Sep 29, 2009

What is the Truth?

September 29/2009

Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Truth is, the truth is a bit of an enigma; a perception. Not all truths are the same. We all may say we saw that tall blond woman with the tight skirt walk down the steps into the law offices. However, Mrs. Brown said, “It was a thin hippy man with blond hair and tight jeans.” Joe Green over there said, “It was a woman with horn-rimmed glasses in a tight business suit and she went up the steps.” Yet, the truth may be that it’s just a male in drag waiting for a friend. So everyone has their own truth.

But what is the truth?

The truth is a consensus of opinions. Right? … Wrong.
The truth is the difference between right and wrong. Right? … Wrong.
The truth is written by the journalist who writes the best prose. Right? … Wrong.

Sometimes history has been subjugated by the ugly fact that the books that actually survived the burnings were the ones left to tell the story, whether they told the truth or not.

Film Maker Walt Disney always said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Yet, a lot of us learned some of our history from movies made by Disney. Then of course playwright David Mamet said, “It's only words ... unless they're true.”

Surprising as this may seem, there is no single definition of “truth” about which the majority of philosophers agree. Various theories of truth, commonly involving different definitions of "truth," continue to be debated.

But, what is the truth?

Personal honesty and a good moral compass summon us to rise far above the masses and live and practice with integrity and good ethics, as well as values, principles, morals and decency. We need to take the trouble to learn all the facts and evidence of an issue before we make up our minds on an emotional or an ego based level. In other words: Take the lead as the individual thinking people and rise above the corruption that surrounds us. We need to make sense of all sides of an issue rather than follow a doctrine or a dogma called for by politics, religion, society, culture or the gang mentality. And carefully make up our own reasoned minds and follow our own integrity, and our own soul.

There’s a wonderful quote from the 8th century Chinese Zen Master, Sent-ts'an, who said, "If you want truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between "for" and "against" is the mind's worst disease."

So what would he say about the political climate today? Today, normally rational people draw political lines in the sand and take tough stands on issues, either for or against, to prove that they don’t like what the other party is standing for; no matter if they are speaking for or against their own better interests. Is this really being honest with the truth?

As we all know, people are not sheep. Yet, many follow like sheep, not standing up for what is right in the world, but for how they can retain power, party loyalty, trustworthiness and commitment or even status within a certain group, camp or society. We see this when people can be rallied by the use of a simple word such as “patriotism” or because of “fear” or even because someone needs to “look good” in supporting a wrong call on a contentious subject. This is not truth, but deception.

But, what is the truth?

England’s great wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill once said, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”

Philosopher Gabriel Marcel once dug deep inside himself and told us, “I am obliged to bear witness, because I hold … as it were … a particle of light, and to keep it to myself would be the equivalent of extinguishing it.”

In recent history, US television satirist and comedian, Stephen Colbert, coined the word “Truthiness” to describe something that a person claims to know without regard for the truth, facts, evidence, logic or examination. They just "know", or say they know. It seems that some people can say anything. Unfortunately for most of us, some of them get away with it.

But again, what is the truth?

I asked at the beginning, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” Well, as we see, the real truth is but: a perception, an enigma, a mystery, a bit of a puzzle and sometimes a delusion.

It’s really up to our own integrity and self-respect, accountability and honesty as individuals to state and live by the facts. We must distinguish, in an honest way, the difference between right and wrong. In the end, all we can ask of others is to go beyond their own challenges to make a real difference in the world by doing the right thing; and to inspire others to also do the right thing. Only in this way can we change the world into a better place, one person at a time.

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
- Oscar Wilde

“I love you, and because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth than adore me for telling you lies.”
- Pietro Aretino

“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”
- Albert Einstein

Sep 28, 2009

Giving and Gratitude

September 27/2009

The hardest thing to do is to give something away. Not on the personal level of letting go; money, things, energy, time, knowledge, but in gaining the respect of the recipient.

The Buddha told that the giver is giving compassion, and that compassion never needs to seek recognition, nor reward. Because that is what true giving and compassion is: Nirvana. It’s the concept of being free from craving, anger and other afflictive states; greed, hatred, and delusion. Being free from suffering. Being a totally free thinker. To not need anything but the basics to live. To give freely without need for something in return; not even a thank you.

