Fading Into The Past

So here we are, thirty minutes from Game Seven in the hockey playoff between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens … and I don’t care.  How can this be?

I grew up in Toronto.  I convinced my parents to let me listen to the first period of Leafs’ games while having my obligatory Saturday night bath.  Back then only the second and third periods were televised.  I attended four Stanley Cup parades (celebrating the league champions) and watched the players raise the Cup on the steps of Toronto’s City Hall.  1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967.  I was there.

A few years ago, I was excited by the dynamic play of a 19-year-old Leafs player – Mitch Marner – and dreamt of a fifth parade.  I followed the rises and falls of the Leafs’ season.  Once more, they didn’t win a playoff series.  The last was in 2004.  Tonight may change things.

And I don’t care.  Why has hockey faded from my life?  Is it the reality of Covid, where hockey games are played in mammoth arenas with no fans?  Is it because my sporting passion has travelled to tennis?  I don’t know.

Right now, “O Canada” is being sung by Martina Ortiz-Luis.  She has a lovely voice.  For the first time in a year, there are fans in Scotiabank Arena.  Alas, just 600 of them.

Now the game has started.  The blue-and-white are rushing up the ice, pressing the red-and-white.  I’m trying to decide if the crowd noise is real or recorded.  Can a few hundred people make that much noise?

I’m watching.  The skating up and down the ice is pretty continuous – very few referee whistles to stop the play.  But no thrill is rising in me.  The players skate really fast … but I’m not enthralled.  Now here’s William Nylander dancing through the offensive zone, evading opponent after opponent.  That’s nice.

How strange this is.  Where did my love of the Leafs go?  Is it a bad thing?  Would I be a disappointment to all true Canadians?  Should I “gird my lions” and start cheering?

No.  On this potentially historic night in Toronto hockey history, I’m switching the TV to tennis.  Without a touch of embarrassment or deficiency.  I hope to see Roger Federer being his classic self.  I hope you understand.

“Namaste” and “Bam!”

It’s pronounced “naw-moss-tay”, with an equal emphasis on each syllable.  It’s a greeting common among Buddhists and Hindus, usually accompanied by placing your hands together and bowing.  But it goes deeper.  A simple translation is “The Divine in me sees the Divine in you.”

Namaste is quiet.  There are soft eyes that go right into the centre of the other human being.  Receiving the greeting can be an immense experience of being seen – not just in the roles we play and the personality we show … but in our essence.  For most of us, being met in this way is rare or even unknown.

Then there is Rafa.  Rafael Nadal is a Spanish tennis player, full of championships and charisma.  He plays with fierce joy.  His physical and spiritual power fills the stadium.  There is no more intense competitor in the sport.  And yet one time, when his wayward shot hit a ball girl in the head, he rushed over to her – asked her if she was okay and then kissed her on the cheek.  “He’s a very nice man.”

On Thursday, Rafa watched as a statue of him was revealed at Roland-Garros, the site of this week’s French Open.  I looked at his face and I thought “Bam!”  An exploding.

We need both

Spoken Softly … Penetrating

Sometimes the words just spill out, crammed with truth.  They enter the world unselfconsciously.  There’s no fanfare.  They’re likely spoken quietly.  But the power is unmistakeable.  You know that the words are real, that they touch realities and emotions that are real.  You can trust them.  Even if the words are wrapped in pain, you don’t turn away in the hearing.  You face what’s true.  And then you act.

Your actions may be in the realm of social justice.  They may focus on “being with” every person you meet.  They may be centered in prayer.  But you do act.  And the world is lifted, caressed, allowed a shoulder for it to fall upon.  We evolve … together.

***

A white man and an elderly Native man became pretty good friends, so the white guy decided to ask him: “What do you think about Indian mascots?”  The Native elder responded:

“Here’s what you’ve got to understand.  When you look at black people, you see ghosts of all the slavery and the rapes and the hangings and the chains.  When you look at Jews, you see ghosts of all those bodies piled up in death camps.  And those ghosts keep you trying to do the right thing.  But when you look at us you don’t see the ghosts of the little babies with their heads smashed in by rifle butts at the Big Hole, or the old folks dying by the side of the trail on the way to Oklahoma while their families cried and tried to make them comfortable, or the dead mothers at Wounded Knee or the little kids at Sand Creek who were shot for target practice.  You don’t see any ghosts at all.  Instead you see casinos and drunks and junk cars and shacks.

Well, we see those ghosts.  And they make our hearts sad and they hurt our little children.  And when we try to say something, you tell us, ‘Get over it.  This is America.  Look at the American dream.’  But as long as you’re calling us Redskins and doing tomahawk chops, we can’t look at the American dream, because those things remind us that we are not real human beings to you.  And when people aren’t humans, you can turn them into slaves or kill six million of them or shoot them down with Hotchkiss guns and throw them into mass graves at Wounded Knee.  No, we’re not looking at the American dream.  And why should we?  We still haven’t woken up from the American nightmare.”

