Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Body Talks

I went to see my physiotherapist yesterday, as a follow-up for some extra pain I was experiencing in my back, since before Christmas.  Now even she tells me I have pent-up or repressed emotional baggage!

I’ll show HER emotion…n…a…  well, anyways…

It’s amazing how much information your body will communicate, provided you listen closely enough.

I was thinking about taking care of myself, and in Love thy Self(less) Part-2 mentioned my back and my weight.  This is right up the same alley, although I don’t want to call it part-3 since this is a separate rant.  

I thoroughly enjoy watching a dance.  Ballet in particular, but ballet-jazz as well as many other dance forms.  I’ve always instinctively understood dancing and appreciated it.  It has been claimed throughout history and various cultures that body movement is a form of communication.  My physiotherapist has given me proof positive that this is the case.

The body has a language all its own.  The most obvious being dance, but we also find it elsewhere:  In fighting as two boxers approach each other in the ring, posturing for intimidation as well as position.  In the teacher, standing up front with credibility and authority.

The body displays emotion as well: the gait and gaze of two people in love is a dead giveaway.  Or the visible anger of the tight fisted, red-faced SUV driver about to mow down a clueless Smart.  

I know I have emotional issues, if I didn’t I wouldn’t be writing this blog.  But how the hell did she know?  Not that I hide my emotions that well, indeed not.  What really worries me is how it affects my body, my posture, but more importantly, my back pain!

When I was at Nortel, my wife commented on the employees looking like they were headed for slaughter when entering the building.  Obviously there was a clear body language to this effect.  I was not immune to this.  

I had gotten a stationary bike, was trying to walk more, eat sensibly and so on.  None of it worked, and my body was telling me exactly that, in no uncertain terms.  I wasn’t listening all that well, but to my credit I did realize something was amiss.  So very shortly before getting laid-off I had come to the decision that I would hand in my resignation before I did irreparable damage to my body, among other things.  I had planned on working there another year at the outside.

More recently, I have been psychologically feeling a lot better, and notwithstanding the back pain, it appeared that my recovery is finally yielding some dividends.  It’s been about a year now that I can drive for more than an hour without falling asleep and being a danger to myself and others.  Oddly enough, for the longest time, I thought this was my body telling me something, whereas it was actually my psyche.  Go figure.

Writing this blog is a testament to addressing psychological recovery. But what of my ongoing back pain?

Getting back to Christmas, my back pain got so bad that I could no longer sleep or walk.  Obviously my body was telling me something.  And it was my body this time, for sure, no equivocation!  Herniated disks are a shout really, the body’s equivalent to screaming blue-bloody-murder.

So as usual, I went to see my physiotherapist to get me fixed up, until the next episode.  My back was telling me: “you are NOT listening”, and proceeded to cost me more time, and money, and stretching exercises until I got the drift.

About end-February, I decided to sign up to Minçavi a weight control program, which had seen some success with my wife.  So we went together to our first meeting on March 7th.  It is a little complicated to understand at first but after a couple of weeks of actually doing the program, I got the hang of it quite easily.

As of last week, I’ve relocated some 17.4 pounds.  As of this week, my physiotherapist tells me: “I’ve never, EVER, seen your back look this good,” and proceeded with the comment about emotional core-posture problem, which could never be addressed until now.

I have a long way to go yet, with my back, my posture, and my weight.  

As for the emotional?  I’m still writing ain’t I?

But at least I listened, and my body is congratulating me on my active listening skills.  

My reward is that I can now focus on my posture as an investment, rather than throwing away effort and energy into pain management.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Love Thy Selfless - Part 2

Love Thy Selfless - Part 2

Some friends of mine are going to a workshop in early May.  I’ve attended this workshop on many occasions in years past.  The title has changed little of the years: “Taking care of me and my relationships.”

Yes, it is one of those.

