Sunday, November 28, 2010

Avalon by the Sea Women's Society

The first Avalon Centre was begun in Vancouver 1989. Two women recognized a need for women new to recovery to have a safe place where they could go to 12 step meetings with their children. Since then another meeting place has begun in Vancouver. I had the honor of speaking at a fund raising and to the board of Avalon as a Psychiatrist and Addiction Medicine specialist on the latest research on Women and Alcoholism.
I had thought that those behind Avalon were all women but one of the board was a man and my friend Ken has helped at Avalon for some years. The president of Avalon must be a woman and the programs put on at the Avalon Women's Centres are exclusively for women. In addition to a full range of 12 step meetings related to alcoholism, addiction, eating disorders, al anon family programs and others, there have been meetings on computer skills, emotional sobriety, yoga and nutrition. I have been referring women who have come to me with concerns about their addictions to Avalon for years. They are invariably been thankful for this suggestion and always return with praise for the warmth and respect that they received at Avalon. Avalon is a tremendous community resource.
The newest Avalon, "Avalon by the Sea", now has 50 members, a board of 6, and legal charitable society status. It has begun fund raising with thousands of dollars already received from a grateful community. As fund raising continues it is looking for a suitable location in the White Rock area.
Laura and I attended the annual general meeting today thanks to being encouraged by our friend Dawn. We were thrilled to support this amazing grass roots organization of women and their friends helping women overcome addictions.

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Holy Rosary Cathedral

Laura and I headed downtown in the Ford F350 4x4 2007 Harley Davidson edition truck. The underground church parking lot, despite ecclesiastical pretentions, only measured 6'8" which didn't accommodate my Godly sized truck. That left me looking for street parking. Well, you can't turn right off Dunsmeir. They've made a bike lane. I know because as I turned a cyclist speeded up for the sole purpose of shouting at me that I couldn't turn right. Possibly I disappointed him as he looked the type to be hoping to hit the side of my truck and sue me.
I couldn't give him my full attention though because a Vancouver Policeman was suddenly standing in the centre of the road waving me aside. Cyclists and policemen seemed to be popping out of everywhere. I was flustered thinking I was in trouble for just cutting off a cyclist. But no, I wasn't even supposed to turn right off Dunsmeir.
"There are signs all along saying no right turn." the officer said.
"I saw them at the last 2 streets," I said honestly. "But I didn't see any on this turn."
"They're there." he said. He seemed to know what he was talking about. He had that look of confidence about him. The normal self doubt I had was rapidly turning into self loathing. I wasn't about to argue.
"Are you from here?" he asked.
"I'm from Vancouver but this is all new to me." I responded.
"It's been like this for a couple of months."
"I don't drive down town that much. We were just on our way to church." I wondered if that came out the way I meant it. I hadn't wanted to confess I hadn't come to church that much. We've gone to church alot, just not downtown Christ Church. I thought of clarifying myself but thought better of it. It's best just to answer the questions.
"Could I see your driver's license." he asked. "Now he thinks I don't even have a driver's license," I thought. I got out my wallet and handed him the license.
"The cyclist speeded up", Laura said bending around me. "Alot of people must get hurt with that cyclist lane there." I liked her coming forward in my defense but wasn't sure this was the time to criticize the bike lane. However, the policeman answered,
"Alot of people make the turn. Some cyclists have got hurt. Motorists have complained about how difficult it's becoming to get around the city but the cyclists are happier with the arrangement." He didn't seem to take any side.
A few moments later, returning with my license, he said "I"m just giving you a warning this time but the fine for that could have been $120." I was thankful with just a warning.
"As much as I wanted to hear Dean Peter, I don't know that God even wants us to go to church." I said to Laura. "We're already over a half hour late."
"There's a parking spot in front of Holy Rosary, " Laura said pointing quickly to a curbside welcome reprieve. "The Holy Rosary service starts at 11."
I took the get out of truck quick option. Holy Rosary Cathedral was packed with worshippers but Laura saw a couple of seats near the back and we squeezed our way into them. We entered as the Very Reverend Glen Dion's sermon began. It was a delightful recourse contrasting Charles Dickinson Scrooge with the Christian giving of Christmas. I listened as I looked around at the beautiful stained glass windows, beautifully painted white and blue arches, with the sculpted stations. The choir was enchanting.
"It's like being back in Rome," I whispered to Laura.
"I know. I feel like I'm in the Vatican again."
We prayed and kneeled and kneeled and prayed and crossed ourselves. There's always a lot of this to keep you from sleeping during the service. I was okay for the Creed and the Lord's Prayer but there was some other prayer everyone seemed to know so I just mouthed the words and mumbled. Later Laura told me, "They had this new prayer I didn't know so I just mumbled along. " She said laughing. I had been mortified thinking even if the people around me didn't catch me in the deceit, God knew. Here Laura was just giggling like a school girl.
After the service and communion had ended, she told me, "It was the first Sunday of Advent."
"I know. That's why they lit the candle." I said.
"But that's very important for a catholic. My mother would have been so happy I was there."
My mother would be happy any time I was in church. She wasn't impressed with alot of the other places I'd been in.
Holy Rosary Cathedral was truly one of the warmest most beautiful and uplifting church services I've attended.
"I always feel better after I've been to church," Laura said.
I knew what she meant. I always felt lighter.

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Deconstructing Deconstructionism in Addiction

Deconstructionism is to some extents an aberrant development out of the more robust philosophy of Kierkegaard's Existentialism. Derrida the primary proponent of deconstructionism was a student of the existentialist Heidigger. A primary concern of existentialism was the subjective experience of the individual. Taken to it's logical conclusion there is no room for communication between your subjective truth and my subjective truth if perchance they don't agree.
In contrast Existentialism coupled it's individuality and subjectivity in face of the apparent irrationality of the world with the responsibility that comes with freedom. Too often deconstructionists appear as if the last thing they want is 'freedom' which necessarily comes with responsibility but rather they want 'license' which comes without accountability. Consequently atheist existentialist Sartre was held accountable when he signed the Algerian Manifesto.
The deconstructionists tendency was to say that they could 'deconstruct' others view points showing how they were predicated on 'oppressive' ideologies however when the same was shown regarding 'deconstructionism' the response was primal political bullying. Deconstructionists were seen in the adolescent sense as good at dishing it out but not so good at taking their own medicine.
The significance of this ideology is in the area of addiction where mental processes are damaged by the chemical addiction with the result that the central computer (or mind) recycles through a litany of jail house lawyer arguments for it's own enslavement but mostly wishes to 'deconstruct" (criticize) healthy, fulfilling, creative life. Deconstructivism for the addict has commonly been called 'addictive thinking' or 'stinking thinking'.
Just as pedophiles sought out jobs as camp counsellors and priests to get close to boys and girls to act our their sexual fantasies so addicts are attracted to deconstructionism.
Not surprisingly the first successful philosophy for counteracting the abuse often experienced talking with an addict and not uncommonly with a deconstructionist, is the pragmatism of Dewey and James. Pragmatists insisted that an idea be judged against what ideas did. In the instrumentalism of Dewey apparent truth is judged by its capacity to solve problems. The meaning of an idea lay in its results.
The philosophy of William James was the basis of the original 12 step program. The teachings of Jesus not surprisingly predated this. Jesus said, if you think about adultery it's as if you have committed adultery. This was certainly true in the subjective sense. Emmett Fox took this teaching to mean that we are eventually what we think. In the 12 step program this was simplified to "if you talk the talk, walk the walk." Alcoholics and especially addicts were great couch philosophers, monday morning quarterbacks and critics. Their weakness lay when asked 'what would you do?"
When and if they ever answered, "what they would do?" and had this subjected to 'deconstructionist' thinking their invariable response was anger expressed by any number of fallacies, though mostly 'ad hominem' or as commonly rejection by turning the back and walking away. Slave to their ideas they invariably wanted 'agreement' rather than 'discussion' and more commonly than not saw their 'proselitizing' and 'evangelizing', not as marketing, but oddly as 'dialogue' and a 'true desire for communion'. Motivation theorists developed a stages of change assessment to focus resources on those who were active in their own development rather than those in the pre contemplative phase ie expecting all others to change rather than they themselves.
In marital therapy rabid feminists raised on deconstructionism would seek out like minded counsellors to bludgeon men who would say "they don't want to talk, they just want to sell". Women today recognize these bitter critics as men have seen this tendency arise among themselves so that together people are asking "what is the solution, we know what the problem is."
Dr. Paul O described his days of addiction philosophically as saying that he could find a problem in a blank wall and if you didn't see the problem that was even more of a problem. Hence the never ending crisis and drama of the person whose 'locus of control' is outside themselves with 'the other' being the problem and this isolation of the individual which analytic philosophy would recognize as a product of language. Individualism is only and idea as pragmatically we are all truly interconnected.
Today, deconstructionism is dying a slow death on campuses which are commonly a hot bed for intellectual absurdities. The death of deconstructionism follows its inability to 'create' something new other than 'negativism'. Ironically this negativism was ultimately the logical conclusion of subjectivism. Faced with the pragmatist who said, "Show me, don't tell me," they had nothing more to say. That said, their initial but brief contribution to the world of ideas served as a tool for understanding the limits of thinking and systems of thought.
Theologians presuming the limits of human mind were not unamused by the implosion of philosophy. Peacefully looking on from the safety of revealed truth theologians watched the barrack room brawls of philosophy. Philosophy much to the chagrin of some theologians emerged safe and sound from the silliness and waste of its most recent passionate navel gazing.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Playland - the Play

Pacific Theatre ( 604-731 5518) presented Playland, the powerful play by playwright Athol Fugard. It first debuted in Johannesburg in July 1992. Michael Kopsa plays Gideon an Afrikaner Corporal. He is a truly amazing actor. I began by hating this loud drunken lout only to be changed by his performance as the depth of his post traumatic stress disorder were revealed. He personally represents White South Africa and the play directed by Anthony Ingram becomes universal through the personal expression of this man's tortured soul. Tom Pickett plays Martinus, the black South African who has his own demons that eventually see the light of day through the most extraordinary acting imaginable. These two men open their hearts, minds and souls in a way which few outside the world of men and war are ever allowed to see. The healing process implicit in their struggle is palpable on stage. Having treated so many soldiers and prisoners, known PTSD intimately, I truthfully felt like I was in my clinic among the wounded looking for meaning after the insaniety of politics had passed them by. The play really goes to the core of our beliefs about forgiveness and reconciliation.

