December 18, 2012


You want to scream but screaming would just let them know
You want to talk but talking would only make a bigger show
Well, the curtain’s coming up and in water you’re falling down
You can try to dance on top but they’ll clap when you drown

You can try to hold it all inside but it gets out eventually
You can try to push it all out but pressure builds gradually
Well, now you feel like you’re driving in the night while blind
You want to find the shoulder but you want to lose your mind

You might have a good idea but they’ll never cooperate
You might have a disease but no one you know will operate
Well, between you and me it’s better to be sorry than angry
You might not find a way to start but in the end you’ll agree

December 14, 2012

A Christmas Update

I thought I would try a more personal approach for this blog post. I want to give an update on my piano progress so far and maybe a few of my aspirations for the new year.

First up, piano. Let me provide the full background story for those who don't know. At this point I've been playing since roughly the middle of June. I started with a private teacher who was recommended to me by a friend. It was a good introduction and I liked the laid back nature of it all. Eventually, however, she was too flaky for me and unable to keep an appointment so I had to get rid of her. I have not regretted that decision.

Starting off was difficult. I had no experience save for a little bit in high school music class. Basically, I was starting from scratch. I didn't know what any of the keys were, knew nothing about sheet music or reading it, I didn't know how to hit the keys properly, nothing. I progressed slowly but surely. Then I put in more and more time and got better and better. I introduced the left hand into my playing and found that it was ridiculously hard for me at first. So I practiced and practiced and it got easier.

Over time I've built myself up. By September I was playing Desperado by The Eagles. When I first started, I did NOT think I would be able to do something like that so quickly (keep in mind that I had to miss a lot of lessons with my first teacher so I might have even came further than that). Success is contagious. I've gone beyond that and I have a mantra wherein I try to challenge myself every time I pick a new piece. If it's not challenging for me in some way then it's a step in the wrong direction. That's how you get better, I decided, hard work and having the masochism to never play anything that's easy for you.

It's been really difficult to juggle piano with the MBA, what little curling I've done this season, and work with three firms. But I find that you make time for the things and the people who are most important to you. Sometimes things have to take to the back burner for a while but I've managed to juggle as well as any circus performer might have.

Which brings me to my next point: I'm pretty much done with juggling. My busiest term is behind me. Next year I've got three classes and one I'm already in. By all rights, it won't be as time consuming as this past term was. This is great. It means I'll have more time for the other things that matter in my life that I've been neglecting somewhat. I can improve even more and faster in piano, actually practice for curling again, give 100% to anything that school deals me, and maybe even try to reclaim a little bit of a social life.

I'm pretty excited for this holiday season and this next term. We always go through life saying that someday I'll do this or that you just want a little bit more time. Well, now I have time. I have already started doing the things that I always said I wanted to do but never felt I had the chance to until now. On a side note, doing all those things has enriched my life and have resulted in so many changes in myself that I almost feel like a completely different person than I was about a year and a half ago. All the petty things I was worried about then seem trite when compared to, not worries that I have about things now, but more like ambitions that I want to carry out and won't be stopped in doing so. I aim to carry out all my ambitions and prove myself even more than I have already. If they give me an inch, I'll take a foot.

November 29, 2012

On focus and self-confidence

I've examined a lot of different types of people: athletes, successful business people, you name it. They tend to share one thing in common and that is self-confidence that borders on belief.

The following is not going to be an academic paper. I've read my fair share of mental toughness books and have had a large amount of exposure to what needs to mentally done in order to perform well in a given activity. What I'm more interested in is providing a slightly opinionated summary of some of those things based on that research data and some empirical observations.

People who lack confidence tend to lack focus. It's probably because they lack confidence. I'm sure everyone has felt some type of confidence in their life before where you were doing something exceptionally well and knew that you would continue that over the course of the activity. Do you sometimes wish that you could re-capture that focus and apply it all the time? Well, I do too. The fact of the matter is that being self-confident is extremely important but you're never going to feel that way 100% of the time. Everyone is going to have those moments of weakness. Your job in staying self-confident in general is to attempt to time those moments so that they occur at non-critical times.

You shouldn't be thinking about some important thing in your life in the middle of a test or a sporting event; you should be focused on the task at hand and nothing else. So much of what we do is based in the mind. That's one of the reasons why people tend not to excel in activities if they have something big going on in their lives that they might be worried about. You've got to deal with that stuff first before you can expect to perform.

I always found that a nice technique was to imagine how bad failure in a given area would affect you on a scale of 1 to 10 and then compare yourself to starving children in the world or something like that and ask yourself if you've really got it so bad. Chances are, you don't. If you do, you've got my sympathies, believe me. But it's just a nice way of putting things into perspective and lessening that innate ego that we all have. Nope, unfortunately we're not the center of the universe but maybe we can be a little happier in it if we can apply ourselves the way we would like to.

People have a lot going on in their lives and sometimes you've got to make difficult choices as to what you would like to focus on for the short-term. I have some personal experience with this and it sucks. It requires some type of active sacrifice. I firmly believe that if you're focusing on more than a few things at a given time you'll start to perform poorly in all of them. I should know because I've done exactly that and have noted the resources.

It's hard to live in the moment and let that take over your mind. When you're writing a test, nothing else matters. When you're about to take a shot in that basketball game, nothing else matters.

We're scatterbrained by default. It's hard to fight that nature but it does tend to interfere with performance.

People (like me) will tell you to do certain things in certain ways and they might even be right. But, I'd like to point out that some days it rains and there's just nothing you can do about. The key is not to focus on things that are not in your control sphere. But there's an important disclaimer to that: not to blame things outside of your control when it's really your fault. That usually happens when ego comes in and that's one fine line to walk because loads of self-confidence is basically like inviting ego to the party. I believe that if you're aware of ego, you should be able to keep it at bay though you will slip up there from time to time as well.

In the end it's everything in moderation and that does apply to focus as well.

November 27, 2012

A Firefly By Moonlight

A firefly by moonlight does but flicker brightly
Its will a flame of red passion burning nightly
When I woke at twilight, it was in my ire
That I saw posts screaming neon – not fire

For the flame is as much the match that strikes
And a firefly is as embers and night are alike
Through smouldering, the heart it does consume
To replace your sun in a grave yet not exhumed

Shine on, fair firefly and fade into the bleak
Night’s cloak like a torn canvas of red leaks
Do not hurry, for time has never been a race
For even warmth can come from night’s embrace

November 15, 2012

Of Love and Stars

You feel like your heart is split in two
Like they’re trying to keep it from you
There’s a part that shines as bright as stars
And a part that still wishes it was yours

I don’t ever want to make you feel uneasy
Like love wouldn’t be enough to please me
But I’ll shoot for the moon and make you mine
Because our star light glows brighter than sunshine

Connect the dots in the sky and our hearts
We’ll paint a pretty Picasso or some better art
We’ll sew it up and throw it back in your chest
But your heart on your sleeve did suit you best

November 1, 2012

It's okay to go against the flow sometimes

I've had a rough week. I realized very quickly and almost shockingly that I am wholly incapable of simultaneously satisfying the needs and wants of a large group of people. Specifically, it's a large group of people with wildly different sets of wants. In business terms, I have failed to satisfy demand.

Let me preface the following by explaining that I've gotten "butchered" on a few reports and the like this week and I'm feeling extremely bitter. I've gotten a few marks back that I completely disagree with on every single fundamental level I have. And it all boils down to one thing: ego.

Not my ego (though that's pretty big too), but the ego of those whom I'm trying to satisfy. Self-absorbed people who think that their way is best and that no one else knows better. You know the kind of people I'm talking about: "It has to be this way. That's just the way that things work."

Here's a newsflash for you: that's not the way the world works.

The main concept here, above marks, above ego, above everything, is the fact that other people LOVE to give unsolicited advice.

It could be anything. For instance, "I think you should take this course." "I don't like the way you write." "You need to go to the gym."

It could be anything but it's all bullshit in the end. Let me explain why.

Most criticisms people have of you stems from some inner insecurity that they're not consciously aware of. Maybe the person telling you to go to the gym does think you're fat, but maybe they were made fun of as a kid and thus have issues with anyone that they perceive to be obese. They've jumped the line. They don't just want to see improvement, they see problems with those that disagree with their points of view. And that's a scary trend that I'm seeing more and more of as my rose-colored glasses are slowly being lifted.

People have their opinions and if you don't conform with the group, you must be wrong. That's what these thought processes have evolved into. Those who disagree are churned by society. Let me give an example of one person with different opinions and who acted differently. Everyone thought he was messed up. It's Albert Einstein.

