3 Movies to remember along the path of Social Distancing :

Cool Hand Luke

I went to a Starbucks with a friend the other day, when asked for ‘my name for the order’ I replied “Wilson, and can I ask you a favor please? I’m a little hard of hearing at the moment, when our coffee is ready would you mind calling my name in your best booming Tom Hanks voice?”

My friend is a therapist and as we waited, I turned and commented:

There certainly is no shortage of crazy going on with all this COVID-19 new world order bullshit eh? Your business must be booming

Her reply made me think “No, but there sure is a shortage of available help!”

Social distancing, confinement and mask wearing has created more than a physical distance between us. It has atrophied one of our most primary needs – to feel a part of -to connect.

Added to these protocols is the change for most of us in our work life – which we all too often allow to define us. Where we do it, how we do it and who we do with, in most cases has been dramatically altered.

Further, the other third of our waking lives- our social life– has equally been turn on its ear.

Closed are the restaurants, decimated are the daily water cooler connections, beer league hockey, even the community of the classroom within Universities has been redefined as 4 people trapped in a basement apartment watching Zoom.

Heartbreak is rampant, as birthdays pass without contact, graduations pass without congratulatory hugs and deaths pass without the closure of gathering.

All this has amped up our sense of isolation and detachment to an 11.

So what?

Is not isolation and detachment the path to enlightenment chosen by wise monks? They seem respected and serene, so, what’s the problem?

‘The problem’ occurs when we do isolation and detachment not in the pursuit of something but when it is forced upon us. Remember “The Box” in Cool Hand Luke?

 “What we have here is a failure to Communicate!

And the “problem” is subversive and insidious.

Many like to call it Covid Crazy- and as we all know it’s raging more epidemically than the actual pandemic itself.

Evidenced initially by the gold rush to buy toilet paper, we all became consumed with a me-first-protectionist-survival-mode mentality. This was followed by an “us versus them” divisive flame -which is further fanned, as we now know, by the “social” media we use to “connect”. Now it would appear we have arrived at the spot on this Country Fair Fright House Ride, I like to call  the “Fuck it! Fork in the road

Cute little euphemistic names apart, the impact on us as individual elements within the blanket of society is not to be underestimated.

Anger seems to surface more freely as a symptom of the frustration with heartbreak we all feel as a result of life not unfolding as we had grown to expect.

The new normal has exiled many among us to spend far too much time in the confines of our own mind, which for most is a dangerous neighborhood never to be ventured into alone.

Let’s go back to the Monks for a moment, while isolation and detachment can produce serenity, they would also tell you that the road to serenity meanders through A Wizard of OZ type of Haunted Forest of the mind, BEFORE arriving at the awareness that the mind and feelings need not to define us.

The Wizard of Oz

Sadly, in detached isolation many do follow the first whispers of the mind and “Turn Back”, or at least momentarily turn away.

The most poignantly clear evidence of which is witnessed within in the escapist solutions that are most readily available to todays’ society:

 In a recent study in Quebec daily substance use have gone from pre confinement levels of 11% to 27%-, https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/substance-use-is-up-but-montreal-health-officials-say-people-aren-t-seeking-help-1.5185068

Online purchasing has shot through the roof, arguably not simply because of the obvious convenience/necessity but also due to the escapist tickle that creates the endorphin rush of clicking BUY online.

Bulk buying is also a new trend. Buying more than we need reflects our will to feel surrounded by supplies pre apocalypse. Ok while this may be hardwired within us to ensure our survival, recently I listened to a report on a new trend “Convenience Store Bulk Buying”


How many cases of overpriced Sour Patch Kids packs can one consume prior to slipping into a hyperglycemic coma?

Wait don’t answer that- I will let you know in my next post.

The point is, while the pursuit of serenity, may pass through isolation, detachment and even silence, the actual goal can only be achieved through growth of connection. Often as part of a community, be it fraternity, sorority or LGBT cribbage club.

Isolation without a purposeful sense of attachment to a connection greater than oneself will inevitably lead to the autopilot world of “every man for himself”

The good news is that we are genetically coded to connect.

Over the millennia we have been far more successful as individuals within a species when we were genuinely connected as individuals within a community.

Enter LOVE.

I’m not referring to the romantic kind, I’m referring to the Fearlessly SELF-less kind

It’s the other direction of the aforementioned “Fuck it! fork in the road

Only through selfless & fearless love can we have a shot at the ‘monk like’ experience of isolation and detachment as we simultaneously grow from within.

