The Circle of Untouchability

mom and dad

 

The Hierarchy of Stealing Time

The First Circle:  The Circle of Untouchability

borrow – negotiate – steal

4.  mom and dad

Honour your mother and your father.

That’s a commandment.  It’s kind of important.

I realize that not all parents are created equal, so I will limit my thoughts and only speak about mine.  I leave your heart and soul to deal and think about yours.  Take from this what you like and leave what you don’t.

I am not naïve or oblivious of my past.  I believe I knew my parents well.  I’m going to skip all the ugly moments we experienced.  They happened, we loved each other through them.  It wasn’t easy.  End of story.

I am omitting these memories here because they are no longer important.  They are in the past.  They have played their last chord.  They have served their purpose.

My dad was fifty years old when he left his native Poland, along with his wife, his twelve your old little boy, and six suitcases.  He came to Toronto, because he had to.  His own country had imprisoned him, abandoned him, and threatened his very existence.

I am six years removed from being fifty.  I have moved homes a few times in my lifetime and have learned that I absolutely abhor the experience.  I hate moving houses, and so I can’t really imagine moving to another country, on another continent. 

My mom and dad, courageously gave up their home, their extended family, their work, their friends, their country, their language, their memories, their culture; basically, they gave up everything they knew and everything they held dear. 

They gave it up for me.  They gave it up for each other.

I am eternally grateful and blessed to be who I am and be where I am.

My obligation towards my parents is instinctual.  Intuitive.  It comes from the gut.  It is just who I am.

When we arrived in Canada in 1985, we lived in a hotel, then a little welfare apartment, then we moved up to a nicer apartment.  Then my ass was finally kicked enough to learn something and make something of my life.

I finally had enough money to leave my nest, to leave my parents, and begin the life of a bachelor, and all the magic that it entails.

At the time, my parents retired because they could not physically keep up anymore, and as a lot of immigrant’s experience, they had no savings, and little hope of a continuous income.  Together, they might have scraped enough money to live in a very small apartment, and might have had enough money each month to pay for cable, a telephone, gas, and a modest food allowance.

At that time, they came to me and asked me if I was willing to continue living with them. 

They thought since we loved each other, we could continue living together, and share the monthly expenses.  They would have to spend the money anyway.  Why not do it together?  We visited a lawyer, to see what the legal implications were entering such an arrangement. 

I have an older brother, that I no longer communicate with.  I will be honest and admit that the lack of communication is my fault.  The last time I moved, I did not call him, or have the patience to inform him of where we were going.  I am not that difficult to find though. 

My parents wanted to make sure that they gave me something.  They wanted me to enjoy my house, especially when they were gone. 

That was their wish.  I did not ask for it.  I am just eternally grateful for it.

In my life, I never asked my parents for anything.  As far as I figured I had all the things I ever needed.  It was a non-issue.  Ok.  Once in a while, I got $20 here, or perhaps a little more there.  Overall however, everything I own or have today, I have honestly earned though the sweat of my own brow.

My parents and I always lived together.

At first I lived with them, and in the last few years of their life, they lived with me. 

I took the commandment about loving your parents very seriously.  As a child I was surprised that it was even a commandment.  I know deep in my heart that my parents were very pleased we remained so very close.

When I was dating, I remember being nervous of letting the young ladies know that I was a package deal.  I knew that I could never abandon my parents.  Everything I achieved and everything I am today, is because of them.  Living together was as natural as breathing. 

I did not have an exhaustive dating ledger (it was a very small book with a limited number of pages), but I am sure this was a deal breaker for some of the young ladies.

I am grateful to my wife, who found this to be one of my most endearing qualities.  We’re still working on my sense of humour.

My mom and dad are the reason why I don’t complain much and why I try so hard to realize my dreams.  I see all the sacrifices that they have made over the years; the momentous ones and the tiny, insignificant ones.  I see all these sacrifices and have no choice but to be happy. 