Einstein was at odds with traditional school systems of his era. He expressed his thoughts that rote learning, a process based upon repetition in order to rapidly recall the meaning of words and phrases had eroded the learning process. In short, he thought one way and everyone else around him thought another way. Conventional society dictates that Einstein must be wrong. Whatever you think of relativity, you'll probably agree that he turned out to be a pretty smart guy though he had a fundamental gripe with the way that things were being taught.

Which brings me to my next point: just because many people do it or think it's right, I don't think that justifies following the pack. Applying this to what I've written above, just because the norm is to think one way, it doesn't mean that you should blindly agree like cattle.

They want things a certain way. They always will. If you're in school, give them what they want. Yes, they're on so much crack, but let them be because it's what makes them happy. Sooner or later they're gonna offer you crack too: "You have to take this. It's the right thing to do and everyone is doing it." But you know what? You don't have to do anything you don't want to and you sure as fuck shouldn't listen to people you think are wrong. Don't always go against the majority, just stick to your guns on things you're passionate about. Tell people giving unsolicited advice of any kind to fuck the hell off and don't take crack even though everyone around you is on it. Vote for freedom of mind.

October 28, 2012

How much is enough?

For this post, I would like to hone in on a specific question: how much is enough?

How much money do we need before we can be happy?

I learned something today. I learned that most economists have shifted from a view wherein the purpose of money was to have enough to enjoy life to a view which expresses the constant need for money, irrespective of how much is actually obtained. As an individual, I question this new philosophy.

Some people will hate me for even asking this question. They're investment bankers, kids with trust funds, the greedier ones in our society. I wouldn't mind making a ton of money. In fact, I would thoroughly enjoy it. But not if it compromises my life in some way.

I often wonder if we've got it wrong in North America. There's a clear dichotomy between North America and Europe where most of North America is focused on working longer and longer hours to get as much money as humanly possible while Europe seems to express family and leisure time as a prominent part of their society with monetary collection being something necessary for many of the things life has to offer, but not the primary focus.

Could you imagine what our society would be like here if we were to adopt the same ideals? Well I'm one person and I am adopting these ideals. I want to make enough money to get all the things I need and want and could care less if I make more than what I deem necessary for full enjoyment of my life. I will not work ridiculous hours for dollars I might never spend with the opportunity cost of missing out on social connections with friends and family.

Having explored that a little bit I will again ask the question, "How much money do we need before we can be happy?" I'd like to insert my own two cents at the end of this discussion as well: if we need to ask that question, are we truly on the road to happiness to begin with?

October 17, 2012

Stone Strewn Halos

Everywhere around you there are hard people
Living their lives trapped in the dark halo
You’re full of sunshine but it’s an evil
Even sun cased in by the dark can seem low

It’s like everyone around is feeling hard as stone
They’re clumping and crying but they cannot know
It’s hard for them to feel a sun that’s never shone
But cracks in the rock can let the sun seep below

October 13, 2012

Angel Fall Steal

I’ll pull you up from that gravity well
Watered with blood and sweat and tears
‘Cause I want to sew your broken wings
Ever wary of your chameleon’s sting
What’s more ironic than knowing of
A chameleon who’s afraid of change?

I’ll pull you down with me I swear
And I’ve got the scars to prove it all
I’ll make you wary of the lightning
Caring only for the flash and the din
When it’s over we will sit and tremble
Knowing that the angels did indeed fall

October 7, 2012

Some thoughts on positivity

I've had my fair share of life-altering decisions and whatnot. My absolute favorite among them all was to embrace everything positive and to rid myself of as many negative things as possible.

I mean, think about it. Everyone has their stresses, their worries, their deadlines, their obligations. Most people go ahead and let those consume them until they stop being themselves but are defined by how much they have going on in their lives. I say that's not the way to be. You should want to be defined by who you are. This is a lengthy way of putting it, but most people (unless they're psychotic or something) want to be happy in life. Guess what the secret to achieving that is? There is none. Just let yourself be happy.

When you embrace the notion that things don't keep you from being happy, only you can, then everything is instantly easier.

I should know. I've had moments of loss where I've hung on to those negative feelings. It starts to affect your behavior and eventually your disposition. One day you kind of snap out of it all and realize what you were doing. You finally see yourself the way you would have wanted to. You have to keep that perspective and stop things from making you sad.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't cry when someone dies or if you hate your boss and co-workers. All I'm saying is that stuff is negative and you don't need to base your life around it. Rather, basing your life around negative stuff will only foster negative emotions.

So be nice to people unless they give you good cause to be mean. Speak your mind but be tactful. Try to do something to improve the quality of life of yourself and others. And if anything's dragging you down below the depths, maybe it's time to cut it loose.

September 11, 2012

Insights - Not only obvious stuff?

There's a few things I would like to address for my first blog post in a while.

First, it occurs to me that people will look at the things I post and think something like, Well, this is all obvious shit. This guy must be an idiot to present things like this as revelations. Well, guess what? I'm not an idiot and I do realize that a lot of this stuff is "obvious." But just because something's obvious it doesn't mean that you won't forget it from time to time and need to be reminded of it. Anyone who's played sports knows exactly what I mean. Maybe you needed to be reminded to tweak something small in your curling delivery, get your ball toss higher up in tennis, always look at the ball in golf. The fact is, we forget some things. If someone reads these and is reminded of something they forgot to do but should, then my mission's accomplished.

On a side note, things being obvious is another great way of determining the right answer to a question. Everyone will have their own opinions on things. You've been a fly on the wall for discussions. All of a sudden, someone says something and you think, Of course, how could I have been so blind? That's obviously the right answer. That's the thing. The best answer is often difficult to come up with but sounds ridiculously obvious when stated.

Next, my main points. Something the other day triggered some thoughts in my head. Basically, because you think, you're thoughtful. Or rather, because you think you are thoughtful, it is so. If you're a worrier, people will "give" you good reason to worry. Often, if you assume the best, you'll get just that.

So much depends on frame of mind. When you expect to see sunshine you can look outside and see it even metaphorically on a cloudy day. If you expect rain, you might end your day in tears. This doesn't mean you should ignore solid facts in front of you...such as not being insane and realizing that there truly are clouds in the sky or that it's actually raining. That would be a little dangerous. But I do think that many would be better served to keep a better leash on their mental states.

August 20, 2012

Soliloquy of Night's Blind

Wrapped in thought like night’s warm embrace
Swirling lies in camouflage and stars to light my face
Endlessly looked over by a passerby to look away
Swimming in the empty night sky, sinister dark grey

Bubbles are floating about and slowly they pop
Too hard to soak up their deluge with ghost mops
A chill then fills the air and sends panic in their faces
A look of utter terror for what awaits in empty spaces

And in the heart they see what their brain cannot know
Paranoia was the crop and you reap what you sow
Ego splattering about like a grenade too soon burst
Not enough water in the sea to quench their greedy thirst

August 15, 2012

Where did all our passion go?

I often think about current times with respect to the older days. When I do get in that mindset, I tend to listen to older music from the 60s or 70s. You wouldn't think so because it's roundabout, but it's led to some interesting thought processes.

I think about the mindset of people in an era that produced better music and a lot of free spirit. I guess it depends on where you're standing since a lot of big business and fairly constructed and logical ideas happened as well. Regardless, let's focus on the lighter, more pop cultural aspects of those time periods.

I remember hearing someone speak of that Cold War type of setting and how people didn't know whether they were going to live or die or whatever. So what did they do? They lived today like there might not be a tomorrow because...Well, there might not have been. I don't want to feel like I could die tomorrow but I do think that modern society drapes us in the most dangerous type of safety blanket.

I feel like we're so well connected now that it's easy to feel like you don't matter and you're safe. We're approaching seven billion for world population - "That could never happen to me, there are so many other people out there." But you know what? That (whatever "that" is for you) could actually happen to you and we don't even realize it. That's sad.

What happened to life mattering? What happened to things mattering? What happened to people? What happened to passion?

Somewhere along the way passion died. Well, I wasn't alive around that time but I have passion. Frankly, I feel like I'm one of the few people around that does have unbridled passion. That remark will piss off anyone reading this to a huge degree. But it's true. I care what people think about me just like anyone else but not with respect to my passion(s). When it comes to that, I couldn't care if I couldn't be more wrong. I want to feel, I want to live life; I don't just want to be alive and scrape through. Otherwise, what's the point?

Society has changed? Great. We'll change it back. Or maybe I'll change it for me. I'll change it for me until it suits me and then I'll live in that world. That's a dream worth dreaming and a passion worth having.

