I Just Wanna Have Fun

“Animation” is one of my two favourite words.  I’m not talking about cartoons here.  I’m thinking about the Latin word animus, which means “to breathe life into”.  So … take an ordinary moment in your day.  How can you bring it alive?  It’s become my hobby, and it comes to me easily now – no effort, no planning, just fun.

I was walking into GoodLife Fitness this morning at 11:50.  A session with my trainer Tony was scheduled for 12:00.  I’d have to boogie through the clothes changing to make it on time.

On the way to the locker room sat five men in a row.  Some had white goo on their faces.  Off to the side was a table hosted by a smiling woman.  It was laden with paper plates.  Pressurized cans of whipped cream waited for their time to shine.  The hostess told me that GoodLife staff were raising money to help kids with autism or intellectual disabilities get fit.  For $5.00, I could whip a plate full of cream into the visage of one of these captive employees.

First

“Do it, Bruce!”  What does five minutes of lateness mean in the span of your life?

Second

I whipped out my wallet and plunked it into the tub of five dollar bills.  Then I just stood there.  Gentlemen gaped.

Third

As the hostess was explaining things, I stared at the young man on the left end of the line. I tried to look fierce.  As I picked up the overflowing plate, I continued my gaze.

Fourth

Still fixed on Lefty’s eyes, I walked forward ever so slowly, a delicious circle in my right hand.  Closer, and then right up to him, I raised my arm … and splatted the wet goodness into the face of the fellow beside him.  Squeals of delight (both male and female) then ensued.

Fifth

I picked up my gym bag and strode heroically towards the locker room, accompanied by a chorus of “Your wallet!”  I didn’t look back.

Sixth

I took the scenic route through the locker room, creating the pregnancy of time, and returned to the lobby via a back entrance.  Perhaps a minute had gone by.  Up to the table, a crisp bill removed from the rescued wallet, a smiling glance at the assembled ones, and I was off once more.  I believe there was a gentle murmur behind me.

***

Worth its weight in gold, those five minutes
Mouths were opened and smiles engaged
Life was made good

Don Cherry

Don is a commentator on Hockey Night In Canada, a TV show featuring the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League.  On Saturday night, he talked about the impending Remembrance Day, which honours our country’s veterans.  In his discussion with Ron MacLean, Don complained that “you people” aren’t wearing the red poppy that is the symbol of this day.  He talked about people coming to Canada for our “milk and honey”, enjoying the rights that were preserved by members of our armed forces.  His comments about immigrants inspired outrage from sea to sea.  Calls came for him to be fired.  Today SportsNet did exactly that.

This incident is being widely covered by the media and this evening I asked myself why I was wanting to write about it.  Hasn’t everything already been said?  Maybe … but maybe not.  Perhaps there will be something fresh in my voice.

Don has been extremely popular with his “Coach’s Corner” segment between the first and second periods of games.  He’s sounded off on all kinds of subjects – hockey and non-hockey.  I’ve admired his courage in speaking out, even when I’ve sometimes disagreed with his opinion.  Many Canadians have suggested that Don should enter politics, even put himself in the running for Prime Minister.

Cherry has often criticized “soft” hockey players, such as ones who wear a protective visor.  He’s criticized European players, whose culture of hockey has focused on skill rather than toughness.  Don is connected with a series of “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em” hockey videos, which focus on big body checks and fights.

As I sit here, what comes is the thought “The world doesn’t need this.”  We don’t need clenched fists.  We need kindness.  We need appreciation for our differences, including personality types and sexual orientation.  We need inclusion.  So far in his life, Don is not that.  Boys and girls who play hockey need to be shown values that bring people together rather than ones who tear people apart.  I’m glad he was fired.  It’s time for the world to move on.

Apparently Ron MacLean gave Don a thumbs up after his anti-immigrant speech.  Really?  How sad.  For years, Ron has been the voice of moderation and understanding on the hockey telecasts.  But not on the weekend.  I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  He made a mistake.  Actually, on a Sunday night hockey show, he apologized:

“During last night’s broadcast, Don made comments that were hurtful and prejudiced and I wish I had handled myself differently.  It was a divisive moment and I am truly upset with myself for allowing it,” he said on Twitter.  “I have worked with Don for 30 years, and we both love hockey.  But last night, I know we failed you.”

