Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Historical Drift

There will be lots of images that may come to mind when considering what I have entitled my thoughts today I am sure. As time rushes by there are changes that come, not matter how hard we may fight against them. Years ago I watched my Dad changing from a dynamic thoughtful individual to someone who seemed to struggle with maintaining the connections with the surroundings that he had known and loved for years. Oh, he still had the ability most times, to quote from memory tucked away back there, a poem or two, but he was not the same man that led meetings and made important decision some 30 years previously. Perhaps you have watched someone you have loved or admired, begin to stand a bit further back from the center of things, especially decision making opportunities, yet they would cling to their opinions with a tenacity that was either still admirable or equated a just plain out of date thinking!

It is so easy to get caught up in the moment of evaluating others and forget to evaluate ourselves. Take for instance myself and my story, as I continue to go off to meetings at one level or another. I sit and watch most times, I listen to the debates, the challenges confronting the committees and am amazed at the various levels of dialogue that enters the area of discussion. It becomes easy to identify the various personalities, the levels of education, the environments surrounding their history and the levels of experience from which they draw both facts and conclusions. There is also present the dynamic of age and the presence of “Historical Drift”.
Age can modify our ability to accept change. The strange thing about it is that we know we are aging, we know that we appreciate what is and know that change is inevitable. But we are not as interested in having change for the sake of change, even when it is becomes a necessary evil to maintain both healthy and growing living conditions for the community or culture. There can be a fine line of definition here as to the how’s and the why’s, but for the most part we, as we age, will begin to fight change… anything that moves us out our comfort zone. It can be as major as a new Medical Centre located away from where it used to me, to the restructuring of waiting room with different and less inviting furniture at our accountant’s office.
Historical drift on the other hand is subtle in both its existence and its debilitating undermining of our ability to see the pitfalls that begin to appear in both structure and vision. If you want to put a definition to the label, it might be most easily visualized as a perhaps a boat sitting at mooring in the harbour. The owner has had the mooring for years, has sailed to and from that site hundreds of times and is comfortable with it…. There is no need to move it; yet through the years several things have taken place that have made it either no longer viable or safe to use. First, natural wear and tear from tides, wave action during storms and other naturally occurring environmental stresses have weakened its ability to function as it should. Second, there has been a subtle movement of the mooring during winter ice conditions, combined with storm stresses while the boat was moored there, that have moved the mooring slightly each year closer to underwater dangers, never noticed, never calculated really, it just happened. Historical drift is like that in our personal lives… subtle changes come as we get used to doing things a certain way, expect things to respond in certain ways, handle values, vision and the everyday issues of life being lived in a certain, unchanging way, that cause us to lose track of the “track” and the momentum needed to keep the business of living both contemporary and relevant to the times and issues. There is a difference.

I want to be contemporary, but it is a new playground for each following generation. Just like I can no longer go to the gym and play badminton like I did 40 years ago, so I can no longer expect to keep abreast with the young players in the foreground of industry or commerce. I can still evaluate the game, but I can’t seem to grasp the need to change the plays needed to get to the acquired results. I can name all the great players of the past but I don’t want to leave them dangling while newer, more seemingly skilled athletes dazzle the crowds and break the old established records of the past.

And relevance is a battle every day. When you begin to feel that you are no longer relevant to the issues, or even worse the arguments being proposed are not relevant to the issues at hand, fear creeps in and we try even harder to make the point that everyone seems to be missing; “That is not what we have always done!”; only to hear the wisdom of youth retort; “And it didn’t work before so why try it again!”

My heart cries out with both anxious fear and quiet frustration lots of days now. I guess I wanted to expect that things would change. It may seem odd, that statement coming from an aging warrior who has been considered the radical for too many years. But I have always wanted change! From an early age I was fighting the Historical Drift that I saw present in life and wanted to see new growth, potentials that lay dormant for years to now spring into blossom and make what could be, come to fruition for our communities, our businesses and our futures. I tried to herald the cry; “Not just the youth of tomorrow but the youth of today!”, that families now present could cling to the hope of a better tomorrow, based on the growth seen today. Frustration with self, boredom with constant division when unity is the only answer, and too many NO’s! Too often the nay-sayers out-shout the let’s-doers or how-toer’s… especially when change is pending. I will never forget the voice of a man who has made millions and told a small group meeting one day of his key to success. “I got tired of committees to plan meetings, meetings to establish plans, plans to do research and viability through studies on viability and sourcing and so I moved to make change myself… I figure that if you are not motivated to motivate beyond the planning stages you are not motivate toward change! We can talk ourselves into the next century but what we need is to stop talking and start doing!”