I am not one for group therapy, under normal circumstances.  I also abhor and deplore the depicting of group therapy in movies and on TV.  They are based in fact, I suppose, but are so far removed from my reality that I cannot equate the two, at all, on any level.

Regardless, (note the correct use of the word regardless and not that sad aberration “irregardless”) I try to go to this biannual workshop at least once per year.  This time, I cannot go.  Finances and personal reasons dictate.

One of my very good friends described this exercise as a personal tune-up for the soul, or words to that effect.  He is not wrong!

Usually, I’ll be thinking about it and preparing for months before the event.  It was in this light that I wrote Love thy Selfless – Part 1 not long ago.  Tackling this Part 2 has been brewing in my brain since.  

I have considered writing an open letter to the people attending the workshop.  Some of them will be new and others are old friends.  It would be a way for me to participate, thus working on myself, even if I’m not physically present.

But what would I write?

The single most recurring issue is, obviously, one of self-acceptance.  The reasons are as varied as the people in attendance, but the core is the same.  It seems we all have difficulty in accepting ourselves on some level.

Try to love someone when you just can’t get past his or her faults.  Damned near impossible!  Those of us in therapy, and many who aren’t but should be, often have complex issues to deal with that are inherently self-damaging.  

Some of us just plain hate ourselves.  This is more common than we think. Heck, we’ve even coined some phrases: “I just hate myself”, “that was so stupid of me”, “I’m such an idiot.”  Who among us hasn’t used at least one of these sentences?  

It’s not a full-on hatred, mind you, but it is a light form of self-inflicted punishment.

But this is acceptable, and even encouraged in some ways.  For example: anyone caught saying “I’m brilliant” will soon be met with scorn, possibly envy, definitely ridicule but mostly utter contempt.

I don’t want to revisit Part-1, suffice to remember that society plays a large part in our behaviour, especially towards our selves.

Trying to abstract society is almost a losing battle… almost.  It is an issue, one of many.

So what’s the right question, but more importantly in what context?   I did ask, as a conclusion to Part 1: what’s an issue and what ain’t?  I struggle with this daily, either in therapy or in my everyday actions.  But even here, there are two steps: research and realization.

First the research: context yields different angles to the same question: money, society, social mores, career, work, women, self-image, drugs, alcohol, smoking, overeating, not eating enough or worse eating badly, the list goes on…and on.

I’ll pick two very different examples from the above:

I don’t have a problem with drugs as I don’t use any hard drugs, but a case could be made for my popping Motrin™ like they were Smarties™ when I slip a disk in my back about once a month or so.

I don’t have a consumption problem with smoking or alcohol, yet a case could be made that I have a personal deep-rooted aversion to both, thereby making it a subject that is hard for me to talk about.

So one is possibly an addiction, the other is quite the opposite.

Are these real issues that require my attention?  And when?  I cannot do everything at once, obviously.  Then a second angle opens up: that is to prioritize these things, which in itself could be an issue! But anyway…

Basic psychology tells me “what do I think?”  In fact, the odds are very good that if I don’t think about something at all, it’s probably not an issue!  If it returns on a regular or semi-regular basis, that’s a good indicator that something is amiss.

Let’s talk about my back for a minute.  I slip a disk – it actually gets herniated, in my lower back on a semi-regular basis.  The slightest movement can set it off, yet when I’m careful, all is well.  Shovelling the driveway, for example, is not a problem, reaching for a doorknob can be!  The resulting pain is too much to bear for any length of time. Sometimes I lock up completely.  So I hit the analgesic/anti-inflammatory pills, hard!

Is the issue then with drugs?  Or is the real problem with my back?  Furthermore, could it be a problem with my weight?  I am carrying too much of a gut, which in turn pulls on my back muscles enough that any false move will get me a herniated disk.

Taking care of myself then implies not so much reducing my drug intake, but rather my body mass.  The drugs are then a stopgap measure and a clear indicator that something else is wrong.

There are many such indicators and one must separate the wheat from the chaff as it were.  As my example illustrates, what we find to be obvious is hardly ever the root cause.

