The Purpose of Belief

Anthony Robbins states “What’s the purpose of a belief? It guides us in making decisions about how to avoid pain or gain pleasure more quickly. Because of our beliefs, we don’t have to continually start from scratch in making those decisions. Sometimes in our moments of greatest fear, pain, or emotional intensity, we look for relief in the form of a belief.”

I’ve been struggling with trying to share my experience of my visit to Lourdes in France. Having been raised in a catholic environment at least in my early formative years, I have been taught much about belief and how it applies to religion.

As I aged and questioned much of the notions imparted on me, the question of belief always confounded me. As an adult I recognized that belief did ease the pain of losing my father, at least, at the onset of his passing. I wrote a letter stating that I felt he was lucky to be in heaven near Jesus, and this when I was only 9. Religion and church was important to me as it was intricately woven its reach into my daily life.

The older I got, the more I questioned everything, including the effect of belief and its value in my life. Not only belief in terms of religion, a higher being, a greater place than our physical world, but also the belief in destiny, in our own abilities etc.

This summer I had the privilege to visit Lourdes in France. Lourdes is famous for the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes said to have occurred in 1858 to Bernadette Soubirous. Each year approximately 5 million tourists visit this site, many in hope for a healing or a cure for their ailments.
lourdes 1
I arrived at this location expecting to see some injured and sick visitors but I was taken aback at the number of wheelchair bound visitors, many in an advanced state of illness. Blue wheelchairs pushed by hundreds of volunteers dominated each area and I imagined that a bird’s eye view would display an ant-like colony in movement.

lourdes 2
Hundreds of people were strategically placed in front of the statue where the sightings were said to have happened. Prayers were said and rosaries were clasped. The overall mood was somber yet dare I say, hopeful. A caravan of buses unloaded their passengers as all made their way to the main area which consisted of some benches, but mostly open space to accommodate the wheelchairs. Some knelt on small cushions while praying quietly. Some openly and unabashedly cried while others sat and stared at the statue.

We walked over to one of the churches and joined the mass already in progress. We stood in the back behind hundreds of blue wheelchairs; a sight that moved me to tears.
lourdes 3

The one sight that stopped me in mid step is etched in my mind. On a stretcher a person was draped with a blanket while being hooked to a variety of life-sustaining machines including a tracheotomy unit. I counted 12 individuals surrounding the stretcher and at that moment I realized just how strong one’s belief must be to travel in such a state in order to physically be in this special location.

I wonder if this was the wish of the patient or the family. Was this visit in hope of a cure or for a type of last rite before passing? I looked around at all the injured and ill believers and wondered if they were seeking divine intervention or simply felt the need to be in this sacred place? What I can tell you is, however strange this may seem, in my mind, belief is what I saw in abundance that day.

I am honored to have had the privilege to visit this very unique location.

From a Tattoo to a Coffee to an Interview

tattoo coffee shell

This was a typical run around day I was trying to get some shopping done. At the craft shop I stood in line to pay and I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to see this older man (early 60s, I’m thinking), fit, tanned and smiling.
“That tattoo on your leg, what does it stand for?” he asked.
“It’s the symbol for the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage walk through Spain” I responded.
“You did that?” he asked.
“Twice” and pausing “and planning to return next fall” I added.
“Do you have time for a coffee, I’d like to ask you a few questions about the Camino” he offered.

And ask, he did. I suspect he was a reporter in his work life though he never confirmed or denied it. We walked over to Starbucks and he conducted what I felt was a reporter’s interview. I thought I’d share a few of the questions he asked me since it was truly a very unique interaction.

HE: “Describe the Camino experience in 5 words”
“Really, 5 words?”
“No more, no less”
“Wow… wait, that’s not one of my words… wait, yes, WOW is one of them. Amazing, Life-changing, Challenging and Heaven”
“Top 3 moments”
“Are you a reporter? statistician? interviewer? It feels like this is a prank of sorts? Did my friends send you?”
“No, no, maybe, and not a prank and I don’t think I know your friends, I’m from Toronto”
“Ok, so top 3 moments… that is very difficult to pinpoint. Arriving at the Cathedral de Santiago, my leaking moment (I explained that one to him but for those who are curious, you can read my blog entry titled “I leaked” under my Camino experiences ) and spreading my mother-in-law’s ashes in Finisterre”
“Top 3 worse moments”
“Worse? there weren’t any really BAD moments… not as fun moments, I’d have to say the over-crowdedness (my own made up word) of the Camino this time around, falling off a top bunk in my sleep and finding out my favorite restaurant (Tarara) was closed on my last day in Santiago”
“I’m 70, did you meet people my age?”
“Yes, in fact, I spoke at lengths with at least 10 pilgrims that were in their 70s, and one in his 80s”
“Were they tired?”
“haha, we are ALL often tired… it’s a way of life on the Camino but we deal with it”

The entire hour chat seemed more like an interview than a conversation, but it had to be one of the most interesting and unexpected interaction.
Turns out my “interviewer” had contemplated doing the Camino many times, and apparently the last year was filled with what he considered signs encouraging him to fulfill this dream.

