Other People’s Words

Sometimes, such as right now, I can’t think of anything to say.  That’s all right.  There are 7.7 billion of us with things to say.  I should listen.

I still get to participate in this post.  I’ve chosen quotes that move me.  If words don’t “sing” to me, I don’t pay much attention.  Let the music begin:

***

I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.

Mahatma Gandhi

Yes, I don’t have time to deal with toxic people.  There is much to be done.

***

There is almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision.  The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe.

Teilhard de Chardin

I am pulled towards the beauty of open hearts.  “Resistance is futile.”

***

Make peace with silence, and remind yourself that it is in this space that you’ll come to remember your spirit.  When you’re able to transcend an aversion to silence, you’ll also transcend many other miseries.  And it is in this silence that the remembrance of God will be activated.

Wayne Dyer

Listen … the heavens are singing.

***

Who can say if the thoughts you have in your mind as you read these words are the same thoughts I had in my mind as I typed them?  We are different, you and I, and the qualia of our consciousnesses are as divergent as two stars at the ends of the universe.

And yet, whatever has been lost in translation in the long journey of my thoughts through the maze of civilization to your mind, I think you do understand me, and you think you do understand me.  Our minds managed to touch, if but briefly and imperfectly.

Does that thought not make the universe seem just a bit kinder, a bit brighter, a bit warmer and more human?

Ken Liu

Oh yes … we know each other, even if I’ve never seen your face.  It is a bright world, full of sisters and brothers.

***

Hell, in my opinion, is never finding your true self and never living your own life or knowing who you are.

John Bradshaw

I feel such sadness when encountering the flat ones – where money, power and ego rule.

***

I’ve come to think that flourishing consists of putting yourself in situations in which you lose self-consciousness and become fused with other people, experiences, or tasks.  It happens sometimes when you are lost in a hard challenge, or when an artist or a craftsman becomes one with the brush or the tool.  It happens sometimes while you’re playing sports, or listening to music or lost in a story, or to some people when they feel enveloped by God’s love.  And it happens most when we connect with other people.  I’ve come to think that happiness isn’t really produced by conscious accomplishments.  Happiness is a measure of how thickly the unconscious parts of our minds are intertwined with other people and with activities.  Happiness is determined by how much information and affection flows through us covertly every day and year.

David Brooks

Oh, the bliss of entwining with the countless beloveds!

***

You are here to evolve and make your consciousness high.  You are here to dance, sing and celebrate life.  You are here to help others to make their life happy.  We are here not to compete, but to learn, evolve and excel.  We are not here to make divisions in the name of prophets and religions.  We are here to encompass the world with love and light.

Amit Ray

May we fall into knowing every one of us – beyond space and time.  For the people of Senegal and Belgium, and the people of long ago, are with me now.

***

In each of us there is another whom we do not know.

Carl Jung

And perhaps I’ll never know this other Bruce, but he guides me nonetheless.

***

The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there.

Yasutani Roshi

Actually I am over there in you and you are over here in me.  We merge in peace.

***

When faced with a radical crisis, when the old way of being in the world, of interacting with each other and with the realm of nature doesn’t work anymore, when survival is threatened by seemingly insurmountable problems, an individual life form — or a species — will either die or become extinct or rise above the limitations of its condition through an evolutionary leap.

Eckhart Tolle

We are not 1 … 2 … 3 …  We are 1 … 7 … 229 …

***

Creativity is the state of consciousness in which you enter into the treasury of your innermost being and bring the beauty into manifestation.

Torkom Saraydarian

What can I draw forth from me during my remaining time on Earth?

***

Attempts to wake before our time are often punished, especially by those who love us most.  Because they, bless them, are asleep.  They think anyone who wakes up, or who, still asleep, realizes that what is taken to be real is a “dream” is going crazy.

R.D. Laing

I’ve been seen as weird, strange and airy fairy.  I’ve also been seen as transparent, loving and sweet.

***

The language of light can only be decoded by the heart.

Suzy Kassem

Be still, my rampaging brain, my keen intellect.  There is much to learn.

***

Don’t seek love externally, it’s fleeting.  Go beyond the ego and awaken the love that already exists within; it will encompass everyone and everything in your life; it will permeate your very being.

