Posts Tagged ‘Odd insights’

The integrity of the Trickster

Sep 24 2015

I was brought up to be a good boy; eat what I’m given, say the right things and above all do what I’m told. Over the years I’ve realised that there are more of us around than we realise. Good boys, working to a set of rules imposed on us by someone else. Someone who thought that they were doing the right thing by making us good boys because someone had told them to be a good boy or a good girl.

Time passes quicker than one realises and it doesn’t take long to go from being a good boy in a school to becoming a man who has learnt to do as he’s told. One of the things that keeps us on the straight and narrow path is the fear that if you’re not a good boy then you may be banished remain lonely and lost. So for years, we’ll do what we’re told, at first by our parents, then by teachers and others in authority and finally our partners. As that’s what good boys do and are trained to do, what we’re told. However there is something in the background, something that tries to pull us away from the straight and narrow, something that wants us to stop and play in the sun, splash in the puddles or just watch the birds circle and soar. As we’re good boys we don’t; we hurry home as there are books to be red, instruments to be practised, someone to be looked after or some other kind of work. We’ll do this again and again because we’re good boys, until life feels as if it’s something mundane, something to be endured. However I believe that in the heart of every good boy there is a part of us that longs for us to be taken away from the life that we live; away from perfectly combed hair, clean shirts and the prison of being a good boy. I believe that we both long for it and fear it equally. I’d read about the trickster in all his/her forms both in myth and legend and also how the archetype manifests in Jungian and other forms of Psychology. All the stories I’d read had convinced me that the trickster be it in the form of Loki (Norse god of Mischief) or Eris (Greek Goddess of discord) and a whole host of others weren’t people I wanted to cross my path. I’d come to believe that like Jack in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk I’d lose a cow and end up with a handful of beans which I’d throw away, or worse.  Losing both the cow and any profit that I may have gained from it. As a good boy, I’d been happy with this state of affairs, as I’m far too sensible to be taken in by the trickster’s wiles, or so I thought. Perhaps it’s a part of growing up, maybe it’s part of being a writer and needing to understanding someone’s motivation, even if that someone only exists in myths and legends or our subconscious. However I could feel the trickster calling from the shadows and recently I’ve answered his (for me the trickster energy manifests as a man, for you it might not) and what I’ve learnt has surprised me. This may feel like the stuff of fairy tales and myths or depth psychology. I am coming to believe there is a part of ourselves, somewhere deep in our subconscious that rallies and rails at the way we treat ourselves as well as others. That notices each and every time we put other’s needs before ourselves or each and every time we sell ourselves short and keeps score. I believe that this is how the trickster is born into our awareness, all that disappointment and sadness about how we are treating ourselves manifests something in the shadows of our soul. Something that tries to hold up a mirror to show us the life we are living. The trickster’s work starts gently and subtly;  you may forget your keys or wallet, which makes you stop and take a different way to work or miss your usual train to work and things go on from there. Or the trickster interrupt your train of thought in a meeting and tell you that the person you are listening to and you’ve admired for so long isn’t the wise and wonderful person you thought and their persona and finery only exists in their (and possibly your) mind. I think at times like these that the trickster is trying to remind us good boys that there is more to us than the good boy that we’ve become. There is a man who is wise and has experience beyond his acceptance or knowledge. I believe that the internal trickster is trying to remind us that there is more to life and more to us than the place we are in right now; more than a life of service to others at a cost to ourselves, more than a life of constantly working and not stopping to see the wonders of the world around us. At his heart, I believe that the trickster is saying “stop, you’re better than this, worth more than this” and that isn’t always easy to hear. So, the trickster will try again and you forget our keys or forget to grab your wallet so you can’t pay for that oh, so needed latte again and again. Until you begin to wonder what’s going on, what happened to my life, how did I get here and do I want to be here? Like the trickster of legend our trickster wants us to change ourselves, the way we look at the world and our place in it. However it’s not easy for us to do as we’re good boys and good boys don’t rock the boat or do anything crazy or weird, but when we do he cheers and celebrates as he’s a part of us. This is the journey I’ve been on for the past few years; at I was committed to my identity to be a good boy, then I got confused when things started to happen that I couldn’t explain such as misplacing items which when I stopped looking were just where I’d left them, then I started to look at the people around me and realised that some of the people I’d looked up to weren’t as wise or wonderful as I first thought. When all else failed the trickster came into my life through a friend asking me the question “If money was no object what would you be doing?” Each time the trickster seemed to be asking the same questions. Questions that made me to see my existence in a different light and begin a journey that has helped me to change things I believe, for the better. There are still times when I revert into the old ways of wanting to be a good boy and if I seem to be going too far the trickster reminds me of his presence. I’ve now learnt to be patient and look at what’s going on in my life and identify what it is that I need to look at differently. Which leads to the title of this piece. I think the trickster sometimes gets bad press. However for me he has been a very useful part of my makeup. I believe that when he appears in our lives the trickster is asking us the questions – Is this really where you thought you’d be? This thing that is so important to you at the moment, how important is it really? Are you being the man that you want to be? I believe that the integrity of the trickster is that he wants us to be more content and happier. It’s just that as good boys we’re so busy being good that sometimes he needs to take us out of our comfort and that’s not fun for any of us.   by Shaky Shergill

