Tag Archives: philosophy

Just Like a Cloudy Sunrise

Many a day this winter I have woken to find a cloudy morning outside the glass.

I’ll get up anyhow, resolved to walk the shore, and moments later I’m in pants, toque, and a jacket, out the door.

Living by the ocean is a gift most of us in this area cherish, but we have to live life too. Cloudy mornings seem like an invitation to linger under warm covers, dozing a little longer.

Those are the mornings my walk will be nearly deserted.

I’m learning a lot about life, in a metaphorical sense, from such walks. Those low, cloudy, oppressive mornings often have the most dramatic and violent sunrises, a surprising contrast to the darkness that abounds.

I jokingly call them “Mornings by Mordor,” like it’s some kind of exterior decor practiced by a theatrical god.

For others, being anywhere else in the city, they’re likely not seeing any sunrise. Maybe tinges of red and gold on the horizon, but the sunrise is happening so low on the horizon, it’s for those blessed few of us able to make our way to the water’s edge for the show.

This shot included here (by me) was yesterday’s sunrise from Victoria’s Dallas Road. There are cliffs behind me, and even on the clifftops you could easily miss noticing what a stunning sunrise was going on down below. The clouds are low marine cloud, and the diffused light is as a result of a very thin bank of fog sitting on the coastal areas.

With the fog and the low ceiling, there’s all of 15 minutes of exposed sunrise, then poof, the sun’s lost behind clouds for what turned out to be another 4 or 5 hours.

There’s something to learn from this.

Your belief that your horizon is nothing but darkness is probably more perception than it is reality. For those who know where to look, there’s always something to look forward to, and the choice to do this or not is something that’s up to you.

I may not be happy about adversity when it strikes my life, but at least I’ve learned how to look for lessons in those moments, and I’ve tried to take the positives where I can imagine them.

As far as Mornings by Mordor go, a small part of me dreads the perfect blue-sky sunrises of the summer. How dull.

When I go home after another dark-world-sunrise, a part of me feels smug and superior. I had faith. I got a show. Everyone else is at home, grumbling in their slippers about how it looks like another dreary day out there.

Regardless of what our personal futures contain, there’s always a sun, there’s always a horizon, and there’s always a rising and a setting. Life goes on. Our dramas are pretty inconsequential in the big picture of it all.

When’s the last time you watched the sun rise for the sake of watching a sunrise?

It’s the best time of year to catch one. You’re up, ready to go. Unlike June, when it’s at 4 or 5am. Just… stop. 20, 30 minutes. Be there. Enjoy it. Clear your mind. Smile. You’re a cog on the wheel of it all.

Go find yourself an unexpected cloudy sunrise. It does the heart a world of good.

(And sometimes it’ll just be cloudy. But that can be beautiful too. Perspective, grasshopper.)

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The Unfogging

People talk about “clarity.”

Oh, I gained clarity.”

Sometimes I’ve said it. Sounds pompous, though. Change a word and it’s “Oh, I gained weight.”

Gained clarity? Did you eat a crystal ball for lunch? How’s THAT work, eh?

Tonight, I’m experiencing unfogging. Not clarity, just unfogging.

Don’t know quite what I’m seeing, but it’ll sort out, and quick.

There are shapes. Shapes are good. I can work with shapes. Guestimations and shapes. Done.

There’re an awful lot of times where I’ve felt stuck in murk and confusion. Then, the life premise has tended to be: Head up, eyes focused, and quick to react, ‘cos “quick” is all you got.

Forewarning? Whatcha think you got, a foghorn warning of impending demise, or something? Fat chance.

Life ever feel like that for you? Sorta my status quo for about 20 months.

But, hey, man. My last name’s Cameron. I’m an Irish-Scottish Cameron with a dash of Normandy-French. And oodles of wicked maple-blooded Canadian. Meaning, tough hardy northern coastal stock.

We know about fog. And foghorns.

Okay, okay, enough cryptic shit.

That back injury? This is the first time since about February I’ve had two reasonably decent nights back-to-back. Other things are coming together. I had a bunch of stuff that was conflicting between family/work obligations, and it’s magically sorted out tonight, giving me wide berth to do the life-stuff that we all need for longevity. Plus, tomorrow’s Friday.