Danielle Pierre

Love them all, Bruce.  Light the world.

***

The tree was so old, and stood there so alone, that his childish heart had been filled with compassion; if no one else on the farm gave it a thought, he would at least do his best to, even though he suspected that his child’s words and child’s deeds didn’t make much difference.  It had stood there before he was born, and would be standing there after he was dead, but perhaps, even so, it was pleased that he stroked its bark every time he passed, and sometimes, when he was sure he wasn’t observed, even pressed his cheek against it.

Karl Ove Knausgård

Companions linger to the left and to the right, above and below.  And we are the richer for them.

***

Lots of words
I like them
And they like me

Integrity

I’m in a worldwide group called The Evolutionary Collective.  Mostly we meet online to explore consciousness together.  For the next three-and-a-half months, I’m taking an EC program called Base Camp.  Our current theme is integrity.

On one level, the word is pretty simple – being “whole and complete” – being appropriate to life, having nothing hidden, telling the truth.  Another way to look at integrity is keeping your word, and if you break it, go to the person involved and clean up your mess.  Even though you didn’t do what you said you’d do, you can still be in integrity.

I can be out-of-integrity if I know what to do and don’t do it.  And when I fall short, it’s not about beating myself up about it – just recognize the problem and fix it.  Before Monday night’s online session, I thought I was “squeaky clean” but alas that was not the case.

I’ve asked myself “Do I need to address every moment of not being in alignment with truth, even those itsy bitsy things?”  The answer coming back was “Yes.”  Doing so releases great power to do good in the world, unencumbered by regrets.

Moment Number One

Last June, I quit the Tour du Canada after three days.  It was the cross-country bicycle ride I was on.  I was exhausted and terrified of the semi-trailers bombing by a few metres away.  I came home to Belmont traumatized.  As school opened again in the fall, I was still deeply afraid to get back on my bicycle.  One Grade 6 girl has been very curious about me, and observant, since we met a year before.  She’s wanted to know if I was going to Toronto on the weekend, and noticed when I bought new shoes.

In September, “Molly” asked me if I’d gotten back on my bicycle.  I admitted that the answer was no.  I told her that ta-pocketa, my skinny-tired bike, was for sale and that I had bought another one – with stable knobby tires.  I said it wasn’t in yet.  Molly kept asking me if the hybrid bicycle had arrived in London.  Later, when I told her that my bike guy was setting Betty up for me, I got lots of “Is it ready yet?”  >  “No.”

I didn’t want to let Molly know that I was still plenty scared to ride again.  I hid … in lies.  “The bike isn’t in yet.”  After a bit, that wasn’t true.  “The bike isn’t ready yet.”  After more bits, that was another lie.  What was true was that I was praying for the first snow, so Molly would stop bugging me about riding.

I look back now and see the psychic energy I’ve wasted.  Every time I saw Molly, Betty was right before my eyes.  After Monday night’s integrity session online, I saw the prison bars.  As far as I know, lying to Molly was my only diminishment of integrity, but it was huge.  “Clean up your mess, Bruce.”

So I did.

I went to Molly this week and told her I had lied about my new bicycle.  I told her that I was still terrified and gave her permission to challenge me again when the roads are dry and the temperature warmer.  I apologized … “I’m sorry, Molly, for lying to you.”  She didn’t know what to say but her nod was all I needed.

Just like that, I’m free.

Until this morning.

Moment Number Two

I went to breakfast at the Belmont Diner and noticed the fellow who was replacing the floor mats with new ones, taking the old ones away for cleaning.  I was backing Scarlet up in the parking lot and didn’t see how close the gentleman’s truck was.  My back bumper hit its front one – not a real smash but at least a nudge.  What did I do, given my newfound integrity?  I drove home.  (Sigh)

As I pulled onto Robin Ridge Drive, my home road, I started feeling sick, and faint.  “C’mon, Bruce.  A little bump and you’re falling apart?”  Well, actually … yes.  What has become of me when one “little” misstep is unacceptable?  It’s not unacceptable that I hit the truck, but taking off was.  I came to the roundabout on Robin Ridge and went all the way around, back from where I came.

