Nov 20, 2011

Smiley Words

Isn't it interesting, the meaning we put on words, whether for serious conversation or just for fun?

I once worked with a recent German immigrant to Canada who continually repeated the word Tuktoyaktuk. If you’d asked him a question he’d always say Tuktoyaktuk before anything else. Of course he was just showing off his sense of humour; that he loved the sound of this new word.

Tuktoyaktuk is a town or an outpost, a northern settlement in the far north of Canada situated on the Arctic Ocean. The word comes from the Inuit people and it means “resembling a caribou.”  To this day, I don’t really know if he knew what he was saying, as he told everybody he encountered that they resembled a caribou. He just enjoyed the word.

During the 1970s, I was sent on assignment to communist Romania to film Easter festivities in the northern province of Moldavia. Colour, egg-cracking and worship filled the scene as the local people dressed in their traditional costumes and gathered at their historic churches. They also displayed their creative skills by exquisitely hand-painting hard-boiled eggs with various designs. These were wonderful sights, but documentary filming has it’s long hours.

After a particularly long, difficult day of filming that had started at four in the morning with a church procession, the cameraman, Wally, who I was working with, suddenly felt the compulsion for an ice cream. We were in the north of the country near the Soviet border, staying in a small city called Sucava. It was Easter and most places were closed.

We raced to town in our small rental car and scoured the city, first to find a shop that was open, then to try and translate the word “ice cream” into Romanian. Wally spotted a booth that sold lottery tickets. He ran up to the booth and quickly rimed off the word, ice cream in French: creme glacee, Italian: gelato, Spanish: el helado and German: die eiscreme. Well, the lotto man looked at Wally’s enthusiasm and laughed, then he just smiled as he slowly spoke the word: inghetata.

And the race was on. Inghetata suddenly became the key to our happiness.

We both raced around the town square like fools, going up to strangers and saying the word Inghetata in their faces. Some smiled, others must have thought we were lunatics. Finally, Wally confronted an old lady, “Ah! Inghetata.” she said, and pointed toward the street where we had just driven.

We both ran and probably found the last open ice cream shop in the city that was about to close. On the front, in big letters, was the word: Inghetata. The shopkeeper saw how desperate we were, so he let us in to sample some of the best ice cream I have ever tasted. Wally was happy.

From that time on both Wally and I had a secret word between us, inghetata. And each time we would see each other at events or on film shoots for the next few years, we would mutter the word to each other.

Each language has it's fun words. I love the words: marmalade, umbrella, brouhaha, cantankerous, discombobulated, gobbledygook, rambunctious, mollycoddle, nincompoop.

Inghetata, remains the only word I have ever learned of the Romanian language and I say it each time I meet a Romanian. The times have been numerous, and each time it brings a big smile.


"Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning."
-Maya Angelou

"To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music that words make.
- Truman Capote

"Ice-cream is exquisite - what a pity it isn't illegal."
- Voltaire

Nov 10, 2011


In the 1960s I was a teenager. My hero was James Bond, my sound track was The Beatles and my focus was the arts. I was not a Hippy. Hippies were protesters and many were drug users searching for a path to spiritual enlightenment. I was busy building a life and a career as a photographer.

I didn't do drugs, except for the odd beer. But spirituality had been with me since I was a young child. I would marvel at nature and find the wonders of the universe in everything. I knew the world was a special place, as I awoke to the gift of awareness. I was curious about everything and I searched for my truth, purpose and reason in all. Perhaps this was my partial path to enlightenment.

As a choir boy in church school, I was taught religion. But I soon realized religion wasn’t for me, especially as an all-or-nothing way to god. I rejected the over-riding, controlling forces that tried to indoctrinate me. I also rejected the teachings that preached that god was a jealous or a vindictive god. That was not my way of thinking. This characterization was that of a nasty human, not the universal spirit with which I had come to understand.

Thankfully, I didn’t need organized religion to help me find my spirit. I didn’t have to go to church on Sundays to be a spiritual person. My spirituality was freedom from control, freedom to find my own way of thinking, freedom to wonder at the world, freedom to find me. My doctrine was to be a good person, live with a sense of right and wrong, be aware of all that surrounds.

Where I got this individuality and awareness from, I really don’t know. It could have been from the love, nurturing and challenge of a curious mother. Perhaps it was by being tuned to the colours and the multi-level thoughts that every day life has to offer. Or maybe it was built from snippets of conversation from a combination of people throughout the years. We do things and meet people for a purpose, but we must listen and decipher the meanings to understand if there’s a real message.

Life is not about loud noises. Peace is in silence. Understanding is in creative thought. Learning and knowledge are freedom from ignorance. Wisdom is the understanding that we are all one. Meditation can help the senses discover the spirit. For me, meditation can be the wind breezing through the pinewood trees on a cool fall day, listening to the high ocean surf on a spring beach, watching a winter fire crackle or smelling the aroma of a rose. It’s also in going deep within to find your light, your peace.

Not everyone has the sensibility to catch the nuance of a well-placed remark as being  a message to ponder. Many are lost souls needing to have meanings placed in front of them on giant billboards. While religion does that for many, for me, religion and spirituality are separate. Religion is an organized group of people aiming to mentally indoctrinate others into believing that theirs is the only way to find god and possible salvation. Take it or leave it. Their truth comes by preaching the dogma of their sect, church, synagogue, temple or mosque, and by teaching people to follow, rather than by empowering them to cultivate their awareness, and to use their own intuition to discover themselves in the real world.

I believe that confining and controlling individuals through fear, guilt, intimidation, societal power and stigma goes against the personal freedoms that are truly “god-given”. The great prophets and sons-of-god had wise and wonderful things to say, but many of their great ideas have been corrupted by controlling institutions. So, I have found my own way. Along my path I have discovered much by reading and learning from the teachings of sages, shamans, philosophers and prophets, and many of them, I discovered, lived with the same spirituality that I had found.

Spirituality is the overall belief in a greater force. Call it the Universe. Call it god. Spirituality also has a major component of awareness attached to it. One leads to the other. Spirituality is everywhere and I have found it more times, far away from humanity, in the wilds of nature around the world, than anywhere else. Of course, spirituality is within. The circle always leads us back to our own selves. That is where the journey begins and ends. We find our own happiness. We discover our own soul. We truly are our own beings.

Finding one’s own path to some sort of enlightenment is a personal journey. The universe within is ours to discover, and when we find it, we suddenly realize that we really are all at one with the universe (with god) as we are at one with each other. We were all born of the universe and that is where we will return one day.

Why are we here? I don’t know. Where are we going? Ambiguous. I still have some searching to do. However, I firmly believe that the purpose of life is to make our own purpose. Pursue our own love. Love the things we like to do. Be a good person. Follow our conscience of right and wrong. Be aware of everything.

And Love? Love others for all it’s worth.

How do we do all that? Well, we humans have been given something special. We have been given creativity. Creativity to find or make whatever we want. But how many of us do?

Creativity is the ability to find, try, invent and enjoy something new. This is by far the greatest gift. For creativity will take us to those unknown places about which we dream. It will help us find the meanings that will steer the course of our life journey.

Life is a gift, create it well.

Whether we actually reach an enlightenment before we die, only the individual will know. But being a good person will show us an inner light for peace and love.

The universe is within us all.

Experience more.
Turn off the noise and enjoy the silence.
Live with awareness - be more here and now.
Fall in love with everything.
Live creative.   (


“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.”
- Max Ehermann - Desiderata

"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves."
- William Shakespeare

"Every human has four endowments - self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom... The power to choose, to respond, to change."
- Stephen Covey