Lucky To Be Alive:

How many of us woke up this morning feeling lucky to be alive?

Have you ever really thought about it?

We homo sapiens are the only surviving species of human on this planet, and we started stomping around this place around 200 000 years ago. Our ancestors date back even further, to about 2 million years ago.


I’ve read somewhere that since the beginning of time, there has been billions of different species of living things on this planet. Most of them, over 99% to be less vague, no longer exist on this earth. 

Given our planet’s capacity to completely destroy even the mightiest of species (see: dinosaurs), we’re pretty lucky to have just survived and thrived as long as we have. I mean, we’re still here and, other than a few bad apples, we’re doing some pretty awesome shit.


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Even these guys aren’t around any more.

And that’s just our species as a whole. How lucky are YOU to be alive?

You were lucky enough to be born into a time when infant mortality in the west wasn’t a massive issue, but for most of the history of humanity it was. You’ve survived the potential for a freak accident that is everywhere around you, and somehow you’ve made it to where you are now. You even survived high school. You avoided or defeated fatal diseases. You were born into a time where there was no “great” war to go off to. Even those of you who have fought for your country , if you’re reading this you’ve been lucky enough to survive the many perils of war.


But your luck goes further back than that.

When your father did his duty to evolution, he mailed a little care package of between 40 million and 1.2 billion sperm cells towards two microscopic targets. That means your odds of getting here in the first place was over ten times worse than your odds are to win the lottery. You were the one in a billion (or if you’re a fraternal twin like I am, one of two in a billion) to hit the target(s). That’s pretty fucking awesome. Well done, you little swimmer you.

Your majestic mother, with a feminine power that can shake the earth, kept you safe and warm in her stomach for around nine months. Let me repeat that. SHE GREW YOU IN HER BELLY. I think it’s far too often lost on us how absolutely miraculous that is.

But what had to happen before your father’s parcel delivery (what can I say, I like the mailman reference and I’m sticking to it.), and before your mother carried you around?


Your mother and father had to be luckier than you did. Not only did they both have to be sufficiently blessed to survive to an age where reproduction was possible, but they had to be genetically attractive enough to find a mate, and biologically functional enough to engage in the act of reproduction. They did it a time slightly more dangerous for infant mortality, for safety standards, and for war.

They had to have parents with even better luck than them. Their parents were born around the time of a second world war, when modern medicine was just beginning to take flight, and when safety standards were none existent. As you go further and further down your family line, you were luckier and luckier that those ancestors survived and thrived long enough to produce your grandmother, or your great great grandfather. If any one of them down the line didn’t get so lucky, you wouldn’t be here.


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“Lunch Atop A Skyscraper” By Bryan Finke; Great photo, but obviously a demonstration of why some of our male ancestors didn’t live too long.

And it’s a pretty long line you have to look down. Let’s say you go down (up?) the family tree only through the matriarchal side. Her mother, her mother’s mother, and so on. Let’s also say that the average age for having a child was twenty years old, though it was probably younger than that for most of human history. Following just the line of your mother, your grandmothers had to be extremely lucky in an unbroken chain of 100 000 consecutive mothers. Add in the exponential nature of equation when you start including the patriarchs, and their mothers, and the number becomes unfathomable.

That doesn’t even include the biological line that goes beyond the modern view of a human. Our species came from another, which came from another, all of which had to be extremely lucky on both sides of the family, all the way back to the first signs of life 3.8 billion years ago.

Not one of those billions of ancestors was unlucky enough to die of small pox, get sacrificed in honour of Huitzilopochtli, or be eaten by a hippopotamus before they found an equally lucky (and suitable) mate to make the next in line until, eventually, they reached you.

So how lucky are you to be alive?

Pretty lucky.

Be good to each other,

~MG.

Photos:
Featured photo courtesy of daddyelk.com
Raptor photo courtesy of reddit.com

Actions Speak Louder Than Words:

Facta, non verba.

Translated literally, it means “deeds, not words.” It’s been a motto of the wise since the time of the Romans. Even in the ancient world, so much more centred around actions rather than words, it served as an important reminder.

Today’s world places an exuberant amount of importance on words. We’re triggered by the harsh ones and we’re attracted to the pretty ones. We, at some point, began placing more importance on what’s being said than what’s actually being done. We’re blinded by all the dancing words around us.

It’s a lesson I’ve failed to learn many times. I hear the loving, or trusting, or agreeing words from work mates, friends, or the people closest to me, and I can’t help but believe them. Most of us can’t help it. I’ve recently realised that, like so many other parts of our lives, we assume people treat words the same way we do.


But like anything else, you can never assume people’s values are the same as yours. Nowhere is that more true than in the realm of words.

