All the World’s People in My Home (Part Two)

I’m in a definite to-be-continued mode from yesterday, so here goes.  Last night, I tackled the project called “Find enough small objects to represent every person on Earth and then meditate on us all.”  Send love to every human being on our fair planet.

After I had got about half of my wayward thimble full of those tiny seeds, I had a much delayed brain wave: “Just fill the thimble, pour the seeds onto the tablecloth, and use my trusty knife to count them.”  I asked my brain sincerely why it hadn’t taken this approach earlier, but the collective cerebral cells had nothing to say.

You’ll be happy to know that my thimble holds 667 mustard seeds.  So … take soup bowl one, empty the bag into it (plus the display now adorning the tablecloth), and transfer the contents to soup bowl two using said thimble.  With a rare and precious fine motor ability, I completed the task.  One package of mustard seeds holds 139,480 of the little darlings.  (For the detail-intoxicated in the crowd, I dropped 209 level thimblesful into bowl two, with 77 lonely nubbins left over.)

Now, time for higher mathematics.  I found a website that purports to give a real time estimate of the world’s population.  I was stunned to see that we social types are giving birth about 2.5 times per second.  I had to call a halt somewhere so I declared the population of the world to be 7,250,466,704.  (Don’t worry – you’re included.)  By the powers of division, my laptop’s calculator told me that I’d need 51,982 bags of mustard seed to complete my order.  At $1.99 a bag, that came to the sweet total of $103,444.43.  But don’t fret … there’s no tax on bulk food items in Canada.

Being somewhat hesitant to tell Jody about this investment in the future of mankind, I chose to set a more modest target.  How about the population of Canada?  Okay.  35,163,430 / 139,480 = 252 bags x $1.99 = $501.48, a figure that surely would meet with Jody’s approval.

Upon further reflection, and a nervous glance at our chequebook, I let that one go too.  My current plan is to head back to the Asian market, buy seven more bags, pour all of it into the large glass bowl, and run my fingers through 1,000,000 of our planet’s residents.  That will have to do.

I’m pretty convinced that Jody thinks I’m perfectly sane.  Well … perhaps imperfectly sane.  As for me, I’m really not sure.


All the World’s People in My Home (Part One)

Today Jody, Linda and I went to an Asian market in North London.  Jody and I had never been there before.  We found ourselves surrounded by culinary exotica, such as an aquarium jam-packed with tilapia fish; a veggie called a drumstick, which was two feet long and very narrow; a package of chocolate rice porridge; and another one of crispy spiral rice strings.  New is good.

Down one aisle of various seeds, nuts and noodles, I spotted a clear bag of mustard seeds.  No thought made me stop, but stop I did.  I stared at the perfect little kernels, and it took a minute or so for me to get what I was staring about: the population of the world.  That’s logical, isn’t it?

Last year, I decided to meditate on all the people in the world.  And so began a search for a substance representing all those folks, and a bowl to hold them in.  I finally found a clear glass bowl about 14 inches in diameter that I knew would work.  As for the contents, I headed to a bulk food store for inspiration.  Nothing doing.  So I tried a gardening centre.  There I found a big bag of an aggregate – tiny pieces of something.  And into the bowl the stuff went.

I ran my fingers through at least 50,000 people but it didn’t ring true.  I couldn’t see them as human beings.  So the lovely bowl just sat beside my meditation chair for months with no one opening his heart to all those pieces of crushed rock.

And then there’s today.  I set the bag of seeds on the dining room table and cogitated upon what implements I’d need to open the secrets of the universe.  I decided on an old film canister (inside the roll said “Kodak Gold 220 35 mm film” -such a blast from the past); a straight-edged knife; two big soup bowls; a small dessert cup; a kitchen funnel; and later … a thimble.  I spread a whole bunch of seeds onto the tablecloth and started separating them, two by two, with the knife.  Plop went each pair into one of the big bowls.

Jody was sitting at the table too, using a nutcracker to get a bag of pistachios opened.  She looked at me and asked, “Bruce, what are you doing?”  “Creating the world’s population.”  Her look in response was one of fascinated incredulity.  Jody then returned to cracking, and me to plopping.

