Beware The Monster

Once upon a time there were two neighbours. We'll call them Winston and Benito. They were very good neighbours when they first met. But over the years, things began to sour. Winston loved to plant native species and keep his property looking naturally beautiful. He only had a little grass, but he kept it looking healthy. Benito didn't have much time for lawn care. When the weeds in his yard got so high that the weed seeds all blew into Winston's yard, Winston, who lived downwind, sighed, took out his lawn mower and cut Benito's weeds down for him. Then they put up a fence between the two back yards, but left the space between their homes a common passageway.

The space between the houses had a nice grassy strip down the middle and a walkway for each house from the front to the back lawn. It was not big, but it was neat and clean. Winston cut the grass and pulled the weeds. When the weeks got too high in Benito's yard, Winston would take his lawn mower around the fence and clean up Benito's back-yard. Winston realized he had a friendly slob living beside him.

Winston and Benito each had a son. Winston's son was creative and intelligent. Benito's son was destructive and not as intelligent. Winston's son loved to play in the woods, make building block worlds, play the piano, and learn about science. Benito's son liked to play with his friend in the space between the houses where no one could see them. One day he and his friend decided to stuff Winston's furnace exhaust pipe with sticks and stones. Winston's family soon began to get headaches. 

When the furnace man came to do his yearly service, he found a bad air problem inside the house, checked everything, and discovered the blocked pipe. The service man was very concerned. Winston was very concerned for his family's safety. He knew Benito's son had been playing between the houses so he spoke to Benito. Benito told his son not to play between the houses anymore. Benito's son did not listen.

Benito's son and friends next stuffed all of their broken action figures into Winston's rainbarrel that was located between the two houses. Winston noticed one day that it was overflowing and not draining out to water the garden. He pumped out the rainbarrel, turned it over, and heard a rattlling inside. After several hours of shaking, Winston had all of the action figure pieces out on his driveway. He returned them to Benito. Benito told his son not to play between the houses anymore. Benito's son did not listen. Winston began to wonder if his neighbours were so friendly after all.

Winston got a pet – a little pet perfect for a little house on a little lot in a subdivision. Benito got a pet – a big pet perfect for guarding an estate lot. The neighbours still got along, and the pets got along. The little pet made little pet poops that were easy to clean up. The big pet dumped a lot. Benito left the clean-up job to his son. His son didn't listen. Benito had so much pet poop that he scooped it into a big garbage pail and left it in his back yard, uncovered. It was a hot, rainy summer.

One day, Winston's wife complained about the flies and the terrible smell in their backyard. Winston looked over the fence. He saw the waist high weeds, he saw the large steaming garbage pail of pet excrement swarming with flies. He was angry. He put on his rubber gloves, bagged all of the pet poop, put it in the proper garbage location for pick-up, took out his lawn mower, and cut the weeds down. Benito told his son to clean up after the pet. His son did not listen. Winston began to wonder if he was living beside a monster.

Benito's pet was a female. Benito decided to breed her. She had a litter. Benito decided to keep one of the little pets. It grew. Now Benito had two big pets in a little house on a little lot in a little subdivision. Again Winston's wife complained about the smell. Again Winston cleaned it up, cut the grass, and told Benito. Again Benito told his son to clean up after the pets. Benito's son did not listen. Then Benito's relative moved in with him. Benito's relative had an even bigger pet. A big roaring male pet. Now there were three big loud, pooping pets in a little house on a little lot in a little subdivision. Winston now knew he had a Monster living beside him.

One day Benito came to Winston and said, "My wife is going crazy with these pets in the house. We have no back door. I want to build a gate between our two houses so the pets can play in the space between the houses." Winston said, "That would mean I would not be able to use the space between our houses. My side door, and my meters and utilities are here. Let me think about it." When Winston came home one day, he found Benito and Bentio's relative and Benito's son buidling a gate between the houses. They had bolted a frame into the side of Winston's house. Winston was very angry. He now knew for certain that a Monster was living beside him and he was going to have to fight the Monster to save his home.

From that day on, from morning to night, the big pets were let out in the space between the houses and roared and pooped and roared and pooped and roared and pooped all day long. Winston did not go to the side of his house anymore.

One day as warmer weather approached, Winston happened to look over his back gate at the space between the houses. There was pet poop from one side of the space to the other. Winston's entire walkway was covered in pet poop. There was not a single blade of grass left. Winston got very, very angry. He cleaned up the pet poop, bagged it, and left it for Benito.

Soon after, Winston heard a banging on the side of his house and a lot of yelling. He went outside and looked over the big front gate. There he saw Benito's son and some of his friends throwing pet poop at each other with a ball throwing stick. There was pet poop all over the side of Winston's house. Winston got very, very angry. He told all the boys to leave and never come back to play there again. The boys listened. he told Benito's son to clean up the side of his house with soap and disinfectant and to clean up every piece of pet poop from the property and bag it properly. Benito's son listened. He told Benito's son that if he ever found him doing anything like that again, the pet poop would hit the fan.