Some people are guarded with their words. They choose them carefully and use them sparingly. They say what they mean and mean what they say. When something comes out of their mouth, you can trust it. You know it won’t change in an hour, or a day. Obviously some things can change instantly, and that cannot be helped, but for most circumstances you can take their words to the bank.

Others use words more frivolously. They like the way the words sound at the time, or like the reaction those words have on other people. They use words to avert attention, avoid certain situations, or to gain an advantage in their favour. Their words are tools. Not tools of truth, but of manipulation or power. Their words change as commonly as the weather. The words sound lush and full of real emotion, but you can grab them no more than you can hold the air in the mountains.


Jon-Snow
“Men are men, vows are words, and words are wind.” – Jon Snow, A Dance with Dragons.

It’s sometimes very difficult to tell the difference between the two types of people. Some people talk a lot and mean every word. Some people speak sparingly but never with truth. Sure, sometimes it’s easy to notice when a person’s words are empty and not to be trusted. Like those who whisper loving words when seas are calm but spit venom into your face at the first sight of disagreement. We should be thankful for those moments, but not everyone is that easy to read. The key is to listen to the languages of the body. We must learn to listen to actions.


It’s incredibly easy to lie with words, but it’s much more difficult to live in that lie. The problem is, most of us ignore the signs of the body, the actions. Someone tells us they miss us, but something keeps coming up and they just can’t seem to make it for the coffee catch up. Someone tells us they love us, but their actions are cold and unloving. They tell us they will/want to try, but you see the effort isn’t there. Stop ignoring the actions which, in hindsight, are always painfully and obviously contrary to the words.

We don’t have to always be around the actions over words types. A lot of people would rather be surrounded by soothsayers and flowery loving words, because let’s face it, it’s easier and less confronting than the words of people who will be brutally honest but trustworthy. It’s easier than the triggers. It is the age of participation ribbons, after all.

But it is important to know the people you can trust at their word and those you must diligently watch in their actions to see what they’re actually thinking and feeling.

When it comes to life, and especially to love, the actions of others should always be your guiding compass of who you should keep in your tribe.

Actions have always spoken louder than words, be brave enough to start listening.

There are people who will tell you they will always be there, but there are others who will show you they mean it.

Be good to each other,

~MG.



Photos:
Featured Image Courtesy of: 
commons.wikimedia.org
Jon Snow Courtesy ofblacknerdproblems.com

Do You Believe in Magic?

How long has it been since you believed in magic?

How many of us believe in magic?

Nearly all of us did once, at a simpler time in our lives, but I doubt many of us would still say we do.


 

Since I was a little boy, everyone from teachers to parents to priests have reiterated to me how silly the idea of magic is. 

As a boy, I didn’t believe them. I remember running through the woods behind my house, certain I was in a magical place.

When you’re a child, everything from the brightest star in the sky to the smallest insect in the dirt is magic. After the age of seven or eight, however, it was no longer appropriate to believe. There was no longer a Santa Clause, or an Easter Bunny. It was time to grow up.

I still remember when the Harry Potter series came out, schools all over the world were banning the books in a desperate attempt to contain the potential spread of something as demonic as witchcraft and wizardry.

By the time we reached adulthood, magic was something only the strange or the unintelligent still believed in. We were grownups now, after all, it was time to think and act like one.

We were taught to scoff at the ancient spiritual traditions all over the world. Medicine men, shamans, wuyus, mystics, oracles, priestesses, and witch doctors were all terms that became synonymous with barbarism and the uncivilised. Silly adults splashing water, singing strange songs and burning incense in honour of spirits with funny sounding names.

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Some see a healer full of wisdom; others see a savage.
So, how many of us believe in magic?


Well, there’s around 2.2 billion Christians in the world, with the Americas and Europe providing the largest percentage of those who follow Christianity.

There’s an additional 1.6 billion Muslims in the world.

Add another 1 billion Hindus, 400 million who follow the traditional religion of China, and 375 million Buddhists.

All up, around 5.6 billion people make up the following of the top five religions in the world. 

That’s a lot of believers in magic.


 

Because really, what is the real difference between magic and religious practice?

I look at their priests and monks and see adults splashing water, singing strange songs and burning incense in honour of spirits with funny sounding names. Sound familiar?


 

 magic

ˈmadʒɪk/

noun
 
  1. 1.
    the power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.

 

What religion doesn’t claim to have that power?

Religious practitioners believe they can influence eternity by uttering suggested prayers or through the singing of hymns and mantras. Whether its going to heaven, attaining saṃsāra, or improving the quality of our next life by raising of our karma, we must first place our faith in the mysterious and supernatural in order to find salvation.

We must believe in the prayer, the chant, or the mantra. We must believe in the magic. Without our faith, there is no power behind our actions.