Therefore, we shouldn’t be looking for respect, right?

I was always taught that when receiving a gift, to always acknowledge, thank and respect whomever was being gracious enough to give me something. For that is the least I could do. But for someone to give something to you in kindness - gifts or pleasure without the need for gratification - seems truly selfless. This is the hardest thing to master within oneself. Because it is natural to want gratification, quid pro quo or at least a simple thank you. And if we don’t receive what we consider the right acknowledgement, we want to teach the one receiving to be more gracious.

When I was a kid, my mother wasn’t financially very well off. I remember we were invited to a cousin’s birthday party and she had bought a small gift for me to give to my cousin. After receiving really great gifts from other people, it was time for me to give this tiny gift, a toy car, to my cousin. The look on his face was precious. “Well, I don’t like that,” he told me. He must have been about five or six years old. I was about eight.

I think I learned much more from that exchange than he did. I learned humiliation, then humility. Since then, there have been many times in my life when I have been humbled and my way of thinking has been challenged. I don’t feel as much humiliation any more.

But this lack of grace exists everywhere. During the past few years, I had the opportunity of working with charity organizations in and around the Los Angeles area. I was astounded when I would hear CEOs, and other fundraisers scoff at the amount of money being given by philanthropists. “Is that all,” they would say. “They could give us much more than that.” Where, I ask, was the graciousness of the receiver for the gift, no matter how large or small the donation?

We tend to look down on people whose grace is lacking. And for some charities, a fundraiser’s attitude and the way they do or do not express gratitude, makes the difference in whether the philanthropist will ever donate to the same organization again.

In Jewish Tradition the Talmud insists that the contribution to the centralized fund is the highest form of Tzedakah or charity, for it is the best way of ensuring the anonymity of both donor and recipient. Therefore gratitude to the giver is never in question.

The laws of Karma tell: You can’t give anything away because it will come back to you in the form of energy. So we really don’t need the gratitude of others. It is a given.

Somehow we must take our bruised egos out of the equation if we are ever able to understand true compassion. We must become aware of another’s innocent ignorance of gratitude. Perhaps they haven’t been taught to be thankful. We need to be understanding and compassionate toward the other person’s lack of grace. Because we are also supposed to be giving of our tolerance, our open-mindedness and our receptiveness to learning from others.

The Dalai Lama is in Vancouver this week for his 2009 Peace Summit. He teaches kindness and compassionate giving for all. And while his and all great teachings should be good learning for us, I think some of us need to experience life lessons (the school of hard knocks) and develop our own moral judgments and moral humility before we can become truly compassionate. With this life experience and knowledge gained we will have the tools to be understanding individuals and better givers, whether we reach Nirvana or not.

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
- Kahlil Gibran

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful.”
- Buddha

“Do not stand on a high pedestal and take 5 cents in your hand and say, "here, my poor man", but be grateful that the poor man is there, so by making a gift to him you are able to help yourself. It is not the reciever that is blessed, but it is the giver. Be thankful that you are allowed to exercise your power of benevolence and mercy in the world, and thus become pure and perfect.”
- Swami Vivekananda

"We do not quite forgive a giver. The hand that feeds us is in some danger of being bitten."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Day in the Life

September 21/2009

The Beatles re-released all their up-dated, re-mixed, analogue to digital recordings this month. I’m reminded just how creative they were: avant-garde, leading-edge, experimental, daring, with a freedom that brought the musical world into a new era that never seemed possible. And it was all a great collaboration of five individuals. No, not just the four Beatle members: John Lennon, Paul McCatrney, George Harrison and Ringo Star, but also one of the greatest music producers of all time, George Martin.

One of their greatest song collaborations was “A Day in the Life.” The last song on the Sgt. Pepper album.

Needing to think up new songs for their latest album, John Lennon was sitting at the piano one afternoon when he picked up the newspaper and read of an acquaintance who had been killed in a car crash. Having the creative freedom to write songs about anything, John started to write about how reading this story affected him.

