Transom

This afternoon I sat in my meditation chair looking out the bedroom window, just as I’m doing now.  The window is composed of four five-foot-long panes of glass, three vertical and a horizontal one at the top.  I learned two years ago, as my condo was being built, that the top one was called a transom.

After an hour or so of meditation today, I opened my eyes.  A puffy cumulus cloud was drifting slowly across the transom window, left to right.  A bit of blue was on the left edge.  I decided to stare.  Mr. Cumulus was sure taking his time and I could feel its peace within me.  How about that?  No hurry at all.  “I hope you’re listening, Bruce.”

As I gazed at the sky, I thought of my life.  A couple of minutes later, the left edge of the cloud passed above the middle pane, and I reflected on my 30’s and 40’s.  They were good years.  Jody and I enjoyed each other.  I enjoyed my teaching.  I enjoyed the kids.  And the cloud keeps drifting.

Now it’s over the right panel and other kids paint my life, as I volunteer at the elementary school nearby.  I have a new home.  I’m in a worldwide community of folks who are exploring consciousness.  Life is good.  But now the transom is mostly blue, and the white travels on.  I try to hold onto it but it continues to float eastward, on a mission I guess.  “Don’t go.  Stay with me.”

And then … poof!  The cloud is gone and my world is brilliantly blue.  How peaceful are the endings.

I hope to live for many more years but “the future’s not ours to see.  Que sera, sera.”

What will be, will be

Five!

Okay, I admit it.  Tonight I went to see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again for the fifth time.  This afternoon, I could feel the pull of the theatre, and as the Borg said in Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Resistance is futile.”  Now that shouldn’t be true.  I should be strong enough to chart another course, away from the magnificent love story, and towards reading a good book at home.  Shouldn’t I?

The movie is a magnet to me … such a vivid display of love – romantic, parent-child and friends.  I wrote about the film before so tonight will be a different direction.

Point number one > Who cares if I see a movie five times?  It cost me $50 plus popcorn.  And the joy it gave me was far beyond that.  What brought forth the joy was moments of communion between two people.  Time stood still as each gazed into the other’s eyes.  Just what I need to create in my real life.

Point number two > The difference between being pulled toward ecstasy and being pulled toward regression is immense.  Five beers would do me in and likely lead to a night over the toilet.  Life diminishing.  Five mother-daughter reunions leave me singing, in my voice and in my heart.  Life enhancing.

Point number three > Being drawn toward aliveness completely overwhelms being drawn to nothing.  Imagine waking up every day with nothing animating your spirit, nothing to look forward to, other than perhaps another day of consuming this or that.  Receiving the products of the world but not putting much out there to benefit fellow humans.  Compare that to anticipating the next conversation, and what two beings can create together.

So … is there a sixth viewing in me?  I’m not ruling it out.  Plus the Blu-ray comes out on December 31.  Happy New Year to me.

No Longer There … Always Here

I decided this morning that the New Sarum Diner would be a good choice for breakfast.  As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw lots of bicycles leaning against the building.  My immediate reaction: fear.  I suspected that what I’d encounter inside would be members of the London Cycling Club.  I rode with them for years before deciding I couldn’t even keep up with the slow group.  Today I was afraid to talk to “real cyclists” about me quitting the Tour du Canada.  Gulp.

Inside I saw “Ted” and lots of other jersey wearers.  He and I got talking about mutual friends and the LCC.  What a good guy.  As I glanced around the booths, I realized that Ted was the only person I recognized.  And that gave me pause.  I was a board member, ride organizer and weekly club e-mail contributor for many years.  A couple of times I was also the MC at the annual banquet.  And now I’m unknown to almost everyone.  How strange.

I thought back to my teaching career.  Mostly I was a visiting teacher in forty different schools, working with visually impaired students.  For six years, though, I spent a lot of time in one particular school, assisting blind students.  A year or so after I retired, I dropped into that school to say hi to staff and students.  Except there were no kids left who knew me.  I walked the halls and entered the classrooms, but there were no young smiles of recognition aimed my way.  “Who’s that guy?” I sensed the kids thinking.  How strange some more.

