If you don't know me, I help people buy and sell homes for a living. I am proud of the work that I do and I enjoy seeing the people I work with achieve their goals. Peel a layer of the onion back, and I help people acquire a possession or investment. This isn't a bad thing at all, but today I'm here to offer my opinion on the topic of impermanence, a potentially refreshing perspective to people who are confused in thinking that wealth and ownership are the only routes to success or happiness.
While walking my dog Homer along West St. Paul Street a few weeks ago I stumbled upon something that my favorite spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle would refer to as a "profound sutra" or, a sacred scripture. One might loosely translate those to "the universe is trying to show me something here". The word "Removable" was spray painted in teal on a strip of flakeboard which stood on the side of the road. Seeing that alone wasn't why this word rang of sovereign importance to me in that moment. Nestled behind the perimeter of this board in an almost perfectly staged—yet eerily abandoned mess—was a solid wood frame structure that must have been an old parking garage or work shop space, likely constructed in the 1950's. I use the word "frame" here as a double entendre: 1. A supporting structure, 2. A bordered view of a few real reasons one should cherish being alive. Encased in an arrangement of sagging 2x4's and textured in the same black, bubbly crust as the overcooked marshmallows you’re not getting to roast right now because of the fire ban, stood this vibrant portrait of our Thompson River flowing in front of a sage-brushed mountain. Now, I’m aware that I should know which mountain in fact it is because I'm a Real Estate agent in this city, but admittedly I have never hiked there because I’ve been told that the Reservations Band stopped issuing permits; presumably so someone doesn't light it up with an Export A Gold. I sat with my fluffy-butted Corgi for a while and pondered at this outline thinking it was too bloody ironic for me to even take a photo of and share.
Fast forward to today as Kamloops and its surrounding areas are blanketed in a smog that is squint-worthy. No views, no highlights rippling off the leaves, endless whops from helicopters moving above, cancelled sports events, and the elderly being advised to stay indoors as the air quality health index dances through different levels of high risk. Some, especially the ones directly affected by the fires, could call it a nightmare. I would agree. This hazy fog of exhaust I breathe while I write this, and if you’re a local, the same while you read this —is someone's charred walk-in closet or living room amongst other things unspeakable. Haunting stuff.
I recently drove by the Interior Saving Centre in Downtown Kamloops which has been offered to the public as a safety hub for forest fire evacuees. As I inched my way around the small round-about in front of the entrance, I discovered that everyone I saw there, mysteriously had a smile on their face? Huh?! Maybe it was just my timing and these people were just coming back from eating ice cream at Scoopz, but it seemed like everyone, even a set of grandparents clearly in several-day old clothing, plastic bags slung over their shoulders—presumptively the last of their possessions— were all gazing pleasantly from the organized tents...smiling? This was ridiculously confusing for me. In my mind, I thought "these people just lost their home, prom dress, Dyson, heirloom table, Harley Davidson, signed mint condition Wayne Gretzky card, family pet or farm animals to this blaze, yet here they are smiling in the aftermath. What is wrong with me?" I could miss the mark on my personal goals list and be ready to cry in my fiancée’s arms. These are some pretty harsh things to imagine being separated from so abruptly, but here were these uprooted people, reminding me of how easily it is to become distracted from the important things in life.
My soon to be wife Kate and I recently listened to an audio book called The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman. The title was accompanied by a headline that disclosed: Happiness for people who can't stand positive thinking. I don’t often default to the "ra ra" platform of positivity or finding peace. Sometimes just saying those buzz words make me cringe, so this sounded interesting. It was exactly that. Without giving you a synopsis, one thing that stood out from the pages for me was the concept of: No event or situation in your life is as miserable or horrifying as it seems, (usually). Even the most god-awful forms of them, could in theory be worse. Ollie even went so far as using an example of something to the effect of: "you might be very sad if your spouse dies, but it’s a good thing that your whole family didn't die; or, maybe your whole family did die in a car crash except for you...well, at least the rest of human existence didn't die off, etc." My point is, he states that there can always be something worse, so stop giving steroids to your pain. These are extremely hurtful examples, but the importance of our problems, be them massive or day-to-day, are oft-times amplified in our minds to unrealistic and unhealthy proportions. The fleeing families seemed to possess this knowledge whether they knew it before or not. One could say this principle applies to our attachment to possessions, or even health and wellbeing.
Existing, I believe, is a privilege, so shouldn't everything that happens or occurs in this "existence" be viewed as such? Easier said than done, I know, I'm not the one who has to camp out at Riverside Park every night, but one could consider this perspective. We live in a fast-paced society where it's so impossibly simple to get caught in the rat race of preforming, achieving, acquiring, and succeeding that we overlook just how easy it is for something material (or human) to be taken away from us. Instantly. Stripped away from their content and history, these evacuees proved how beautiful and happy we can feel just to be experiencing life, even in the face of chaos. Breathing, seeing, feeling, tasting, smelling, any sensualized way you dice it up, this world in its imperfect, impermanent frame, is utterly amazing.
Yes, you may have failed your test, or got fired by Trump, or lost your home in a fire but try not to be distracted from the fact that you are undergoing a miracle experiment if you're still here, even if it feels like hell. Help people, be kind, Fuck Cancer, achieve your goals, strive to acquire which you so desire, buy the clothes or live in the home that is perfect for you, but don't get lost and forget that everything material is REMOVABLE, even your precious existence. Do, or don't do something meaningful in your life, you get to chose, but I truly believe you should try to wear a smile on your face regardless. Other people are smiling through all scales of dilemma, even the displaced grandparents with the grocery bags over their shoulders.
Maybe everyone did just have ice cream and I'm just overanalyzing as per usual. It's a great characteristic for an agent.
Pardon my profanity,
*I hope no one takes my lighthearted approach to this subject as insensitive, I understand the horror and wholeheartedly feel for the victims of this disaster and, although I could probably do more voluntarily, I have donated to help financially. Please feel free to offer suggestions to help those in need right now.