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AA Copywrite

AA material is copy write protected. Recent statements from central office regarding the reproduction of AA literature are concerning. It is uncertain what literature can be quoted on the internet without copywrite infringement. In other areas academically quoting a line is not an offense but a paragraph might well be infringement.
I am not clear which AA literature, whether the Big Book and 12 and 12 for instance, are subject to this stringent copywrite protection.
It's been a growing issue in the music industry and authors are increasingly being awarded settlements in legal cases regarding unauthorized 'use' of written material. It shouldn't come as a surprise that AA literature is being affected by this industry wide response.
Teachers are being considerably affected by the new regulations.
Central Office AA requests that permission be sought if any AA literature is to be used on the internet. I can not see that this best serves the alcoholic who still suffers but the issue of the revenue from AA literature is basic to central aspects of corporate organization.
I cannot reproduce any part of the copywrited AA document I just read because in doing so I could be doing what it attempts to discourage.
I came upon it by an internet search utilizing the words Alcoholics Anonymous & Internet. It was an eye opener.

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Alcoholics Anonymous Anonymity

Anonymity is a spiritual foundation of AA. AA Guidelines are available that say names and pictures should not be used on blogs, face books, myspace or any such social networking with reference to AA. Members of AA should not identify themselves in these internet media in keeping with the recent interpretation of the 11th tradition of AA in this regard. Indeed the Guidelines which are more specific regarding AA group behavior,even at the individual level question use of name or affiliation in email correspondence. A certain 'corporate legalism' seems to be present in the three page document that has recently come out of Central Office New York. This seems to contrast with the message of "keep it simple". But as with everything in AA these are 'guidelines' not 'rules'.
The program is further one of spiritual progress and not perfection. AA is a collection of individuals and one individuals behaviour need not reflect poorly on AA as a whole. I trust where applicable in this blog, this present communication would be considered as amendment. Central Office acknowledges that the area of internet is so fast moving that it welcomes questions and experience from membership.

If I were hypothetically to be an anonymous member of an anonymous organization such as the anonymous organization of alcoholics anonymous, I might well obscure this fact in internet communication by suggesting I was an anonymous member of an anonymous organization. Obviously if I was an anonymous member of an anonymous organization I would not be anonymous in saying that I was anonymously affiliated. Further, if I was hypothetically a psychiatrist who had suffered from a mental illness that caused insanity and death I might well be delusional in saying that I was an anonymous member of an anonymous society. Further if I was a writer and especially a spiritual writer anything I might say about an anonymous spiritual organization would not have any material relevance to speak of. Spiritual people at least would naturally consider anything hypothetically said about anononymity hopefully anonymous anyway. Certainly in future thanks to this clarification I will pray for spiritual progress in this matter.

Originally anonymity was associated clearly with the Christian concept of humility. Individuals protected each others anonymity so those secret drunks and addicts could seek a solution without risk of exposure. Spiritually the lack of self desclosure or self aggrandizement focused attention not on the individual but rather on God and God's Grace. The Big Book of AA uses the St. Francis' Prayer, "Make me a channel of thy peace" to emphasize the work of the higher power not the limited individual or limited ego.

When the cat is out of the bag the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would prefer that you didn't kill it or forefully stuff it back in the bag. Theoretically the cat will find it's way back to the bag with a little help from his friends.

Now as a doctor I'm in a difficult position because I am routinely called upon to recommend or not recommend AA. If I recommended it from my personal experience without that disclosure of potential conflict of interest or influence would I not be breaching a different ethical and possibly higher ethical consideration relative to my work. This issue is the topic of much discussion in International Doctors in Alcoholics Anonymous. It's especially a major topic for the psychiatrists in AA and even more so for the Addiction Psychiatrists. Indeed there's an increasing lobby for doctors and especially psychiatrists not attending AA. Doctors in small town practices and especially psychiatrists in small towns are in the most tenuous situations because as psychiatrists they are in some aspects advised not to share with patents yet its hard to find an AA meeting without patients and rarely is the anonymity of doctors in AA respected. Further with the new emphasis on "boundaries" doctors are especially discouraged from associating with any 'sick' people and especially members of the opposite sex. Attending same sex meetings is possible in big cities but rare in smaller communities. It's all even more complicated with other 12 step meetings such as NA, SLAA or GA where there are so many fewer meetings. However as AA is considered a treatment of choice for alcoholism denying a doctor membership in AA because of their profession and the anonymity concerns associated with this position would certainly go against a higher principle of health care. Further the "only requirement for membership in AA is a desire not to drink". Anonymity is by this definition not an exclusionary criteria for membership in AA by any means. However 'suggestions' are said like 'guidelines' in AA to be the product of experience and akin to a 'suggestion' on a parachute 'pull string'. As the program is by attraction not promotion it further becomes complicated as doctors are more involved in the legal process which is so public like all institutions utilizing computers are these days. Further computer Geeks will gladly say computers and internet are only secure yesterday. Any advance in speed of computer makes yesterdays security system obsolete and dependent on all best efforts today. Rabbi Twerksi was quoted as saying he'd rather his pilot, doctor, dentist, taxi driver all be in AA because if they were they'd be more likely not less likely to be sober. Without universal drug testing the ubiquity of drug and alcohol abuse in our society at any one time is quite extraordinary. A doctor 5 years sober would be at greater likelihood of being sober than a doctor who had never been diagnosed with alcohol abuse.

In Canada it becomes even more complicated when desperate patients without resources are unable to access treatment centers because of the exclusionary high costs of this service. The discrimination and stigmatization of the alcoholic is such that a diabetic can always get a hospital bed in crisis but an alcoholic not necessarily so. A leading detox and treatment centre locally has Bible reading as part of it's therapy. Yet if a doctor says that's the place where you can go if you want to get off booze and off the streets, he may be seen as promoting a religiously affiliated body. To play it safe the doctor says nothing and doesn't make any recommendation. Indeed the most he could do pharmacologically is write a prescription for a drug which may or may not help. By itself this isn't a biopsychosocial or even scientific approach since the treatment of addiction is most successful if in the context of community and group based therapeutic process. Routinely the only therapeutic modality meeting is criteria is a religious one or a spiritual one like AA.

Alcoholics will use any excuse to avoid treatment. When they are ready they do seem to get it.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Sinners' Anonymous

My friend still goes to church. He returned to church when he had a realization that his pride was separating him from God. He felt he was missing something in his life. He'd had all the 'toys' and the family but he didn't like himself or his work. He'd seen the 'feel good' therapists that executives go to to keep doing the things that make them feel bad but that hadn't helped.
One day he'd walked into a church he'd attended in his childhood and youth. He got down on his kneels there as he'd done so many years before and prayed for help and direction in his life. After that something changed in him. He couldn't have said right off what it was. But something had changed. And he returned to that church and talked to the pastor. Pretty soon he was attending the regular service, bringing his family and getting to know the other people there.
They had Bible Study so he joined that. He wanted to know more about this thing that was turning his life around and making him feel good about himself and his life once again. He was changing and he wanted to know how his old life had been the worship of idols and this new life he was embracing was really about truth. He wanted to love more as silly as he knew that would sound to his old friends.
His wife and daughter liked the change a whole lot. His young son enjoyed playing basketball with some of the other guys he met at the church. They played alot better than he did and wanted to be good at the game. There wasn't any of the usual intimidation and bullying he got at his school when he scored a goal. The guys actually cheered him on. His wife and daughter had made friends too. His daughter was going camping with some of the girls she'd met while his wife had gone along with him and joined a Bible study for women.
Some years later he met up with one of his friends who was in Alcoholics Anonymous. He knew his friend hadn't drunk in nearly 20 years and asked him why he was still going. His friend asked him, "Are you still going to that church you told me about?"
"I sure am," he said.
"But you stopped that big sin of turning your back on God years ago. Aren't you cured yet?"
"Oh, I'm still sinning though. I'm working on my relationship with God and my family and friends. I found out I had a lot of character defects that stood between me and the truth. I still get deceived by false things on a regular basis. Without my church I might fall back to thinking the way I used to. I don't want to lose the life I have today. I love my connection to God. Why are you still going to Alcoholics Anonymous."
"About the same reason. Alcohol stood between me and a relationship with God, my family and friends. Once I gave up drinking I could work on doing the same things as you're doing. Alcoholics just have to put down their drink before they can get to work on pride. I guess you church people can start right off on pride." the alcoholic friend said.
"I guess we've all got soul sickness." replied the church going sinner." That's what a fellow by the name of Kierkegaard called it. Said that "life was sickness unto death". He meant the sickness of being separated from God, the Truth, our families, friends and fellows. Pride is what church people have the most of but you folks only get around to that after you deal with your gluttony for drink. Not that there isn't a lot of gluttony in our church." he laughed. "By the way some folk behave thev're still working on pride so much they haven't got round to dealing with their gluttony for that matter."
"We've got our share or that too" the alcoholic friend said.
"So why do you keep going to Alcoholics Anonymous?" the sinner asked.
"To help the still suffering alcoholic. It's mostly service. But a little bit is pride. Alcoholic's think of themselves as special. We're an elite exclusive club that paid alot of dues for membership. It takes a while before we're ready to mix with commoners such as church folk."
"Commoner's?" the sinner laughed.
"Yes, we think of the church as Sinner's Anonymous."
"Well, then you'd fit right into our next Bible study because you really do have enough pride to really need a church."
The two men laughed and shook hands in parting, after agreeing to join each other for dinner in their separate but alike clubs. At Christmas they both were sharing alot of open house fellowship.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Men's AA- Comparing Comas

