Angry

A few years ago, I sat myself down and moved into self-congratulatory mode:

Well, Bruce, all this meditation and Buddhism seems to have made an impact.  You’re not antagonistic anymore, not angry.  You’re a peaceful, loving fellow who welcomes the world.

Much of that is true, just not the angry part.  I’m angry at the meanness of Donald Trump, the lies, the abandoning of other human beings.  I’m angry at the countless Republicans who say nothing in the face of his witchhunting and his rants about voter fraud.  Whatever happened to morals, and the truth, and speaking out when speaking out is needed?

I get discouraged.  And I ask myself why no one on TV gets angry about this crap when they’re speaking or being interviewed.  Where’s the high decibel outrage?

Which brings us to yesterday, and Gabriel Sterling, the Voting Systems Implementation Manager for Georgia’s Secretary of State office.  Gabriel had had enough.  He stood at a podium in Atlanta.  Two recent events infuriated him.

***

Sterling said his anger boiled over when he learned that a contractor with Dominion Voting Systems helping with the recount effort in suburban Gwinnett County received death threats after someone shot video of him transferring a report to a county computer and falsely said the young man was manipulating election data.

***

A lawyer for President Trump’s re-election campaign said former U.S. cybersecurity official Christopher Krebs should be “shot” for rejecting the President’s claims that the 2020 election was rigged.

During an interview on “The Howie Carr Show”, Joe diGenova outlined a number of baseless accusations around the elections, including that “mail-in balloting is inherently corrupt”.  He then criticized Krebs.

“Anybody who thinks the election went well, like that idiot Krebs who used to be the head of cybersecurity,” diGenova said.  “That guy is a Class A moron.  He should be drawn and quartered.  Taken out at dawn and shot.”

***

Gabriel speaks:

“There’s a noose out there with [the contractor’s] name on it.  That’s not right.  This kid took a job.  He just took a job.”

“Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language.  Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions.  This has to stop.  We need you to step up, and if you’re going to take a position of leadership, show some.”

“Mr. President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia.  We’re investigating, there’s always a possibility, I get it.  You have the right to go to the courts.  What you don’t have the ability to do – and you need to step up and say this – is stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence.  Someone is going to get hurt, someone is going to get shot, someone is going to get killed, and it’s not right.  It’s not right.  This has to stop.  This is elections.  This is the backbone of democracy, and all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this.  It’s too much.  Yes, fight for every legal vote.  Go through your due process.  We encourage you.  Use your First Amendment, that’s fine.  Death threats, physical threats, intimidation, it’s not right.”

“Be the bigger man here.  Step in.  Tell your supporters don’t be violent.  Don’t intimidate.  All that is wrong.  It’s un-American.”

Thank you, Gabriel

A Couple of Tips

I love Star Wars.  And I love reading the posts in the What’s On Disney Plus message board.  A few days ago, this showed up:

Admit it!  You’ve tried to use the Force before

Far in the past, Obi-Wan Kenobi told us true: “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power.  It’s an energy field created by all living things.  It surrounds us and penetrates us.  It binds the galaxy together.”  Classic Star Wars quotes about the Force include:

Use the Force, Luke!

Close your eyes.  Feel it.  The light … it’s always been there.  It will guide you

The Force is strong with him

The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force

I felt a great disturbance in the Force … as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.  I fear something terrible has happened

For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.  Life creates it, makes it grow.  Its energy surrounds us and binds us.  Luminous beings we are, not this crude matter

***

In What’s On Disney Plus, I wondered how my fellow luminous beings would describe their use of the Force.  Here’s a sample:

Every time I’m in an elevator

Every time at automatic doors

I use it at red lights

Every time the remote is across the room

What do you mean, “tried”?

Those first three are modest achievements, speaking of external technology rather than internal fire.  I invite you to experiment with your own luminosity.  It requires two metal clothes hangers.  For years, the apparatus I describe below was propped against the wall of my family room in Union, Ontario.  When I moved to Belmont three years ago, I threw the hangers out.  (Sigh)  I sense that it’s time for a resurrection.  Sadly, I have no metal hangers in my home.  A trip to Walmart seems to be in order.

