Tag Archives: reflective

“The Egg” By Andy Weir

You were on your way home when you died.
It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.

And that’s when you met me.

“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”
“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.
“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”
“Yup,” I said.
“I… I died?”
“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.
You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”
“More or less,” I said.
“Are you god?” You asked.
“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”
“My kids… my wife,” you said.
“What about them?”
“Will they be all right?”
“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”
You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”
“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”
“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”
“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”
“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”
You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”
“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”
“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”
“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”
I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.
“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”
“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”
“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”
“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”
“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”
“Where you come from?” You said.
“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”
“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”
“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”
“So what’s the point of it all?”
“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”
“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.
I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”
“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”
“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”
“Just me? What about everyone else?”
“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”
You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”
“All you. Different incarnations of you.”
“Wait. I’m everyone!?”
“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.
“I’m every human being who ever lived?”
“Or who will ever live, yes.”
“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”
“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.
“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.
“And you’re the millions he killed.”
“I’m Jesus?”
“And you’re everyone who followed him.”
You fell silent.
“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”
You thought for a long time.
“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”
“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”
“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”
“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”
“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”
“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”
And I sent you on your way.

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“It is not so much that there are ironies of history, it is that history itself is ironic. It is not that there are no certainties, it is that it is an absolute certainty that there are no certainties. It is not only true that the test of knowledge is an acute and cultivated awareness of how little one knows (as Socrates knew so well), it is true that the unbounded areas and fields of one’s ignorance are now expanding in such a way, and at such a velocity, as to make the contemplation of them almost fantastically beautiful. One reason, then, that I would not relive my life is that one cannot be born knowing such things, but must find them out, even when they then seem bloody obvious, for oneself. If I had set out to put this on paper so as to spare you some or even any of the effort, I would be doing you an injustice.”

-Page 420 of Hitch-22

Christopher Hitchens

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Feed Me.

SO. Last night I went to that talk I was telling you about — thereby braving both the rush hour bike traffic on King West, and the nervous feeling that comes when you show up to something and realize you stick out like a sore thumb. In my case a soft, pasty, meat-eating thumb, slightly tipsy on cider. I don’t think anyone at Patagonia liked my eyelet lace crop top, or my mullet skirt. But in I went.

My earlier hunch about snacks being provided was correct: there were apples and bowls of trail mix on offer. Yay, dinner! I manged away, and the talk began …

First we watched a video about Foodshare, a program that works with schools to teach kids how to feed themselves. Community gardens, cooking classes, food ed … they do all kinds of cool stuff. Then Chef Brad Long began to speak. He was wonderful to listen to, instructive, pragmatic, and calm. He described his upbringing in the 60’s, a time when humans were really divorced from food — where it came from, what it was made of — and believed that cooking was women’s work, and that farming was dirty work. Isn’t it funny how things change? My generation absolutely fetishizes food and farming; we want to know the name of the pig whose belly we’re eating, whose grandmother pickled those peppers, and where that wooden bar top was reclaimed from.  To us there’s nothing more noble and worthy than farming, nothing sexier and more glamourous than cooking. That’s why big food corporations now use terms like “hand-crafted,” “homestyle,” “artisanal,” and “natural” to sell the same bullshit processed food Chef Brad was surrounded by in his childhood. Back then, artificial was a good thing, and processed meant safe. Now they’ve got to stretch their marketing muscles to keep us shopping for their products.

But Chef Brad is in no way an alarmist or an extremist. When he said, “You don’t have to stop shopping at Loblaws,” I breathed a sigh of relief. He advocates balance, buying seasonally, forming relationships with farmers/vendors, but also being reasonable. Food is fuel, and sometimes you just have to eat what’s at hand. That is, he reminded us, why fast food was invented.

Next, Debbie Field spoke. She’s the executive director of Foodshare, and comes at things from that perspective. She spoke a lot about the health (read: obsesity) crisis in North America, and made a very salient point which is that as much as we’d all love to live in a food utopia, many people can’t afford to buy organic or free-range anything. Having said that, it’s important to teach kids how to nourish themselves. According to her, she’s just tapping into the excitement about food that kids already have, and that she’s “never met a kid who didn’t like cherry tomatoes.” I found this a bit hard to believe, since my relationship with fresh vegetables essentially began at age 18, but maybe if I’d been gardening at school and had had the chance to taste the veggies of my labour, things would’ve been different.