It was a cold wintry night. Only a few guys showed up in the old church basement. The 12 steps were hung from the ceiling, the slogans and the 12 traditions. Chairs were set up facing the long table where the secretary would sit. An old oak varnished podium stood to the side with a copper plate in which two letters, AA, were roughly engraved. The coffee was made in the kitchen. As guys straggled in alone or in pairs each would go and get himself a cup before sitting down to wait the beginning of the meeting. The gavel was struck. The meeting began.

I was asked to read "How It Works" from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Service in AA is first said to be 'filling a chair'. Helping set up and take down the chairs and such is another form of service. Making coffee each week, filling the secretary position, acting as treasurer, any of a number of innocuous positions are available for those in recovery to give back to the organization for it being there when they needed help. Sharing when called upon is another form of service. It's all a privilege and honor to participate. Addiction in contrast has been call the dark room where you go to develop your negatives. Most alcoholics and many others depend on liquid courage. Meetings of AA give people the opportunity to do things that they might never have done without a drink, now sober.

Reading "How It Works", I was moved again by the line "God would and could if he were sought". I remember when I first came to AA and faced the vast unknown of the world of sobriety. I'd got into the alcoholic rut of controlling change and wanting things to be my way because I couldn't tolerate the uncertainty. And that's where AA challenges the alcoholic to accept he's out of control and transfer control to some power outside oneself. "Let Go and Let God" is one of the slogans. G.O.D. "group of drunks' is one of the sayings. Anything is better than trusting yourself when your own mind has turned on you and tells you to keep taking poison.

Tonight a couple of guys shared. They both had drunk themselves into situations of suicidal risk taking that had resulted in comas. During the comas the doctors had told both of their families that the likelihood would be that they'd come out vegetables but there was just a tiny bit of hope. Mothers and sisters had cried and prayed by bedsides. Days and weeks later the miracle occurred and both these men in separate hospitals and separate occasions had come out of their comas. That alone hadn't stopped them drinking but it was the point of when the turn around had begun. Not long after they'd both came to AA.

"I never knew we shared comas in common," the second speaker said, "I guess that makes us coma brothers."

The few men who'd made it through snow and icy streets laughed.

"So how long was your coma?" he continued.

"Longer than yours," the first guys retorted

And we laughed. We laughed till tears came to our eyes. Here were two guys alive and sober who'd drunk themselves into comas. Today they were competing and comparing comas. Whose was longer? Only in men's AA.

The meeting closed with reading of the 12 Traditions. The gavel sounded. We talked some of the up coming Christmas party we were planning. That's the one night of the year women are invited to come as guests to this meeting. After the clean up, we all wandered out alone or in pairs. The snow was still falling. The streets were even more icy. The night was warmer though. And it was warmer inside my truck as I thanked God for Recovery and the ability to laugh again.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Expendables - movie review

Sylvester Stallone directs and stars in this action thriller. What makes the movie is the cast of action heros. The stunts and pyrotechnics were all we've come to depend on from each and everyone of these girl idols and favourites of teen age boys and old men. Jason Stratham of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and the Transporters pairs with Sylvester Stallone as a deadly duo. Jet Li provides dazzling martial arts and wry Asian humor at it's finest. Dolph Lundgren is his shot gun toting giant self. Eric Roberts plays the slick bad guy. David Zayas is the necessary South American General. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwartzenager make cameo appearances. Giselle Itie, the Mexican heartthrob ,stops even the action of this action thriller with her sultry appearance. Micky Rourke shows up with tattoos and hookers. The beautiful Charisma Carpenter and whole lot of great younger male stars fill out this non stop war adventure. I just watched it on pay per view tv and would only wish that I'd seen it on the big screen. A movie this big needs a lot more screen than tv.

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Vancouver Cold Snap

Vancouver doesn't do snow well. It's a rainy city. Snow is an affront to it's character.
I grew up in Winnipeg. People think that makes me an expert on this weather. "You're from Winnipeg. You know how to handle this weather." Sure, I say thinking a man whose done 20 years in the pen probably knows something about a night in jail. It doesn't mean he likes it anymore. I'm no longer prepared for the cold.
Living in Winnipeg I had studs for my tire. I had parkas and togas and fleece lined gloves, snow shoes and long johns. I have this gear here in cammo colour for hunting expeditions. None of it is 'stylish'. Winnipeggers actually make snow wear 'stylish'.
Today the lines froze on the complex causing a water main break. No shower today. Thankfully there was water to flush the toilet. Brushing teeth using mouthwash and toothpaste. Dry shaving. Thank god for the heat.
The truck's brake fluid line cracked. I don't know why there was a leak today. Maybe a coincidence. But ice on the windows after finally warming it up to drive on the freeway moving at 40 ams instead of 100 because of the 'conditions' and sluggish brakes. I 've a 'courtesy car' with a heater that works after I arrive where I'm going. In Winnipeg, we plugged in our cars, I had a timed 'heater' so I went from house to garage to hot car. There I remembered to do up my coat before I went outside. Here I'm freezing in the chilly breeze cleaning my windshield of ice and snow only to realize I've not done up my coat.
Driving to work I'm at least cheered by 104.9 FM playing 'continuous Christmas music'. I love the Beach Boys Christmas Carols. Gilbert eyes me oddly and doesn't sing along.
I actually bought a jacket my dog a winter coat. Our dogs didn't wear jackets in Winnipeg. In Vancouver I'd get ostracized and called in by the SPCA for dog abuse if I didn't dress Gilbert for the cold. I actually was asked if I didn't think he needed non skid boots. The girls asking was beautiful or I'd have shared my thoughts more honestly on the subject of "the dog". "He's a dog!" is a decidely politically incorrect statement to make in Vancouver. The damn chihuahaus have raised the fashion standards to such a level that my poor cockapoos self esteem is decidedly raised by his new Christmas red coat.
At the office, the temperature is little better than outdoors. Buildings here are not made to withstand blizzards. In my own office I brought a portable heater to offset any cost saving by management but at this clinic its just older building with a Vancouver heating system.
The announcement on the radio is that there will be 4 new dog friendly Grocery cart friendly winterized homeless shelters available next week. I don't think I'll need one myself. They say the water main will be fixed shortly.
The clear blue skies were a delight. But rain is expected by Friday with warm temperatures. Only time Vancouverites look forward to the rain is after the snow. We're looking forward to rain now.

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The Next Three Days - movie review

In the movie Next Three Days, Russell Crowe plays a college teacher. In one scene, teaching Cervantes Don Quixote he asks the students how valid is the world view of the rational. It is a timely movie. The Economists, Politicians, Judges Generals and other world leaders insist that they are rational and superior. The North Korean are bombing South Korea again. Canadians, Americans, and Brits are dying in Afghanistan. The recent economic crisis certainly challenges the rational premise.
Elizabeth Banks plays the wife of this college teacher. She is a very sexy mother. Her son is more important to her than her job. This is in no way, shape or form a feminist movie. That's what makes it so endearing. It is something better. It is a movie all about love.
In that sense it is a very spiritual movie. The love that the movie is about is not erotic love but erotic agape. It is as Biblical as Song of Songs. It is a movie about culture, civilization and morality, true drama, and essential romance. It is marriage and love. It is not a casual movie. It's challenges abortion, suicide, the death penality and euthanasia. It is a very inconvenient movie. It is decidedly post OJ trial.
Despite the guns, drama, drugs dealers, bikers, jails and police it is a post Rockwell family movie. Liam Nielsen's is downright gritty.
Writer-Director Paul Haggis deserves an Oscar.