Then he looked up on the Internet to see how to humanely keep pets from pooping on your property. He went out and bought a big container of a hot spice and sprinkled it all over his walkway. Benito's son took the pets into the back yard and played with them. He rolled their toys through the hot spice. The pets got sick. Benito's mother came over to accuse Winston of making her pets throw up in the house. Winston told her that the smell of the hot spice alone keeps pets away, but a pet's favourite chew toy rolled in cayenne pepper was a different story, so maybe she should have a good long talk with her son who should not have been playing between the houses. Benito's mother didn't listen. She was angry. Benito was angry. But Winston was the angriest of them all.

Winston went out the next day and bought fence post spikes. He measured the property line with a transit and the property map. He staked a line out between the houses. Over the next month, Winston worked with a fury to put up a fence between the two houses. He took down the big gate, put up a centre post, and put two gates back in their place. Benito was not happy. Winston did not care.

The three big pets conintued to roar for everyone to hear from morning until night, but the pet poop was now confined to Benito's yard. Benito continued to pile the poop into open garbage pails until a very angry Winston told him one day that it was illegal. Benito also let the pets out to poop and pee all over the driveway. He would then scoop the poop, but it in the pail, and use his hose to wash the excrement residue down the driveway. Winston lived downstream, and so the fecal colliform water would wash across the front of Winston's driveway all the way down the street to the storm sewer. Winston put up a cement dam to stop the contamination. Benito would knock it down. Winston would put it back.

With nowhere to play out of sight of adults between the houses, Benito's son got bored. So Benito gave him a high powered projectile gun. In a small lot in a small subdivision, Benito's son would go out into his backyard and shoot his projectile gun. His aim, like his judgement, was not very good. Neighbours in the back of the yard had projectiles flying through their yards. Neighbours to the side had projectiles flying thorugh their yards. Then one day, Benito's son forgot the talk he had with Winston about never bothering his home again. Winston's wife was working upstairs when she heard a loud CRACK. The bedroom window had been shattered by a projectile.

Winston's wife came storming downstairs, went to Benito's house, brought Benito's son up to see the damage, and told him he was going to pay for a new window. Winston confronted Benito, reviewed the pet poop history and the projectile damage and demanded responsibility and an apology. Benito said he would take care of the window replacement. At no time did Benito every apologize for the disprespect and damage caused to Winston's property over the years, or for the behavious of his son. Benito didn't get it. This made Winston very, very, very angry.

Winston was like an elephant who would not forget. When the window finally came, Benito paid for it. Winston put a sticker with the cost of the window on the broken one when it was put out in the garbage and compared it to the price of a projectile. Benito's wife was very angry. Winston did not care. Winston was living with a simmering constant anger. He had come to the conclusion that his neighbour and his family were not good neighbours at all, but were stupid disrespectful Monsters.

One mild winter day, when Winston was shovelling the snow from the walkway between the houses, the smell of pet poop hit him again. He lost it. He began to shovel snow over the fence in a frenzy. He shovelled all of the snow along the fence over the fence. Benito was angry and yelled at Winston. Winston yelled back that snow melts away a lot easier than pet poop stuck to your house. They began to argue. Benito told Winston he was acting like a stupid person. Winston stopped, recalling the wisdom of Mark Twain: "Never argue with a fool; onlookers may not be able to tell the difference." 

Winston sat down and reflected and realized that was exactly what he had done. He apologized to Benito. No excuses for bad behaviour. His wife and son looked worried that Winston too had lowered himself to the level of the beast he was fighting – he was so angry he was acting stupid. Winston had forgotten the warning from Friedrich Neitzsche: "Whoever battles with monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you." Winston did not want to be a monster. The side of his house had become an abyss into which he no longer wished to gaze.

Winston went to see the Lego Movie to clear his mind and renew his spirit. And , with the Everything is Awesome song ringing in his ears, he returned home to llive happily ever after.

The End,

or The Beginning…

*****

This is a story. Names, characters, places, and incidents are totally a product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to animals and plants (living or dead), businesses, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. "The Lego Movie" and the "Everything is Awesome" song are real.

The Evolution of Creation Stories

EarthIn the Beginning, Man created god.

 

 

 

 

That's how I began an English lesson in essay writing to support a point of view. The week before I had started with, "In the Beginning, God created man," with no complaints, Little did I know my second statement, based on an age-old rabbinical teaching style of offering opposing points of view to students, would bring in a flood of Biblical proportions from concerned parents who felt I was challenging the faith of their children.