We’ve somehow legitimized a select few forms of magical practice and file them under the term “religion”. We’ve used the power of words to shape our perspectives and change our opinions on what is legitimate and what is not (that, and a few good old fashioned witch hunts never hurt as a deterrence).


 

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You know what they say: there’s no better way to beat the competition than by burning them alive and, for good measure, also throwing their baby into the flames.
Instead of chants, we call them hymns. Instead of incantations, we call them prayers. Instead of minor deities, we call them angels. Instead of acolytes, we call them priests – or nuns instead of priestesses. In the end, it’s all just magic.

Has anyone seen the epic wizard staff the Pope carries? Even Gandalf would blush at the sight of it. If we were in the Harry Potter universe, that bad boy would be a 72 inch wand, made from elder wood (coated in gold) with a dragon heartstring core.


 

 

gandalf and pope
Seriously, how is the Pope NOT a wizard?
I’m not knocking religion. I think there are wonderful lessons to be learned from every religion and their texts. I’ve had profound moments reading the Bible, the Vedas, and various Buddhist teachings. I carry many of those lessons with me every day. Anything that makes us better people towards our fellow Earthlings and helps us to dive deeper into the deepest parts of ourselves, I absolutely support.

Our greatest gift as humans is the immense power of our belief; the strength of our faith. It gives power to the mind, body, and soul, that we never knew we possessed. Truly believing is the power behind our visualization and manifestation practices. There is no mountain we cannot climb as long as we keep the faith. The faith in ourselves; the faith in the universe. That is where the magic happens.


 

Children naturally possess the gift of magic. They possess imaginations that are limitless and a faith in the universe that is unwavering. They innately understand their own magical power – the power to manifest their own reality. They see the universe as it is: infinite, expanding, beautiful, and full of potential.

That is why I find it so hypocritical that we readily stomp on those imaginations and shatter their belief in magic, and yet we take them to mass on Christmas to perform ritualistic hymns for a deity who will burn them for eternity if they don’t follow his rules.

We turn a child’s world from one where anything is possible into a world with walls and barriers and limitations. They come to us wild, free, and full of self-belief, and we put them in shackles and convince them of their limitations.

Instead of teaching our children how to fit into boxes, maybe it’s time we learn from them how to live outside of them.

Maybe instead of teaching them religion, we let them teach us how to believe in magic again.

Be good to each other,

~ MG.

 

 

 

Photos:

Gandalf: MTV.com
The Pope: Wikipedia
Burning at the Stake: breitbartunmasked.com
Medicine Woman: pinterest.com
Featured Image: dreamatico.com

 

 

What Are You Waiting For?

What are you waiting for?

I see them; you cannot hide them from me.

I see them. I see their glowing eyes nervously peeking over your shoulder as you pass me on the street. I look back, just for a moment, and give them a reassuring smile. My eyes tell them they can never die. It makes them curious. Usually my kind don’t notice their presence. They are intrigued, but they do not trust me. I look too much like one of them – like one of you. They quickly return their frail bodies to the safety of your cardigan.

I see them. Once as big as mountains, they have become a collection of pebbles that you squeeze into your pocket. Caged since infancy, they no longer remember what it means to be free. They have forgotten the summer. Knowing only the darkness of the winter you’ve banished them to, they do not dream of spring. They can hope only of hope.

I see them. I cannot hear them though, for they speak only in whispers. They mustn’t disturb you. They know they shouldn’t be out at this time. It’s against your rules. They should never be awake at the same time as you are. Now is the time for work not for their silly games. It’s time for grown up stuff. They’ve been told before: they have no place in the real world.


 

I see them. Yet you can barely remember what they look like. You’d have forgotten them completely if not for their little visits. They like to say hello. Even though you’ve given up on them, they remember you fondly and will stay with you always. They are everywhere. Under the burning of the sun, they drift on the breeze gently caressing your face. Sitting on the beach, they surf on the waves lapping at your feet. They are the dancing flames of passion in the deep and dark eyes of a lover.

I see them. You met them as a child. You used to lay in the grass and laugh with them. You were best friends. Sometimes you would spend all day together talking of days to come. You believed in one another.


 

One day, not so long ago, you were told you could no longer see each other. Your parents wouldn’t allow it. Your teachers forbade it. You could no longer be friends.

But I still see them. They are your dreams.

I see you, too.


 

You who has walked with giants. You who has braved the darkness. You who is born of the light.

I’ve seen the stardust in your bones and the sunlight in your eyes. Ancestors who protect you course through your veins. Your roots run deep into mother earth, and she holds you with care and love. The knowledge inside of you is as deep as the ocean, and your soul is as vast as its murky depths. You possess the strength of a God – you are one.

You have inside of you all that you need to chase your dreams.