Four of us friends, braved the coldest of Vancouver nights to come together for a mid week movie night in Tinseltown. As much as I love dvd's and couches at home there is nothing like the popcorn and movie theatre experience. This movie was certainly one to share. Where there is love there is hope.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Theology - Are Correct Doctrinal Beliefs Essential?

I came across this line in my study of Millard Erickson's Christian Theology text:

"Theology is important because correct doctrinal beliefs are essential to the relationship between the believer and God."

I just about choked. I balked. I flailed about. I considered shutting the book. I did not want anyone telling me what was and wasn't 'correct' in my relationship with God. I further didn't think that words like 'doctrine' or 'correct' had any place in my relationship with my god. It was like having a physiotherapist walking in on me making love and telling me that there was only one way to get the most out of sex and he would show me.

I was that offended.

Then I read this same passage to my friend. She was equally offended. Yet when I read on Milton Erickson made some mighty fine points. For instance he said that that the 'docetists' had maintained that Jesus just appeared to be a man. I considered then what my relationship with a friend would be if I found out he was a government informer or really just wanted to sell me something. What if I found out my lover 'faked' it all the time.

We are said to have 'open minds' but not so open that our brains fall out.

What is doctrine? It's a collection of shared ideas that refer to specifics rather than vague generalities. What alot of vagueness does is get a lot of people together agreeing and then in a position to be herded by some hard edged characters, not uncommonly sociopaths.

Of course we say "Give peace a chance", but then in the legal fine writing at the end of the "Give peace a chance" contract we see the other guy has written, "Give peace a chance, and I get your wife, your car, and your job." That's just one of the problems with so many Canadians thinking it just great that our government supports them smoking more weed.

Alone in my relationship with God it's all about God but when I meet with others and share this 'experience' or even share the word 'God' there is a meeting place. In 12 step programs we say "God of my understanding" to emphasize that the first step away from the utter slavery and narcissism of addiction and idolatry to drugs and the perceptions of a thoroughly broken and hijacked mind is to accept that my mind and my addiction is not God. This dualism is necessary as a first step away from the false detour that ends with a monkey pulling the lever on the pleasure centre electrode stimulus until it dies.

But what if my God, the God of my understanding says that I should kill you and masturbate on your dead children. It's not really a pleasant image but history and especially her story are full of far worse depictions of torture and war 'in the name of God'.

So Theology is a study of what is 'correct'. I don't think it is correct that you say your God tells you to eat me and kill my dog. That in my mind would be 'incorrect' no matter how much I don't like the word 'correct'.

Yet Theology is a study not only of God but of the idea of 'spiritual truths' and ways of living that are seen as similar to the truths and ways of science. I don't like the 'limits' of 'gravity' but I do accept that Newton's 'doctrine' regarding gravity was superior to any 'doctrine' before it. Is it 'essential' to my relationship with gravity. No, but if I chose to study gravity or become more aware of gravity and discuss gravity then perhaps then I may learn from the study of the history of gravity to date, learn what is the 'correct' scientific axioms regarding gravity and yes, if I can I might well even add to that knowledge and hopefully expand the limits of existing 'doctrine'. Equally hopefully I'll not attempt to re invent the wheel. Best of all I won't drop acid and test my own hypothesis by jumping out the high rise window in a really 'open minded' experimental scientific way.

Further I'll study those things which my 'gut' tells me are 'wrong' because my 'gut' isn't always right and my 'knee jerk' reaction to life will naturally keep me in a world where I am limited by my own biases and seek to learn only more that confirms my own ignorance.

That said I'm enjoying Millard Erickson. At times he reminds me of Dr. James Houston.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ballet BC - Songs of a Wayfarer

It was truly a gala event like no other I've attended in Vancouver. Overnight the city's dress and sophistication had acquired a new high. The beautiful people came out in force to Queen Elizabeth Theatre to attend the World Premiere of BC Ballet's, Songs of a Wayfarer.
The cover of the night's bulletin showed the beautiful Alexis Fletcher in full flight like a strangely human bird. Her pas de deux with powerful Gilbert Small was equally enchanting. The dancers together defied gravity and gave new meaning to the word Grace. I love Makaila Wallace's interpretation of space and movement. Tonight in Songs of a Wayfarer with the extraordinary Dario Dinuzzi it seemed the choreography had been done purely for her elegance. Dario himself was astonishing and the whole performance with Leon Fezo-Gas, Maggie Forgeron, Connor Gnam, Delphine Leroux, Rachel Prince, and Peter Smida was sensational. Scott Reid's austere winter set of leafless trees with otherworldly lighting contrasted with the heat and vibrance of the dance.
Face to Face another World Premiere seemed made for Alyson Fretz. This skin and satin number reaked of intimacy and sensuality with love lost and found and lost again only to resurface in touching scenes of wonder and confusion. A whole range of emotion was triggered by the refined perfection of sinewy limbs and exquisitely muscled legs. Kevin O'Day's choreography was immediate.
At intermission Laura and I so enjoyed the people watching. There are always the gaggles of child ballerinas to be seen with an older artistic woman teacher shooing them along. Tonight was no different with the dozen children waist high and wide eyed among the strikingly handsome and beautiful adults. I've simply never seen such cutting edge fashion and taste in Vancouver. Sad to say but I commonly rue that Vancouver audiences are so hillbilly self absorbed as to not know their dress and presentation reflect the main event. Chanel, Armeni, and Yves St. Laurent were all present this night! The audience reminded me of Italy, Montreal, London, New York. I love the opera but it's so very conservative and old whereas tonight's ballet crowd had elders like us but so many younger people whose poise and presentation said as much. "I sing the body electric" came to mind. The animated voices and beaming smiles showed too that they shared our own appreciation of Emily Molnar's contribution to this 25th Anniversary Season.
Finally, the curtain opened on Jose Navas, the new Resident Choreographer's production of "The bliss that from their limbs all movement takes", music by Phillip Glass and Ravi Shankar. I never knew that Ravi Shankar began his career playing music for his brother's dance troop. With so much in common, no wonder he and the Beatles made such fine music together. Tonight the dancers did Ravi Shankar proud. The music was euro and techno and classical all together and the dance was like nothing I've ever seen before. If someone had said that parts were inspired by the recent discovery of a star mere light years away with planets habitable as earth, I'd not have been surprised. There was that much new about the movement and dance that showed the whole troupe at their finest. Tears came to my eyes as they moved en mass together in dazzling flights back and forth across the stage with such harmony and symmetry that they seemed like flocks of starlings shifting flight by some unheard unseen stimulus while keeping in amazing unison. The music crescendoed as the dance grew wild to a frenzy that seemed almost like a modern River Dance in its rhythm and grace. Alex Burton, Dano Dinuzzi, Livona Ellis, Leon Feizo-Gas, Shannon Ferguson, Alexis Fletcher, Maggie Fergeron, Connor Gnam, Delphine Leroux, Rachael Prince, Donald Sales, Gilbert Small, Peter Smida and Makaila Wallace all equally deserved the praise that came with standing ovation. The audience literally lept to it's feet in applause as Bravo's filled the theatre, all of us thrilled to participate in such celebration of life and art. The dancers chests heaving, perfect bodies glistening with sweat, they took bow after bow after bow.
What a fabulous night of dance!

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Marijuana Smoke

When I smoked marijuana, I wouldn't have listened to what I'm about to say. Studies in motivation to change tell us that people who do drugs are often extremely closed minded. This is called the "Pre-contemplation" phase. If you try to bring anything up with them they will get angry and bullying. Best to just 'mention' the issue and escape. Only when people are in the 'Contemplation' phase are they open minded and ready to hear any information that might be in conflict with their own opinion.

Marijuania smoke causes the brain in MRI studies to appear brain damaged. This is likely a reversible effect. Cocaine in a different way causes the brain to appear brain damaged on MRI studies. The frontal lobes of a person doing cocaine will appear dysfunctional for 3 months after a person uses cocaine but then those frontal lobes begin to function again. With marijuana the damage is in the hippocampal area which is associated with memory. The amygdalla associated with emotional modulation is affected as are other areas association with judgement and decision making.

A colleague has asked me to research the latest information on the negative effects of marijuana and I've been meaning to do the detailed review that his question warrants. Because I work in this field, see the horrible waste and damage daily, and am commonly reading the literature on this I thought I'd just here review what I know to be true. I'll get the 'sources' or 'evidence based studies' or 'references' eventually for my friend. Because he was interested in giving this information to someone with a problem in the hope that it would help them and their friends change I thought I'd do this much now.

The politics of the issue is that scientists are being challenged to 'prove' the earth is round to a group of 'flat landers' because business interests and a variety of other players have a huge invested interest in this multi billion dollar marijuana industry. To get some comparison of the influence of drugs in a community I encourage people to watch the brilliant youtube presentation "cocaine cowboys". It's only about 20 minutes long and discusses the effects and influence of drugs on Florida, ultimately 'infesting' the banking, political and business machines of the community.

I have little doubt that marijuana has has a similar influence on British Columbia and maybe even California. Gambling might not be beneficial to a society but you're not going to get a balanced discussion of this subject in Los Vegas where the casinos make a killing daily financially from the promotion of something some would say requires regulation. In the world of addiction the 'one armed bandit' is the cocaine of addiction and online gambling is devastating countless families. But then the recent economic crisis has been dubbed 'white collar gambling'. There is a 'line' where something moves from fun to sickness. The obesity in America today reflects the 'loss of control' aspects of a binging culture.