Both of these experiences remind me to give in the present moment … and then let go.  It may be that most of my contributions to people are short-lived in the face-to-face way.  Some folks will remember me with tenderness years later but I likely won’t be in their lives anymore.  And that’s okay.

And really, why look back?  Those days are dead and gone.  Instead, what can I bring forth now, and now, and now?  What opportunities to do good in this world are there for the emerging?

On I go into my future.

Commercials

I watched a lot of tennis on TV today and so I watched a lot of commercials.  I bet I’ve seen a few of them twenty times.  What do you figure is the impact on kids of seeing this one over and over again?

Imagine a ticket counter at the airport.  Person after person asks the female employee “Is there any chance of an upgrade?”  One handsome man asks her “Have you thought about being a model?” The thing is, that according to Hollywood standards, this woman isn’t particularly attractive.  I can see an young onlooking mind ask himself or herself “How could she ever be a model?”  How easily sexual stereotypes and the relative valuing of people can be passed down to the new generation.

Here’s the next one:

A chef is working with his two assistants to create a delicious meal, while a technician is installing cable TV in the room.  The boss puts his spoon into the pot and samples the contents.  Then his wrath is turned onto his female sous chef: “You need to taste it first and then season it!  Yuh!  I wouldn’t serve that to my dogs.”  It’s hugely demeaning.  Again, the woman is not what the culture says is beautiful … and seconds later she is gone.  Okay, kids, what did you get from this one?  That it’s okay to insult your employees?  That public shaming is just fine?  So very sad.

And finally:

A young woman’s car breaks down on the freeway at night and she pulls onto the shoulder.  She’s scared.  And she’s alone, except that her dad is on the phone.  “It’s okay, Amy.  Did you put your flashers on?  >  Yeah  >  Don’t get out of the car.  Hey, don’t worry … help is on the way  >  Thanks, dad.”  Due to the phone company, emergency road service will be there soon.  Dad gives his daughter love, calm and safety.  Are you listening, kids?  This is what human beings need.

I suppose you might say that at least there was one humane commercial.  Well, that’s not good enough.  No more nasty chefs and syrupy passengers, please.  Just give me kind human beings.

 

 

 

 

Saying Hi

I was sitting in the theatre lobby today after a movie, absorbed in my phone to see who was winning the Rogers Cup tennis matches.  And then … “Hi, Mr. Kerr.  What are you doing here?”  It was a soon-to-be Grade 6 girl from the school where I volunteer.

I had a nice chat with “Sofia” and her friend and her mom and her friend’s mom, talking about cool movies and the girls’ plan to sleep in a tent tonight.  Afterwards, I thought about Sofia saying hi, how good it felt to be acknowledged, included.  Kids have a fine agenda – hang out with their friends.  Sometimes they feel like including adults, and often not.  It’s a privilege when they choose to approach me.  It would have been so easy to have just kept walking but Sofia chose to do something that brightened my day.

On Tuesday, I was walking out of the locker room at the gym, with “places to go, people to meet”.  I saw “Jeremy” on a machine.  He didn’t see me.  I didn’t stop.  Jeremy has some sort of handicap, mental or physical, I don’t know.  In the car I saw very clearly that I hadn’t included him.  If instead it had been a pretty woman whom I knew on that machine, would I have said hi?  Gosh, I don’t like to see myself as a person who rates people and then decides whom to talk to.  The bottom line is that saying hello is a gift to both people and withholding that gift is a distancing that the world doesn’t need.

Decades ago, I was crossing a parking lot in Lethbridge, Alberta when a woman of Indian or Pakistani origin simply said “Hi” … looking deep into my eyes.  The experience of contact, of communion, is still vivid today.  The gift was given.

Such a simple thing to communicate “I see you” in word or action.  May I simply choose to do that when Jeremy, or anyone else, comes my way.

Stand Up

Sue-Ann Levy writes for the Toronto Sun newspaper.  She speaks her mind about the city’s ills, such as guns and violence.  Another straight shooter is our new Ontario premier, Doug Ford:

We’re coming after you.  We’re going to catch you and you’re going to end up in jail … If I were you, I’d think twice before you pull out a gun because you’re going to get caught.

