are actually downgrading the moment, we lessen it, we miss it. The small screen we replay it on is not the same view, it is a few inches in size, the sound is pitiful, there is no broad spectrum of sound, no bass to shake your bones, no jarring of the audience seating stands as everyone jumps for joy after the winning goal, no smell of popcorn, beer or mind altering psychedelically smoke in the air. Missing are the smiles of joy and excitement of the stranger beside you that you only would have seen had your phone been in your pocket instead of at arms length out in front of you archiving the moment. Sadly, you have watched this amazing moment in your life through the screen on your phone even though the full spectrum event is right there in front of you, on the other side of your phone/camera. You missed it. You missed the full, true, HD, moment. We are all missing it. The brain assimilates all of the sensory components and logs the full spectrum moment in our brains. But by attempting to capture it all, forever, even though we were right there, we have actually missed it. The potential for a full spectrum, full sensory overload input moment and memory was lost as the event played out. We think we captured it, but the truth is, we missed it and the true deep rich memory of that moment.

So maybe, instead of photographing or filming these events in our lives, we should go back to capturing that singular spectacular moment, that goal, that perfect vault, that winning point, by truly “being” there. We could take one photo to spark the recall of the event, and then spend the rest of the time fully engaged and wrapped up in the moment, letting the smells, the original in-stereo sounds, the laughs and cheers, the full monster screen HD view courtesy of our eyeballs, breathe their way into a singular all encompassing moment, and trust that our brains will remember it if we take it all in. Instead, if we took just a few seconds during that amazing moment and said to ourselves, “this is an amazing moment, I am looking all around me at the venue, the happiness of the people around me, the smells, the sounds, the colors, the rich view, and I am going to mark this moment and never forget it”. That multi-sensory experience will be far better than anything our smart phones can ever capture. And besides, lets be honest, we are only going to look at the video once or twice and then forget about it, perhaps because what we captured on the human made technology, at this point, cannot match the collective sensory rich event of being there in the moment, fully engaged. Perhaps, if we just close our eyes, and trust our brain, we can go right back to that moment and still feel the tingle of the moment once again. Just close our eyes.

We call these things “smart phones”, but they are not that smart. Just my 2 cents, for what it is worth.

After all, the problem is, we just think we have time.

-Shawn

Hey Bourdain, I would have loved that roll.

I recently wrote this article linked below. It reflects on the death of Anthony Bourdain, my jiu jitsu promotion, and a few other things about life that I am gleaning important after my first 50 years on this rock. I hope you enjoy, share if you like, perhaps it might reach someone with whom it resonates, like the young many in heroin recovery I speak of.

I have also written several other pieces found under the Doctoring Jiu Jitsu tab, things not listed here. 

Here is the link to "Hey, Bourdain, I would have loved that roll."

https://www.shawnallen.net/doctoring-jiujitsu/2018/8/18/the-color-purple-resistence

-Shawn

 

We merely think we know who we are.

I am not who you think I am,

I am not who I think I am,

I am who I think you think I am.

- the "looking-glass" theory, Charles Cooley in 1902.

In one of my favorite interviews of the last several years photographer and film maker Sam Jones interviewed actor Ethan Hawke. Near the end of the interview Hawke mentioned something that struck a familiar chord in me - sometimes a message has to be said in just a way that it finally resonates.   Hawke remarked that at some point during a filming project he received a compliment from the director that had become a really talented actor. And then as Hawke explains, a funny thing began to happen, he started acting like one. It marked a moment in his growth as a creative. Then Hawke mentioned that at some point in his marriage the same thing happened with his wife, in her eyes, he could tell that how she treated and interacted with him, that she saw him in a higher light than how he felt about himself.  Subsequently, he again found himself becoming that better husband, he started acting more the man she saw through her eyes. He was changing and growing. He was becoming the not the person he thought he was, but becoming the person that the other person thought he truly was. This is just like the "looking-glass" theory brought about by Charles Cooley in 1902. Cooley stated that a person's self grows out of society's interpersonal interactions and the perceptions of others.  I now ask, as I sit back and ponder, Is this not how our modern day social media works ? Sort of ? Let me explain.

We have moved down through the ages by doing a mere few things right, mostly to learn to hunt and gather better than other species, to survive difficulty, disease and hardship better than our predators, but perhaps our survival is more so based on our learning to communicate better. We started with grunts as cavemen, then learned to draw on cave walls, then we learned a sparse few common words and hand signals, then we developed language.  Fast forward to today, we are now moving into the advanced technological era. We are fast moving through a new means of communicating, a social media phase where texting, emojis, snapchat and video have brought the four corners of the earth together via the interweb, leaving us on the cusp of something even grander on the horizon.

The question remains, why has this all occurred? What is driving this expedited change?  I propose it is all leading us to a place where we can understand each other better, so we can comprehend the differences between us, so we can grow, and perhaps, so we can grow intimately together.  In fact, this all may be happening so that possibly we might even merge our thoughts and brains, a cohesive hive of wisdom, of all seeing and all knowing. Like it or not, the experts are proposing that It will not be long before we can read each others minds.  We will be able to think a thought and the recipient will hear and feel the thought without words. We will immediately sense another's emotions, and play off them or their next thoughts. This is likely to be a part of, and perhaps a product of, AR and VR (augmented reality, and virtual reality). Anyone who has been on Twitter for more than a few hours, following tweets and retweets and the resultant conversations on a given worthy topic may grasp a small glimmer of what is to come.  When on Twitter, interacting with others over a topic, as more people are brought into the fold of the conversation a common threat begins to take form, a common understanding, if one is paying close attention one can see a wise consensus percolating, bubbling up to the surface elevating the lot to a higher more insightful level. It often happens quickly, but it is fascinating to see and be a part of.

As I sit back and observe all of this from the preconceived jaundiced eyes of a 50 year old, I think the flaw in our old ways of communicating was that we were always trying to support our thesis to others. Too many times were were waiting to talk and voice our next thoughts rather than listen and receive from another. This I have been guilty of from time to time. I think we can all accept a little guilt toward this shortcoming. At times, it is as if our identity and our lives had points of view which we had to defend and fight for.  Is that not the root of so many disputes, so many misunderstandings, so many fragmenting relationships?  Many of us have been guilty of trying to find someone that understands us, someone who communicates the way we need them to, someone who understands our language of listening, hearing and responding.  Someone who respects our ways, plays up to our "warm fuzzies" and does not threaten our decades of identity building and the few things that might make us feel good, certain and happy about ourselves. We think that when we find a person, a partner, or a friendship who shares that commonality, we collectively believe we are sound. We think our collective way is "the way", and we feel comfortable and good about that.  But, I think this may be flawed. I think that to truly grow we need to be uncomfortable, we need to be faced with difficulties, challenges and adversity, both in body and in mind.  I think this because if we are merely wanting someone to accept our means of communicating and thinking and of existing, then we are failing to struggle to learn another means of communicating, a means that is different from what is ours, from what makes us comfortable, makes us feel whole. This ultimately stunts our growth, it limits our deeper insight, yet it feels safe, and so it is usually our choice unless we are willing to struggle, to feel uncomfortable, to feel threatened. And so in time, if left with our "warm fuzzy" feeling comfortable world, as one might predict, our relationships become stale.  We are not challenged and stimulated, we begin to rot, and our relationships do as well. Slowly, surely, predictably, there is nothing new, nothing fresh, nothing to climb or challenge us to struggle with together.  And soon, there is nothing left to discuss, the common minds have melted into a puddle of mediocrity.  Perhaps this way, this manner that feels good and safe, is all disguise, a flaw, one that will keep us where we are in our development. It is almost analogous to a defiance of not learning how to use Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat, or to learn how #hashtags integrate and bring groups of common thought together on these types of social media. There too is a language none of us were recently familiar with, but for those who have embraced it, there have been leaps and bounds of shared intellect, wisdom and sharing.  Those who have embraced the uncomfortable, the uncertain, the unknown, the new, have leaped ahead of the crowd in terms of accelerated learning, acceptance and the limited ways of our separated thinking. By bringing our own small world closer to thousands of others whom we have never met, yet with the willingness to open up that small world, we have grown, matured and advanced.  In fact, perhaps by avoiding these newer means of technology it is as crippling to our growth into the next dimension of communication as failing to change, accept or modify our comfortable love language to a lover's different way. If one wants to move to a higher level of communication, discussion, wisdom, one is going to have to adopt a different way of seeing and discussing things. In fact, one could make broader strokes by saying that, if we have already done our own inner work, to understand our present ways and our comforts in existing and communicating, one might argue that we should fully abandon those stale comforts and lead a new life.  For only through fresh eyes and a fresh heart, can one fully embrace the means of challenged communication with our anguished and frustrated lover or friend.  Perhaps this is the way to grow into this new dimension, by embracing different things, difficult ways, by adopting new and challenging means of communication.  

