No Bad Guys

Lord Krishna appeared before one king, who was known to be wicked and cruel … “I would like you to travel throughout the provinces of your kingdom and see if you can find one person who is truly good” … “My Lord, I’ve done your bidding, but I have not found one truly good person.”

Then Lord Krishna went to the other court ruled by a famous queen named Dhammaraja, who was known to be kind and gracious … “I would like you to go throughout your kingdom and find one truly evil person” … “My Lord, I have done as you asked, but I have failed my task … I’ve seen many people who act unskillfully.  Yet when I really listened, I only found people who are misguided.  Their actions always came from fear, delusion and misunderstanding.”

Several people have been mean to me in my life, and in my wiser moments I’ve realized that they weren’t evil, but just full of fear.  Perhaps fear of what would be left if they dropped the “act” which they felt they’ve needed to survive.  Sometimes the act is “I know what I’m doing” or “I’m better than these other people” or “Life is a win-lose game.  If I’m going to win, the other person has to lose.”

I remember one particular supervisor from so many years ago.  He hurt people, all sorts of people.  He smiled his watery smile when face-to-face and yet sabotaged us when we were gone.  A friend of mine heard what life was like for this person when he was a child: lonely and suppressed and sad.  It made me think, about him and also about karma.  Whatever energy you put out in life will come right back to you, sooner or later.   I wonder what’s become of my former oppressor, and I feel sad when I imagine the karmic results that are coming his way.

He’s not an evil person.  None of us are.

Struggling

I bet it’s been five days since I’ve written a post, by far a record for me, unless I was away somewhere.  Illness is so humbling.  A few posts back, I was feeling poorly but I still wrote my daily thoughts.  Later, things changed.

I’ve had bronchitis for 13 days now, and the coughing has worn me out, plus my ribs have been getting awfully sore.  Whenever I ate, coughing would start.  And the worst has been the vague nausea I’ve felt after eating.  Didn’t even seem to matter what type of food.

Gosh, I don’t want to sink into “poor me”.  But it’s been quite the experience.  I’ve been worlds away from putting fingertips to keys.  So dull in the head.  Sometimes I’ve felt guilty for not writing, but I’ve usually been able to let that go.  Thank God.  I see my need for rest.

In the back of my agitated head has been the fear that this is not really bronchitis.  It’s lung cancer … exactly what took my lovely wife away from me.  Today, my doctor Julie had me get a chest X-ray, to rule out the really bad stuff.  If I don’t hear back from her by Tuesday, I’m fine.  And she thinks I’m fine.  I thought my meditation practice would prevent terror from seeping through, but good luck with that thought.  Fear has overwhelmed me at times over the past few days.

It’s so amazing not to be me, not to kibitz with folks I meet each day, not to move my body and sweat, not to love deeply.  Just blahness, fear and an overcoat of nausea.

I had bought a ticket for a concert that was held in London last night – a marvelous folk duo from Newfoundland called “The Fortunate Ones”.  Turns out that Catherine and Andrew were recently engaged.  They were so happy on stage.

I sat in the front row, trying not to cough.  A lot of little wheezes.  A couple of times, they asked the audience to sing along … and I couldn’t.  Again such a strangeness for me.  I love belting out the melodies, and sometimes the harmonies.  It’s okay, Bruce.  Your body doesn’t have it right now.

My aliveness returned in the moments when Catherine and Andrew sang to each other, and when each rocked forward towards the loved one, her caressing the accordion and him picking out the melody on his guitar.  It was like they were making love as they leaned in.  So beautiful to see.  And Catherine’s voice especially touched the heavens.

The coughing continued, and the nausea, but the world was a lighter place.  Thank you.

There.  I’ve actually written a post.  Hallelujah.  Hopefully, I’ll talk to you again tomorrow.

Acting – Part 3

Last night, I sat in my man chair and watched my obsession continue to unfold.  Why not find reviews of Jake’s Women on the Internet?  And it was cool.  I found all sorts of amateur productions of the play, and what the reviewers thought of each actor and actress.  Mostly, the Jake’s of this world were doing a bang-up job with the character.

