"Spin" in aviation training: a "stall" or loss of lift, a subsequent nose-down spin, the specific actions required for recovery, and the feeling, after recovery, that you could tackle absolutely anything!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Arts

The Dean of Music at the University of Toronto gave a speech to welcome my younger son's cohort in 2012. He stood on the stage, surrounded by eager, passionate music students and began by mentioning (not exact words) the zeitgeist norm that anyone who chose a career in music these days had to be a couple notes short of a full octave. The kids laughed. The parents laughed. And as we parents were laughing, we looked down at our shoes and wondered if we were the worst parents ever and what would it take to get the boy all cozy in some business program? But the Dean kept speaking and we looked up from our shoes. We looked up because he explained that the problems of the world were not going to be solved by political posturing, and certainly not by corporate largess, but by the way we connect with each other on a soul level. And how do we do that? Through the arts. It would be the arts that would bring us all together on this planet. To study music was not foolish at all. It was actually essential. Everyone in that room breathed a sigh of relief. 

It was a good speech. I'm not sure if, when he wrote it, he knew just how right he was. I'm not sure if he was imagining how far things would slide on the planet. But the core of his message, whatever the scenario, was irrefutable: Humans are emotional beings. We are at our best when we are tapped in to that deeper part of ourselves that comes from the delight of a painting that catches our eye, a poem that puts words to our heartbreak, or a character in a play that seems to be speaking directly to us and making us laugh. It is our experiences with the arts(I consider nature as poetry) that help us define who we are. They draw us out, lay our emotions before us and weave them delicately into the grander tapestry of humanity. They give us the fire to narrow in on who we are on an authentic level. And when we are living authentic lives, we are passionate, vibrant, and fearless. 

I think there is no better time to ramp up the arts than right now. I agree with the Dean. I think it's essential. 

Monday, 9 November 2015


Odd time to be human, although I guess the gig has been a bit bizarre right from the beginning. We work from a complex motherboard powered by our innate desire to grow, but I can't understand the continued oppression and judgement we tolerate. I can't understand, in a world where there IS enough food for all, and where we DO have the capacity to educate everyone, why we allow the shameful disparity that is our world right now. I believe that every problem comes down to communication: Humans, right now, are lousy communicators on an authentic level. This isn't always our fault in the beginning but later on, lack of resolve to do better is completely on us as individuals. 

This human gig goes something like this: We are born, we flourish, and then nurture, which entails cultivating/defending our ideals/morality frameworks. 'Seems simple enough but if the birth scenario(early years)misses its mark, trouble is ahead. Ideally, we are born to attentive parents who tease out our own unique personality through healthy mirroring and attachment. Without this, we are left struggling to flourish: failing to navigate the ego and the self. We can't know who we are without this and unless we are somehow driven to work at it, our efforts to have any perceptions/ideals worth cultivating will be half-hearted, unsure. Individuation, when we emerge in time(around 40) as whole and significant, will be rough. The best parts of our lives will be woven into the TV schedule, sale flyers, and the desire to have stuff.  That's not a exactly a worthy life tapestry. We are capable of more: agency and influence toward positive change.

Imagine being unleashed into the world without knowing who you are. How do you find out? How do you handle the fear and self doubt that fill the void within you? Well, you do a shitload of work. If you have kids, this is essential…unless you are a total emotionally inaccessible dick and you want the loop of your childhood to repeat in that of your own children. It's about words, and I've come up with four simple responsive statements that I think are essential to embrace from an early age:
1) "I'm not clear. Could you clarify…?"
2) "I agree because…"
3) "I disagree because…"
4) "I love you."

It takes guts to admit that you don't understand something, but if you're not drowning in self-doubt and can bring yourself to request it, clarification helps to reaffirm your strength and ability to contribute. To agree and to disagree are essential components of discourse but validating each with explanations moves the conversation ahead. Again, this is difficult without confidence.  And for some reason, I love you is challenging for people to say. Its scarcity is a weapon in some relationships, but if it's used with gravitas, allowing and honoring its inherent vulnerability, then we can connect our deeper selves. There is nothing more powerful.

Okay, now pan back and let's look at the whole world. Imagine our beautiful planet, populated with humans, each one solid in who they are. Each one authentic. Is that not a cool idea?  Here is where some of you will consider this tremendously simplistic…and it is. But I think it's essential. The concept of flourishing through communication is the only weapon against this needless and arbitrary oppression. It has to come from within. People solid in their right to live vibrant and productive lives do not tolerate tribal lunacy, corporate shenanigans, or political insanity, nor do they foist it on others. AND, they don't sit around on the sidelines heckling and pointing out failings. They get to work. They get this. We can all get this. This is the time when we MUST get this.

Get to know who you are. Really. The earth can not stand any more complicity. We need everyone plugged in and together as this story unfolds. It could be really cool. Or not. I mean it.