Here are the instructions:

Cut two metal clothes hangers to create right angles
Hold one half of each hanger vertically, so the other half is horizontal
Hold the two hangers in front of you, parallel to each other
Using your mind, not your hands, move the two tips together

Have fun!

Revealing

The painting by Alex Grey hangs in my family room downstairs. I bow to the two people nearly every day. It feels right to do that.

Is it two lovers? A parent and child? Best friends? I don’t know. The image goes beyond the particular to the universal. We, all of us, are meant to hold each other in such reverence.

But …

Are the noses too close, ignoring the standards of personal space?

Does Alex showing the arteries and veins so intimately reveal bad taste? Surely things need to be well-covered, preferably with skin and clothing.

If the two people really enjoyed each other, shouldn’t they be smiling widely? All we see are gently upturned lips.

Is that the Earth and moon? What they doing there, distracting us?

If they have to hug, why don’t they do it in a normal way? No hand on top of the other’s head.

Finally, the eyes. It’s pretty uncomfortable holding the gaze like that. Right? Not so direct, please. And what’s with the line of light between? Artistic license, I guess.

***

What do you say, friends and neighbours?

Too much?
or
Just about right

A Block Away

My neighbour has died from Covid.  He was a fine fellow in his 40’s, father to three great kids.

So now it’s very real to me.  Although a friend in Belgium has now recovered from the virus, right now is when it really hits home.  We are connected … locally and across this big wide world.  We live in different buildings, or different units in the same apartment building, but we are not separate.  In a physical, emotional and spiritual realm, the space between human beings is alive.  May we be awake to the flows of energy that unite us.

As we’re relatively apart from each other’s bodies in this time of the Coronavirus, we yearn for contact.  We phone, we e-mail, and we Zoom across the miles.  We see each other’s faces in little onscreen rectangles and our souls touch.

We need to keep influencing each other, letting folks know that they’re important, that their existence has contributed to our own.  Because in a flash they could be gone.

What can be created when A and B come together?  Far more than the sum of the parts.  What bonds could magically appear that have the power to make us all smile?  We don’t know … but our embracing the future together may show us.

We are not silos.  The pain in the home down the street is shared by all.  Not the thrusting knife of a father and husband taken from the Earth but still an immense sadness.

I heard a story about a meeting the Dalai Lama was hosting for spiritual teachers from around the world.  A friend of a friend went to that meeting, excited about the prospect of awake people gathering.  “What will be created?” he wondered.  The answer?  Not much.  The flow of spiritual wisdom and experiences from each speaker was immense.  Often the audience could feel the transmission of spirit.  But essentially there was no communion between the speakers.  (Sigh)

We are all connected.  And we need to live that way

From this day forward
For better, for worse
For richer, for poorer
In sickness and in health
To love and to cherish
Till death do us part

The Eye of the Beholder

It was an episode of the black-and-white TV series The Twilight Zone. On November 11, 1960, viewers were presented with a woman lying in a hospital bed, her face covered in bandages. Doctors and nurses came and went, their faces wrapped in shadow, or their bodies turned away from the camera.

“Ever since I was a little girl, people turned away when they looked at me … one little child screaming … I’m used to bandages on my face. I’ve lived my whole life inside a dark cave.”

At the nursing station, the verdict was divided:

“If it were my face, I’d bury myself in a grave someplace.”

“Deeper than that twisted lump of flesh, deeper than that skeletal mask, I’ve seen that woman’s real face, nurse. It’s a good face. It’s a human face.”

On the TV overhead, the nation’s leader is giving a speech:

“Tonight I shall talk to you about glorious conformity … the pleasure of our unified society … We must conform to the norm!”