On Main Street, I was praying that the floor mat company’s truck was still there.  It was.  I heard some noise inside.  I knocked on the door.  An assistant came out to say hi.  And then here was the boss, walking across the parking lot, heavy laden.  He too smiled as I told my story.  We checked his bumper.  Nothing was detectable.  “No problem, man.”  >  “Thanks.”

I drove home with my own smile.  I was whole and complete again.  This integrity feels like the floor on which I can dance.  So cue the music, maestro!

Dancers

I was off to another local high school this morning, this time to see a dance extravaganza with the Grade 6 kids.  I like the teens but my heart beats most deeply with the 11-year-olds.  There’s an enthusiasm, spontaneity and innocence that captures me.

There must have been fifty dancers onstage at various times.  I loved to see that their heads were up, in contact with life.  I couldn’t tell if they were truly making eye contact with us or if they were focused on the back wall.  No matter … they were engaged.

The auditorium was pretty full when we arrived but there were seats off to the side.  Soon after we sat down, I realized that there were lots of developmentally delayed kids near us.  Excellent.  And they enjoyed the whole show, which had to be at least two hours.  What a great demonstration to our students that everyone needs to be included.

One young lady in the front row often stood up and did her own twirls in response to the performers.  Good for her.  And good for the staff member sitting beside who let her express.  Some teens made occasional spontaneous noises as the dancers danced, and one student seemed to be having breathing problems.  It was all a welcome part of our gathering.

Almost all of the dancers were girls.  There were maybe five boys.  That made me sad.  It was such a great performance that I’m hoping some male elementary students were inspired to join the fun once they show up at high school.  The boys who danced were very expressive.  I imagine it took some courage for them to be up there, given the possibility of razzing from some friends.  Congratulations, guys, for being willing to do what you want to do.

The dance troupe was a celebration of difference – racially, culturally, age, body type and cognitive ability.  None of those distinctions mattered.  I saw a heavier girl take centre stage and do various flips and swirls with grace and strength.  She was a star.

There were so many different costumes … even top hats were on proud display.  The music was all over the map, including Queen’s We Are The Champions.  Many of us in the audience sang along with that one.

What a mass of work it must have been to pull this performance off – the dancers, the stage crew, the lighting crew, the teachers.  I hope each participant left the stage knowing that they had contributed to something big, that they had enthralled many of the elementary kids, and that possibly they had recruited some future Grade 9 students.  They also touched this volunteer who still loves to dance.  Thank you.

 

 

 

Animation

I have two favourite words.  The first is love … well understood by all and sundry.  The second is animation.  The reaction I usually get to that one is some version of “Huh?” or “You like Disney flicks?”  No matter – my joy in the word goes on.

Someone, no doubt wise, said:

“The Latin word anima (meaning breath, soul) that gave us animal, has given us other words.  The English adjective animate (meaning alive) comes from the Latin verb animare, meaning to give life to, which in turn comes from anima.”

The dictionary sees animation as the state of being full of life or vigor, and offers these synonyms:

Liveliness, spirit, high spirits, spiritedness, energy, enthusiasm, eagerness, excitement, vigor, vivacity, vivaciousness, vitality, vibrancy, exuberance, ebullience, buoyancy, bounciness, bounce, perkiness, sprightliness, verve, zest, sparkle, dash, elan, brio.

Woh … so many words.  But the word itself is true.  For decades, I’ve understood that to animate is to breathe life into, to take an ordinary moment and make it vibrate.  I think that is a gift of mine – to see the light in an apparently normal second or minute.

The light was with me half an hour ago.  I’m in Aeolian Hall, a 135-year-old concert venue in London.  A young woman from Montreal has just sung five songs, as the opening act for Martha Wainwright.  After five minutes, Amélie Beyries looked at us and said “There are spirits here.”  So true.  Her voice climbed the heights of tone and soul.  Her fingers caressed the piano keys.  And just before her last song, she stood at the edge of the stage and cried.  “I’ve never experienced a hall like this.”  We smiled and loved her.

Amélie had taken us into her heart and shone a light upon us.  The time was alive, glowing, vibrating.  And we all have the power to do the same – to set others ablaze.  Maybe a little smile, a kind word, a hand on the shoulder.  We can animate the lives around us simply by being “over there” with them.  Then candles can light themselves.  Dimmer switches can push themselves up to maximum.  Off-white can transform to forest green.

