Too many concepts?

Is it a ghost?

Is it a ghost?

Is it a clown??

Is it a clown??

Is it a . . . vampire???

Is it a . . . vampire???

How many concepts can you cram into one product?!

I was shocked to see this advertisement in a local bus shelter:


A little hard to read? I’ll enlarge the relevant section:

bus shelter

The gist of it is that you can receive various city services, including securing licenses and permits, help getting a job, and various recreational services regardless of your immigration status, even if you’re an illegal immigrant! You could be a Jamaican drug dealer sneaking back into the country after being deported for criminal activity or a Muslim terrorist intent on blowing up buildings and cutting off heads, and the city will help you out with my tax dollars – no questions asked.

And they’re advertising it in bus shelters!

“Insanity” doesn’t quite cover it.

This is going to repeat some material from a recent post, but I figure that’s okay because, this time, I have a picture. Here is is:


That’s an x-ray of my right elbow with three metal plates and I’m not sure how many screws. I went to a followup appointment with the surgeon who put them in, and he told me that he was really pleased with my progress and that my range of motion should continue to improve. Since I only have about 10º to go before I achieve the full normal range of motion, I’m going to bet, with some confidence, on a full recovery.


Which brings me back to my theme: don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do.

Years ago, I was told that I would not be allowed to take instrumental music in junior high school because I didn’t have the talent. I became a professional musician and ended up teaching the same course that I had not been allowed to take (at a different junior high school in the same school board).

A few years later, I was told that I would never be able to get a driver’s licence because I could not see well enough to pass the eye test. Some years after that, they improved contact lenses, I passed the eye test and got a driver’s licence (though I have declined to own and operate a car out of consideration for generations yet unborn).

When I broke my left elbow for the second time, a physiotherapist told me that I would not recover my full range of motion. I knew better, and I was right.

Again, this time with a much worse injury (as you can see in the x-ray), I was told by a physiotherapist that I would not recover my full range of motion. At that point the extension (straightening out) was 20º and the flexion (bending) was 120º. Now it is 10º and 130º. After seeing the surgeon today and hearing his assurance of further improvement, I feel even more confident about a full recovery.

About a year ago, my blood pressure shot up to 195/105, which is very high – normal is 120/80 – getting uncomfortably close to stroke and heart attack range. The doctor told me that I would be on medication for the rest of my life. Unwilling to accept that, I read a number of books, saw a doctor who practised orthomolecular medicine (which balances naturally occurring substances in the body rather than prescribing drugs), and began a regime of exercise, diet, and supplements. It only took about three months to get my blood pressure down to normal where it has remained ever since.

By the way, I don’t think I managed to do these things because I’m particularly talented or intelligent; I think that the secret to my success is that I don’t like people telling me what I can’t do – in fact, I don’t like being told to do anything, to be honest about it.

Louise Hay, in her book You Heal Your Life, writes that people who get broken bones have a problem with authority. Is that true of me? Let’s just say that I have broken my right forearm, left elbow (twice), right elbow (really badly), and two toes.

And I’m really, really stubborn.

These may be character flaws, but they can have their upsides.

And when I get back the full range of motion in my right elbow back, I’m going to send my most helpful surgeon and most unhelpful physiotherapist a set of three pictures:

The first will be of my right arm fully extended at a normal 0º. The second will be of my right arm fully flexed at a normal 140º. The third . . . ?

Well, the surgeon and the physiotherapist will get two different pictures. The surgeon – God bless him! – will get a picture of my smiling self with my right thumb raised. The physiotherapist will see a different digit raised.

Can you guess which one?

I’ll be posting them here.

The Tao: 2

Chapter 1 of the Tao Te Ching set forth the premise that the Tao, the way, is ultimately ineffable, beyond knowing – as the saying goes: it is beyond words. That which can be named are its manifestations: you and I and bicycles and ladies undergarments are all nameable, but their ultimate source (as opposed to the sweatshops that manufacture the latter), is not.

And that is duality: nameable and ineffable, heaven and earth, male and female.

Chapter 2 explores that duality in a little more detail, and tells us how the sage, the Jedi master (if you will) navigates it:

Chapter 2

When the world knows beauty as beauty, ugliness arises

When it knows good as good, evil arises

Thus being and non-being produce each other

Difficult and easy bring about each other

Long and short reveal each other

High and low support each other

Music and voice harmonize each other

Front and back follow each other

Therefore the sages:

Manage the work of detached actions

Conduct the teaching of no words

They work with myriad things but do not control

They create but do not possess

They act but do not presume

They succeed but do not dwell on success

It is because they do not dwell on success

That it never goes away

The first eight lines are examples of the duality that must arise whenever you start naming things. The instant that you call something beautiful, there is ugliness because that which does not possess the characteristics that you believe identify beauty, anything that does not possess them is automatically ugly. Call something or someone tall, and it begs the questions, “As opposed to what?”

The other six examples could be similarly analyzed.

The sage, recognizing that duality, acts in a way that acknowledges it: his actions are themselves dualistic . . . in a way. When you examine them in the list provided, you see what amounts to a list of oxymorons.

What are detached actions? How can you teach with no words? Work with things but not control them?

The sage is a reality ninja: he knows how things work. Take detached actions, which head off the list. The sage acts, but he does not demand a predetermined outcome, which is wise because the world has a way of being what it is irrespective of our wishes.

Teaching without words? There are all kinds of ways of doing that, the most obvious of which is teaching by example, modeling behavior.

And the result is itself expressible as an oxymoron in the last three lines:

They succeed but do not dwell on success

It is because they do not dwell on success

That it never goes away

In the West, we tend to act in order to achieve a pre-determined outcome, enforcing our will on reality, but reality is a wily, slippery beast, and the outcome we desire has a nasty habit of wriggling away through a series of unintended consequences. (Ask Richard Nixon about that one.)

The Tao Te Ching advocates an entirely different approach: work with reality, allowing it to be what it is, tacking with the wind (to use a sailing metaphor), always keeping your eye on the next change of direction, always flexible, being as slippery as the realities that you seek to negotiate.

It’s been almost a year since I broke my humerus in seven places – and there’s still nothing funny about it. It took four hours of surgery, three plates and lots of screws to put me back together again. Then came months of physiotherapy, trying to recover my lost range of motion.

The normal range is 0º (fully extended) to 140º-145º (fully flexed). When I got the cast off, mine was about 45º to 80º – pretty dismal! I couldn’t brush my teeth or even touch the top of my own head.

With lots of physiotherapy and exercises diligently performed at home, it took about six months to achieve 20º to 120º – much better, but still not “normal”. The physiotherapist at the hospital gave up on me, saying, “I think that’s about the max”. She cut my treatments from twice a week to once, was about to make it once every two weeks, and hinted openly about discharging me completely. Worst of all, she would tell me, five or six times per appointment, that I wasn’t going to improve. In other words, she not only told me to give up, but tried to browbeat me into doing so.

But I’m not the type to give up.

When I was younger, I cracked my left elbow on two occasions, requiring physiotherapy both times in order to recover my full range of motion. The second time, the physiotherapist told me that I would not get it all the way back because it was the second injury in the same place. I looked her straight in the eye and said, “You . . just . . watch me.”

And yes, I made a full recovery.

Other people have made more dramatic recoveries, including Bruce Cunningham who almost lost his legs in a fire and was advised to have them amputated, but his mother refused. When he was told he would never walk again, he proved them wrong. Then he ran. Finally, he did something that everyone said was impossible: he was the first man to run a four minute mile.

So I found a former orthopaedic surgeon from China, totally under the radar, and paid him to put me through some very painful biweekly therapy, and its working! I got my range of motion tested today, and it was 10º to 130º! Only ten more degrees at either end to go, and I will have achieved what the physiotherapist at the hospital tried to harass me into believing was impossible.

Will I do it?

You . . just . . watch me.

Wayne Dyer’s Ego

For anyone unfamiliar with Dr. Wayne Dyer, he was a self-help guru who turned increasingly towards the spiritual side of life, writing over forty books. He died last Thursday of a heart attack at the age of 75. Having read a number of his books and watched several of his specials, I was saddened at his death but thankful for the wisdom he shared with his readers and listeners.

He advocated a spiritual approach to living, and much of what he had to say resonated deeply with me, but there was also something about his message that struck me as . . . unhelpful.

He often drew the distinction between one’s ego and one’s higher self, which strikes me as valid, but rather than give each its due, he advocated an egoless approach to life, which I cannot agree with.

He defined the ego as that which tells you:

  1. I am what I have.
  2. I am what I do.
  3. I am what others think of me.
  4. I am separate from everyone.
  5. I am separate from all that is missing in my life.
  6. I am separate from God.

He said that we should “let go of our ego” and live from our higher self.

That sounds interesting, and the world would surely be a less prickly place if it were filled with selfless people, but would they be healthy people?

I think not.

I have written about this before, but let me reiterate that the ego is an integral component of the total self. It provides a point of focus, desire, ambition . . . it is that part of us that wants and strives – even for enlightenment, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

And trying to “let go of the ego”, I submit, simply does not work. Being an integral component of our total selves, it wants to be heard, demands to be heard. To live entirely from the ego (with no input from our higher selves) is unhealthy, but so is trying to live without an ego, and the result will be an ego that asserts itself in unexpected and cunning, even sneaky ways.

I have heard Wayne Dyer say some surprisingly egotistical things.

Near the end of one interview, he said, “I’m going to have to shut this down.” In a public talk, he brought his daughter up on stage, but when he seemed to feel that she wasn’t showing enough deference, he said, “Now, I’m your father . . .” He has compared himself to St. Francis, and mused that he was an ascended-master-in-training.

The ego is a wily creature, and it rears its head even (and maybe especially) in those who disavow it, producing variations on “Look how spiritual I am.”

Better to give the ego its due, I think. Allow it its rightful place in the psyche, and it will be your friend.

)Just be mindful that it behooves you to take your shoes off when you enter a sacred space.

Recycling at its Finest

Some time ago, a good friend of mine lost her mother. Eventually, she had to decide what to do with her mother’s belongings. Some things she kept, some were donated, others garage-sales . . . there was a whole house full of belongs. After the garage sale, my friend wondered what to do with the items that had not sold – she had not even gotten everything into the driveway let alone sold it. I told her just to leave it at the curb despite city restrictions about how much could go out there and when. Sure enough, it was all gone the next day.

Recently, I decided that I had too much clutter. It was getting hard to clean, and there was a certain messiness, a certain congestion that made me feel personally congested. But we get attached to our stuff. Some of mine was from my parents, and much of it had pleasant memories attached. It was hard to get rid of certain things even though I knew that it no longer served me. I found myself making up rationales for keeping certain things. In the end, I did get rid of a lot of it, and sitting in the living room now as I write this, looking at all the space, I feel freer and definitely better – it was a good call.

Somehow, I had acquired four television sets, old cathode ray tube beasts, so three of them had to go, as did a large, heavy television cabinet. I saw someone in a pickup truck take two of the television sets within minutes of putting them at the curb. I actually had to grab their attention as they were leaving to ask them if they wanted the third, which they did, so we brought it out to them. Imagine! I literally couldn’t get the stuff out fast enough for people to pick it up. I took my nephew out to Starbucks, and by the time we got back, the television cabinet was gone.

And I live on a culdesac!

It doesn’t seem to matter what you put out; someone will take it away for you, and within minutes!

I’ll bet we don’t even need a government run recycling program!


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