I have no choice.

If I embrace misery or mediocrity, then I squander their sacrifices.  I will never forget their tears and hardship.  I could not live with myself if I did.

I continue living a meaningful life and continue to be happy.

Like our spouses and our children, our parents, adopted parents, and even step parents, or guardians, can only be negotiated with. 

We cannot steal or borrow any time from their life. 

We need to cling to them, surround them, because time is of the essence. 

My parents are both dead, and I can’t believe that it has been ten years since the last time I saw my mother’s smiling, loving face.  I miss her every day.  I talk to both my parents every day.  I end each day telling them how much I love them.

If we follow our dreams, and we must, we need to negotiate our time wisely.  If we spend less time with parents, it should only be because we are working hard to see more of them in the future.

We can never forget them, or ignore them.  They are not someone else’s responsibilities.  No one knows them and loves them the way we do.  They are ours.

I remember one of my students coming to see me at the end of class one day and sharing how hard it was to visit her grandmother because she can no longer remember who she is.  This young girl told me that she often doesn’t go to visit.  As she choked up her tears she said it was simply too hard.

I was sympathetic.  I still make no judgement.  It is not easy.

I did ask her though what would happen if she did find the courage and visited her grandmother.  I told her that it is very likely that she would not remember her.  I told her that this would be very painful.  I also asked her, if despite all of that, her grandmother would enjoy the visit. 

The answer was yes. 

In that moment, she realized that no matter how delicate her grandmothers state of mind was, a gift of time and the presence of a granddaughter, remains a precious gift. 

No matter who visits her grandmother.  No matter if she understands.  A visit, is a visit. 

It is our responsivity to respond. 

We can choose to accept this seemingly unfair brokenness, and our own emotional cost if we have the courage to go.  And if we do, we will become uncelebrated heroes.  Heroines, not because we do something that is easy, but precisely because are willing to do that which is extremely hard. 

Saints are extraordinary people who do ordinary things, while ordinary people stand by and imagine that the act is impossible because it is extraordinary.

I’m not really sure what you will make with all of this. 

I hope it will help you ponder your life, your dreams, and what your responsibilities are towards your parents.

Don’t forget them.

Don’t forget your grandparents either.

Love the ones who have hurt you too (but that is a discussion for another time).

Honour them.

Cherish them.

Spend time with them.

Don’t abandon them.

Don’t steal time from them.

If they are very close to the end.  If they can see the sunset.  I urge you to be compassionate and steal some time from your very dreams.  It’s counter intuitive, I know, but God has a way of giving back, in a ways we never dream possible.

Honour your mother and your father.

You’ll thank me.

You’ll be happy.

They will help you French kiss your dreams.

 


bogged down by hierarchical circles

 

A quick review of where we are with the whole hierarchy of circles thingy.

I am trying to put together a system of stealing time.  I think that this is a noble effort.  It’s a humble attempt to find an hour or two, buried somewhere, deep inside our hectic lives.  If we are lucky or cunning enough to identify those few hours, perhaps we can begin to inch a little bit closer to realizing our dreams. 

I am aware that it is imprudent of me to post my thought in their roughly edited form.  They come to me every morning; brilliant or dull, inspiring or forgettable.  I make no judgement.  I do my best and I ship them out, so I can do it again.

The world might be better served if I waited.  It would probably be more beneficial to me in the long run if I gave myself more time and a real opportunity to sound more scholarly, by not exposing my obvious limitations, and silly childish errors. 

The problem is that I have come to know myself very well. 

If I waited for my work to be polished, properly edited, and academically acceptable, I would have nothing to show for my effort, having quit and accomplished nothing.

These flawed and capricious entries are my personal response to Seth Godin’s call to artists through the Habits of Successful Artists.  After reading his book the Icarus Deception, I transcribed them and stapled them to my wall, like commandments.  I want them to burn deep inside my unconscious mind.