July 30, 2012

The Knight in Shining Armor

I break my fast and rush to the armory to equip myself
I don shining chainmail, gauntlets, helm, and greaves
I spy my holiest of swords, hanging on a nearby shelf
So I take it and slip it noiselessly into my waiting sheath

Last I see, just sitting there, a shield as lovely as it is rare
It’s the shield I’ve forged through many long battles
Though the once shiny surface will now not show glare
The shield is sadly now cracked with barbs on its handle

The shield that I wield is akin to a rose with its thorns
Though it is sweet to behold, it grows bitter with touch
The shield, it will no longer do and my hands it has torn
Perhaps it is time to finally stop using it like a crutch

My sword is now blunt and has been worn to the hilt
I wash my face and see eyes as dull as the edges now are
I must learn to sharpen with resolve instead of guilt
Lest I wake from my nightmare to find the battle too far

I wrestle with morals as with the life and death of men
For in saving the innocent I do so condemn us to fall
Into a life of passing moments that we try to live again
For a knight in shining armor, the princess is his all

July 23, 2012

Sea of Hypocrisy

It’s hard to stay afloat in a sea of hypocrisy
Fish eyes see what my limitations would be
They poke holes in someone else for fear
Would that they’d look through one in a mirror

And in the river fish pretend to swim upstream
Only doing enough to stall, thinking they gleam
Some fish only pretend to be strong when they swim
They have the gall and hypocrisy suits on a whim

Some fish find food like gluttons to sweets
But hollowed words are often empty eats
Yet some think I swim too silly or seriously
They’d have to swim in the same pond to see me

July 18, 2012

True Dreams?

Sometimes I have dreams that ring true
I don’t suppose it’ll be one with me and you
If dreams are real and love is waking in one,
I’ve never slept on account of the sun

Never means maybe and sometimes, always
But I’m in the waking; you’re a world away
Let’s meet in an oasis while you sing your tune
Eyes open and that pure water is ice in my spoon

We were splashing through puddles in the rain
Too much come down to see you without strain
Got water in my eyes and pink hearts in my head
Got to wake up again and see my real dreams fed

July 17, 2012

...And now I will give you unsolicited advice

Brace yourself. This is the post where I give everyone relationship advice despite having never been in a long-term relationship myself (and enjoying that fact about myself, actually).

I pondered human nature earlier today. I guess it's one of those things that you do at work. Pretty natural daily activity, really. Anyway, I thought of how the divorce rate is so unbelievably high and wondered what the fuck is wrong with the world. In doing so, I have determined a few things which I will explain in what follows.

People often say that relationships are built on compromise. I'm sure on some superficial level, that's true - like going to see a movie you don't want to or visiting someone's awful parents. But I feel like just because things are one way in the world, it doesn't mean that we can't change them. If something like a tool or machine is not working the way you want it to, you either fix it or get a better one. Why can we not apply that logic to other things? Relationships are built on compromise - that's stupid; it's like saying that people spend and give up things in order to have a partner. Why should it be like that? In my view, two people should add to one another in some type of synergy, to add to each other instead of subtract. Maybe that's why we have so much divorce...(Maybe that's why I'm still single and like being single, haha)

That opinion probably just represents one of my policies which is not to settle for anything less than the best. That's likely the cause of divorce; people settle when they shouldn't, get some type of immediate kickback and pay for it in the long-run (monetarily and emotionally).

Food for thought - I won't follow-through on this and attempt to give an answer because I haven't thought that far ahead and might not even have the problem right. Hopefully this provokes some thought about not only the quantity of relationships you have but also the quality of them.

July 15, 2012

It's a romantic world, society just covers it up

People often wonder about what it is that they want out of life and how to get that thing. Indeed, I've had those thoughts as well and find that my answers do not come to me as readily as they might to some.

There are people who want to be doctors so they go to med school and eventually become doctors. Some decide they want to do something physical so get into carpentry, or become a personal trainer, or maybe get into construction. Others decide they would like a life of thought and learning so they go to university and then teach there when they're done learning.

I guess in my case, the hard part had been defining what I want. I come from a middle-class family so getting to that spot in either direction shouldn't be impossible and I'm still young so I have the time. However, some of the paths I've went down seem confusing to others (and even to me at times). I have a chemistry degree and am currently working on an MBA, I have an interest in piano, write poetry and stories on occasion, and somewhat less popularly, I love curling as well. So what is the fix? Become a chemist? Become a business person? Become a pianist? Become a writer? Become a professional curler (LOL, it's not like the NHL)?

I'm not saying that people know what they want to do. I'm not just talking about careers either. I'm talking about what you want to get out of life. I've found the answer to be much less simple than that of others.

I had a minor epiphany earlier and decided that the best way of describing what I want is to say that I want to live in or create a world where nothing is ordinary and every single thing has meaning. I think of society and see it as boring in the sense that people will look in a history book someday and say, "Well, of course they did this. Society was like this at the time so they pretty much had to." I don't want to overturn every single element of our society; I just don't want to look back at my life when I'm older and say, "I wish I had done this, but society wouldn't allow for it at the time."

It would be nice to find and connect with people who share something similar to this ideal. People who want everyday life to border on surrealism with a healthy touch of realism here and there. Come to think about it, I sound almost romantic. I mean that in the literary sense, as in romanticism:
"...validating strong emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as apprehensionhorror and terror, and awe—especially that which is experienced in confronting the sublimity of untamed nature and its picturesque qualities, both new aesthetic categories"

I think that style of thinking, at least, tends to summarize what I would look for in an ideal world. A place where we have a deeper appreciation of strong emotion that isn't governed by billboards and ads (guess that's why I'm in Marketing, eh?). I think that world already exists and must be rediscovered by people. It's a romantic world, society just covers it up.

July 9, 2012

So wait, what's real again?

There was something I said as a complete joke last week on Facebook that inadvertently was actually quite wise. As some of you know, I am slowly becoming more and more obsessed with the Game of Thrones television series and its corresponding books by George R. R. Martin (he's so bad ass he has to have two Rs). I jokingly said that I had thought of some House words for House Milson if our family had existed in that fantasy world. The words I came up with were "Better. Honorable. Best," meaning that you should aspire to do things that make you better, more honorable, or the best at something. And you know what? Although that was written in a humorous context, that's really not bad advice at all. In fact, I mean to follow it.

I find that interesting. Just how much of a separation is there between fantasy and reality? Anything that happens in the physical plane is, after all, processed in the mental one anyway. Who's to say this isn't just all part of a dream I'm having or that I'm part of someone else's dream. So, no, I don't discount the wisdom in certain aspects of fantasy, music, literature, etc just because they don't always occur in the physical plane. They're not make-believe, really. None of it is if you don't want it to be.

People look at fantasy worlds and think about how brutal they are with the killings and style of life and whatnot. Really? Did we not just have a second World War that killed millions not some odd sixty years ago? Is it really that much of a stretch? How much do we choose not to believe because we choose not to see it? Remember this: Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it.

June 29, 2012

Do people "fail forward?"

Something I saw on a weekly LinkedIn email blast prompted me to write about the following topic.

There's something that I often find troubling when considering the way that people react to events. I've noticed that people are quick to assume responsibility for things that work out but often shy away from accepting responsibility for failure.

And why? Failure, in my view, is one of the fundamental building blocks of success. In fact, most things in my life I've gotten because I've failed at something, taken ownership of it, and then did not perform that activity again. Basically, each failure you have is a stepping stone that makes you better and better and better...Eventually you'll be absolutely amazing and still failing forward.

Seeing things through that lens, could you really call it failure at all? I tend not to. I call things events. Sometimes events have favorable outcomes and sometimes they have negative outcomes, but it is our emotional connection to those events that usually decides whether something was good or bad. It has been said that there are no good and evil people, only people who make decisions some agree with and others do not. In the same vein, there are no good or bad events - it's all what you make of it.

June 27, 2012

Inconsequential ideas about time

I've come to somewhat of a sad realization over the last little while: summer is basically half over now. But, you know what? Who really cares? Summer is part of life and life is infinite as long as you're living. Under that logic, what would be the point of mourning the passage of time?

I think that's a pretty unique train of thought because it's so vastly different from what society would want you to expect. They want you to think that there's never enough time; that time is scarce and thus marketable. But time is infinite and will go on forever. The truth of the matter is that if you want to make time for something you can do that. Sure, there's an opportunity cost associated with that but what of it? Time isn't a scarce resource. You don't lose time for "making" time for something else. You lose the activity you would have done instead. So no one can really make the excuse that they have no time for something. What people mean by that (but don't realize that they mean it) is that social cues prevent them from altering their plans by imposing artificial time constraints.

Okay, that's great. I just lost half the people in the room. You're probably wondering: "What does this all mean?" Well, nothing really, to tell you the truth. It's a nice exercise in thinking about something in a vastly different way and thus honing your mind, but since we all live in society and our behavior is affected by it, the argument as a whole is really inconsequential.

Still, I do see merit in ideas like this because they inspire abstract, creative thinking and debates. And God knows, I sure do love an intellectual debate (as long as I can follow it).

