Just A Word

In the early years of human presence on Earth, I was a kid.  I loved going to the matinée at the movie theatre on Avenue Road in Toronto.  It was a bit of a walk but I was young and strong.

Inside, a large waddling woman patrolled the aisles.  Fifty-five years later, I still remember her bellows:

LESS NOISE!

In recent days, I’ve been re-exploring Stephen King’s novella The Library Policeman.  I love how King creates such believable characters.  Poor Sam Peebles, a respected Junction City insurance agent, is about to be devoured by Ardelia Lortz, the town’s bewitching librarian.  He opens the front door, steps into the foyer, and is greeted by a large sign pressing down on its tripod stand:

SILENCE!

In my sixties, I’ve come into the world of Buddhist meditation.  In two weeks, I’m heading to the heart of Massachusetts for a one-month silent retreat.  I’ve been many times before.  Love and peace often surround me there.  Over all, we are embraced by a single word:

Silence

How is it that a human expression can hold such different meanings?  Every muscle in my body tightening.  And then an undoing, a sweet mushing of my structures, a blessed puddling.

Such a mystery, this life.  The agony, the ecstasy and the calm in which high and low seem irrelevant.  I’m for all of it.

Beyond Reason

Yesterday was my birthday.  I officially turned 48.  Of course I’m also a chronic liar, so my true age will appear inconspicuously somewhere in this post.  68!

When I was a kid, mom told me that I was born at 10:00 am.  So at 9:30 I walked out of my dear condo and headed down Main Street to the Belmont Diner.  I sat at the lunch counter and announced “When I was a kid, mom told me that I was born at 10:00 am.”  Chrystal (the owner, and a very sharp cookie), chimed in with “So it’s your birthday.”  She then proceeded to waltz over to the white menu board and add “Happy birthday, Bruce -72 years.”  Well, not quite.

I took out my phone and saw that it was 9:55.  One more countdown.  I’ve done this every year since I was knee high to somebody’s knee.  As 9:56 appeared in my universe, I started a slow chant: “67, 67, 67, …”.  My companions smiled.

The radio was playing a wee dittie.  I recognized one of my favourites:  Superman’s Song.

I’ve always related to the words.  I’m no Superman, but like him I’ve wanted to do good.  I could be a “hangin’-out-in-the-cave” Buddhist, but that’s not me.  Tarzan had his jungle but I’ve yearned to be like Supe:

Sometimes when Supe was stopping crimes
I’ll bet that he was tempted to just quit and turn his back on man
Join Tarzan in the forest
But he stayed in the city
And kept on changing clothes in dirty old phonebooths
Till his work was through
And nothing to do but go on home

Coffee to my lips, 9:59 became 10:00 and I was 68.  Superman sang on.  What are the chances that words I love would intersect with my birthday moment?

Time for the next song, another Brucio smiler:

I want to know what love is
I want you to show me
I want to feel what love is
I know you can show me

Well, I was 2 for 2.  Unknown forces were flowing around me.  Peace was there.  Wonder too.

Oh, what we tiny humans don’t know

You and Another

I sat in the lounge of the Sheraton Four Points Hotel yesterday, eating my curds and whey.  (I think that’s from some fairy tale)  The waitress and I had a few good mini-talks while she came and went.  I wanted those talks to be longer but duty called.

I drank my white wine and devoured my honey garlic wings and read Toronto Maple Leafs articles on my phone.  All in a cozy chair.  So nice.  Glancing over to the bar, I saw my serving friend chatting with a grey-haired fellow (just like me!).  And their conversation extended, much to the delight of both.

After I got over the “Why not me?” reaction, I smiled.  How marvelous that they’re connecting, making meaning, enjoying each other’s company.  I should always be so happy in such circumstances.  “It doesn’t have to be about you, Bruce!”

The Buddha had a lot of good ideas.  My favourite is the thought of empathetic joy … being happy about the good fortune of another.  It’s such a sweet thing to do.  More of that, please.