The last time I can genuinely say life was all fun and awesome was August 13th, 2010. Shortly after, I got sick, then other shit, then the back, and it’s been 10 months of steely-eyed determination and one-foot-after-the-otherness. I haven’t had a lot of time to focus on other things.

Despite the back rehab and all that of late, I’ve begun to take on more, but with less struggle. Getting there. Change: This is good.

So, the fog’s clearing. I see a little more of the future. I like the part of the picture I see. I can’t see the rest. And I don’t care, because at least I have something to focus on.

Sometimes, that’s all you need.

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End-of-Coffee Ponderings

The sun is shining. It’s disconcerting. A tease. More rain lands on Sunday, if not before.

Vancouver’s in the throes of one of its wettest, coldest, greyest springs in recent history. I’ve not worn shorts once this year. I haven’t even entertained the thought of planting basil yet.

Today, most of the tech community will convene at Northern Voice 2011, at UBC, and I’m now realising how disappointed I am to not be going, given the recent turn of events and the loss of Derek K. Miller. Perspective took a turn of late.

I’ve always caught on in the end, but I’m often a late addition to reason.

Then, eventually, whomp, it hits me: The lesson.

Even if I had tickets, my financial situation would require that I work through the conference. That’s the way the dollar-cookie crumbles. It’s “meant to be” and in a way is providing mental spark-power on ideas I’m churning through.

It’s the end of the world as we know it & I feel “meh”

It feels as though life as a whole has been a struggle his year. Maybe the Doomsdayists and their “May 21,2011″ end-of-times prognostications have a little oomph behind them. All the “end-of-times” prep I’m doing is holding off on my Costco visit until May 22. Why die with full cupboards?

For now, a man is mowing the lawn, sunlight is streaming in, and distant tires patter up busy roadways.

That’s the world. Beyond that, something else awaits. That’s for me, a train, and a bike to discover.

I have a pretty short list of what I want in life right now. One is to have the joy of regular paycheque-after-paycheque comfort, and to feel good in body and mind whilst pursuing steady, fulfilling work. The other is, a little sunshine. Everything else in life, that’s bonus.

In a way, my friend’s death has been giving me clarity about what’s important. I knew, once.

Keep it simple, stupid

There’s nothing like somersaulting off a scooter at 45 km/hr or so, landing on your head, and surviving with only silly things like a head injury for waking you up to what’s important in life.

So, for a while there, I had it figured out.

Live for today. Enjoy the moment. Celebrate friends. Be a part of it. Whatever “it” is to you, be a part of it. Celebrate what you have, try to get more, but don’t pin your happiness on that which isn’t in your hands, because then you’ll never have happiness. See how that works?

I had it figured out.

But life is like a vacuum.

Far enough away, you’re fine, unaffected. Get too close, unsettled, you may get sucked up into that vacuum. Caught inside too long, you can suffocate.

I’ve never been good at vacuum-proximity. My life balance, well, it’s like a bad day on a boat sometimes.

Cause/Effect: The Long Game?

Today, I’d like to do Northern Voice. If I did, it’d hurt my bank account, stress me out on the time-management-money-making fronts, and would probably be hard on my back. I’d overdo things, wouldn’t prioritize myself, and the fallout would probably continue for another couple weeks.

Not doing Northern Voice, I earn money, get exercise I need daily, can do all the right things for my back, will get the sunshine my soul desperately requires, will be freed up for my friend’s memorial Sunday, get to earn me a soul-day Monday, and will have balance I need throughout my week so I can spend important time with my family next weekend, before my dad and stepmom do a gruelling six-week cross-country roadtrip — the last of which didn’t end particularly well when my father wound up in critical care 2,000 kilometres from home.

It reminds me of a favourite flick about writing, The Wonder Boys, based on Michael Chabon’s novel. It’s not a perfect movie but it’s far better than the box-office, and title, suggests. In it, Michael Douglas plays a writing/English professor, and he teaches that “writers make choices.”

Choices, they’re harder than we think. It means acknowledging we can’t have it both ways. The heart wants what it wants and sometimes it wants both.

Years ago, I stopped writing fiction for my inability to create tenable conflict that had a beginning/middle/end. A friend surmised I’d had enough conflict in my life, that generating more in my recreational time was probably not what my soul had in mind.