June 24, 2012

The magic of words, communication, and mystery.

Words have a certain way of legitimizing things. Maybe that's why I love them so much.

The other aspect about words I like is that they give clarity to thought. I've always found myself to be a very deep thinker and have been criticized for not making a huge effort to voice what I think and why I think it. Well, that's where words come in. They help me tell a story and pull a few thoughts from my mired mind, putting them under a microscope for those who are interested to observe (which is actually one purpose this blog serves).

I find that words not only bring order to chaos, but have a certain magic of their own. I liken it to a painter painting on a blank canvas. The painter has other methods of communication but none so effective and as important to him as what he could do with his paintbrush and a blank canvas. I'm not trying to compare myself to a famous painter or anything like that but I do feel a certain appeal of written communication over even verbal communication. (On a side note: Wouldn't it be kind of cool if we were all still sending handwritten letters to each other and writing terrible poetry?)

I guess there are certain parts of my personality that might seem a little bit antiquated when compared to the modern man. I like to write. I like to write bad poetry. I like to write in this introspective blog. Somewhat ironically (to me, at least), I do most of this on a computer with internet access, on social media.

I frequently wonder if we're getting too over-communicated and have posted on that topic before. There's so much emphasis today on saying absolutely everything that we're starting to forget that the quality of our thoughts matter so much more than the quantity of them. When so much is written, who will read between the lines anymore? I am suggesting that we might be better served to be just a little more secretive and a little less open than modern society would have us be. I'm not telling people to play all their cards close to their chest; I'm suggesting that we volunteer a little less to find out who wants the information before we send it out to absolutely everyone.

If I use myself as an example, I probably don't voice every single thing I think or feel but have no problem with telling people who ask about what I think. In short: I'm an open long as you open the book. Words are magic and are written inside that book, describing its contents. I find that adds a little bit of mystery. And let's face it, everyone loves a good mystery, right?

June 19, 2012

Changes in behaviour and hypocrisy

I had a complex thought today thinking about hypocrisy. I don't remember what brought it about but that's not what's important here.

If you stuck a person alone in a room they would be perfectly honest with themselves and would make no effort to hide anything about themselves. You know what I mean; you're out driving and you get on this stretch of road where there's absolutely no one around you and you start belting out a song at the top of your lungs whereas you might not have normally.

Suddenly, you stick a person in a room with another, or God forbid, more than one other person and you get a markedly different story. People get a little bit more shy, people conceal a little more of themselves, people put a few guards up.

Everyone will tell you that you're not being genuine when that happens. They tell you that if you were truly comfortable - if you wanted to be yourself - you would and you would stop acting differently than you would when you're alone. That's complete bullshit.

When last I checked we were all still human, weren't we? Is it not human nature to act differently around some people than around others or at least differently than how you would act alone? I think it absolutely is.

They say that we start putting up barriers constructed of carefully learned social nuances in literally any social situation. They call it hypocrisy. I call it human nature and I don't think there's anything wrong with it. In fact, I find it to be one of the random, beautiful things that life has to offer.

June 17, 2012

Little Things Add Up

The summer is a great time of year because it gives you a chance to reflect on a wide variety of things. Speaking as an MBA student who is still quite busy anyway, I find that you get a chance to just take a look at some of the less meatier aspects of life and you also get to flex your creative muscles a little bit. Often the only concern being where to get your inspiration from (and really who's to say why we think up the things we do).

There's something I remember from reading sports psychology books when preparing for curling. You picture your life and the problems you have in it as a large jar and several different sized rocks. What you need to do is cram everything into that jar including sand. The trick is that if you were to put the sand in first, you would have no room left for the bigger rocks at the end at that's what we tend to do in life. For no apparent reason, here is a picture of some sand in a jar with rocks on top of it:

The analogy is that the sand is your end result that you want, but if you go right ahead and ignore the rocks (which are your problems and responsibilities) then you won't be able to fit them in later as shown above. What you're supposed to do is deal with rocks first and then add the sand because it's able to slip in between the cracks and properly fill the jar; in other words, take care of your real life issues before you set out to attain your goals.

Anyway, the point of all this was merely to show that little things (like sand) have a clever way of adding up until they can even fill something large (like a jar). It gets you thinking about all the little things you've got going on in your life and the nice part is that the summer is a time that is very conducive to thinking about said little things. People often overlook the little things and the smaller details but that would be a mistake. After all, you can't fill your jar unless you manage your little things with the same care as you do your larger ones.

Also, before I leave, here is a jar filled with random crap:

June 11, 2012

Fantasy genre & "Are we truly free?"

I've been thinking for the past while about why I like the fantasy genre so much. Maybe it's the limitations (ie. weapons, no electricity usually, etc.). Maybe it's the characters in the novels I read. Maybe it's the thought of the world being larger.

Maybe it's some combination of the above and more. For me, it's like stepping into another world that is full of far more possibilities than our own. In that world there are no limits, little governance, no one and no society to have dominion over another man. Yes, the settings in the fantasy genre tend to be tougher. It is far more dangerous and people are often worried about mere survival rather than things like money or what movie they're going to see next week. Still, it seems to me to be a place in which a man can make himself and is truly only bound by the limits he imposes on himself. I wonder if the same holds true in a more modern setting.

Take our own world, for example. There are people who are born poor and in unfortunate circumstances. They can make great headways in life and eventually achieve a higher status. However, to me it seems that they can rise only so high in the vast majority of situations. How much do outsiders influence our lives?

The heart of the matter seems to be that the fantasy genre represents freedom to me. The freedom comes at the cost of the characters being at much greater risk and having far fewer luxuries than we do. However, how many of us can say that we are truly free for all that we have?

June 3, 2012

Thoughts about my future and the future of others as well

I often think about the future; of my own and of the people's around me. I think about what people want and why they want it. I think about what I want and why I want it.

I've done a very small amount of travelling in the world. More than many and less than many. I'd like to think that I've gained a little bit of scope in my "travels."

I've talked to many people about where they want to live and what type of job they want to do and have noticed a few things. There seem to be a large number of people who have no idea what they want to do or where they want to do it. There is an almost alarming amount of people who do seem to know exactly what they want to do and where they want to do it as well. What there doesn't seem to be a lot of is people in the middle. And by that I don't necessarily mean people who know one thing and not the other but rather people who aren't completely certain or uncertain about either of these details.

Take me, for instance. I'm relatively sure I want to remain in Atlantic Canada and work in the business field. Unlike some, I've more or less come a decision about where I want to live and what type of job I'd like to have. Unlike others, I don't know the exact details of what it is I will end up doing and where exactly it will take place. Am I regular? Are most people like this or do I fall outside of the norm in some way?

My point is that we tend to label ourselves as knowing or not knowing without imagining any type of middle ground in between. I'm the type of person who believes that there is never just black or white, but always grey. I think I frequently fall into grey categories and have a difficult time identifying others who think along the same lines. I don't mean that I'm having difficulty finding people to have an intellectual conversation with or something like that. I mean that I'd like to identify others that have some of the same uncertainties (for lack of a better word) and connect with them.

I wonder if it's a question not of looking elsewhere but of searching the same area in a way I had not looked before. Kind of like when something's been "right under your nose" for a period of time and you fail to notice it until something convinces you to look there for it. How many other things like that are there in life and what are we missing out on by giving into tunnel vision?

May 31, 2012

Have you ever really looked at the sky?

Have you ever just looked at the clouds in the sky? I mean - really looked at them?

We tend to see the world around us with such tunnel vision, plagued by questions as mundane and meaningless as, "Will I have enough time to get to that meeting?" or, "Oh God. What's going to be for supper tonight?" We get so caught up in these daily facets of life that we often fail to realize the more interesting things around us.

Looking at the clouds, you notice a few things: they're all different shapes and sizes, they look small but they're actually ridiculously big, the sky is ridiculously bigger even than the clouds, and you realize just how small you are in the world.

We can sit there and say we're one person into seven billion, we can say we're one of millions in our respective cities, but when you really look at the sky or anything you don't normally notice you get a scale of just how impossibly vast that is and a sense of wonder and awe at all there is in this large and interesting world of ours.

May 22, 2012

A Pulsating Prismatic Pool

Life is about evolution. Humans have done it, other species continue to do so as well.

So many aspects of life are fluid; an intricate mix of both simple and complicated swimming in a hypothetical pool of possibilities. And yet sometimes the ebb and flow of the current is such that unexpected things happen or certain unique combinations surface.

We are under that water, living beneath that very surface much as the blood that flows under our skin’s surface. The blood is a lifeline, its ports and preferred channels being veins and arteries; we fill the pool, our very thoughts and essences the preferred outlet for those rocky waves of life.

So many things lie within life’s depths. It is at once as vast and incomprehensibly deep as it can be simple and surprisingly shallow.

