For the eyes. For the heart. For the ears. For the feet. For the soul.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Measure of a Man

I came on this trip seeking relaxation but most importantly answers. Answers to questions I've yet to ask myself, let alone seek solutions for. A random televised show brought me an unlikely blog post and a new perspective on life, love and what it means to truly be a man. I've often mused that I was born in the wrong generation; an old soul merely trying to exist and thrive in a new aged world.

Living amongst spoiled brats of generations X,Y and one day Z often finds me shaking my head in frustration, confusion and disbelief and yet the same thing I've come to know and hate is partly responsible for my so called success. I suppose it's like a celebrity's relationship with the media. You can't rise to the top without it but come to loathe it and one day run from it. We live in a generation of self entitled, media whoring spoiled brats. This vacation couldn't have come at a better time. Lately, I've been feeling for lack of better words: stuck. Or something like that. Unsure of my future or place in this world mixed in with trepidation about the world's strife, wars and issues has me losing more hours of sleep than surely healthy. Dialed into CNN more hours than sitcom television surely doesn't help. And then one night, I saw a show that will most certainly change my life. It was about Auschwitz and it's survivors. And suddenly, all those frustrated tears that have been pent up but not dared shed for our pathetic first world problems, opened up like a floodgate.

I'm not sure what exactly I was weeping for, or about. Was it that I had found something so deeply disturbing that I, a spoiled brat of Gen XYZ was finally able to comprehend how truly lucky we really were? Or that such a complete and abhorrent time actually existed in this free world as we know? Whatever the reason, I shut off everything that night and just really for the first time in a long while, sat and absorbed someone's story. No distractions or interjections or thoughts of how I could turn this moment into profit. I just sat still and listened. I transported myself to the 1940's, a time that only 10 years later my mother would be born. It's hard to grasp the fact that the Holocaust ever existed. And when I heard Martin Greenfield's story, I knew that I had so much to learn.

We hopped on board for one of our first non-work related vacations in years. Sure, we travel frequently. But to actually just be present, shut down, tune out and relax was a concept quickly fading foreign. Before we arrived to the airport, I just knew we had to stop at the local bookstore to pick up Martin Greenfield's story. I needed to escape the frivolities of present times. Ironic, considering we had just paid thousands to travel to paradise, but I needed to engulf my mind into something bigger than today's fluff and smut.

Old soul.

We've been spoiled by our clients when travelling to photograph destination weddings. We've been put up in first class, travelled in luxury and when planning our own vacation we can be surprisingly frugal. We opted for a luxury resort but on a budget airline and by dumb bad luck chose our seats in front of probably the three biggest assholes I've come across. If the measure of a man is all that he has been through, accomplished and by the type of character he possesses then these three certainly measure up to two feet tall; combined. I listened to hours of show off, pretense chatter about how three twenty something year olds hide their wealth in offshore investments across the world and away from their wives. They carried on about their 20 year old birthday parties and how they would fly in lobsters and have professional chefs, and impress all their friends. Unwary or caring of surrounding passengers, they dropped the F bomb every three seconds and as the plane trembled and shook during turbulence and passengers white knuckled their travel companions, the 20 year olds joked about the privileges of being Arab and how they were going to bring our plane down. Perhaps if I had tuned into re-runs of Friends more often instead of CNN, I would have been less affected.

To top it all off, they were bragging about all the money they had hidden offshore and million dollar bashes, but stealing all the alcohol and snacks from the plane. To head to an all inclusive resort. Amateurs. My husband always  says if you are new at something, at least pretend to play the part. "Act like you've been there before" Or in Martin Greenfield's case, if you can't afford to do something, at least dress the part. A nice suit could change someone's perception of you...or in his his life.

I've found myself frustrated at the barrage of constant questions about the future. I suppose I get annoyed because well, for one, I myself don't have the answers. What will you do about retirement? What about kids? What about Michael's health and benefits? What if the answer is who knows? Who cares? What about our uncertain careers or the drawbacks of self employment? What if it doesn't work out?

What if it does?

Sometimes all it takes is a little perspective. For one man who's hiding offshore funds from his wife, there's another who survived beatings, surrounded by killings and unspeakable acts of inhumanity who, by never giving up working hard and literally dressing and acting the part of a man, saved his life. Martin made himself useful in the Holocaust, never showing signs of weakness or illness. When they forced him to beat his friend, he spaced out the lashings on the body, almost apologetically so as to not permanently injure one part of the youth's back. There was no rhyme or reason to the Nazi killings. They may shoot you if they were happy or if they were mad. The sheer methodical madness of counting over and over and over again the prisoners, the deplorable conditions, the heartless cruelty, would make you wonder how someone could ever go on to lead a normal life, nevermind take the Nazi life lessons and apply them to becoming a top U.S. tailor to celebrities and four presidents.

Life can sure be fascinating.

The measure of a man.

Daily I pester my husband about doing more. Being more. So and so makes this much money. So and so does this for his family. And here we are on vacation celebrating our five year wedding anniversary and discovering new things about each other still. I have someone attentive, loving and willing to do anything to make me happy. Why do I always forget this? Why, when my many moods are off kilter do I automatically shift blame to the one person who would give me the world?

The measure of a man is not what he earns but how he lives his life. As I sit here and reflect on numerous recent struggles, I realize it is not anything specifically wrong. We cannot measure happiness by material things, more stuff, status or superiority. The true measure of a man is what he would do if he knew he would never be caught.

Richard Sherman showed his true colours in the Superbowl. He's always chanting "Nobody beats me" and then handled his loss like the ignorance of a child, not the grace of a man. The Nazi's eventually stole the prisoners uniforms, running and hiding and pretending to be them when they were about to be caught. How does it feel? The Arabs on our plane by some chance were tired and ready to relax on the flight home. By dumb luck again, we found ourselves in the same seats in front of them on the way home. This time they were ready to relax. And those around them were loud. A gentleman introduced himself to us in Mexico as a Toronto photographer but made references to being a Russian spy. I instantly disliked him and his distasteful comments about large women. And yet our Mexican waiter was more than happy to have a job, show us photographs of his curvy wife and beautiful kids and give us a genuine smile. The Russian spy sat at a table alone and we later found out travelled solo because of a recent divorce. The irony of life and karma.

If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.

J.K. Rowling


NoDisInfo TruthorNothing said...

Beautiful writing and amazing stories. Life is often over complicated in our Western (Capitalist) system. Taking onboard more Eastern (Buddhist) philosophies of karma and 'do unto others as I would have done unto me' will surely set us on the right path to enlightenment and fulfilment. After all we are one and the same.

Peace and love

NoDisInfo TruthorNothing said...

Beautiful writing and amazing stories. Life is often over complicated in our Western (Capitalist) system. Taking onboard more Eastern (Buddhist) philosophies of karma and 'do unto others as I would have done unto me' will surely set us on the right path to enlightenment and fulfilment. After all we are one and the same.

Peace and love