When I got to one hundred of the little darlings, I poured them into the dessert cup, and from there via funnel into the film canister.  Peering inside, I noted that the seeds barely covered the bottom of the can.  Hmmm.  More brain power needed: “Jody, do you have a thimble?”  “Yeah.  In the sewing kit downstairs, on the ironing board.” Descending gracefully, I located said ironing board but no sewing kit.  After much pulling out of cabinet drawers and generally messing around, I remembered that I had ironed a shirt a few weeks ago and had taken stuff off the board.  Lifting this and lifting that, I found the kit on the bottom of the pile.  Inside  was my choice of thimbles.  I grabbed the smallest one and jaunted upstairs with fire in my heart.

I decided to scrape mustard seeds off the table in hundreds > big bowl > dessert cup > funnel over thimble > pour.  Unfortunately, this was a very old thimble, with an uneven base.  Three times it spilled as I funnelized hundred by hundred.  My goodness.  Jody, avid nutcracker that she was, took a moment or two to check out the feverish and flawed determination of her lovely husband.  She didn’t say a thing, though.


Well, whoever you are out there in WordPress land, I have a lot more to say about this adventure of the mind and knife, but I’m falling asleep.  So I’ll continue the story tomorrow.  This evening I just wanted to plant a seed.

Good night.  Sweet dreams.




May you be free from danger
May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you live with ease

I think “may” is a fine word.  It’s about sending out a wish that the powers of the universe allow something to happen.  I’m not gritting my teeth and muttering “This will happen” or “I’ll make it happen”.  No, it’s a completely different type of energy, hands open rather than fisted, a deep letting go.

The Buddha taught the world the phrases you see above, and they’ve been voiced by countless people over the centuries.  The practice is called “metta”, and has been described as a warm rain falling gently upon all of us – no one left out.  It’s also referred to as lovingkindness.

I’ve practiced metta in many locales, including between periods at London’s hockey arena.  I wander the concourse, past the long lineups for burgers and beer, and simply say the words silently, wishing everyone well.  Only the occasional person looks back, and that’s fine.  I don’t need to be recognized and acknowledged for what I’m doing.  It’s not about anything good coming back to me.  But of course good does return my way, as an effortless flow.


May you be free from danger

Every day I inject a syringe of Fragmin into Jody’s stomach to dissolve her blood clots.  And many times Jody has been in pain as a result.  It makes me very sad, and scared about the next time.  I do my best and sometimes that’s not good enough.  Jody, may you be free from pain and the danger of cancer.  I pray.  And there is a kind of benign response returning to me from … somewhere.

May you be happy

I have a friend who’s depressed.  Trevor is sad about some poor decisions he’s made in life – financial, interpersonal, self-critical.  His conversation is often peppered with little digs at himself.  He doesn’t like being around other people, especially large numbers of them.  He’s lonely.  Trevor, may you see that you’re a struggling human being, just like the rest of us, no better and no worse.  May you forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made and look to the future with a smile.

May you be healthy

My friend Marie suffers from multiple sclerosis.  She used to host Jody and me at dinner parties, where she’d smile up a storm and regale us with tales of life in France.  Now she’s in a nursing home where she has little shortterm memory and needs heavy care.  Marie, may health return to your body and soul.  Even if the disease continues its progression, may you enjoy good times with your family and friends.

May you live with ease

I know a man who supervises many employees.  Whether as a result of his childhood or more recent traumas, he wraps himself up with tension, and feels the need to restrict the freedom of others.  As powerful as he is, fear follows him everywhere.  Peter, may you come to breathe easy and trust the gifts of those around you to get the job done.  And may you walk softly in the world.


Hand in hand
Heart to heart
Soul to soul
Come what may

Silent Poet Klaus

Driving (Part Two)

Since 1994, Jody and I have driven to work north from Union, Ontario through St. Thomas to London.  The speed limit on the two-lane road is 80 kilometres per hour (50 mph).  For the first year or two, I zipped along at 85 – nice and peaceful.  One day though, I noticed that a car was tailgating me for part of the way.  Days later, someone else did the same thing.  Then it was every day.  Where, oh where, did my little peace go?

At some point, I decided to up my speed to 90.  Ahhh.  Back to a gentle experience of driving.  Maybe around 2000, however, the space to my rear started filling up again with bumper after bumper.  And so it continued.  I’ve valiantly resisted the temptation to push things to 100.  Instead, I get to feel the press of society most days on Wellington Road South, and to let the feelings waft over me … minutes of frustration, pings of anger, and eventually a recurring sadness.  Who have we become?  Where are we going?  And why is it better to get there fast?

