Eyes Facing Out

Exhibit A:  I was on a Zoom call yesterday for several hours with fifteen folks.  I received a compliment about the quality of my consciousness.

Exhibit B:  My dream last night was about me managing some large meeting.  First thing in the morning, in a separate building from the gathering, I loaded lots of coffee into a large coffeemaker and plugged it in.  When I got back to the meeting room, I realized that I hadn’t added water.  It felt like I spent the rest of the night roaming the city, trying to find the building.  Terror gripped my soul.

It certainly looks like A is more fun than B.  Sometimes it feels like my life is a ping pong game … bouncing back and forth between the two – “positive” and “negative”.

The truth is that my eyes look inward a lot, in the spirit of “How am I doing?”.  Do you think it’s possible to let go of all that?  To not keep a a running tally of my daily excellences and futilities?

Perhaps I can instead direct my gaze at the world and the multiple beloveds who live here.  What do I see?  How can I serve in this very moment?  Perhaps it doesn’t matter what comes back to me in life and my assessment of that … only what I give to life.

Am I naïve?  Hopelessly out of touch with the way the world works?  I wonder.

Look everywhere to see everything!

Mehmet Murat ildan

Strong People … Please Come Here

I listened to Kamala Harris’ speech this afternoon as she put herself in the public eye as the Democratic nominee for US Vice-President. Passionate, pointed, tender … the whole thing.

Yesterday, Donald Trump wondered why Joe Biden had picked Harris, given her attack on him about busing in a Democratic debate last year.

According to Wikipedia: “Busing is the practice of assigning and transporting students to schools within or outside their local school districts in an effort to reduce the racial segregation in schools.”

Verbatim:

Kamala Harris: Do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America then?

Joe Biden: I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education.

Harris: There was a failure of states to integrate public schools in America. I was part of the second class to integrate Berkeley, California public schools almost two decades after [?] Board of Education.

Biden: Because your city council made that decision.

Harris: That’s where the federal government must step in. That’s why we have the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. That’s why we need to pass the Equality Act. That’s why we need to pass the ERA. Because there are moments in history where states fail to preserve the civil rights of all people.

Biden did not wither but I believe he was shaken. Many months later, Joe chooses Kamala as his running mate.

Surround yourself with partners
who are better than you are
Leave them to go get on with it

David Ogilvy

The Space Between

What if there were big spaces inside me?  What if the muscles, organs and bones chose to separate to make way for the heart?

 

What if the threads of my shirt opened themselves to let the breezes of the universe flow through?

 

What if the letters sought their own space so that the words disappeared?

Divine

 

                                                                      n

 

                                                                                                      i

                                                                                                                                                      e

        D

 

                                                                                                                                         i                                                                  

 

                                                         v         

 

What if the painting sitting before me opened to show the spaces between brush strokes, with the golf course disappearing in favour of white flecks between green and blue and brown?

 

What if the tree showed spots of blue amidst its leaves and hidden birds?

 

***

And what if the space between you and me was alive with love?

The Best Sentence

I’ve had my own idea over the years. Perhaps it all started one winter evening in 1973. I was 24 … altruistic, wide-eyed and already tender. I had just watched a live musical in an old Vancouver church – Jesus Christ Superstar. Jesus was crucified on a chain link fence. Both agony and love were on full display.

And there was a song that sung its way into my heart. It was “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”:

Yet, if he said he loved me
I’d be lost. I’d be frightened
I couldn’t cope, just couldn’t cope
I’d turn my head. I’d back away
I wouldn’t want to know
He scares me so
I want him so
I love him so

After the performance, I took a bus away from downtown and ended up in Queen Elizabeth Park. I walked over to a big old tree and sat down. For some unknown number of hours, I rocked back and forth, eyes glazed, and chanted …

Jesus Christ Superstar
Do you think you’re what they say you are?

That night changed me. Love was alive in a deeper way than before. “I love him so” became “I love you”. I began searching for the human being who would answer my prayer. Romantically I discovered Rita, and later Jody. They were receivers of “I love you”.

It took years for such a simple sentence to broaden. I began to include others in my love – not romantically but ever so sweetly. Friends not just for hanging out together but for contact.

“I love you” is still with me but a new softness has emerged. “From whence hath it come?” I don’t know. It’s love without a direction. Not me to you and you to me. It’s like hanging suspended within the immensity of love. Being caressed, being held. I still see the other human being across from me (or the other human beings) but there is a vastness of spirit that covers all.