Within just a decade or so, it is not unlikely that we will be able to read the minds of anyone we interface with, it will be a means of merging our intellects. The research is already saying this is quite possible.  We will feel what another feels, we will understand the way they understand, we will be able to love the way they love.  There is no doubt going to be a difficult learning curve with this new way, with all the available information that will be immediately upon us in a given moment, it may necessitate a flexible means of communication. There will not be just one way of seeing things, the landslide of emotions, experiences, wisdom, biases, and opinions will infinitely complicate a "conversation".  With miscommunication as the absolute scourge of all relationships, of humanity actually, I think we are quickly coming to meet our greatest fears, that people will know exactly how we feel and think without our verbal expression.  This new way will force honesty, acceptance and maturity all at once, and this can be our biggest gift. If we accept it. And for the many who do not, it may be their demise.

Perhaps the best means of growing right now while we wait for this "great assimilation event", is to abandon all that we have fought to gain to find our comforts in life, in finding comfort in ourselves and what makes us feel whole. This moves against the grain we have been taught, that being to find someone, people, groups with whom we have sought out to feel safe and comfortable with, entities which have helped us find a comfort in who we thing we are. This we have been told, is the recipe for lasting love and friendships. After all, isn't this what we try to do? We date and scour the landscape of mankind to find someone who "gets us", of groups who accept us for who we are, who do not make us feel vulnerable and afraid.  Perhaps we have it backwards though, if it is self growth we are looking for.  The flaw in this is that it can stunt the process of becoming who we hope and wish to eventually become, to overstep our limitations and comforts and grow. The quote, "one's life begins at the edge of our comfort zone" resonates strongly here.  

If we could find a way to trust that those who do not understand us, because they are merely different in how they tick, talk and think, we could find a way to grow closer to those who actually have so much more to give us.  Rather than try to find someone who "gets us" and doesn't rock our boat of comfort, perhaps we should be seeing out those exact people who challenge us, make us uncomfortable, who force us to grow, to look at things differently, to learn to accept that there are other ways to the end means. Perhaps this is the key to all of this relationship and communication thing. Steven Pressfield refers to it as "resistance". We only grow when we are forced up against the resistances in our life, pressed up against the hard times, hard things, hard choices. It is always easy to run away because it is hard, but when we stare it down and make it a mission to overcome, resistance gives way and blossoms into a higher self, a stronger self, one we can conquer even stronger vices and demons from upon high. 

As we have moved from grunts and cave wall drawings, through languages and coding, to texting and emojis and augmented reality and soon virtual reality.  This is going to eventually lead us to the pinnacle of communication, mind-melding voiceless "speech" where we instantly can interface with someone and hear, see, feel, understand and accept, instantly, yet perhaps in time, unconditionally and non-judgmentally. Life seems to always give us two choices in most things, the easy road, and the hard road.  One road leaves us unchanged yet in temporary peace, the other promises scars and pain, yet the riches of the kingdom.  Which road will you take ?  Though life is short, there is much here to learn if we wish to endure the storms of challenge, the scars of resistance.  

I started this piece of writing with Charles Cooley's 1902 quote on the "looking-glass" theory.

"I am not who you think I am,  I am not who I think I am, I am who I think you think I am."

As we move toward and into these inevitable voiceless mind-melding communication means of the near future, augmented by the assistance of AR and VR, we are going to find out what others immediately think of us. There will be only truth, data and emotion. Just as with today's social media, with all its trolls and mean folk, It is going to likely necessitate that those initial voyagers are confident and grounded in who they are.  All to quickly they will find out who they truly are through their own impression of who they think they are, in the minds of others.  Maybe. 

The world is a mirror we put ourselves up against. If we care to be observant of ourselves. Just like Ethan Hawke's epiphanies from the start of this piece, he became who he thought they thought he had become.  Head spinning ? Perhaps the attached videos by Jason Silva will help bring it together.

"Life is not merely a series of meaningless accidents or coincidences, but rather it is a tapestry of events that culminate in an exquisite, sublime plan." -Dean's speech, Serendipity

- Shawn

 

 

 

Dear Gord: Silence's Ransom

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October 17, 2017 marks a moment. Sadly, today I had to update this piece I wrote one year ago.

RIP brother.  
Gord Downie moves on to the other side. He was 53.

An important voice, a leader, a son, father, a national treasure, has moved on to the other side. Thank you Gord, you filled my life with words, thoughts, stories and great great music during pivotal years. 
Your life, and especially your final year, is a lesson of how we all should live every year, every day.

I wrote this linked piece a year ago, when we all learned of the battle he would come to wage. It was kind of a note across the miles to Gord, a man I saw, but never met. I doubt he ever got the note. But that's ok, the message still arrives, somehow. 
You fought honorably brother. Thank you for teaching us how to be, and how to fight, right up to the end of this stage in life. 
Go rest now Gord, for a little while, for you still have goodwork to do from afar.

Be like Gord, be a "Weapon of Change".
Once again, we see that we just do not have the time left that we think we do.

-Shawn

Here is my original piece from October 2016

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________________
Late breaking story on the CBC
A nation whispers, "We always knew that he'd go free"
They add, "You can't be fond of living in the past
'Cause if you are then there's no way that you're going to last"

Wheat kings and pretty things
Let's just see what tomorrow brings

- lyrics from "Wheat Kings" by The Tragically Hip


 
You are not getting out of this alive. This is a very present reality for Gord. 

