Category Archives: Life

Beleaguered by the Universe?

Do you ever have ‘those’ days were you find yourself wondering why the Universe is out to get you? I had one Tuesday.

I arrived at the parking lot of the Best Western (ABC restaurant) on Marshall in a cloud of billowing steam, popped the hood and stood back listening to the hiss of water going from a liquid to a gaseous state and watching as the water vapour climbed into the air.

All things considered insanity may be the only reasonable alternative.

I was coming back from a Mental Health Regional Committee meeting in Surrey and had just passed Mount Lehman when the check engine light came on and the temperature gauge climbed to the top of the ‘normal’ range. The temperature red warning light came on just as I was coming up on Clearbrook. I exited Highway 1 there and quickly turned onto Marshall and the Best Western parking lot, arriving in a cloud of steam and a “Hi Ho Silver.”

Recognizing definitive evidence that something in my car’s cooling system was Kaput I made a quiet request to the PTBs (powers that be) that it be only a cooling system problem and that it be something minor like the thermostat.

If the Universe is toying with me it is the thermostat;

If the Universe is out to get me it will be something MAJOR.

As I stood there watching the steam escaping my mind began catastrophising the situation. Fortunately before I managed to spiral into out of control negative thinking and panic, my own water circulating system sent me off (quick step) to the ABC Restaurant’s water closet.

The feeling of relief provided by my visit to the lavatory had me walking back to the car in relative calm.

I had just arrived back at the car and asked myself  “what now” when an acquaintance pulled into the parking lot, for a meeting at the ABC Restaurant and upon recognizing me pulled into a parking slot beside me.

First the cooling system malfunction, then someone arrives and offers help.

Occurrences like that make me feel like the Mouse to the Universe’s Cat.

It is still an amazing struggle for me, when asked how things are going, to reply truthfully that (in this case) something in my car’s cooling system had gone and my car was non-functional.

It is even harder to admit I could use some help and say yes to an offer of help.

As painful as it was to admit to needing and to accept help, after a few false starts and some hemming and hawing I acknowledge a need for a hand and accepted help in starting to deal with my car problem.

He offered to have the car towed to a garage that MCC deals with and see about arranging a payment schedule for car repairs.

The accountant in me, aware of my current financial state and projected cash flow over the next few months, dug its heels in and insisted we not take on a financial obligation of that nature.

So there I was with my mind faced with ‘what to do’ and threatening to switch to squirrel brain mode (picture one of those little exercise wheels for mice, gerbils etc with a squirrel funning nuts on it)………..when my WRAP (wellness recovery action plan) stepped up and handed me the rule to avoid squirrel brain – first things first.

So I said yes to a tow, but to my home rather than the garage and an unknown repair bill and financial obligation.

With the car parked at my place and no pressing need of the car to drive somewhere for a few days there was no need to panic, just a need to reach out and ask for help in determining what is wrong with the cooling system and what I need do to get it repaired.

Well, there was one matter the lack of the car had me needing to deal with, but an offer of coffee from a friend not only got me out of the house, but thoughtfully choosing the location and route to coffee allowed me to return the library DVD on time so that the person with the hold on the DVD could get it in a timely fashion.

Coffee not only relieved worry about returning the library material on time but took my focus off the car and put a smile on my face. We went to McDonalds and I noticed John was interested in the hockey game so I chose to sit where he could easily watch the game on the TV’s.

Watching John struggle to hold a conversation as his attention was drawn to the TV screen put a smile on my face – and a shamrock (yum!) shake over my taste buds.

Getting home I began to commit my tale to paper so as to share the tale and take a first step in finding someone with automotive knowledge and skill to look at the car and tell me what is wrong and what needs to be done to get the car running ASAP in the most cost efficient way (least cost to me).

The tale also serves as an opportunity to comment on how precarious life is for those who struggle to make ends meet in a most minimal manner.

With 16 dollars and some odd cents to my name right now, even the best scenario of it only being a thermostat will require the borrowing and repayment of money; provided I can find someone to lend the money required.

