Life Is Too Short

Pandemics are no fun. Politics around pandemics are no fun. Border closures are no fun. I’d hazard to guess that I haven’t been having that much fun since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the WHO on March 11th of this year.

I lost my hair.

Literally.

After I became so ill in January, I started to experience substantial hair loss.

Turns out that hair loss is an unexpected outcome of COVID-19 and perhaps I was infected back then. Or perhaps the stress of being put into a very dynamic situation with regards to where we would be living took its toll.

Thankfully my hair seems to be rebounding. It was quite a shock to see so much hair loss every time I took a shower over the past six months.

Life hasn’t been as enjoyable since all of this started. Partly due to the pandemic and largely due to the loss of control with all of the government restrictions.

A friend passed this note of encouragement along. With everything that passes my way, hundreds of emails each day, dozens of websites scanned each day, hundreds of social media posts, tweets, YouTube videos, well, you get the idea. Most of that information flows quickly in and out.

This one caused me to pause. It hit home. And it caused me to think more deeply than I normally do when I read emails.

Here it is in its entirety.

Seneca once wrote:

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.

This is a profound statement and I would encourage you to read it again. The more I read it, the more I am inspired by it.

These phrases stick out the most to me:

“It is not that we have a short time to live… but that we waste a lot of it…”

“Life is long enough for the highest achievements if it were all well invested…”

“It is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity…”

“We are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it…”

I should, perhaps, end this article right now—with Seneca’s own words—rather than thinking I can improve upon them.

But maybe, for just a few short sentences, I will comment.

You (the person reading these words right now) were designed to achieve great things! You are unique in your being, your substance, your abilities, and your relationships. And there is no one else on the face of the earth who can live your life and accomplish your good.

Please, do not forget that.

There is no doubt that “success” and “achievement” are relative words and your highest achievement is different from someone else’s highest achievement. You may never lead thousands or cure cancer. But make no mistake:

There is a good that you are designed to bring into this world. And there are people in your life that you can serve and love better than anyone else.

Your highest achievement will be different than mine, but we both have one. And “life is long enough for us to achieve it.”

Unless, as Seneca wrote, “Our lives are wasted in needless luxury and spent on no good activity.”

It is up to us to decide, every day, to focus our energies on those things worthy of the one life we have been given.

Discard the inessential. Remove the distractions. Reject worthless activity.

Your life is too short… to waste accumulating material possessions.

Your life is too short… to be offended all the time.

Your life is too short… to chase accolades.

Your life is too short… to compare it to others.

Your life is too short… to waste watching 6 hours of television/day.

Your life is too short… to pursue riches.

Your life is too short… to not believe in yourself.

Your life is too short… to not forgive.

Your life is too short… to not speak your mind.

Your life is too short… to worry about the future.

Your life is too short… to regret the past.

Your life is too short… to live in fear.

Your life is too short… to be unhappy.

Your life is too short… to waste time on the trivial.

Your life is too short… to live like everyone else.

Your life is too short… to not be true to yourself.

And life is too short to wait.

Volunteering

Volunteerism is the practice of volunteering one’s time or talents for charitable, educational, or other worthwhile activities, especially in one’s community. Since returning to Canada, I have been heavily involved in volunteering at our church. On a weekly basis I spend about 20 hours a week recording, mixing and producing the worship music for our livestream services. I’ve done 19 services over the past five months.

Here is one example:

We pre-record our musical parts before the video is captured. That way I can bring them into my Pro Tools rig and produce a good sounding mix for the livestream service. From the coach I record and add all of the electric guitar parts for every song we play each week at our church. So even though you might not see me in the above video, I am playing several different guitar parts in that song.

I mix all of the various parts — vocals, keys, bass, drums and other tracks — in the coach as well.

This is the setup that I use to mix the music. Obviously a bit of a challenge to mix to a professional standard in a motorcoach but it can be done.

When we present the livestream on Sunday morning, I work out of this temporary audio suite at our church. I use the console to mix the live sound sources for the service as well as the pre-recorded mixes that I have produced from the coach each week.

Over the past few months, I have been working on a new audio mix suite. I have been heavily involved in the construction and implementation of this new facility in addition to the ongoing livestream work.

Here is a short video which shows the start of the construction work.

I can’t begin to tell you how many hours I have poured into this project. And it is now starting to get close to being finished. I hope to have the new audio suite up and running next week and I will post the “after” video once it is all done.

Here is a sneak peek of the new audio mix suite. Very soon I will be mixing from this room as opposed to mixing from our coach.

Freedom

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.” — Arthur Conan Doyle.

Yesterday I took my bike out for a ride. This bike:

I carry it in one of the basement bays in our coach. This particular bike is a work of art. The frame was hand built by Colnago in 2013. The frame celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Master. A steel frame. A real bike.

I bought the frame back in 2013 and finally built the complete bike out in 2017. Look at some of the details.

All in, the bike weights just under 19 pounds. Nowhere near as light as my racing bikes but at this stage of life, I ride for fitness and pleasure, not for racing. The frame is an aggressive geometry for an older rider but the bike rides like a charm. I maxed out at just under 70 kilometres per hour yesterday on one of the downhills. Tracks beautifully and responds instantly.

Freedom.

There is nothing quite like the freedom that comes from riding a bike.

After being stuck under COVID-19 house arrest since the end of March, along with some of the coldest weather on record for this time of year, it was a true delight to get outside and to take a couple of hours to ride.

Beautiful country roads in our area. Perfect for riding.

Happy Easter

Easter this year. A different church experience for me during this pandemic. Thankfully the gospel message of hope and redemption has not changed.

Instead of playing at a worship service live, I recorded all of the parts from our worship team. I mixed a dozen vocalists and a full band of musicians. All from the confines of my motorcoach. I have never held remote recording sessions before. I have never mixed live services over the Internet before. And I have never played in a worship setting with just a computer before me.