Habits of Successful Artists

learn to sell what you’ve made

say Thank You in writing

speak in public

fail often

see the world as it is

make predictions

teach others

write daily

connect others

lead a Tribe

I am beginning to think that the title, The Hierarchy of Stealing Time misses its mark.  I no longer see a ladder.  I am not climbing anything.  I just see fucking circles.

Perhaps I have the seventh sense, and it’s more proper to call this whole exercise The Circles of Time.

The idea of hierarchy just doesn’t seem to work here anymore.  We don’t live our lives on a ladder.  It seems a very simplistic way to perceive our lives.  It’s easy of course.  Linear thinking is always easier to understand but I think this is where Maslow was wrong. 

In an affluent society, that serves itself at the soft touch of a button, it is very easy to hypothesize that we need the comfort of shelter, clothing, and security, before you can arrive at the important questions that life demands of us.  However, Viktor Frankl, facing the ultimate hell in Auschwitz, offers a different hypothesis. 

It is truly possible to live a happy and meaningful life, even in the shittiest of human conditions and circumstances.  His book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is a very relevant architectural design of self-actualization.  More so than Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  It should be the cornerstone of our lives.

The Circle of Untouchability is just a group of realities that we must always take care of.  I have tried to make the point that despite everything, we should live honourable and ethical lives.  We must honour our commitments and responsibilities to our spouse and our children, and in that particular order. 

Today, I was going to write about what we owe our parents, and how our dreams should always give thanks to the debt they paid for us, and how we must never forget them. 

If we re-examine the ten commandments, we will find that there are only six.  The first four tell us to love God freely and unconditionally, and what that process looks like when it is done well.  That leaves us with only six, non-asshole things we should strive to avoid.

Six.

Honouring our father and mother is first on the list!

After that comes the good stuff.  Murder.  Good old fashioned whoring that ruins our marriage, with or without whips.  Theft.  Gossip.  And we top it all off with a miserable life of navel gazing, sprinkled with a healthy dose of jealousy.

I will be writing about our parents next, and the duty we have, to take care of them and remember them, but that will have to wait for another day.

If you are part of my clan, I wish you an early Good Friday.  If you are not, may you too, have yourself a wonderful weekend. 

Many more things unite us as people.  Certainly more, than divide us.

The decision is ours.  We can either see mud or to gaze at the stars.

 


the children

 

The Hierarchy of Stealing Time

The First Circle:  The Circle of Untouchability

borrow – negotiate – steal

3.  Children

It is very important to remind ourselves that we have tremendous value.  We have all undoubtedly failed at times, some more, some less, and we will certainly stumble again tomorrow, but we can never forget that we have intrinsic value.  We need to remember that we are not junk, but instead, unique individuals, with great strength and a strong character.  We need to remind ourselves to stay grounded and allow ourselves to be guided by a set of meaningful and universal principals.  The don’t be an asshole precepts.

We cannot compromise our morals because we need to stay true to ourselves.  Without them, there is not much use in talking about any hierarchy, and no point discussing stealing time.  Without limits, you just take what you want, when you want.  Don’t worry about who you crawl over, along the way.

As we discussed in the previous post, we must learn to negotiate time away from our spouse.  We need to negotiate, and that is the key. We cannot afford to pay for the consequences by borrowing or stealing time.  Like the universal principals, we need to remember that love is the strongest human bond.  The ultimate experience.  We just don’t borrow or steal from those we love.

Along with our spouse, our children require the rest of our untouchable commitment.

If you don’t have any, rejoice (kidding). 

In all seriousness.  Our kids deserve the best of us.  The best of our time.  The best of our energy.  Our best self.  Our total presence and uninterrupted participation.

If you don’t have children, that’s ok.  You don’t have to be a parent to feel complete.  For a whole decade, I had serious doubts that I would ever have an opportunity to even get married.  Yet, as our ten-year anniversary draws closer, I am amazed how much I have grown, and shared with someone else.

