music painter
Union Station Toronto

Any environment where humans are present cannot be stress-free even from waiting, and while we respond in certain ways to past conditioning stressing out is almost an art form gone contagious infecting its victims with uninhibited reactivity. Observation simply tells all. We've had formidable teachers of stress - entities that all too often didn't know what they were doing and often still don't. I try to escape imagining a place, an experience, without parent, society, and religion.

Some sincerely wrong parents create stress not only for their kids but for themselves and others. One afternoon as I sat in the mall I glanced up and saw a mother yell furiously at her six-year-old boy who was bouncing a basketball she had purchased threatening to throw the ball in the garbage if he continued. I watched him whimper as the ball got stuffed in the shopping cart. As it was, I couldn't interfere, but I felt stress. It got me questioning why she would act like this. Was she aware of any other ways to deal with this situation? Was this drill sergeant style of behaviour something she experienced from her parents and now has transferred it to her kids? I'll leave this open for reader digestion.

On the same day, I saw another mom walking well ahead of her two three-year-old toddlers occasionally glancing backward as they skipped about exercising their curiosity in a new territory. The contrast between the behaviours of these two mothers was shocking because it revealed potentially far-reaching consequences. The learning has started. One course is fear, domination, resentment, suspicion, and the other course is confidence, curiosity, cooperation, and trust.

In a materialistic society where all aspects of our way of life are defined, taken for granted, categorized, labelled and censored, supposedly for our benefit, "people believe themselves to be dependent on what happens for their happiness, that is to say, dependent on form" (Tolle). Strictly representational art, for example, has its place but it's often chosen over expressive art because it defines form in the conservative, traditional sense without wavering to the sublime or the formless. These concepts largely untaught in our public schools suggest that restricting human imagination by removing curiosity and play dramatically widen the spectrum of collective and personal stress.

The exercising of authority, control, and domination in the guise of religion has been around since the beginning of civilization. Often conflicting with the kinds of freedoms we cherish such as thought, speech, and opportunities for creativity. Over a millennium, we have fought hard for these personal liberties. How can we estimate the degree of personal stress from artistic and religious repression and exclusion that authoritarianism has caused?

Stress is awareness of tension, the feeling that something is not right. Depending on my reaction I can live unabated with potentially adverse effects on my mood, my organs, my chemistry and my behaviour. I am hardest hit when I encounter a decision to choose between a fight or flight response to some form that reality has taken.

As awareness of previous learning patterns surface, alternatively, I can choose not to react. I could identify over and over with my story, its past and future, but who cares, except a hungry ego, and does all that matter in the long run? My friend, a retired firefighter, repeats to me almost daily when we have coffee in the mall, "Hang loose, kiddo. Whatever will be, will be!" With acceptance, I might live longer, but yes I resolve (without stress) not to be a victim. ©

Works Cited

John Lennon and Yoko Ono. "Imagine." 1971.

Tolle, Eckhart, Oneness With All Life - Treasury Edition Inspirational Selections from 'A new Earth', Penguin Group (USA) Inc., November 2009, p. 28.

Livingston, R. Evans, Doris Day, and Frank DeVol. Whatever Will Be, Will Be; We'll Love Again Que Sera, Sera. Philips, 1956. CD.

The Stress Trap


June 15, 2017


James Kershaw


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Jim Kershaw says

May 27, 2017

“A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don’t need it.”–Bob Hope (Brainy Quote)

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