I also looked on Amazon to see what books have been published about Neil Simon.  And guess what?  There’s a volume of monologues from Neil’s plays, including Jake, so I did what any skewed human would do in the circumstances – I snatched it up.  A used copy set me back $ .01 (CAD) plus $6.49 for shipping and handling.  Bargoon!

After such an achievement, I sat some more and wondered what the next expression of my fanaticism would be.  After all, I’d already bought the script and was starting to memorize Jake’s words.  How could I possibly top that?

As I continued to look for reviews, I came upon the official site of Samuel French, the publisher of Neil’s plays.  There was a long list of his creations.  I clicked Jake’s Women and up came a map of North America, with seven green, upside down teardrops scattered over the surface.  It took me a few seconds to absorb what I was looking at … places where the play was being performed, or would be soon.

I know my Great Lakes, and towards the easterly end of Lake Ontario, on the north shore, was a little green blob.  I stared, and then clicked … The Pinnacle Playhouse in Belleville, Ontario; April 7-25, 2015.  Belleville is a city of 50,000 souls, two hours east of Toronto.  And I’m only 2 1/2 hours west of T.O.

Do it!

Do what?

It!

On to the site of the Belleville Theatre Guild.  I could see the evening performance on Thursday, April 23.  I could take the train.  I could find a B&B.

“Well, you can’t just go for one night.  See Friday’s production too!”

“Isn’t that a bit excessive?”

“No, excessive would be watching Saturday’s finale as well.”

“You’re crazy!”

“Thank you.”

“Okay, I’ll do it.”

You’ll be happy to know that I have done it, sitting in the front row each evening – seats A3, A12 and A9 (that one right in the middle).  I get to study Jake, Julie, Maggie, Molly (ages 12 and 21), Karen, Edith and Sheila … up close and personal.

I leave on VIA Rail from London at 11:00 am on Thursday, April 23 and arrive in Belleville at 5:00 pm, giving me lots of time to detrain (15 minutes), walk to the Place Victoria Place Bed and Breakfast (30 minutes), drop my stuff (15 minutes), walk downtown (20 minutes), eat at a groovy restaurant (60 minutes) and stroll over to the Pinnacle Playhouse like I own the place, all set for the 8:00 pm curtain.

Oh, what a good boy am I!

Daytime on Friday – move and groove in Belleville.  Same for Saturday.  Lots of parks, riverside walks and funky stores to explore.  Benches to sit on as I pour over Neil’s script.  Thoughts to roam in and out of my lovely head.

A leisurely Sunday morning leads naturally to a rendezvous with a train at 3:25 pm.  Gaze out at lots of Ontario from my window seat.  Back in London at 9:00 pm and home in my trundle by 10:00.  A perfectly sane way to spend four days, I’d say.

I wonder what the actors will think when they see me front and centre three nights in a row?  “He must really like the play.”

Indeed I do

Illusions

A man sees a coiled rope in the dusk and mistakes it for a serpent, and is therefore frightened.  When day dawns, he sees that it was only a rope and that his fear was groundless.  The Reality of Being is the rope.  The illusion of a serpent that frightened him is the objective world.

I see lots of serpents.  What if they’re all unreal?

***

This bronchitis is bad.  It causes me great suffering.

I’m going to be alone for the rest of my days.

Jody isn’t with me anymore.

I can’t memorize long speeches, especially the hundreds of lines that Jake speaks in the play Jake’s Women.

I’m getting old.  My skin is sagging.

Nobody understands me.

I don’t have enough energy to write this blog post.

I’m no good at sex.

I should be interested in politics.

I won’t be strong enough in 2016 to ride my bicycle across Canada.

I’ll never get good at meditating.

I should sell my house and settle for a little apartment in London.

I am deficient.

Time is running out for me.

I shouldn’t walk around downtown London at night.

It’s too hard for me to learn how to fingerpick on my guitar.

500 copies of Jody’s book is way too many.

People won’t like my acting.

This summer, when I’m driving through Western Canada on my road trip, I won’t be able to find a place to stay at the end of the day.

Life isn’t fair.

Life takes all my energy away.

“Life is hard, and then you die.”