Love is nothing more than a resounding yes. 

Love is not a feeling.  It is a choice.  A wonderful, beautiful, costly choice.

You choose who you love or you simply choose not to love them.  Both are very valid options.  Both have their place in our lives.  Both choices come with definite consequences.

Having children is a choice as well.

If you are blessed to have children, remember that they deserve to live above our dreams and desires.  They deserve to have their own sacred space in the Circle of Untouchability.  I am not implying that our children are a burden, that they stand in the way of our future.  I am not suggesting that we need to decide between our dreams and theirs.  This is not Sophie’s choice. 

If you have children.  Raise them.  Love them.  Give whatever you have, as often as you can.

As you know, if you have been reading my previous posts, I have reawakened my deep passion for photography and writing.  I don’t need to be the best in the country.  I realize now, that all I really need is my own voice to be heard somewhere, anywhere.  I’ll take the last available chair in the orchestra.  I’ll take the timeslot that nobody wants.  I will do the best I can with what I have, to work with.

I don’t intend to stop chasing my dreams.  I vow to chase them relentlessly until I reach them, or exhaust myself trying.  I intend to burn all my available energy and abandon all notions of safety and a return journey.  This time, I’m abandoning plan B. 

But back to the children.

Along with our spouse and our ethical vow never to become an asshole, we owe our children everything.  We cannot horde our time selfishly and ask them to be patient and wait for us.  They are growing up so fast and they are learning so much.  They need us.  They can’t wait.  They demand us to be present and we gave them our word that we would be there.

Let us also remember, that we need them.  The love of a child can change the most stubborn heart.

I don’t remember how many times a day, I look back on my own childhood.  I keep going back and back because I realize through my own children, the kind of relationship I had with my own parents.

Before we had children, I had so little time.  Now that I have them, I find that I still have so little time.  What has changed however, is that I manage to get more done.     

It is counterintuitive.  I know.  It makes no sense, but it’s the truth. 

Children sharpen our focus and their endless energy is contagious.  That is if they don’t rip out your nerves first. 

This is a perfect time to remind ourselves that our children need us to hold on to our dreams.  They need us to resurrect them.  They need us not to abandon them.  They need us to keep pushing towards them, no matter how tough it gets.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or how far you think you are from realizing your passions.  What matters is that we wake up tomorrow and keep taking even a single step forward. 

How do we expect to inspire our son or daughter to do anything, to hope and dream, when we ourselves have become too tired, stubborn, and hopeless.  There is not much inspiration in a desperate attempt to win the lottery or await retirement.

We cannot give them what we don’t genuinely possess.

We cannot inspire, if we ourselves drown our lives in quiet desperation.

We want our children to work hard, to discover who they are, and above everything else, to be happy.  How can they honour our wishes when their own parents leave each morning grudgingly to work, and cannot wait to drown their sorrows on the weekend.

We can only inspire our children by what we do, by how we live.

There is never a good time to quit.  There is no time to waste.  Life is worth fighting for, till the very end.  Life demands we continue living as artists, until we take our final breath.

Our excitement and dedication can become contagious.  Those little eyes, and those tiny ears, not to mention, busy hands, watch our every move.  While they watch, if they see what they need to see, they will crawl ever so slowly towards their potential.

The whole reason I am trying to create the Hierarchy of Stealing Time is to help one another navigate through the struggles that are likely to arise when the people that we love come in conflict with the work that needs to get done. 

In order to keep our dreams alive, we have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us.  Brace your back.  We will dig many ditches.

We need to hustle.  We need to dive deep.  Our children however, cannot patiently stand by while we figure it all out.  We cannot ask them to remain dormant or passive.  They are fully alive.  They call for our undivided attention and time.

Like we negotiated with our spouse, we must also learn the art of negotiating with our children. 

Ultimately, while we work, we have to step away from our children.  When that happens, we need to know what we are doing.  One way, is to perhaps plan an experience together, or come to the agreement on some mutually beneficial desire.  A trip or an experience.  An opportunity that would not have presented itself otherwise, if we don’t work hard towards our dreams.