I see the good and the bad on the roads.  People allowing the first car coming out of a hospital parking lot at rush hour to merge into the traffic flow.  Letting a left-turning driver facing you complete the move, releasing them and the pent-up parade of cars behind to go on their way.  Waving to a kind motorist after a good deed performed.  All of these actions gladden my heart.  We take care of each other.

And then again, what about the speedster who roars past me on the shoulder when I’m turning left?  Or the oblivious one who blocks an intersection?  Or the sudden lane changer who makes me exercise my braking ability?  I contract.  I sweat.  It’s a “you or me” world.

I love driving.  I love placing my hands on the wheel just as I have for five decades – left hand lower than the right.  That feels so comfy, and is a tradition that I hope to carry into my 80s.  I love the slow acceleration from a new green light, feeling the engine, sensing the “rightness” of the transition.  I love the smooth flow of Hugo or Scarlet on a curve.  I love saying hi to the horses and cows lounging in the roadside fields.  I love coming upon license plates that I recognize on my commutes.  It’s like I know the occupants of those vehicles.  I love being with Hugo in London, Bayfield, Toronto, Nova Scotia and Massachusetts, returning to a parking lot and finding my old friend there.

Sitting, walking and lying down meditation are all lovely.  So, I’ve found, is driving meditation.  Can I be present as the rest of the motorized world seems to be creeping up to that red light?  How about when the gentleman or lady ahead is going 20 kph below the speed limit on a sunny July day?  Or a Costco customer has taken up two parking spaces with his singular conveyance?  All grist for the mill.  Go, my dear Hugo, go.  It’s a wonderful world.

All Beings Everywhere

Like you, I had to choose a user name when I joined WordPress.  I tried “Brucio” but that was already taken.  Maybe I would have to go with”Brucio47″ to get the name accepted.  And I sure didn’t want that.  Part of the reason I started writing was to express ever more parts of what is both uniquely me and also inherent in all of us -47 made me cringe.

So … what word or words sing to me, I asked.  For a few minutes nothing came, and I was strangely okay with that.  I’ve learned to trust myself that ideas will be revealed.  And on June 15 or so, they did.  “All beings everywhere.”  May I honour them all – human, animal, insect.  And beyond that.  The Buddha described people in various ways.  Pairs of words that pointed to the beauty of us all.  I’d like to share his ideas with you, and see what bubbles up from me, so I may embrace each of God’s creatures.  Here goes:

All beings near and far

All beings known and unknown

All beings born and unborn

All beings from the north, south, east and west

All beings happy and unhappy

All beings enlightened and unenlightened

All beings male and female

All beings young and old

All beings physical and non-physical

All beings well and infirm

All beings “attractive” and “unattractive”

All beings here and there

All beings wealthy and poor

All beings of the land, air and water

All beings of the universe

All beings warm-blooded and cold

All beings strong and weak

All beings timid and brave

All beings assertive and withdrawn

All beings calm and anxious

All beings fashionable and unfashionable

All beings cool and nerdy

All beings fast and slow

All beings eloquent and tongue-tied

All beings sensitive and insensitive

All beings kind and cruel

All beings comfortable and in pain

All beings white, brown and black

All beings industrious and lazy

All beings intelligent and a little slow

All beings spontaneous and reticent

All beings able and disabled

All beings sighted and blind

All beings free and enslaved

All beings living in houses, apartments, group homes, and on the street

All beings worldly and local

All beings cold and warm

All beings fit and unfit

All beings fat and thin

All beings with hair black, brown, red, and none at all

All beings mobile and immobile

All beings generous and hoarding

All beings right-handed and left-handed

All beings who dance and those who don’t

All beings well fed and hungry

All beings included and excluded

All beings who say “yes” and those who say “no”

All beings who deserve love

All beings who want to be happy

All beings who suffer

All beings








Perhaps it’s all music to the ears

A cellist playing the sublime melody of “The Swan”

The squeal of tires at the Monaco Grand Prix

Birdsong at dawn

A soloist singing “Amazing Grace” at a funeral Mass

The patter of raindrops on a tin roof

The moans of a mother during childbirth

Springsteen belting out “Badlands” in Barcelona to thousands of jumping up fans

Foster Hewitt shouting “He shoots, he scores!” after every goal at Toronto Maple Leaf hockey games in the 60s