For about 32 years Gord Downie has been the frontman and primary songwriter of the famous Canadian band, the Tragically Hip. On May 24, 2016 Gord's life slammed head first into a blunt reality check, Gord had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, he had a massive glioblastoma in his head. After near immediate brain surgery, chemo and radiation therapy Gord bravely decided that the show must go, honorably he wanted to continue with his mission and passion.  So, he and his blokes scheduled a final four week cross-Canada farewell tour which ended in a “Canada is closed” tour closing extravaganza which ended on August 20th, 2016 in his hometown of Kingston, Ontario.  Canada was offically closed that night, quite literally.  Gord decided to still share, give back, live, and carry on with his life's gifts.  Gord's life has always been about music from what I can tell, telling great stories and bringing people joy through his gift.  Ever the story teller, the songs hit home and get personal, one such song is about the Toronto Maple Leaf NHL defenseman who scored the 1951 Stanley Cup-winning goal shortly before dying in a plane crash. Another, the mood perfect haunting "Wheat Kings" tells the story of David Milgaard, a Canadian wrongfully accused of murder. Gord's song writing means something, it says something, and I suspect this gave his music deep meaning, his days greater meaning, and his life a clearer purpose.

We are all going to die. If you are not starting to get comfortable with that reality, things are going to get pretty painful as your time winds down. Avoidance of acceptance of your final guaranteed demise will not make it escapable. If you wait and avoid you are going to possibly feel pretty frantic in those last days trying to meet your goals, dreams, wishes, hopes and tell those you love how much they meant to you and your life. You are going to likely wish for more time. You are going to want some "do overs". Again, let me be clear, if you are reading this in the evening, you are one more day closer to that moment.  It is coming, trust me. So, get busy. The problem is, we think we have time.

I spent the better part of three decades enjoying Gord and the rest of "The Hip's” stories and music. Music touches something deep in us, and unlike many other forms of entertainment in this world, we can return to music over and over again and it only gets better. The memories stay and sometimes get richer. Repeatedly, an album can grow on us and take deeper meaning and a comforting place, marking moments in our life, time-stamping memories and events that usually live on forever while others merely fade away. This is what Gord and the boys did for me, and much of Canada. 

The fact of the matter now is that Gord might not have many years left, none of us may to be honest, but I sure hope that he is the exception and not the rule for this type of cancer, I think there is so much more music in that man's soul. The truth of the matter is that he would love the time we are all wasting doing frivolous nonsensical things like watching Youtube videos of foolish teenagers skateboard down handrails often snagging their dangling parts on the rails, or climbing on the edges of rooftop edges doing handstands while snapping selfies. Make no mistake, Gord is not wasting his time doing these kinds of foolish things causally risking what is preciously left of his life.   He knows how short an hourglass can be on sand. He is likely packing it all in, loading the boat, loving hard and living openly and freely. He is likely sampling life slowly, richly, buying the good chocolates, and having deep meaningful experiences with friends. We, on the other hand, think we have time and that is our mistake. We waste so much time in this short life. The fact of the matter is any day now we could get the same call from our doctor with the same gut wrenching news. We are all wasting time. We all think we have enough time, that we can "get to it tomorrow".  Do we have time ? Can we "get to it tomorrow” ? There is still plenty of time right? 

In your last breaths on this spinning rock on which we dwell, there will likely be silence. If you are lucky to be surrounded by your loved ones, it will be a silence of crushing sadness for them. Complete silence will undoubtedly mark the exact moment of your transcendence.  And in that silence those observers, if you are lucky to have a few, will once again be reminded as they have many times before of the brevity of this trip we call life. In the silence, during that nauseating punch in the gut moment, there will be a reminder to get busy doing more and loving more grandly. Sadly, in the noise of our lives, as the days and weeks march on, how soon we will forget this lesson in the silence. In Gord's words from the song "A Beautiful Thing", there is brilliant stark wisdom to what that silence is screaming. Lets all try to better hear and remember these words, spoken from the silence. 

"In the ulcerating silence perspective comes,
the way it always does for it’s ransom."     -Gord Downie


Here is a final punch in the face.  Within the hour of reading this you will soon forget what I have written here. Snapchat, Youtube, Netflix, HBO, they all suck us into an oblivion of wasted time, distraction from the vein of life, a lull of immediate gratification.  How soon we will all forget how short this trip is, the weeks and months will march onward, until we are again faced with something more grave and agonizing that forces us to sit in the silence again. Hopefully that silence is not our own. 

In the mean time, I give thanks. Thank you Gord, thank you deeply for leaving beautiful scars on my life that are still vivid. You have been part of the soundtrack of my life, adding color and depth to the memories and locking them in, deep and permanent.  Keep the good stuff coming brother. Like a wedding or movie, memories are not the same when not time-stamped by music. My life has been enriched and imprinted by the bands that have drawn me in to their muse. Thank you again Gord, for finding your passion and for continuing to shout it out loud, in your own unique way, with flare and passion and  heart. Thank you for your time, it is one of the greatest most unselfish gifts in life, giving someone your time.

The problem is, we all think we have time.  From Gord's lips to your ears, in a haunting yet deeply loving whisper,  "you might not my friend, so get busy". 

Again,  . . . 

"In the ulcerating silence perspective comes, 
The way it always does for it’s ransom."  -Gord Downie,


Much love Gord, over the miles, . . . . .  always. Thank you. 

Rest in peace brother.

- Shawn Allen

144 hours, on 6 hours of sleep: When the doctor becomes the patient.

There are days now and then when I forget to be grateful for what I get to do in my job. There are days where it is just a tough job listening to people in pain for 12 hours, trying to find ways to help them, often falling short of the mark. Being who I am, it steals a little life from my heart when I fail to help people whom I so desperately want to help restore some normalcy in their life. If something is eventually going to kill me, I fear it will be this slow tapeworm stealing from my heart. Perhaps this is where my insomnia comes from, who knows.

And then sometimes there are people who walk through the door, people that just remind you of the bigger picture of caring, of gratitude, of giving. They remind you to be bigger than your own problems, they remind you with a smile that everyone has their anchors to drag about. They remind you it is going to be ok. Sometimes, the doctor becomes the patient. These are people who's heart is bigger than they are, their missions are grand, their goals, seemingly impossible. But what I have learned from the successful ones like this is that they put something else ahead of them - someone.  And when it is sick children, children that are not their own, children they have never met, it restores my faith. It reminds me to be grateful again for what I have and and what I have been allowed to do everyday for 20 years.

Life is short. I know, these words I share about "time" are perhaps getting old to some of you. None the less, I have taken a few days off from my job this week, to heal my aching hands, to try and find some sleep again, to try and refocus on the bigger picture. I was getting lost in the grind, I needed to refocus. It wasn't going well - until Luis emailed me today.

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When I first met Luis, his feet would fail him part way through so many of his races. 
Then he was able to heel his feet. 
Then, he got back to marathons . . .
then some really long ones, . . . . .144 hours.

You are a lion Luis. Thank you for giving me permission to share your latest story to my followers (on The Gait Guys) around the globe. It has inspired me, saved a piece of my spirit and soul, and I hope your mission and message will inspire others. It is clear your mission and your goals exceed your heart. And, I am sure your cause, to help those Orphan Children with Aids in Ecuador, has changed the lives of many precious little ones.

This is Luis's story . . . .144 hours . . . in a row . . .on just 6 hours of sleep.