I will mention a trap, in passing: There is such a thing as too much analysis and “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” (Sigmund Freud)  I should know. I’m really good at over-analysing.  More separation needed I guess.

But when do you know?  Psychology is a lot of hit and miss. But sometimes, you literally trip over something so big and so basic, that it explains a host of behaviours in one swoop.  And this is the realization.

When I was a kid, in school, I’d have a tendency to sit in back of the class.  Furthermore, I was always sickly, with the obvious lack of attendance. I’d get ear and sinus infections all the time.  It is, even now, unclear why I had so many infections.

My dad’s job would take him all over the province and we’d move at least once every year, often twice a year.  He was a victim of his own success, really, turning red ink into black.

So I’d wind up in a new school every year, sometimes mid-year, and I’d often be plunked into special-ed classes when available.  One thing was for certain I was clearly retarded.  Unfortunately for me, deaf or not, I was bright enough to realize this and was all the more shattered because of it!  

But was I really retarded?

It later dawned on me, on everyone really, that having sinusitis all the time meant that my head was blocked up in this mass of painful and deafening goo.  I couldn’t hear, much less understand, anything that was going on up front!    Eventually my infections cleared up, with massive and recurring doses of antibiotics.  By the time I was in grade-6 I was actually testing at a grade 8 or 9 level.  

A surprisingly simple thing really, yet my self-esteem in this context was essentially non-existent throughout my childhood because of it.  

I had forgotten all of this.  Or maybe I put it aside, locked away in my brain so that it wouldn’t affect me.  A legitimate defence, but one that would contribute to further damage down the road.

For example, early on, I would get into fights all the time.  I may have been deaf, but I was also savvy enough to know when someone was making fun of me.  Later on, when I got some decent hearing back, I had the same prompt response with words instead of fists.  As some of my friends will attest, back then I could “nail” anyone with a quip or a well placed insult.

I realized it was not pleasant at all.  Sometimes, when anger welled up, I’d level my talent against family and friends.  This just would not do, this wasn’t the person I wanted to be!  It took me over a decade, to kick this belligerent habit once and for all.  

All this from recurring sinus infections when I was a kid.

Kind’a makes you wonder don’t it?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Self serving crooks & crooks

It seems to be the little things that get you in the end.  Getting scammed in a sting, government ignorance, lack of justice, you know: the little things.

Last night on French CBC, again I was watching Quebec’s consumer protection show La Facture.  This time they were grieving about used car fraud, in the form of rolling back car odometers.

The gist of the story was that the unscrupulous dealer would buy a car at 160000km (that’s 100K miles) worth some 3500$.  Then he’d roll back the odometer to 80000km and sell it for 10000$.

This is a nice tidy little profit for a of day’s worth of work, and screwing the little guy in the process.

Immediately I thought: “Man I just have to blog this.”

They went on reiterating the same crap for a ½ hour.

By the way, cars are actually easier to roll back nowadays because of the electronics involved.  A laptop, a connector and a chunk of software you can get off the ‘net and you are in the scamming business.  Long past are the days of putting a drill to the odometer cable and running it all night to turn over the 99999mile mark.

It is becoming a national crisis.
And the police?  Nada.
And the government? Nada.

Why is it that the government will do nothing?  The answer is so simple it’s not even funny.  Taxes!

Sales tax is much better on a higher-priced vehicle than that 160k-km beater.  It is becoming a massive problem for the consumer and a massive cash cow for the gubmint.
Need I say more?

Another example: inter-province accords.  Quebec and Ontario and even some American states share ticketing information on motorists.  Again this is revenue enhancement for the provinces.  But they share nothing between themselves on true and registered mileage on cars!  Oddly enough American citizens have much better protections for this.

Besides, what’s the business case?  There is no revenue in it.  

And for those select few who still don’t believe, here is a semi-related morsel if you haven’t seen it before: the Quebec government abolished the cities responsibility for road conditions.  In other words if your car is damaged because of potholes, the city is not responsible.

