Feeling sorry for yourself can be as addictive as any drug. It is natural to feel sad when bad things happen to you and it is proper to have some empathy for the suffering of others, but when self-pity becomes your dominant state of mind, you could find yourself in a downward spiral into despondency. You miss the joy around you. You miss the happiness that is there for you to partake. And, you miss being you to the fullest.

For me, the solution is in two parts. The first is to mourn what you have to mourn. The second is to quickly follow that with inspiration from those who have gone through more. If you are a Christian, you know there plenty of stories of saints that have endured much and rose above their suffering. (There are similar stories in other traditions.)

Recently, I discovered Maurice Tillet. Tillet was a professional wrestler, but that wasn’t his first career choice. He wanted to be a lawyer. Born in 1903 to French parents in Russia, Maurice’s cherub-like face earned him the nickname “The Angel”. He was a normal teenager until, at age 17, he was diagnosed with acromegaly. Acromegaly is a hormonal condition that results in body parts growing disproportionately large. It prevented him from studying law. Instead, he joined the navy. In one of his trips, someone convinced him to become a wrestler.

As a wrestler his unusual looks were an asset. His nickname was “The French Angel” and as ferocious as he may have been in the ring, outside he was a kind and compassionate person. He was a top draw and even become a world champion inspiring imitators. There is even a rumour that he inspired the look of Shrek. (Take a look at the photo below.)

For me, what I find inspiring about Maurice Tillet is that he is the embodiment of taking a bad situation and making something good out of it. I would write more, but I feel like making some lemonade.

Maurice_Tillet

I’ve always been the kind of person who eats the main meal before eating dessert. That was true for me even as a young kid. Don’t get me wrong. I like dessert, especially if it has some (or a lot of) chocolate. And, just because I eat my veggies first, doesn’t mean I don’t consider dessert important.

Since the previous paragraph is less about food and more about life, it is probably very obvious that I’m getting ready to share a little philosophy. Here it is: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.” I didn’t invent that, and since I have been listening to Van Morrison’s “Down The Road” album, I’m sure that CD was my most recent exposure to the expression. (There is a song on the album called, “All Work and No Play”.)

It was a busy January, February and March. My focus was on work, because it had to be. But, there is a reason for all that work and that is leisure. (I’d like to thank my alleged ancestor, Aristotle, for that insight.) So, even though my weekdays, weekends and weeknights had me consumed with work-related matters, my mind was dreaming of new things to do, to write, to draw, to make and to enjoy. And, especially to spend more time with the woman who has been patiently waiting for me.

I’ve also learend that there is always time to be good to yourself. That time is now.

Below is a link to a TED talk by Yves Morieux. In the talk, he mentions that Jorgen Vig Knudstrop (CEO of Lego) has a saying, “Blame is not for failure, it is for failing to help or ask[ing] for help.” I agree with that statement, but I would change the second part to “failing to get help”. In that way it would include, “failing to make it easy for others to help you.” I’ve seen this kind of failure. Whether it comes from stubborn pride or a poor character, it’s just sad. Picture a man who can’t swim who has somehow fallen into the sea. Then, when someone comes by to help, the drowning man starts to curse his potential saviour all the while denying that there is anything wrong. How do you help such a person?

In a roundabout way, this reminded me of some advice from a former boss. My boss’s brother was an auto mechanic. From time-to-time a customer would come in to shop with a very strong opinion about what was wrong his car. (It was almost always men who had these unflinching views.) For example, if the car is having fuel injector problems, but the customer might be insisting the mechanic replace the transmission. What should the mechanic do? What if he only fixes the fuel injector, but then, a week later, something really does go wrong with the transmission. The mechanic looks like an idiot. My boss felt that the customer was forcing the mechanic to do work that wasn’t needed. (Assuming the mechanic actually did replace the transmission, he could at least sleep well at night convinced that he only did what the customer wanted.) His advice was don’t be a know-it-all.

So, before I become a know-it-all, I’ll finish with what I take away from this: “Be nice and be humble.”

Here is the TED Talk (12m02s)
Yves Morieux – TED Talk

As I write this post, I’m in the middle of a cold. As far as colds go, this one hasn’t been that bad. (My primary symptom is a stuffed nose.) On the other hand, I am lucky to have gone flu-free this winter season… so far. I went to the flu clinic in early November. The photo below shows the number I got from the Turn-O-Matic dispensing machine. It failed to scare me and I bravely went ahead and got a flu shot. I wish everyone good health in 2014!

Is this ticket trying to scare me?

Is this ticket trying to scare me?

Some more photos taken in local parks during the last two weeks. These ones with a focus on birds.

James Park Pond with ducks

James Park Pond with ducks

A highway of ducks...

A highway of ducks…

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Gold Finch

Gold Finch

The recent ice storm hit Ontario pretty hard, and sadly there are still some people without electricity. Still, it made for some interesting winter vistas. Below are some photos I took in some Toronto parks.

Toronto Botanical Garden

Toronto Botanical Garden

Toronto Botanical Garden - Trees

Toronto Botanical Garden – Trees

Toronto Park Pond

Toronto Park Pond

In 1963, [Philip K.] Dick won the Hugo Award for The Man in the High Castle. Although he was hailed as a genius in the science fiction world, the mainstream literary world was unappreciative, and he could publish books only through low-paying science fiction publishers such as Ace. Even in his later years, he continued to have financial troubles.

In the introduction to the 1980 short story collection The Golden Man, Dick wrote: “Several years ago, when I was ill, [Robert] Heinlein offered his help, anything he could do, and we had never met; he would phone me to cheer me up and see how I was doing. He wanted to buy me an electric typewriter, God bless him—one of the few true gentlemen in this world. I don’t agree with any ideas he puts forth in his writing, but that is neither here nor there. One time when I owed the IRS a lot of money and couldn’t raise it, Heinlein loaned the money to me. I think a great deal of him and his wife; I dedicated a book to them in appreciation. Robert Heinlein is a fine-looking man, very impressive and very military in stance; you can tell he has a military background, even to the haircut. He knows I’m a flipped-out freak and still he helped me and my wife when we were in trouble. That is the best in humanity, there; that is who and what I love.”

Notes:
The above passage is adapted from the Wikipedia entry on Philip K. Dick ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_k_dick )

The movies “Blade Runner” ,”Total Recall” and “Minority Report” were based on Philip K. Dick stories. Robert Heinlein is considered one of the grand masters of science fiction. His work includes: “Starship Troopers”, “The Puppet Masters” and “Strangers in a Strange Land”.

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