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· 315 miles of mountain biking
· 104 miles running/trekking
· 52 miles paddling
· One giant rappel
· One very deep and small cave
· 37,000+ ft. gained
· 144 hours of racing
· 6hrs of sleep
· Lots of cold
· Lots of heat
· Lots of wind
· Lots of mud
· 3 shots of Whisky
· Lots of singing and hallucinating
· 17,000 calories spent per a day
· Many hours of Training
· One Giant smile

Haku Adventure racing crossed the Finish line at the Adventure Racing World Championships in Wyoming. It was 6 incredible days of adventure in the Wild Wild West. We got to really experience the great State of Wyoming as it greeted us with wind, rain, cold, heat more wind and more wind. We also noticed just how incredibly big Wyoming is! (It’s actually more than 2x the size of our home country Ecuador) We saw Bears, Elk, Moose (at least the back of the Moose), rattle snakes and learned how to use Bear Spray..

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The race started in Jackson Hole in a beautiful ski resort and ended in Casper. Our plan was to complete the full course. Usually these courses are designed for the top 20 teams in the world to complete. We were going to give it our best and crawl tor the finish line if needed.

Here’s an idea of just how far we had to travel (see map). The course wasn’t as direct as google maps of course, we went through some incredible scenery and very long legs. After the first 10 hours of racing we didn’t see civilization for 3 days.

We couldn’t find water but once we finished that extremely long trekking leg we ended in a ghost town where had to have a shot (or 3) of Wyoming Whisky. I had heard bad comments about Wyoming Whisky, but this one was pretty damn good. This town, was one of the first towns that served some of the first mineral mines in Wyoming and was in the middle of the Oregon trail. Kind of freaky. This is where we got our first hour of sleep after 72 hours of non- stop racing. After this we would start the longest leg of the race. A 200 mile bike leg.

This was after 26 hours of biking and Hike a Bike (Pushing/ carrying your bike + carrying all the rest of your gear) For those of you that were tracking us this is where we got lost for 12 hours and started playing catch up so we could make the cut offs. My feet were fool of blisters from so much walking with our bike shoes and being wet, so I needed to get them treated. We also found some good souls who were making bacon cheeseburgers! What a way to start the Next leg (60 mile trek)

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Sometimes in adventure racing you find other teams and work together. We had the privilege to find this team from Georgia. We ran out of water for 9 hours and were trying to find a ridge throughout the night. This picture was taken in the Wyoming continental divide. These guys decided to retire after this leg

We couldn’t find water but once we finished that extremely long trekking leg we ended in a ghost town where had to have a shot (or 3) of Wyoming Whisky. I had heard bad comments about Wyoming Whisky, but this one was pretty damn good. This town, was one of the first towns that served some of the first mineral mines in Wyoming and was in the middle of the Oregon trail. Kind of freaky. This is where we got our first hour of sleep after 72 hours of non- stop racing. After this we would start the longest leg of the race. A 200 mile bike leg

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This was going to be the mother of all legs. We heard in the transition area that we were starting to catch up to other teams so that motivated us to get going quickly. The open land and the endless roads were just incredible and in some cases tricky to navigate particularly at night. The winds were so strong that even with our weight and the weight of our back packs the front wheels in our bikes were raised from the ground. Night came and we caught up to about 6 teams that were having a hard time finding a checkpoint. We started looking for it and got hit by a terrible storm. We had to leave our bikes and find some sort of shelter we were soaking wet and it got really cold.

After 144 hours we were one of the last teams to complete the course and cross the finish line. We had a great welcoming party at the finish line. Just seeing our friends and families there made it all worth it and we all broke out in tears. For guys like us (with families and real jobs) this is an incredible achievement. People compare these adventure races to 4 or 5 full Iron Man races in terms of mental and physical strength. (Sorry my Iron Man friends)

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I really want to thank everyone who supported me during this process. Specially my family, work family and church family. Either with encouragement, prayers, letting me train or just liking and following us through social it means a lot! But mainly I want to thank those of you who supported and believed in us and our cause to help those Orphan Children with Aids in Ecuador. We were able to raise about $3,000 which will go a very long way in Ecuador. The team just got back to Ecuador this week and will most likely be visiting Juvilus and the kids in the next couple of weeks to deliver those donations. I’ll
share an update as soon as they confirm and send pics. So again a HUGE thank you to all of you. I am blessed to be surrounded by people who want to help the less fortunate.

Hope you enjoyed the little story here and hopefully also found some inspiration to go find your own adventure!
Thanks to all of you from your friends at Haku AR! You can follow the team on FB at HakuAR.
More adventures to come!
Luis Becdach #hakuAR

* reach out to Luis and team HakuAR if you wish to help the children of Ecuador.

Thank you Luis. For the inspiration, for the kindness, for who you are brother.

My evenings with geniuses; tea with Hans Zimmer and Werner Herzog.

"The seconds of your life are ticking away, if somebody tells you that there is a rule, break it. That is the only thing that moves things forward." - Hans Zimmer

"Somehow, floating somewhere between our eyes and our ears is our heart. It is closer to our head than our chest, I am convinced. Why else, when these geniuses get it right, blending both what the eyes see and the ears hear, do we feel it in our throat, that swelling of sorrow, of pain, of joy. " - me

In 1982 an incredible ordeal was initiated.  It required famously moving a 320-ton steamship over a hill to reach the mouth of another river, promising to reach a land rich in rubber trees deep in the Peruvian jungles of the Amazon. The movie, "Fitzcarraldo", is the story of the 1890's Peruvian rubber baron Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald. This movie was filmed without the use of special effects. Werner Herzog, the writer and director, believed that no one had ever performed a similar feat in history, and likely never would again, calling himself "Conquistador of the Useless". And so began the adventure story that turned into an award winning film.

In the past 6 months I have downgraded my cable bill to just a few channels, so i can watch documentaries and get through some classes.  What kinds of classes you ask?  Well, I am knee deep into the many hours of the formal teachings of master composer Hans Zimmer and filmmaker Werner Herzog.  In this day of connectivity, we all can now take a week or two of study under these genius folk. Sure, one could go down the rabbit holes of youtube and the like for some information, but why not go right to the horse's mouth ? If one has seen some of Herzog's work, one would understand why I have leaned toward's his teachings. One only has to look as far as the trailer to "Happy People: A year in the Taiga" for inspiration. 

From another angle, one intimately blended with Herzog's type of craft, Hans Zimmer has haunted me with his soundtracks for as long as I can remember. Sure, you may, or may not in fact, know his touch upon your heart, your soul, your fears, your hopes unless you are accustomed to reading the credits at the beginning or endings of films.  Zimmer has scored movies like Dunkirk, Interstellar, Inception, Batman, Pirates of the Caribbean, Sherlock Holmes, 12 years a Slave, Pearl Harbor, Last Samurai, and Blade Runner 2049 to name just a few.  But, none have moved me like The Power of One (1992) or Gladiator. Perhaps unknowingly, Zimmer has tugged at your heart many times over the years if you have watched any of the great films of the last several decades.  There is something magical in how music enriches a piece of filmmaking, and it appears to be true genius when the right score is placed upon a scene, it has to be right to evoke the desired message. Somehow, floating somewhere between our eyes and our ears is our heart. It is closer to our head than our chest, I am convinced. Why else, when these geniuses get it right, blending both what the eyes see and the ears hear, do we feel it in our throat, that swelling of sorrow, of pain, of joy.  Now, as an example of the magic, watch the video here of the final scene of Gladiator. Listen carefully how Zimmer's piece, with the amazing overlay of the angelic voice of Lisa Gerrard, sneaks up on you, and tugs at your heart. In just five minutes, Zimmer takes the visuals, swells your throat fully with sorrow, and then in a mere few transitional notes, in the last minute, springs us forward to hope and faith. This is the genius of Hans Zimmer. His is the magic you hear, yet, truthfully, it is the magic you actually feel. In summary, it is a team effort, Herzog pins the scene to the retinas of your eyes, and Zimmer jams it down into your throat.  