He told me that when he saw my tattoo he considered this as the last sign he needed to move ahead with his dream. We parted and exchanged emails and his last words to me were “I will call you my pre-Camino angel”

What a great unexpected meeting!
Smiling big,
Pilgrim Sylvie

Reflecting on 9/11

Twelve years have passed, yet the memories of that day are still vivid in my mind. I was in Orlando Florida for a Gartner conference.
The evening before I had bumped into a client from a Montreal project and we were surprised to see each other. I recall thinking it was strange to see him since he wasn’t in a role that typically required attending IT conferences and I had actually voiced my surprised.

I sat in the first row of our presentation room, eager to hear all about Customer Service Statistics. Near the mid point of the presentation someone walked into the room and loudly announced “You are all to gather in the lobby of the hotel” and walked out. We looked at each other and headed to the lobby not knowing what we would encounter.

The hotel staff had brought in two very large screen TV and I recall CNN was reporting on the first plane that had struck the North Tower.
We stood there and at that very moment my eyes caught those of my client I had meet the previous night. A short time later, the second plane hit the adjoining tower and the entire lobby was a cacophony of gasps and “Oh my God” statements.

The pentagon was the next to be hit and by then the hotel manager had announced that the hotel would be on lock down for a short while fearing large public parks such as Disney might be a target.
By then, it was assumed that these were terrorist strikes.

I rushed to the phones (cell phones would not work at that time) and got in line to call home and let my family know I was fine. I returned to the lobby just a few minutes before the first tower crumbled. We all stood in shock as the tower started its descent; the lobby went silent for a few seconds then the sounds of cries were heard. At that very moment our group of guests started to huddle closer together.

The rest of the morning was total chaos. The phones lines were down and frantic New Yorkers were identified and strangers rallied around them to lend moral support. We all became this entity wanting to help those affected by this tragedy.

Later that day when I was able to pull myself away from the television, I ran into my Montreal client who stated “Last night you said how strange it was for us to meet here, and I believe it;s because you and I will be driving together back home”. I looked at him and realized that was my only way out since all the airports had been closed.

We headed out of Orlando passing through three road blocks where we were asked for ID and the car searched. We decided to drive straight through by taking two hour drive shifts in rotation, stopping only to call home, grab food and stretch our legs. We talked a lot during that long 23 hour ride, and as we approached the outskirts of New York we both shed tears seeing the black sky doming the city.

My husband was waiting for us at the border in Montreal as we could not cross into Canada with our rental vehicle. We dropped off my co-driver but not before hugging tightly and recognizing that we had formed a very unique bond that time would not erase.

Today, I remember and pray for those whose lives were tragically taken that day. I pray for their friends and families and hope the love they share with them will have helped them heal.

Which came first, the chicken, the egg or the explosion?

chicken egg explosion

Today’s post is more of a cautionary tale, and if one person gains knowledge from this, I will be happy.

It seemed easy enough; put two eggs in a bowl, cover the eggs with water and set the microwave. My daughter often made hard boiled eggs this way, and it seemed to be a viable option. I must admit I had never done this as I wondered about the risk of exploding eggs.

Once the timer went off I removed the bowl from the microwave. The water was still boiling and I gently placed the bowl on the counter.
Unbeknownst to me, one of the egg contained an embryo. According to my research what likely happened is that the pressure inside that particular egg was so strong the mere vibrations of putting the bowl on the counter caused the explosion.

And explosion is the right word! I don’t recall much except for the very loud “Bang” and feeling the heat of the boiling water on my left hand. I screamed and headed to the nearby bathroom while quickly taking my tshirt off my body. I ran the cold water while my daughter comforted me and checked out the kitchen.

There was egg particles EVERYWHERE. We determined that the egg was fertilized by examining some of the larger pieces of shell splattered all over the floor. It didn’t end there; later on my oldest daughter who rushed over to take me to the hospital noticed the splatters all over the cupboards AND the ceiling. That was one powerful explosion!

Fortunately, I only suffered first degree burns and I learned that keeping any type of burn covered and protected from the air is necessary to fight infection. My left hand was bandaged for one week, and now my skin is renewing itself (enough said).

In doing my research for this blog entry, I discovered a few very interesting facts.
The three most common microwave related burns are as follow:

Superheating is what happens when water is heated past its boiling point, yet doesn’t form the bubbles we associate with boiling. When the superheated water is disturbed, as by bumping the container, stirring the water or adding something to it, the water may suddenly boil or vaporize into burning steam. One way to avoid this is by placing a non-metallic item such as a wooden spoon in the water.

2 – MOUTH BURNS caused by very hot substances such as cheese/sauce. Pizza seems to be the number one source of mouth burns caused by microwaved foods.

To hard boil eggs in the microwave, most cookbooks recommend the eggs shells be pricked (to allow pressure to escape) and completely covered in water.

This incident hasn’t diminished my yearning for eggs however I will stick to the old fashion stove top method from now on.