The brilliant light of serenity at the darkest times, shines through the simplest gestures: encouraging the struggling artist in all of us, by acknowledging and sharing the artform of any individual with others.  

This can easily  be done by  telling a friend about a local tea store, giving business to the corner restaurant as they set up a takeout counter, subscribing to the works of an online artist or simply sharing an moment with a stranger that leaves you both smiling.

Upon so doing, we instantly become aware of how much more important our own position is, woven into the fabric of something greater is than our self obsessed attempts at individuality.

Not only will this raise self worth and thus lower anger, escapism and the frequency of finger flips to others, more profoundly when we make this effort to stop self centered scrolling and reach outward, we satiate the most primal need we have, the one that roots itself at the moment of our conception- The need to be connected.


I turned to see the Barista reaching out with my coffees-smiling from ear to ear and heart to heart.

3 Questions from late night Red Lights- Part Deux

In our last episode https://makingabetterpast.com/2020/11/16/3-questions-from-late-night-red-lights-part-1/ we found our “Crusading Contemplator” carefully considering the link between redundant traffic lights and Life Lesson Lists for daughters, after a sleepless night surfing the world wide interweb.. and now the exciting conclusion…(or is it just the enigmatic beginning )?

Sleepless, I found myself reaching for the internet, you know – The Land of OZ where dreams and disasters are sold to tickle our imagination and simultaneously lull us into inaction.

Lost in Facebook’s insidious attempts to expose me to “subject matter“, seemingly telepathically presented to distance me further from or closer to, some divergent political extreme, I happened across Frances Vidakovic homespun “37 Rules for My Daughter” .

As I read, I couldn’t help but wonder ” What gets into people to inspire them to share “wisdoms” learned from life experience” …their life experience

For example #21 – “Ask for what you want, the worst thing they can say is no”, # 30 ” You have enough, you are enough” and the old standby #2– “Don’t wear underwear you aren’t proud of in case you’re in an accident and they have to cut your clothes off.”

You can see the whole list here: https://www.inspiringlifedreams.com/37-life-lessons-and-rules-to-teach-your-daughter-today/ and decide for yourself whether Ms. Vidakovic’s lessons are worth sharing with your daughter. I’m not here to judge…(well not in a “judgy” way anyway)

Further down the list, I was reminded of something I scribbled on my beside notepad in the middle of the night and I was reminded of my father.

Weeks ago I wrote the line “As if to side step pain we believe we can deny it’s existence”

I had no idea why I wrote that.

Or even how I could use it, until last night, when alone in the big empty home that once housed my family, aching from their absence, scrolling through insomnia, I began to question what is it that compels people to share lessons learned through the pain their life experience has delivered.

The paradox struck me, what is the inspiration of creating cheat sheets for the lives of others…I mean aren’t we always supposed to be chorusing Pink’s anthem “F&*king Perfect” to those we care most about?

The spoken section of the song kept echoing in my mind- “Why do I do that?…Why do I do that!?!?”

Here check it out if you need a musical interlude from this post, I found a beautiful acoustic version of this powerful song …. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3GkSo3ujSY

Challenged by the paradox of leadership of those we care about ( I mean they’re perfect right? So why do we feel we need to add something?), I went through a whole list of negative inspirations. For Example: “We think we know better“, “We are seeking to be viewed as a guru“, “We are ‘ whistling in the dark’ -trying to compensate for our own uncertainty“, but these felt dark, gratuitous and slanderous and as anyone who knows me can attest, I have always preferred a glass half full.

Eventually I came up with 3 possible positive (albeit perhaps equally misguided) inspirations behind the default logic of “transferring the answers of wisdom

  1. The obvious one is : We wish to make life “easier” for them.
  2. We hope to provide a reference point for where the wrong turn occurred, when they find themselves in the aftermath of a tough experience and can’t quite figure out WTF! just happened.
  3. Or maybe it’s to prevent them from wasting time learning lessons that have been tried and tested countless times before, thus giving them a leg up to focus on learning more important shit. Something I like to call the Darwin Model of thinking evolution.

All are noble, responsible and even selfless inspirations.

Or are they?

The flaws in all three of these parental/leadership “best practices” are as glaring as a pimple on the porcelain complexion of a budding adolescent.

In the first approach, as far as “making life easier” I found the answer to the reason behind my late night scribble.

Disappointment Hardship, and Heartbreak are not only inevitable, they are a required component of a complete life. When we hurt, we arrive at the red light and are faced with the opportunity to pause and learn. Some of us choose to drift through the red light but almost invariably, if we distract ourselves from a lesson we need to learn, we simply delay a bigger collision down the road.