Let’s do it

The Man

I’m sitting in a Grade 9 classroom at my local high school, facing about fifteen teens.  My job is to talk about writing.  On one level, I don’t know what to say.  But there are other levels.

What are the dreams of these young people?  What are their passions?  Maybe I can say something that will open their eyes to their heart, whether that’s about writing or playing piano or acting in Mary Poppins.

Let’s see what I have to say:

***

I was at Hugh’s Room on Sunday night awaiting my hero.  What I didn’t know was whether he was awaiting me.  Gordon Lightfoot’s music has moved me since the 1960’s, when I hung out at a coffee house in Yorkville in Toronto.

This was a tribute concert for Gord.  At the table, my server winked at me when I asked if he was coming tonight.  Oh my God!  I knew it wasn’t a “come hither” look.  Gordon was really going to grace us with his presence.

No sign of the man up to intermission.  Maybe six singers gave us their cool interpretations of Lightfoot songs, such as Did She Mention My Name?

Did she mention my name just in passing?
And when the talk ran high, did the look in her eyes seem far away?

I was moved, and at the same time felt the need to visit a certain room downstairs.  As I stood at the urinal, I told my neighbour how I had all my fingers crossed that Lightfoot would show up.

“He’s here!”

(Stunned silence)

“He’s sitting at a back table, on the right, having dinner with his friends.”

I threw myself up the stairs and casually slowed past the back right tables in the hall.  There was a fellow with his back to me, hair flowing well below his shoulders.  I moved past him and then snuck a glance backward.  The man himself, looking awfully ordinary, not the stuff of legend.

I was sitting across the room from Lightfoot, and as the performers continued to interpret his words in the second half, I often looked back at him.  Sometimes he was alone with his friends.  Sometimes the paparazzi crowded around, seeking photos, handshakes, contact.  C’mon, folks – leave him alone.  Let him eat in peace.

Then there were the moments when Lightfoot seemed to be feeling into his songs, as voiced by far younger musicians.  One of my favourite pieces is Song For A Winter’s Night:

The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead
My glass is almost empty
I read again between the lines upon the page
The words of love you sent me

If I could know within my heart
That you were lonely too
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter night with you

When Laura Spink settled into the first phrases of the song, Gord lowered his head to his arms.  As she toned the delicate words of love, he remained still on the table.  At the final chord, he raised himself and applauded.  What was the dear man thinking as she sang?  Was it a lover long gone?  Was it sadness?  Was it peace?  To be watching him as the story unfolded was a blessing.

Lightfoot is an ordinary human being and an extraordinary poet.  We are the richer for him being with us.

***

Back to the teens.  I was only partway through my post as the bell came close.  I was happy … so happy.  I had talked to them as I typed away, sharing the decisions I was making on the fly.  I told them that my biggest word in writing is “trust”.  I know that good words will come from my fingers.  It may take time, but they’ll be there.  What I write needs to “sing” to me, or there’s no sense in creating it.  Other fine words are “real” and “natural”.  Nothing forced.  Sitting back at times and letting what wants to emerge bubble out.

I encouraged these young folks to listen inside for their passion.  For some of them, it’s clear already, not so for others.  And be willing to let that passion morph into something else if it wants to.  Write or sing or dance or play or build what pleases you and intend that your creations contribute to human beings.

I know that I’m on the planet to love people and make them laugh.  May all of us see why we’re here.

 

I Include You As Well

No one left out. That’s been a mantra of mine for many years. But do I really mean it? Are there any human beings on the planet, or who were here, that I flat out reject?

Shouldn’t I condemn mean people, especially those who have caused countless deaths, rather than feeling into whatever pain they agonized in? I detest cruel behaviour but should I also condemn the perpetrators to the agony of hell? I say that I need to honour the humanity of everyone … no exceptions.