And now a conversation between doctor and patient:

“We’ll take the bandages off soon, Miss Tyler. You may very well have responded to these last injections … if not, please know that there are many others who share your misfortune … you can’t expect to live any kind of life among normal people … perhaps you’ll move into a special area in which people of your kind have been congregated.”

“You mean segregated!”

Later, the time of reckoning is at hand:

“We’ve done all we could do.”

“If I’m still terribly ugly, could I please be put away?”

“Under certain circumstances, the state provides for the extermination of undesirables.”

The bandages are slowly unwrapped. At the last turn, nurses gasp and cover their eyes. “No change!” Miss Tyler bursts from the room, running down the hall past horrified onlookers.

At the end of it all, Miss Tyler is introduced to Mr. Smith, “a representative of the group you’re going to live with. In a little while, you’ll feel a sense of great belonging.”

***

To help you appreciate this story even more, here are some photos:

The first shows a dedicated doctor and nurse, overwhelmed by the appearance of the patient.

Next is the disfigured Miss Tyler.

Finally, a similar abomination, Mr. Smith, offers Miss Tyler a place amid the untouchables.

Sadness

A Picture Speaks Two Words

A traditional Taoist story:

Once upon the time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Who knows what is good and what is bad?” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Who knows what is good and what is bad?” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“Who knows what is good and what is bad?” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“Who knows what is good and what is bad?” said the farmer.

Earthworm

I was on my Bowflex strength training machine this morning. It’s in the basement. For half of the exercises I’m facing a fun red wall. For the other half, I’m looking up through the window well at the Southern Ontario sky.

As you can tell, the metal well is ribbed and resembles brick. I love the natural look. I was grunting through two sets of the leg press when my vision caught something unusual in the scene. About eighteen inches below the lip, there was an earthworm, basically vertical. As I pressed in, I’d occasionally glance at the newcomer. Between sets, it was clear: the worm had died there, and his body would stay stuck to the side until I scraped it off. I made a mental note to do that … tomorrow. Future exercise sessions wouldn’t be disturbed by a dry thing hanging onto the lovely bricked pattern.

Minutes later, it was the leg extension exercise. Another glance showed that my flexible friend was a bit higher up the well, and not quite so vertical. “It’s alive!”

Closer inspection showed a tiny head wobbling back and forth, and the whole being wriggling upwards. When it came to a rib, it would keep on going, pulling its body above empty space in its pursuit of freedom.

“Oh my God … I’m looking out the window at an elite athlete!”

As the workout continued, I saw “higher, higher…” No cage will constrain. My mouth kept dropping open.

When there were no more exercises, I pressed my nose close to the window. Mr. Worm was pretty much horizontal now, about four inches below the lip. It was approaching a tiny crevice in the plastic surrounding the window. As I watched, there was a full five inches of invertebrate being poking towards the hole. Then four. Three … two … one …

Gone

70%

The poll about the US election got my attention.  It said that 70% of Republicans thought the result was “rigged”.  Joe Biden didn’t win fairly.

I was stunned.  Evidence has piled up that poll workers, supervisors and politicians responsible for elections were meticulous and demonstrated integrity.  So … reality is being ignored by a lot of people.

Who are these folks?

I feel that consciousness is evolving on the planet.  Maybe, though, it shows up as the jagged lines you see on stock market diagrams rather than a smoothly ascending curve.  Clearly some folks aren’t participating in the emergence.

Somebody asserts something.  Does the reasoning make sense?  We’re intelligent people.  We have the ability to analyze statements and sense if they ring true.  Does it matter if the person asserting is male or female, young or old, Republican or Democrat?  No, it doesn’t.  The truth speaks loudly, as do lies.

What if my leader says X?  Am I an underling, inferior in wisdom to the big guy?  Do I really need to associate myself with someone powerful, in order to boost my flagging self-esteem?  Do I need another human being to raise me up from deficiency to sufficiency?  No.

Ouch.  The mere thought of being surrounded by “yes” men and women makes me cringe.  Will the group and the guru have me forget myself as cause?

