Powered by the People

It only took me a year and a half to finish what I consider the earliest documentary I ever started. What began as a practice project turned into an interesting story about an energetic red head who wanted to create a sense of community through a pedal-powered concert.

I was proud to screen the final movie at the Glow and Show at Cyclepalooza, a ten-day biking event in Calgary. Here is the movie within the movie:


A friend died suddenly of cancer recently. As a result I’m in shock not knowing what what to feel or think. To be honest I haven’t had to think too much about mortality in a personal way until now.

I was with her at the hospital a few days before she passed away. At first you wonder what to even say or do. But then you realize that the imminent end strips away the need to skirt around reality; this is goodbye. You share memories, gratitudes, and yes even hopes for the future.

This was the gift that Tracey gave me and, I would guess, others. Despite it being her last days on earth, she looked to the future not so much for herself as for the people around her including her husband and son. This was typically her. Throughout her life, she faced blindness, cancer,and motherhood with a kind of directness and courage that inspired everyone who met her.

She also demonstrated that death isn’t the end. It’s not that I have any strong convictions around where she will go in the afterlife. But I do see how her actions have created ripples of change that will last beyond her life. This is as close to a grounded meaning of eternal life as I can define. What we do in this life does matter to the generations to come and perhaps in that way we do live on through the influence and impact we’ve had on others.

There is nothing revolutionary about this way of thinking except perhaps in our current individualistic and egotistical society. Every tradition has some sense of legacy. My middle name in Chinese tells me that I represent the 27th generation in my family. Today, however, we know that we are all part of the same family, the same species living on a relatively small and limited home.

So, the question becomes whether we are supporting humanity’s journey or hindering it. Easy to ask at the high level; difficult to work out the details since we don’t often ask questions about our own humanity. We assume it like an heir to the throne.

In an insulated society like ours we are protected from the debilitating fear of starvation, the violence of war, or the threat of freezing to death. Always a dangerous proposition for a species dependent on its ability to sense the environment around them. While safety gives us the space to explore and understand our world, safety also makes us complacent about what ensures our long-term safety.

Death is a major part of our evolutionary process. Without it, species would not be able to adapt from one generation to the next. We’re lucky in that human beings don’t always have to wait until their genes get updated. We can update our thinking about the world more quickly. Nevertheless, death is the final arbiter as to whether our thinking is sound, whether our civilization is worthy of life.

There are other ways to approach death though. You can take on beliefs that make it easier to deal with maybe even dismiss it altogether. You can decide that life is all about you and enjoy the ride. Or maybe it’s like groundhog day where you spend your life trying all the wrong ways of living before finding a good way to live.

I haven’t come to terms with it. I am caught between wanting to be brutally realistic about death, wanting to transcend it, and well wanting to avoid it.

I have figured out one piece of it though. If I thought about death only as it applies to me or other individuals, I fall into a survivalist “who-lives-who-dies” mentality where death is to be avoided at all costs. When I think about death as a part of life and when I think of myself as being part of a human community, I am better able to make sense of it. So rather than being only concerned with what life insurance policy I need, I am also concerned with why war, famine, disease is such a large part of our civilization.

Strangely enough that puts me at peace with my mortality.

Lunar Eclipse Inspiration

A few days ago I found myself waking up early morning a little after 6:00 am on December 10th for no apparent reason. Then I remembered there was to be a lunar eclipse, so like a little kid, I snuck out of bed, put on my coat and rushed out to watch the moon slowly being eaten by the shadow of the Earth.

It wasn’t long though before I decided I had to share it with everyone, so I rushed back in to grab my camera to point at the night sky. Here is what I caught in 25x time-lapse:

While you get to see 25 minutes compressed into one, I got to reflect on the celestial event and have some sense of why it happens and at what time! It brought me back to my elementary days when I tried to simulate the crescent moon with a flashlight, globe and tennis ball. To think that we were able to come up with Kepler’s laws of motion which could predict the motion of the planets and moons. This seems more magical to me than the old Chinese mythology of a dragon eating the moon. Here was a peaceful reminder that if humankind were to contemplate the heavens and reach for the best of what humankind can offer, then we can achieve much.

So while my ancestors might have been beating drums to scare the dragon away, I could have my moment of inspiration knowing that it won’t be long before the moon returns.

Meet the Human Race

This is quite possibly the most important video I have cut together to date. Not because I shot it. In fact, I’ve taken liberally from HOME, Journey of Man, and Short History of Progress.

It’s important not because the ideas are original. They are drawn from Leadership Calgary and from the work of the Action Studies Institute.

It’s important because it’s a vivid reminder to me every day that I am part of the human race whose history is my history, and whose journey is also my adventure.

I use to think my history was tied to who my grandparents were or where I was born. As it turns out, that is only a tiny part of my ancestry.

I used to just assume I was a global citizen perhaps because I’m part of that “new generation”. In reality, scientifically, historically, pragmatically we must learn to become global citizens.

And so this video is in a way an introduction to the human race and the situation we find ourselves in and the need to move forward.

I’d much enjoy hearing your response to it.


TEDx Talk – Taking Care

Weaving together global events and his personal story, Walter Hossli dispels the illusion of independence and the need to learn about interdependence asking all of us to take care of the global family.

This talk was one of my favourites because of the genuine care he took in preparing for the talk. He will be the first to admit that it was a stretch for him to stand on the stage. Nevertheless, the message was so important that he felt he had to share it.