That said:

1) No Marijuana Smoke is Healthy. None. Not even a toke. Anyone who says different is lying. More likely they smoke marijuana, their brain has changed as a result, and they are insane. Smoke is not healthy for the human body. God did not give us a chimney. No smoke is healthy. The same goes for tobacco smoke, pipe smoke, cigarette smoke, or roach smoke. Just so we are starting on the same page. Lots of what humans do are risk taking and unhealthy. Marijuana smoking is just one of the unhealthy things and unsafe things that humans engage in. But simply said anyone who says smoking marijuana is good for you is no more your friend than a person who says smoking cigarettes is good for you. Smoke is not good for you. Smoking marijuana causes lung damage as any inhallation of smoke does and the damage is greater over time.

The Canadian Medical Association was polled about the health benefits of marijuana and collectively the doctors were en mass against prescribing marijuana smoking principally because of the delivery system, smoke. Synthetic marijuana pills and new inhaler nebulizer systems are more acceptable to doctors in general. Part of the problem was 'dosage'. The greater the dosage of marijuana, as with other medicinal substances , the greater the potential harm. When the government of Canada, politically pressured Canadian doctors to prescribe marijuana and came out with guidelines saying who we should prescribe to, most doctors persisted in being resistant because the Canadian Medical Protective Association, our medical insurance lawyers, said that we could be liable for the potential negative consequences if there wasn't something done about the 'dose' issue. Doctors prescribe all manner of dangerous substances in allopathic medicine. These curative medicines have windows of benefit. Just like a surgeon doesn't cut through the human front to back back but stops his knife at 1 millimetre depth in a particular procedure so the specific dose of dangerous compound is used in this safe 'window' of benefit. Marijuana is a dangerous drug.
2) Marijuana ingested as a pill form, or eaten as in 'hash brown cookies' is clearly safer than marijuana smoked. However while eating or injesting marijuana gives people all the so called 'medicinal' benefits of the drug it's political proponents insist on growing plants and smoking the 'buds'. This is because this is the the best delivery for 'psychoactive' substance effects and this is all about getting 'high', 'wasted', 'blasted', 'blotto', 'shit faced' 'buzzed' or any of the other terms for the alteration of consciousness that comes with smoking marijuana. The quicker a substance hits the pleasure centers of the brain the more 'blast' is associated. Hence 'snorting' cocaine and ultimately 'smoking crack cocaine' gives a far greater high than eating cocaine. IV injection of heroin gets the drug right into the blood stream. It's why addicts will crush up a morphine pill and inject it rather than just 'eat' the pill. The manner in which a drug is taken can tell you a whole lot about what the purpose of it's use is. Marijuana smokers are not smoking for their health. They're smoking to get high and are justifying their addiction and pleasure by a variety of often downright insane marketting communications. In contrast a person who only drinks marijuana tea might well be after some health benefit associated with marijuana as a medicine. Such individuals are so rare as to be as anomalous as a person who never drinks alcohol but occasionally bakes a rum cake and eats it for the medicinal effects of alcohol.
3) Marijuana is addictive. The cocaine marketting group insisted cocaine was safe and not addictive. The tobacco industry said the same about tobacco. Marijuana is addictive and it makes you stupid. Stupid marijuana smokers can't see how addictive marijuana is and refuse to accept all the proof of it's addictiveness. Instead they will commonly say, "well, I haven't smoked a joint for a week and I can take it or leave it." The classic Irish alcoholic insisted he wasn't addicted to alcohol because he took a prescribed alcohol 'holiday' in February before returning to destroying brain, liver, heart and families and work starting again in March. Marijuana is addictive. I have a brilliant scientific paper so elegantly prepared and researched sitting in a file in my office. I used to show it to marijuana smokers but it literally had no influence. "So what if it's addictive, I like smoking marijuana" the marijuana slave would reply. Eventually I realized showing a picture of the earth from space wasn't going to change the mind of a religious or psychotic 'flatlander'.
Today marijuana is the second most common reason for people to enter inpatient treatment programs. It is extremely hard to stop and it is extremely hard to stay stopped for over a year. Recovery is not about hours or days but is indeed about years. Marijuana is psychoactive and can be shown to be present and acting in the system up to 3 months after the last use, standard labs will detect marijuana at 6 weeks after the last use. 3 months is the detoxification phase just like a week is considered the detox phase for alcohol.
4) Marijuana is a gateway drug. I work in a street methadone clinic and almost all of my severely addicted patients who have commonly had legal and health problems associated with drug abuse, ended on skid row, have become royally addicted to heroin and cocaine almost all had marijuana as their 'first' drug of abuse. Most had alcohol too.
5) Marijuana impairs performance across the board. Countless studies of jazz muscicians, car drivers, students, etc have showed that marijuana does not enhance performance. Still ask a drunken man if he's a better lover on alcohol and he will insist he is and if his partner is drunk she might well agree but sober people make better lovers and actually remember the night. The standard joke of the 60's is that if you remember it, you weren't there. The issue of performance is this. If Einstein smoked marijuana he'd still be a good physicist but he wouldn't be Einstein. When I asked hundreds of marijuana smokers if they'd want their neurosurgeon or space shuttle pilot to be on marijuana they all said no. Not one said yes. But if I'd asked them if they could play guitar on marijuania they'd say yes. Frank Zappa didn't want his band to be doing any drugs in rehearsals. I wish one hair dresser hadn't been on marijuana when they whacked the side of my hair and I went home lopsided. I later thought if marijuana smokers want doctors to be clean and sober couldn't we expect our garbage collectors and bus drivers to be doing a similar standard. Mostly couldn't we expect this of performers, politicians and especially judges. In the states the highest paid jobs and most safety sensitive require drug testing. There are some 40 plus million of these jobs and they are all associated with lowest accidents. Marijuana is highly associated with accidents in the workplace. It really is Cheech and Chong when people are at work and have smoked a bomber the night before.

There's more but hopefully this helps. From a public health perspective and from the insurance prospects associated with this, it's a well known maxim that the more available drugs are the more will be harmed by them. Given the politics and money involved in the promotion and distribution of marijuana we can anticipate even higher social costs than we are already seeing.

That said, yes if I had cancer and nausea I'd smoke a joint and I would and I have recommended marijuania for a very few selected patients where they would benefit from cannibis. I was doing this 25 years ago too. I disagree with the research on the benefits for marijuana for some conditions that it is said to help but there is a rare case in which marijuana is more beneficial than alternatives. It's risk though is very high and this needs to always be countered against perceived benefits.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Same Sex Blessing and the Anglican Church of Canada

The Anglican Network of Canada, a conservative Anglican affiliation of churches, split from the Anglican Church of Canada, the prevailing body of authority for the Anglicans in Canada. Ostensibly this split has been over "same sex blessings" and the prospect of Gay or Homosexual Marriage. Division however is always about pride. Love adds and multiplies, fear subtracts and divides.

Sodomy was never approved of officially by England yet it was an open secret as part of their upper class boys schools. In upper classes homosexual behaviour between friends was never an issue as long as one produced a child somehow for the succession and financial stability of the family as a whole. Lesbian relationships were never truly frowned on. Even today gay male actors say that their careers would be potentially ruined if they were 'outed' whereas in contrast women who cavort with other women on the silver screen increase their ratings.

Anal sex is dirty. Indeed anal sex is in the minds of most associated with Sexually Transmitted Disease especially HIV. However it hasn't so much been anal sex as any unprotected sex and multiplicity of partners that has been the most serious problem. God doesn't approve of promiscuity. Ironically from a medical point of view the African "truck stop prostitutes" (presently being studied by Canadian researchers) have through multitudinous contacts developed or selected for HIV immunity. A small but similar group of gay males in San Francisco have developed immunity to HIV. This is not to suggest mass exodus from monogamy or protected sex but it does suggest that God's expression in the natural world is not so simplistic as those who would say that HIV was a "sign". It continues to kill more heterosexuals in Africa while in Canada it's a disease that with treatment now carries about the same risk as diabetes.

All sex is dirty to the dirty minded. The intellectual and rationalists and the obsessive compulsives have never accepted that God would have us enter this world between piss as shit. As one conservative Christian said when I helped explain to her the facts of life, she and her partner not pregnant a year after a very white marriage, that indeed the penis had to go in her vagina. "But that's where I pee, God couldn't want that to be the place where it goes." Anglicans have always had a decidedly finicky group in their midst. That tea and toast, tellie watching set, is thankfully offset by their opposites the horsey sets with lots of dogs and the appreciation for the sacred in all God's creation. Catholic's, especially, the Orthodox, have always referred to Nature as "God's book". As a Scientist I've loved Christianity for it's appreciation of the Bible and nature.

As Scientists we know that men and women had sex for pleasure before they actually connected it with procreation. The church has been into 'control' in that governmental sense that has control a precursor to taxes and all sexual activity except 'missionary position' outlawed by priests who were somehow expected to 'police' this activity. From Galileo onwards the church has played 'catch up' with Science in the overlapping domains.