I need the car to get to work to pay the rent and remained housed. It is frighteningly easy in the lower mainland to slip into homelessness. Fortunately I do have people who would trust me to repay them.

And I am can write and share this tale in order to find someone who can supply the expertise needed to diagnose and tell me what is needed to repair my car.

But………what about all those others; the others whose numbers the economy and government policies are adding to, who also are facing a crisis of poverty and lack a means to find the aid they need so as not to become homeless?

They are why it is more important than every that we are willing to make some sacrifices in order to help those who truly need help. Remember that helping does not necessarily require your money, it can be your time, knowledge and expertise to look at a cars cooling system and say “the problem is ……….. and to fix it requires ……….. Or providing a ride to and from the grocery store for a someone (or a family) without a vehicle, saving them the struggle they face in getting groceries.

Let us all commit to trying to do a random act of kindness a day; whether large, small or tiny is not important, it is trying to do that is important………..although on the matter of try Yoda would say “Do or Do Not, there is no Try.”

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life…

“A fight Between two wolves is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.

“The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

“This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old chief simply replied, “The one you choose to feed.

“Why would the City want to cut a man’s chances of survival so low?”

I was asked that question by a homeless human being I have known and shared conversation with for the better part of a decade.

What made the question so chilling as to etch itself into memory, was the utter weariness of the voice, a voice devoid of spirit emanating from a body worn unhealthily gaunt and who’s every aspect spoke of defeat.

Over the years council’s egocentric, patronizing, financially irresponsible, ignore the needs of citizens and of the future behaviours and actions have left me shaking my head in disbelief and with a desire to castigate their profligate behaviours by the application of my pedal extremity to their backsides.

But tonight, looking at what they had done, not simply to a human being but to a citizen of Abbotsford, on behalf of the Citizens of Abbotsford I didn’t want to kick their asses.

For a brief moment following the question “Why would the City want to cut a man’s chances of survival so low?” being posed, my temper flared white hot. But the heat of anger lasted only an instant before it was subsumed in the interstellar cold of repugnance.

Filled with the longing to be able to take Council members by the ear, drag them out of their warm comfortable housing into the dark and cold to face the inevitable outcome of their behaviour and to explain how it was they chose to “Why would the City want to cut a man’s chances of survival so low?”

 

January 4, 2013

Council’s focus on bad management and burying the city and taxpayers under an ever growing mountain of debt has not prevented City Council from taking action on the homeless living on the streets of Abbotsford.

Unfortunately, for both taxpayers and homeless, the actions being pursued by City Council against the homeless are consistent with Council actions such as ownership of the Abbotsford Hubris & Ego Centre, John Smith’s taxpayer unfriendly friendship garden and Council’s recent attempts to panic taxpayers into approving the borrowing of $300 million to ‘solve’ a nonexistent water crisis.

For several years Council used the process of creating a Social Advisory Committee as an excuse to evade changing their behaviour and pursuing policies that address the causes of homelessness. Why council prefers to continuing doing the same thing over and over and over in hopes that the next time will not, once again, simply force the homeless to relocate to a new homeless camp, is as unfathomable as why Council felt the City of Abbotsford needed a professional hockey team so badly they hung the albatross of the Abbotsford Hubris & Ego Centre around taxpayers necks.

Unsurprisingly, once created, the Social Advisory Committee pointed out that chasing the homeless from place to place around the city until they were back to where the chase had begun and then beginning the chase again was pointless when there was a lack of viable housing options for the homeless.

 

“Why would the City want to cut a man’s chances of survival so low?”

You can see just how the City values the advice of the Social Advisory Committee. An Advisory that the City stated it could take no actions to address homelessness without direction from.

Council’s Social Advisory Committee has led to a plenitude of politically correct words – and the accomplishment of nothing of actual substance or effectiveness.

So Council continues to engage in the insanity of endlessly chasing the homeless from place to place around the city. With Council’s well developed ability to ignore reality and see only what they want to see, this pointless chase grinds on and on year after year.