“I read the news today, Oh Boy. About a Lucky man who made the grade.” He wrote about the crash and how the people stopped and stared. He then decided to write of other things happening on this day in his life, like seeing the film he had recently acted in. “How I won the War.” He wrote, “I saw a film today, Oh Boy. The English army had just won the war.” After another glance at the newspaper he spotted another item that caught his eye, about pot holes in Blackburn in Northern England. With these simple writings/lyrics, of no consequence to anything, he composed a beautifully, simple, yet haunting melody to accompany them, using his words as musical inspirations. And it was this simple melody that would inspire the others to add their embellishment, structure and nuance.

They began recording the song at the Abbey Road studios on January 19th, 1967 with John singing and playing guitar, Paul on piano, George on maracas and Ringo on bongos and drums. As the song progressed they recorded John’s four verses and he added a segue, "I'd love to turn you on", for an unwritten middle verse. The middle verse was left open and Paul remembered some lyrics he had been working on for a song about heading off to school as a youth. “Woke up, got out of bed. Dragged a comb across my head.” He wrote of catching a bus and sitting upstairs while going into a dream. It was a totally different melody but it worked within John’s melody. And as Paul's lyrics went into the dream, John sang the dreamy high "Ahhhhs" and George Martin added an orchestral horn section to strengthen the sound. But there was two 24 beat spaces left for something else to be added later. Something spectacular.

Paul asked George Martin if he could get an orchestra to play an ever ascending swirl of music to fill the spaces. This was later recorded and over-dubbed with Paul’s base guitar keeping the beat. At the end of the piece they had the musical swirl creating a crescendo/climax.But something was missing. They needed to define a finish. There were three pianos in the studio, so they lined up John, Paul and Ringo on each piano and they simultaneously played the chord of E. This dynamic chord was stretched for almost a minute to fade out and conclude the song and the album. Thus it became the most famous chord in musical history.

Art is taking an idea and embellishing it into greatness, being decorative, adding layers. A Day in the Life started with a simple memorable melody and it has become an all time favorite song, from one of the all time favorite groups.

All good art is like this: painting, writing, music, photography, films, design, architecture, all creativity. Start with a simple idea that will weather the tests of time, frame it within a solid yet exciting structure, add the mixture of creating something to enhance the experience: character, elaborate, decorate, garnish. beautify, grace, embellish, and add depth and style.

If more artists started with substance and creative thinking to achieve something different and better rather that just copying that which has gone before, we would have a much more evolved world. The Beatles were influenced by others but in the end they told their own story with something new and innovative that excited not only their generation but a lot of generations, and a whole world. Like Beethoven and Bach, the Beatles music will live forever.

You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.
John Lennon

Nothing pleases me more than to go into a room and come out with a piece of music.
Paul McCartney

Political discourse and respect

September 14/2009

I’m neither left nor right, so I sit in the middle, dodging dogma and personal attack potshots, and watching badly behaved people spout vicious lies and destructive intimation at each other over the heads of, us, the confounded centrist majority.

Politics is a very dirty game. Destroy your opponent and take the country so it benefits you. Tell the worst lies about an idea or an opponent, make yourself look good and bring the other guy or gal down, no matter what. This is rhetorical warfare at it’s worst. No more intelligent debate, wise political maneuvers or even cleaver ideas, just screaming from the sidelines. For what? To win the next election? Power? Greed?

Unfortunately, all this works on an apathetic, numbed-down population who don’t have the desire or perhaps curiosity to do the research and find the real truth. The Vox populi (voice of the people) who go about their own daily business oblivious of how their country is being ruled or ruined. And there are enough of them to swing votes. Just tell them that the other party will raise taxes, let the terrorists in, break up the country or that you are religious, and they will automatically vote against their own self interest. Rule by lies, and fright wins the day every time.

I remember when political parties were inhabited by intellectuals. It was fun to see them and their ideas in full swing, trying to grab the hearts and minds of an electorate for them to become the next government. Yes, to be in public service. We'd watch the people we didn't agree with and still admire them. Political discourse was an intriguing thing to watch, listen or read, especially when political adversaries would head off for a beer or dinner together and talk football or hockey after a heated debate. They were political opposites, but human beings first. These people had grace, style and substance; with a little wit thrown in for good measure.