I’ve seen this quote before, and it still goes deep inside me:

“An unknown poet left the following beautiful prayer beside the body of a dead child at the Ravensbrück death camp during a recent era of unspeakable human darkness:”

O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will
But also those of ill will
But do not remember all the suffering they inflicted on us
Remember the fruits we have bought thanks to this suffering
Our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility
Our courage, our generosity
The greatness of heart which has grown out of all this
And when they come to judgment
Let all the fruits which we have borne be their forgiveness

Let us forgive, not the behaviour but the person, including these figures of history:

Idi Amin, Uganda

Amin’s rule was characterized by rampant human rights abuses, political repression, ethnic persecution, extrajudicial killings, nepotism, corruption and gross economic mismanagement. The number of people killed as a result of his regime is estimated by international observers and human rights groups to range from 100,000 to 500,000.

Adolf Hitler, Germany

Under Hitler’s leadership and racially motivated ideology, the Nazi regime was responsible for the genocide of at least 5.5 million Jews and millions of other victims whom he and his followers deemed “untermenschen” (subhumans) or socially undesirable. Hitler and the Nazi regime were also responsible for the killing of an estimated 19.3 million civilians and prisoners of war.

Pol Pot, Cambodia

Pol Pot became the dictator of Cambodia in 1975. His government forcibly relocated the urban population to the countryside to work on collective farms. Those regarded as enemies of the new government were killed. These mass killings, coupled with malnutrition, strenuous working conditions and poor medical care, killed between 1.5 and 3 million people of a population of roughly 8 million, a period later termed the Cambodian genocide. Marxist-Leninists unhappy with Pol Pot’s government encouraged Vietnamese intervention. However Pol Pot forced Vietnam’s hand by attacking villages in Vietnam and massacring their villagers.

I also remember reading the story of two former prisoners who shared the same jailer:

“Have you forgiven him?”

“What?! No. Never.”

“Then I guess you’re still in prison.”

May we be free

Extraordinary Ordinary Folks

I was walking down Weston Road in Toronto yesterday and told myself that I needed a hot dog. I didn’t, really. What I wanted was a visit with Rosina. She and her husband George own a tiny restaurant called God Blesses Canada. My history there has been yummy ice cream cones but my shivering bones weren’t up for that particular menu item. A hot dog would do nicely.

Rosina came out from behind the counter to greet me, and once I had unbundled from my winter togs, she gave me a big smile. How lovely to be remembered.

We must have talked for fifteen minutes before I got around to ordering anything. Rosina’s calm reminded me of the folks in Senegal, and I reminisced about their beauty. She was interested in my journey and was happy that I had been welcomed so.

“Any kidnapping of white folks in Senegal?” Ouch. “No, not at all.” > “It’s a big problem where I’m from – Nigeria. I don’t want to go back. Canada is home.”

Rosina told me about her mother. The family lived in the jungle. The women were naked. The men wore some large leaves around the middle to cover the naughty bits. When mom was 12, a man of maybe 25 returned to the home village from the big city, looking for a wife. He picked Rosina’s mother. It was arranged that the girl would live with him in the city. She and her grandma travelled there. The girl, and maybe both of them, entered the city with no clothes on. Can you imagine the trauma and disorientation for the child? The new husband swiftly found her some garments.

Rosina, like her mother, was deposited in an arranged and essentially loveless marriage. How very sad. Since then, Rosina escaped her husband, went to Canada, and fell in love with George. She’s a committed Christian and has served many homeless people in her coffee shops in Toronto and Keswick, Ontario. Rosina wants to adopt a child from Haiti and bring him or her to Canada.

I read a sign in the restaurant that talked about brutal conditions in Nigeria and how Rosina gives in Canada. I looked back at her and saw a glowing face, a kind person. Someone who undercharges me for a hot dog and bottle of water. Thank you, Rosina.

Next on my menu was the Weston Arena, built a very long time ago. It’s the home of hockey teams and a snack bar. I was hoping that the chuckly fellow I’d seen before would be serving up “The World’s Best Fries”. (Sorry, you Belgian readers) And there he was … chuckling.

I asked Wayne “Do you have any of those French fries that are second best in the world?”

“No! They’re the absolute best in the world.”

Okay, Wayne, okay. I’ll stop arguing the point. We continued to say silly things to each other. I sang a snippet from a song to Wayne’s admittedly grumpy co-worker. The guy stared. Wayne doubled over in laughter. I’d like to get to know this guy.