Homosexuality is ubiquitous in nature. It's certainly not demonesque. Ideally perhaps all men would be Joseph and their wives would have a son through divine intervention, Mary's hymen would regenerate and then these Mary's would have children, such as James, in the au natural way. When men ask, What would Jesus do?, women might likewise ask, what Mary would do? Mary was clearly married.

Marriage was till the 20th century not a romantic 'sex in the city' folly but rather a very serious community and church endeavor for family. Marriage was a 'family act'. The Bible specifically associates church leadership with men who keep their families in order. A minister friend from a conservative Christian church had to give up church leadership after his divorce.

This is critical biblically because the Catholic church moved away from this with it's celibate monks and more recently the Christian churches collectively moved away from this with female clergy. Indeed, theologically, once women were allowed church leadership there was really no Biblical reason for denying single men, heterosexual or homosexual, church leadership. The Bible specifies a family man and yet the early female clergy breaking drastically from tradition weren't even necessarily married or having children.

In the 1950's effective birth control became available. The Birth Control Pill, a contribution of science, changed the western world and the nature of family dramatically. Today half a century later the church is again playing 'catch up'.

The controversy of "Gay Marriage" rests not so much with this aspect of homosexuality but more importantly with the variation of the term 'marriage'. In the west, especially in Canada, we think of marriage as "monogamy'. Gays are very few, at last estimate less that 4% at most. What is a threat to the traditions of Christian society, and marriage in particular, is polygamy. Polygamy, which naturally multiplies the dirty, is the traditional marital form of the Muslims and Mormons. Both of these 'robust' religious groups are gaining membership in comparison to the dwindling membership of some mainstream western churches. Polygammy is decidedly non feminist to many western women. While there are two matriarchal tribal polygamist societies the vast majority of polygamist societies are decidedly patriarchal.

In Africa where the greatest increase in Anglican membership has taken place, polygammy is a tribal tradition associated with the prevailing animist religions and the competing Muslim religions. Christians pride themselves on their monogamy and for parents at least one child is designated as the one to care for the elderly.
Homosexuality has been seen as depriving parents of their 'future' though it gay men have a long history with women in general of being the caretakers of the old.

In First Nations communities of Canada gay people are seen as 'twin spirited'. This scientifically is represented in the physical world by nature's production of 'hermaphrodites'. These are men and women with both genitalia and a definite interior sense of being sexually 'one or the other or both'. The study of hermaphroditism in nature is a rich challenge to those whose course in life is much clearer.

The merit of the Anglican Church of Canada is it's 'Inclusiveness". It's view of the "good news" of the gospel is that all are welcome rather than excluded. Sexual behaviour has only come under the microscope in the last hundred to a hundred and fifty years in western society. It's most likely that the dirty minded neighbour is more interested in sexuality than God. In fact the church's fascination with what goes on behind closed doors might well be a reason why so many Canadians are turning to other spiritual traditions that take the view of the American military in all matters sexual, "don't tell".

Paternity studies show that one third of the children are not their father's. This was once a main issues of monogamy. There was the hope for men that they were 'bringing home the bacon' for their own kin. Now as many women are bringing home the bacon. And that great Christian play and movie 'The Great Kahunna"said it all in the line, "Jesus had nothing to say about women in business suits."

The church is a community of men and women seeking to know God more truly. I am personally an ecumenicalist and believe that God would like to see us all get along together. It's always easiest to be with those who think like you do but Jesus said "love your enemy'. In diplomatic circles it's always best that everyone is sitting down at the 'table'. In this case the 'table' is the great communion. It's equally the last supper.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pemberton Valley Lodge, Hunting Season

Another three days of luxury hunting enjoyment. For two days I left Laura in the bed, taking Gilbert with me in the Ford 350 4x4 to meet Mr. Big Buck. It was dark when we got up to the mountain. Gilbert and I were there but Mr. Big Buck didn't show. I even hiked 10 miles in the snow to another location where I thought he might be waiting.
Brad, at Spud Valley Sporting Ltd sells Fish Finders but so far hasn't released a mule deer finder. The government could have saved the billions it spent on gun registry and just gps tagged the deer instead. It would have been cheaper and with a little of that kind of help from our government I'd have chosen to use my bow.
As it was I had my Mossberg lever action 30:30 with Leupold Scope to show Mr. Big Buck. But he never made the meeting.
So I just came back to Pemberton Valley Lodge and hung out in the outdoor hot tub contemplating the mountains before resting up in the room watching cable tv. Laura's been admiring her pink Ruger 22 rifle. She has pink cammo welly boots but Brad figured she'd better have a green cammo jacket. Right now she's looking through the latest Cabela magazine wondering why they don't have cammo nail polish and lipstick ads.
Gilbert licked my face at 5:30 am and 6:30 am hoping we'd try another meeting with Mr. Big Buck. Instead, I took him for a walk on the paths out back of the Lodge. I told Melissa at the front desk when I was filling up on the Starbuck's Cappucino in the lobby, "If Mr. Big Buck calls, just send him down to my room."
Maybe next year, the mule deer can have iPhones and a Telus plan so we can better coordinate our meeting schedules. Until then I'll just have to read, relax, watch cable tv, and use the hot tub. Pemberton Valley Lodge and my Ford Harley Davidson edition truck with heated leather seats and the great DVD/Stereo is making this hunting tougher every year. I don't know why Mr. Big Buck is blocking my calls, either He knows how much I love Venison.

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Canadian Author's Association - Westcoast Meeting - Nov. 2010

Ben Nuttall-Smith was the CAA greeter 2nd Wednesday of November at the Alliance for Arts and Cultural Events, Ste 100, 938 Howe Street, Vancouver. He was beaming. I hate when other authors are beaming. They're usually a morose and sullen lot with furrowed brow ever in search of the bon mot. Beaming can mean only one thing. Ben's new novel had been accepted and is due out for publication in the spring. In the reflection in the glass behind him I watched my freckles turn green as he spoke about his writing achievements.
I just managed to congratulate him, shake his hand, get by him and damned if I didn't encounter another beaming author. This time it was Robert Mackay, President of our Vancouver branch of CAA. His new novel is due out in March 2011.
Trying not to grovel and kneel before greatness, I styled the diffident pose of a blogger. Blogger's don't need publishers. Bloggers are poor and self supporting. Bloggers give their works to the church of internet. Ben and Bob actually had found homes for their children.
I get by Bob with freckles and skin green, only to see another beamer. Who is that, I ask. I can only wonder as Jean Kay introduces Lila.

Lila's one of our very funny resident poets. She breaks into performance art reciting a work about the snakes that we meet in daily life. Obviously some of hers are men. I sit back and enjoy, loving her various takes on officialdom, listening as she brings the pompous and pretentious down a notch or two with cutting art.
Then Jean is introducing the other beamer. He's a really big beam. The more books published, the more beam, it seems.

This is Timothy Taylor. No wonder he beams. Not only has he published books but he's had countless writing awards. He actually makes his living writing which supports his office in downtown Vancouver. Now that's a serious writer. His first novel was Stanley Park and is optioned for a movie. I've just downloaded his Story House from Amazon. He's reading tonight from his latest book due out like Bob's book in March 2011. It's got the word Project in the title, like Blair Witch Project, but I think there's a colour, Blue, like that movie the Vancouver police did about Vancouver downtown eastside. Blue Light Project. That's it. I ought to be a better researcher, like Taylor. He tells us that he started this book with the idea of a hostage taking in a theatre and three characters. One was a former star athlete. In this case a woman gold medallist in one of those diatholon, triatholon, biatholon whatever aggregate sports that will never take the place of hockey, try as they might. The other character was a street artist. Timothy Taylor explained how he became interested in these alternative artists who do city art, one fellow painting a dumpster to look just like Louis Vitton luggage. The third character was pullitzer prize journalist who'd fallen from grace through lying in a major piece only to end up doing scuzzy tabloids for a living. It was this alter ego latter character whose place at the hostage taking, Taylor read tonight.
It was priceless writing. Not surprising he's a beamer. Writes amazingly and reads well too. The girls say he's handsome. What's not to hate. We had question and answers after that. Always interesting to learn what authors say to authors questions. Some very useful answers about digital contracts and movie scripts. Then lots of applause.
I'm committed to buying Blue Light Project. It's going to be the first of a new genre, Literary Thriller. It's like the biathalon. Nobody's just playing hockey. Everything has gone Roccocco and Baroque. At least blogging remains the trailer trash of modern writing. I'm safe in my own Deliverance, resisting knocking out a few teeth and learning the banjo.
It was another good night at CAA. Inspirational for sure. Like getting to hear today's Robertson Davies, Farley Mowatts and Pierre Burtons reading from the great literature that will be taught in tomorrow's schools.
Next event is the Christmas Lunch, Whitespot Restaurant, 1616 West Georgia, Vancouver, Noon, Dec. 4, 2010.It's always a great place to play identify the poets from the novelists based on table manners.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Spud Valley Sporting Goods Ltd for Women