Our children need to understand that our desires are not always bankable.  Our work fail.  We might fail.  It might all be for nothing.  On the other hand, we have a chance to reach our potential, and when we do, we will celebrate together and hopefully celebrate often.   

Dreams are never our own.

As a family, everyone needs a voice.  The time we spend doing something, is time, not doing something else.  There is a cost.  Payment is always due. 

We need to negotiate our time today, for the time we want to spend with our children tomorrow.  Today, for example, at the beginning of spring, we can mutually agree to spend less time with them, so that perhaps next winter, we can take a family vacation together.  If the work pays off, we can go somewhere warm and celebrate.  Our dreams can begin to pay for a life we truly believe we deserve.

Children are reasonable. 

Sometimes it is not easy to see, as reason often lays hidden beneath tantrums and sugar meltdowns, but deep down, our children understand us well.  We share the same spirit.

The mistake we make in our own pursuits, is that we assume we know what other people are thinking, and we know what they are going to say.  We don’t consider their feelings, or refuse to see life from their unique vantage point.

We have an unquestionable responsibility to our children. 

Remember that you are not an asshole, or at least you don’t have to live your life as one.

I am currently working on an enema for the soul, by the way.  Sadly, my years of research are a bit backed up at the moment, but I will keep plugging away at it. 

Take care of your children.  There is only one you. 

That said.  Remember that one responsibility never excludes the possibility of the other.

 


our lover

 

The Hierarchy of Stealing Time

The First Circle:  The Circle of Untouchability

borrow – negotiate – steal

2.  Spouse

If you are married, then at some point, you came to a crossroad and proclaimed a vow to your lover, that they would be the most important part of your life.  We should never forget that promise.  Our spouse should always remain the most important person in our life, more so than our children or our pets. 

Our spouse, can never be relegated, moved aside, or asked to take a seat, right behind the stunted ego of our dreams.

The person we decided to build our life with, should remain, always, an integral part of our vision. 

If they are not part of our dreams, I think it’s time to rethink our relationship, and our future.  Harmony is not a luxury.  When it’s missing, it is usually a very bad sign.

Our spouse should always be placed above our children.  I won’t even mention the ridiculousness of having your partner devalued by a Chihuahua, but sadly, I digress. 

I understand that this might not be a very popular notion.  I realize that relationships are not very hierarchical, they are more like a mixture of volatile chemical compounds, but for our purpose here, I think it illustrates the point.

I think we need to be clear as to who is the primary target of our affection.  Without question, it should be our partner.  This doesn’t mean that we are somehow more in love with them than our children.  It simply means that when conflict arises, and it will, we understand and appreciate who are ally is, and support them.  Parenting is a battlefield, and they are brave enough to continuously walk into battle by our side. 

Kids are darn cute.  I give them that.  But they can never jump the turnstile.  They should wait their turn.

The greatest thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.

This is true not only true for old married couples, but is infinitely more important for anyone who struggle or cannot reconcile with their partner, ultimately ending in divorce.

Our dreams require time. 

We need a lot of it, so we can push through the many setbacks and constant challenges.  We need a lot of time to work and to fight those negative whispers in our consciousness that tell us to fold up and call it a day.

We should never steal time from our spouse nor disrespect them by borrowing it.  We should learn to negotiate our time instead.  We need to be in constant dialogue with our lover and communicate our desires, and the cost that it will take to realize them. 

If they love us, they will not stand in our way.  By engaging them in an honest and open conversation, it gives our spouse the opportunity to point out some potential dangers or voice concerns we might not have otherwise imagined. 

Most importantly, negotiating time away from our wife or husband, for our dreams, makes them an integral part of our desire.  It honours their place in our life.  It keeps us grounded, and gives us the necessary balance to keep digging ditches. 