British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, a Conservative, had a fierce political rivalry with Liberal leader, William Gladstone, who also became Prime Minister. They were opposites in thinking and in their approach to life and ruling. However, they highly respected each other with a wicked sense of humour. When Gladstone’s followers called him GOM (Grand Old Man), Disraeli changed it to God's Only Mistake. When Disraeli died and Gladstone proposed a state funeral for his opponent, Disraeli’s wishes came to light; he would like to be buried with his wife. Gladstone replied, "As Disraeli lived, so he died, all display, without reality or genuineness." They loved the great debate, as did my favorite politician, Winston Churchill. He could be brutal, but respectful.

Today, it seems, elected politicians have no manners, training, education or even a sense of humour. The opposition becomes the enemy, so the debate turns sour and personal. Personal attack ads on television have become the normal way of doing business. It really is drama, theatre and dumb enough to be a little Shakespeare. Now if they could only stick some pizzaz in there, sprinkle it with a sense of humour, and of course a dash of good ideas and respect, they might win the hearts and minds again.

In the United States it’s all out in the open, and it’s ugly. It’s also happening in Canada. Parties who I once supported have become mean and nasty parties of small thinking men and women who follow each other like sheep. Gone is the intelligent discourse and the great ideas that built the country. All this is replaced by Luddite, immature thinking and acting, and smear campaigns aiming to destroy opposition.

So here I am, in the center, watching the world unfold; perhaps as it should. Political opposition and discourse will come and go, as will all things “this too must pass.” Sooner or later the next party will take over as the governing block and the little people, the pretenders, will move on, having almost destroyed the soul of a country in the process. May we just hope and pray that the voting public at large will see above the blatant lies, wake up, become less lethargic, less apathetic and less numbed down by politics. They need to Get Involved, listen, learn and vote for good government: Government that benefits everyone, not just the ignorant, the thieves, the greedy and the nasty few with hidden political agendas.

"Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feeling for the strength of their argument. The heated mind resents the chill touch and relentless scrutiny of logic."
William E. Gladstone

"Be amusing: never tell unkind stories; above all, never tell long ones."
Benjamin Disraeli

"I have always felt that a politician is to be judged by the animosities he excites among his opponents."
Sir Winston Churchill

Where's the Compassion?

September 3rd, 2009

Last month the convicted bomber of PanAm flight 103, a 747 jet aircraft that was blown out of the sky in 1988, scattering across miles of countryside in and around the small village of Lockerbie in Scotland, was set free on compassionate grounds. He had served a few years of his lifetime sentence in a Scottish prison and was released because he was about to die. The Government of Scotland cited the release as a humanitarian gesture as the man had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and they wanted to let him die at home with his family in Libia.

From western governments and populations there was an outcry. “Why would they release a mass murderer and let him go free. This man didn’t show compassion when he set the trigger that killed so many?”

I admit, I am of two minds. Yes, this man did commit a very serious crime and he showed little remorse when sentenced. However, we in the west espouse that we are the compassionate ones. We are the secularists and we base our societies on law and order, wisdom, moral standards, freedom and good government. Our society is also based, in part, on some Christian teachings, and we follow the goodness and compassion of many religions that preach the sanctity of life and peace with others. This man had been given three months or less to live with a diagnosis of prostrate cancer. Do we or do we not practice what we preach? Yes the law has to be based on the enormity of the crime but how civilized are we? As a civilized society we must have compassion and maintain those strong convictions no matter who challenges them. We need the "Wisdom of Solomon" to nurture the values we have, and hold onto them. For what are we without the values we espouse but a copy of those who fight us because of them.

A few years ago the case of Terri Schiavo garnered headlines around the world. This terminally ill, Florida woman was on a life support system supporting a body with brain damage so massive that there was no “quality” of life left in her. The conundrum was: should they pull the plug and let her die with some sort of dignity or keep her on life support and prolong the life of someone who would never again regain her brain functions. Her husband wanted to “pull the plug” and let her drift off to heaven. He said, “That is what Terri would want.” Her parents disagreed, they wanted her to live. The case went to court.

Even though there was no euthanasia laws in Florida, the court ruled for the husband. He was his wife’s guardian. He could choose to have the life support systems removed. After several court appeals by her parents the US Congress and President Bush got involved and voted to keep Terri alive. The Florida Court decision was then upheld by the Supreme Court of Florida and the Supreme Court of the United States, making a mockery of the Congressional and Presidential interference. Terri was eventually seperated from her support systems and she died a couple of weeks later.