With the same people, people who were residents of Abbotsford [many of whom grew up in Abbotsford] before fate placed them homeless on the streets of Abbotsford, being chased year after year around their home city to no avail.

Begun in the spring of 2012 Council’s current onslaught has been aggressively chasing the homeless around the City with great zeal.

This hasn’t reduced the numbers of homeless but it has physically and spiritually worn the homeless down, stripping away their human dignity and the belongings needed to survive the winter alive.

The two carts unceremoniously dumped into an Abbotsford city garbage truck belonged to one of the homeless whom the City has been particularly aggressive in pursuit of.

In prior years the city had not been able to harass him at this level because his camps were well off the beaten path making finding them a much more difficult task.

An injured leg has severely limited his choice of homestead this past year with the result he is an easy, and often, target for the City. Between the City and the second class medical treatment the homeless receive in Abbotsford his leg has worsened and taken  a heavy toll on his overall health – reducing him form lean to noticeably underweight and worn down.

Moving using shopping carts has become such a struggle, especially when his focus has to be patching together enough of a shelter to avoid becoming another ‘dead of natural causes’ homeless statistic, that his carts sat long enough to be misappropriated by the City and their garbage truck.

And before City Council begins its excuse mongering on its  failure to address homelessness with its old favourite poverty………how is it that Council has $17.5 million to waste by giving it to the YMCA to build a facility that that not only fails to address the needs of the citizens of Abbotsford, but will cost taxpayers addition $$$$ to offset the $$$$ lost at existing City facilities as the Y, subsidized by Council’s continued wastrel use of taxpayer $$$$, takes business away from the City’s existing facilities – forcing taxpayers to make up the lost revenue out of their pockets – yet pleads poverty when it comes to doing anything productive about homelessness.

Although…..there is a great deal of truth in Council’s claims of poverty when it comes to homelessness; not a poverty of $$$$ but of leadership, integrity and ethics.

A poverty of character which has City Council pursuing a scorched earth policy as it tyrannizes the homeless.

A behaviour that entails a human cost that is not only unacceptable, but unconscionable.

 

Interlude

I found myself partially thawing, cleaning and washing several bags of soaked, semi-frozen bedding for the person whose survival was threatened by the city relieving him of the necessities to avoid freezing to death. Once laundered, dried and packaged against the wet of the weather it was time to clean up the mess created in getting the bedding laundered and clean up the mess that I had become.

It was not my job to do any of that. Indeed, I already had a task list that was overwhelming and escalating stress levels. There were innumerable excuses available for not taking on the additional work and stress, and only one reason to undertake all the extra effort.

To me that one reason, a person’s life (their survival), left no option but to tackle the extra work.

In a fine twist of Irony, the actions of the City have resulted in a return to living on the same street he lived on as a child, albeit he is now living under a tree on that same street.

The reality as to where the homeless are from is that many of them grew up in Abbotsford. Indeed, Councillor Simon Gibson is not the first member of his family to have a major effect upon this homeless person’s life. His stomach still bears the scar from a knife in the hand of Simon Gibson’s

In a fine twist of fate the father saved a life with his blade and the removal of an appendix; a life the actions of the Doctor’s son, Simon Gibson, are putting at increasing risk.

 

February 8, 2013 

“Do you have any candles?” came the quiet voice out of the dark. ‘One left…….I need to move getting some more up the priority list.’

“You wouldn’t have a sleeping bag would you” ‘Sorry but with the City hunting down the homeless like there is a bounty on their heads……even the bag from my emergency car kit is gone.’

“The City cleaned out my camp and left me with nothing to survive with but what I am wearing.”…silence…“James — Why would the City want to cut a man’s chances of survival so low?”

The Question seems to echo off Reality itself in the Silence the Question evoked.

On the way to get a candle for a heat source, as someone stepped out of the building for a smoke break I enquired if he “happened to have a sleeping bag in his vehicle”. It seemed appropriate given the need, although I did feel curiosity as to what he thought of that question coming to him out of the dark of a cold winter eve?

Then one of those serendipitous happenings that occur when you are where you are suppose to be, doing what you are suppose to be doing, rolled up in a burgundy van.