So what are you waiting for?

Be good to each other,

~MG

Featured Image Courtesy of timefillers.com

Why We’re All Artists:

Have you ever had a moment when you’ve observe genius and you were instantly inspired?

That was your inner artist showing itself.

Have you ever had THE moment? I think we all have, at some point in our lives. The moment we observe genius and we’re lifted into action on the wings of inspiration.

It might have been the first time we set our eyes on Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies.” For some of us, it was the first time we heard the angelic voice of Freddie Mercury singing “Somebody to Love.” It could have been the first time we read a poem by Sylvia Plath, the first Steven Spielberg film we watched, or the first time we saw Meryl Streep on the big screen.

Regardless of what the moment looked like, that was your inner artist showing itself.


 

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“Water Lilies” (1920-1926) by Claude Monet.

I’ve had many such moments in my life, but I remember the first time with absolute clarity.


 

When I was growing up, hockey didn’t appeal to me much. It was very un-Canadian of me, I know. I hated getting up before sunrise in the middle of winter to skate in an arena with ice on the walls. I didn’t like how my feet would be frozen for hours after I took off my skates. I didn’t like how much it hurt when I fell on the hard ice. I decided hockey wasn’t for me.

One night my family was watching hockey on T.V. A guy named Mario Lemieux was playing, and I was instantly hypnotized by him. He was a magician. His stick as his wand, he cast spells no other human could. Every time he stepped onto the ice, he created something from nothing. He made everything look effortless.

To this day, he’s still the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a unicorn. I didn’t understand it then, but I was witnessing genius in motion.


 

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Super Mario: In my humble opinion, the best to ever lace ’em up. [Photo Source: http://images.performgroup.com%5D.
Needless to say, my little heart was inspired. I gave hockey another chance. Suddenly, the arena didn’t seem so cold. The broken bones didn’t take so long to heal. The frozen feet thawed a little quicker.


 

So why does the witnessing of genius inspire us the way it does?

Art – in all of its forms – comes from a place we’ve forgotten. It comes from the higher realms of the self; it comes from the same place as our souls. We give it many names: heaven, the cosmos, the universe, Valhalla, source, Olympus, and the list goes on.  From the moment we’re born, the deepest parts of ourselves call us to return to that place.


 

This is why a masterpiece inspires us. It gives us a glimpse of the divine; a glimpse of the divine within all of us. For it is only when we see God in another that we come to realize that God is in ourselves. We stop seeing ourselves as separate from the universe around us, and start seeing the cosmos as a part of ourselves.

space
“Taken Under the ‘Wing’ of the Small Magellanic Cloud” : I know this looks fake, but it’s not. This is a photo taken by NASA of a small cloud galaxy that orbits the Milky Way. It is a small fraction of the universe you are a part of. It is a small fraction of you. [Photo Source: NASA – http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/wallpaper.php?id=PIA16884 ].

That is why it lifts our hearts when we express ourselves with creation. Our soul sings when we dance and paint because, for a moment, we are opening ourselves up to the higher realms that we came from. For a moment we remember that we are Gods.


 

You don’t have to paint the Mona Lisa, or write Romeo and Juliet to find that place. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. The most intimate parts of ourselves don’t care for acclamation or praise. Our souls only long for us to remember who we are; to remember the divine perfection in all of us.

A soul – personified as the artist – is in each of us.

It is why Michelangelo spent over four years painting the Sistine Chapel.

It is why Mario Lemieux  spent tens of thousands of hours on frozen ponds.

It is the reason that I write.


 

Art is the language of our soul and the artist is the one who speaks it. So take some time to create something, big or small. Paint a self portrait, build a tree house, or write a ballad. Take a dance or yoga class. Write a song, or learn an instrument. Find a way to express the soul trapped inside of you. Remind yourself of that feeling you get when you open yourself up to the heavens.

Remind yourself of your own divinity.

Because you are as infinite and as sacred as the stars we look upon.

Be good to each other,

~MG.

 

 

 

On Loss:

I look at the history of humanity and I see that humans inherently understand the beauty that can come with losing the people and things that we love.

How many of us can claim we haven’t felt the painful sting of true loss in our lives?

Of course, none of us can. Even the old monk who has nothing to lose has, at some point in time, lost a teacher or has left a family that meant the world to him.

In fact, most of us have recently lost someone (or something) dear to us. It could have been a grandparent, a cat, a job (that you loved), a sibling, or a significant other.

Obviously loss comes in varying degrees. We could have lost a great aunt that we happened to get along with well, or we could have lost the person we believed with all of our hearts that we would someday grow old with.

Most of you probably had a specific name or a face pop into your head as you were reading this. The memory of that person or thing instantly triggered a pain somewhere inside of us. The more intricately entwined with our soul that person or thing was (or is), the deeper and more astonishing that pain would have been.