The roar of an avalanche sweeping across a glacier near Lake Louise, Alberta

The whisper of “I love you” from one dear one to the other

The frenzy of three accordion players in Quebec City (definitely not “oom pah pah”)

Thousands of Brazilian fans singing their national anthem at the World Cup

The whistle of a steam locomotive crossing the far field of grandpa’s farm

The asthma patient’s wheezing as she climbs the stairs of her home

The song of crickets at twilight

The pitter patter of little feet on the hardwood

Jackie Evancho silencing the Christmas shoppers in Chicago with “O Holy Night”

The agonized scream of stitches coming out too late

The rustle of turning pages as a Constant Reader devours a Stephen King novel

Steaks sizzling on a barbeque

The soft whump of a volleyball lofted into the air for a teammate

The mutter of a jet engine passing 30,000 feet above me

The wind singing through the pines around a Canadian Rockies campfire

“F___ off!”

The tinkle of a coin dropped into a beggar’s cup


Look At Me

Call now and get Miracle Hair for $29.95 … the amazing new hair loss breakthrough that will give you the appearance of a full head of hair in just 60 seconds.

I wonder if I should call now.  I wasn’t planning on it, since my afternoon has been rolling along just fine, thank you.  I look in the mirror and I see … Bruce!  Somewhat untidy nose hairs, a blemish on my left cheek, baggy stuff under the eyes.  But definitely Bruce.

I look a little like David Letterman (George Clooney in my parallel fantasy life) but I certainly don’t want to be a celebrity.  Can you imagine being hounded by all those panzarotti?  Not being able to stroll downtown, chatting with passersby and seeing what’s in all those windows?  No thanks.

I suppose it would be good to be younger, with a six-pack on display, but my three- pack will do nicely.  As for the V-shaped body, what the heck’s wrong with a nice U?  Works for me.  And I can do that Incredible Hulk pose and grimace as well as anyone.  I just don’t take up the amount of space that the original did.

Until I started shaving my head in honour of my lovely wife Jodiette, I had beautiful golden brown curls … sort of.  Actually, I often told people that I had gray highlights put in at the hairstylist.  I’m sure most folks believed me.

As a young human, I had acne that left me with very few true friends and a yearbook photo that was speckled to say the least.  Clearasil treatments made me look even worse.  Somehow adulthood allowed me to grow past that.

I’ve been trying to reach the mythical Jesus height of six feet ever since I was 4’2″, but it’s never worked out for me.  I’m currently 5’10” and heading south, I believe.

For years I tried wearing contacts to invoke a Hollywood persona, but I just couldn’t see anything.  So it was back to a nose-weighing-down apparatus.  I look okay in glasses.

I don’t have the standard pot belly of a 65-year-old, and that makes me happy.  Guess I could work on one to help me fit in better.

I have a gorgeous tan but unfortunately it only extends to my head, forearms and knee caps.  When I was a timid teen, I used to glob on the autotan lotion, but that created a new definition of “streaker”.  The girls politely looked the other way.

Oh my goodness … what if all this stuff doesn’t matter?  Yes, I want to be healthy, but what’s the big deal about the package?  I do believe that I’m just fine, inside and out.  If someone else doesn’t think so … oh well.  On we go.

Not Knowing

I woke up at 7:00 this morning to the intermittent sound of “Beep, beep, beep” that I know only too well.  The smoke alarm near our kitchen.  The battery no doubt needed to be changed … and I’d been down that road before.

But today was uniquely today.  This sleepy human got up on a chair and unscrewed the alarm from its holder on the ceiling.  Piece of cake.  Then into the kitchen with its bright pot lights to open her up.  I had a new 9 volt battery ready to go.  Looks pretty simple – I’ll just twist the assembly to reveal the inner workings.  So I twisted.  And twisted harder.  Nothing.  “You’re not strong enough, Bruce.”  Well, that was a ridiculous thought.  Of course I’m stronger than an itsy bitsy smoke alarm.  So I grunted, and the alarm grunted back but wouldn’t open.  Okay, okay.  It’s got to be a “lift up” deal.  I found what looked to be an inviting thumb hole on the edge and pulled gently.  Open sesame.  Nope.  So I regrunted.  And the only response was a tiny smile spreading over the face of the alarm.  Yuck.