On Thursday Ford announced that the province was committing $25 million for Toronto to fight gangs and violence.

And what was Sue-Ann’s take on Ford’s announcement?

There was no hug-a-thug talk about the root causes of violence …

There was no deferring to political correctness and blaming systemic racism and poverty for the epidemic of gun violence in Toronto …

It’s about time somebody had the balls to do something.

Indeed.  I’m a Buddhist, a man of peace.  That does not mean, however, turning away from the injustices in the world.  If someone does something that hurts others, there need to be logical consequences for that behaviour.  Just like in school: If you beat on a kid at recess, you don’t get to go on the class trip.  In extreme circumstances, the police are involved.

The tyrants of the world, whether down the street or in the halls of government, need to be resisted.  Canada needs to have sanctions against regimes that allow the abuse of human beings.  The “Letters to the Editor” section of newspapers should be full of reasoned responses to hurtful words and actions, responses that don’t demean anyone but that call a spade a spade.

I believe we’re meant to express what’s true for us, rather than hesitating because someone won’t like what we’ve said.  In my life, some people love me and some have no use for me.  I leave my detractors alone.  They will not prevent me from looking at the current moment and expressing my reactions to it.

Waydago Doug and Sue-Ann.  And my mom agrees.  She always said “Don’t hide your light under a bushel,” which for the uninitiated refers to a big basket.  Thanks, mom.  You were right.

 

Throwing

I was watching the Rogers Cup tennis tournament yesterday afternoon on TV. Rafael Nadal, the number one male player in the world, was striding onto the court. So was his opponent, but I didn’t notice him much.

As the game got going, it soon became clear that Benoit Paire had a wicked backhand. He also was no Nadal and I expected a quick match. After Benoit missed a fairly easy shot at the net, he leaned over and smashed his racket on the court. Then he stood up and threw it straight down, and it bounced crazily. His face was a seething mask of disgust, and I just stared. I know he’s playing for a lot of dollars but tennis is just a game, isn’t it?

Four more times during the match, Benoit launched his racket and I soon tired of his fury.

I thought back to other TV adventures, such as professional golf tournaments. A player hits the ball out of bounds and proceeds to imbed his club in the fairway carpet. Or perhaps flings his 4-iron into the woods. Clearly the world is coming to an end.

And unless you think I’ve risen above such displays of pique, I remember standing on an elevated tee with a shallow pond down below. My drive dribbled along the grass and plopped mockingly into the drink. Being the mature human being that I was, I picked up my golf bag (accompanied by a set of clubs) and flung the whole mess into the water. I stared at the offending equipment as it slowly submerged, and yelled some profanity. Seconds later, I woke up, stumbled off the tee and waded into the murkiness, eventually ho-heave-hoing the sodden package to the shore. Can you say “out of my mind”?

What the heck happens to us human beings when things go wrong? Whatever happened to equanimity? All I know is that whenever I’m starting to become full of myself, all I have to do is remember my glazed eyes as the clubs sank beneath the surface. That brings me back to earth.

Thank God.

Skunks

It’s after sunset now and I just went outside to bring the Baltimore oriole and hummingbird feeders in.  If I don’t do that, chances are good that raccoons will climb the poles and go for the goodies, breaking some plastic stuff in the process.

It’s really dark at the side of my home and I was thinking about something as I rounded the corner to the backyard.  And … Zap!  Munching sunflower seeds below my other feeders were three skunks.  My heart pounding skyrocketed and I was rooted to the spot.  And then my mind took over:

They’re going to spray you.  Get out of there!

I consider myself somewhat evolved but there I was, back in cave man days.  Fight or flight.  It’s all about survival.  I could feel my body shaking and I was universes away from appreciating the grace of the animals.  The person I thought Bruce was had disappeared … in a flash.  I had no control over my consciousness, and I scurried back around the corner.

Back in the living room, I turned on the outside lights.  Two of my black and white friends were still chowing down.  The white stripe on their backs formed a Y shape and their tails were pointing to the sky.  And I realized that they are indeed very beautiful animals.  It was like they were models wearing tuxedos.