 

We’ve all gone through it. The loss of someone unmeasurably important to us. The subsequent days in bed, looking out the window at a landscape that always seems to be dark and rainy. We sit in front of computer screens watching cartoons or scrolling Facebook. We do anything we can instead of facing that pain.

We desperately try to escape it, but we can’t. We buy our favourite foods only to realise we have no appetite. We organise a girls’ night only to realise we’re not really in the mood for company or the notion of changing out of our sweat pants. Some of us need to switch to stronger medicine. We binge drink or we get high. We seek out pleasures of the flesh.

Some of us chase a feeling – any feeling – other than pain. Some of us are happy just to numb ourselves. Some of us even like a bit of a blend, the numbing of our minds and souls but the good old stimulation of the physical senses. No matter our medicine, we close our hearts to the world.

But what happens to our heart when this happens? Where does it go?


 

Some say our pain is the risk we take, and a symptom of loving someone fully and completely. Others claim is it a symptom of loving foolishly, and with crippling dependence on that which we’ve lost.

I think of everything I’ve lost in my life and it’s easy to see where the pain comes from. I saw my grandmothers very infrequently, and my dependence on them was extremely limited. The pain of losing them, however, was great. I would say the same of the loss of my favourite dog growing up.

That is because the pain of our loss is directly related to how much love we put into a relationship, and how open and vulnerable we allow ourselves to be in order to receive the return of that love. It is in this understanding we can solace in dark times.

I’ve said it before, I know very little about this crazy world we’re caught spinning in. I know even less about that blinding force which we call love. In many ways, I’m hopeless when it comes to these things. But I look at the history of humanity and I see that humans inherently understand the beauty that can come with losing the people and things that we love.


 

I think of John Keats, of Dante Alighieri, Andy Warhol, and countless other poets, artists, and writers who used the power of loss in order to create something beautiful. Since the dawn of time, humanity has found ways to turn our losses into our gains. Destruction into construction. Pain into the inherent pleasure of creation. We’ve taken the holes left by loss and we’ve planted and nurtured seeds of beauty in them.

Taj
The famous Taj Mahal was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who was mourning the death of his wife who had died giving birth. [Source: placesunderthesun.com].
Life has many ways of taking those we love from us. Death, break-ups, situations of long distance or bad timing, and many other pressures of life. In this life, loss comes at us from all angles. We should expect for the agents of loss at every turn.

We cannot control who, or what, we lose. We cannot control when we lose them.

But we can always control how we react to it. As long as we consciously recognise and accept our grief, then it is in our power to limit and indulge in it as we see fit.

It seems funny that our natural response to losing something or someone is to sit still. To mourn. To hold our breath. To try and cease existing entirely. On the most simple of levels, mourning a loss is compounding our grief. We add loss to loss. We lose days and weeks. We lose our connection to the world around us, to the people who love us, and – most importantly – we lose the connection to ourselves.

If we’ve already lost someone special to us, why lose another moment, or experience, or chance to indulge in life?


 

Why not indulge in that pain as so many creative humans have before us? We can use that powerful energy and turn it into something that serves us rather than something that cripples us. Something that banishes us to the dark corners of the mind.

ghosts
“The People You Love Become Ghosts Inside Of You And Like This You Keep Them Alive.” (2010) by Rob Montgomery: as suggested by its title, this piece of art was inspired by the death of loved ones.

For mother time is a huntress who has never hunted a prey she could not track. She always catches her target. And she comes for us all.

This is why we need to keep moving forward, because time always moves on without us. We don’t have to get out of bed, but the world keeps spinning. We don’t have to pass the time, but the time will pass us by. Eventually our time will be up, and we will be taken away from those who cherish us.

So get out of bed, and put away the tub of Ben and Jerry’s. Turn your loss and your pain into something wonderful.

You can turn that loss of your dream job into that European vacation you fantasized about since you first saw photos of Rome. You can transform the death of your brother into a piece of literature that honours and  immortalises him for all of time. You turn your loss of innocence into paintings which inspire emotions in people so powerful that it tells your story without using words. You can take getting dumped as a sign it’s time to start fresh and experience the thrill of living in a new city, or country.


 

Loss is a part of opening your heart to the amazing experiences of life. Unfortunately, it is unavoidable. The more fulfilling of a life we live, the more we’ll feel that familiar pain of loss. That pain is ours. We can run from it, or we can turn it into something that lifts the soul to the higher realms of creation. It takes courage, but I promise you have that courage inside of you.

What’s your choice going to be?

Be good to each other,

~MG.

On The Grass being Greener:

Is the grass greener on the other side?

We all have the “grass is greener” person in our lives.