There was a question period during which this super-annoying girl said she was concerned about buying local because local things are often not organic, and she was worried that even with the organic certification, chemicals might still be getting into her food, especially apples because they’re so thin-skinned, and she was frightened of GM foods … finally Chef Brad looked at her and said, “What are you so afraid of?” I could’ve leapt up and cheered. We live in a dirty, dirty world, and pesticides are pretty low on the list of Things That Are In the World That Will Kill You. Chef also made a great point, which is that if anyone should be concerned about the long-term effects of pesticides, it’s the farmers who breathe them in all day.

The man next to me raised his hand, and told us that he has one of the healthiest diets on earth, and everyone in the world should eat like him. His two superfoods of choice? Chia seeds and grasshoppers. I actually read a feature in the New Yorker last year about how insects could be the solution to global hunger, so the idea of eating bugs isn’t completely foreign to me. However I still had a bit of a giggle as I imagined this guy grinning self-righteously as he ate his delicious daily dose of crickets.

In the end, attending this event reinforced what I already knew, which is that critical thinking and moderation are my BFFs. No one is going to map out the correct route for me, at the grocery store or anywhere else. I left with two good new bits of info, as well. One is Debbie Field’s hearty recommendation of the Dufferin Grove farmer’s market. I live really close to it but have never gone to check it out. I resolve to do so as soon as this abysmal flood abates. The other thing I learned is that there’s a plan afoot to uproot the Ontario Food Terminal in favour of — you guessed it — CONDOS. Come onnnnnn. Can you say short-sighted and money-grubbing?? So I’m going to write a letter to someone. My MP perhaps? I’ll keep ya posted.

Happy happy Friday afternoon to all,

Sar

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The Hole

Humans are habitual beings, it is a part of the condition we all live by. Often this means we repeat bad habits, or actions that do not serve us or our journeys well. The beautiful thing about self awareness and open mindedness is the ability it lends us to evolve and make changes, regardless of how insurmountable this challenge may seem. A friend of mine sent this my way recently, I do not know who the original author is… but I love it.

Sylvia “We-all-have-our-holes” Stout

DAY ONE
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I feel lost…I feel helpless.
It isn’t my fault!!
I’m not responsible.
It takes forever to find a way out.

DAY TWO
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m back in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
I don’t feel responsible.
It still takes a long time to get out.

DAY THREE
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in……it’s a habit.
But my eyes are open, I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I am responsible.
I get out very quickly.

DAY FOUR
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

DAY FIVE
I walk down a different street.

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Roundup!

Good evening! I’m kickin back with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a glass of rosé, Interneting around, having a blast, and I’ve found many a menh to share …

If you enjoy skewering Millenials — the sense of entitlement, the rampant financial irresponsibility — then you may want to check out this salty shishkebob from The Fiscal Times. It highlights some items we Millenials consider necessary, like iPads, smartphones, and jewelry. Wait … jewelry? Honestly, WTF?! Who are these twentysomethings buying luxury bling? Most of my jewelry looks like it was woven together out of shiny pebbles by a resourceful hobo meth head. And for all I know, some of it was …

This is why it’s strange to read articles about “my” generation … often, I feel like what’s being described has nothing to do with me. I have no student debt, and the idea of my parents giving me monetary handouts is, as my parents would happily tell you, laughable.

However upon further reflection I see that though I eschew many forms of conspicuous consumption, I’m not immune to the gleam of filthy lucre … I revel in dining out, and I’m a nascent wine snob. Most tellingly of all, I write to you this evening from my shiny MacBook Pro, which I consider a “necessity” because, well, uhh, I have this blog, and I need to be able to write things, and I can’t really see myself with a Dell or a Toshiba because, uhh, they don’t represent how I view myself, my lifestyle, and, well, Apple is really cool, and I want to be cool maybe by association, and how else will I fit in with all the other cool kids doing fake homework at my local fair trade coffee shop? And also, it’s shiny??

Yikes. Other news includes ….

A dog teaching a baby to crawl:

So adorable! I love everything about this … except the precious, infantilized, plink-plink music. What is up with that? Why do all these charming dog/baby videos have the same lame soundtrack? What, as soon as I pop out a kid, I’m going to start listening to Raffi’s studio outtakes all the time? Fuck. That.

