The Final Frontier

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13 years ago, I faced a border that everyone inevitably crosses:

Crossing from Life into Death.

I was reckless in my youth. I did things merely out of contempt for authority. I liked to blur the line between moral and immoral. I was a loose cannon.

When I was 16, I ran drugs for a guy named Joe. By no means was this guy a role model. In the same token, he wasn’t some low-life taking advantage of a naive teenager; I knew what I was getting into.

At least, I thought I did.

Heatherington is a particularly scummy area in Ottawa. Nowadays it’s home to a lot of gang activity. In my teens, Heatherington Park was a major pick-up/drop-off site for drugs. Now, let me make this clear: I wasn’t doing work for some big gang or cartel. Which, if I had of thought about it harder back then, should have been a red flag.

The big guys don’t want little fish in their pond.

Long story short, I was doing a regular drop-off in Heatherington. As I got close to the park, I noticed some guys from the bus were following me. I started to get anxious, and before I knew it, 3 guys were chasing me across the park.

Bat to my lower back; I was down immediately.

I went numb momentarily, before the pain radiated through every inch of my body. The assailants were on top of me in no time. Rifling through my pockets, tossing me around like a rag doll.

Then they put a knife to my throat.

I didn’t dare move. They emptied my pockets, then patted me down; they wanted to make sure they got everything. I didn’t dare move. I tried my best to focus my attention anywhere but on the person holding my life in his hand.

Then our eyes locked; I recognized him.

We went to middle school together for two years. He often found himself in trouble for beating up other students. He was a nice guy in general, but his temper always got the better of him; he was prideful.

I thought for sure that was the end for me. I was looking death right in the eyes. I was convinced he recognized me and would not leave it open to chance, that I would turn him in.

Suddenly, his comrades began yelling at him, in Somali (I recognized some of the words from former classmates in middle school.) They stared at him, yelling. He yelled back. And then in a flash, they were gone.

I got to the border, but was spared from crossing.

People often talk about seeing “their life flash before their eyes” in a near Death experience. I had no such moment. Perhaps because I wasn’t truly facing Death; only violence with no motive of killing from my attackers.

There was definite fear, which I am sure is shared with those who have shared near Death situations. Fear not necessarily of dying, but more of pain and torment.

Would it be fast?
Would I in-fact die?
If I didn’t, what would my quality of life then be?

Since that day, I’ve always wondered about why we fear Death. Why, do we put so much weight into something that is completely out of our control?

Is it the prospect of facing the unknown?

We face many unknowns on a day to day basis. Yet throughout human history, we persevere through them. Granted, most of these don’t have quite the finality that Death seems to impose. Since we have yet to find a way to scientifically measure, quantify, or even experience Death, it makes it that much more difficult to want to go through the process. Is Death a pure and simple finality?

Is there an Afterlife?
Will I be Reborn?
Is time non-linear? If so, am I just reliving a series of experiences? Am I stuck in a temporal loop?

Perhaps science one day will advance to the point where we can experience Death, and record empirical evidence. Until then, we are left with the dilemma that Death may in fact be, a finality.

Of course, that doesn’t explain why we fear it.

Many would say they fear Death because they lack a sense of fulfillment with their life. This is more commonly seen in younger persons, who have perhaps not accomplished the goals they’ve set in life. If this is the case, why are so many people complacent and inactive in filling this void? Does the nature of Death itself, not prompt a greater desire for living and learning?

One does not control their own fate; that is to say, whether they live or die. Even those who decide to end their lives, do so at the mercy of their own chemical imbalances; something which they have no hand in.

Since we can to a degree, control our actions on the mortal plane, why are so many of us apt to follow the path of an unfulfilled life?

We seem to hold on to the idea that you must live many years, to have lived a “full life”. Do years really equate to a life lived? I believe most would agree that it is the content of those years that determines this instead. One could live 100 years in a vegetative state, while another 25 years travelling the world, meeting people, trying new cuisines, and indulging in everything our planet has to offer. Who then had the “fuller life”?

Would it not be fair to say: “Collect experiences, not years”?

That’s a lot of questions in one night.

I’ve been taking a philosophy class, and it’s incited me to look deeper into existential questions. I’ve always had a curious mind, but have stopped short over the years addressing these types of topics. Taking this class (plus a fresh new notebook) is opening a new realm of thinking, that is really exciting. It also gives me a chance to put these thoughts into a concrete medium.

I’ve continuously said that I want to be active with this blog, yet seem to constantly hit a brick wall. I’m hoping that since I will have a hard-copy journal, that it will facilitate my blogging ventures. I know that the way my mind works, and catalogues thoughts is a bit messy. However, I hope this blog can become a vehicle for deeper thinking for those who read it, and expanded discussions down the road.

-DFP-

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Wandering

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People taking
Pictures
Of people
Taking pictures of
People

♠♠♠

I walk by a lot of restaurants on my way home from work. Patio season is in full swing with the beautiful weather we’ve been having. I don’t usually take notice of the diners; I’m too focused on dodging the waves of tourists who walk four-abreast down the sidewalk. They caught my eye today, though. No less than 3 out of 4 people were busy snapping pictures. In a lot of instances, it seemed like they were taking a picture of their friend/S.O. who was also busy doing the same. It must be a nifty balancing act: maintaining physical rapport with someone, while also creating an interesting online snapshot of your life.

♥♥♥

June 16th is the day Native American tribal leader Geronimo was born.

Others people of note to celebrate a June 16th birthday are: Gustaf V of Sweden, former English Secretary of Health; Enoch Powell, Russian painter Natalia Goncharova, and American photographer Irving Penn.