So today I am wondering if I am caught in my own Historical Drift and am clinging to an effort that may be better managed by the younger, more energetic youth who are both contemporary and relevant to today’s needs and methods. I like my friend and so many others, who chat along the streets, are tired of committees meeting for the sake of meeting, and getting nowhere.  I don’t want to sound cynical, but am I becoming that way as part of the “Drift”? I have a long list of dreams and wishes and they all still include change and growth, but am I stuck in a puddle of broken dreams and becoming what I feared in others down through the years?

Today, at least, I want to find a modicum of relevancy! I want to maintain a sense of entitlement to speak and if I can muster more than a futile effort of engagement, I may be able to pull off a few tidbits of wisdom without a lengthy diatribe on how it used to be, over against that which it can be, while giving insights on how it can be accomplished, with some visible level of contemporary input. The key may be, for me anyway, the ability to listen toward evaluation. I am learning that evaluation doesn’t have to be a critical process of study and reporting; it most often becomes, when you are part of a group dynamic, the integration of your personal opinions and perceptions into the process being developed. It may be simply the further engagement by the group on your personal insights, when they move towards critical analysis and into a plan of action. When that is no longer is the case, I may be adrift in the drift…. Let’s hope I can be aware enough to notice that does take place and brave enough to step aside so that younger, more energetic voices can take up the tasks… Or… am I there already and am not self-aware yet? Hmmm!

So this is another trip towards the edge. Some may think that these journeys are too complicated, the issues are too deep, but for those who are living the exercise and who want to know they are not alone or need to evaluate their own processes a bit deeper, maybe this rant will give you further fodder to consider. May you be blessed as you stride each day toward the edge, or like me, for whatever reason choose to live there,  and my your perspective find focus away from the normal to just left of where you are… just outside the box… it may be close to the edge… but the view from there can be astounding!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In All Things Give Thanks

Family Gathering 1
I can remember as a child my parents trying to remind me that no matter the situation, always find something good in it. Well as a small fry I had trouble getting my head around such a huge concept as that. After all, there were some huge things going on and not many of them seemed worth y of much gratitude. It is a long story that has been told before, so I will not bore you with the details, but only remind you that in each of our memories there may be those moments where we just could not understand. I get glimpses of that even in life as it is today.

It is fun to watch grandchildren growing up and yet there is also the harsh reality that they too must go through the up and downs, the hardships and disappointments that make up life and they will not always understand either what it is that they are learning or the concept of finding a ray of light that will give them a signal that all is going to be OK… they will survive the minors and most of the majors, no matter the pain along the way. But, too often we allow ourselves to major in minors!

Family Gathering 2
This has been Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. For some the traditions lead to a deeper devotion to thankfulness by the sheer knowledge of the harvest season. Families gather and with the bounty of North American Society shared the wealth of foods around tables of plenty.  Laughter and light banter becomes the joy of getting together. For some it is the opportunity to hear about the adventures, plans and escapades of daily life over the past year; it may have been a year since seeing each other. Others gather for the sheer joy of both family and extended family and over a meal, around campfires and the usual afterglow of conversations, as broad as they are diverse… they share both love of life and the everyday experiences of child raising and work’s challenges.

Levon's Birthday as well.
Some of you will know that our son Benjamin had a brain tumor removed a couple of years ago. This spring he got a report back from an MRI (brain scan) that was stated only as being acceptable. That left him and his family hanging.  In the meantime he and his wife found that they were to expect their second child next spring… A wonderful bit of news for grandparents… but it became an overload of extra concern for Ben. Not wanting to hear bad news, he waited out the time till his next test and was now been given the news that there has been no regrowth (a great sign) and that is excellent. It was originally diagnosed as a low grade cancer and we know that just the word cancer alone can add fear and anxiety to a life… It was such a joy to see a real smile over the weekend. For this I am truly thankful… both the smile and the news warmed my heart.