Thank you, Ron.  We needed to hear from you.

***

We human beings have an opportunity to do life a different way.  No longer can we be 7,000,000,000 egos each asserting their right to have it their way.  No longer can we trample on the souls of folks who are doing their best to have a happy life.

I imagine from the quiet of my living room …
Who will be the next person to come my way?
And what will be my response to their presence?

Wobbled

The Grade 5 and 6’s often play volleyball in gym class and I get to participate.  I crouch when preparing to return serve.  My eyes bore into the opponent on the far side of the net.  My arms are extended, ready to bump or volley.  Every fibre of Bruceness is alert.

The contrast to athletic focus seems to have started during my long meditation retreats.  Sitting in the hall for as long as an hour several times a day, I sometimes felt a “shimmering down”, the falling of energy on my face.  It settled me.  Long sighs came from some place way deep inside.  Sitting here right now, the descending flow is with me.

More recently, in my work online with the Evolutionary Collective, I get to practice with someone for half an hour.  We ask each other the question “What are you experiencing right now?” and then see what emerges. In the year-and-a-half that I’ve been doing this practice with many different people, there have been transitions.  Away from “How am I doing?” and towards the essence of the person who faces me through the laptop screen.  Away from an urgent seeking for something to say and towards an allowing of the mouth to open, and a pause to see what wants to come out.  Away from doing it right and towards loving my partner.

If the volleyballer in me is seen as a perfectly vertical line, the gazer into eyes that I also am is a tilting, a wobbling.  Sometimes it’s even a gentle fall to the side, while knowing that my landing will be soft.  Often there is a sense of being cradled, of some sweet being crouching low to bring me softly to the ground.

Both while practicing with the EC and also just sitting around home, questions can wash over me:  “What’s happening?”  (No worry, no urgency, just curiosity)  “Where am I?” (Being lost and not needing to be found, okay with having no familiar landmarks)

It feels like some entity is behind the Wizard of Oz’s curtain … wobbling me.  And I’m very willing to be moved, to be touched, to be influenced as I amble along.

***

Sometimes I write about things that happened in the past – events, people, experiences, feelings.  That’s good.  Even better, though, is being in the middle of what I’m talking about right now.  And so it is in this moment.  I’m disoriented, buffeted by some grand breeze, slumping here and swooning there.

All is well

No One Came … Everyone Came

Fifty summers ago, I was working at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Alberta. My roommate was Adrian, a fellow with a British accent. I think for both of us it was our first time living away from home.

Adrian wanted to host a party in our room. He sent out invites to the employees and we stocked up on pop and snacks. Around 8:00 one evening, we were ready. We sat on our beds and waited for our friends to show. We waited until 8:30 and then 9:00. No one came.

Adrian’s pain filled the room. It certainly flooded over me. Such a deep sigh of sadness. Both of our heads dropped down. There wasn’t much to say.

That memory of the dorm room at the PW is still vivid today. Human beings should not do such things to each other.

***

Earlier this week, I heard about a boy named Kade in Corner Brook, Newfoundland who had sent out invitations to his 11th birthday party. Dad agonized on Twitter with the news that none of those friends showed up. “I’m asking my Twitter friends to show him some love today.” There was a photo attached of Kade in his Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, proudly displaying his birthday cake adorned with hockey players in the icing.

And what happened, you ask. Lots.

50,000 happy birthday messages, including some from Leafs players

A phone call from the Leafs’ captain John Tavares, wishing Kade well and letting him know that a big surprise was coming his way

An Air Canada flight from Newfoundland to Toronto

A lovely hotel suite

Meeting the players at their morning skate today

Cool seats for the Leafs’ game with the Philadelphia Flyers tonight

(Ahh)

There is love in the world
Somewhere Adrian is smiling

Joining the Past

I’m sitting in Coffee Culture in downtown London, amiably with the present moment. And then I glance upwards. There sits a brown metal ceiling, etched with curlicues and squares, shining amid the pot lights.