These Masterclasses have been a true gift to me.  I can no longer just truly watch a documentary or film, one cannot put the genie back in the bottle. This process has changed things. This is about learning to tell stories, it is about capturing stories, hearing stories, feeling stories. It is about giving stories depth and breadth, it is about moving mountains, moving us and our hearts.  This has been a passionate curiosity of mine for at least three decades now, these men have helped to lift the veil of these mysteries teaching me how, and why, they affect me so.  Gratitude.

"Why now" one might ask?  "Why not" I might respond. Time is short, there is much to learn, much to share, stay tuned. Besides, a few months ago after spending time with the genius of The Rolling Stones, (link here) I promised myself I would no longer wander about and wonder, I would venture in.  And so, the process has begun.

"Why else" one might ask ? Because I am pathologically curious, perhaps I wonder too much. Because, "we only think we have enough time", time remaining that is. 

And with that, I will leave the reader with another genius, Ennio Morricone's beautiful piece, the theme to the film, "The Mission".  But, before I close, do me a favor.  Turn off the television, click the "play" button, and close your eyes. And while you drift off into this auditory beauty, I will make us some tea and we can take a few classes together. Once again I say it, "we just think we have time".

- Shawn

"The seconds of your life are ticking away, if somebody tells you that there is a rule, break it. That is the only thing that moves things forward." - Hans Zimmer, from his Masterclass.

The slow creeping death of our wonderment.

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I often climbed trees when I was a kid. I would limb up and find a crotch in the tree and settle in there, the higher up the better.  I wanted to see far and wide. It was quiet, and I was left alone to think and observe. I did not understand the perceived oddness of this at the time, but I do now.

What we have lost ?  We used to be forced to wonder, about stuff, people, places. We were forced to do so through the threat of boredom; "mom, I'm bored !". It was almost a mantra.

As a kid, even as young adult up until the mid 90's when I was 30 years old, I had many questions, but answers were not at the fingertips.  There was no internet. Back then we had to wait until we could physically go look them up, in a library, a book, encyclopedia - that is, if the answers were even there anyways. When we were younger, asking our parents for answers took us only so far, it only took us to their limits.

Today, kids, even adults, no longer have to wonder, and certainly not for long. Today the gap between question and answer is merely as long as the time it takes to pick up a smartphone and "Google" it. 

What have we lost in arresting that period of wonderment, where we used to sit in the gap, the gap between Q and A ? Something immense was lost, I believe.  We are losing something as adults as well, we are just as guilty now thanks to the likes of Steve Jobs. 

In my 51 years, my biggest epiphanies have come from hours of wonderment. I am pathologically curious. Wonderment takes time if you welcome its muse.  From long walks, hikes, sitting on my parents porch as a young man or today doing the same as an adult, or on weekends working in my gardens, silence was, and is, welcomed. 

Wonderment is useful, just mulling things over, playing out options, possibilities, algorithms. Einstein used to call them "thought experiments", we know where they took him. I love that time to mull and think, of mentally approaching things from different angles and perspectives, of imagining different outcomes. If kids these days, or even young and older adults, would just stop and mull, think, imagine, or wonder when they find themselves bored or needing an answer instead of reaching for their phone, they just might develop some valuable skills. In our laziness and desire for instant answers, mental skills are being stolen by our modern day tech. We just might be robbing ourselves from developing the genius that can come from long periods of quiet, of observation, of wonderment. 

I have to admit, some of my greatest clinical insights as a student of human movement have come from long periods of wonderment. What intrigues me is when logically proposed wonderment is attacked. What I am referring to is the rare, yet often enough, occurrence on my clinical blog (thegaitguys.com) where a fresh idea or theory, a thought perhaps admittedly without a solid research base is attacked as unsubstantiated. Sometimes, I am left rolling my eyes when some purist in the comments section might write, "show me the research and data on this idea, otherwise it's crap". Questioning something unsubstantiated is just fine with me, but attacking is not. When did fresh ideas become crap, unworthy of consideration? Research does not necessarily set up our rules and guidelines to follow, it is perhaps more so there to foster our present knowledge on a topic, to afford us with information to base choices and thoughts upon. If someone thinks that the up to date research on a topic is the template, then they will be stuck in time. Growth will evade them. I feel sorry for those people, I feel sorry that their biases were not confirmed, that their belief system has felt questioned and rattled. I fear for these folks, they will never develop their own thoughts, never their own moments of Einsteinian genius. They will merely be followers of others research and work, never free thinkers, and certainly never become those researchers who had just the same sort of questions and wonderment and yet sought out to prove or disprove their wonderment. The world has proven over and over again that the free thinkers, the wonderers, are often the leaders, the risk takers, the inventors, the forgers of human progress. And, they are handsomely rewarded for their time, at the risk of looking like a fool. I feel blessed when I can steal a mere shot glass of insight from the deep wells of these types of people.  All great ideas first started with a thought, a hypothesis, a wonderment. Just because no one has written a paper on a topic does not mean the ideas are invalid or not worthy of consideration. This is how we all grow, these wonderments, it is where all good research paper hypotheses begin, it is where we can leap to deeper insights and learn from each other. Without wonderment we remain stagnant, never to move farther ahead. The key is to not get trapped too firmly in our own biases, always looking for confirmation of said biases. This is a dark place where we all can fail to grow, and at times I am guilty as charged, I admit

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When was the last time you climbed a tree? It has been quite a while for me.  When was the last time your kid willingly turned off their phone, their tablet, the TV, the sports game, Netflix, and climbed a tree and sat in the swaying breeze and looked all around. When was the last time we sat in silence, that elusive place where wonderment lives, instead of reaching for our technology screen?  We no longer sit in question, in mystery, in pain or discomfort, places where answers to the vexing questions sometimes get solved. We are scared of self discovery; so many are scared of living in their own silence. It can be painful and scary to sit in silence with our thoughts and with mystery. But, I think it is worth the time.

I often get asked what I do with all of my time? Well, clearly one can see just from this article, I sit or move in wonderment and so it seems to pair, in silence. I have become comfortable in solitude, I've learned that the answers to many things yet unanswered for me live out there in that vast land of silence and wonderment. 

So perhaps the big question remains, are we killing our kids wonderment, and thus their genius, with technology? With their over-scheduled lives? Are we slowly killing us, and free thinking, and the search for the next generation of answers to the big questions ?  

Wonderment requires quiet time, alone time, peace, no distractions. Try a day without a phone, a tablet, Netflix, music, podcasts, internet or even a book to distract you from the moment; it is unnerving at the start. But, it gets better, mysteries and questions will find you, and that is when things get good. Swim with them, bathe in them, wrestle with them. Try it soon, after all, the problem is, we merely think we have time. 