“There is love”

When I’ve heard those words in the past, I saw them as a wishy-washy version of “I love you”, a poor cousin of the true connection between people. I no longer feel that way.

I’m brought back to Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary. He wrote “The Wedding Song”:

The union of your spirits here has caused Him to remain
For whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name
There is love, there is love

We are gathered, Paul

A Singing Bowl

It’s a quiet thing from Tibet.  When I meditate, it sits there peacefully, the mallet resting in the bowl.  At the end of my meditation time, I tap the side … three times.

There’s something magical about lingering between taps, till the sound is no more.  It reminds me of giving a speech.  When my words are done, I pause at the podium until I know it’s time to walk away.  There’s a gap within which there is completion.  Same with the singing bowl.

The singing comes when you sweep the mallet around and around the lip.  Sweet … but it’s not my sweet.  I tap instead.

Should I release the idea of “quality” in my tapping?  Any old strike will do?  Well, I could do that, but it doesn’t feel right.  There’s a communion when the tone hangs long in the air.  I intend to reach that state of relating, to experience the freedom that comes with precision.

Tapping near the lip creates an extra tinny sound at the beginning.  It fades quickly to a slow vibration but it’s not what I want.  It is indeed extra … beyond the essence of things.

Hitting hard halfway down the bowl produces a jolt, rather than a caress.  The tone lasts a long time, but I still find myself shaking my head “No.”

Hitting soft halfway down begins the flow almost immediately.  It allows me to hear the nuances of quieting music.  A quiet that fades to empty space.  I nod approval.  It feels “appropriate” without that word being offered by anything other than the Divine.

At the last, when the third tone has faded away to nothing, I lean close to my friend.  The song continues.  And I smile.

They Disappeared … and So Did I

The “they” are birds. The “I” is me. It’s been a month since I’ve written you. I just haven’t been interested. “No oomph” equals “no write” in my mind. But it seems so strange. One of my contributions on this planet is writing – hopefully writing that reaches people in their lives.

Actually I let myself be stopped. A month or two ago, I wrote a piece here that I knew was the best thing I’d ever written. And nobody, on WordPress or Facebook, said a peep about it. I felt sad. I went away. I let you folks determine my happiness. That was a mistake. I can’t guarantee I won’t make it again.

Anyway, hello to Saturday. It’s time to say a thing or two.

***

I love the birdies who come to my two feeders – sunflower and nyjer. Seeing my friends so close out my living room window has been a blessing. A week ago they stopped coming.

Just like that. No goldfinches. No sparrows. No redwinged blackbirds. And especially no mourning doves. They’re my favourite. It felt like friends turning their backs on me. I’d look out this window longingly, wondering which would be better – birdies flying by to somewhere else, or no birdies at all. Both have happened in the last few days.

I’ve felt the truth: I have no control about what the other chooses to do. There’s no cage, physical or mental, that will do the trick. I can set the scene for visitors but there may or not be a knock on the door.

There’s a bittersweet beauty in the absence of things well known. See that field out there? The rise of grass? Many feathered ones have graced those spaces over the past four years. I remember them well, and feel them still as the sky is empty.

I turned on my brain two days ago. “We had a huge rain awhile back. The seed must have got wet. No self-respecting birdie wants to peck away at porridge.” So I put dry seed in the feeders. Hours later, all remained still.

Yesterday was another chapter. “Bruce, you haven’t cleaned the feeders for a year or two! Don’t you remember how to do things?” Well, apparently not. A big bucket full of bleach water, dismembered feeder parts, several hours of soaking, a thorough rinse, and an overnight of drying brought me to this morning.

Before you is the result of such purification. Calm and unvisited towers of seed. Oh, there have been glimpses: two tiny ones on the perches of the nyjer feeder, and one brave soul chewing on sunflower seeds. Plus two mourning doves grazing on the ground beneath. But no sudden happy ending. Sounds like life.

Right at this moment, no birdies are with me. And yet they are.

The Long Ride

I don’t know if you were reading my WordPress posts two years ago. If you were with me in June, 2018, you saw a man collapsing. I had just started riding my bicycle across Canada with seventeen other Tour du Canada cyclists. Aerobically I was in pretty good shape but my bike skills were woeful. I had ignored the advice from the Tour’s organizer: take a cycling skills course.