Now that Mellissa is expecting Brad has pink rifles in the store. Sheraton just signed up Laura with one on my rifle license.  She'll enjoy target practicing with this pink Ruger 22 rifle and the scope Brad added for all our aging eyes.  While they were doing this, Brad asked "what's a pirate's favourite letter?"  Laura answered 'rrrrrrr' but Brad said "c".  SEA!.  Their shop has fashion for women as well as the latest range finder binoculars selling for over a thousand and well worth it.  I'd have loved to have had a pair when I started bow hunting. Now I just want them but Laura's rifle cost $350 so I'm going to be happy with the Browning Binoculars I bought from Brad and Sheraton last year. They just keep getting the latest and best equipment. Now they've even got the best outdoor women fashions.  Laura just naturally had to have a camo jacket to go with her gun.  In contrast to my cammo wear her's is elegant and fitted designer wear.  Whatever helps to stop a buck in it's track and give me a chance to take a shot.  Laura joined the BC Wildlife Association last year.  More and more women than ever before are getting into rifle shooting and hunting. The champions this last year, much to men's surprise, were Canadian women.  One of my friends is a women bow hunter whose husband calls upon her to get him a deer when he's not been successful through the season. She always succeeds where he fails.  I told Laura that when she gets her hunting license I expect to sit in my truck listening to tunes while she and Gilbert get the birds.  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spiders On Drugs

Gilbert's Yellow Slicker

Every year God tries desperately to clean the dirt and corruption out of Vancouver and British Columbia politics. To that end the city is deluged for weeks sometimes months with purifying water. Pet owners, especially in Yaletown, eventually conclude that this really is the Flood. Hence they spiff up their lap dogs and prize cats in hopes that Noah, whoever Noah is, will pick their purse pet for saving. Yachtsmen in Coal Harbour and False Creek smile smugly knowing they're well prepared with everything from dinghy's to luxury yachts with helicopter pads just in case this year the sun doesn't return and the rains continue.

Gilbert naturally had to be the best dressed dog should the occasion arise. It would take a miracle to find two of a kind for him. Plenty of Fish isn't even up to the task. Yet being a yachtsman myself I did ensure he had a true west coast yellow slicker that not only made him look spiffy but would serve him on our boating trips to Salt Spring Island.

The fall leaves have turned to yellow. A little tang of winter is in the air. Whistler die hards are already skiing the mountain peaks while cross country skiers are slugging across the Cypress slopes.

The Harley motorcycle is being tucked away for the winter in hope of resurrection in spring. The wellies are already out of the hallway cupboards. Remembrance Day rains are a reminder of the hell of trench warfare in WWI and the nightmares of jungle fighting throughout the Pacific. This year the troops are in deserts and mountains. We all pray they are safe and return home in one piece, body and minds in tact, soon. The poppy flowers adorn our fall coats and as the dark days begin these proud flowers lighten our memories reminding us of the sacrifices made for us to enjoy the freedoms of peace and security.

The rains have begun. The great wash is upon us. Now our streets are full of yellow and orange leaves of autumn that daily will be washed away with all the grime of negativity. Seasonal Affective Disorders will reappear in the darkness of winter only to be lifted with the coming of the light of spring. That is ,if this year ,the promise of spring will come again. As we each take for granted waking each morning after the night of death like pause for each individual, so we are rarely appreciative of the similar profound promise of seasons!

The floods will occur here and there and we will repent and pray and hope that today we can be better people and learn the good lessons of the past as we progress to the future.

Celebrate all that is God's creation. Sing Hallelujah in praise for sun and rain, night and day, all the variety and splendour of creation. It's the 11th hour then it's the new day. It's time and time again we see the coming of morning. Now the rains begin and we pray for spring but oh what a washing we are in for. Umbrellas and slickers.

Well, Gilbert is ready. He has his bright yellow slicker. Sunshine colored. And really visible. I'll see him on the streets and onboard the ship. As for Gilbert he actually liked this attire. He could see the manly merit in staying dry. From a dog's point of view too

he'd rather keep his smell and isn't keen on bathing on the best of days. His sister, Angel, the cat, isn't coming out again till spring. Humans were created to ensure her comfort and she's quite happy to watch her brother cavort with glee at the prospect of running in puddles and splashing in the rain. He does look good in his new slicker, though.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Baptism of Matthias

I was so honored to receive an invitation to the baptism Matthias, son of Karen and Tom. St. James Anglican Church is the location for this event. Baptism of infants occurred in New Testament times.
Raised a Baptist, I was 'christened' as a child and baptized when I as an adult and accepted Jesus as my Saviour. In the Catholic, Anglican and other Christian traditions "baptism" occurs near birth and then "confirmation" is undertaken when the child or adult can make decisions of their own.
Laura, raised Catholic, said "I had to be baptized early. I think it's within 6 weeks. The Catholics are afraid you might die before being baptized. They get it done quick." Theologically, Catholics have tended to believe that unbaptised children don't make it directly to heaven. The Catholics however have a way station 'limbus infantium' somewhere in the vicinity of 'purgatory'. Part of the Christian break with Catholicism at the time of Martin Luther was that upward movement from this way station into heaven could be 'bought' through contribution to the church. Most Catholics and Christians get around these dicey theological bits by having their children baptized early anyway.
Catholics might well contend that Christian heaven isn't as high as Catholic heaven but that gets one into those inter denominations comparisons that ecumenical Christianity tries to avoid if only to make Monty Python's work more difficult.
Theologically this world is considered a place of "SIN" . Sin means that there is no 'perfection' in reality though 'perfection' can be imagined or thought. The individual is 'imperfect' in this regard or 'incomplete'. This world is 'imperfect' or 'incomplete' in this regard too. Sin was originally used as the verb 'to sin' which meant in olden times "to miss the mark". An archer "intends" for the arrow to hit the bull's eye of the target every time but even the best 'archer' can't do this in this world. Yet all of us can 'dream' and 'imagine' or 'think' of just such a scenario. The personification of the reasons for this imperfection are called 'satan' a force or individual that fights God's loving plan for all.
That said, Baptism is a Christian community's excuse for a party. Not that Christian's ever needed an excuse for a party. Imagine any party without drunkenness, drug abuse, and having unsafe sex with strangers and you get what is essentially the makings of a Christian party. The 'hoe down' and the 'fair' and the 'church picnic' and the 'town dances' were all predominantly Christian parties. The girls get dressed up and generally make the girls of sex in the city look like wallflowers. Not only are they dressed as well but they radiate a kind of beatific happiness probably because they've got the guys to clean up and the baby is the centre of attention. A lot of single men fall in love with single women at baptismal events.
Baptism's are a bit more reserved though than 'hoe downs', at least in the church itself, and especially in the Anglican church. We gather as Christians to welcome a new member to the church, which is just another word for 'Christian community'. We also in the baptism ceremony 're affirm' our own 'vows' as Christians.
The baby gets water on his head and the priest blesses him. Jesus was thoroughly 'dunked' by John the Baptist and it may well be a factor in baby baptism that 'total immersion' of the more passionate Baptist contingents was felt best left till the child could at least swim in case the minister got carried away with religious fervor.
Christian's don't believe in Genital Mutilation of children though some will do circumcision as a secular activity. The baptism is in fact the worst torture we collectively subject kids to, if we leave out the later 'plays' and 'public recitals' that have Christians showing up years later in therapists offices saying their parents abused them by making them 'act' or 'sing' or 'recite poetry'.
In Baptism a strange looking man or woman priest chants some things over you and splashes you with water while your parents looking on beatifically with a whole bunch of people congregate just outside your baby vision.

Inside gambling among teen age boys, unbeknownst to parents, is usually on whether the child will scream when the priest picks him up or not. The other more secular discussion is about the baptismal clothes. Increasingly there has been improvements in the white cotton fashion of babies at baptismal events.
Baptism to all is a sacrament that confirms the child in the Covenant of God. The covenant of God in the Christian faith is the promise of Grace. The baptized child is protected henceforward as part of the church. It is the sign of salvation.
It's also a really good time. Baptisms are spiritually uplifting times for all involved.
Thank God Matthias has come along to allow Karen and Tom and all of us to get together for this greatest of Christian celebrations!

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

God's Book

The Threefold Way of Christianity referred to the three stages of the Christian Journey. In this Physike referred in spiritual theology to the entire created universe of nature, human beings and the invisible spiritual beings. In the second stage of the Threefold way - physike - we focus on the indirect contemplation of God. Through regular contemplation of the world about us we are increasingly able "to experience all creation (including our own life) as a gift, and to discern God's presence in the entire created universe".

Diogenes Allen in Spiritual Theology quotes Kallistos Ware, a bishop of the Greek orthodox church, referring to Nature as "God's Book". We are to see all things in God and God in all things.

I had not thought this to be so true of Roman Catholicism or Protestant Christianity as a whole and in fact thought it the special domain of the Celtic Christianity I embraced. Such is a little knowledge.

I'm thankful to Diogenes Allen for enlightening me, a physician, that a special appeal of Celtic Christianity, indeed had it's roots in all Christianity. Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants share this spiritual theology that once was called mysticism.

I like that Nature is called "God's Book". Now if only I could be less illiterate.

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Love Your Neighbour

To summarize, Jesus said: "Love God and Love your neighbour as yourself."

The Greatest Commandment (Mark 12:28) One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear. O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself."