We all of us are faced with choices; we must decide how to express ourselves and the medium in which we thrive. The beauty is that this can occur in a myriad number of ways. Indeed the rainbow of life is both prismatic and widespread, focusing so much into so little and visa versa when considered in reverse.

The rays of light hit the water, sinking into it and refracting as surely and cleverly as they came.

April 24, 2012

A ranking of Carey novels

Well, I'm almost done reading through a series of nine novels written by Jacqueline Carey. The nine are part of the Kushiel series at large and each trilogy is distinct from the other, with the final trilogy taking place centuries after the first two. Since I enjoyed these novels so much and they have such a large influence on me, I thought I would do my own personal ranking along with why I feel that novel falls in that particular position.

So without further ado...* Drum-roll* (And also, probable spoiler warning!)

  1. Kushiel's Scion - Not only is it the most accessible of all her novels, but it introduces my favourite character through the entire series in the protagonist's role. Imriel is heartbreakingly human and Carey's style of writing in the first person point of view really makes you feel how he feels at times. If you think about it, that's a pretty rare thing. It's not that often that writers can make you really care about a character in such a way. Plus, I find that Carey's best work in this series was in Terre D'Ange, where politics and intrigue run hand-in-hand with passion and romance. It's very suiting that half of such a great novel takes place there.
  2. Kushiel's Dart - Enter Phedre, a protagonist who is not only smart and sexy, but has a spy's trained memory and loves pain and sex (which sometimes go hand-in-hand for her). It breaks the norm so much that the very idea of it all stands out boldly. Throw in some of the politics and intrigues into the mix, combine that with some adventure and a love story, and you've got one hell of a novel. The only reason it's lower than Scion on my list is because it's less accessible.
  3. Kushiel's Justice - The first half is concerned with Imriel's romances, feelings, and responsibilities. The second half sees him on a ridiculously long quest for vengeance on a bear-witch who killed his wife and their unborn son. In this novel we really see Imriel grow and by the time he finally does kill Berlik (the aforementioned bear-witch), we can see this growth in the fact that he actually breaks down in tears. You would imagine that Imriel would feel so alone in ways - and he does. The novel reflects this perfectly and since you're put in his shoes, you almost feel as desperate as he does sometimes. The contrived plot and slow build-up make this one a keeper for me.
  4. Kushiel's Avatar - Phedre and her Cassiline lover Joscelin end up on a quest that takes them through the heart of evil and literally to places no one from their country has even dared explore. For me, this novel was the pure adventure one out of all of them and dealt with some pretty heavy themes. The darkness delved into and the healing from it are pitted against varied and appropriate backdrops. I found it both thematically impressive and equally as impressive in depth and purpose of setting.
  5. Namaah's Curse - I was actually surprised that this one came so high up on my list. I was really slow to grow fond of the new characters but absolutely loved the issues touched upon in the novel (out-of-control religious zealots, nomadic tribes, assassin stronghold of fear, etc.). By the end of those experiences and continuous improvements in already great writing by Carey, I really felt that the characters finally grew on me.
  6. Kushiel's Chosen - There's no particular reason that this one comes in sixth on my list. I really enjoyed it and found it to be a great book. I guess my only complaint was that I wanted more at the end. A particular enjoyable part for me was the reintroduction of Melisande Shahrizai as the villain, which was hinted at in the previous novel, of course. She's one of the most perplexing and enjoyable characters in all nine books.
  7. Namaah's Blessing - I've actually not yet finished this book but I've got enough of a flavour to know that I won't like it as much as the second one but more than the first one. The verdict is out and this could change but I doubt it will. All in all, an enjoyable read with some awesome characters.
  8. Kushiel's Mercy -  I loved this book and it was actually the first one I read despite being the last in the Imriel trilogy. I loved how accessible it was but felt that it got a little slow around the parts where Imriel thinks he is Leander Maignard due to a magic spell and must seduce his actual romantic interest in order to break the spells on both of them. That part just seemed a little...laboured to me. I don't mean to say that it was bad by any means but it was a little hard to get behind.
  9. Namaah's Kiss - I really had a hard time getting to like the new characters and thought that it was a touch on the bland side until around midway through. The good news is that once it got to the end, I was pretty into it and invested. Maybe it's just me and I'm a little impatient when it comes to slower development.
Well, that's it. If I've mentioned any faults, it's more or less me nitpicking stuff. I consider these all to be great novels but there are little things that put one above the other for me. If you're looking for around 8,000 pages of good stuff to read then I would suggest all of these. If you want to follow the flavour of my rankings, pick up the Imriel trilogy first and the Phedre one second. You won't ruin much on yourself except a decently large twist in the first novel. However, I find that they are far more accessible that way and by the time you make it to the Phedre trilogy, you won't have cared that you read ahead because you'll be hooked. The Namaah books are really good too but you'll appreciate them more if you've been hooked on the first six first.

April 17, 2012

Short Story Training #2: Memoirs of Moonlight's Kiss

Well, exams are over and what better way to celebrate than by posting a short story I wrote about a month ago. This is part of my ongoing training in efforts to become a better writer through practice and getting more experience. I hope you enjoy reading it!

I am the crowned prince of our kingdom. I have known war and peace, love and grief, and all the things life has to offer. Once, for a brief period of time, I was almost a father as well.
            My own father was distant to me in my life. I saw him as more of a leader than a father. He was the king and I was the prince. That was the structure of the kingdom and I was to abide by it at all times.
            I was taught by the finest tutors and educated in warfare should the need arise for it when I would one day take the throne. I learned of our nation’s own bloody history and those of our neighbours too. I learned some of the finer arts too, such as poetry and prose. I also learned, through tutelage and experience, of the complicated political landscape for a prince and learned just as fully that I did not like it.
            Since as long as I could remember, I hated the role of being a prince. I hated the duty and formality of it. I would far rather have been an unwitting farmer than someone in charge of the well-being of so many.
            I didn’t like the fact that one man could have dominion over so many others. If I was a different man and chose to abuse my power, none would be able to stop me – save for my father – under the guise of divine right. That power was more of a curse than a gift. It was a curse that burdened me with conscience and duty from such a young age. I felt as though I never had a childhood; that my responsibilities loomed over me, casting a pall on what would have otherwise been an enjoyable period in my life.
            Still, as I grew, I eventually decided that I must fit into my role and took my position somewhat more seriously.
            Little did I know that being a prince would be the least of my concern.


I met Catherine when I was sixteen. She was a farmer’s daughter. We had contracted her father to deliver produce to the palace on a monthly basis. Catherine, enamoured by the prospect of seeing royalty and the chance to revel in the splendor of our palace, begged to accompany him. Like the unwilling and conflicted prince I was, she made me feel weak and strong all at once, an all too familiar feeling, but one I had never felt for a woman before.
That summer had been kind to us. The weather was agreeable, yielding just enough rain to ensure good harvests, but supplying us with beautiful sunny days all the same. I loved being outside and taking in the scenery around the palace.
Our palace was large and ornate. Inside, the ceilings were high and everything was made of marble, gleaming in the sunlight during the day or glistening in the moon’s rays at night. Portraits of previous rulers lined the walls at regular intervals and the floors were adorned with royal red carpet, kept clean by our myriad servants. Every main entrance to the palace was supported by pillars, giving way to elegant arches. The outside was equally impressive with large bushes surrounding the property, a handful of trees, and a stunning garden complete with radiant flowers and grand bushes from all over the world.
            On one summer day, I was in those gardens being drilled in swordplay by my keen instructor, Powell. Powell and I were training my ability to parry blows and respond with a counter-blow of my own. I had gotten a little overzealous, over-committing myself to a slicing blow after barely parrying Powell's initial blow. Powell’s counter to my folly sliced my face, sending my heading jerking sideways. It was at that moment that Catherine and her father, accompanied by members of our royal guard, rounded the corner, touring the castle as a precursor to their first of many visits.
            I yelped and staggered sideways, clutching my face as Catherine’s wandering gaze met my eyes. “What in the name of the gods are you doing to him?” she screamed, shifting her gaze onto Powell, fire in her eyes. I later learned that she thought he was trying to kill me and that she was averse to unnecessary violence.
            Catherine was a slight woman with fierce eyes and a fair complexion. Her blonde hair fell straight, hanging at her sides, coming to rest at her shoulders. She had a kind face and the disposition of a tomboy, having been raised on a farm her whole life. Her playful spirit and cleverness accented her keen intellect, though ultimately she was a very peaceful and happy person. She was a person I’d not yet met but had already frightened.
            “Apologies, my lady,” I began, still clutching my face and walking towards her. She looked mad with fury and I sought to calm her. “A training exercise gone somewhat awry, I’m afraid, our pardons for having worried you.”
            She looked both relieved and frustrated at the same time, to the point where I thought she might hit me herself. Later, I would come to love that passion. Not only was Catherine passionate but she was caring and sweet as well. For the moment, however, her mix of emotions was turning into a fiery fury.
            “Training…with steel blades? Are you trying to get someone killed?”
            “Quite the opposite, my lady -” I trailed off, not yet knowing her name.
            “Catherine,” she stammered. “Catherine Fougars, of the Fougars farm just south of the palace.”
            “Well met, my lady Catherine. I assure you we are not trying to kill anyone here. Rather, we are practicing to ensure that none of us do get killed,” I said with some amusement and the smallest hint of contempt.
The truth of the matter was that Catherine was fraying my nerves somewhat. I understood the importance of training. I understood the importance of knowing how to defend oneself and thought that a scratch on the face was a small price to pay for a lesson learned that could one day save my life. Catherine, however, didn’t seem to understand that and it frustrated me.
I could tell she was taken back slightly by my flippant comment. Straightening herself and regaining her composure, she took on a more formal tone, finally discerning my role. “My apologies, prince, I did not mean to speak out of turn.”
Having never been one to stand on ceremony, I said, “Please, call me Claude.”
I could feel that she sensed I wasn’t genuinely angry with her. She smiled and said, “Well met, Claude.”