This is a video I made of one of the songs. It is not the video we will be using later this morning for the livestream of our church service. This video was just a moment I tracked while working on the project in our motorcoach. It starts with a shot of our coach and yes, it was snowing, and then shows me recording the guitar part as well as some cut shots from the software that I used to track all of the numerous parts from the other band members.

Social distancing has impacted our lives in so many ways.

Yet the message of Easter is this: Christ defeated the powers of sin and death for all who believe.

Quarantine Is Over

Our mandatory quarantine, accompanied by the government’s threat to levy a fine of up to one million dollars and/or three years in jail for non-compliance, has ended. Lorraine and I are not showing any symptoms.

Out of an abundance of caution, we spent our last two weeks in Florida practicing social distancing and remaining mostly within our coach. The only time that one of us left our resort was to get groceries.

We wanted to ensure that we did not have any symptoms prior to returning to Canada. And when we decided to leave Florida early, we drove straight home without any delay.

We made arrangements to be in a location where we are far removed from anyone.

And we did this to do our part to help flatten the curve.

What now? What changes after this?

We currently have no home for our coach although we are optimistic that the government may allow us to occupy our site for the season. The first order of business will be to reposition ourselves whenever our site becomes available. If not, our wonderful friends at our dealership have told us not to worry. We can remain here for as long as needed.

We will follow the government’s request to stay home and only go out when needed. As a retired couple, that is the single best way for us to make a difference during this pandemic. We will continue to play the role that we are being asked to play as laid out by our public health services:

In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within communities and across the country, all Canadians are advised to:

  • stay at home unless you have to go to work
  • talk to your employer about working at home if possible
  • avoid all non-essential trips in your community
  • do not gather in groups
  • limit contact with people at higher risk, such as older adults and those in poor health
  • go outside to exercise but stay close to home
  • if you leave your home, always keep a distance of at least 2 arms lengths (approximately 2 metres) from others
  • household contacts (people you live with) do not need to distance from each other unless they are sick or have travelled in the last 14 days

You can go for a walk if you:

  • have not been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • do not have symptoms of COVID-19
  • have not travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days
  • If you go out for a walk, do not congregate and always practise physical (social) distancing by keeping at least 2 metres apart from others at all times.

Beyond that, there is little else to plan. The suspension of civil liberties will continue for several months. We are not even certain if we will be able to return to Florida in November. All of our travel plans for the next six months are irrelevant.

I’ve been asked about my reaction to the suspension of civil liberties. I’m not happy about it and I do have a concern when the state moves to suspend civil liberties.

Contained within the Canadian Charter of Rights:

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

(d) freedom of association.

And:

7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

I understand why the state has taken certain actions. We are doing are part to follow the advice of the state.

During my career, I was a senior executive and decision-maker in business. Failure to plan and failure to execute inevitability led to termination of employment. It appears to be somewhat different for senior political leaders. The electorate will vote them out however very few are ever held to account for a failure to plan and a failure to execute.

I’ve read through several dozen government reports on Pandemic Preparation dating all the way back to 2006. The government of Canada committed $1 Billion to implement a Pandemic Preparedness Strategic Research Initiative. The mandate of which is described below:

The PPSRI is a component of the Government of Canada’s Avian Influenza and Pandemic Influenza (AI/PI) Preparedness Strategy, announced in May 2006. Aiming to improve Canada’s ability to respond effectively to pandemics and other public health emergencies, the Federal Government committed a total of $1 billion over five years through the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada, and CIHR. With the overall goals of reducing illness deaths and societal disruption as a result of an influenza pandemic, the AI/PI Preparedness Strategy’s specific objectives are:

• To support research that will contribute to evidence-based decision making;
• To ensure that safe and effective vaccine/antivirals are available on a timely basis to all Canadians in the event of a pandemic, including the development of a mock vaccine and build regulatory capacity in this regard;

The Canadian government had developed a series of highly detailed playbooks for dealing with a pandemic and yet, when COVID-19 arrived, our senior political leaders did not follow those playbooks in a timely fashion.

Although I applaud many of the government actions of late, the extent to which the current administration floundered on this file is shocking. Downplaying the threat repeatedly as low risk. Failing to ensure appropriate stockpiles of medical equipment. Failing to act promptly on basic containment protocols.

Playbooks are used when scenarios become real. The government, for whatever reason, chose to ignore their own playbooks until it became clear that the threat was not just present, but severe.

The Globe and Mail published a detailed report on this very topic this morning. It is well worth a read:

Long before COVID-19 emerged, top health authorities from across Canada put together a playbook to prepare for a situation strikingly similar to the one the country now finds itself in.

One of the co-authors of that report was Theresa Tam, now Canada’s chief public health officer in charge of the fight against the novel coronavirus.

According to doctors who worked on the 2006 document, which was based on a hypothetical, highly contagious outbreak of influenza, the urgency of the report faded over time, though the threat never did. It is one of several credible warnings that seem to have gone largely unheeded.

A 2010 federal audit flagged problems with the management of Canada’s emergency stockpile of medical equipment; a 2018 assessment of the H1N1 swine flu outbreak a decade earlier raised concerns about ventilator shortages; and a 2019 study led by a team of global scientists questioned the ability of many countries, including Canada to prevent, detect, and respond to a major outbreak.

Leadership, whether in business or government, is a particularly challenging role especially when there is a crisis.

I hope our political leaders make good decisions on this file as the crisis continues to unfold. They certainly had done enough planning to be ready for a pandemic.

Lorraine and I are happy to be out of quarantine.

First day out of quarantine and it is snowing.

Lorraine will make a grocery store run.

I will mix another song for the online Easter service at our church.

Life continues.