This was voted as a no-cost “gimme” to the cities for taking over the local provincial highway costs.  It saves the cities potentially millions a year in settlement costs and reduced road maintenance since there is no onus to keep the local roads up to snuff.

One could argue that this is saving taxes for the citizens, ie. not having court costs and settlements... one could also argue that it's the government's job to protect its citizens not shaft them.

But there is an update to this from last week’s show: you should still sue.  If you can prove the city was negligent, this falls under another chapter of the law and you could get some compensation.

The Muslim Impasse

A little more than a week ago, I was following up on the attacks against Canadian troops in Afghanistan. I was gathering some information on the net and came across the typical small 300-word article as to what happened, and about 6000 worth of opinions below it.

Most of these opinions weren’t related to the article, but simply to the subject in general, and not even related to Canadian troops at all.

One American reader voiced an opinion about how Muslims should all be lumped together and that we, as Christians, shouldn’t bother to differentiate between the extremists and not. He said this in about as many words, and nothing else. I will call him “our hero”.

Since I’d already expressed my thoughts on this, I re-examined my stance just in case I was totally off the ball. It doesn’t happen often, but I will admit it does occur, well, at least some times. So I abstracted the fact that there are factions of Christianity that we Christians have already disavowed point blank. I started with a clean slate.

If the world at large gets a good hate on for the Muslims, as per the recommendation of our hero, I see two possibilities happening and they aren’t mutually exclusive.

We can bank that the extremists will become more violent. I don’t see how they’d become less so.

On the one hand, the enlightened Muslims could dissociate themselves with the extremists, while remaining true to their dogma, assuming it really is one of non-violence. I’ve not studied their religion, I have no intention of doing so, but I will also not believe lopsided media reporting that the Muslim faith is one that is inherently vindictive or genocidal.

So we might see a fissure between the extremists and the overall cause. I’m not saying Muslims will secede en-bloc, not at all, but a definite departure from the all-encompassing support touted in the media, among their different selves.

The second thing that can happen is that they decide to close ranks. Now this would be a serious bitch. As if we didn’t have enough violence with the extremists as it is, our hero would certainly have his wish. Not something I’m inclined to agree with.

Obviously our hero is one of those convinced of his own superiority and has an irrational desire to go to war. As I see it, one goes to war for two reasons: the first, for a presumably just cause, and the second is if you are convinced you will win. Obviously, our hero is convinced.

I think I’ll stand by my original position, which is recommending dissociating from the extremists. And in order to lead by example, I will be the first to dissociate from our hero.

PS. “Our hero” is a phrase from one of my favourite movies Kelly’s Heroes. Telly Savalas, may he rest-in-peace, playing Master Sergeant Big Joe disgustedly calls an aircraft “our hero”. The aircraft in question, also American, had just finished wiping out all of Kelly’s platoon vehicles with rockets and machine gun fire.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Meds feds and brain deds

Man alive, do I ever NOT want to defend the pharmaceutical industry. Of course, with an introduction like that, you know I will…

Last Tuesday was a show on French CBC (Radio-Canada) called La Facture. I taped it and watched it this weekend. This is a weekly consumer-protection show. You send in your grievance, they investigate. More often than not, the person or company you had grievance against will either settle, or at the very least your file will be moved to the top of the pile. A great equalizer if there is one.

Then this episode happened.

To make a long story short, there is a prescription product on the Canadian market, which has gone up in price by some 300%. This pill’s increase was due to a change in manufacturer. The new manufacturer uses the price increase to finance its customer support (something near and dear to my own heart) and for clinical studies in the U.S.

The bitch is that the clinical studies are for the American market, which has not yet gotten FDA – Food and Drug Administration approval for the product.

Oh, scandal of scandals!

This becomes of massive spider web of all that is wrong with the Canadian psyche.