Several months after first meeting Catherine we began seeing each other. The romance evolved naturally over many small visits. We found that we had a certain chemistry; that her nascent passion mixed freely with my bottled potential. Simply put, the two of us were compliments, covering for each other’s faults. We revelled in our time together.
            We were passionate in all the ways of life, including the bed chamber.
            One night, after Catherine and I had gotten closer, I had invited her to a ball to be held in the palace celebrating the zenith of the moon’s cycle in summer. It was the most popular event of the summer and I wanted to share it with her. I had so many fond memories of the event as a child, both for the pleasure derived from the event itself and the mischief I frequently got into whilst attending it.
            The palace was decorated in its usual splendor but with a few special touches. Draped from the ceilings were streamers of white and blue color, to signify the moon’s rays and how they light our life even in darkness. The lights inside were kept dim and special lamps were imported that shone a blue hue of light through crescent moon shades. All said, the decorations provided the perfect atmosphere and mood for fun.
            Feeling particularly sly, I felt wittier than usual and Catherine seemed impressed by it. I wasn’t sure if it was due to my wit or the fact that I was happier than I normally would have been, excited for one of my favorite days of the year. Either way, Catherine seemed particularly amenable to my affections.
            Between dances I took her into a dimly lit corner of the hall.
            “Come here, I want to show you something,” I said. It was the place which I’d launched many mischievous schemes from as a child; one such scheme involving pelting one of our most beloved dukes with stink balls launched from that very same dark corner by slingshot. My father was furious when he found out it was my doing and restricted my activities for two weeks. Still, the novelty of it was more than worth it in the end.
            “A dark corner?” she asked curiously.
            “Very astute,” I teased, putting one hand on the small of her back and pushing her up against a pillar. I drew close to her and could feel her breath quickening, small bursts blowing on my lips. “Actually, I just couldn’t wait to get you alone.”
            I kissed her lips gently, teasing her with half-kisses and finally moving to her neck where I began to kiss her more passionately as I moved to undo her bodice.
            “Claude,” she gasped, seemingly both surprised and aroused. “Claude! Not here. Let’s go somewhere else.”
            I smiled. “I thought you’d never ask.”
            That night found us in my bedchambers.
            Catherine and I had shared some romantic nights prior but we had never consummated our relationship. I remember thinking on how that was going to change and about how excited I was. Nevertheless, I was quite nervous too.
            It wasn’t nervousness for lack of experience. I’d had my fair share of dalliances in the past. But I’d never made love to someone that I truly cared about and was somewhat surprised to find out how deeply my affections ran for Catherine. If all my other relationships were pools of water, this one was a deep, vast lake, just waiting to be explored, filled with wonders and secrets in its depths.
            We hurried into the room where I abruptly kicked the door shut, startling a maid down the hall with the loud noise. She let out a small shriek. I didn’t care to apologize.
Catherine and I set about undressing each other with furious pace. She undid the buttons of my shirt, planting light kisses down my neck and chest while doing so. I undid her bodice and slipped off her dress, my hands moving to firmly clutch her waist as I slid downwards and kissed her thighs. She pulled me back up towards her and I was surprised by the force of it. Soon thereafter, she set about undoing by breeches and finally we were both naked and all too ready for what was to follow.
            And what was to follow did not disappoint.
            It was furious and it was carnage. It was a hurricane of passion and an unleashing of pent up emotion. Near the beginning of it she took my phallus into her mouth, moaning as it entered.
It was beautiful. She was beautiful.
She kept at it for some time until I was sure that my seed was ready to burst, at which point she stopped. It was my turn to return the favour.
I slid backwards on the bed, parting her legs with my arms when I reached the proper position. I began by licking her thighs and teasing her entire nether region with heavy, warm breaths.
“Claude, please,” she begged, unable to contain herself any longer.
I obliged and set about licking her opening. She moaned and moaned as her back arched, screaming out when she reached the first of many climaxes.
Finally – Finally, I pulled our bodies together and slid my phallus into her, accepting her long open invitation, smiling and then laughing a little as she gasped.
“Something funny?” she asked, half out of nervousness and half out of amusement, I supposed.
“You’re just so cute,” I replied. “I’m laughing because it amuses me to make you happy.”
She placed two hands on my buttocks, licked her lips, and said, “I know how you can keep me happy.”
“Oh, do you now?” I replied in a husky voice before thrusting into her once again.
Again and again, thrusting and thrusting until we both reached our climaxes and screamed aloud at the pleasure of it.
Gods, it was good!
In the aftermath, we laid together, content in holding each other and watching the moon slowly sink into the deep night sky until exhaustion took us. Exhausted and happy, I slept a dreamless sleep.

Two years later Catherine and I were expecting child and I was happily married to her. For all purposes, nothing could have been better. I sometimes tried to think of a time when I was happier and laughed inwardly when I realized that I couldn’t.
And then it all fell apart.
The day was supposed to be perfect. It was the date of Catherine’s delivery. I was filled with joy and nervousness and so many emotions that I didn’t know what to make of them. I daresay she was too but we were both all smiles.
Catherine began labour in the early morning, awakening us both in her panic. I called for servants quickly and in due course she was brought into the birthing chambers of the palace where nurses and our court physician would attend to her. It was a fitting location, outfitted with the finest medical instruments available and the physician was one of the best.
After many hours of labour and time spent nervously waiting, I was called back into the room by one of my wife’s attendants. “Sire, it’s time.”
I entered to find Catherine flushed and screaming, looking more stressed than I had ever seen her.
“Catherine…” I said softly, feeling sorry for how much pain she was in; how much pain I’d more or less indirectly put her in. But if that was the cost of love and a child, Catherine and I would gladly endure it.
“Claude!” she yelled, seemingly happy to see me despite her condition. “Claude, it’s coming. I can feel it. She’s coming!”
“She?” I asked, dumbfounded. “How can you know?”
“I’m not sure. I just do.”
A girl! I was about to have a baby girl and the thought of it filled me with such joy. A simple nine months ago I had no idea I would be a father and less of an idea that Catherine was with child. I never would have said that I felt prepared or even that I was the best person to be a father, but as I thought about it, I realized that I was not only prepared for fatherhood, but was relishing the very thought of it.
But suddenly, I saw Catherine’s face spasm with what looked to be incredible pain; the type of pain that was surely not due to birthing. Just from looking at her face I could tell it was something more.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, shocked.
She couldn’t reply. She couldn’t communicate. She couldn’t even seem to control her movements.
“My lord, please,” a nurse pleaded with me and I suddenly realized that I was in the way. I moved aside quickly to try to allow them to work but I dared not stray far. I wanted to see her through this.
The nurses worked at a frantic pace, shouting instructions and information to one another. The court physician, ever-present through the birthing thus far, stepped up slowly and examined Catherine while the nurses worked. She suddenly stopped moving and the physician felt for her pulse.
He frowned and turned to face me. “I’m sorry, sire,” he said with gravity. “She’s gone.”
“What?” I roared, unable to comprehend what had just occurred. “What do you mean ‘she’s gone?”
The physician stumbled for the appropriate words. “Sometimes,” he paused, composing himself. “Sometimes it happens, my lord. Sometimes they are lost during childbirth.”
This couldn’t be happening.
“No. No! No! Why did this happen? Why?” I roared, in a stupor, unable to contain myself. “The babe! What about the babe?” I asked, suddenly recovering some of my wits and remembering that Catherine was about to give birth. “Please tell me the babe survived!”
“I’m sorry, my lord. They were unable to save her. We were unable to save them.”
Defeated, the words hit me like a boulder, crushing my world. Not knowing what else to do, I sank to my knees and wept.