-Shawn

The Guild: A Code of Ethics

See the brief movie below

See the brief movie below

"Look for the log in your own eye - not the splinter in your brothers"

Well, it has now been exactly a year of writing here on the blog.  I have managed to spill my guts over 26 deeply thought out writings, many of them part of a very personal journey.  Writing is therapeutic for me.  As I state in the ever-present quote by Hunter S. Thompson at the top of this page,

"One of the few ways I can almost be certain I'll understand something is by sitting down and writing about it. Because by forcing yourself to write about it and putting it down in words, you can't avoid having to come to grips with it. You might be wrong, but you have to think about it very intensely to write about it. So I use writing as a learning tool. " 

I have learned many things about myself over the last year of thoughtfully writing. If writing is one's way, it can deeply change one's path.  It has helped me, healed me, changed me.  I have shared my heart on love, loss, yearning, healing as well as inspiration, challenging things, difficult times, of learning to be a warrior in a garden, to being a teacher and a student. I have written of my youth, of preparations for staring death in the eye, of fighting, of lessons learned and of many failures. I have shared my thoughts on comparing ones life of lessons and pain to the Japanese art of Kintsugi and reminisced over brotherhood. I even attempted to find a way try to convince the reader to adopt the way of the tortoise. It has been a thought-filled year, a year of insight and growth. 

I am always curious, and looking, looking for inspiration guiding more change.  I am constantly reading, searching for the right words, words or stories that define a path that makes sense to me.  Recently I stumbled across this video, and it certainly fits the bill, for me anyways.  Such noble and inspiring words. Such powerful words, difficult ones to live up to but a worthy pursuit, a place to start or better put, to continue from. Could there be stronger more perfect words to live by?  A stronger code to follow? Haunting, beautiful.  And especially relevant to me having spent many periods of my youth canoeing and fishing through the deep north woods of Algonquin National Part in the remote Canadian wilderness, a place I am still drawn towards in my dreams. A cabin in the middle of nowhere, solitude, living off the land, utter bliss.

I will get there again, I must. After all, the problem is, we only think we have time.

- Shawn

Love what you do
Do what you love
Begin where you are
Use what you have
Do what you can
Honor the elders
Teach the young
Protect and love your family
Keep your craft and your skills strong
Learn from your own mistakes, not only from others
Look for the log in your own eye - not the splinter in your brothers
Be loyal to your friends
Voice your opinion
Stand your ground
Trust your brothers
Work hard, stay humble
Focus on the detail
Be brave
Be calm
Be patient
Wake up early
Temper your body
Live in nature
Walk in the woods
Climb the mountains
Find time to be alone
Hunt when you need food
Rest when you can
Work when you must
Always leave your mark
Take charge when others show weakness
Have more, spend less
More time, less convenience
Craft, not business
Value, not price
Quality, not quantity
To create, not to produce
Hands, not machines

Voice by Eric Hollenbeck from Blue Ox Millworks

Round here buzz, and a flannel shirt.

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What is it about the things that pop into our life, into a sudden moment, that make us feel immediately nostalgic, immediately comfortable.  What are these "old favorite sweatshirt" things in life ?  Those things that wrap us up in comfort and make us feel safe and sheltered. They are things that make us feel the peace of a better time in our life, where there was more control and less chaos, more certainty and less of the other.  These "things", whatever they are for us, they are the special things in life, they represent a thing or moment when life was good, safe, nurturing, amazing.  Songs often do that for many people, as they do for me in turn.  

I just downloaded this album by Eric Church, "Mr. Misunderstood". This entire album immediately gave me these feelings, but none like this song "Round here buzz".  Now, you may not like Eric Church, you may hate country music, and that is fine. Most of the modern day country music is noise to me as well. I am more a traditionalist, I am a George Strait, Alan Jackson time frame lover, I do not go all the way back to Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, or George Jones, but perhaps in time. But, there is a new breed that had taken to my ears, the likes of Eric Church, Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton, mind you, these guys are mostly considered the new wave of the old greats so perhaps my ear is not far off the mark of the good old stuff.  None the less, my point here tonight wasn't to tell you what I like to hear, it was to tell you what I like to feel. And, like you, I like the feel of that old favorite flannel shirt or sweatshirt, and I like songs that make me feel safe and comfortable, that remind me of days long gone where there was more happiness and joy rather than struggle and pain.  

We all like that familiar "Round here buzz" in our life and when they come to us, life is good in those moments.  Right after I heard this song while on my long road trip back to my home town, this song marked the moment and the journey, and of something familiar and gentle in my past. It was the perfect moment, driving back to a place where life was simpler many moons ago. I had on an old flannel shirt, a well worn in pair of Levi jeans, a pair of softly weathered leather boots with the window down in my truck, in this case with the cool of the night time air brushing across my arm while it hung outside the window of my pick up truck. There was something perfect in the air, the music, the feel, the magic,  I know you know what I mean, it has happened to you, too.  You know, the feeling of those moments, the feelings you wish could wash over your entire life, and never go away.

Isn't that what we are all searching for in life ?  That state of perpetual joy and comfort in life, where everyday is a ride to nowhere in particular, the windows down, flannel shirt rolled up to the elbows, a well worn in baseball cap, and a good old feel-good familiar tune playing on the radio. One that brings back that old "Round here buzz".  

So, do me a favor, just for 3 minutes, let me take you somewhere.  Turn off the lights, close your eyes, put yourself in a favorite shirt, a favorite pair of jeans, roll down the windows in your favorite automobile, put on a song, perhaps in this case mine (click the red play arrow), hang your arm out the window into the crisp night air, and imagine you are driving , driving to that place you long for, and maybe even belong. That place of fond memories, of good times, of old friends, of laughter and love and peace.  That place where there is that "Round here buzz". 

-Shawn

Your River: the cleansing.

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Tip me in your smooth waters
I go in
As a man with many crimes
Come up for air
As my sins flow down the Jordan

- "River", by Leon Bridges

We have all done things. We have all done things we are not proud of, things that deeply cut others, that cheated others, that robbed them of some of the peace and trust and faith in us and in the goodness of life. A quote that haunts is Nassim Taleb's,  "Love without sacrifice is theft".  These words remind us that we must sacrifice a crucial piece of ourselves in the process of truly loving another. There is deep truth in these sparse few words, but it should be made clear that these words transcend lovers. Perhaps it was a friend we deceived, a sibling we let down, someone who had placed deep trust in us, trust that was deeply rooted in the fabric of who they are and the life they were crafting. From the other perspective, the side of the one deceived, there are trusts we place in some people that somehow define an essential piece of us, deceptions that render the death of a piece of us that we can never get back.  And yet, after the storm, we try to find a way to move on with our life. Sometimes we feel the gaping hole left within us cannot be replaced or fixed. But with time, like a gash in a leg, the wound eventually closes, yet often with keloid, leaving a scarred memory of that piece of us that has died.  Sometimes they are pieces of us which we can never have back, of time lost, of faith lost, of trust and hope lost.  This is life, and these are the lessons we risk intimately dancing with when we lay our heart, soul and spirit in the hands of others. The key to recovery is to keep breathing, to keep walking, yet never stop risking to love. The key is to keep the faith that the pain will end and better days will come, when we can breath deeply again, feel our lungs expand fully once again, and to hope to soon weep uncontrollably for the last time and mark the final closing of the wound.