My question is: where is the compassion? And in Terri’s case, where is the faith that religious people preach about? “There is a God,” they say. “And he is waiting for us in heaven.” Then why wouldn’t they want Terri to be in heaven with her God rather than living no life here on earth? She had been vegetating for years with absolutely no hope of regaining her consciousness. Why would these people want to prolong her “non” existence and suffering?

There was a mass outcry and the sanctimonious religious among us took over the debate and almost denied Terri’s release from a life that was no life at all. I must question the faith of these people. Surely, if God is compassionate then why can't we be, and let Terri go?

The Wikipedia dictionary describes compassion as: “a human emotion prompted by the pain of others. More vigorous than empathy, the feeling commonly gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another's suffering. It is often, though not inevitably, the key component in what manifests in the social context as altruism. In ethical terms, the various expressions down the ages of the so-called Golden Rule embody by implication the principle of compassion: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.

If this is so, then both the Terri Schiavo case and the Lockerbie bomber case are similar. Both test the virtue of our own compassion to help someone out of their suffering. In the Lockerbie bomber case we must also practice the virtue of forgiveness, and this seems to be the most difficult for many to do. For when confronted with the idea of retribution, revenge or vengeance, many seem to forget that forgiveness is also compassion, and at the heart of all religious learnings is: Love thy Enemy. Better still, respect thy enemy.

Then why can’t we be charitable and let the bomber go home to die with his family? It is in our compassionate philosophy to do so. And why can’t we help Ms. Schiavo die in peace? Obviously she was suffering. Let them both rest in peace.

ompassion is here, it lies within us all. It is only to be rediscovered and practiced by all who espouse a truly civilized society.

"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."
The Dalai Lama

“Kindness gives to another. Compassion knows no 'other'.”
Tzvi Freeman, Jewish Rabbi

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Albert Einstein

“Give me knowledge, so I may have kindness for all.”
-Native American Proverb

It's Raining again in Vancouver


There’s a unifying factor in Canada from coast to coast to coast: The Weather. At least it’s something Canadian’s always love to talk about, complain about. Canadian weather is as different as it’s people but there is one comparable factor: it’s always active.

On the Atlantic coast it’s wild. I’ve crossed the Atlantic Ocean by boat. I know it well. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland gets some of the worst weather on the continent. Storms travel from west to east across Canada and storms move north, up the eastern United States, some of them hurricanes, and they meet over the Maritime provinces in an untamed mingling of forces. Quebec is very cold in winter. I lived in Montreal as a young boy and I remember the cold and the snow drifts higher than some houses. In Toronto it’s damp and wet: The spring is slush, the summer is humid hot, the autumn is perfect and the winter is raw.

The prairies are cold like Siberia. It’s an open flat land where the cold chill gusts down the wind and makes the place bleak, inhospitable and shivering to the bone. The British Columbian mountains are a winter wonderland for skiers but fought with the danger of avalanches and wild rivers. Vancouver weather is gentle. However, it does rain, and it rains, and it rains, and it rains.

Vancouver has the mildest and most moderate climate in Canada. The city was built on a rain forest and it very rarely gets the heavy storms the rest of the country does, yet, I hear people on street corners scream from the top of their lungs “I hate rain.” I honestly feel sorry for someone who is so angry about something they can’t do anything about, except move. These people are most probably from the prairies or central Canada where the weather is ... you know ... worse. These may also be people from Hong Kong and their reaction is strange because it rains more in Hong Kong than in Vancouver. However, the sun does shine more often over there.

I lived in Eastern Canada as a child where green forests abound with wet days and I grew up in England where it rains almost every day. The overwhelmingly moist green foliage and moss is in abundance everywhere in Britain. It’s like living in a salad. So moving to the desert was something quite different.

The San Fernando Valley in California is a desert and it hardly rains except for the odd season of torrential downpours. Culture shock was the first time I noticed the lack of rain, it didn’t rain for nine months. The Los Angeles weather forecaster Fritz Colman told us that he felt so lucky to have a job that's almost redundant, where on the odd day he does report a slight rain, it’s usually only a sprinkle where one swipe of the car wipers will clear the problem. The drives between Los Angeles and Las Vegas were particularly awesome for me. These were hot desert sands and scrub brush for as far as the eye could see. Hot, baked, parched and dry to the back of the throat. After living without rain for a few years I really missed it.