I entered the frozen arena with my world’s best and a Diet Coke. I could see my breath, and in the background were two teams of 12-year-olds – mostly boys and happily a few girls. They were skating like the wind and sometimes getting weak shots on net. It was so cool to see. What was uncool were the two male coaches. They took turns throwing around the F-word, aimed at the referee or an opposing player. What a contrast to Wayne and what dubious role models for all those young folks.

Think I’ll rest my brain cells in memories of Rosina and Wayne. Extraordinary.

Gord

I have musical heroes as no doubt you do. I saw Gordon Lightfoot in concert at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 1972. He was 34. I was 23. He sang into my soul. My favourite song was Did She Mention My Name? And it still is.

It’s so nice to meet an old friend and pass the time of day
And talk about the hometown a million miles away
Is the ice still on the river? Are the old folks still the same?
And by the way, did she mention my name?

Did she mention my name just in passing?
And when the morning came
Do you remember if she dropped a name or two?
Is the home team still on fire? Do they still win all the games?
And by the way, did she mention my name?

Ahh, yes. I so much wanted to be loved. I so much wanted a love. And Gord spoke right to me of the longing.

Tonight I sit in Hugh’s Room in Toronto. It’s an intimate venue of folk music – the songs of the people. In an hour, musicians will step onto the stage for The Way We Feel: A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot. We’ll hear Gord’s songs, and if we’re lucky, the man himself will join us for a few tunes. To hear the singer-songwriter who’s sold out huge halls for sixty years in a room of 200 would be such a blessing.

I’ll be fine if Gord doesn’t show up but what a privilege if he does. Hugh’s Room has hosted these four tribute evenings in a row for fifteen years. Every time, Mr. Lightfoot has appeared a couple of times. Maybe this is my lucky night.

I want to applaud someone who has created such beauty. But really we all do that, in different ways. Perhaps I need to applaud all human beings. We all struggle. We all overcome. We all could have songs written about us.

It’s intermission now and Gord’s poetry has filled the room. Such as On a Winter’s Night with You:

The lamp is burnin’ low upon my table top
The snow is softly fallin’
The air is still in the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly callin’

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter’s night with you

Or how about the bittersweet Affair on Eighth Avenue?

And our fingers entwined like ribbons of light
And we came through a doorway somewhere in the night

Her long flowing hair came softly undone
And it lay all around
And she brushed it down as I stood by her side
In the warmth of her love

There have been seven or eight singers so far and what’s true, beyond their prime musicianship, is their love for Gord. I share that love. What gifts he’s given to folks eager to hear. Generations of Canadians and world citizens have been slowed and then stopped by his words of the heart:

Rain is falling on the meadow
Where once my love and I did lie
Now she is gone from the meadow
My love goodbye

Ribbon of darkness over me
Where once the world was young as spring
Where flowers did bloom and birds did sing
Ribbon of darkness over me

Here in this cold room lyin’
Don’t want to see no one but you
Lord I wish I could be dyin’
To forget you

Oh how I wish your heart could see
How mine just aches and breaks all day
Come on home and take away
This ribbon of darkness over me

The band is coming back to the stage. And my writing feels done for the day. I’ll tell you tomorrow if Gord came by to say hi.

***

Hello, everyone. It’s tomorrow. No Gord last night. (Sigh) But the singers and players onstage created miracles in song.

I can’t help it … I just have to share more lyrics with you:

Early Mornin’ Rain

In the early mornin’ rain
With a dollar in my hand
With an aching in my heart
And my pockets full of sand
I’m a long ways from home
And I miss my loved ones so
In the early mornin’ rain
With no place to go

***

Pussywillows, Cattails, Soft Winds and Roses

Pussywillows, cattails, soft winds and roses
Rainbows in the woodland, water to my knees
Shivering, quivering, the warmth breath of spring
Pussywillows, cattails, soft winds and roses

Catbirds and cornfields, daydreams together
Riding on the roadside, the dust gets in your eyes
Revelling, dishevelling, the summer nights can bring
Pussywillows, cattails, soft winds and roses

***

If You Could Read My Mind

I never knew I felt this way
And I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it
I don’t know where we went wrong
But the feeling’s gone and I just can’t get it back