Here I am on January 8, 2017, reflecting on my future joys.  As much as I want the goodies of life, including a love, I marvel at the happiness I feel when a friend glows about her boyfriend.  Clearly, I’m not the most important person in her life.  I don’t make the biggest impact.  I’m not the one she thinks of first.  And the smile again.

As far as I know, all the you’s in my life have a primary other who isn’t me.  Even though I hope a lovely woman will walk into my life and see me as her most significant other, that’s not happening right now.  I bask in the redirected glow  of dear companions gazing into the eyes of a third person.  And I take pleasure in their union.

 

 

 

In Spirit Together

My neighbours invited me to a London church, to eat good food and hear a gospel concert.  I said “Sure.”  I like eating and singing along.

I’m not a Christian.  I’m a Buddhist.  But Gospel’s just fine.  I tapped my toes to a group from London who had their beginning forty-eight years ago!  Then it was the turn of a family from North Carolina – mom, dad, two sons and a friend.  They gave ‘er too.

I heard songs like “I’m Going Home With Jesus”, sung with passion.  Throughout, the faces onstage were alight with joy, and love as they looked at each other.  Very cool.  In the audience, some folks raised their arms in blissful devotion.  A few swayed in their seats.  And most of us blasted out the fast songs we knew.  A mom held her tiny daughter on her lap, the two of them moving and grooving.

The small voice residing in my head said “This is not you, Bruce.”  But the big one countered with “Yes it is.”  It didn’t matter that Baptist worship wasn’t my spiritual expression.  It was Spirit.  I don’t worship God.  Nor do I see Jesus as my personal savior.  But I saw the light in those faces, both in front of me and beside, and it was the real deal.

I don’t see Buddhism as a religion, although some say it is.  To me, it’s a philosophy, a way of life.  Mr. Buddha was a smart guy who happened to hang out 2600 years ago.  He had some fine ideas about leading a life.  I feel at home when I’m on a retreat.

I don’t compare one religious expression to another.  I figure that opening to a depth of love and peace is a fine thing for all of us to do.  To look over there and see God in the other’s eyes.  To move beyond “I’m better than you” and “I don’t care about you” and “More, better and different”.  Just let the present moment in and be good to those around me.  Yay for religion.  Yay for Spirit.

Skating In My Mind

I don’t know how to skate.  As a kid, my ankles just kept flopping over.  I was scared to fall.  I was scared to look stupid, which I guess I did.  Come to think of it, I was scared about most things.  But I turned out okay.

Last night was New Year’s Eve and I didn’t know what to do.  My massage therapist told me that there was some sort of family festival happening in the early evening in Aylmer so I decided to go.

It was a short drive to the East Elgin Community Complex and I was greeted by a packed parking lot.  Lots of folks were heading to the entrance with ice skates over their shoulder.  Somehow I forgot mine.

Inside, the lobby was overflowing with festive types young and old, with the pull of the crowd leading to the skating rink.  I got myself a coffee and climbed the stairs to the upper level.  Below me were a hundred skaters looping around the ice surface.  I looked … and I marvelled.

And there I was, in teenaged female form.  The young lady was walking unsurely on her skates, with none of that graceful pushing off motion to the sides.  She jerked when gravity threatened to take over.  The fear shot through her body.  For several laps, she skated  alone.  But then an older gent, perhaps her father, came alongside.  They talked and smiled.  And my unknown friend kept going, undeterred by the graceful forms flowing by her.  Good for you.

The music of Abba was flooding the scene:

Chiquitita, you and I know
How the heartaches come and they go and the scars they’re leaving
You’ll be dancing once again and the pain will end

And on the world glided.

***

A young mom pushed her son in a wheelchair.  He was laughing every time around

Two ten-year-old girls skated unsteadily together, holding hands and sharing the latest news

A six-year-old boy burst past the slow ones in a flurry of speed and skill

A teenaged fellow tried to look cool as he moseyed along, hands in his pockets

A girl practiced her figure skating, shifting suddenly from one foot to the other, and then took a lap moving backwards

Parents on the boards smiled at their kids and shared the video they’d just taken

And a guy sitting in the balcony took it all in