Yet, into every life come those extra stresses that arise, over which we have no control. For my wife and I it has been the extra use of our car as a truck so I could do some work for family and friends. This weekend as we arrived some hours away from home to visit family over the holidays, we found that our car was making a very different noise. Being a diesel, that can mean a variety of things. With a sinking heart I considered going home to await an answer from our local mechanic. But, as we were already there, our children ferried us around to the various events and we put the car troubles to the back of our minds for the rest of our stay. On arriving home the diagnosis was something more than minor and the car needs some major engine work at a dealership garage an hour and a half away.

It is so easy to let your heart sink and mine did just that. My mind puzzled over the worry of getting to the jobs I have on the go, the time needed to get the car to the dealership, their time to repair it and the transportation back and forth to both deliver and retrieve the car after it has been repaired. I know that this bump in the road is just one of those things that has to be faced, accepted and put behind us, but what of the finding  that small bit of joy for which to give thanks. I am like that little boy who when faced with that which cannot be altered, when disappointment reigns supreme, my joy gets shaken and to a certain degree, trampled on, by some level of sadness and anger which I dare not carry.

I remember well the words of wisdom I would impart to our children years ago. “In 6 months’ time this will all be behind you and forgotten.” Well, perhaps not forgotten, but at least dealt with and filed in that place of “acceptance and get on with life!” It was good to hear those same words quoted to me this morning, as I recounted the news from both the local mechanic and the far away dealership. I need the time to sit and put everything into its proper perspective from time to time and that was what I had to do. The car is but a mechanical fixture that will always need both maintenance and replacement at some point… that is a matter of truth and fact. At some point we either make the decision to trade or repair and in this case, the most expensive repair will still be cheaper than replacement and well maybe the engine and the rest of the car will go another 7 years and 300,000 kilometers. LOL So, what is there to be happy about? Well… it was no accident that caused the turmoil; it was wear and tear, high mileage and the years of use. The driver and passenger are alive, safe and reasonably well, considering the indigestion all this caused. LOL

So I look back to my childhood and the childhood our own children, and I am reminded that there is both meaning and truth in that Biblical directive… “In all things give thanks!”  Walking through life is not always about great adventures, it may oft times be just walking among the challenges that may try to trip us up and shake our faith in what God has for us each day. I am reminded that being able to survive the minors give me more ability to overcome in the majors, because I am not alone. Being alone is what we feel some times, but we are never alone. God is there and when the time is right He shows us His grace, but He also expects us to rely on Him, even when we are busy carrying the burden ourselves. Who else gets us through the fog of our emotions? I know… humanism and philosophy will record a different answer, but I pour out my heart to more than theory… I pour my heart out to He who created and He who sustains. He is my rock and when I get near the edge, like I did this morning, I need that rock so that I can change my perspective from where I am, to what really is… just another bump in the road and in 6 months I will have forgotten my momentary pain and anger.

I pray that today you will find a reason to be thankful and with a thankful heart approach each event, trial and circumstance with the “Rock of Ages” so that after the momentary shock of the disappointments have drained your soul, you will allow to God fill you up again. You need Him to get you through no matter comes your way. May your life be blessed with smooth roads and gentle hills, but if not, may you be blessed with a faith in the God of Love who is always there to get you through… He will add that different perspective…. That I know full well!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Time Tide And the Pewter Cup

It was August 2007. That year was one of those times that life seemed a challenge and I didn't know what was coming next or how I would manage to find the answers that I was seeking in life. God has, it seems at times, a strange sense of timing, or is it just His greater wisdom.... I am not sure always, but when the time was just right things happen and we bend, change or hang on for dear life to strive and see the meaning, value and message of the moments. Summer of 2007 was one of those summers. My quiet heart was crying, my life needed something... I wasn't sure what!

So it was that during a few conversations, my wife Karen was asking about our annual journey to the Mahone Bay Boat Show. The topic always came around to the idea of my Son and I entering a strange little competition called the "Fast and Furious", where the entrants strive to build a seaworthy boat within a time limit, using a designated and supplied amount of material and then sail and paddle the craft over a preset race course for the famous and coveted "Pewter Cup" For many it was the highlight of the 4-5 day event culminating with the races on Sunday afternoon where hundreds came to watch.