It was somebody down from Boston Bar who, seeing me as he drove by, had pulled up to ask about someone who had stayed at his place in Boston Bar. Given that it was one of those happenings, I had seen this person on two different days this week for the first time in months.

He had a sleeping bag in the van that his dog lay on. He had no objection to parting with the sleeping bag other than some embarrassment at offering a sleeping bag his dog had been using to a human being. He did feel a need to offer assurances that his black lab was a fine, clean dog who was bathed from time to time.

Personally, if a dog’s sleeping bag can significantly increase my chances of survival……..I apologize to the dog for needing his bag and thank him for the gift.

You know that if City Council had treated a dog the way they treat the homeless……

………they would be dragged to court on criminal charges, the press would be all over them and the public would be screaming for their blood.

But a Human Being? Who cares? Obviously neither Council nor the Citizens in whose names Council are hounding the homeless.

 

Collatio Tomi Secundi   

Mayor and Council revisited the idea of protecting City assets from being used for ‘offensive’ purposes by any who paid for the use of those Assets, apparently finding a little female thigh flashed on the football field at the Abbotsford Hubris & Ego Centre ‘offensive’……

Yet Mayor and Council are fine with their offensive use of City assets and manpower to strip away the materials the homeless need to survive the elements of winter weather. Or perhaps it is the contention of Mayor and Council that the actions they pursue against the homeless are so totally reprehensible, these actions bypass any suggestion of being offensive because they are repugnant?

Be that as it may, Mayor? — Councillors? — Voters?

“Why would the City want to cut a man’s chances of survival so low?”

He awaits your reply.

The Reason

“Christ is the reason for the Season” has made its debut, this being the season for the brief yearly appearance of this piece of ‘everybody knows’ …….untruth.

If one feels the need to have a god as the reason for the period of celebration surrounding the winter solstice and new year, then proper attribution would be to Mithras.

Mithras was a Persian god from the Zoroastrian pantheon, where he was a helper and assistant to the power of Good against the power of Evil. In the fight against Evil, Mithras slew a bull created by the Evil Lord and it was from the blood of this bull that all life sprang all.

Over time the cult of Mithras [Mithraism] gradually detached itself from Zoroastrianism and developed a mythology and rituals of its own.

Originally Mithras was subordinate to the Lord of Good [the Sun-god], but with the passage of time he came to be regarded as a peer to the Sun, and finally identified with Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun.

The cult of Mithras came to Rome in the first century BCE, and quickly gained a steady following and was widespread throughout the Roman Empire in the first century CE. Mithraism peaked in the third century CE, before being suppressed with all other non-Christian cults at the end of 4th century; a suppression that resulted from the triumphant rise of the Christian cult and its graduation from ‘cult to ‘religion’.

Faced with the threat posed by the advantage Mithraism enjoyed in the hearts and minds of the populace as a result of Mithraism’s solstice/year end/new year celebrations, the Christian cults found themselves in need of a yearend celebration.

An astute marketing decision and….the birth of Jesus was celebrated on December 25th, which strategically fell between the winter solstice and the yearend/new year.

There are those who have searched the Bible to find passages that they could interpret and use as evidence that the Bible proves Christ was born December 25th.

The problem is that the Christian gospels were clearly written as theological documents in the context of early Christianity rather than historical chronicles and their authors showed little interest in an absolute chronology of Jesus or in synchronizing the episodes of his life with the secular history of the age.

The only thing that these arguments have proven is that one can use and interpret the words of the Bible to ‘prove’ anything you want to have the Bible provide ‘proof’ of.

I do acknowledge that although the timing of celebrating the birth of Christ on December 25th, between the winter solstice and yearend/beginning of the New Year, lies with Mithraism – a cogent argument can be advanced that the reason for the existence and nature of the Season flows from the Christian churches and religions.

Looking back to the end of the 4th century/beginning of the 5th century, the point where Christianity triumphed, outlawed all other religions in the Empire and graduated from cult to religion [A cult is a religion with no political power.” Tom Wolfe] we can examine the development of the Christian churches and religions and the interaction between the Christian churches and religions and the Season to see how the behaviours of church and religion shaped the character, the heart, the essence, of the Season.