I hold fundamentalist religious beliefs in the same category that I hold the military/industrial/agribusiness/pharmaceutical/energy complex, so I admit to a certain bias. As an English teacher, I celebrate the stories of humanity, creation stories being the most amazing. As a Science teacher, I respect the quests for answers to the deepest questions of who we are, from where did we come, and to what future are we travelling.

In one York University presentation I gave on the State of the World, a student came forward at the break to express her concern that I had only told the Western science perspective and had not told The Creation Story. I reflected on her concerns, and after the break, I apologized to the class, and told my favourite creation story. It featured a great turtle island, an otter, beaver, muskrat and a Great Spirit That Loves Life, and mud carried up in the paws of a creature that would not give up in the quest for life. The class sat mesmerized, and my fundamentalist student was not amused.

"So," I asked the class, "Pick your favourite creation story and celebrate it. It is based on geography and the wonder of human imagination. In the beginning, we were, and still are, the storytellers. If you base your life's direction on a story, choose it carefully."

If there is Intelligent Design, humans need to start applying it.

*****

Skid Crease, Caledon

Legacy

JunoI never want to forget the stories of our parents who fought for our freedom, who lost the innocence of their youth in battles not of their own making, but in defence of something far greater than themselves, following the clarion call of leaders to whom they entrusted their honour. A quiet conversation at a curling game revealed that my teammate had a father who had served in the Juno Beach D-Day landing in 1944; I had a father who was a Hurricane pilot and a POW for 3 1/2 years in the infamous Stalag Luft III prison camp of The Great Escape fame. One story led to another and we slowly resurrected each other's photos and war logs from our parents. I had the privilege this last week of reading of the journey of a father and his son taking part in the 50th Anniversary of the Juno Beach landing on June 6, 1944. The album was filled with wonderful photos of family and friends  sharing a unforgettable trip through history.

But the most moving story of all was his personal reflection when he and his dad visited the graveyard of all of the fallen. He recorded in his journal that he simply couldn't believe the number of white crosses, and the young age that marked their passage. His father had gone one way through the rows, he through another. When they met again, he learned his dad had found the name of a friend from Craigleith, and was too overcome to speak.

We should all be too overcome to speak. But their stories must be told ere, as Wilfred Owen warned us, we must not inflict the great lie upon our children: "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori." No more will ideolgical fanatics sacrifice the youth of their countries for the good and glory of their ambitions.  

So, to honour their stories, what do we do with their war logs, our journals, their stories when we pass on? Who will be the storytellers for our veterans? I do not want my father's or my friend's father's sacrifice to end up in a dumpster, or a government shredder. I want a veteran's library.

There are fewer and fewer left to remember – we pass the torch of their memories – someone, please, hold it high.

*****

Skid Crease, Caledon 

The Gilmore Junio Factor

Sochi logoGilmore Junio, you are my Olympic hero. You have exemplified the best of the Olympic spirit – a true competitor who gave up his place in an Olympic final to a team mate he felt had a better chance of competing for his country. You share fully in the Silver Medal that was won, and deserve a Gold Medal for sportsmanship.

Like the coaches who gave out ski poles and skis to opposing Olympians so that they could continue to compete, that is the even field of competition upon which the Games should be based. Now that, more than any country's medal count, is truly inspirational.

I would like to propose that the official Olympic motto be changed to: "Higher, Faster, Stronger, and more Honourable."

*****

Skid Crease, Caledon

Pipelines, Profits and Bad Fantino Karma

TransCanadaWell, well, the truth will out. It is no wonder that "Our Government"™ wants to gut CBC – if it were not for some of their excellent investigative reporting, we would still be in the dark about the nefarious schemes afoot in the governance of our country. The latest northern exposure comes from the revelations that "Our Government"™ and the National Energy Board buried a damning report on Trans-Canada and their pipeline safety transgressions. Shame. That wouldn't have had anything to do with the "no-brainer" over approving Keystone, would it?

No, how foolish of me. We know "Our Government"™ always has the best interests of hard-working, tax-paying Canadians at the forefront. It would be almost treasonous to suggest that they are really working for the corporate profits of big business and the upper 10% of Canadian society. Why, that kind of thinking could end you up on the CSIS watch list. Like Justin Bieber.

JulianForget Julian Fantino, who does not like finger pointing, and his shaftng of our Veterans; forget Pierre Poilievre and the hypocrisy of the "Fair Elections Act" which will crack down on the election fraud violations "Our Government"™ created; forget the Omnibus Bills that decimated environmental reviews; forget the millions of dollars spent on false advertising for a "Canada's Action Plan"™ job creation program that didn't exist; forget the $90,000 Senate expenses cheque and a PMO that does not have a clue (wink) about what is going on in the top office of Canada's government. 

No, we do indeed get the government we deserve, and the generations of accounting, both social and environmental, that go with their decisions. Me, I'm going to be lining up with the Veterans in Julian Fantino's riding in 2015. This one's for you, Dad.

*****

Skid Crease, Caledon