33 1/3 Anniversary Pictures

Posted: December 2, 2015 in Personal
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Our Anniversary Cake

A few weeks ago Roberta and I celebrated our 33 1/3 Wedding Anniversary with a “Bring Your Own Vinyl” party.

For those who were there (and anyone else who might be interested) here’s a link to the online album with our pick of the pictures that were taken that night. Our thanks to Denise Zimmer for providing us with these digital memories.

Our Party Pictures Album (LINK)

Gearing Up for The Next Ride

Posted: December 2, 2015 in Personal

I was reading yesterday, from a number of sources, about the start of human trials for what they hope will be an anti-aging drug called metformin. Apparently the work they’ve been doing on mice and roundworms has resulted in the little critters living 40% longer. Not only that but they were healthier and “friskier” too (read, still getting it on with other mice and roundworms.)  [UK Telegram Article] If the human trials, with volunteers in their 70s and 80s, yield similar results we could see average human lifespans in the 110s or even the 120s.

This got me thinking; and not about the greater ramifications for society as a whole (and there are plenty of things to consider there). My top-of-mind question is more personal… what’s the use of living to see 120 years if the last 60 of them are spent riddled with cancer?

I know, I’m such a downer. Living longer should be a good thing, why spoil the party with cancer? Well, the problem is I’ve just seen too much of it. In the last 18 months I’ve been to 9 funerals, and there were 4  more I couldn’t bring myself to go to because it is just too painful out-living my friends. Most of them, not all, but most of them died of cancer or related complications. So my question holds… why live for 120 years if cancer is going to make it a life barely worth living?

Those of you who know me have likely figured out where I’m going. Even those who don’t can imagine what’s next, and I’m making no apologies for it. Yesterday was “Giving Tuesday” that recently created annual event designed to help us feel less guilty about how much we spent on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. What better day to launch my efforts for the 2016 Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer; the annual 200km cycling fundraiser for Cancer Research at the Princess Margaret in Toronto. However, yesterday got very busy with broken ovens and appliance shopping so you’re getting this today instead.

RTCC 2015 t-shirt

The 2015 Team t-shirt containing the names of people with cancer we are riding for; living and deceased.

I’ve been with the Ride since the beginning in 2007. I started riding because there’s a huge history of cancer in my family; my Dad died of it when he was 56, as did his father, my brother lost an arm to it while he was in high school. And the number of friends I’ve seen impacted by it could fill a t-shirt, literally (see pic at right). So I started riding, the first year on my own, in later years with Team Kortright, a great bunch of people who care as much or more than I do. Some of them are cancer survivors themselves, all of us have friends and family on the t-shirt. And so, the Ride Continues!

Many of you already know about the Ride To Conquer Cancer. You’ve been with me through my personal cancer story and you’ve supported Team Kortright and I in the past. You know who you are and once again – I Thank You! If you intend to support the cause again this time around may I suggest clicking on the link at the end of this post and get that donation in now so it counts toward your 2015 tax receipts!

If you don’t know me or we’ve only just recently met, then here’s the Reader’s Digest® version of the story.

In October of 2010 I was diagnosed a branchial cyst in my neck. After it was removed a biopsy lead to the discovery of cancer in my tonsils. That was the year the Ride became even more personal. After 1 surgery, 37 radiation treatments, 5 years of check-ups without re-emergence, and a whole lot of support from whole lot of people I was declared cancer free and cut loose from the process in June of this year. I was 56 when I was diagnosed (same age as my father was); now I’m 61 and if what my father told me just before he passed is accurate then I am now the longest living male in my direct line – ever. I bear that distinction because unlike previous generations, mine is the first to have access to the treatments and technology needed to beat cancer—at least sometimes. I thank God and an army of researchers that I live in more advanced times.

I was fortunate that we caught my cancer so early and treatment was so successful! But there’s still a lot of work to do, the nine funerals testify to that. So I’m asking you again this year to help me continue the fight to Conquer Cancer, in all its forms. Click on the link below and make a donation. You’ll also find a link to the Team Kortright page so you can support the other members of the team. Do it before New Year’s and you’ll get a receipt against your 2015 taxes (after New Years you’ll still get a receipt but for next year ‘natch).

If you can’t right now, I fully understand. No worries, we have lots of opportunities to donate planned. (#fair_warning).

There’s also a link where you can join Team Kortright and ride with us. If you are so inclined we would love to have you join us. Share your story, share the Ride, and share in the adventure.

Thanks Everyone!

Donate to my Ride to Conquer Cancer campaign by foll0wing this link.

http://www.conquercancer.ca/goto/dennis_gray_2016

 

Je Suis Charlie

Posted: January 8, 2015 in Current Events, Personal, Society
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Yes, I am Charlie! We all are.

The massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo (translation: Charlie Weekly; named for Charles Shultz’s iconic everyman) is not just about freedom of the press; it’s about the right of every person to live free and say what’s on their minds without fear!

It’s also about art; specifically, the art of satire. Since the earliest days of human civilization the number one sign of a tyrannical government, administration, monarchy or any other form of leadership is the suppression of criticism. Even Emperor Nero, for all his many faults would pardon the satirists in advance of their performance so they could present their art without fear of not living long enough to get to their next gig.  In fact, the Muslim author, Al-Jahiz, introduced satire into Islamic texts “based on the premise that, however serious the subject under review, it could be made more interesting and thus achieve greater effect, if only one leavened the lump of solemnity by the insertion of a few amusing anecdotes or by the throwing out of some witty or paradoxical observations. ” [1]

So it affects us all; even more so in our new digital, media-enhanced society because so many of us have become publishers of our opinions. For example; I have this blog. I do not have a huge following (according to the stats my largest audience for any given post was 76— not even enough circulation to get Google Ads interested), but as cathartic and/or narcissistic an exercise it may be, in a free society I have the right to express myself here, in this way, without fear of violence to my person.

So do you when you post to your Facebook page, or throw that inappropriate selfie up on Instagram, or even share you Grandmother’s recipe for pork roll ups on Yummly. We are all publishers in one way or another and it is freedom of speech that allows us to do so.

However, freedom of speech does sometimes bite us in the ass. The same freedom that lets us share what is important to us allows others to share what we would consider offensive. The problem is, if we pass laws that prevent the offensive, idiotic, bigots from having their say then that same law can one day be turned around and used to shut us up as well. It’s why I oppose hate speech legislation. As Evelyn B. Hall expressed on behalf of Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” [2]

Je-suis-CharlieSo for the next few days I’ve changed my profile pic and cover photo on Facebook to reflect my grief at the slaughter of four cartoonists and their co-workers in France. I’m no satirist, or even really an author, but I have an opinion and I value the right my society gives me to express it.

Je suis Charlie.


 

[1] Bosworth, Clifford Edmund (1976), The Mediaeval Islamic Underworld: The Banu Sasan in Arabic Society and Literature, Brill Publishers, ISBN 90-04-04392-6.

[2] Right now many of you are fuming, “That was Voltaire!” But actually it was one of his biographers Evelyn Beatrice Hall who wrote the line as an example of Voltaire’s beliefs. It’s been miss-attributed to him ever since.

“They shot the children in each chair. I couldn’t watch it. When I grow up, I will destroy their world, I will destroy their children — I won’t let them be.” An unidentified child survivor of the massacre in Peshawar, Pakistan. (Italics mine.)

It chilled me to the bone when I read these words in this article in the Huffington Post. I can wrap my head around a father talking this way, as much as I recoil at the thought of such an act; but when I realize that these words are coming out of the mouth of a child the impact of the horror is so much greater. It staggers my mind and tears at my heart.

This is where hate is born; and it is why blood feuds, jihad, and crusades continue generation after generation. No one would deny the need for the men who did this to be punished, least of all me. These men must be found and brought to justice; swiftly and publicly. But these words are not about justice, they are about revenge.

I will destroy their children“—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The lure of revenge is strong, seductive even, and not without a certain level of justification. It seems only natural that the way to end the pain is to visit it upon the ones who caused it. I dare say that if I was in their shoes I would feel the same way myself. But it seldom works that way.

It has been said that every human weakness is a human virtue gone out of control. It starts as seeking justice for the victims, a good, proper and righteous act. But it seldom stops there. The quest for justice is wrapped in righteous indignation and morphs into vengeance. Vengeance unrequited quickly devolves into revenge, which is fuelled only by hate. This is because revenge cares not who pays the price as long as somebody does, and even then it is rarely enough. The hate continues long after the perpetrators are dead. The cycle continues.

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Luke 6:27-28 English Standard Version (ESV)

This is hard—really hard. In fact, some would say it’s next to impossible; especially in this context. But there’s simply no other way to break out of the cycle of hate. For generation upon generation human beings have sought revenge to no good result. In these words Jesus shows us the way out. Now understand, he is by no means saying the guilty go unpunished. That is never the intention if this passage. But it must never go beyond seeking justice. “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord and for good reason, we aren’t equipped to resist the lure of revenge. But to the one who burns with indignation Jesus words answer the question, “But what am I supposed to do?”

We must never return evil for evil, hate for hate, cursing for curses. It has never worked in all of human history and it never will. The solution is clear; battle evil with good, counter hate with love, return blessings for curses.

It is not easy, never has been. Not for me, or for you; nor will it be for the child who speaks of killing other children. My prayer for him/her and for all of us is that one day, when the physical wounds are healed, they and we will find the strength to turn aside from the way of hate and walk a better path.