***

Silly me

Proof Positive

A couple of weeks ago, I thought that by March 6 I’d be pretty close to welcoming a UPS guy on my doorstep, laden with boxes and boxes of Jodiette:  My Lovely Wife.  It wasn’t to be.  I wrote to you about how it took me a couple of hours before I had the gumption to even open the package containing the proof of Jody’s book.  After a quick perusal, I remember thinking that all I needed to do was have Blurb change the colour of the tree painting on the back cover.  Plus make the print level at the bottom of the pages.  No sweat.

But then I looked more carefully.  A very long time ago, someone told me that in your writing, and in your speaking, don’t give the audience any errors that they can focus on, rather than paying total attention to your message.  So … I looked through the 193 pages of our story.  And I found lines such as these:

My   queen   is   safe   at   Victoria   Hospital.        Her   nurses   are   all
marvelous human beings.  I love her quadruple oodles.  All is well.
Thank you for your prayers.  I see them in Jody’s eyes every day.

I loved the words.  I didn’t love the spacing.  What I did in response was spend at least six hours looking for opportunities to put hyphens at the ends of lines, so that there wouldn’t be huge gaps between words.  Not too many hyphens – that would be distracting too.  Moderation in all things, so I’ve been told (but not necessarily lived).  This time, I did.  It looks better.

The image of the tree is so central to Jody’s and my journey.  The back cover of Jodiette is graced by the most lovely of creations, coaxed into existence by Kym Brundritt, an artist from Kingsville, Ontario.  Kym’s tree is radiant … bare curlycue branches set against a yellow background.  Except the proof rendition’s context is a heavy orange.  It doesn’t shine.  My friend Neal has worked his magic on the photo, and now the yellow will reach out and touch the reader, revealing the life of the tree.  I’m happy.

Then there’s the centerpiece of the whole shebang … Jody’s eyes and smile looking out at all of us from the front cover.  The proof was too dark, and too red.  Jody, with a sunburn, was sitting in a dark room of the Chez Temporel restaurant on Rue Couillard in old Quebec City.  Not so.  The photo needs to glow, just as my darling wife did in life.  Just as she still does.  Neal made the adjustments.  I’m happy some more.

On Wednesday I uploaded the second incarnation of Jody’s book to Blurb.  I should have the proof by Friday, March 13.  May it be a lucky day.  And I’m definitely not waiting two hours to tear open the cardboard.

Pathless

Buddhism asserts that the spiritual journey is unique to each individual.  Therefore, of course, it cannot be held, circumscribed, limited, or even ultimately judged by any institution, tradition or external authority.  The unique journey that lies before us does not exist in any text, external person, or religion.  In fact, it does not exist at all, but only lies ahead of us, to be discovered literally as we go.  Thus it is that the spiritual journey cannot in any way be preconceived or predetermined; it is not humanly constructed or fabricated.  The journey to ourselves is truly a journey into the unknown, a setting forth onto a sea that has never before been sailed and never before been fathomed or mapped.

Reginald Ray

So what is spiritual life?  You don’t get to say for me, and I guess I don’t even get to say for me.  It’s unfolding as we speak.  But this doesn’t mean a rejection of the wise teachers who came before, such as Jesus and the Buddha.  No, I can absorb what they say about living a good life, and see to what extent I make it my own.

Take “The Sermon on the Mount” and “The Metta Sutta”, for instance.  Who am I to argue with the Beatitudes, which honour the “merciful”, the “pure in heart”, and “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”?  Or with the Buddha’s assertion that “Even as a mother protects with her life her child, her only child, so with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings, radiating kindness over the entire world.”

My conception of Spirit has been nurtured by decades of spiritual practice.  More and more, I breathe life into what I’ve drawn from my fellow travellers, from books, from meditation retreats.  I’m happy about that.

But Reggie Ray is pointing to a mysterious sea.  I don’t know where my voyage is taking me, and you don’t know where yours is taking you.  We’ve thanked the guideposts along the way, but now … there aren’t any.  We point the bow of our ship to the horizon, and wait.  Will we fall off the end of the world?  No.  Will we fly?  Yes, I think so.

I await my future.  I will write a new song and sing it out loud.  And may your melody be sweet.

Irrational Me

The script for the play Jake’s Women came in the mail today.  I sat down and read the whole 99 pages.  Is this obsession?  Maybe some other version of pathology?  I don’t know.  But I want to be Jake.  It’s the story of a writer and the six women in his life – his dead wife Julie, his daughter Molly, his present wife Maggie, his sister Karen, his potential girlfriend Sheila and his therapist Edith.  Jake is loving, tortured and unstable.  I can do this.