Well, Ben was none-committed at first though there was that sense that this might seem like a challenge to him. Little did I know the challenge was not the build, but the team-mate builder.... ME! So, with a trunk full of allowed tools and a doubting heart off Karen and I went. We registered, sat and watched others with the 4 hour build and saw the strategies and downfalls of the other competitors. A couple from South Carolina who vacationed in Mahone Bay and that we had gotten to know asked about our entering the competition and our answer was, "yes, we had decided to this year... I would be entering with our son." They were so happy and told us that they were entering as a team as well... this is for the most part a non-professional event and they had made plans all winter and were prepared to take the cup! Well, we had no plans unless Ben thought of something on the way down that evening. 

Ben arrived almost late... the judges were concerned, but he arrived with an entourage of girlfriend and her family in tow and asked if I had a plan. "Nope! Hope you do!" To which he answered, ''Oh well, we will wing it! We usually do!" "But... we had never built a boat before... so what are you thinking?" "Dad!...Just try to keep up!".... "Hmmm!" So a few minutes later the judges told us to get out our tools (mine... Ben didn't bring a thing except his attitude, of course!) and get ready. He gave us the minor instructions and off we went. I enjoyed the build... I stood and watched, passed Ben some tools for a while and held the end of a piece of stick from time to time until suddenly he just went and sat done next to his girlfriend and said, "Your turn!" So I laughed and started to continue the build. I think he had in mind that I would plead for him to continue, but this ol' duck had other plans. So, after a bit he caved in and joined the fun. What about the other team who was building?... Oh I went over and chatted with them, asked if they were having fun and so on and told them I thought they were doing well... of course they were struggling.. this was their 3rd year of competing!  And the judge just watched, listened to our laughter and banter and once and a while came over to look at the design and did ask where our sketch was. "In his head I guess" was all I could answer, to which Ben would retort.. I thought this was your design!" So we had a great time and laughter was the theme of the hour with great shouts of jovial teasing from the crowds. We finished the build in the shortest time of the event. We won the races that Sunday and took home the coveted cups. The judge said after the build, "You must work together all the time and had this secretly planned!" "No... nothing like that... just two minds working together, linked by a love that binds and matches our efforts and a need to be together here tonight... that is all... no plans only just to do this together!" "Never in over 20 years has a build been so fluid, so much fun to watch and you never skipped a beat.... thank-you... it was great to watch" he said.

Time and tide have changed things. There is no longer a Mahone Bay Classic Boat event... it has changed too! Ben and I, though we built together one evening and raced together that following Sunday in our build, we never built another boat again. But we have built a deeper relationship... and he has rebuilt his life. He married his girlfriend, has a son that may one day build a boat with him and is expecting another... perhaps a boy again.... and he is building something everyday as a contractor. His love for the build has grown, his love for life has taken him though he brain tumor and his family has taken him back to his faith. I like to think that the build may have been part of the reason. A father and a son... a project without a plan.... that just takes shape and becomes a work of art and a desire to win beyond the degree of the knowledge of experienced builders and youth of the other racers. Life can become a whirlwind of challenges and as I think back over that summer I can now see that the build was a starting place for me too.

It is not that we have to reinvent ourselves, but sometimes we need a way to re-evaluate that which is our life and find some way to accomplish what is to be our future without destroying ourselves and what God has planned for us. Though I entered the competition with a hesitant heart and not much expectation, I came away with a new view of what can be, in the pool of what was. That pool held resources yet untapped and ready to be experienced for both Ben and me. I took one path and Ben another, but it has not taken us farther apart, but drawn us closer together. Time and tide have a curious way of bringing change, but also a marvelous way of creating that which should be, if we allow it to manifest itself in the shape and time it needs to become. 

So, we both walked to the edge. For different reasons, with different attitudes and under different circumstances, but we accomplished the ultimate goal... it included a cup... but that was not it.. it was the experience of father and son doing it together and accomplishing the joy and love we both needed... and we won! Take a walk towards the edge and see what you see... you may need to change your perspective, but hey... maybe it is time for a change. Blessings as you walk!