Arms holding aloft signs such as “Just Say No To Creepy Joe” and “Stolen, Rigged, Fraud” remind me of other arms, ones that long ago were held straight out at a 45° angle.  That didn’t end well.

I would like the 70% to be my friends but I wonder if that’s possible.

Fighting For Money

Over my long years, I’ve had many images of myself.  The one that’s hung around the longest is of this nice little Buddhist guy, at peace with the world and everyone in it, simply being love.  Well, I am love … my bones tell me so.

But what if a Mack truck is barreling down on me?  Or somebody wants to strip my home of all its furniture?  Do I simply bow and say “Thy will be done”?

No

Part of me is a warrior, brandishing a sword in defense of myself and others.  Right now, it’s me that comes to mind.

In our pre-Covid life of 2019, I planned two glorious trips to see women play tennis in 2020 – to Montreal and New York City.  I booked a hotel in Canada and an Airbnb in the USA.  This spring, the Quebec Government cancelled all professional sporting events and a bit later the Canadian Government closed our border with American friends, plus the US Open said “no spectators”.

(Sigh)

After the sadness came the resolve to get my $2200 back.  No lying down in the middle of the road.  So began two journeys – two months with Airbnb and five with Expedia.  I probably phoned the Montreal hotel twenty times and reached a human being twice.  Neither time the manager.  At the end of most of my voice mails, I asked the manager to phone me.  Nope.  Valiant Expedia reps dialed the hotel over and over.  The manager was never in.  Really nice people at Expedia said that they were escalating my case to a higher department and so-and-so would phone me within ______ days.  No higher-ups ever phoned.  Twice I sent to Expedia a copy of an e-mail in which the hotel manager agreed to refund my money but no one at the travel company could ever find that e-mail.

There are more details about those five months, and less dramatically the two months with Airbnb, but I’m not going for “poor me” here.  There’s another story.

I hadn’t realized what a determined son-of-my-mother I was.  I’d look in the mirror and see a dog who wouldn’t let that bone go.  Nothing would stop me, including the approximate fifteen hours I spent glued to my phone.  So there was the fierceness walking hand-in-hand with the equanimity.  Does this make me schizophrenic?  No, but as Walt Whitman said long ago, “I am inconsistent.  I contain multitudes.”

I now have $2200 that had gone AWOL for months.  My head is held high.  And I have fond memories of Expedia reps who so much wanted to help.  As for the hotel manager, and whoever in the Expedia Corporate Department let me fall through the cracks …

No way!

Treasure in the Mailbox

It’s been hard for this volunteer to be away from the 11- and 12-year-olds at school since March.  We teach each other and we learn from each other.  Plus kids often bounce through life.  We adults could use more of that bounce.

A few weeks ago, I got to see my young friends on Google Meet.  That was cool.  All those masked faces talking about their exploits.  “We did (this)!  We did (that)!”  Since then, radio silence from them and me.

However (!) today there was a letter amid all the bills and ads.  It was from “The Grade Six Class”.  My heart soared, and I skipped into the house.  Notices can wait.  I tore open the envelope of what’s really important.  Here are a few gems:

Bonjour, Mr. Kerr.  How are you right now, hopefully doing great.  Make sure to keep exercising and maybe I’ll see you around again.  P.S. Sorry for the hole in the page, I was trying to erase.

Hey, Mr. Kerr.  I hope you are staying safe!  I wish you were here but if the pandemic is over soon the whole class is hoping you come back.  Hope to see you soon!

Hi, Mr. Kerr.  Thank you for everything you have done for us.  I hope to see you soon.  I miss you.

Hi, Mr. Kerr!  Are you still going on walks?  We will be doing some more baking soon!  I wish you were here in the class with us.  I hope to see you soon.

I hope the same thing, dear children.  Absence is absolutely making this heart grow fonder.  And these kids graduate in June.  I’ll be so sad if I don’t get to be with them … at all.

I need to remember
We are together
Even if apart