Do whatcha gotta so you can do whatcha wanna

Days like these, where I’m torn between what my heart wants (to spend time with awesome people talking about fascinating things) and what my soul needs (head down, steady progress in work and rehab, daily balance so I can have the summer I want), I try hard to make the right choice.

Then I remember that my friend was diagnosed with terminal colorectal cancer at the exact age I am now, and would be dead before his 42nd birthday, and I get confused: What’s the right choice again?

Fortunately, my body seems to think it knows, so I can ignore my brain and heart, and listen to my bones, which seem to long for a seaside bike ride and a quiet day of not carrying a backpack and bustling from uncomfortable seat to uncomfortable seat, followed by ungainly bus rides.

And that’s all we can do. Guess. Listen to something, anything, and interpret. Among Derek’s last words were a cautioning that we can make plans but they often will never come to pass, and all we can do is be in the moment.

I thought I’d be at Northern Voice this year. Instead, I have the gift of getting well enough that I can return to something I love, sunny day cycling.

That’s a moment I can be in, that I must be in, because it’s the only moment I have available to me, the best this day has to offer.

Sounds like the right choice after all.

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What to Learn from Unemployment

I woke up with a smile this morning. I woke up unemployed.

It’s not permanent… yet. They have three months to hire me back. If they can’t, I get severance then. If they do, tickety-boo.  Just not for a while, please.

I’m so fuckin’ tired from runnin’ so fuckin’ long.

I need to stop. I need to breathe. I need to be.  I need to remember small things, simple moments, big dreams, little lessons, and good times. I need this.

Can’t afford this. But I need this.

I used to find stillness often. I’m that person who has literally sat still and watched light change on a landscape (during some midnight summer sun in the Yukon, a religious experience if you’re into that kinda thing). I used to know I could stop, just stand somewhere, just stare, just be.

Be someone doing nothing someplace for some time. Sometimes, it’s everything.

Then I got on a hamster wheel and just started running.

In the last year, I’ve finally forced myself to pull back — a lot. But my downtime has been nothing but fraud. Downtime? Not so much. Just… distraction. I was doing THIS, not that.

Years ago, I was hanging by the window on a ferry ride home, dreading that moment when I stepped off that boat and transcended island time right back into my rat race. This guy, I guess, saw something of that in me, and we got into this conversation. He commented that cities were built to distract us — “Hey, look at the shiny toy! You’re not unhappy at all! You don’t hate your job! Your boss isn’t a fucking prick! Your commute doesn’t suck balls! Hey, there’s a new nightclub — let’s go drink and pretend we’re anywhere but here!”

The city life, we’re all so busy rushing from the job to this to that and fitting him in while squeezing that in, and saving the date in case that other thing falls through, which depends on her contract panning out and –

Oh, Jesus. There are days I just want to stand on the sidewalk and shout at everyone “FUCKING STOP! Doesn’t it get TIRED? Aren’t you SICK of this endless shit? NOTHING EVER CHANGES. It just comes with new toys!”

But then I wonder if it’s just me, and I’m tired of checking into the same plastic neighbourhood and seeing all the same people with their shiny toys and lives of distraction, where nothing real gets said and everything’s all wink-and-nod.

Yeah. I woke up with a smile this morning. Yes, it’ll be hard.

But I’ve been wise to that distraction for so long. I see the veneer of happiness so many people wear every day, the air of lies and fakery that exude as people try to convince themselves that, YES, when they were six and daydreaming before Saturday morning cartoons, that THIS was a life they’d be happy to live — tied to a smart phone and plugging in detail of every single day, microprocessing life and yet never really ever stopping to remember what simply sitting still in a moment feels like. It’s all there in the subtle sighs and sunken shoulders, the trancelike moments where they fall away for just a — and then snap right back into this.

I think we’re all sucked into a “Is this all there is?” moment every now and then. Sure, we convince ourselves this is a pretty good gig, but sometimes the bigness of the world just magnifies the smallness of our lives, emphasizing how stupid it is that our daily grind should seem so immensely important when we know that 15 years from now all these stupid fucking appointments this week will mean jack shit.

I’m unemployed.

It’s time to recalibrate.

It’s time to break the hamster wheel.