To divert those we love from their own pain is to deny them the opportunity to grow from and beyond it.

In the second possible inspiration noted above, while “providing a reference point” may appear more altruistic, like wazers alerting other drivers of a police trap up ahead. The truth is, sometimes when we pull up to the red light of pain, we don’t even know how we got there. Consumed all too often by the pain itself or too focused on where we want to go. So at that point we can’t even even remember the 37 wisdoms imparted by some well intentioned tourist, who has already traveled this route.

Case in point: ever found yourself second guessing your GPS?.

And the third option, “prevent wasting time learning rudimentary lessons” Well that dog just won’t hunt.” Because it’s a proven fact … We learn everything from mistakes.

I mean we learn EVERYTHING… Important stuff like:

  • Never mix the grain with the grape
  • Never answer the question “Do I look fat in these?”
  • No matter how smart you may think you appear in short term, the banks always win the long game.

To share experience with the intention of saving those we love a few steps on their journey, is is a lot like expecting the student in grade 3 to skip to post graduate work in couples counseling without the benefit of having a grade 4 heartbreak.– it’s gonna leave that scholar with only a theoretical exposure to the experience.

This type of mentoring can’t provide some evolutionary leap in our gene pool (or pool of influence ), on the contrary, it will limit the life experience of others to, at best, the limitations of our own.

So dude what’s the answer ?!!?!

Really?!? Have you not been listening…did you not read the title ?

I can’t give you the answer…I’m just sitting here asking questions, waiting for the light to change .

For more obtuse observations, rambling social commentary and unanswered questions, please follow me here or @ http://www.richardwallace.ca

3 questions from late night red lights -Part 1

My father got to grade nine before he had to quit school to get a job to contribute to his family’s much needed revenue. At the time, the financial hardship of the great depression made this common place.

Often, that reality divided people into two camps. Judgy perspectives formed between the two schools of thought. Those who harbored resentment to shield the insecurity, from the abrupt loss of the innocence the classroom provides and those who accepted their lot hungrily pursuing life’s other more “self directed” channel of learning.

Dad fell into the latter category.

But he didn’t resent those who had achieved higher academic milestones, instead he placed great importance on the value of formal education as a compliment to the school of hard knocks.

As often was the case he backed up his values with action. On one occasion, when learning of a friend of mine who was financially unable to to make tuition, he quietly wrote a cheque covering the year, to ensure no opportunity to fully evolve was incomplete.

However his legacy extended beyond his accomplishments and material generosity, in that he was one of the best teachers I have ever known.

He read biographies voraciously and shared with those he loved the benefit of his experience through the lens of those he saw as “more educated”. Often quoting Dale Carnegie, cautioning “That’s not the way to win friends and influence people” when I appeared to be ready to take a wrong turn.

Yet his mastery of the skill set required to truly enlighten, never shone so brightly until his mentoring morphed from occasional lecturer to thoughtful questioner.

It’s four AM, you’re at a red light, on your way to work – as opposed to on your way home – and you come up to a red light.

WAIT! Hang on, are either of these options even relevant examples in a covid world?

Anyway, there’s no one around, do you furtively glance in all directions and then slip through the red light to continue on your way?

Why not – right?

No one will see, there are no cameras (maybe), and c’mon, the red light was designed to protect those who needed to cross the intersection at busier times-No?

Besides, isn’t there a rush of freedom when you make your own set of rules?

Damn straight there is!

So you break the rules, feel like a rebel and with that you feel in control of your life, sipping that extra dry soy flat white a few minutes earlier than expected, you start your day with a win.

Or did you lose a moment to just pause and exist outside the rat race?

I was surfing recently and I came across a list of “Rules to Share with My Daughter” (interestingly, there was no mention of flexible morning red light laws).

As I read the list of 37 rules I was to share as a doting patriarch, I was reminded of an early morning thought I recently scribbled about the paradox of imparting lessons learned on those we care about.

I reached for my bedside notepad and sleepily scrawled the following:

As if to sidestep pain we believe we can deny it’s existence”

What does sidestepping pain have to do with red lights and sharing life rules with your daughters?

Well that my friends, is a question, that if not comically obvious already, will be evident in my upcoming “3 questions from late night red lights-Part Deux

And for more obtuse observations, rambling social commentary and unanswered questions, please follow me here by leaving a comment below or clicking follow @ http://www.richardwallace.ca

Stay Tuned…