Vancouver is a paradise. A beautiful shining city sandwiched between the sea and the mountains, and the rain is fresh and mild bringing clean pure oxygen that cleanses the body inside and out. But some people just can’t see it. All they see are the dark clouds and water pouring in front of their eyes, getting their clothes and hair wet.

After experiencing a spectacular concert of the Vancouver Symphony at the Orpheum one evening, my partner and I were greeted by a steady downpour of rain sending concert goers dashing for the nearest cover. We decided not to take the ubiquitous taxi home but brave the elements and walk home across the Cambie Bridge. We were both dressed well but we were also sporting good rain coats and umbrellas. The umbrellas were good but as we crossed the bridge the wind sent the rain sideways rendering the umbrellas useless. We both zipped up our coats, dropped the umbrellas and opened our faces to the rain. The steady, cool water, drenched us, sending a calmed resignation of euphoria through out. It was no more wet that the morning shower and much more spectacular. I would highly recommend letting your head get wet in a downpour someday, it’s very exhilarating.

I am happy in the rain and I have invested in some wonderful colourful umbrellas. Happiness comes from within, meaning, there are ways to learn to love the rain. Face it, let it bathe you, breath it in. It’s great for your skin and your soul, and unless you move to the deserts it’s not going to go away.

Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.
~Roger Miller

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.
~Anthony J. D'Angelo

Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness, has never danced in the rain.
~Author Unknown



I found my solace sitting up a tree. I also found it at the bottom of a swimming pool, in the fresh clean air on a mountain side, beside the undulating sea on a boat or staring into a fireplace with the flames flickering in my head. Anywhere I could stop for a moment and discover myself or reach for the universe within, I found me.

It is so important to find yourself outside this busy hectic world where so many souls are floating around following what ever manufactured influence they can latch onto, to find happiness or to look good to others. I was always amazed that so many people do things to say that they did it. Why not experience it, just for yourself? Perhaps you don’t need to tell anyone that you did it as long as you are happy within yourself. It’s not a secret. It’s just for you.

I don’t mean to suggest that you stop sharing yourself with others, we never need to be lonely. But don’t go out of your way to seek approval. You may find it disappointing. First look to find who you are, then create who you want to be, and be the best you can be, for yourself first. Don’t live your lifefor others but with others of your choice. And don’t be too selfish. Learn that life is about giving, of ourselves, to others. So how can we be ourselves if we haven’t connected with ourselves? Connecting with others is life. Connecting with ourselves is soul. With this concept you may find the approval from within first, and the happiness that you have been searching for will open to you.

Connecting with myself is something I used to do naturally. It led to my creativity manifesting genuinely. Most days I turn up for my film industry assignments an hour before the filming, just to “be”. I figure that the only time I can really relax during the day is before all the others turn up and we begin to turn what chaos we create into a TV show or a feature film. I also pace my hectic lifestyle with days of peace after each assignment. However, recently I have let the noise and the chaos of living clutter my way, hurt my health, disturb my creative energy and edge.

I am now looking to meditation, based on the advise of film maker David Lynch. David’s Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace is promoting transcendental meditation for American schools and for at-risk youth around the world.

“I have had the pleasure of meeting many students who are “diving within” and experiencing Consciousness-Based education. These students are all unique individuals, very much themselves. They are amazing, self-sufficient, wide-awake, energetic, blissful, creative, powerfully intelligent and peaceful human beings. Meeting these students, for me, was the proof that Consciousness-Based education is a profoundly good thing for our schools and for our world.”
David Lynch - Film Maker -

It takes more than being a pragmatist to be successful in life. It also takes a basic understanding of self. The problem is, every day life gets in the way and we don’t make time to develop a way to find “us”. But we are there. Waiting. We need to steer ourselves away from the noise and socital cynicism that pervades our culture and existence, and cultivate a better quality of life. For me,
I found myself from an early age and enjoyed a fully rounded life/soul journey where I have slowly learned to take a broader look at the confronting stress. I am now finding my way back to the innocence of curiosity and the solace of peace. I recommend it to everyone.