            It had been an entire year since Catherine and my unborn child’s passing. I was hopelessly depressed and it had dire consequences on the rest of my life.
            To begin with, I was no longer nearly as sociable as I had once been and slowly but surely began to lead a very insular life. I would confine myself to my quarters and grieve by writing, trying to find the right words to describe how my life had fallen apart. Gods willing, I would find the right words to put it back together too, but they escaped me, as had any positive feelings for a long while.
            In fact, it seemed that I barely felt anything anymore. I couldn’t bring myself to feel compassion for our poorer citizens that royalty is charged with helping. I couldn’t bring myself to smile when the sun came out or when happy children strolled by, mirthful in playing children’s games. I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy the way that food tasted. I couldn’t bring myself to be as depressed as one ordinarily would on a rainy day. I couldn’t bring myself to feel much at all and it was frustrating me.
            It frustrated me so much that I began to abuse alcohol for the false and temporary emotions its effects would have on me. At least under its influence I could laugh and be merry on the outside.
            Simply put, I was deeply depressed.
            On one crisp summer night we celebrated the same festival at which Catherine and I had first consummated our relationship. The moon hung brightly in the sky. It seemed even the moon, a body of the night sky, was in bright spirits. And yet, no matter how hard I tried, I could feel nothing. Content to drink away the remainder of the night, I assumed a station close to the wine servers and set about getting very drunk.
            It was then that the most beautiful woman I had ever seen walked into the area in which wine was served. She was tall, though not quite as tall as I was, and lean. She had a very feminine but decidedly athletic build. Her tanned skin was clear and looked as soft as velvet. Her shoulder-length black hair was coifed in concentric circles, hanging high on her head and held in place by ornate golden pins. But most of all, her eyes, a deep emerald-like hue caught my attention.
            To be sure, she gleamed like the precious metal that shared its color with her eyes. Those eyes met mine as she approached. “Prince Claude, is it not?” She asked, clearly eying me, whilst biting her lip.
            The attention made me nervous and made me think of Catherine. Though she had passed, it still felt like a betrayal to feel any type of arousal for another woman, not after I had loved so deeply with Catherine. But this foreign beauty was making me feel just that. I was both guilty and intrigued at the same time so I decided that I was going to let the situation play out. A little bit of fun wouldn’t betray Catherine’s spirit.
            “Indeed,” I replied in cordial tone. “And you are?”
            “Jade Xnaga, a neighbour of yours to the far south,” she replied.
            “Ah, that explains your complexion,” I noted blandly.
            “Drinking alone, my lord?” She asked with genuine curiosity.
            “Please call me Claude. I’ve never been one to stand on ceremony,” I replied, suddenly not wishing to be so formal. “And yes, I am, as I have many nights before,” I added, not quite wishing to have her company. But it appeared that Jade had other plans.
            “Would you care for a companion? I sense you might be in need of one.”
            I’m not sure why I accepted her offer. Maybe there was a part of me that was tired of being lonely. Maybe there was a part of me that wanted to feel and wondered if she could help me do just that. Maybe I was bored. Maybe she was bored. It didn’t matter. There are some things that the gods decide and that we must accept.
            “I think I’ll take you up on your offer, Jade. Well met,” I responded at length.
            That night, we had goblets upon goblets of wine. To my surprise, Jade could drink as well as I could and held her liquor equally as well. All the same, we were good and drunk within an hour’s time.
            After much drunken thought and deliberation I asked, “How can you hold so much liquor?” She laughed and her face lit up. Such a beautiful thing to behold!
            She smiled. “My people, it would appear, are accomplished alcoholics,” she replied with a roar of laughter I promptly echoed. The other patrons of the celebration looked over at us, seemingly both ashamed at my behaviour and intrigued by our foreign guest at the same time.
            After, there was an awkward silence between us. Finally, feeling quite intoxicated, I asked her, “Why are you so beautiful?”
            “Why are you so forward?” she asked, half-teasingly. It was my opening and I would not take it. I couldn’t dishonour Catherine like that.
            “Forgive me, I can’t do this,” I replied, suddenly feeling depressed once again.
            “Yes, you can,” she said, taking my hand and noticing as I tensed.
            “You don’t understand,” I began. “My wife…She passed away last year; her and our unborn child. So,” I paused, feeling uneasy. “I simply can’t.”
            I could see the flicker of understanding in her eyes and infinite compassion. To my surprise it moved something within me, easing my tension somewhat. “Come,” she said, squeezing my hand and dragging me away. “Let us go somewhere private.” Not knowing what to say, I let her drag me along up the stairs and into a random bedroom. She pushed me down on the bed and began to undress.
            “Please, my lady. I cannot do this. I don’t mean to offend you,” I protested weakly.
            “You haven’t offended me,” she said in a sweet tone. “And you can do this. As a matter of fact, I think that you should do this as I feel there may be some healing in it for you.”
            Speechless and confused, I let her continue. Before long she and I were undressed and she was kissing me tenderly.
I’m still unsure how to describe it. It wasn’t entirely sexual but it was sensual. She kissed me not only as a lover would but like some sort of healer as well.
I was very averse to it in the beginning but soon found that she was right; that there was some healing in it. Jade did all of the work, imploring me to be still and let the feelings wash over me. It reminded me of Catherine and the guilt crept up. It was almost as if Jade sensed this, as every time I felt it, she backed off and let me get comfortable again.
And so we made love in the gentlest way I have ever known it, under a glowing moon. I fell asleep holding her under that same moonlight that shared myself and Catherine’s night years prior. Only this time, I felt healed and full for the first time since Catherine had passed.

