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  • Karlene M. Francis

The Best of the best

Not too long ago, I walked from the neighbourhood where I live to the waterfront and back around the city streets. It was a mild fall afternoon, overcast yet not rainy. I had to unzip my coat.

I was breathing in the air and feeling so grateful. The leaves crunched under my feet, dry and brown. Those on the trees were glistening gold as the sun streamed between them. At the water, the ocean was dark, as the waves tumbled over and over each other.

A long path, lined with golden leaved trees and fallen leaves on the ground

I couldn't help but think this was incredibly majestic as I gazed at the foliage in front of the houses, with its fronds of hay coloured grass. I took in everything around me and contemplated on the brilliant artist who imbued our world with all of these beautiful, unique aspects of nature.

I then started to reflect on the Genesis story that I was told early on in childhood about creation. It was a mind-bending idea that everything including me, was brought into being by this great, force of Consciousness. It was an awesome mystery to my intellect and yet, not to my heart.

Because the sun, the moon, the earth, water all the energies of love, and joy are so beautiful and life giving, they only could have been conceived of by a great, benevolent force. I felt this at my core and yet was very curious to understand more.

The Bible was my reference point for spiritual study throughout my childhood. Later, I explored other philosophies in junior high school from the scientific Big Bang narrative to an introduction of practices and beliefs from non-Western cultures through my religious studies course.

I was fascinated that in each religion there were some overlapping, plot points. It is also really interesting that I never explored the information I had heard much later on that the Bible had been heavily curated.

Then recently I read there were at least 600 books that could have been used, that were left out by the Roman emperor Constantine during his reign and only 80 books were eventually approved for the King James version of 1611, which was further reduced to 66, when the books called the Apocrypha were taken out.

So these means to me that some discernment may be needed as we examine what was given to the masses? That may or may not be the case. It's just a thought.

Regardless, there are teachings in this book that offer wisdom and some best practices that are unifying, not divisive and those suggestions are found scattered throughout, so we have to search for them in what was left for us to examine and perhaps prove them out through experience.

Speaking of the best, where I live, they have a yearly, "Best of the the City" list produced by one of the local papers that is apparently voted on by the community at large. I used to look at it over the years to see what some of the up and coming restaurants were named, as there would usually be many spots to check out that I had no idea about.

I also was interested in the musical artists named as best and if any winners were bands that I would go out to listen to throughout the year or if there were any new artists that I didn't know to discover. Of course, because there is a large, diverse, creative culture here, the latter could always be possible.

This year I didn't go out as regularly in the past to hear one of my favourite "best of" bands, the jazz trio of Silvio Pupo, Damien Moynihan and Ron Hynes who have played consistently on Wednesday nights at The Local for a number of years, as well with other projects. They are definitely a band worth the price of admission and we are so fortunate for when I was going to hear them, there was no cover. How can you beat that!

There are so many other super artists that I have enjoyed as well that live and work in my city. We are blessed with an abundance of talent. I was happy to hear some soulful female singers new to me over the last number of months, including Kirsten Olivia and Lindsey Misiner.

Is it possible that these types of lists may cause some disappointment or other more negative traits within those who were not named one of the top three (gold, silver, bronze) for their business or service? I hope not, however we must each examine our own hearts when it comes to this area.

I was watching a season of this popular cooking competition that was filmed last year, with a cast of very skilled young chefs, all under the age of 25 years old. It was going well, probably one of the most successful season's ever as the young adults were so disciplined in their execution of the meals in challenges and in the restaurant service, more than some chefs much older that had been seen in years past.

One chef started to get into the zone and by the last few weeks of technical challenges had won at least three in a row. After this, another member of his team who was originally on the opposite one, started to get more and more angry. She even verbalized the desire to cause him physical harm.

The young chef talked badly about her competitor behind his back. She made many disparaging comments as he kept achieving success in his challenges including, "This person thinks, they are better than everyone else," when most likely that was not the case. He did not seem to be coming across as arrogant. Or course, we were not privy to what was going on off-camera. Regardless, her vitriol was really off-putting and came across as sour grapes in my view.

When I was a growing up that behaviour was called being a sore loser, which is quite a tame description for that emotional state. A few years ago, they called it "hater" which is closer. I am not sure of the word that is used in the Gen Z lexicon.

This very destructive state of being shows up in so many situations in our lives. For instance, a person may be working slowly, steadily and silently at their craft in whatever area and once they finally start to shine, other people exhibit responses which range from the absence of supportive congratulations to outright sabotage, instead of feeling sincerely happy for that person.

This is a type of violence that is as insidious as suppressed anger, or maybe even more so. Envy is an emotion that causes so much darkness in our world and it grows due to a loss of perspective and acknowledgment of its existence. It is birthed from an egocentric place that tells us that no one else but 'I' should be celebrated for my achievements. In our own, eyes we are the most important, and others must not be seen as better, brighter, more skillful, more beautiful, more kind, virtuous, or compassionate.

It was scary to see the progression of that young adult's anger. It was very ugly and it probably did not make her feel very good. By the end, she tried to get control of herself but she had already shown that behavior. That is not to say, her effort to gain control of her emotions was not a step in the right direction. I was encouraged to see this.

We all have had moments where we have lost our temper, or showed up in other ways that did not exhibit our best selves. Words can cause much harm, yet they will not typically in and of themselves extinguish a life. That young man could leave that brush with envy behind him after the show was completed with his body intact.

No matter what we create on our journey in this world, under the cover of darkness or in the light, can any effort be as majestically perfect as what was achieved by the greatest Artist of all creation? We may not agree on what to call the most high, force of Life, yet we can feel and see the fruits of its ultimate power all around and within us, and by our very existence.

In one of those books that was taken out of the Bible, it was written that human beings were created to be immortal and only through envy did death come into the world. That puts a different perspective on many questions so many people have asked about suffering. It left me with food for thought.

Envy shows up towards people who are acquaintances, between colleagues, or people working in the same industry but how much worse it is when there is envy within families and between so-called friends? This happens much more than is admitted and those on the receiving end of it can experience the full range of suffering from being neglected as children to many other travesties.

"The Best of" theme caused me pause and spend some time reflecting on the ways we can be the better people by getting really honest with ourselves as to the harm we inflict upon each other by way of harbouring dark feelings for another human being without provocation.

We can keep the green-eyed monster in check and if we start to recognize any trace of this energy, we can look at it and work to eliminate the feelings, even seeking help if needed. It is something to be faced and not turn away from, as the negative consequences for not doing this are extremely high.

So let us enjoy our awards and external validation and at the same time challenge ourselves with an inside self-examination competition to take responsibility for our thoughts without needing some other force to manage them and award us with a prize for our efforts.

This might be a way towards the best possible world. We can choose to self-regulate.

Is it truly our desire to have the freedom to think and do as we please? Why then does it seem our own minds have created prisons in every form?

We are co-creators with the greatest, most benevolent, Artist.

Let's turn things over again, tilling and weeding our inner selves and plant good seed that will uplift souls in all the best ways that we can imagine, no envy required!

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