“I hate this place,” they might say, “once I save up enough to move to (insert location here), I’ll start fresh and everything will be okay.”

I grew up around them my whole life.

Constantly blaming suburbia for their discontent, their lack of meaning in life, their lack of total stimulation. They were too big for such small places. They needed the bright lights of the city, or the warm beaches of a far off, exotic place.

A lot of them made it there. Most of them remained unhappy and unfulfilled.


 

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That isn’t to stay travelling or moving your roots is a bad thing. I think travelling is essential for destroying much of the ignorance there is in the world.

The problem becomes when a place serves the same external function as any other material desire.

As soon as you get that corner office life will get better. As soon as you get to Bahamas life will get easier. They are all obtainable desires that will have us perpetually chasing our tails, but cannot give us what we think they can.

The destination will be exciting and new to start, much like the new car or home. New people will help you forget old ones, all the while not knowing exactly who you are. The beautiful location makes it easy to fall in love, or forget old lovers.

For a moment, the escape seems to be going exactly as planned.


 

Eventually, the new bright lights will dim. The people of the place will feel very much like the ones you left behind. Other travellers will have moved on, romances will have burned out in a pile of dust and lust. You’ll start to feel like you always have.

No matter how many events and new people we surround ourselves with, we’ll still have those silent moments by ourselves. Even if we find someone to fill the empty space next to us in bed, they’ll still be times when we have to face ourselves.

Because that’s where the real magic will happen.

That’s where it was always going to happen.


 

Fact is, happiness, enlightenment, and fulfilment are not things you will ever find externally.

There is no magical island that has special air that induces happiness. Just like there is no special elixir or tonic that will give us everlasting life.

As long as you’re searching for answers externally, you’ll always feel lost and unsettled.


 

Everything you need is right there, inside of you.

You have the ability to choose happiness. You have the ability to choose love.

Exactly where you’ve always been.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

 

On Friendship:

Who are our true friends?

Daylight was breaking on the horizon.

The lake was so still that the sun’s reflection was a perfect mirror image; it looked like the morning had two suns rising at the same time.

Our chairs were still firmly entrenched around the fire. Our toes were still stuck in the sand.

Our once roaring fire had been reduced to barely-smoking ashes, but not one of us had noticed. It had been a warm evening and we had been distracted.

For the past hour or so, two of our friends had been engaged in a heated exchange of words. I say “heated” in the traditional sense, as this is a pretty common and socially accepted practice amongst my group of friends.

The five of us that were not involved pulled up a chair and listened to the insults being traded. As always, we served as the referees, judges of style, and the crowd – all at the same time.

It wasn’t Canada Day, but there was certainly some fireworks that night/early morning.

CANADA DAY 20080701 TOPIX
Canada Day celebrations. Note: This is NOT what happened on the night/morning in question. [Source: THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Sean Kilpatrick].

The battle had ended with the sunrise, and both combatants had felt they had gotten the better of their opponent.

One of the word warriors got up and headed back to the cottage, presumably to grab himself an ice cold James Ready for breakfast.

The other gladiator sat in silence, with a very strange grin on his face.

We took the bait. We asked him why he was smiling.

He told us he had an ace up his sleeve the entire time in case his victory was ever in question. He said it was lucky for his opponent that he hadn’t felt the need to use it.

We huddled around. We wanted to know what his secret weapon had been.

He leaned in a whispered and few words to us. He howled with laughter into the morning air.

A few of us released nervous laughs. Others just exchanged looks of shock. Maybe it was the hangover setting in, but some of us looked sick. I couldn’t help but ask:

Was this too far, even for us? Did we even have a “too far”?


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Does a group like this even have a “too far” ?

Growing up with these guys, I used to wonder if we were even actually friends.

How could people who claimed to love one another – even to like one another – constantly go at it the way we did.

At first I presumed it was some sort of struggle of machoism; putting each other down to get to the top.

I later took comfort in the belief that it was a natural occurrence within a team, a sort of humbling system to ensure no single ego rose above the interests of the group.

But here we are, some of us twenty years later, and we’re still very much the same.


Like most of us, my biggest problem in understanding friendship was my definition of a friend.

I had confused acquaintances, schoolmates, and co-workers  as my friends. I had confused people that I co-existed with, with people I flourished with.

It wasn’t until I realised the key element of a friendship that I truly understood why my group of friends had stuck together as long as it had.


 

This is because a true friendship is for the sake of friendship itself.

You are required to give no more to the relationship than your friendship, and expect nothing more in return.

As soon as the friendship is based upon other intentions or motives, it ceases to be a friendship at all.


 

Take your high school experience, for example. Some of the people you considered your friends you considered them so only because they were a part of your social group.