There’s a gift, you know, in poverty.

Desperation can be a beautiful thing if you know how to channel it. Being forced to enjoy the simple and the free can remind one just how little it takes to enjoy a moment.

Yes, you might love the chef’s tasting menu at West and the flight of wine you had, but I imagine some sunsets with beer and buck-slice pizza, spent on a log at the beach, would blow your fancy-ass meal out of the water. The laughter, the comfort, the trust, the beauty… True ease.

You can’t buy that. You can trick yourself that it is up for grabs, but… you can’t buy that. It’s not for sale. Only the appearance of it is for sale.

I’ve had simple barbecues, a few good friends, an afternoon with no end pin-pointed, that have left every person there thinking “Yeah, no one’s enjoying their place or moment more than I am right here, right now. It’s this beer, that hot dog, this place, those people, and this feeling of weightlessness and grounding that comes with.”

I wrote once that I want the trappings of success but not the trap. You can keep your microscheduled, nanoprogrammed life of pace and panic. If it means you get the $80 meals and the lights and pizzazz, so be it.

I’m fuckin’ done, Martha.

I need me some time. I need me some mornings when I can roll over with a dopey grin and grumble into my pillow as I try to decide if I get up now and nap later, or sleep another hour, knowing the only other pressing conundrum is when to brew some coffee or start to write.

Other people have money, get to leave town, leave the country, find their fuckin’ selves. Well, some of us are stuck here, broke, hangin’ on a dime and a prayer, clasping at any five minutes we get without obligation.

I’m fine with that. I’m stuck here, broke, nothing but a vague sense I can get by and a will to write the best hardcover memoir you’ll read in 2012.

It’s like Ken Kesey once commented, something to the effect that, if you can’t find God in your backyard in Kansas, he ain’t gonna be found at the Egyptian pyramids, either.

In fact, I think “soul-searching” done abroad in fancy healing retreats may not be as beneficial as tackling those mysteries while trapped in your life. I think you have to earn it harder, you have to want it more, you have to dig for greater meaning. I think it’s too easy when you’re off at some yoga retreat. When you’re here, in your life, you need to make other people understand your search, you have to value yourself to do the work, and you have to balance the life you lead with the life you want.

It’s not easy and it ain’t for chumps.

Find your soul at home and you won’t have to worry about it falling away from you when you “return” to life.

This summer, I find my soul. I catch up with it. I figure out what the beginning after this end is supposed to be. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it better this time.

My life is a gift, man. My adversity is my opportunity.

It’s times like these I call upon this much-loved Bruce Chatwin quote I’ve posted on so many occasions:

A white explorer in Africa, anxious to press ahead with his journey, paid his porters for a series of forced marches. But they, almost within reach of their destination, set down their bundles and refused to budge. No amount of extra payment would convince them otherwise.

They said they had to wait for their souls to catch up.”

Yeah. That’s right. I woke up with a smile. And you?

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Getting Philosophical as a Birthday Looms

Not too long ago, I learned of the Buddhist exercise that is tantamount to writing your eulogy for the life you hope you will have led.

I hadn’t given the idea that much thought until the recent days.

See, the thing about legacies is, they don’t just happen. They take years — often, decades — to carve out. Who we are, who we were, isn’t just some momentary snapshot — it’s a grainy 8mm movie that never stops playing.

Every day we have opportunity to contribute more to  our lives. Every day is another stroke on the canvas of our legacy, another swath of colour or texture that contributes to the work of art that is our life. Continue reading

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In The Wake of the Storm: Thoughts on Life

It’s the weeks where we feel beaten down before Monday begins that are the hardest to face, eh?

This morning’s rife with the turmoil of a good Pacific storm. A lot of wind and rain. As is usually the case, a good windstorm means a blue sky’s on its heels. I literally see both from my north-facing writing desk. Blue skies over the Pacific, charcoal over the inland. A torrent has just ended and the roads are filled with the splitter-splatter of cars racing through puddles, and roofs are dripping themselves dry.

It’s life. Damages come fast and fleeting. One minute we’re one way, the next, everything’s changed, oppressively so. The storm passes, we’re in a daze, but the reality is, we look around, nothing’s really changed.

That’s the trouble with troubles. Continue reading

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