What Did You Know About My Father?

Do you know what a complete stranger could learn about me in a matter of minutes?

They could learn my name, where I live, that I hate vegetables, what my favourite movies are, how long I was in my last relationship, the size of my feet, what colour lipstick I wear and even what I’ve been feeling lately. In all honesty they could learn more about me than anyone who I would physically invite over for drinks would ever know. Note: this is not a rant about the horrors of social media and the intrusion of our privacy. Screw it, I really don’t care.

But as I started thinking about how much I put out there about myself, the more I started thinking that, good or bad… I actually like putting that much personal information out there. Without knocking on someone’s door at 3am telling them that I am contemplating my existence, I can write it, post it, reread it. Call me naïve but I don’t have concerns about my identity being stolen or being stalked. Perhaps that would change if it happened (knock on wood) but I digress…

I enjoy being a warts and all type of person. It’s a huge step for me on a journey of self acceptance (ohm). It allows me to be brave, it allows me to analyze my faults, to open myself to criticism. I’m by no means perfect and the internet and social media could be the ideal place to pretend that I am. Air brush my photo, write statuses and tweets about how everyday I am extremely happy, manufacture fake achievements, pretend to have more friends than I do, just… be perfect. But see…. not only do I not actually want to be perfect in reality, I don’t want to pretend to be perfect either. If you are at all privy to my musings, blogs, social media, emails, whatever… you will see raw emotion, you will see hurt, you will see mistakes, arrogance, low self esteem, naiveté and self doubt. Every day. Of course I don’t want to inspire mass suicides so this will also be mixed in with joy. But when I feel it. I feel like, if you want to know me, then KNOW me. If you don’t, well delete me and while I obsess over why I was deleted, forget me.

So as I thought about how I revel in the big picture I paint for myself on the world wide web and in the minds of those around me, I randomly thought, what about my dad?

Ok let me explain that more. I was thinking about what it would be like for someone who shared nothing?

pt-seniors-22

My dad is older, in his seventies now and he does not understand social media nor does he want to. He is intensely suspicious of it like a lot of his generation. So there will be no status updates from him anytime soon. But beyond that. I’m his daughter, and I know barely anything about him. I’ve seen him cry twice and we never talked about it. I don’t really know what he likes, what he hates, what he wants out of life. I don’t know what scares him, what gives him joy, what makes him reflect. Sure I could tell you what he watches on TV, maybe what his favourite meal is. But if you asked me to paint a picture of my dad, my canvas would be more like a puzzle than anything else. Missing many pieces.

Realistically, he is in the twilight of his life. My sons are going to ask about him when he’s gone. And there is no person, no reference and certainly no website that could tell them what they are going to undoubtedly want to know. I realize that there exists an older, more stoic and reserved mindset. But what does that leave us in the end?

So you could argue about the pros and cons of living a public and very open existence. You could talk to me about privacy and decency and ego. Talk to me about how this phenomena has shaped our culture. Say, back in my day, yada yada yada….

But when I die, my children can look back and know who I really was, flaws and all. Maybe it’s a good thing, maybe it’s not. But I lean towards the former when I think, what does anyone really know about my father?

 

1947

When I wake up, the war is behind me. Brutality fading as if it were in another person’s lifetime.

The thick polished curls of my hair are my art this morning. The air is heavily perfumed. I still have time to breathe it in slowly.

I recite in my head the name of every person I will meet on the way to the market. I make sure I have a dime and a nickel for the freshly baked bread we needed.

I think of the late afternoon with nerves and excitement. My mother would like me to marry soon but my Daddy wishes I would wait until after secretarial school. I only think of the dances I’ll get to do tonight. My palms sweat at the thought of the newest dances, I may not be brave enough to try. I would prefer to spin, spin, spin and laugh and grab hold of my partner’s hand to keep from tumbling to the floor.

I asked my mother to listen intently to Bob Hope this evening so I wouldn’t miss anything on his radio show. I almost wished I could just wipe off my makeup and wear my housecoat and lounge in front of the RCA. But I would die of embarrassment to miss my date.

Skirt ironed. Collar stiff. Cheeks rouged. Lips painted. I’d like a small wedding at the church I suppose. Only three children. My mother has five and she is always cooking. I don’t enjoy cooking the way she does. It’s always too hot in the kitchen and my blouse is constantly damp with sweat. I most likely look like one of those overly athletic girls with the shine on my nose.

The night was long. So long it felt as if it were two separate days merged into one. My feet ache and my throat is raw from so much talking and laughing. I know mother won’t mind if I’m late tonight. My date had changed my dance card so that his name was on every other line. I felt a warmth in my cheeks when I had seen this. He was very forward. I could tell he wanted to dance closer but our chaperons were older and very old fashioned. He had brushed his hand over mine when he walked me home though, much to my delight.

I had tried a glass of champagne for the first time. I couldn’t even twist my braids properly the room was spinning. I gave up and flopped on my bed. I thought of him nervously asking me to see the latest Robert Montgomery picture with him next Saturday. I detested Robert Montgomery films but smiled dreamily thinking of sitting so close to him.

My eyes grew heavy and I yawned deeply. I hummed a Doris Day tune until I felt my consciousness drifting away.

The Humanity Concern

I’m getting really distraught lately.

Over the state of the world we live in. I really don’t even watch as much news as I should. I’m busy with kids and I only catch a small portion of what’s going on. But what I do see, chills me to the bone. * I will be sampling various quotes to use the media to expand on my thoughts.*

Now I’m going to take into account that a lot of the media I see is American, as the Canadian media is pretty much non-existent to those who don’t have the time to go search it out. And we all know that American media is fear-based. They want you to be afraid of what they are saying.