The intention of the relationship was founded on the motive of maintaining cohesion and harmony in your group of friends – not on the friendship itself.

Odds are you no longer maintain a relationship with those people.


 

We had a team of practically the same 17-18 guys every season for a decade, and yet only 8 or 9 of us are still close. Some were friends for the sake of the team, the ones who stayed close were friends for the sake of friendship.

It’s not to say we don’t love them. I’m personally fond of all of the guys I played with. Our relationship simply wasn’t built on something that lasts. It served a lesser purpose.


 

North American Silver Stick Champions
Whitby Minor Bantam AAA – 2001-02: Several of us are still thick as thieves, others have drifted out of our lives.

When there is no expectation in a friendship other than the friendship itself, we attain a certain freedom.

We don’t have to fall into line, wear certain clothes, or perform desired functions. We’re accepted exactly how we are.

We don’t have to be someone we’re not.

We don’t have to hide.

Friends see us exactly as we are, and they love us for it.


 

This is why my group of friends could constantly joke about each other’s idiosyncrasies, faults, habits, and mistakes, without anyone getting too bent out of shape about it.

We all inherently knew that the group wasn’t trying to change us as people. The group was confirming our own humanity.

We were telling each other that who we were was good enough. We were laughing at each other’s faults because they were normal; our mistakes were human.

We forced each other to look in the mirror, and be perfectly okay with what we saw.


Does anything truly exist if no one is witness to its existence?

Friendship is both the confirmation of our existenc

– exactly how we are – and the complete acceptance of it.


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Friendship is deep conversation at a dingy pub table – liquid courage is accepted but not required.

True friendships are an integral part of a happy life.

Not only because we – as humans – are social creatures, but friendships help us to understand ourselves and the world around us.

Instead of living in those big beautiful brains of ours, we can talk with someone deeply without fear of judgement.

We can express our fears of things like death, inadequacy, flying, or clowns. Through these connections we learn our fears are perfectly normal and, more often than not, we work through these fears together.

We can hear each other’s ideas on the afterlife, on happiness, on love. We can help each other to grow.


This is why the greatest lovers are those who founded their relationship upon strong friendships.

It is why you so often hear couples in their 90’s call one another their best friend.


 

34706poster
We should have known these two would end up together. [Source: The Lion King].

Beginning a relationship around lust is the same as beginning a friendship with the person from your social group in high school.

It’s the same as a friendship based on a professional connection.

It is the same as a friendship based on money, popularity, protection, or benefits of any kind.

They all serve ends that can be obtained.

You can attain harmony of the social group; you can attain the pleasures of the flesh; you can attain that promotion, you can attain the acceptance of a gang.

If the friendship – or relationship – is based on desires that can be attained, they are doomed.

The relationship ceases to meaningfully exist once it serves its purpose. 

A friendship, on the other hand, will always have the friendship to aspire to.

It is something that will last forever.

Any true friendship will.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

 

 

 

On Babies and Pizza:

Social conditioning is a funny thing.

It has an astounding ability to filter the way we see the world. By shaping our values and norms, it can directly affect our appreciation for the little miracles in life.

Take pizza for example.

Our social conditioning has rendered the ordering of a pizza into something routine and relatively unimpressive. It’s something that is generally accepted as logistically simple. It’s become a completely unappreciated achievement of humanity.

But if someone was to do exactly the same thing – that is, get on their phone and press a few buttons – but expect a baby, it would be absolutely absurd.

Think about what goes into the making of a pizza.

photo3
Pizzaaaaaaa!

If the pizza has pepperoni on it, an animal has to give birth to another animal, which must survive childhood and reach adulthood, that animal must then be murdered, processed, shipped, and cooked before finally appearing as part of your pizza.

If it has olives on it, an olive tree had to be planted somewhere, probably the Mediterranean, had to mature enough over several years to bear fruit (is that what olives are?), be shipped across an ocean, and find its way to meet the pepperoni in a perfect union of infinitesimal coincidence in order to appear as another part of your pizza.

But you also love a bit of mozzarella. No problem. A cow must be born and raised. That cow has to first be forcefully impregnated and must carry her calf full term. In the meantime, she will be permanently chained to a milking device before having her calf taken from her at birth. This process will repeat itself until that cow can no longer get pregnant or produce milk.

The milk is then separated into curds and whey using acid and rennet. The curd sets, is drained and salted. Mozzarella is stretched and kneaded in hot water to give it that special texture a pizza lover has come to expect. It’s packaged and sent to meet it’s fate in that fiery oven with its new brothers the pepperoni and the olives.

This doesn’t take into account how the dough came to be, labour employed in the creation and cooking of the pizza and it’s elements, the delivery man, the electronic exchange of energy in monetary form, or the mind power you put into essentially manifesting a pizza by pressing buttons on a little magic box that fits in your hand.