Of historical significance, it was on this date in 1963, that the Vostok 6 Mission was launched. This would mark cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, as the first woman in space.

It’s really interesting to look at the Space Race. The Soviets rushed out to a quick start. They launched the first successful artificial satellite, were responsible for the first animal to orbit earth, as well as the first human in space (as well as to orbit earth). Of course, the Americans would ultimately catch up, and “beat” the Russians, when they put the first man on the moon.

Tereshkova stands out to me. The 60’s were not a particularly solid era for Women’s Rights. Things had certainly started to slowly improve post-WWII, but the Glass Ceiling was definitely in full effect. The idea that a female, Soviet, civilian, would end up in space voluntarily is a bit surprising. I guess we’ll never know Korolev’s true reasons behind deciding to put a woman in space, though it certainly  could serve as a defining moment of constant “one-upmanship” of the era.

♣♣♣

Speaking of inspirational women…

I had some really sad thoughts over dinner today. I was imagining how I would handle the day, when my parents pass. Assuming Dad dies first, I think that thought breaks my heart the most. Not because I’m particularly close to him. In fact, I’m not even particularly close to my Mum. I would say it’s about even, though I definitely resonate more with Mum.

Dad comes from a long line of hard-headed, strong-willed, tradesman. While he has a definite artistic side, he hid it well while I grew up. Mum was born in Scotland. Something about that means more to me than Dad’s Canadian roots. She was artistic; tasked with the arts and crafts side of raising my sister and I. Dad was the sports and music. Dad blended in with the extended family; partially because it was his siblings and parents. Mum isn’t from here, she’s not French, and definitely not a labourer, so she stuck out a little bit. I’ve always felt like I was the Black Sheep of the family, and so I identified a bit closer with her as a result. I’ll definitely cry for days when she passes. The thought alone is welling up tears as I type. If I had to choose though, I hope she goes first.

Dad is strong, he’s tough, he’s stubborn.

Mum’s tough and stubborn too, she’s a Scotswoman after all.

They both hide their sadness very effectively.

Why would hate to see what my Dad’s death would do to my Mum, above all else? He’s her best friend, her rock, the one constant in her 30+ years since leaving Scotland. While my Dad would certainly be devastated, as she certainly means as much to him as he does to her, I don’t think it would compare.

When Dad had his cardiac episode years ago, it was impossible to understand her words over the phone. This was despite knowing that he would be ok. I don’t ever want my Mum to be alone. It breaks my heart that much more, to know that I couldn’t be the one to offer her respite from solitude. Seeing the tears, the loneliness, the anguish in my poor beautiful mother’s eyes, would rip me to shreds.

It’s ripping me to shreds right now.

For both their sakes, I hope they go together. It’s cheesy and corny, but that’s the type of ending they both deserve. Their love is the most beautiful thing I have, or ever will witness.

♦♦♦

My brain’s been wandering today.

I’m just one more shift away from a 10 day break. My best friend is coming to town, and we are going to get up to all kinds of no good. Hopefully by then, the sad morbid thoughts will have given light to some positive energy. I’m going to need it…

Busy roads on the horizon.

-DFP-

Facebook Posturing (Fuck Disclaimers)

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Nelson Mandela passed away today. No. This is not going to be a post about how he changed my life.

I posted on Facebook a status that read:

There’s been less attention to Nelson Mandela’s passing today on my Facebook feed than when Corey Monteith killed himself. I need to review my friends list perhaps.

A friend made mention that her Facebook was alive with posts about Mandela’s passing. Though she was quick to point out that these posts were probably more empty. 

I think generally speaking, most peoples posts are going to be shallow and empty. Self-serving even. The great majority of us couldn’t even possibly understand the impact he had, because we’ve never been exposed to the things he fought for and against. That’s not to discredit any feelings of sadness, loss, or otherwise that you may be having. I just like to credit my parents, family, and teachers growing up, with showing me that racism, bigotry, and Apartheid (though I may not have known it by that term) were wrong, rather than some politician/activist/political prisoner more than 8 020 or so miles away (yea, I Googled that…deal with it).

At best, studying the ANC, Apartheid, and Mandela in high school might have made me slightly less bigoted. However, as a whole, his passing doesn’t have any influence on my day. I didn’t learn any great lessons from him. He didn’t directly influence my life. Yea, he spun some beautiful quotes about the realities of life. So did some wickedly horrible people. So while his work was certainly admirable, the fact that he died was no more or less important than the rest of the people I could read about in the obituaries.

Are we sad because he was an influence on us? Or are we sad because it would seem insensitive not to be?

“This man did great work, he shaped a nation, a continent even. How could you be so ignorant as to not feel this great loss?”.

I’m not saying the average, white, North American CAN’T be influenced by Mandela. A great deal of people have been, and honestly will continue to learn from his legacy. My point lies more towards the line of: We should take a look at why we are being mournful. Are we just jumping on the popular opinion bandwagon? When great people of history pass on, it’s time to reflect on what they have meant to your world.

The impression I’m left with is that people are far more concerned with their social image. 

I recognized that this person did some great things for some other people. Now like my status. 

If that warrants a quick WikiQuote scan for your favourite quote, that doesn’t make you a bad person. I guess I just question the sincerity of it all. In a roundabout way, I just legitimized the phenomenon of celebrity apologists. I’m more apt to believe a person is heartbroken over a dead celebrity, than a quick blurb about someone of consequence that left their thumbprint on history.

I hope if you posted about Mandela’s passing, you took the time to reflect. That you understand why you are mournful. If you have, that reduces this to cynical, diarrhea-filled vitriol, by some obnoxious talking head.

-DFP