Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

3rd Eye Now Operational - Advice Requested (#232)

Today’s subject line is the title of a thread on an online, New Age message board that I visited recently. (For those unfamiliar - threads are topics of conversation initiated by a member of a particular message board community. Other members type replies which appear below the original post on a virtual board. The Interweb has gazillions of message boards on gazillions of topics.)

My first instinct was to reply: “Well, for starters, you won’t be able to buy sunglasses off the rack any more.”

But my better self prevailed and I refrained from commenting at all.

Lemme back up a bit.

I’ve been mostly retired for the last couple of years. Of all the pleasures retirement can bring, the one I value most is having time to pursue my interests. Some of those interests would fit under the umbrella label of “metaphysics” which might be defined as a branch of philosophy related to the natural sciences (physics, biology etc.) and also to mysticism, religion and spirituality.

Most people with inquiring minds want to know why we’re here and where we might go next, if anywhere. For many (most?) those questions are answered satisfactorily by their religion or by science or some combination. Some are satisfied with the answers: “to exist” and “nowhere.” Some people don’t have inquiring minds and they try not to think about those topics at all.

I’m a bit envious of all the above. I’ve never been satisfied with any religion’s answers. I’m not smart enough to understand much of what science posits. Atheism doesn’t feel right. And my first words may have been “I wonder why...?”

So, throughout my life but most particularly the last couple of years, I’ve devoted a goodly chunk of time mulling and trying to forge my own path towards - well, let’s call it “understanding.” (In my Hunter S. Thompson-esque youth, I called it “plugging into the universe.” That still works too.)

And although I like to think I’m forging my own path, I’m not the least bit opposed to peeking at others and borrowing a directional sign here, or a nugget of knowledge there. No sir. Much wiser folks than me have asked those questions and left a breadcrumb trail to their answers.

Not so long ago, if I wanted to pursue this line of study, I would have to spend many years in a major metropolitan library and most likely have to travel the world to pick the brains of wise elders.

Today, we are astoundingly fortunate to live in an age where the world’s accumulated knowledge is gradually being assembled into one giant data bank which can be accessed by anyone with the proper equipment.

On the minus side, that same data bank can contain a lot of lies, half-truths, nonsense and insanity -- ofttimes at the same website.

Nowhere have I found that mix more in evidence than on some message boards, particularly those focused on what’s loosely termed “New Age Spirituality.” In my admittedly-short time visiting some, I’ve been struck by quite a few observations:

1 - Most members are gentle, likeable souls, tolerant and respectful of others’ belief systems.

2- Women outnumber men by at least a 2-1 ratio.

3- A disturbingly high percentage of the women tell stories of, or hint at, being victims of abuse.

4- Too many, though still a smallish minority (thank the Creator) appear mentally ill and/or emotionally broken.

5 - Predators lurk among them. A rudimentary understanding of Nature’s way explains their presence: There cannot be such an abundance of victims (prey) without attracting predators. I haven’t “made” one yet but have no doubt they lurk.

6 - Self- described gurus abound. Most parrot feel-good, pseudo-psychological, self-realization pap they got from some books or daytime talk show or infomercial. Most of what they spout is harmless, if occasionally nonsensical. Most are women and don’t strike me as Psycho-Nasty-Lesbo-Butches-From-Heck. So I don’t number them among the predators. (But there’s this one white-haired guy I’m keeping an eye on....)

7 - Sadly, people will grasp onto the flimsiest belief if they’re (spiritually) drowning. More sadly, they’ll cling to many different ones. Some embrace Tarot and Crystals and Spiritualism and Telepathy and Telekinesis and Voodoo and Paganism and Close Encounters With Reptilian Aliens with an addict’s fervour. Perhaps they think the more beliefs they can collect, the stronger the raft they can fashion in order to stay afloat.

8- Thankfully, a very few Science-minded folks (usually men) are there to question and to suggest possible alternative explanations for all those blurry photographs purporting to be faeries. Their comments however, are largely dismissed by the rank and file.

9 - People need to believe in something bigger/better/beyond themselves. That's not news but the number of folks seeking that something is huge - and growing, their numbers augmented daily by those disenchanted with "old-time" religion.

In case you're wondering, the 3rd-eye person was advised by one person to use certain herbs and by another not to neglect some chakras lest she suffer a disidentification with the material world.

As my ex-guru, the aforementioned Dr. Thompson, once said: "When the going gets weird - the weird turn pro."

I’ll probably touch on this topic again down the road. Maybe when I've turned pro. Right now I'm just a serious amateur.