(Source unknown)

Your Gift

There was a young man in a special ed class. He couldn’t write much. He couldn’t speak well. He couldn’t think clearly. And although he was cared for by the school staff, he wasn’t seen as emerging, as a work in progress. He was a static reality in the eyes of many. “Oh yeah, I know Trevor. He’s …” (Choose your label)

Trevor wasn’t seen. Nobody thought to look for what his gift might be.

What would his life be like if this curriculum was gift-based, if we were able to see the gift in each of our children, and taught them around their gifts?

I’m reading a novel to the Grade 6 kids. They sit there in rows of rectangles on my laptop screen. At least I get to see them. The novel is The Last Leopard, the third in a series that follows the adventures of two 11-year-olds in South Africa: Martine and Ben. Over the first three books, Martine has been approached by an elusive white giraffe, and allowed to ride him – a privilege no other human being has been offered. She healed a beached dolphin, who lay on the sand close to death. She was pinned down and cut by a leopard, who then looked at her with curiosity, let her up, and wandered off into the bush. Martine’s obvious gift is her communion with animals, but it’s not that simple. She’s also astonishingly brave in the face of danger.

I asked the kids to look inside and see what gift resided there. Few of them were willing to volunteer a response. Was it a question they had never heard? One fellow said he could move his mouth in a weird way. I asked him for more. I asked him for deeper, but he stopped there. Fair enough. Another boy said he was a really good cook, and I visualized his future creations making lots of people happy.

I’ll keep asking the question as we watch Martine weave her magic. The light will shine on each of these online children. I know that much will be revealed.

Kissing

I haven’t kissed anyone in six years.  The last time was in the wee hours of the morning on November 12, 2014.  I had awakened in Jody’s hospital room to the sound of no breathing.  My wife had died.

Will there be more kisses in my life?  I think so but I don’t know when.  What I do know is they won’t be a peck on the lips as I rush out the door.  There’s something precious about two bodies being parallel, directly facing the beloved.  And staying there, in that field of contact.

The next kiss will be sexual … and far beyond.  It won’t be two people trying to get close.  It won’t include thoughts such as “Am I doing this right?”  It will be a communion that also includes the richness of life flowing over the horizon.  It will be timeless, and moving just the same.

Namaste … the God in me sees the God in you.  Our lips linger.  And somewhere across the world, another couple smiles into each other’s eyes.

Love Math

It all starts with love.  I figure that human beings can grapple with the toughest problems if they first sense the unity we share, if each of us is willing to look into the other person’s eyes and see divinity there.  Without that prior sense of being together, our efforts to problem-solve, conflict-resolve, and peace-make will come to naught.  The gap between us will remain a bridge too far.  So … let’s see what we can create with love as its centerpiece.

***

I mostly find math boring but there are certain equations that get my heart a-fluttering:

Love + Pain = Compassion

There are times when we gaze into another’s eyes and see tears welling up.  The pain may be physical, emotional or even spiritual.  All three are real.  Maybe it’s about failing at something, or another person being mean, or a loved one dying.  We know what it’s like.  We’ve been there.  It hurts.

How far you go in life depends on you being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong … because someday in life you will have been all of these.

George Washington Carver

Love + Happiness = Joy

Sometimes the face we behold is alight with the glory of God.  The person is bubbling with the good news that’s come their way.  A promotion, a newborn, a task well undertaken and completed.  The joy in response is not a given.  Some of us refuse to celebrate in the wellbeing of another.  It’s as if there’s only so much happiness to go around.  “If you have a lot of it, that means there’s not much left for me.”  Other folks are wiser:

There are so many people in this world that it’s simply reasonable for you to make their happiness as important as your own.  If you can be happy when good things happen to others, your opportunities for delight are increased six billion to one!  [Update: make that nearly eight billion to one]

The Dalai Lama

It’s simple math

 

A Pal of the World

All included
Nothing excluded
Within and without

Give me the rough and smooth
Give me the sweet light
And the pressing down of the ceiling
Give me the fierce and the mellow
Would you please give me it all?

***

Wilderness

There is a wolf in me . . . fangs pointed for tearing gashes . . . a red tongue for raw meat . . . and the hot lapping of blood — I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go

There is a fox in me . . . a silver-gray fox . . . I sniff and guess . . . I pick things out of the wind and air . . . I nose in the dark night and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers . . . I circle and loop and double-cross

There is a hog in me . . . a snout and a belly . . . a machinery for eating and grunting . . . a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun — I got this too from the wilderness and the wilderness will not let it go

There is a fish in me . . . I know I came from salt-blue water-gates . . . I scurried with shoals of herring . . . I blew waterspouts with porpoises . . . before land was . . . before the water went down . . . before Noah . . . before the first chapter of Genesis

There is a baboon in me . . . clambering-clawed . . . dog-faced . . . yawping a galoot’s hunger . . . hairy under the armpits . . . here are the hawk-eyed hankering men . . . here are the blonde and blue-eyed women . . . here they hide curled asleep waiting . . . ready to snarl and kill . . . ready to sing and give milk . . waiting — I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so

There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird . . . and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want . . . and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes — And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness

O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony head, under my red-valve heart — and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where — For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness

Carl Sandburg

The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes

It’s a series on Netflix and I love it.  It’s worthwhile to explore why. 