Solace up a tree is not as silly as it may seem. Convening with nature, both inside and out, is at the core of who we are, and our existence here on earth is made so much more whole and dynamic by coming to terms with the nature of who we are.

Beaches Jazz Streetfest

August 2009

Recently spent three nights walking, up and down, the two mile stretch of Toronto’s Queen Street attending the Beaches Jazz Streetfest with friends and family. The street was fenced off to traffic and streetcars so a multitude of musicians and bands could entertain an even larger multitude of musically minded city folk. We love music and we spent the three nights cruising for jazz.

This is one of the best street festivals I have ever attended. It was calm, courteous, creative and law abiding. Yes there was a police presence but it was subtle. There were pedestrian Cops and female Cops who in any other dress would be classified as babes, and there were Cops on bicycles. They were all enjoying the music, which goes to show that Cops are people too. Ontario law also prohibits the drinking of alcohol on the street so there was no drunkenness or rowdy yahoos disturbing the peace.

It was all about the people and their peaceful enjoyment of an art-form. Three night of jazz bands in shop doorways and while this was happening the torrential that had been pouring for three days stopped to only threaten the evening performances.

One night we stopped at a group called Dr. Draw, headed by a violinist who played New-Age like music with a rock flavor, and a wild back up band. Half way through the performance the fire hall across the street, where I was standing, opened it’s doors, turned on the red flashing lights and out came a city fire engine blaring a siren that seemed to go in tune with the music. The audience who were so intent on Dr. Draw, peacefully pealed back, cleared the way for the fire engine and slowly edged back to intently listen to the rest of the music when the commotion had driven down the street on route to douse a house fire. The band entertained without missing a beat.

Jazz has been called African America’s gift to the world. Toronto is a microcosm of the world. Every ethnic culture lives there and they live in peace under law and order. And music soothes the soul

Good Morning

July 2009

Why have we become so afraid of each other?

On a recent visit to the British Columbia island of Bowen Island I noticed a community of civility. As you get off the ferry and walk up the street you are greeted by smiles and “Good Morning.” Not just from the odd person but from many people: shopkeepers, residents, civilians, people just walking down the street. Why is this not happening in our larger communities?

I lived in Toronto and in Los Angeles and I would walk down the street and people would rather look the other way than look you in the eye and acknowledge your presence. Have you ever been in a department store and had to wait while store clerks talked among themselves? Then they break up the huddle and take off back to their their prospective departments and in the process totally ignore you. You, the customer who has been politely and patently waiting for service. Then you have to ask for service and a reluctant clerk joins you, with attitude.

In most major cities around the world, people have a hard time looking at each other and being together. “What are you looking at?” “You’re staring at me.” “Glaring.” Glancing away as soon as eye contact is made. It happens on the street, in elevators, on the bus or on the subway. And now there’s an even more private way to not engage. The Ipod. Everywhere you see the thin white cords of earbuds connecting people with anything but each other. Perhaps they are listening to an audiobook or the latest tune from U2 or Cold Play. That’s great, but how about the art of conversation?

In the USA many people live in gated communities. They jump in their car in the morning and spend endless hours driving between home and the office, then they park in an underground parking structure. No wonder people can’t relate to one another, or even try. They don’t care to. Some parts of society just enjoy keeping to themselves. One may wonder if they belong to a golf club, a tennis club or a sailing club. Do they go to the theatre, and if they do, do they make an effort to connect with other humans they don’t know? Even cats and dogs have a built in emotion that says hello to strangers. “Meow” or pant pant pant - wag the tail. Smell the “privates”.

Then there are the guns, muggings, robbers, angry people, mentally disturbed people, poor people. We, as a society are afraid of them all and in so being we are afraid to connect with others who might become our best friends.

It is such a breath of fresh air to visit a community like Bowen Island where not every one is perfect, but they do seem to understand that a natural human thing to do is to confer a greeting to a stranger.

Michael Jackson

July 8th, 2009

Yesterday was the Michel Jackson memorial. He died June 25th, the day we moved apartments.

The Reverent Al Sharpton summed the whole thing up when he spoke to Jackson’s children. "Your Daddy wasn't strange - what was strange was what he had to deal with around him."