The play will run in St. Thomas in February, 2016.  Auditions will probably be in December.  So why is my tongue hanging out now?  Unknown.  After I finished my read this afternoon, Jody said, “It’s you, Bruce.  Go for it.”

Julie died years ago in a car accident.  Molly was eleven at the time.  Julie’s spirit visits Jake and wants to come again on her birthday – October 12 – to get to know Molly as a young adult.  October 12 is Jody’s birthday.  I just stared at page 47 when the date was revealed.  Oh my.  What’s at work here?

At the end of Act 1, Maggie is walking out on Jake, wanting a six-month separation.  Two Mollies (ages 12 and 21) appear to Jake and sit next to him on the couch.  He holds their hands as the three of them sit together in silence.  I cried.  Jody and I decided not to have kids, and in the many years since I’ve often wished I had a daughter.  So will I have one, for the two months of rehearsals and performances?

My brain is skewed.  It must be, for I’ve decided to start memorizing Jake’s lines in the play.  There are lots of them.  Who’s to say I’ll even get the part?  And you know, it doesn’t matter.  There’s something magical about the possibility that I’ll have learned every word dear Jake says and never perform it onstage.  I would be fine with that … really.

So I begin with the first paragraph, smiling and shaking my head.  What kind of human being have I become?  Time will tell.

Who Is Bruce Kerr?

I Googled myself yesterday, but sadly I didn’t exist, at least not within the first 20 pages of “Bruce Kerr” listings.  Oh well.  I’m pretty sure that I do exist.  Guess you’ll have to take my word for it.

I did, however, find many versions of me on the Internet.  So many different lives.  Occasionally, I had pangs of jealousy, but really not much.  I like my rendition of the BK melody.

Here are some folks worth meeting:

***

Bringing more than 20 years of executive-level experience to his role as SVP & President, Bruce applies his expertise in customer management, analytics, loyalty marketing and international markets to build successful corporate and brand partnerships.

***

Bruce Kerr has been a familiar face of Australian film, television and theatre for more than thirty-five years.  His film credits include The Man From Snowy River and Compo (1989 AFI Awards entry).  He has appeared in almost every major Australian television drama including Blue Heelers, Corelli, Neighbours, Prisoner, The Sullivans, Cop Shop and Homicide, and the miniseries The Anzacs and I Can Jump Puddles.  Bruce has also worked extensively in theatre and radio serials.

***

Whether it is the unique light of a winter sunrise across a frozen Midwest pond, the color of a fall leaf against a cobalt sky or the inner workings of the atom, all are subjects for Bruce Kerr’s keen eye.  He has been designing, painting or drawing for most of his life.

***

Loose Bruce Kerr is a songwriter, performer, and music producer living in Northern California.  A native of Waukesha, Wisconsin, Bruce took 20 years off from his legal career to tour the country and the Caribbean, performing as a solo, in a duo with Steve Hoeft, or in his band in New England, “Spud City.”

Following that 20 year span, Bruce resumed his legal career and now is a lawyer working for Oracle in Silicon Valley.  His songs & videos can be heard & viewed on YouTube and here on loosebrucekerr.com.

***

Bruce Kerr, of Monewden, near Framlingham, one of 2,000 UK growers, produces early crops for processing and loose skin Maris Peer for supermarkets on soils ranging from sandy to heavy clay.  He says the council’s research work is important to his business and others in the region.

“Potatoes are an extremely valuable crop to our region,” he said.  “The industry is a large employer locally, so there’s great importance to the wider economy in having a robust and sustainable industry producing potatoes.”

***

Bruce joined the ambulance service in 1972 before working with ARHT, firstly as a rostered ambulance service paramedic in 1993 and then permanently in 1997.  He has participated in over two thousand ARHT rescues and was recognised for this achievement in 2010.

***

Bruce was a humble man who would always lend a helping hand whenever he could.  He was very proud of the students he had taught and in turn they openly expressed he was a great role model.  He was a loving husband and father who will be greatly missed.

***

 Who, me?