I don’t want to live in these extravagant homes, even if I had the money.  I’m happy in my three bedroom detached condo.  I don’t want to spy on the “lifestyles of the rich and famous”.  So often there’s no happiness there.

But there’s something that thrills me about this:

Look at those curves!  Feel the ourageousness of it all.  I want more of that in my life – off the wall, on the ceiling, flying through space.

Speaking of outrageous, the hosts of the series are a laugh a minute.  Even better, Caroline and Piers thoroughly enjoy each other.  I roared when she opened a heavy wooden door for him with a bow: “After you, my lord …”

Perhaps it is the scenic lots that have tickled my fancy:

I love long vistas.  My living room looks out on a farmer’s field.  But I don’t need to be perched on the side of a mountain, above the rest of humanity, gazing down on a sublime lake.

The vistas of the spirit are even more stunning.  The wide open spaces of two hearts beating as one.  The touch of the infinite in the moment at hand.

The world of “different” is alive and well on the planet.  Be noticed and talked about, for good or ill.  Hey, I loved that curvy home.  Here’s another noticeable:

It’s cool … yes?  But give me a real human being in the richness of their seasons.  Give me the tears that fall – in sorrow or joy.

I love “Extraordinary Homes” for its smiles, its colours, its curves and its spirit.  I smile too.

Teaching Is A Dream

Well, there’s two things:

1. I’m teaching the Mutual Awakening Practice Course for the first time in August

2. I seemed to spend the whole night dreaming about it

I’m thrilled to be teaching how two people together can access a consciousness that is so expansive, so loving.  On the other hand, there was last night.  The course will be on Zoom, so naturally there I was, staring at a bunch of rectangles on the screen.  Each one was filled with people – old, young, happy, sad – and I didn’t recognize anyone.  Until I got to the one in the bottom left corner.  Seven people I knew (the folks who will be taking the course?) were sitting on bleachers in a high school gym, laughing.  They were also jumping around and throwing food at each other.  How will they ever listen to what I have to say if they’re moving and grooving, and their faces are full of banana cream pie?

I glanced at a Big Ben floor clock.  It was 7:29 … one minute before the class was to start.  You’re on, Bruce.  Have them see that you’re trustworthy and credible.  And then molasses took over.  I tried to open my mouth but words just inched out, and disappeared as soon as they hit the air.  7:35.  Oh, no!  I’m late.  It’s important to start on time.  I couldn’t find my rectangle … my people.  The other groups were migrating from tile to tile, visiting each other, I guess.  But where had the course participants disappeared to?  Where are you?  7:42.  I poised my finger over “Enter” to start the meeting but the darned digit wouldn’t descend to the key.  

I glanced at the bottom right corner and there were my folks, but they all had their backs to me.  Turn around!  We’re going to start.  No response.  It’s not that I’d lost the class.  I’d never had them in the first place.

Talk some more, Bruce.  So I did.  Nobody cared.  I suddenly realized that my ear buds weren’t plugged in.  That’s why they can’t hear me!  The truth was that I couldn’t even find the ear buds.  I leapt from the couch and into my bedroom, slithering under the bed and turning my neck this way and that to find the double cord.  The only thing to greet my nose were dust bunnies.

Now the bathroom, now the basement …  Where are the ________ ear buds?!  Far from the laptop, I just knew that my students were heading home.  (Sigh)

***

I sure hope August is an improvement

Ted

This is Ted.  He sits in my bedroom … and he never says a word.  But every morning after I’ve made the bed and rolled up the blind, Ted looks deeply into my eyes.  There’s nothing to add to the moment.  No wise words.  Just the eyes and the smile.  “I’ve got you, Bruce.  You may stumble today, or cavort.  It’s all the same to me.  I just sit here and love you.”  At night, Ted watches me from the floor, making sure I’m safe.  I don’t know what goes on in his mind.  Can I say it’s likely to be a lot of concrete thinking? 

There’s a poem on a wall downstairs that reminds me of Ted.  Here, I’ll go find it …

I especially like this part:

They do not sweat and whine about their condition

They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins

Good man, Ted.  You’re a natural, uncluttered kind of guy.

***

It’s been 22 days since I last wrote.  Maybe I’m drying up.  Maybe I’m slowing down.  Maybe the best is yet to come.