Fear-based news stories prey on the anxieties we all have and then hold us hostage. Being glued to the television, reading the paper or surfing the Internet increases ratings and market shares – but it also raises the probability of depression relapse. In previous decades, the journalistic mission was to report the news as it actually happened, with fairness, balance, and integrity. However, capitalistic motives associated with journalism have forced much of today’s television news to look to the spectacular, the stirring, and the controversial as news stories. It’s no longer a race to break the story first or get the facts right. Instead, it’s to acquire good ratings in order to get advertisers, so that profits soar.” -Deborah Serani, Psy.D.

But that’s not the core of why I’m afraid. It’s the global culture of hate and separatism that seems to be consuming the general populace. We focus on the U.S.A but that is because they are the epicentre of media and that’s what we see. In truth, it’s everywhere.

Hate comes from, or is closely associated with, anger; hate gives its bearer a high, and an interminable yearning for more. Hate feeds on itself; it grows on the hater and embraces and engulfs the person into total surrender, so that a person becomes one with it. Hate is like adrenaline: Once it starts flowing, it is hard to stop. It keeps the misanthropes going, and they do not want it to stop. Hate makes the hater feel invincible, vindicated, justified.

And hate begets hate. Hate hardly ceases to enlarge itself. Hate is contagious.” – Pornpimol Karnchanalak

You hear these stories about rape and murder. Corruption in government. Rights taken away. Suicide. Bullying. War. Genocide. Different degrees of hate and disgusting behaviour. This is our world. And I have two small boys to raise in it.

The world will know peace when it is able to pull itself out of the dark ages, when all religion is dead and all minds are open.” -Ben Haggerty

I want to consider myself and my sons to be global citizens. To contribute to society. To help make this world a better place. But at this point, what can we do? Can we stop the killing and poverty and abuse and racism? Now that’s not to say I’m naïve enough to believe that these things haven’t been around in some incarnation as long as humanity itself. But is it just the magnification of the media or is it so much worse than it used to be? Are isolated tales of good and kindness enough to combat the sorrow our society is based on?

It starts with you my good man. We as a society have lost our voice of compassion or rather it has been drowned out by fear and selfishness. Some of us like you and me are at the awareness stage. We realize that there is a problem. The next thing to realize is that you can’t help a single person if you first don’t help yourself. Becoming aware is not enough. You have to act on that awareness. Show compassion and selflessness to the people around you and expect nothing in return. It’s a hard thing to do, not judge your neighbor, but once you’ve gotten control of yourself you have a better influence on the people around you. I see the norm of today being service to self, so I say to you and anybody else that has the question, the place to start is with you. How you interact with the people around you spreads like wildfire. Be the change you want to see in the world and you will see people come out of the “woodworks” so to speak.” -William Bruno

Ok. So be the change. I’ve heard it before and I believe it to be true. But what about the rest of the world? I don’t want to wait for everyone else to understand. It hurts me to see so much pain around me. I want to shake everyone with hate in their heart and tell them to open their eyes and see what they are doing. See what they are destroying. I can live with it but I don’t want my children to have to.

I also believe, that it is part of the human being’s intrinsic nature, to hate. When someone hurts me, I feel it. When someone hurts someone I love, I feel it. An uncontrolled anger that wants to hurt and punish and cause chaos. When I was in second grade, I tore a schoolmates art poster because I wanted to. And I didn’t feel badly. It’s ingrained from the moment we are born. Your circumstanced and upbringing either foster or filter this emotion. But it’s always there.

Professor Semir Zeki and John Romaya of the Wellcome Laboratory of Neurobiology at UCL, examined the brain areas that correlate with the sentiment of hate and shows that the ‘hate circuit’ is distinct from those related to emotions such as fear, threat and danger – although it shares a part of the brain associated with aggression. The circuit is also quite distinct from that associated with romantic love, though it shares at least two common structures with it.

The results are an extension of previous studies on the brain mechanisms of romantic and maternal love from the same laboratory. Explaining the idea behind the research, Professor Zeki said: “Hate is often considered to be an evil passion that should, in a better world, be tamed, controlled, and eradicated. Yet to the biologist, hate is a passion that is of equal interest to love. Like love, it is often seemingly irrational and can lead individuals to heroic and evil deeds. How can two opposite sentiments lead to the same behaviour?“” – University College London

So for me, this is what I’m doing. Every time I feel hatred welling up inside of me, I walk away. I, at great personal sacrifice, discard the pleasure my brain believes I’ll reap from revenge or nasty comments or meanness of any sort. This is what I will do now. I’ve had 27 years of slip ups and the odd hateful outburst. But with the state of this world, we can’t afford one more slip up. I can’t stop the feeling from happening, but I can stop myself from doing anything about it. This won’t change the state of the governments, end hunger, stop violence, encourage education versus ignorance. But it means that I, personally, am not contributing to it. So I can tell my sons that I tried to live in the world how I wish it were. Maybe I didn’t only put love out there for my entire life but I can tell them that it reached a point where I realized, I’m accountable for everything I put out into the world and deserving of everything I get back. I can only hope they live this way too.

Human life is a truly beautiful and amazing gift, and along with the opportunity to inhabit these bodies and this planet comes a great responsibility.  Humankind was given the capacity for unlimited mental processes, and as a result, we are custodians of this planet, and responsible for the advancement and evolution of our species.  In order for humanity to evolve to the next level necessary to create a more peaceful and unified society, each individual must tap into their core of potential and achieve a level of self-realization and improvement, which is the ultimate key to creating a better world.” –Mark Matus

All I can do is continue to try and push love through every open mind and every pair of ears that will listen. I encourage you to be kind. I encourage you to look at the negative and hate-filled things you will encounter everyday and if you cannot stop it from happening, walk away. Being a part of hate is the same as being the beginning of it.

I encourage you to change your own definition of humanity.