For those of you not on my email list – I have a new blog which focuses on music and features YouTube videos of groups/songs I like. If that sounds of interest, I hope you’ll visit Frankie’s Jukebox.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Roots (#231)

About 28 years ago, my maternal grandparents were asked to record some memories of their early life in Manitoba, Canada. It was for a centennial project, a book commemorating the 100th anniversary of the rural municipality of St. Clements.

At the time, they were in their 70s and had lived in Ontario since the late 1940s. I was the Designated Writer of the family (cousin Clive Thompson came into his own a few years later) so Gramma (Mary) and Gigi (Peter) asked me to interview them and write their story for the book.

Recently, I read a couple of blog posts by a very perceptive, intelligent and handsome man (who just happened to buy my book) named Grayquill. The posts featured stories about and by an uncle of his who kept a journal for much of his life. The journal entries provided a fascinating peek into what life was like in the first half of the 1900s.

GQ’s posts prompted me to rummage around the house until I found my copy of the centennial book. For the first time since 1984 I reread the story I’d written on my grandparents’ behalf. Theirs, and especially their parents’ lives, were difficult in ways that seem almost incomprehensible today.

A few excerpts:

In 1902, my great-grandparents (Peter’s parents) John and Catherine Karandiuk arrived in East Selkirk from Starawa, Austria (now part of Ukraine) with one child, $2.50 and a dream of a better life.

Within a few weeks, their child was dead, possibly of diptheria. The funeral cost $1.50 and the dream wasn’t turning out as hoped. John found work in a sawmill and bought three acres of land in East Selkirk. He and Catherine built a house of woven willow branches covered with clay. In all, they had five children, four of whom died. In 1907, my grandfather Peter was born, healthy and strong.

A few years later, John and Catherine (who we came to know as “Little Baba”) moved up in the world and bought a seven-acre parcel of land which had a brick house on it. Not believing anyone could stay warm in a house made of bricks, they tore it down and built a log cabin chinked with mud. That winter, they nearly froze to death.

In 1924, at the age of 17, Peter got a job maintaining the roads that linked the various townships. He and his team of horses were paid 23 cents an hour for working on ditches and grading. That was 8 cents more than men working without horses.

In 1926 Pete married his childhood sweetheart, Mary Bozysko whose family came to East Selkirk from Ukraine two years after the Karandiuks. They moved in with Pete’s parents.

In 1929 John Karandiuk died and Pete had to look after his mother Catherine and his own growing family.

During those Depression years, everyone had to work if a family was to survive. Besides working on the roads, Pete spent the winters cutting and hauling wood for the Selkirk hospital for 50 cents a cord. He and another man would cut huge, 1,000 pound chunks of ice from the river with cross-cut saws and deliver them to the hotels and stores in East and West Selkirk. (Imagine how cold that job must have been!)

Mary worked their farm and minded their four daughters, Madeleine, Janet (my mother) Katherine and Hallie.

Pete’s mother Catherine would load railroad boxcars with cords of wood for $1.00 a day and gather scraps of grain from the cars to take home and feed the chickens.

In 1932, the Karandiuk’s were forced to sell the family dog, Jackie, to Indians across the river who wanted him to haul fish. Mary needed the $5.00 to buy winter coats for the girls. But when the Red River froze, Jackie crossed the ice and came home. The girls kept their coats.

In 1933, Catherine slipped down the stairs while carrying a coal-oil lamp. The house burned to the ground. The family was safe but lost everything except clothes on the clothesline, including their $90.00 life savings stored in their mattress. A few weeks before, Mary cried bitterly about sending out the $10.00 insurance premium because there were so many other ways the family could use the money. Thankful now, they collected $1600 and started over.

In 1936 technology, in the form of a motorized grader, arrived in the municipality. It was Pete Karandiuk’s pride and joy but it was a brutal machine to operate. Pete had to stand on a metal cover directly over the engine and burned his feet badly. But he was being paid 35 cents an hour and usually worked 18-19 hours a day. The municipality feared it would go bankrupt when he submitted a bill for one month for $90.

Between 1940-44 Pete worked at the Cordite Plant, an ammunition factory, and farmed 400 acres of rented land. In 1945-46, because of a market glut, farmers could only sell one bushel of wheat per acre. Pete had 6,000 bushels. Although the government paid the farmers for the wheat, the payments were staggered and ill-timed, making the bills mount up.

By 1947, the Karandiuks had had enough. They sold everything and moved to a farm in Ontario taking two boxcars full of 500, 90-pound bags of potatoes, three horses, two cows, three pigs and several turkeys and chickens.

Mary summed up life in those days. “It was a hard life - of bone-breaking work - but full of love and laughter and life.”

Peter, Gigi, died soon after the book came out in 1984. Mary, Gramma, couldn’t live without him and died several months later. They’d been married for 58 years.

I loved them dearly and am proud to come from such stock.