And I am gone … to the time of a little boy, and to the wonder of grandpa’s farm, worlds away from my bounded home in Toronto. For the farmhouse living room had such a ceiling.

I am returned to chairs spread around the huge dining room, occupied mostly by adults who loved to tell stories. I see the sweep of fields falling to the railway tracks miles away, and the steam locomotive that each day entered my world on the right and disappeared on the left.

I remember lying awake in my upstairs bedroom, listening for the kitchen clock loyally sharing the wee hours with me. I feel grandma’s narrow pantry, and the steaming oatmeal cookies set upon a plate. The secret rush for sweetness was a grand adventure. Only decades later did I realize that grandma had purposely created a scene perfectly suited for a hungry 10-year-old.

There was golf across the stubble of a shallow field. Maybe my drives were 100 yards long and I joyously retrieved each ball … again and again. And we built a hay rack one summer, dad and my uncles straining with the hammer blows. Can’t remember what the young man did to help.

Down the fields toward Emily Creek with Uncle Orville and Uncle Laverne. They taught me to avoid the thistles and made sure that our route passed by Uncle Bruce’s maple sugar shack. Bruce died in a car crash in 1937. Mom made sure that his name was not lost.

Walt Whitman said “We were together. I don’t remember the rest.” So true. I was embraced within family on that long ago farm. I belonged. I contributed.

Looking back, there’s a tiny smile as I sip my cappuccino under the metal sheen of time.

Holocaust Hologram

“Is there a way to be remembered forever?”

And do I even want this?  Would it be just as well if the impact I make while living is my sole contribution?  Or would I want to sit in front of people 100 years from now and tell them my story?  After I die, some folks will have fond memories of me … and then eventually they’ll die too.  Will that be it for me or do I want more?

The Holocaust Museum in Chicago has created a theatre in which an old man sits in front of an audience and tells them of his life as a Jewish boy in World War II.  The fellow answering questions is not flesh and blood.  He is a hologram – a three-dimensional image that you’d swear was a real person.  Months before, Aaron had sat down with the high-tech folks.  He answered 1500 questions while many cameras rolled.  The theatre is interactive.  Kids and adults can hear about his hiding in an attic for two years to escape the Nazis, and to escape the death that befell most of his family members.  They also can ask Aaron about his favourite food.  It’s barley soup.

It’s common for people to cry in the presence of the image, and to thank him at the end.  For Aaron’s wisdom runs deep.  “I realized that if I continued to hate, I’d be destroying my own life.”

Aaron was alive and well while the video I watched was being created.  His eyes sparkled and his love for young people shone through.  He had found his mission … speaking to thousands of folks every year about important stuff.  Man’s inhumanity to man must stop.

Aaron smiles when he realizes that his talks with those who have come after will cease upon his death.  “My hologram will take over the job.”

Ahh … to leave something precious behind
Or to merely walk off into the silence of the night

We get to choose

Unapologetic Greatness

In the Evolutionary Collective, people from near and far meet on the Internet to explore consciousness together, to further the growth of deep love in the world. There is a practice we do, usually 1-1, in which a profound connection often emerges. We glimpse the possibility of a unblemished unity flowing between members of the human family.

Sometimes on our calls, a teacher will ask for a volunteer to practice with her or him in front of the whole group. We see everyone onscreen by way of Zoom, a technology similar to Skype. The intention is for all of us to learn as the volunteer leaps in, sometimes missing the mark, sometimes hitting the bullseye. The teacher gives feedback. Ideally, the volunteer accepts it with grace.

I’ve been terrified of such encounters and have never volunteered.

Until last night.

Without thought, I found my finger tapping the “Raise Hand” button … and there I was, naked in the digital world. I opened to the moment and let the emerging words flow out. My expression was outside of the realms of “good” or “bad”. It was simply real.

Once we had moved on from the coaching, I felt warm inside. Glowing. At peace.

For many months, I’d labelled my timidity as fear of failure. But I wonder. Could it be instead that the image of me having outrageous power to do good in the world was just too terrifying? What would my life become if I was consistently “out there” in a huge way? Could I cope with the fierce bolts of electricity? Would I end up alone?