The answer I think somehow lies in faith.  Faith that the pains will soften a little more each day, that the scar in time will transcend the event and take on some deeper more comforting meaning, a transcending message and lesson. Scars have stories, and we all have them. We have all been robbed of something at some point in our life.  But, it is how we choose to hold our heart and spirit up each day with gentleness, kindness and forgiveness that defines the softness of the scar and the trust to again place a knife in the hands of another, perhaps even again in the hands of the thief, trusting, hoping, they will always honor our soul and spirit with the softness of the sheath, and not the honed edge of its blade.

Sometimes with great hopes and dreams come great loves and memories, and sometimes great wounds and scars. To live a full life we have to take chances, we have to trust, we must have faith, and when things move against us, we somehow have to find a way to forgive. And yet, as hard as it may be, we must enter with love. Sure, we must not enter as fools with inhibitions, but we must not fear leading with love.  We must understand the truth that there will be wounds cut upon the soft flesh of our being, cuts that leave scars, yet with the hopes that those scars will raise us up. We must remain footed in hope, and lead with trust and love.

And when we are weak, may we be reminded of the faith and hope of the goodness in life and of greater humanity, of tender things like Leon Bridges powerful song "River".  If you can put yourself in a vulnerable place, one of ownership of your shortcomings to another, all of the song’s haunting beauty just might crack something wide open in you, yet it will also remind you that with time, most wounds can be cleansed, though sometimes, never completely healed. Perhaps, to expedite the healing, ours and another’s, may we start with an open offered hand, an embrace, a word of apology rooted in love, to being the healing.

 . . . . take me to the river . . . . tip me in its smooth waters and let my crimes, my thefts, wash from me, and let me hope to come up for air, if there is still time.  And, may the freshest of waters from upstream encompass me and heal the wounds left open upon my flesh and soul. And if we are lucky, may these waters flow over those we wronged, if they are open to the invitation,

Come, meet me at the river my brothers and sisters, we all have work to do, and wounds to heal. After all, the problem is, we think we still have time.

-Shawn ‘

It's (not) only rock and roll.

" If I could stick my pen in my heart
And spill it all over the stage
Would it satisfy ya, would it slide on by ya
Would you think the boy is strange? Ain't he strange?
If I could win ya, if I could sing ya
A love song so divine
Would it be enough for your cheating heart
If I broke down and cried? If I cried?
I said I know it's only rock 'n roll but I like it
I know it's only rock 'n roll but I like it, like it, yes, I do"

 -The Rolling Stones

I have recently been working on a piece called "Die Wise", but I have been stuck, so I did what I always do, I put it aside and let it ferment in the darker spots of my brain. It may be the most important piece I have written for myself (though in my typical fashion of always willing to share) so I did not want to rush it.

So, I did what I always do, I try to distract the process and step into another sphere of influence and inspiration.  Though I have never played a musical instrument, but it is next on my list, music has always been an important piece in my life. But until yesterday, I did not truly appreciate the true, deep, all-encompassing art in rock and roll music. I was schooled, and loved every minute of it. 

The Rolling Stones were a genius bunch, I knew it to a degree, but not to the degree that the exhibit "Exhibitionism" displayed their genius. I walked away head spinning and understanding a little more what true genius is, from another perspective. These fellows were writers, poets, musicians, actors, performers and they brought it all together, note by note, word by word. And

then, somehow they would sit in a room and bring each others personal genius together and some how harmonize it into things we hear, things that mark moments in our lives, enrich our souls, touch our lives. Music is strange, unlike a movie or a play, we can listen to a good song a hundred times and never get tired of it, instead, it only gets better, it gets richer. 

I am keeping this one brief, because my head is still swimming with ideas, inspiration and thoughts. It is amazing where we find the muse sometimes, inspiration, sometimes one only has to open up a different door, a proverbial side door to something we thought we were already familiar with, to find the next level down the rabbit hole of creativity and wonderment. These are the good things of life, I search them out because they make my life better, deeper, richer, more interesting and exciting. They help me see a world that I would not otherwise see; there is so little time.

Starting painting some 8 years ago was a step into this wonderland for me, then a few years learning latin and American style ballroom dance 9 years ago took things a level deeper, now 4 plus years into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that physical form moving art has further opened my mind and world to things I never could have imagined.  I have now decided that music must be added next. Who cares that I am now 50 years of age, it is never too late to learn and stay young in the mind.  I cannot fathom what lies inside this world of music, I am excited, it has been too long in the waiting. 

Finding myself lying on my death bed some years or decades down the road ruminating and wishing I had done something is not really a logical option for me. Regret is worse than death itself in my mind. So, the next stage has been determined. Music has been a big part of my existence and it is time to try and find out the deeper reasons as to why;  I wrote about this topic here, a piece about Gord Downie titled "Dear Gord: Silence's Ransom".  

Oh of the things to come in life. When I hear someone say they are suffering of boredom, I want to slap the stupid out of them. The problem they do not see clearly is that, they think they have time.

"If I could dig down deep in my heart
Feelings would flood on the page
Would it satisfy ya, would it slide on by ya
Would ya think the boy's insane? He's insane
I said I know it's only rock 'n roll but I like it
I said I know it's only rock'n roll but I like it, like it, yes, I do"  
- Mic and Keith

-Shawn

Blood Brothers

"Now the hardness of this world slowly grinds your dreams away,
Making a fool's joke out of the promises we make,
And what once seemed black and white turns to so many shades of gray,
We lose ourselves in work to do, work to do and bills to pay,
And it's a ride, ride, ride, and there ain't much cover,
With no one running by your side, my blood brother." - Springsteen

 

It is the summer of 2017, and that means my brothers and I see another birth year turn over. It is also Father's day shortly, and my brothers are the purest example of great men, great fathers, in my eyes at least. So, I send out this short ode of sorts over the ether, to ping their hearts and send my blood over the miles. I miss you my blood brothers. 

We charged the hills, defended our rights and fought good fights. We fought for our name, and fought for pride and reason. I fought for you and your honor, even when you were not there and could not know, and I am sure you did the same for me, I know you did.  When it came down to blood and knuckles, we banded together despite any differences, always. When you could not get up, I carried you, and I know you carried me when I could not find the strength to stand on my own. We have been through so much.  I miss those days. I regret that the decades and our dreams have separated us, our hearts, our blood. Be careful of the dreams you chase they say, they may take you places you only think you wish to go, sometimes far away from the stuff that really matters. I long for those years when life was simpler, where the choices were simpler. I miss fighting over the last scoop of ice cream, the last bag of potato chips, control of what we would watch on our one black and white TV.  I miss the simplicity of seeing you in the school hallway, just the respectful grin and head nod. I miss lunches with you guys. I miss watching over you at recess in grade school, I miss knowing you were doing just the same.  I miss our college days together. I miss the shared drinks and laughs and stories with our friends around, making our family of friends bigger and deeper. I miss those days with great empty pain in my heart. I regret the silly fights between us, our misunderstandings and our differences. But, I do not fear these things and the pain borne of them at the time, for I know our blood runs deep and that brothers are never truly separated. I know this because I know that we fight the harshest with those we love because the bond can never be broken, there is no risk too great that we will fracture these bonds, they will endure even into the time of our final ashes.  

"Now there's so much that time, time and memory fade away
We got our own roads to ride and chances we got to take
We stood side by side each one fighting for the other
And we said until we died we'd always be blood brothers"

In our youth, selfishness often prevails. Ignorance of what we want prevails. What we often would not do in our youth for someone we love, we would do it in our adult life often without question. I would step in front of a bus for these two heros.  Somehow this kind of profound brotherly love makes one's own life feel less significant than our loved ones.  My one wish, is that I was wise enough in those younger years to quash the ego and take more for the team, and be kinder to you both. I would do it all differently knowing now what brotherhood stands for and requires to best endure the ages.