Oh … but, also! Music! Amazing music!! On a plane!!! That’s about to take off for Romania!!!! Check out the latest magical amateur vid of Lemon Bucket Orkestra jamming in an unusual place:

Such incredible joie de vivre! Seriously, how many people do you know who could — and more importantly would — turn something as boring and unpleasant as a delayed Air Canada flight into a party? I tip my fedora upside down to you, LBO.

And also to you, dear reader! You’re pretttttty. I like ya. And that’s not just the wine talking …

Sarah

xoxoxoxoxxxo

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Levon’s Last Waltz

Oh, god. Just read that Levon Helm is “in the final stages of his battle with cancer.” This is such a loss for the whole world of music. I’m especially crushed because he played here in Toronto fairly recently, and for some stupid reason (read: work), I didn’t go see him. At least I have The Last Waltz to remember him by. If you don’t know, this is Martin Scorsese’s love letter to The Band, documenting their final live performance. The Band invited some friends to play with them that night: friends like Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters … needless to say the performances are extraordinary.

I’ve watched this film many times and I never fail to shed a tear or three at the sound of Joni Mitchell’s mermaid voice as she harmonizes with an inordinately coked-out Neil Young on “Helpless.” I dare you to remain dry-eyed:

And here’s The Band doing Up On Cripple Creek. This — handsome, earthy, kinetic, and having the time of his life — is how I will always remember Levon:

Levon, I really do love you. Thanks for everything. I wish you peace and contentment on your journey.

SC

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They’re both hungry…

A Cherokee Legend:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

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Darling Shel

I can remember my mother reading me The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein, when I was very very young. As I grew, I discovered other incredible books by the same author, like The Missing Piece and A Light in the Attic. Do you remember these magical tales? There was something so appealing, so weird and confusing yet wonderfully warm, about the worlds Shel created with his words. He transfixed me, along with countless other kids my age. Grownups, too, I’ve learned, since becoming one myself.

My favourite of all Shel’s books (and yes, we are very much on a first-name basis), was Where the Sidewalk Ends. I was given a copy by a dear family friend at Christmas of 1994, which I fortunately still have. It’s amazing anything at all from my childhood has survived the chaos of my teenage years, the many moves to and from university, the summers away, and the impulsive lending to which I am so prone. But, magically, here it still sits on my bookshelf, providing laughs and inspiration for Sylvia and I. Oh, and our names, too!

See?


(click to enlarge)

As a kid, I was fascinated by Shel, and a little afraid of him, too. The author photo on the back jacket of Sidewalk shows him seated with his legs stretched out towards the camera, feet bare and a guitar in hand, an intense and inscrutable look on his face. Who was this swarthy bearded man who wouldn’t smile while having his picture taken? Where did all of those ideas and people and places and things come from? How could he tell a story that made me laugh, and cry, and learn things, with such simple words and pictures? I never understood how these things were possible but I loved the magician who made them so.

I cried when Shel Silverstein died. His work lives in that certain room in my heart, the one we probably all have, the one that’s full of memory and longing and warmth. And any kids I happen to make in the future will be sure to meet my old friend Shel.

Sarah

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The best advice, the only advice

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30 Things to stop doing to yourself

I found this article on Marc and Angel Hack Life in a roundabout way, (it is a great Blog previously unknown to me), and realized in a flash that it was exactly what I had been looking for, albeit not consciously. Funny how these things happen to us sometimes. The whole blog offers tidbits of inspirational advice, but this post consists of standards of action all of us really should adhere to everyday and most of us probably could stand to be reminded of. I have included the three that resonate most profoundly with me (written by Marc), but check out the complete list here, it is worth the five minutes.

Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen. – Focus on what you do want to happen.  Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story.  If you awake every morning with the thought that something wonderful will happen in your life today, and you pay close attention, you’ll often find that you’re right.

Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others. – Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it anyway.  Just do what you know in your heart is right.

Stop spending time with the wrong people. – Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you.  If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you.  You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot.  Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth.  And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.

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Tipping on Takeout

Tipping on takeaway: I have been thinking about this for some time now. Having worked in the restaurant industry, both in establishments that do provide take out and ones that don’t, I still find myself torn. I usually always tip on take-out anyway, because this little guilt creature gurgles up and snarls at me if I don’t, but alas, I always walk away and think: was that really necessary, speaking in terms of etiquette?