***

Afterwards, I remembered a woman who spoke piercingly about the fear of being great. I didn’t remember her name. I didn’t remember her words. So I just sat quietly, hoping that a phrase would come back to me. And it did:

“Playing small does not serve the world”

Mr. Google did the rest.

***

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

The Quarter Auction Revisited

I wrote about this marvelous event about six months ago.  I can’t remember what I said then.  Maybe tonight it’ll be the exact same stuff.  And who cares if that’s so?

Take two hundred women and three men.  Arm them with numbered paddles and globs of quarters for participating in the draws.  Surround them with vendors offering products for the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. Mix in an MC with a barrel of numbered balls.  The recipe yields two hours of fun, with endless servings.

It’s cool being in such a minority.  Some women smiled, some laughed and a few just stared at me.  That’s fine.  I simply wanted to contribute to folks having a good time.

The three of us got to have a bathroom all to ourselves.  There could have been lineups at the women’s for all I know.  Ahh … the perks of specialness.

As I rambled around the room for the first few minutes, up came a woman to complete a transaction.  I had ordered and paid for a book at the last auction but she’d lost my contact info.  So she fretted for six months, praying that I would show up for the next one.  And I did.  The relief was everywhere on her face and empathy on mine.  Actually I had forgotten all about the purchase.

Once more I sat with Linda and her daughters.  The funnest part of these auctions for me has been to drop quarters in their change purses when they’re looking the other way.  In the past, many people couldn’t understand such behaviour when they found out.  It seemed so irrational.  But it’s not.  A few quarters given propels deep happiness into my heart.

Ten minutes after I sat down tonight, four of the five women near me got up to inspect the treasures that were on offer.  I sat alone with Linda’s daughter Emma and with my five rolls of quarters.  I didn’t think, I just unwrapped, and plunked the contents of one roll into each of the four unguarded purses.  Emma stared and smiled.  And I was ecstatic!  Maybe giving freely is what this life is truly about.  And the sweet receiving is just a peripheral perk.

My number was 78.  Partway through the proceedings, The MC said “And the winning number is 78.”  I leapt up with a “Yes!” and romped over to the table holding decorative plates and tumblers.  People saw my joy and chimed in with chuckles and murmurs.

For the very next draw, the winning number was … 78!  Again I climbed high and skipped over to my prize.  I was examining my spoils at the table when I heard “78” ring out once more.  This time it was some gel that’s meant to produce faster orgasms, something that didn’t seem all that beneficial to me, but I jumped up once more.  My goodness … what are the chances?

That was it for the winnings.  I gave all the things away.  That made me very happy.  The evening flowed on – a series of paddles standing tall, winners’ squeals, and vendors sharing the joy of giving.  Ohh, and there were a few more opportunities to have coins fall into purses when heads were turned the other way.

I do believe a fine time was had by all.

 

 

Smoke Alarming

I know things.  Quite a few things, actually.  And then there’s all that other stuff.

Consider smoke alarms.  I owned a home in Union, Ontario for twenty years with my dear wife Jody.  I often had to change the batteries and sometimes buy and install a new alarm.  So you’d think that the events of today would be a snap.  Not so.

I woke up at 3:35 this morning to the chirping of the smoke alarm in my kitchen.  Sleep was pressing down hard on my head.  Clear thinking would have to wait till business hours.  The bottom line?  I couldn’t figure out what to do.  I lay in bed, stupefied.

“It’ll go away.”  Sure.  How likely was that?  Fifteen minutes later, it did!  “See?  No problem.”  Back to snoozing.

A further fifteen minutes of tossing and turning were replaced by rechirping.  I counted: the beeps were every forty seconds.

“It’ll go away.”  It did. And then it returned, right on the dot of fifteen minutes.  Away … return … away … return …  Now it was 5:00 am.  My paltry brain tried to make sense of it all.  “If the battery was low, wouldn’t it keep up the beeping – no breaks?  But maybe it’s wired in.  Do wired in smoke alarms have batteries?”  Fuzziness ruled the early hours.