While all of this was happening, the beeps kept coming.  I tried pressing the “Silence Alarm” button.  All that did was initiate a constant brain-numbing squeal that threatened my sanity.  Despite the blare in my ears, I decided to read all visible instructions on the device.  Not a syllable about how to open the darned thing!  I twisted and pulled some more to no avail, and finally just held the beast up in one hand and stared it down.  “Stare away, buddy.  Won’t do you any good.”

A friend of ours is staying with Jody and me and he had gotten up to assess the state of the racket.  Neal took one look at my ceiling-dwelling friend, put his thumb in the thumb hole … and pulled.  You know the rest.  Open.  Battery inserted.  Replaced in its holder.  No more noise.


Life humbles me again and again.  This morning I developed a bad case of collapsed ego.  My mind assaulted me with a wide variety of “stupid you” invectives.  And then somehow it stopped.  And the tiny smile this time was on my lips.  There’s something strangely spacious about not being good at something.  I couldn’t recognize that in the moment, but “later” is a fine place for an opening of another kind.  Works for me.


Heaven and Hell

The great seventeenth century Japanese Rinzai Zen master Hakuin was once approached by a samurai warrior who asked Hakuin to explain heaven and hell to him. 

Hakuin looked up at the samurai and asked disdainfully, “How could a stupid, oafish ignoramus like you possibly understand such things?”  The samurai started to draw his sword and Hakuin chided, “So, you have a sword.  It’s probably as dull as your head!” 

In a rage, the proud warrior pulled out his sword, intending to cut off Hakuin’s head.  Hakuin stated calmly, “This is the gateway to hell.”

The startled samurai stopped, and with appreciation for Hakuin’s cool demeanour, sheathed his sword.  “This is the gateway to heaven,” said Hakuin softly.

Softly it is, I believe.  It’s a way of living with space around every word, thought and deed.  Room to breathe.  Often when I’m meditating, the breaths become so quiet that I don’t hear the air moving in and out.

Sometimes it’s the eyes of one meeting those of the other.  It could be for just a second, or far longer.  The moments of true contact are blessed … and they linger in the air for both of us to feel.

Softness and silence go well together.  The horizontal life of progressing towards a goal falls away before the vertical life of now.  In that precious instant, there is nowhere to go and nothing to do.  Later there’ll be time for making progress.

The brandished sword hurts the swordsman, cuts him to the quick.  All is tight, from the creased forehead to the clenched fingers to the contracted heart.  My anger hurries me away to what’s next.  It closes my eyes from true seeing.  It leaves me alone.

I wander in the world, touching antagonism and love, deficit and abundance, a wrenching belly and hands wide open.  My soul knows what needs to be done, but the rest of me may have lost the way.  And it’s all okay.  There’s no need to be better.  There’s no need for any particular thing to occur.  May I merely embrace all that the moments send my way.

Plato’s Cave

Plato was a Greek philosopher from around 400 B.C.  Another smart guy from history.  He reflected on what is real in life, and has shown us a new possibility using a powerful metaphor.

Plato asks us to imagine a cave, with a group of prisoners facing the back wall, their bodies and heads chained and unable to move.  Talk about a restricted view of life.  Behind these folks, near the entrance of the cave, is a massive bonfire.  Between the prisoners and the fire is a walkway on which other people walk by, carrying a varety of objects in their hands.  They cast shadows on the back wall, the only things that the immobilized humans can see.

If you can only see one thing, that has to be what’s real for you.  What if so much of our present day lives is just a shadow of reality?  Like gossip, small talk, complaining, winning and losing, better and worse, succeeding and failing?

The prisoners decided that the highest status holders among them were those who could best predict what shadow would come along the walkway next, or … seeing a particular shadow, be able to identify all its details of shape and size.  Those were the champions of life, similar to the ones today whom so many of us worship in the realms of sports and entertainment.  Could this all be false?

What would happen if someone released a prisoner from the chains (or they magically figured out how to set themselves free)?  No doubt they would turn around and see flesh-and-blood human beings walking in front of them, entities with a vibrant aliveness that they had never experienced before.  Would these beings be honoured and loved, or reviled and condemned?

And what of the fire?  Would the intense light blind them?  The heat fry their circuits?  Or would awe transform their faces?

Beyond the fire is the mouth of the cave, and past that the big, wide world … infinitely beyond those shadows.

What transcendent realities am I willing to let in?
What’s just too scary to accept?
Will I let my life be transformed?