There are so many incongruities jumping over themselves that it’s difficult to know where to begin!

I’ll start with the pharmaceutical companies. They make billions of dollars of profits every year. Notwithstanding that profit is a loosely used term in the media meaning either: revenue, brut profit or net profit, depending on which is the more damning.

I don’t want to discuss how much profit is enough. Everyone has a diverging opinion on this. Canadians, in particular, are allergic to net profits in excess of 2 or 3%. This probably has something to do with the amount of taxes we pay. It’s OK for the government to rake in obscene amounts from its populace, whereas a company trying to make a living is frowned upon. This is a self-defeating dichotomy that I have touched on in the past and may yet entertain fully in another blog entry.

Billions of dollars are spent in lobbying for sure, but also research and development, tests both clinical and field trials. Then the lawsuits come, and they cost millions or better. Then production and manufacturing costs enter the fray, especially for the esoteric and bizarre medicines.

Depot-Lupron is one of my favourite bizarre meds. It has side effects leading up to and including death! Its application is a complicated manoeuvre that has to be done or taught by trained medical personnel. Its uses are select, and when prescribed for a just cause, there is no alternative to it. By and large it is some seriously nasty shit, but it is necessary. Just Google it on the internet, and hang on to your britches.

The lawsuits alone, stemming from the side effects and field trials would instantly dissolve medium sized countries’ governments! It’s about 1200$ a crack in Canada, for a one month dose. There is no way a pharmaceutical company can defend itself against lawsuits on this product for just 1200$ a dose, given it’s limited scope. We are not talking about Tylenol here.

Now, assuming the lawsuits don’t destroy the product for the people who still need it, how is further research going to be funded to improve or to replace it? There is no way at 1200$ a dose. Kinda fucks up a monthly mortgage don’t it?

The true cost of putting something this dicey to market is insanely high. It needs to be financed by the other products in the company’s line. The smaller the company, the less product lines it has, the higher the overall cost will be. A one-trick company will die unless it happens upon a Holy Grail, and even then, this might not be enough.

In any research and development, you can count on 7 to 1, or worse, success ratio (I am quoting this old number from memory and I do forget the source, I’m sorry). That means that for every 7 products that you seriously invest in, only one will work. This was certainly the case at Nortel, which I observed first hand, while I was there. One case in point that I remember: a 17$million lab for a next generation optical transport system that never made it. And that’s just the laboratory!

Tightly controlled risk management will reduce the investment into the unsuccessful ones, but by the same token, stumbling upon the Holy Grail is also reduced. The business case being a guiding factor in risk management. So it becomes imperative that the products that do make it to market be sufficiently profitable to pay for the 6 others that failed, and to establish some financing for the future.

Note that the stock market seems to be a halfway decent solution to finance the product when it begins to look promising. But it’s not so good for the rest, especially if lawsuits are involved, like the Depot-Lupron.

For sure, the pharmaceutical companies aren’t hurting, I have no love lost there. And the billions of dollar may be too much money, I just don’t know. But after my own experience in R&D I’d say it’s probably just adequate for our future welfare.

Now back to the panicked lady on the show. She was bitching and grieving that she shouldn’t have to pay the 300% increase for lobbying the FDA for the Americans. I paraphrase: “They have lots of money, they should pay for their own lobbying. It’s scandalous!”

Obviously, she was reacting to the singular piece of information that she was given about the new manufacturer covering the cost of lobbying with the price hike. I’d react the same way in the same circumstances. It hits too close to home for her to be rational. This is quite understandable.

But reality is staggeringly different. Most of the, so-called rich, American research is handed over to Canada basically for free. We Canadians profit largely from American research monies, while our contribution is to screw their research companies as fast as possible.

I don’t know all the details, but I do know that generic medicine makers in Canada are not subject to the same copyrights as in the U.S. In essence, we can go generic some 10 (I think) years before they can. So we get to pay much less for our meds a lot sooner.