Finally, oh finally I got up.  I put shoes on and stumbled to the garage for the ladder.  After setting it appropriately in place, I climbed.  “Will I be able to get the alarm off the ceiling?”  I so lack confidence in my home maintenance abilities.  Happily the unit came off with a simple twist, revealing a nest of wires.  “Hmm … wired in.”  The close proximity chirp was piercing to the core of my mind so I grabbed my headphones.  Better.  But now what do I do?

Yesterday I wrote about choosing “this”, as in the reality of the present moment.  That commitment seemed to be fading away as the blare of the alarm ruptured my insides.  “C’mon, Bruce.  Think.”

Somehow I came up with a word which has a deep spiritual connotation – “Google”.  Surely Mr. Google could help me out.  I typed “smoke alarm chirping” and indeed an answer appeared before my wavering eyes.  There could be dust inside that’s causing the malfunction.  So I got out the vacuum and shoved the wand into the mass of wires.  Almost immediately, the chirping stopped!  Oh, I’m so smart.  I left the unit dangling from the ceiling and dove under the covers.  Exactly fifteen minutes later … well, you know what happened.

The Internet article mentioned that some wired in smoke alarms have a backup battery to deal with power failures.  I mounted the ladder once more and turned on a flashlight, trying in vain to read the small print above me.  Then I felt the surface of the unit, seeking some compartment that would be perfect for a battery.  Nothing.  Thank God for those headphones.

6:20.  The sound of “this” was pissing me off.  After much searching and whining, I found a little latch on the alarm.  A bit of pressure and … Voila!  A plastic section opened to reveal the bliss of a 9 volt battery (the rectangular one).  Laden with memories of other plastic objects, and me pulling too hard, resulting in destruction, I gingerly tried prodding the battery this way and that.  No go.  I tried to resist the explosion of sentences such as “You’re so stupid!”

I bet ten minutes later the battery came out.  The chirping continued.  I knew I had a stash of 9V batteries and I went to get one, smartly remembering how to get it back into the compartment.  The deal finally done, I closed the little door, screwed the unit back onto the ceiling, and waited.  No chirps!  Maybe I’m decently smart after all.

It was 6:50 and my head could sense a closely approaching pillow.  Dreamland was with me right away.

9:00.  Chirping.  And my mind started a slow process of disintegration.  Being a little more alert, I realized one thing: I hadn’t checked the new battery’s expiry date way back when at 6:50.  Addressing that situation, I read “December, 2018”.  (Sigh)

The story finally ended after a trip to Costco for a package of 9V batteries, clearly described as lasting five years.  Yay!  10:20 found me placing the sacred object into said unit, closing the little door, screwing the whole thing onto the ceiling, and waiting.

Chirp

(Waiting)

Chirp

(Waiting)

… … … … … Silence

Start at 3:30.  End at 10:30.  Piece of cake

 

Choosing “This”

Sometimes I look back on my life and ask what moments I’m most proud of. Right now, one stands out. Maybe thirty years ago, I had gall bladder problems. The pain was intense. I spent a few nights in hospital. I remember talking to a nurse who seemed sad, even depressed. I remember willing myself to contribute to her, to somehow lighten her load. My body hurt a lot but I managed to rise above that. How?

Abraham Maslow talked about a hierarchy of needs. If we’re really hungry or sore, he thought there was no way that our urge to love could come through. I loved your work, Abe, but I wonder. What beauty can we human beings create in the moment, no matter what the world is sending our way?

If my pain is 8 on a scale of 10, it’s some stretch to float my hand down a loved one’s cheek. But what if it’s 4? Do I need perfect comfort in order to give? I don’t think so.

In moments of heat or deflation, I often use a key word to remind me of what’s important. One is “this”. The opportunity is to embrace all that the present brings, rather than yearning for what is not here and not now … “that”. Another is “give”, which brings that dear nurse to mind. Am I willing to send love in virtually every circumstance? My goodness, what a challenge.

If I sit around waiting for life conditions to be perfect before moving towards another human being with care, I lose a lot of zest, connection and aliveness. Seems like a pretty expensive choice.

***

So … my future beckons. The world of people roams by my window. I choose to open the front door, walk down the path and say “Hi!”