If you could read my mind, love
What a tale my thoughts could tell
Just like a oldtime movie about a ghost from a wishing well
In a castle dark or a fortress strong
With chains upon my feet
The story always ends
And if you read between the lines
You’ll know that I’m just trying to understand
The feeling that you left

***

The Long River

Where the long river flows
It flows by my window
Where the tall timber grows
It grows ’round my door
Where the mountains meet the sky
And the white clouds fly
Where the long river flows
By my window

There’s a tiny bird that calls
And he calls by my window
There’s a lonely tear that falls
And it falls ’round my door
But when the sun is high
There’s no time to cry
Where the long river flows
By my window

***

Oh, Gord … from where did your words come?
Thank you, dear sir, for shining a light on our lives

Kenosis

In Christian theology, kenosis is the self- emptying of Jesus’ own will and becoming entirely receptive to God’s divine will.

Google

Over and over, Jesus lays this path before us.  There is nothing to be renounced or resisted.  Everything can be embraced, but the catch is to cling to nothing.  You let it go.  You go through life like a knife goes through a done cake, picking up nothing, clinging to nothing, sticking to nothing.  And grounded in that fundamental chastity of your being, you can then throw yourself out, being able to give it all back, even giving back life itself.  That’s the kenotic path in a nutshell.  Very, very simple.  It only costs everything.

Cynthia Bourgeault

***

Alrighty then … I’ll just fall into a life of contribution with no thought for the reward, no need to achieve anything or to be adored.  “Just give, Bruce, moment after moment, until your breathing stops.  Have your life be a symphony, with all those marvelous folks flowing beside you, playing with you, creating magic together.”  And no need to have them live in your house, to be enclosed by the constraints of your mind.  Enjoy them, and let them go.  Over and over.

***

What am I willing to let float away?

Being in Senegal
Being loved by Ali and Mariama
Being loved by my Belgian friend Lydia
Being healthy
Being in the Evolutionary Collective
Living a long time
Listening to concerts from the front row
Eating pesto pasta
Volunteering with 11-year-olds
Watching Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again for the umpteenth time
Picking up garbage on my way to the Belmont Diner
Sitting at the counter or at “the women’s table” at the Diner
Travelling … anywhere
Making people laugh
Writing these blog posts
Having another life partner
Living past tomorrow

***

Quite the list of things to let go of
Quite the opportunity to give without restraint or expectation
Quite the smile on my face

The Man in the Arena

Today the kids in Grade 6 were at the Jaffa Environmental Education Centre for a day of wilderness structure-building, orienteering and fire-starting.  I wanted to see them again so I showed up in the afternoon.  Apart from my coughing, I had fun – it’s always great to talk to 11-year-olds.  A few kids hugged me.  One boy asked permission first and then came close.  Very sweet.

We headed back to the school in time to catch the buses home and that same boy came up to me with a gift-wrapped present.  Inside were yummy cookies and waffles plus a pair of cool blue socks, with little bow ties scattered on them.  The gem, though, was the card.

I had met the mom just before I left for Senegal, at the school’s Christmas concert.  We got talking.  I told her about my wife Jody and the book I’d written about her, and mom wanted a copy.  I got one from my car Scarlet and signed it for her.  Little did I know …

“Jenny” lost her dad six months ago and misses him so very much.  Jody’s book helped her heal.  Wow.  That makes me feel so good …to think that my dear wife contributes to others’ lives after her death.  Thank you, Jodiette.  You sure contributed to mine.

Jenny wrote: “You were part of my journey and choosing happy.”  Wow again.  Thank you, Jenny.

Towards the end of her card, Jenny mentioned Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” speech in 1910.  He’s a former President of the United States.  Here’s what he had to say:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 

And then … “I think you’re an arena man too!”

When people praise me, I’ve learned to simply say “Thank you” from my heart.  I know that life is a mysterious mixture of praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and pain, and that these experiences touch us all.  Attaching myself to praise doesn’t work.  Acknowledging my good points does.

I do believe that I am:

Actually in the arena
Marred by dust and sweat and blood
Someone who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again
Someone who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions
Someone who spends himself in a worthy cause

***

Does this make me better than anyone else?
No

On we go