The day I found my voice

I listened to two talks over the last two days. One by a monk, another by a musician. Before we get to that, let’s go to the beginning.

Two weeks ago, I received a text from TF. It read: You should listen to a talk on Bowing and Repentance by Ven Heng Sure…at the temple down the road from you.

My defences went up immediately. I seethed. Texts from TF are rare and most times it’s logistical in nature – when is the next gathering at grandma’s, what time we’re meeting for lunch, where to go for dinner, etc. The tone and type of message of this particular text was typical of our relationship though, and what I view to be his opinion of me. I felt very certain that as an educated man, he knew what his intention was and chose those words deliberately. But after I calmed down, I decided that I’d reply without prejudice.

I asked: Why? Are you going?

TF replied that he’d like to listen to the talk. I left it as that and took it to mean he wanted some company, so we made the necessary arrangements.

On the day of the talk, I picked him up and headed home as it was still early. The car ride started out well. I told him I attended a friend’s wedding the night before, possibly the last among my friends. We ran down a list of friends and relations and he concluded that certainly, there’s a cousin who would never be married as he’s intellectually disabled.

I asked: “Why not? It’s possible.”

TF ripped in. I defended my position – just ‘cos someone is intellectually disabled, it doesn’t mean they can’t understand, want or find love. Presumably, his parents and the girl’s parents would have an understanding of how it’d turn out. It’s difficult but not impossible. He thought I was mad and derided my ‘modern’ opinion, then said: I suppose you think gays are fine.

I replied: “Yes, of course.”

A snort and I knew that was the wrong answer to keep my peace and calm. I stayed mostly silent during TF’s blasting of gay people even though I was screaming inside. It’s what I do to keep myself out of the picture during times like these, as anything I say has a boomerang effect coming back to hit me. No, let the gay people be ignorant in this case, let them bear the name calling. Far better for me to stand back and preserve my sense of self.

The evening had one other incident installed for me but its details aren’t important. I would only say that I often disagree with TF’s point of view.

So two talks, two days, two very different careers, two very different people, two very different topics. Upon reflection, I realised that they shared something similar – both speakers started at the same point. Both of them wanted a voice to send a message to the world.

I told TH that I think people like Master Heng Sure and Dave Grohl are born to lead, to be heard. It’s their destiny. They recognised at a very young age what they had to do. What of the rest of us? As I thought more about Dave Grohl’s keynote at SXSW, I began to entertain the idea that perhaps I too have a voice, even though I’ll never be singing nor giving speeches in front of a crowd.

There is no right or wrong. There is only, YOUR VOICE. Your voice screaming through an old Neve 8028 recording console, your voice singing from a laptop, your voice echoing from a street corner, a cello, a turntable, a guitar, serrato, a studer, It doesn’t matter. What matters most is that it’s YOUR VOICE. Cherish it. Respect it. Nurture it. Challenge it. Stretch it and scream until it’s fucking gone. Because every human being is blessed with at least that, and who knows how long it will last . . .

It’s there, if you want it…And, as a proud father, I pray that someday that they (my insertion: his daughters) are left to their own devices, that they realize that the musician comes first, and that THEY find THEIR VOICE, and that THEY become someone’s Edgar Winter, THEY become someone’s Beatles, and that THEY incite a riot, or an emotion, or start a revolution, or save someone’s life.”

Many years ago, I made a promise to myself that no one I interact with should ever walk away feeling like I made their day worse, even if they were horrible to begin with. I’m a glass half empty person and I’ll be damned if I make someone else’s the same way or worse, empty. I don’t know if my voice will ever inspire, start a revolution or save someone’s life, but I recognise now that this is my voice: It’s one of fairness, kindness and understanding. A voice of reason and free of judgement. It will not be pushed to accept dogma nor to believe in the shallow constructs that others make of me.

I will nurture it and make it stronger, and hopefully one day I won’t be silent.

Advertisements

A dog is just a dog but it isn’t just a dog

Tomorrow (08/03/13) marks BDE’s third year with us. As she lies on her bed looking at me, like a statue, I remember clearly the first time we saw her at the SPCA.

BDE kept looking out towards the door

BDE kept looking out towards the entrance

She stared out of the kennel, unbothered by and displaying no interest in us. How things have changed since.

Getting a dog was my idea, cooing at strangers’ dogs – me, imagining my future dog’s name – me, reading books about caring for dogs – me. Wary of animals – TH. But he gave in to my constant hounding. So although he was very much involved in the process of choosing our dog – he went along for puppy viewings and also chose BDE – when she finally came home, he had no idea what to do.

The weeks and months that followed were not difficult really, not by a long shot compared to what many new dog owners face. TH though couldn’t figure how to connect with BDE. He couldn’t get her to do what he wanted and she seemed afraid of him, which made her listen and respond even less, which of course made him angrier, which made her more fearful and so the cycle went. Then one day, he got it! He finally understood her, on his own terms, and began building his own bond with her. Don’t get the wrong impression – I’m still Alpha.

Over time, as BDE settled in and opened up, a few things became evident. BDE is obsessed with food. Obsessed. A lot of people say their dogs are greedy and that most dogs respond easily to food. BDE is a cut above that. When there’s food around, she goes into a frenzy. She’d approach strangers, plead, jump on them, follow them like the pied piper and I’m all forgotten. So it follows that BDE has no loyalty. Feed her and she’s yours. BDE dislikes being physically close. Hug her and she stiffens, lie next to her and she turns away. You can literally see her discomfort. But she would come to us for pats. She’d rest her head on our laps and look ever so lovingly. And the second we reach out to pat her, she’ll turn around and sit, giving us her back. BDE mostly does her own thing. Any command needs to be given as a command. Say it nicely and you might as well be talking to a wall.

I have no stories to share about BDE sensing my moods and comforting me. When I freak out over my number one horror, she runs away. A friend once remarked that her new dog is “just a dog”, unlike her previous dogs which she determined had superior qualities. It occurred to me I could say the same of BDE. This revelation hit me and honestly, I felt somewhat disappointed. Yet, I know better than that. BDE may not have great doggy-human senses and there will be no tales of heroism or undying love, but she’s not just a dog.

BDE's happy smile

BDE’s happy smile

BDE makes us laugh with her antics, she helps diffuse stress and tension with her constant seeking of pats, her smile puts a smile on people’s faces, she is an ice-breaker. She brightens up every single moment.

In fact, I could say that of all dogs who share a bond with their human. You won’t see a scowly, grumpy owner and dog on their walks. Can’t say the same for parents and their kids.

One day, TH and I were talking about stuff when he said: “Let’s clone BDE so we’ll never lose her.” It’s funny how many of us would accept the death of a person. It is after all inevitable. But when it comes to our dogs, I know many wish they could clone theirs and hold on to them forever.

Happy 3rd Anniversary BDE!!! We’re so glad you’re in our life. We call you the best dog ever but you’re so much more than that.