            Jade and I never married. Neither of us found marriage very practical and thought it would be dishonorable to Catherine in any sense. We did live together, though, and we shared a life together.
            It had been two years since I’d met Jade. We saw each other on and off when her country’s dignitaries would come to visit our country. I discovered that she was a noble woman herself and in command of some authority. After our first night together, she had demanded to be on every ambassadorial trip to the palace and none dared to counter her. She declared that it was for business but it became obvious to both of us after six months that it was for love. After that, she decided to move into a house on the outskirts of town with me. I was never one for formalities and was less willing than I ever had been to fulfill my duties as prince from the palace.
To my surprise, we had settled into a routine. Jade would cook us meals with what I fetched from the local marketplace in the mornings. Sometimes I would hunt for our meals. In the afternoon we would enjoy each other’s company or sometimes set about to our own devices. The evenings would come and we would have a romantic dinner for two. We would make love again and fall asleep watching the stars.
It appeared that the gods did have a purpose in uniting Jade and I. Jade was right after all: There was healing in what took place between us that first night. Almost miraculously, a large measure of it came to me right away and I learned that I could love and feel once again. The balance of it came afterwards and I’d slowly become whole over the entire two years since that night.
I still wrote, only less often and of less depressing matters. I focused now on trying to tell stories and on writing poetry. I wasn’t very good but it was a hobby that I enjoyed and it helped to temper my mind.
I also took an interest in botany, unlikely as it might have been. As such, I frequented the local botanical gardens once or twice a week, both to study and to find a sense of peace when things got hectic. If nothing else, I found it soothing as no one else was ever around and I was interested in plants and herbs that could be used to cure sickness. It also reminded me of swordplay in the palace gardens with Powell; one of my more fond childhood memories.
One day, in the gardens, I sat down on a bench in the centre of the park, contemplating a study I was engaged in pertaining to an herb that could be used to slow the effects of certain poisons. Ironically, the weather was sunny and beautiful despite my studying of such a grim subject matter. It was around midday and I had just finished my lunch. I decided to take a few minutes to myself to absorb the excellent weather before getting back to work.
Suddenly, however, the sky darkened from a sea-bright blue to a hazy shade of grey. Ominous rain clouds filled the sky and thunder and lightning loomed ahead in the distance. Gods, it came fast! I marvelled at how such sunny weather could take such a turn in scarce more than the blink of an eye.
It began to rain. To my surprise, however, I was not getting wet though everything around me was. I looked up to find a hole in the cloud cover in the sky above me. As I did, a column of sunlight shot through the hole and surrounded me, almost shielding me from the rain and unpleasant weather. The light persisted for a few minutes while I stood perplexed, and then it was gone. Looking around, I noticed that the rain had stopped and that the storm clouds were quickly dispersing. The beautiful weather that had characterized the day to this point was making its return.
Not knowing what to make of the event or even if I should make anything out of the event, I decided to quit my research for the day and head home. I could no longer focus on my studies after such a freak event. The bright and cheerful weather felt almost strange in its own right, and remained throughout my walk home and for the duration of the day.
Sometime later, I arrived at our humble countryside house. I saw through the front window as I approached the front door that Jade was inside cooking a meal of beef stew and dumplings. I could smell the delicious aroma of both through the open window. Eager to see her, and also to eat, I entered hastily.
“Jade, I’m home,” I called out. She didn’t reply. Maybe some charm would work. “Not feeling very talkative, I see.” I was met with more silence. Deciding she was likely in a foul mood, I said, “I’ll be in my study. Let me know if you want to talk.”
Hence I retired to my study for the better part of an hour. Confirming by ear that she was no longer cooking, I exited the study and joined her in our dining room where our places were set and our meal was ready.
“It looks great,” I remarked cautiously. If she was angry, I was going to have to choose my words carefully. Jade didn’t have a fiery temper but her scorn could be just as intense in its coolness.
She still didn’t reply and I was frustrated. I went to her and shook her lightly only to find her staring blankly back at me in response. Worry crept into my thoughts.
“Jade, what’s wrong?” I asked earnestly. “Let me help you. Please don’t ignore me.”
But she did ignore me no matter what I did. Eventually, defeated, I sat down to supper and finished mine as she ate hers with that same bland stare.
It was so unlike her! Jade was usually feisty, flirty, full of life. She was the type of person who would never let you get away with just saying a few words in a conversation and usually had a witty and sharp reply for just about anything you could imagine. Something was different today, though. I could tell that something had rocked her core and that I wasn’t going to be able to get through to her.
It was still early in the evening and I figured that a venture to the palace to visit my father and the others I’d known since my youth would be in order and could put me at ease. Surely they would have some proper advice for me. Maybe I could reconnect with Powell, my instructor of old. He was a wise man and a good one at that. He might know what to say.
I quickly saddled and prepared a mount from the nearby stable that was kept for us. It was small and only consisted only of mounts for the two of us, but it was appropriate given the remoteness and the size of our country abode. I chose the sturdier of the two mounts, reasoning that Jade wouldn’t likely be going anywhere this evening and also due in small part to rising contempt for the way she had acted towards me that afternoon.
I rode hard, my thoughts playing heavily on my mind, and made it to the palace in under an hour. I found no one there to stable my mount so I did so myself. The palace seemed quiet. I could only see a few guards and nobles within it from the stables.
No matter, I thought. I only wanted to talk to a few of the palace’s inhabitants, anyway. I wasn’t in the mood for anyone else’s company and came to think of the surprising emptiness as a blessing rather than a curse or an oddity.
I ran into Powell in the main corridor of the palace leading to the ballroom and anterior chambers in which the summer moon festival occurred.
“Powell, well met!” I called out to him. I was met, again, with silence.
I tried a few more times to get him to speak but failed each time. Eventually, he simply walked past me, adopting the same blank stare that Jade had given me earlier in the day.
I was worried now. What was happening around here? Why was I the only one who seemed capable of intelligent thought?
Hoping for an answer to my question, I went to my father’s chambers to visit him. I hoped that whatever was happening around here had not claimed him either. Frustrated and worried, I flung open the door to his chambers.
“Father!” I yelled, while running inside.
Again, I was met with no reaction.
He gave me that same blank state and seemed incapable of speech. I felt worried and scared. I was confused and couldn’t figure out why these events were taking place.
“What’s happening?” I screamed out to no one in particular, knowing that my calls would not be heard. “How is this possible? Gods be damned!” I cursed, frustration taking me. “Father, Powell, Jade. Why?” I asked, feeling as if my brain would explode in my head. I felt defeated and hopeless. Almost as bad as I’d felt when Catherine died. It was like I was stuck in a nightmare with no way out.
So I turned and ran. I ran as fast as I could, trying to get out of the palace and back to Jade where I would make her respond to me no matter what it took. As I was running, I slowly began to realize that I could no longer see anyone at all. Slowly, it dawned on me: Not only was everyone I knew becoming unresponsive, but they were disappearing.
I had to get to Jade.
I rode home faster than I’d ever ridden before. If I weren’t so worried about the circumstances of my situation, I daresay I would’ve noticed that I had broken a few speed records. When I arrived at the house, my heart was pounding with fear. I ran inside as fast as I could and scoured every room in the house in search of Jade. I found nothing.
Finally, something inside me did snap and I felt worse than I had when Catherine passed. I wept openly and loudly and curled up into a ball on the floor for several minutes, unable to accept that my world had fallen apart around me.
Eventually, I snapped out of my depression enough to have clear thoughts. I remembered where this awful chain of events began: The botanical gardens. I had to go there! I had to find out whether or not this was all real and if I could save them all.
I mounted my horse and went off in the direction of the gardens, though at a slower pace than I’d just had my mount run. I was worried about what might come to fall at that place but ultimately knew I had no other options.
In time, I entered the gardens and made my way to the same spot where the bright light had enveloped me earlier in the afternoon; the spot where that terrible and surprising storm had occurred a few hours ago. The first thing that I noticed was that the column of light was present once more and inside of it stood Jade.
“Jade! Jade!” I called out, a sense of relief temporarily dispersing my rising panic. To add to that relief she turned to face me, acknowledging that she could see and hear me.
“Claude,” she said in a somber tone. “You must be worried.”
“Not anymore,” I replied. “Not now that I’ve found you.”
She smiled. “My thanks, but it is not Jade that you have found.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, feeling that same panic from earlier rising once more, my throat getting dry and tight.
“I am not Jade. Jade never existed.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, feeling the uncertainty of the entire situation tug at my heartstrings, my eyes watering in response. She had to exist! What was she talking about?
“Jade never existed. Your father, your mother, and even Catherine,” she added, like rubbing salt in an open wound. “None of them ever existed,” she said in a monotone voice with what seemed like toxic conviction.
“But you’re right here! I can see you!” I roared in confusion.
“You still don’t see, do you?” she asked, turning her head to the side and turning back to re-centre her gaze on me. “None of this was ever real. Even I am not real right now. In fact, you are the only thing that is real.”
“Just…Me?” I asked hesitantly, not sure I wanted to hear what she had to say.
“Yes, Claude. Just you.”
“Then what are you?” I asked, not quite believing her although everything she was saying did perfectly reflect the unfathomable events of the day.
“I am what you might call a God…Yes, some have called me that. I do not occupy your reality but I control it and can manipulate it. I can tell that your world has collapsed and you would not be content being the only real one in it, so I am prepared to offer you a choice.”
“A choice?” I echoed.
“Yes, I am prepared to let you live your life again; to continue as if this day had never occurred. And at the end of your days we will meet again to discuss the next step.”
“Why? Why would I be the only one who’s real?” I asked, not understanding any of what she was saying.
“Because I willed it to be so. There is no other reason,” she replied as if that statement would make perfect sense and that I would accept it.
“I don’t believe you,” I countered. “You’re lying. You’re no God and, everyone I know - they’re all real!”
“NO!” she roared, suddenly taking on a much deeper and angrier voice. “You are the only one who is real! You must accept this. If you do not believe me then reject my offer and walk the world alone for the rest of your life!”
Her tone scared me. The whole situation terrified me, but there was only one way to find out if what she was saying was true or not; to squash all doubts in my mind either way.
“Assuming I do believe you,” I began. “How would I accept your offer?”
“It is simple,” she replied. “Step into the light and take my hand.”
“That’s it? No tricks or anything?” I questioned.
“No tricks,” she agreed. “I promise you.”
Hesitantly, I stepped into the column of light. When I did her face softened and she offered her hand. It was right there and all I had to do to make this nightmare end was to take it and accept her offer. Questions plagued my mind, at once too numerous and too specific to address at all. The words couldn’t escape my mouth and I was afraid to know the answers. Giving into that fear, I took her hand and she squeezed mine firmly in response. Then the column of light and everything else in the world turned white and I remembered nothing else.

I awoke to a beautiful summer day. I thought I would go to the Botanical Gardens in the afternoon to pursue my interests in botany and medicine. The weather was fitting, as was my mood.
I descended the stairs to find that Jade had prepared a breakfast of bacon and eggs for me. Kissing her in greeting, I sat down to my meal.
“So you’ll be going to the gardens today?” she asked.
“Yes, I think I’ll spend the afternoon studying.”
“If only you’d give me half as much attention as you give those plants,” she said wryly.
Finishing my breakfast, I rose and kissed her. “I’ll give you all the attention you can muster later tonight!” I exclaimed. She flushed, which I found to be slightly unusual. But I did love it when she flushed!
After a brief silence, she said, “I hope you have a good day out there. I love you, Claude.”
“I love you too,” I replied, kissing her deeply. Then I put on my shoes and opened the door to leave. “I’ll be back.”
“No matter what?” she asked.
“Again and again, always and always,” I replied, meaning every word of it.