Michael Jackson was a talented genius of phenomenal showmanship ability who brought us an incredible collection of bright, tuneful music and magnificent dance numbers. In his private life he was a gentle eccentric, idealistic man who loved the child in all. Yet, he was greatly misunderstood, ridiculed and mocked by the disenchanted and cynical snobs who fail to see greatness in their midst.

One of his finest gifts was as a humanitarian and he became the greatest philanthropist, giving more money to charities than any one person in history. He made the world a better place for us all.

Yes, being human, he also had major failings. So does everyone. However, he always worked hard and tried new ideas. Creativity never dies within the soul. Had Michael Jackson lived I’m sure we would have been treated to a wealth of future artistic efforts. Probably quite different from his past. And that is what we miss with the death of an artistic giant.

Oh, you tired old cynics who scorn at such a special human being. Leave the great ones to those of us who “know” and we will bask in their starlight without you.

I kinda like photography

March 2004

As a teenager, I didn’t have much of a clue as to what to do with life. It was the mid sixties and the world was swirling with great commotion: A society being dragged into the modern age, a cold war hanging over our heads, the Vietnam war off to the east, the music of the Beatles from down the road in Liverpool and the sounds of the Beach Boys beckoning from California. A fundamental change was about to happen as the leading edge of the baby boom generation was beginning to make itself known. And in my area of the Universe, I was surrounded by the world of show biz. This was the north of England, a seaside town called Blackpool, known as the entertainment capital of the north. I was young. Distractions were plenty.

As a family we had lived in Canada where I was born and as a kid I had moved from school to school because of the family moving from town to city. My father was a bank manager who moved to be promoted. Then my parents divorced and I moved to England with my mother. My studying was in a shambles. I had no consistency, no structure. Then one day when I was fifteen, my Mother took me aside, sat me down and asked me the most important question of my life. She was worried that I wouldn’t amount to anything if I carried on with my diversions rather than structuring my life around something. “So, what do you want to do with your life?” She asked. WOW. I was stumped. I hadn’t given it a thought. What was I to say? She then asked, “What do you like to do? What do you enjoy doing?”

Somehow, I knew this to be a turning point for me. I naturally thought of the theatre, show business, but I needed more time to think. I asked if I could answer her the next day. The next evening we continued the conversation. Suddenly this dreamer who had been shunted along by life, had to say something that would make a difference. I had thought at one point of wanting to run away and join the circus to become a clown. Maybe it was the smell of the grease paint or the elephants, or the nomadic life. Show biz seemed to be in my blood, but I had to be more practical.

Then, out of the blue, a little voice spoke to me from inside my head and I blurted out these words: “I kinda like photography.” I don’t know what made me say it. I didn’t have a good camera; I didn’t really take that many pictures. Again, perhaps it was the dreamer in me but it sounded practical. It was something I could learn and I had been inspired by the great photography of the National Geographic and films like Lawrence of Arabia, where I became the adventurer, the escapist and a desirous observer. That spark my mother had instigated in me put me on a career path of a lifetime as a photographer, a cinematographer and as a filmmaker.

I started as a beach photographer in Blackpool, and I went to college to learn how to do it properly until moving back to Canada to be hired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Toronto. They eventually sent me around the globe as a documentary cinematographer to places I had only dreamed about in my youth. This was the nomadic life. I saw real, exotic places from the pages of National Geographic and I got to see some of the railway tracks that Lawrence of Arabia had blown up in Northern Africa. I then became a Director of Photography filming feature films and TV series of Canadian and US drama, and this was definitely my circus. It all happened for me, that is, until California called and I moved to the South Bay area very near to the place where the Beach Boys beckoned me from, those many years ago.

It has been a dream of a life in my chosen professions of film making, storytelling and photography. I look back and I couldn’t think of doing anything else, and I’m now creating my own business to nurture my perpetual creative and wanderlust spirit, and to help corporations, non profit charities and individuals tell their stories on video.

Over the years, my mother and I have drifted apart but I will always thank her for parenting me at the right time in my life. She dragged something very precious out of me, my life. For what else could one ask of a parent but to inspire their children to discover their own true life-goals and independence, through encouragement?

We are all individuals who must follow our own dreams, and we almost always discover them with the help of people who pass through our lives with messages sent at the right time and the right place, like: It’s OK - go ahead - follow your dream – make your life. You have permission.