Skunks aren’t the only creatures that I react to with knee jerk responses.  Certain groups of humans bring automatic negative thoughts out of me.  I’m sad that this is the case.  My job is not to act on such explosions of judgment.  And when I turn on the light of living, I see that these beings are lovely to behold.  They need not reduce me to fear but instead can unfold me into brotherhood and sisterhood.

 

Tined and Mind

I did laundry this morning, which felt like a perfectly normal activity.  And, oh yes, the dishwasher – I should empty it.  Not being at my alertest, I tumbled my hands down towards the cutlery baskets.  I’ve always been a “forks standing right side up” type of guy.  Today I paid the price.  Tines impaled me beneath my right thumbnail and the blood flowed.  Turned out to be not much of that stuff but pain at the 4 to 5 level on a scale of ten.  And I’m still there.

I like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Abe contended that if our basic physical needs (such as freedom from pain!) aren’t met, we won’t be open to transcendent needs, such as loving and being loved.  Well, I’ve had a day to explore that theory.

At 2:00 pm today, I planned to be on a video call with members of the Evolutionary Collective Global Community.  It’s fair to say we explore the consciousness that’s possible between two or more people.  At 1:30, I was lying in bed, feeling sorry for myself and my grievous injury.  I wanted to hunker down and lick my wounds.  No human contact today, please.  “With pain like this, I won’t be able to give to the people on the call, so why even try?”  Such a whimpering and potentially persuasive voice.

At 1:55, I lifted myself up off the bed and onto the couch, laptop in hand.  And something happened when I saw the 17 of us on my computer screen.  I got that my presence was important.  I was one of 17 presences, each with the ability to contribute to the group, to “be with” other human beings.  It’s not about saying something wise or having my empathy reach another member.  It was simply the fact that I was there, damaged thumb and all.

For part of the hour, we are paired with another person for a mutual awakening practice.  Today I wavered between listening into what my partner was experiencing and falling down the hole of physical pain.  Back and forth I went, knowing that I wasn’t “doing as well as I usually do”.  But that didn’t matter … we were together.

Tonight I went out to a movie with a friend and the pain was still a 5.  Truly – so what?  She needed my contact, our conversation and our exploring of what matters.  And once again I saw that I could deal with the thumb and be present in the relationship.  We had a sweet time.

Bad stuff will no doubt continue to happen to me but the world needs me to deal with it and move on, experience the pain but not wallow in it, fall down and get back up, and return to my real job … loving people.

Burwell

If it’s the Sunday of the long Civic Holiday weekend, it’s time for fireworks on the Port Burwell beach. Twilight is here and the pleasure boats are twinkling on Lake Erie. I’m surrounded by families on the sand – lots of bathing suits, sunburns and happy faces. Glow sticks are shining in their circular paths on necks, wrists and waists and the world is at peace. A great grandma jiggles a tiny boy, much to his delight.

Earlier I was in the beer garden, right up front, sporting the appropriate beverage. A duet played old folk songs, such as Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle”, she of 15 years and he of 70 or so. Avery was so nervous and kept looking out to her friends in the crowd for support. She did fine, and the tunes went down as sweetly as the beer. Seagulls soared over the stage. I sang along. And all was well.

Back to the moment of now and the darkness descends. Excited chatter all around. Kids straining to see their sand castle creations. Others asking what there is to eat. All of us eager for the explosions of light.

“Mom. When are the fireworks going to start?”

And then … poof! The first streamer and banger. Yay for the bright.

As the flowers opened above me, I looked out to the lake and saw the ripples shining. And between were silhouettes of human beings, heads tilted to the heavens. I do believe we were all in awe as the show went on and on. My favourite was a shimmering gold curtain filled in by at least six explosions. It lingered above our heads for so long, seeming to bless us.

Kids oohed and adults ahhed. Though we didn’t know each other, the crowd was family, enraptured with the bursts of white against a blanket of black. And I heard the message: “Wake up! There is so much to live in this world.” May we heed the call.