Within this love of God comes first, and love of self is assumed, and love of neighbour is to be learned. There's a tendency for people to say they didn't love themselves because they didn't care for themselves. They see themselves with great self pity as self sacrificing and one day say with great solemnity, I'm working on loving myself. Ironically, narcissism is the beginning of life's journey. The baby literally is 'king baby'. The first illusion is that we are caring for others when so often co dependency is just a twisted self care narcissism that takes others 'hostage' and congratulates ourselves being 'good' people 'who were abused'.

Later Jesus said, "Love your enemy." You can almost see him deal this out for the sort of people I've just described. They present as kind and loving and learning to care for themselves continuing in this stage interminably. Even tax collectors care for their own as do sociopaths. They portray themselves as great spiritually because they care for their own DNA, their own immortality, their own solution to fear of loneliness and isolation, their children, their friends, the other cannibals in their tribe, for instance. The great leap of faith is caring for the 'other'. That's the spiritual message in learning love for that which is most different from oneself.

Reading Diogenes Allen's Spiritual Theology I am struck by the simplicity of his summarization of the spiritual journey:

1) Conversion (also called repentance)
2) The development of virtue or human excellence, which includes the redirection of the emotions or passions; and
3) love of neighbour

Phillip Yancey has claimed elsewhere that the trick of evil is to convince us that religion is the enemy of pleasure. However G.K. Chesterton made it clear in his writings that pleasure came from God and as such was to be truly appreciated by the religious. It is a delight though to read his epicurean approach to pleasure contrasting the savoring and moderation of indulgence to the gluttonous overly piggish addictive approach to pleasure. His writing of the appreciation of the grace of one wife with it's depth and humble acknowledgement of the lifetime needed to know a woman is contrasted with the shallow careless involvement of the man who has 5.

But then the ancients and not so ancients appreciated that the greatest challenge of love of neighbour was indeed love of the opposite sex and as Jesus said with greatest clarity, "Love your enemy". God's sun shines on sinners and saints so to become more like God we must learn from his all encompassing love.

)I was about to write a reply to a fellow's report which belittled my august work and was a truly shoddy piece of penmanship by either a doddering fool or one wet behind the ears. I had, as a good clinician, cured a patient of a potentially lethal disease and returned her to work. Paid the least in the system for my front line work harried from morning to night with impossible tasks and ever increasing beaurocratic demands to record, record, record, I'd not included a text book description of the 'diagnosis' I made, especially considering that in the very recent past Doctors were asked to summarize their observation and investigation in the least words culminating in a description of the clinical with a 'diagnosis'. I reported my diagnosis with 5 axis and 3 pages of documentation which I sent to the family physician, a fine man known to me and knowing me, so we have our own internal clinical communication. This "expletive, expletive, expletive" high paid lawyer/bureaucrat/doctor, not a clinician by any means, one who counts his success not in lives saved by rather in dollars earned and debates won, had the effrontery to say my patient should have been well in 2 months rather than the year it took for her to recover. His work was shoddy and failed in "due diligence" to understand the 'conventions' of clinical practice which have us under the gun of time and pressure of overflowing waiting rooms and no hospital beds and no money for the patients treatment and no nurses for home care, while we write our report to the doctor and then follow up with collection of data which confirms or denies our initial working diagnosis over subsequent visits. There is no time for the niceities of the courts and bureaucrats lightyears in time and distance and mental processing and soul from the front lines of human suffering. Later, in subsequent comments on the patient and response to treatment and measures I've done in the office but not had time to type into my clinical note to the doctor, I find all the data that this person will use to 'win' with the help of lawyers and unions and her other doctors.

This other doctor, hatchet man, high paid, low life mercenary, scoundrel, shoddy work doer, company doctor, sociopath, expletive, expletive, expletive is holy of holies the 'neighbour' that Jesus is talking about.

No, my soul cries out. When I speak foul of a president, prime minister, government worker, colleague, criminal, pedophile, murderer, ex marital partner, tax collector, policemen, that can't be the 'neighbour' Jesus was talking about,

Please God don't mean that. Please God don't expect me to virtuously respond to this narcissistic pricks pretentious self serving crap in which he quotes the DSMIV diagnostic book to show that he actually can read even though to anyone with IQ over 40 it would appear that he isn't capable of reading but can only see that which agrees with his own misogyny. Please God don't expect me to love this man who clearly is born of his sister and brother having sex together as teenagers. His writing tells me beyond a doubt that little children are not safe in his company.

But yes, since I would consider myself a spiritual person on a spiritual journey God naturally expects me to respond to this sycophant in the way that might best not create war and allow me to wipe out his genetic strain but rather sow peace. Indeed the St. Francis Prayer, "Make me a channel of your peace" speaks to the kind of manners and speech I really ought to employ when referring to little shits comments on my patient. St. Francis would encourage me to use language of peace and high excellence when I reply to this insectoid like colleague. St. Francis and the commandment, Love thy Neighbour, Jesus quotes would have me speak nicely to and about the rodents that infest high positions of government and beyond and do horrible and ghastly things to the environment, the economy and the poor. .

Which explains why I'd like to live on another planet.

God, couldn't I have better neighbours and not have to actually do the work of being a spiritual person. However, as Diogenes Allen states, "God is as fully active and present in our lives when we are making an effort as when we are not."

Increasingly, I'm finding that the greatest effort is restraining myself. Ranting and raving is really just having temper tantrums. The other is pouting. Somewhere there's this truly beautiful and graceful thing called being a 'gentleman' or 'gentlewoman'. It's called being 'well mannered'. It's called 'civilization'.

So I have to ask if I'd treat my lover, my child, my dog or even my tropical fish the way I would have treated this genetic aberration of a colleague in writing were it not for God's kindness in sharing with me the thoughts of Yancey, Chesterton, Allen, Mark and Jesus. Do I speak about my government the way I speak about my dog. Would I speak about the police or the terrorists or the other guy's political party as Jesus did when he said, "Love them for they know not what they do".

It's all called 'loving your neighbour'. It's the work of character. It's the work of the spiritual journey. It's making the effort. That said, Help me Jesus because it's obviously that I need all the help I can get. So God lend me a little muscle. Put your back to this task of mine, please. Kick me through the goalpost of heaven! Surely my pigskin ass needs kicking and on my own I'd just lie in the field bitching about all these big sweaty men grabbing and jumping all over me. Make me free with one fine kick, please Jesus!

And if it be thy will, take from me this cup that says I have to love my neighbour. Couldn't we just have me love you and me God. Even better couldn't it be me first, God.

Love your neighbour, alright already. I'll try to love my neighbour. Shouldn't the shits do more to be more loveable, though. Especially beaurocrats, judges and politicians and bankers and tax men and especially this colleague of mine whose stupidity has reached a new low.

Yea. Yea. This is about me and you. Mind my own business, I hear you say.

Love your neighbour, whatever!

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Ford F350 Diesel 4x4 Harley Davidson Edition Truck

My beautiful female friend calls it the "perfect boy bling'. That's certainly not the way I'd describe my "manly man" truck.

I bought it from Ryan who said, "You're living the dream", the catchy Harley Davidson ad phrase. My Harley Davidson 96 cu Electraglyde Classic is going to enjoy taking a rest now and then. Not that the old man won't enjoy a little time out of the saddle rolling down the road in the luxury of Ford's heated leather seats, sun roof, surround sound, power "everything". The fact is I needed to have something to haul my trailer. I've had to admit I'm too old to sleep on the side of the road beside the bike. At least now, not unless I want to. Having cops shine 3 am flashlights in your face and ask you for identification is just not my idea of traveling any more.

My F350 hauls 15,000 lbs. Ryan had to buy the newest Ford F350 to get more hauling power because naturally, being male he bought a toy hauler that was more than 16,000 lbs. His wife likes the tan and cream King interior that has Ryan wearing a string tie and sports jacket while I get to stay in my leathers.

I took the truck out for it's first weekend of hunting. My cockapoo Gilbert transforms from purse toy dog to big hunting dog when he gets up into the truck. He loves sitting high up and looking down on all the other dogs. The truck performed beautifully on the freeway with great diesel mileage.

It then managed the winding roads of Highway 3 doing the mountains climbs and valleys just fine. I had Third Day's new Move album cranked right up on the sound system. Laura was doing her make up in the lighted mirror on the visor.

When I got off road on the backwoods logging roads the truck just ate up the terrain. I did this climb up and down Stemwinder out past Princeton British Columbia. I'd done it carefully in my Ford Ranger and on an off road motorcycle but the truck was just made for the steep gravel and snow roads all eaten up by cattle and trucks before me. I got into some really muddy earth road off Lawless in a new cut clearing and had no difficulty despite the weight of the truck getting clear of the sludge glue.

Gilbert found me a grouse up Copper Mountain so I shot it then got some pictures out by the wood pile with the rifle and grouse on the box. I'm supposed to be walking and exercising when I'm hunting but I didn't. I just "road hunted" because frankly I loved the luxury. One other grouse stood in the middle of the road forcing me to get out and leave the warmth and joy of my truck.

The only problem is it's just too valuable and beautiful to take into the narrow bushes and get bush burned and scraped up. Ryan already had that figured out. "You're just going to have to get a quad like me." He's got 3, hence the toy hauler. Next year's hunting season will probably see me with a quad in the back of my Ford F350 diesel 4x4 because the last thing I'd want to do is hurt my truck.

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