Sometimes our spouse might be insecure or sabotage our efforts.  They might want us to remain the same. 

Their apprehension should never hold us back.  We must be respectful of their feelings, but if those feelings are groundless and irrational, we should never give them the chance to choke our dreams.  Our dreams are more important than their comfortable and security.

This is a large and very complex subject matter.  It is too big to explore here, but perhaps one day, we can devote some time and explore it with more depth.

Tomorrow. 

We move to the third part within the Circle of Untouchability; our children.

 


dog

 

The Hierarchy of Stealing Time

The First Circle:  The Circle of Untouchability

borrow – negotiate – steal

1.  God

It should come as no surprise that the relationship we foster with God is at the top of the Circle of Untouchability.  Yes, my atheist friends have just threw-up a little, but I have confidence in their immortal ability to forgive me and in time, soothe their upset stomach back to health.

If you are dyslexic atheist, you probably fall to the ground and assume the fetal position every time you see a dog, but no matter, I should probably create a less offensive word, pick a gentler noun; perhaps the universe will do the trick. 

Our entire unfathomable galaxy is marvellous.  It is vast and beautiful.  An infinite, ever expanding magic, governed by the sciences and natural law.  Science is never a sign of contradiction.  Nor is the understanding and respect for natural law. 

I put my hope in a person.  I know how it sounds.  I know I’m crazy, but I prefer crazy to the idea of a dark, cold, unintelligent, and randomly moving collection of protons and electrons.

I can’t accept the idea that all that is unfolding before me is not intelligent somehow.  I have no idea how all of it works, I just refuse to believe that I am nothing but a cog.  A sperm (more on that tomorrow). 

I refuse to accept the Darwinian mandate that I need to survive.  That I need to extend the span of our human race.  I utterly reject the notion of survival of the fittest. 

There are days, thankfully not many, where I don’t care much for the human race, and on every other day, I have loftier aspirations than to simply survive.  I don’t live for the weekend.

I want more.  I want to live.  I want to live a meaningful life and when I leave this mortal coil, I want to do so without any regret.  This is who I am.  I make no denial and offer no regret.

No matter. 

It serves no purpose to point out to each other how differently we are able to see the world and our purpose in it, but at the core, you and I, we are describing the same elephant.

God is at the top of the Circle of Untouchability because dreams stem and lead there.  This is the only place where we must never steal time.  Mount Sion is sacred.  The universal laws that govern us are immutable.  What we give, we will get back.  When we refuse to give, will eat at our humanity.   

I’m not saying that you can’t steal time from God, I am just humbly suggesting that it might not be a good idea.  Yes, the Romans did invent the two-seated toilet, but you won’t find my ass sitting in one.  I don’t think I’m alone.  Some things are just not a good idea.

There are things we must never do.  We cannot invent our own meaning of justice.  We cannot decide for ourselves what is right and wrong.  We are governed by universal principals, and no matter your religion you are or if you are free from such archaic notions, I think we all have a human responsibility to be nice to each other.

Contrary to popular opinion, we are not free, nor are our lives determined. 

We are free to define our lives, but we are never free to be an asshole.

You are not alone in the universe.  As John Donne beautifully illustrated; no man is an island. 

You cannot build a little raft on the vast ocean, and tell the other swimmers and vessels that it is your ocean.  Our dreams, big or small, must always include and account for the well-being of everyone.  Every race, religion, sexual orientation, and yes, even Bieber fans. 

We are all interconnected.  We have to develop our innermost desire to see everyone succeed.

The Circle of Untouchability is fairly small. 

There is not much we cannot do about that.

No matter how small or how big our dreams, we can never borrow, negotiate, or steal time if it  brings other people down. 

This is barbarous. 

Those aren’t dreams.  They are nightmares.

Give to God what is God’s, and since Caesar is dead, give back to those around you, and take only what you need.

It’s rather simple.

Don’t be an asshole.  Even an asshole with a dream.