Acting – Part 2

Lesley is the woman who’s leading the beginning actors workshop on March 21.  She mentioned how scared most people are to get on stage.  They’ll start off with set building or being a backstage hand.  Hmm.  Not me.  I told her I want to act.

The workshop will include the opportunity to throw a teenaged tantrum.  Yes!  I can do that.  In real life, I have very little antagonism left in me, but socking it to my parents for pretend sounds like so much fun.

Decades ago, I took a personal development course in Vancouver.  One of the exercises was to share these words with another participant:

Don’t you ever … ever … ever … let me catch you
Brushing that dog’s teeth
With my toothbrush!

Back then, in my 30’s, I struggled.  I had learned to be polite, “nice”.  Before I got to the point of really blasting my partner, the instructor sure blasted me.  “C’mon, Bruce.  Give me all you’ve got!”  What an adventure.  So I’m definitely looking forward to telling mom and dad where to go.

I’m drawn to the third play of next season’s playbill at the Princess Avenue Playhouse – Jake’s Women.  The cast is one guy and seven girls.  The small voice inside says “What chance do you have to get the one and only male part?  You haven’t acted for 39 years.”  But there’s another speaker who wants me to go for it.  Here’s a synopsis of the play:

“Jake, a novelist who is more successful with fiction that with life, faces a marital crisis by daydreaming about the women in his life.  The wildly comic and sometimes moving flashbacks played in his mind are interrupted by visitations from actual females.  Jake’s women include a revered first wife who was killed years earlier in an accident, his daughter who is recalled as a child but is now a young woman, his boisterous and bossy sister, an opinionated analyst, his current wife who is leaving Jake for another man, and a prospective third wife.”

Okay, I like this.  Not being an obsessive-type person, I won’t tell you that I’ve ordered the script from Amazon (delivery on Friday, March 6!) plus the movie that was adapted from it, starring Alan Alda (delivery by March 23!).  Oh, Bruce.  Such a silly goose.

Ya gotta laugh at us human beings.  So strange.  And we’ll see what plops into my lap as I travel on.

Sick

This was to be the evening when I told you about my acting possibilities down the road.  I had lots of say but I’m too weak.  I woke up this morning with a deep cough, wracking myself in a high-pitched squeal as I tried to get the mucus up.  Once, I was having trouble breathing.  I was scared.  In the summer of 2013, Jody had continual pneumonia symptoms.  It turned out that it wasn’t an infection.  It was cancer.

In Emergency today, the doctor told me I don’t have pneumonia … just bronchitis.  No sign of cancer.  Thank God.

Tonight it’s all about coughing spasms, chills and fever.  I feel like poop.  But I want to see if I can write anything of value.  It’s fine to say good stuff when I’m well.  This, right now, is the test.

How do I treat people when I’m suffering?  I got some clue about that today at the hospital.  The triage nurse asked me what colour the mucus was, after I had told him.  So let it go, Bruce.  Not important.  I answered him with no editorial comment.

After triage was the registration desk, and then finding a seat in the waiting room.  I had my mask on.  I chose to sit right next to a fellow, rather than two seats down.  Was that being irresponsible?  I don’t think so.  In life, I simply want to move towards people rather than away from them.  Could my presence right next door be a benefit to him?  I say yes.  In any event, my decision came from a good intention – to contribute rather than infect.

Earlier, in the triage seats,  I talked to a woman who had been admitted to the hospital for a few days and then was sent home.  Back again.  We had a good time.  Eventually I was sent to a smaller waiting room, hopefully to see a doctor soon.  And there was the same woman, with two empty seats to her right.  I saw her nudge her coat over, to allow me full space next to her.  Inexplicably to me, I sat down two seats away.  Immediately, I felt the contraction.  Distance is not what I’m up to in life, so I moved over beside her.  That felt good, and right, and what the planet needs.  We talked some more.  And I knew that I had already forgiven myself completely.

A half hour later, I was alone in that room, when a fellow ambled in.  I wanted to make contact, so I said:  “You just missed the hors d’oeuvres.  A woman came by a few minutes ago.”  He smiled.

A few minutes after that, two women dropped their paperwork at the window and took a seat.  “It seems that they’re serving us in alphabetical order.”  Two smiles.  Missions accomplished.

I’m happy, and sick.  Nothing special.  Just me.