In fact, the Quebec government even had a publicity campaign waged against the brand named meds in favour of the generic ones. “They cost much less”, the ads would say. The conspiracy here is simple: the Quebec government through a well played but ill-conceived revenue gambit seized the pharmaceutical insurance industry. It is now in their best interest to reduce the cost of meds paid through their insurance programs.

A second possible conspiracy, and this is hypothesis on my part, is that the generic makers contributed to campaign funds, whereas the brand-name companies didn’t.

By the way, the insurance gambit is costing the government dearly. They are losing their shirts in this stupid deal. More taxes to come, I’m sure.

So this approach is actually screwing the American research into the ground because generic meds are now available on the internet some 10 years before they were supposed to be. That’s 10 years of research funding undercut, simply for being gracious.

In any other realm this would be defined as underhanded, dishonest and downright, well, scandalous. Very un-Canadian in my book.

Back to our good lady and her crippled husband, and about the medicine he so badly needs to live any kind of life.

You see this coming right?

It is made in the U.S… but it’s not an available prescription to Americans!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Technology Whoas

There has been a slight problem with my blog system. Luckily I have not lost any entries, although I do take periodic backups.

I have been using MS Word for creating my blogs and with the help of the word-to-blog extension I could simply publish right from Word. This has now failed, I cannot auto-login to my account.

The resulting frustration has caused me to hunt down the problem. But I still haven't found the solution, at least not yet. Of course there is no support for these free tools so I am left to my own devices. Damned near destroyed my blogs in the process of troubleshooting.

So I am writing this entry tonight, using the piss-ant interface supplied with the blogger dashboard. I shouldn't complain really, it's the first major error I've encountered since beginning this exercise back in August.

I am somewhat amazed at how easy, but simultaneously difficult, web tools can be. I am no slouch at computers; I do have a bachelor’s degree in computer sciences after all. Yet I am sometimes stumped at the designs of certain tools. This blog system is an example.

Everything is geared towards making things easy for the user. It's so easy in fact that I actually have no idea how anything works, and hence my troubleshooting problems. Everything is hidden behind so-called easy-to-use interfaces: install such-and-such and it works... sometimes.

It really is a new experience for me. I understand computers and programs, inherently. Yet when faced with these plug-and-play tools, I feel computer illiterate.

My first stumble was several years ago, back when I was a Unix guru. I was a senior systems administrator and by general admission, I was very, very good - not my words. Yet, as soon as I was coerced in using a Mac - Macintosh personal computer - I'd feel like a newborn with it’s hands and feet bound.

Now, Unix is one bitch of a system. There is a steep learning curve to it, vocabulary to learn, and a complexity to even the simplest task that is daunting at best. However, it is inescapably logical. Always. A vast amount of knowledge may be required to accomplish a task, but this knowledge will be consistent throughout the system. An added bonus, the man pages - on-line manual - for Unix is amazingly well laid out and complete, if cryptic, but then, no more so than any help pages from Microsoft.

On the Mac, if you want to eject your diskette from the computer chassis, you have to drag it into the desktop garbage can…

My first thought would be: if I put it in the trash, it’ll get nuked! My files will be “trashed”. Makes sense? No, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s not supposed to: It’s supposed to be easy to use, so making sense, thereby, goes out the window.

Nevertheless, for the non-expert, the Mac is by far the easier solution to use.

So I am now stuck in a world of hidden logic: where you need an MSN MySpace to define your existence in order to chat on-line with people that you contact with Messenger, through a Hotmail account linked to a .Net Passport user-id, but only if you need to use other MS services.

It’s all very easy! #$%*&!

You can change your message font to make it unreadable, get automatic notification that you’ve got useless mail, get news flashed piles-o-stuff about which you don’t care.

But god help you if you try change your profile information.

Again, it’s a question of having done it once, or rather someone else walking you through it. Neither of which appeals to a computer geek like me.

Worse, and what if it fails?