A conversation with the Elders: part 1

Feb 03 2014

Perhaps it’s reaching 45, seeing my son with my father and the relationship they have, coming from a community that has always valued the presence of multiple generations living together. However I’m becoming more and more aware of the lack of male elders and elder energy in my life.

Some of this comes from being part of an inter-generational family where my paternal grandfather lived with us until he died (I was 16 at the time). My maternal grandfather lived close by as well. Both of them were significant presences in my life and my growing into manhood and fatherhood I believe, has suffered from their absence.

I like to imagine a time when the sons, fathers and grandfathers lived together under one roof or in one community supporting, encouraging and nurturing each other. Grandfathers teaching their sons how to become fathers who in turn taught their sons to become men. I can see myself sitting in that intergenerational circle; laughing, crying, sharing, listening, accepting and being accepted.

Courtesy of Shaky Shergill 

There are times it feels as if we are heading towards a future where this timeless image is being lost in favour of an instantaneous snapshot. Do I really need to know that someone on the other side of the world went for a milkshake and it was good? More importantly do I really want to forget the names of my grandfathers, their fathers and grandfathers? My elders, my ancestors who came before me and in many ways without my even realising it helped me to become the man I am.

Reaching midway in my life I’m becoming more and more aware of how time quickly time passes and that I’m getting closer to death; the decade between 20 and 30 felt like a long time, 30 to 40 didn’t feel as long and as I turn 45 this year it feels as if I’ve just recovered from the hangover from my 40th birthday so how can I be 45? What will it feel like to be 50, 60, 70 and beyond? How do I deal with the successes, the failure and the regrets?

There is a part of me which is looking for other men; wiser men, older men, elders who I believe are travelling this road and want to share their tales as much as I want to hear them. However, unlike my predecessors I can see that circle consisting of a rainbow of men; from different lands, speaking different languages, wearing different clothes but still sons of the same mother.

This and the following articles in this series are my attempt to start a conversation with the elders.





Learning to love – by Walter Michka

Aug 12 2013

There wasn’t a lot of what I’d call love in my household growing up. My parents were cold, unemotional, verbally and physically abusive to me, and each other, at times. I can’t remember my father ever saying he loved me or giving me a hug. My mother told me once when I was a teenager: “I love you,” she said, followed by “but I don’t like you.” The years of psychological therapy after my quadruple bypass helped me reprocess my parents’ behavior and put it in perspective. It didn’t excuse how they acted and it didn’t erase the mark it left on me but I more or less understand the kind of people they were.

All four of my grandparents were immigrants from Belarus; they were icy and stoic. The two on my mother’s side lost their first three children in the 1918 flu pandemic. The two on my father’s side suffered through a loveless, arranged marriage. Their lives were a struggle.