Here are some things I think should be kept in mind:

Tip-Out: I know that most servers face the dreaded “tip-out” arrangement at their places of employment. Of course it is hard to know which places utilize this system and which places do not, and further it is impossible to know how much they are responsible for tipping out and to whom without asking. Most takeout patrons either don’t feel comfortable asking this, or can’t be bothered seeing as they simply want the money-exchanged-for-food-because-I-am-hungry-and-in-a-rush scenario to play out. However, just keep in mind that servers essentially pay out of their pocket on take-out orders when they have to tip out and don’t receive a tip. Frankly this is not really a big deal for little orders, but maybe consider leaving at least a few bucks on larger orders, those to the tune of $50 or more.

Cash VS. Plastic: It may be easier to get away without tipping when you are paying cash, but I find when you are paying with a card, almost every machine asks you if you want to leave a tip. This system is ingenuous actually because it forces you to consider it, even if it is the same machine that someone dining in the restaurant would use, someone who definitely should be tipping, but It casually plants the idea that perhaps you- takeaway-should also be tipping. So if you want to just pay for the total of your order and leave, try to do this when paying cash only, otherwise maybe leave a little grease.

Coffee Shops: Restaurants are no longer the only places that ask you if you want to leave a tip. Coffee shops, delis, pizza parlors, and cafes of all varieties find their sneaky little ways to coax a buck or two out of their patrons. Again, the debit card machines will automatically prompt you, and typically there will be a quirky vestibule for coinage or paper if you are feeling really generous. I think this conundrum depends on how much service you feel that you have received. If you are a regular at one of the aforementioned locales, and the service is often friendly and efficient then I would say leave a little something. If you are simply ordering a tray of hot black coffees to go, then a tip is probably less expected.

Delivery: Always. These people have driven over to your house to feed your lazy ass.

Service and Mood: This leads me to my final point, one regarding quality of service and your overall mood. At the end of the day, tipping is never a bad thing, and while it is probably not expected at these take-out venues, it is most certainly appreciated. If the service is legit, friendly and efficient and/or you are in a great mood and you feel like paying it forward, then go for it. Don’t feel bad however, if you courteously take your order and tip with a warm smile and a heartfelt thank you. In this life everyone has learned to expect A LOT, so never feel pressured to act in a way that is unsatisfying to you.

For some more information and some hilarious commentary check out these threads on Chowhound and Bon Appetit.

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The Zen of Drinking Alone

This is an interesting and thought provoking article from Modern Drunkard Magazine about the art of drinking alone. I was always taught that drinking by oneself is a dangerous habit to form, and then to follow a list of negative personal attributes and risks associated with such behaviours. However, I was also taught, more importantly, to form my own opinions and I have to agree that occasionally hitting the bottle solo, has for me at least, proven a valuable experience. The article is worth a read either way:

“What’d you get up to last night?”
“Got wicked drunk.”
“Yeah? Where’d you go?”
“I didn’t go anywhere. I drank at home.”
“You had a party and didn’t invite me? Who showed up?”
“No one. I got drunk by myself.”
“No shit? What’s wrong, man? You wanna talk about it?”

do wanna talk about it. Not about what my friend wrongly assumed was the dark motivation that would drive me to drink alone, but the very act of drinking alone.

Somewhere along the line people got the idea that solitary boozing is a sure sign that the drinker is about to slip over the edge into something dark and sinister, whether it be suicide, skid row or a staff position at a drinking magazine.

To Continue drinking reading click here.

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“Don’t date a girl who reads because girls who read are the storytellers. You with the Joyce, you with the Nabokov, you with the Woolf. You there in the library, on the platform of the metro, you in the corner of the café, you in the window of your room. You, who make my life so god damned difficult. The girl who reads has spun out the account of her life and it is bursting with meaning. She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold. You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed, properly, of someone who is better than I am. You will not accept the life that I told of at the beginning of this piece. You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being storied. So out with you, girl who reads. Take the next southbound train and take your Hemingway with you.”

– Charles Warnke

take the risk… do it anyway.

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Thanks Al!

“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.”

– Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

(Photo cred here)

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