Who are your brothers in arms ? You'll find yourself extremely lucky if you can find one person you would take a bullet for, I am blessed. I have two.  For my two blood brothers, I remind you of the lyrics below. You will both remember the framed photos with words or lyrics we would share with each other over the years, reminding each of us what is important in life. Brotherhood. Cowboys. Fights. Fishing trips. Camping.  Songs like Springsteen's "Blood Brothers" got it right, this song is us, 3 blood brothers just like in the photo and frame.  That frame, that gift, sits in a place in my home that I see it every day, and I do not turn away, tears and all at times.  I love you guys, God damn, I miss those days of laughter together, of fists and blood, of tears and anger, of adventures and fishing, of laughter and life . . . .  of brotherhood, of charging up the hill, all for one and one for all.  

There are few things in life that one can unconditionally count on, no matter what the situation. There is nothing as thick, as permanent, as definitively loyal and heart tugging, as blood brother-ship, nothing. If you have a brother or sister, or anyone you love for that matter, and this song does not rip apart your heart, fix the problem. Pick up the phone, say what you must, bury your ego and the issues, make peace.  Do it.  After all, the problem is, we think we have time.

"Now I don't know how I feel, I don't know how I feel tonight
If I've fallen 'neath the wheel, if I've lost or I gained sight
I don't even know why, I don't know why I made this call
Or if any of this matters anymore after all
But the stars are burning bright like some mystery uncovered
I'll keep moving through the dark with you in my heart, my blood brother"

Happy birthdays and happy Father's Day to two of the best brothers anyone could ever ask for.  I love ya, and I miss ya. You are both never far from my thoughts and heart, believe that, in your blood.

-Shawn

We played king of the mountain out on the end
The world come charging up the hill, and we were women and men
Now there's so much that time, time and memory fade away
We got our own roads to ride and chances we got to take
We stood side by side each one fighting for the other
And we said until we died we'd always be blood brothers

Now the hardness of this world slowly grinds your dreams away
Making a fool's joke out of the promises we make
And what once seemed black and white turns to so many shades of gray
We lose ourselves in work to do, work to do and bills to pay
And it's a ride, ride, ride, and there ain't much cover
With no one running by your side, my blood brother

On through the houses of the dead past those fallen in their tracks
Always moving ahead and never looking back
Now I don't know how I feel, I don't know how I feel tonight
If I've fallen 'neath the wheel, if I've lost or I gained sight
I don't even know why, I don't know why I made this call
Or if any of this matters anymore after all

But the stars are burning bright like some mystery uncovered
I'll keep moving through the dark with you in my heart, my blood brother

* from springsteenlyrics.com:

Bruce Springsteen wrote BLOOD BROTHERS in early 1995 in celebration of the brief reunion of the E Street Band – he had disbanded the band in 1989.  

" In September 1995 with Neil Strauss for Guitar World, Springsteen told Neil Strauss: "'Blood Brothers' was sort of trying to understand the meaning of friendship as you grow older. I guess I wrote it the night before I went in the studio with the band, and I was trying to sort out what I was doing and what those relationships meant to me now and what they mean to you as you move through your life. Basically, I guess I always felt that the friendships, the loyalties and the relationships, those are the bonds that keep you from slipping into the abyss of self-destructiveness. And without those things, that abyss feels a lot closer, on your heels. I think your own nihilism feels a lot closer without someone to grab you by the arm and pull you out of it and say, 'Hey, come on, you're having a bad day.' So with the song I was trying to sort out the place that those deep friendships played in my life, friendships that I had when I was young. We all grew up together, and people got married and divorced and had babies and went through their addictions and out the other side, and we drove each other crazy."

Good. Maybe.

Trying to live a life more deeply examined, there are so many lessons. This is hard, there are so many distractions. Clearly, it would be easier to be comfortably numb. 

It is not the windfalls and repercussions which arise in our lives that define us, it is how we interpret the outcomes and more so, how we choose to deal with them.  Whether good or bad, It is our perspective, our reaction and our ownership of the situation and outcome that dictates what happens next and that which determines our path of growth.

Our life just doesn't happen to us, it is not a pre-destined thing that we wait and watch unfold, rather, it is designed by us. It is designed little by little over the years by the choices we make, the morals and character we keep, the sacrifices and concessions we make, the promises we fulfill, and the lies and deception we breed into our existence. Our decisions are the proceeds of the choices we are presented with, these decisions are under our control. We can chose to fight, or to give up. We can choose to be honest or deceive. We can choose to be lazy or to be inspired. We can choose to be kind or cruel.  We can choose to fear or to be courageous. We choose our words and our behavior; we can choose to be a victim or be happy. This is about recognizing that there are choices, and taking ownership of our decisions, the good and the not so good.  

This life is about looking for the truth in all things, it is about examining ourselves deeply. This is about choices and decisions, the hard and the easy. This is about change and growth. This is about seeing things as they are, not as we choose to see them. Because, after all, in the hopes of catching happiness by the tail, perhaps we are merely trying to construct our lives into the ones we wish and hope them to be. And, that is unrealistic, a lie, and impossible. Thus, it is about looking for the truth in the things that come our way, or that we welcome our way and looking for the "good" in them, and the "maybe's" in them.

Life is about looking for the truth, and truly recognizing the lies we tell ourselves that foolishly make us think we are constructing that happy life we want, wish and hope for. The real truth is that we design a happy life by our choices, our words, and our actions.  Happiness, kindness, truth, compassion, they must be a consciously chosen and executed daily ritual, like taking a shower. These things do not come to you because it is a Tuesday morning, they come because of the choice we make to exercise them daily. Our life and thus our happiness, amongst other things, is under our control. We must not default into the lazy path, the one making excuses, that enables us to continue on our present stagnant path. The hard won lessons and self growth do not come easily.

Some days I am strong enough, and clear enough, to choose to look for the "good" in all things, and of course wise enough to watch out for the jaundiced "maybe".  Choosing and executing the high roads every day is not easy; I fail, often, very often. Don't we all ? This is the ultimate, unending lesson and exercise.

And, it takes time to get these lessons down right, but the problem is, we think we have time. Good. Maybe.

-Shawn

*A final thought for the reader,
I write for me, and me alone. However, I share what I write because if there is any possibility that my words can reach just one person with similar woes or thoughts, perhaps it can re-weave more than one tapestry and change more lives exponentially than my own. I write about the things in life that I question, things that vex me, tear at me, twist me, things that bounce around my mind and leave me without peace and clarity.  I choose to write about them when they grow, it is a manner of final confrontation to silence them by finding honest meaning in them. I do this in the great hopes that in my final days my last breath can be a peaceful exhale, and not an anxious final gripping and denying struggle for the things I denied resolving. This fear fuels my existence, for me, this is my process.
As Hunter Thompson was once quoted, "One of the few ways I can almost be certain I'll understand something is by sitting down and writing about it. Because by forcing yourself to write about it and putting it down in words, you can't avoid having to come to grips with it. You might be wrong, but you have to think about it very intensely to write about it. So I use writing as a learning tool. "