I learned love by my parents’ example. I had a steady girlfriend in high school and quite a few more in college— dates, hook-ups, I even lived with a few women. I never had strong feelings for any of them, really, not feelings of love. I didn’t know what love should feel like. I certainly never experienced the kind of love toward them you see in movies, the deep, yearning, stare-into-each-other’s-eyes gushing kind of love.

When I met my wife it was far from love at first sight. You know those stories they tell on talkshows where the guy says: “the moment I saw her I told myself that was the woman I’m going to marry?” That wasn’t us. She liked me, flirted with me, hung out with my friends and me. But I barely knew she was there. Months later, I bumped into her again and I asked her out. We dated and moved in together. It took years before I asked her to marry me and only after she pretty much threatened to break up.

I didn’t think much of marriage. There weren’t a lot of great role models to encourage me that it was something I wanted to try. My parents’ shouting and fighting, the cold, distant marriages of other relatives… I wasn’t in any rush.

My children showed me what love is.

When our first child was born, I was smitten. I finally felt that deep, yearning, stare-into-each-other’s-eyes gushing kind of love you see in movies…  Sharing that love with one, then two, then three more kids didn’t diminish that feeling one bit. In fact, it was more like love to the fourth power. It was a sinking ache in my chest that could make me well up with tears just seeing them play with Legos. Sometimes I’d be watching a video with Jack, let’s say, Thomas the Tank Engine for the 20th time, and he’d catch me looking at him instead of the TV.

“I’m watching The Jack Show,” I’d tell him. “This is my favorite episode where Jack watches a movie with his dad.”

My wife worked nights and weekends as a stage actress when our children were little, so that was my time to step in as Mr. Mom. That really helped me get closer to my children, helped me become the kind of father I never had growing up.

With time and the help of my psychologist, I’ve come to realize what love is— to me. My wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this past April (although we’ve been together 29 as she’s quick to add). My love for my wife has grown over the years, matured, or maybe I’m just in better touch with it. And while it still might not be the yearning, gushing kind of love of a romantic drama, it’s become the loudness and laughter and warm hugs of a Neil Simon play.


Walter Michka is a guest writer for MB50 and currently writes for the Chicago Post, along with other publications. We recently posted his insights to life following his major heart surgery.



Jul 22 2013

Major social insights from the world of barbeques


I’m happy to say that even now, in my sixties, I am a BBQ virgin.  Barbies have never appealed to me: they remind me of the joke, ‘Why do men do barbeques?’ : ‘Because they end up burning the meat better.’

However, my wife’s family are keen on the barbeque scene, and when we decided to invite them all to our house for a weekend party to celebrate Linda’s 50th, there was probably some self-interest in their decision to give her a barbeque set as a birthday present.

My father-in-law clearly felt it was his duty to train me in doing barbeques, not a view I shared.  However, it is thanks to Richard that I have a major social insight from the world of barbeques to share.  He explained that you need two kinds of charcoal to get a barbecue going well: firstly, fast-acting, self-impregnating for a quick and fiery start, and then lumpwood for a steady reliable flame.


Fast-acting, self-impregnating seemed a pretty good summary for the frenetic youth of today. And whilst lumpwood may not be the most elegant name for the over fifties, there’s such a desperate lack of a good collective name for them that this could be a strong candidate.

At least the term lumpwood suggests a solid, important, dependable, and central role, with a hearts of oak quality, which I feel is very appropriate to the many invaluable roles which we over-fifties could play in society, if we start to find our voice, re-discover our purpose, and act on it all. But then, to return to the barbeque analogy, it might just be the role of the fast-acting, self-impregnating generation to light our fire…



Walter Michka – Life after Quadruple Bypass and more..

Jun 07 2013

Walter Michka is a Chicago writer and comedian who’s worked on national TV, local radio, and major ad campaigns in the States. His short story “Gut Feeling” can be found in the Clackamas Literary Review and his eBook “Thought Nuggets” at fine e-retailers near you. Walter underwent an emergency quadruple bypass in January of 2009 after experiencing chest pains that everyone, including his doctor, thought, at first, was acid reflux. Read his weekly blog: and more at:

We have also featured the link to his lighthearted quiz – 12 Ways to tell if you are older than you think.. have a look.. if you dare!