Headed for the Big Apple

My new friend Jennifer Cornish is headed to New York, New York in September to participate in  “United Solo” the world’s largest solo theatre festival. If you’re not sure that you can make it to the festival in the Big Apple this fall, or even if you know you can make it, remember that you can preview this wonderful talent in Fergus this month in “Shirley Valentine.”

Tickets HERE.

 

Breaking Bread With Heretics: The Table of God’s Hospitality

At first I thought I might write my own blogpost along these lines lines; but I couldn’t think of a better way to say t, so… here.

john pavlovitz

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I live just down the street from a very conservative Southern Baptist seminary.

I often sit at the nearby coffee shop and just observe people, listening as the conversations waft in and out of earshot. (Okay, so technically it’s eavesdropping but I’m currently repenting of it.)

Today as I walked up the sidewalk I could hear a man probably fifteen to twenty years younger than me at an outdoor table, lecturing two other people about God and heresy and “Truth”.

I sat and sort of marveled at him. He was so confident in his youth; so sure of himself, so authoritative, so ready with answers, his theology so fixed and unwavering.

(He reminded me a lot of someone.)

I remember that place well. Sometimes I really miss it.

Life was so much easier then, yet it’s a place I’m glad I no longer live.

I feel more vulnerable here. The lack of certainty is…

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33 1/3 Anniversary Pictures

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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

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

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.