Shalom.

star is bornWell, that’s another “Christmas Show” at Guelph Little Theatre wrapped up and put away. We call it the Christmas Show because it’s usually aimed at kids and because of it’s chronological proximity to the Holiday Season; even though more often than not it isn’t about Christmas. I really get a kick out of doing these pantomimes each year. It’s a present in a very real sense of the word.

It’s a present to me because I get to do a host of audio gags that just don’t fit into productions like Doubt, or Death of a Salesman (although I suppose there are a few places in Shakespeare where a well places rimshot might work.) It’s a chance to do a few things I don’t normally get to do as well. This time around I got to figure out how to make an unplugged microwave “cauldron” light up and beep on cue. It’s just a whole lotta fun!

It’s a present to the Guelph Little Theatre as well because it’s the best type of show to introduce a whole new generation to the joy of live theatre. The pantomime is always youth and kid heavy and this year there was a lot of kids I’ve never seen before, and a few adults actually. Their youth and energy is absolutely contagious. Though, like any show, it can be tiring spending 3 moths working on a production, this year I was just a little less tired, and a little more pumped about the season. The best part though is knowing that some of these kids will be back. They’ve caught the bug and will be around on other more serious productions to bring their energy and enthusiasm to bear on those projects as well. I can’t wait to see it!

It’s also a present to the community, as is every production we mount at Guelph Little Theatre. It’s easy to get caught up in the big screen experience. I won’t deny it. However, some of my most emotionally touching and compelling experiences have been had sitting in a small intimate theatre watching the unfolding of the human condition happen live, right there in front of you, only a few meters away. And while Bill Murray and Meryl Streep aren’t going to climb down off the screen and ask you how you liked the film; these wonderful local actors, who work just as hard I think, on their own time, for no money (it’s all volunteer folks) but rather just for the love of the art, are happy to meet with you after the lights go down and share a few thoughts over a drink in the lobby.

But unlike a lot of Christmas presents this one gets “wrapped up” after it’s been enjoyed. We put everything away and sweep off the stage until the next show. Which you can get tickets for here!

Community theatre has become the second biggest part of my life after faith and family. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience and working with this wonderfully crazy cast and crew on “Once Upon a Witch” has only served to re-enforce that. The list of who to thank for that is as long as the full list of everyone involved. I owe each and every one of them for the gratitude I feel.

But as usual two stand out: our Director Tim Campbell, and my personal little “Morty” (stage manager) Beth Freeth. Thanks to you both so much for including me!

See you next year!

Number 7 on my Turning 60 List goes as follows:

Outliving your friends really sucks. It’s happened too often. Lately it’s been happening more and more. The longer I live the worse it’s going to get. Like I said, it sucks!”

Today offered up more evidence of this.

I first met Gary Chapman working on the set for “Death of Salesman” at Guelph Little Theatre in 2006. He and his wife Lin were in charge of building and decorating the set. When we went on to WODL  Festival that year he was the one who coordinated moving what was essentially a two-story house from our stage to the one in Sarnia. To put it frankly – he impressed the hell out me! One of the most amazing experiences of my life.

That experience was re-enacted in part when Gary and Lyn served as technical directors when Guelph Little Theatre hosted the WODL Festival a couple of years ago. It was such great fun. One of the best March Breaks ever. Gary proved once again why he was so loved and respected by so many.

You noticed the past tense right? Yeah, Gary died this morning. He’d been sick for a while. Cancer–what else?  He and Lyn were scheduled to host the 5th Annual Arthur Awards Gala back in September. He couldn’t make it because of surgery. I guess it was too little, too late.

To describe him as warm, friendly, talented, and dedicated is understatement. He was all you could hope for and more. The theatre community in Guelph and area has lost a tremendous friend and talent. To say he will be missed is to engage in more of the aforementioned redundancy. But, it needs to be said.

It’s gonna take a while to process this, but for now…

Goodbye Gary, gonna miss you pal.

Gary Chapman

 

Suicide in the Bible

Posted: September 30, 2014 in Personal

Given the number of cases of suicide that have made the rounds in social media of late I will be following this series with interest. I have often found Dr. Mariottini’s insight of benefit and share this article for others who may have a similar burden for the suffering on their hearts.

Dr. Claude Mariottini - Professor of Old Testament

Every society and every culture has to deal with the problem of suicide. Taking one’s life is, in general, a phenomenon that most societies have rejected, and yet, the reality of suicide is present in every society, past and present.

Since suicide happens every day, people have taken different views about suicide and the eternal consequences for people who take their own lives. Ethicists and theologians differ on their views about suicide because neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament explicitly condemns suicide.

Most Christians are highly influenced by the views of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas on their view of suicide. Although the early Church Fathers allowed the taking of one’s life under certain circumstances, Augustine believed that suicide was not allowed in any circumstance. He believed that anyone who took his or her own life was beyond repentance because that person had violated the sixth commandment which clearly…

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