To put things into perspective, the cheese on your pizza and the pepperoni on your pizza is made up of stardust from two completely different stars. Those stars had to both be born, act as nuclear fusion plants for billions of years, burn out in a beautiful blazing supernova, and have their tiny particles spread across the universe.

Crab_Nebula
“Caught beneath the landslide / In a champagne supernova / A champagne supernova in the sky.” [Source: Wikipedia].
They joined the trillions of such like particles that formed earth, before those particles partook in a million year cycle of being born, dying, and being reborn again, before it finally ended up as part of your pizza – at the same time as the other stardust from a different star.

A baby by comparison only takes 2 humans and 9 months to make, compared to the many humans and collective decades the clockwork of pieces your pizza represents – pieces of pizza, no pun intended.

Yet the idea of ordering a baby would appear absurd, when logistically and energetically it’s much less absurd than the ordering a pizza.

This doesn’t even take into consideration the evolution of food, cooking processes, transportation efficiency, technological advancements, harvesting capabilities, and overarching factors of globalisation that were required to develop in order for the ordering of pizza to become common place.

The art of making a baby hasn’t changed since the dawn of time.

It shouldn’t have to be said, but I do not value the making of a pizza above that of a newborn child. We value a baby because it represents life in it’s most beautiful and fragile form. A new soul has come to this planet to experience it’s journey.

But it is still funny to think about.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

On Going Through the Motions:

In meditation, there’s a few different reasons as to why the mantra is used.

Some sects of Buddhism or Hinduism believe that muttering certain words manifests change. The words plant a little seed in the plan of the universe which is then nurtured by our positive deeds, good intentions, and dedication to our practice.

Other sects believe that the mantra is a set of arbitrary words used to numb the mind.

This is because when we take any word, and say it over and over and over and over again, it loses all meaning.

When the word eventually fades into the realm of meaninglessness, we are essentially muttering nothing at all. We have short circuited our way to an empty mind. A quiet mind.

A mind content in its meaninglessness.


entrevo-keypersonofinfluence-get-started-meditation
[ Source: http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com ] .
An integral element of turning a word or a mantra meaningless is that there must not and can not be anything behind the words. We have to say the words without putting any feeling behind it.

We may have originally known the intention of our mantra, and we may have started our chants with intense purpose and sincerity, but somewhere along the way we must lose that intent and meaning in order for words, and their meaning, to fade into oblivion.


 

This is exactly what happens in life when we go through the motions.

We get up every day and follow the same routine. Go to the same job, to perform the same functions, with the same faces surrounding us, who are also performing their own monotonous functions.

Too many of us call this life. Too many of us call this living.

Like the mantras that lose all meaning, along the way we’ve lost what’s behind our words and our actions.

We’re performing the action of living, without actually possessing the intent to live.

We’re just saying the words over and over and over again. Our actions are for the sake of action.

And in this way our lives become meaningless.


 

We confuse the action itself as being the crucial element of life, when in reality it is the intention behind our actions that matters the most.

Life isn’t about the vacation or the trip, it’s about why we’re going, what we’re getting from it, or what we’re running from.

It isn’t about the code we live by, it’s about why we’ve chosen that path. It’s about discovering the fears and the pressures that have convinced us to live life a certain way, and it’s about choosing – for your own reasons – to find a different code to follow.

It’s not about the corner office job, but why we get up and work there every day.

Once you lose the intention behind the action, it becomes meaningless.


One should therefore not rely on mere words, but everywhere search for the intention behind them.” Buddhist Scriptures.

And that goes for anything in life.

You can be a brilliant poet, painter, athlete, lover, worker, or mother, but if the intention behind it isn’t pure or has been forgotten, then your actions cease to have meaning.

Your actions become a mantra.

Your boss, your partner, your children, and your team mates will all begin to feel the insincerity behind those meaningless actions.


 

Life is never about the choices we make.

It’s about why we make those choices. It’s about those tiny moments of integrity, when we know we’ve made an unpopular choice but have stayed true to ourselves.

It’s about being fearless in the face of external pressures or socially constructed fears.


Portrait Herm of
Socrates : One of My Favourite Examples of a Man Unconcerned With Social Fears or Pressures.

Life is the fire, intention is the oxygen that gives it strength and beauty.

So breathe some fresh air into your life.


 

Take some time to reflect on why you’re doing everything in your life. Look at everything you do today as a choice, and question the intention behind that choice.

That is where your power comes from.

You have the choice and the power to live life how you want to live it.

Don’t let any person or misplaced fear take that away from you.

Don’t go through the motions.

Live your life with conscious intention.

And you’ll be living a meaningful life again.

Be good to each other,

– MG.