Looking today around the world, around Abbotsford, at the Christian churches and religions you see astute shepherding is more in evidence today than it was at the end of the 4th century.

The cultivation of cash flow to provide salaries sufficient to attract pastors with the capability to enhance the growth of congregations, the Christian churches, the Christian religions and their wealth [properties, buildings, investments, bank accounts] .

The streets of Abbotsford provide abundant testimony as to how Christian churches and religions have, over the centuries, shaped the character and spirit, the soul of the Season. The Season of Greed.

How many more?

Watching another report about a memorial or ceremony for/about Amanda Todd, the teen ‘bullied to death’, raises the question of how many other teenagers will suicide as a result of the media coverage of all the accolades and fame Amanda Todd’s suicide garnered her?

Not that many months ago the media was focused on one community’s efforts to prevent a recent teen suicide triggering future teen suicides in the community; suicides as in more than one. The community’s concern arose from the knowledge that the suicide of one teenager will set in motion thoughts in surviving teens that lead to a cluster of teen suicides in the future.

The media’s report focused on this knowledge, and the evidence linking the suicide of one teen with future suicides among the surviving teens.

If a simple teen suicide serves to trigger future teen suicides, how many suicide deaths will the message, intentional or not, we are sending via media coverage of Amanda Todd’s suicide cause in the future? Deaths that will occur not only in Vancouver, but around the world as Amanda Todd’s death became a cause celebre for media worldwide.

Want worldwide fame? Want your name all over the local media for days, weeks, months? Want people to speak of what a wonderful person you were and what a tragedy your loss is? Want your father to get a tattoo to memorialize you? Want a memorial held at the Red Robinson Theatre in memory of you? Want to make a video and have it go viral on the internet? Want not only 15 minutes of fame, but for the 15 minutes to be extended?

No problem!

Simply, make a video, post it on line, off your self – and let the wailing and gnashing of teeth begin.

There exists ample knowledge about the psycho/socio/bio (psychological sociological biological) nature of the realities, interactions and thought processes of teenagers vis-à-vis suicide. We know that the behaviours of the media, society and individuals with respect to Amanda Todd’s suicide will inspire other teens around the world to seek fame and immortality through suicide.

Now this may not be a pleasant reality, but it is reality none the less, one of the profuse dark realities and unpleasant truths that people and societies work hard to ignore by refusing to see or burying their heads in the sand.

But: Reality does not care what you want to be fact, reality does not care what you believe to be fact, Reality simply is what IS.

The question is not whether teen suicides will result from media coverage of Amanda Todd’s suicide and the ongoing circus that resulted as people strove to get aboard the 15 minutes of fame parade float.

That there would be future suicides triggered was an unavoidable reality, the when and how many were dependent on whether behaviour in reaction the Amanda Todd’s suicide was deliberate and considered – or our usual thoughtless reactionary denial of reality knee-jerk rote response.

Unpalatable perhaps – but Reality none the less.

 

John Paul Breckenridge

My brother John was never able to grasp that certain inalienable rights accrued to me as the eldest of the Breckenridge offspring.

Over the weekend he ignored the fact that by right of birth my siblings, my younger siblings, were NOT PERMITTED to shuffle off their mortal coil before I, the eldest sibling, had departed for whatever awaits us beyond this earthly plane of existence.

When I die, release balloons in the sky to celebrate that I graduated. For death is a graduation.

What the caterpillar perceives is the end;
to the butterfly is just the beginning.
Everything that has a beginning has an ending.

Say not in grief that he is no more
but say in thankfulness that he was
A death is not the extinguishing of a light,
but the putting out of the lamp
because the dawn has come.

Although I feel like crying I will not. I will smile because we were brothers.

Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow. A flower that demands courage to acknowledge and share. Courage that continues to be a struggle for me to realize and bespeak.

Farewell my Brother. May your Spirit Soar into the Light.