You only have one option: reinstall. If this doesn’t work, you are truly screwed. Maybe that’s why they charge some 15 grand for a Microsoft certified engineering course?

Anyway, I’ve already tried reinstalling the word-to-blog tool, to no avail. Obviously there is something wrong at my end. I’ve proven this by creating a whole separate account and blog.

So I’m eyeing Word with a malicious intent. I’ll probably have to reinstall that too in order to fix this. The problem is that I have a mess of templates and settings I really don’t want to lose...

Alternately, I could just cut and paste, but that’s just soooo lame.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Church Mongrels

… I just came upon some life altering information. Not that my life will actually be altered.

Anyway, I took a couple of IQ tests on Tickle and while the results are awesome, I think it pretentious on my part to share them here, since I believe these tests are completely bogus.

The real juice was in the description, and I quote:

“You are a quick study and so have a tendency to look for and find the deeper meaning in things. You might intellectualize a situation or muse about its layers of complexity, making grand-scale associations. While others are relieved to have tangible, concrete information to work with, you may find yourself easily bored and so you seek more intellectual content.”

To back up this point, I quote again from a respected and well liked co-worker: “you analyse the shit out of everything.”

This explains so very many things. The epiphany I had this dreary Saturday morning explains why I don’t go to church anymore. I’m a catholic believer, if not practitioner. But I haven’t been to Sunday mass in ages, eons even.

It is now clear as to why: I got bored.

There was a priest in Montreal whose sermons were bloomin’ hilarious. This guy was a real comedian and it’s all I could do not to break into uproarious laughter. Church being what it is, this would have seemed, unseemly?

I remember going there one time with my dad. He was smiling at the stream of non- ending jokes, one liners and double entendres during the sermon. I was holding my sides to keep quiet. The rest of the congregation was glazed over and apart from a select few, all seemed to be in stasis - this is a Star Trek term, which would mean “dead” in any other context. I leaned over to my dad and asked what gives, pointing to the zombies?

He just shrugged.

I understood then, quite unequivocally, that a majority of people were there as a show of face, not so much a show of faith. Except for those select few, no one was paying any kind of attention to the comedian up front.

Upon exiting the heavy but well lit 1960’s cement establishment, I asked myself: what’s the point?

And I could not find an answer.

If the sermon held some secret to the meaning of life, the universe and everything* then I was truly at a loss to figure how this gathering of unlike-minded individuals was helping me understand, well, anything.

The sermon itself may have some deeper message, that in time I would begin to internalize, but so help me, the gathering was for naught. The priest could have simply called me to a meeting in a small conference room with more success.

When I was a kid, my teachers and other powers kept telling us that church wasn’t the building but rather the people gathering inside. In point of fact, church is both. But I did understand their point; I just never understood why this mattered.

I’m a little antisocial to being with, so trudging my sorry ass out of bed to church every Sunday was just a little more than my social demeanour could put up with. The last nail in that coffin was the above incident in Montreal.

My own path took me away from the church, both people and building, but I never stopped believing in a higher entity. Whether the Holy Mary was a virgin or not, I really don’t care, nor do I give the posterior of a rodent about walking on water. Given enough technology, all this is inherently possible, even resurrection! My mention of Star Trek earlier wasn’t a fluke.

The Holy Spirit on the other hand is filled with possibilities in my mind: call it heart, call it soul, call it conscience, sub-conscience, the sole connection to the universe, moral imperative, innate conduct… holy shit! Now this is something worth thinking about.

Yet I still didn’t get the connection with the gaggle of zombies, until this morning.

I was looking for a deeper meaning from the get go! They weren’t. I must now revert to my humanistic side and allow to each his own: it’s reasonable to me that everyone gets something different from their church, or synagogue, or whatever the name used for their congregation.

So my disappointment was actually misplaced: I shouldn’t have been confused about what they were looking for.

But by god, simply out of respect for the rest of your congregation, if you’re gonna show up the least you can do is pay attention!

* The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams