I have three grandchildren. Young kids marrying young kids, marrying young kids. Now that they have spawned, I regularly tell my children they are redundant, sperm donors who no longer serve any other familial purpose. I am a counselor so I’m used to being honest with people for money.
Isaac is two-years-old and a force of nature. He is the one in the beer hat, although we would never do that and I get one first. Isaac and I are joined at the hip and he is definitely my little man.
Friday mornings are my time with the boys. For a few hours every week, along with other more varied appearances, they are the center of my universe. This morning we raced cars over each others heads while Isaac smacked me in the chest with a hammer. Angus, the heir to the throne, is so far away from his little brother on a personality level it is sometimes difficult to believe they are, in point of fact, genetically linked. Angus is all business, and business is good. Angus is wonder and imagination and joy. Right now he carries his Rapunzel everywhere we go, and that is perfectly fine with Papa. Brilliant and insightful, Gus is my life. He started sleeping over when he was just five weeks old and we share a heart.
Papa. Saying that makes me feel old, but once you’ve met my grandkids it’s hard to go back. Every Sunday night we all come together for Family Dinner. There is a little granddaughter now as well, my beautiful Amelia; the first girl in a long line of boys. Her eyes, like her father’s, are black as night. She rocks my world, my beautiful raven-haired monkey.
Isaac is nuts.
On Friday mornings, sometime around noon, I crawl into the bunk to rub his back to sleep, as I watch him try, one more time, to stave off the inevitable. With my hand on his back I can witness all the stages; the fight to keep the eyes open, the twitching and the settling, those final attempts to stay awake. My hand is witness to the epic struggle for the night. It is a very tactile and intimate sharing.
Go to sleep. Papa loves you but you are going to lose. There are times in our lives when we all need to so something that is good for us, in spite of our best intentions. Life is an exercise in learning to lose and then learn. That is what it means to grow up. I do not go to work everyday purely because I cannot wait to spend all day away from home. Sometimes we have to eat broccoli, in spite of the obvious fact that it smells a bit like puke.
When I was a teenager I did not understand what it meant to be an adult. Why sure, I knew absolutely everything in the world, but not that. It is impossible, it seems, to really know how the journey goes until you are looking back at some part of the road. Being a grown-up is about learning to do things that aren’t always fun for reasons beyond my own selfish desire for personal gratification.
It takes him a while to give up the fight and just lose. The twitching abates and he begins to relax, finally. It’s for his own good, though try to explain that to my little party-in-a-can. Many people have a hard time letting reality really sink in. We desperately want to keep our hand on the wheel and it’s hard to convince us that we will not win this fight. As Mr. Smith said, “that is the sound of inevitability”.
People often see me for months before they are will give up their incorrect assumptions and well-worn dysfunctional beliefs that feel so real but are so wrong. I know this has worked in the past but this is 2016 and it may not work this time. Time to learn, yet again. When will I ever figure this thing out?
Last night I spoke at Excel Martial Arts Black Belt Class. Here’s what I told them:
Excel Martial Arts Talk 1 1/8/16
Last year I did a talk for the people who carry guns and keep us safe. They asked me to talk about Social Media Addiction. I mean, let’s be honest, the average youth in Canada spends almost 9 hours EVERY DAY plugged into their phone and laptop and tablet and watch and Nook and a hundred other ways we mindlessly give up our Zen every day.
So they asked me to talk about social media addiction but when I was writing the talk I got bored so I started to talk about Edward Snowden and the Deep Web and Dark Net. One day it dawns on you that there is an entirely other Internet that no one you know has ever heard about, well except that one person who pretends they know everything. One day you realize you’ve been asleep all this time and the world was very different from what you thought it was.
People come and talk to me for a living. They sit in my office and confess that they aren’t sure why they came; and it isn’t long before they are telling me that they think they might be depressed. Life has lost its lustre and purpose. Existence is boring and they have privately wondered if they should go back to school, maybe take psychology. Then it happens. I begin to see a little rip in the fabric of reality and it dawns on me, they want to wake up. It is a cheesy 1990’s Matrix remake which opens with the lines, “She is unhappy but doesn’t understand why”.
Time to wake up. One day you begin to realize that you live in the cheesy Matrix Movie and everyone around you is going about their life half-asleep, talking about sports and reality television and crap that doesn’t matter. It begins to dawn on you why religious books call people sheep, because no one seems to be thinking anymore. We’re all so busy with life and work and responsibilities, and who has time or energy to read books by dead people or think too hard at the end of the day? Who has time when there are still six more episodes of Making a Murderer?
It is important to understand how much you do not understand. As Voltaire is famously (if a bit sexist…ly?) quoted, it is more important to learn to ask the right questions than to seek the answer. “Judge a man by his questions”, he quipped, “rather than by his answers”. I have recently recognized how bankrupt my own education has been, the years wasted answering stupid questions; all the while surrounded by awe. I believed with all my heart that I was fully conscious, but I was asleep.
The Meaning of Life is about finding out about the meaning of life. The meaning of your life. It’s about waking up. Who are you? Do you understand why you are alive? Do you comprehend the vast wonder of the universe and the quantum leap which we label reality? Have you come to that place beyond emotional enslavement and learned to view your life with growing dispassion? Do you look around you and know that you are different?
You may think you are a rock star but if you are not thinking about the meaning of life there is at least a chance that you are snoring away.
If you want to be a Jedi, and I do, you must be willing to let go of many things which matter to you so very much. Coping mechanisms. Delusions of personal grandeur. Sacred and holy beliefs. The roadmap. The mere humility required is staggering. To be willing to question one’s own firm reality is nothing less than grappling with a psyche on the fringes of delusion. If you woke up tomorrow and I told you that up was down, would you believe me? If you knew that everything you were taught, much of what you have believed your entire life, and known with certainty to be real and firm and rational, may in fact be wrong. Unbelievable. Literally.
But it’s true.
What most people don’t understand is that THIS is how you get “better”. You either hurt enough you have to or learn enough you want to. It’s literally our choice.
Waking up is hard to do.
We love to pretend; pretend we are not getting older, pretend that our relationship will magically fix itself, pretend that we will reach our goals in spite of doing nothing. We pretend that our addictions are not hurting us, our anger issues are not so bad, the way we treat our partner is not abusive. We pretend that we don’t need counselling or that our childhood trauma, if we ignore it long enough, will stop affecting our lives. We pretend that we are happy. We pretend that we are not afraid of death. We pretend that we can continue to ignore our problems, skim through life without passion, buy useless crap and consume, consume, consume and this will bring us lasting contentment and joy.
I don’t believe in magic. I gave up believing in magic wands a long time ago and things won’t just be fine. I no longer believe that all you need is faith and your problems will cease to be your problems. The real world is messy.
Wake up Isaac, Papa wants to fight.