Within the first three days of the ride, I crashed three times and was continually terrified of the semitrailers passing within three metres of me. I couldn’t make the slow motion moves that were needed in downtown Vancouver traffic. Near Abbotsford, B.C., I misjudged the speed of a hillside left-turning car and just about had it all end.

I quit.

I spent two nights in a hotel with my bicycle propped against the wall. My hands shook, and they kept shaking for two weeks. “I’ll never ride again.”

Now it’s two years later. I still have remnants of the PTSD but they’re mild. A friend recommended I look at a video of a Bob Newhart TV sketch. A woman comes in for counselling since she’s terrified of being buried alive in a box. Bob says he’ll give her two words and then the therapy session will be over. She pulls out a notepad. Bob leans forward over his desk … and yells “Stop it!”

Woh. What? No months of therapy to deal with my now deepseated agony about being on the bicycle? No reliving my fear of impending death? No “processing” my life?

Okay. I went to my bike shop a couple of weeks ago. I had bought a more stable bicycle than the one I rode in 2018. Wide knobby tires instead of narrow smooth ones. Inside me was a fluttering but also a strange calm. Step number one: show up at the shop and tell my friends (manager and employee) the true story of June, 2018. They listened. They didn’t turn their backs.

Step number two was four days ago: I put on my cycling jersey and shorts. (Scary) I had my friends put the new bike on a stand, and I got on. I gulped … but there I was on the saddle. I pedaled. I changed gears. My heart was fast. I agonized about how to get the bike going and how to stop it. (Which foot goes where?) I couldn’t remember. I blasted myself for not being able to remember. And then I calmed down. I made an appointment to come back yesterday and ride in the big parking lot behind the shop, with coaching from my friend. I went home.

“Just stop it, Bruce!”

Yesterday came. I hadn’t slept much. The two of us moseyed out back with my bicycle, “Betty” by name. I tried squeezing out love for her but nothing came. My friend showed me how she gets on and off a bicycle. I got the “on” part but was still jangled by the “off”.

And then it was time for me. “I’m actually doing this” inside. Left foot on the ground, Right leg swung over the bike. Right foot on pedal, up high so I could push down mightily. “A ten-year-old kid knows how to do this!” > “Stop it!”

Push. I was up. I was going. “I didn’t catch my shorts on the saddle!” (Something I’ve done so many times in the past) Feeling Betty. Feeling the sensitivity of the brakes. A swooping left turn. The mouth opening in wonder.

And then the dark: “Which foot do I put down?” I just couldn’t remember. I decided the right one. Wrong choice. Brakes touched. Bike slowing … then lurching to the right as my right foot sought the pavement. I hopped. I stayed up. And I had my answer: left foot down.

Another few loops of the lot. “I can do this.” Brakes squeezed. Left foot down before I was going slow enough to do that. Another hop, but a good one this time. Going again, my friend watching with a little smile. Braking … slower … body lean to the left … foot falling through space … a gentle press on the pavement. Sweet.

There is much more skill needed. And I have time to do that. Betty and I have become friends. We will go places together.

My mind is being freed. My eyes face outward, seeing the unknown bends in the road rather than gazing at my belly button.

“Well done, Bruce.”

Indirect Speech Interpreted

He was sort of saying …
He was trying to say …
He was saying …

There’s been a uptick in cases
There’s been a surge in cases

They maybe opened a little bit early
They opened too early

I’m not a big proponent of …
I don’t like …

She seems to do …
She does …

I tend to disagree
I might not agree
I disagree

I’m inclined to agree
It seems somewhat reasonable to me
I agree

I would hate to say anything about … that would be perceived as negative
I’m critical of …

He’s almost sending a message
He’s sending a message

It doesn’t seem that it’s happening
It’s not happening

(In response to a yes/no question)
Not exactly
I don’t think so
I’m going to say probably not
No
I think so
Most likely
If you look at all the factors here, you see that an analysis is difficult
Yes

I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant
I didn’t understand what he meant

She should have, I think
She should have

His words, frankly, seemed out of touch with reality
His words were out of touch with reality

We have come to a stage where we cannot help but consider things including postponement
We’re thinking about postponing

In the coming weeks
Seven to ten weeks from now

I think it’s fair to say that there will be an impact
There will be an impact

It’s fatal
People will die

The Hand

It’s quite a miracle, really.  I could list all the sweet things that hands can do for us but you know those already.  Besides, it doesn’t feel like the way to go tonight.  There’s a mystery to this object that goes beyond its function.

The design of the hand just begs for reaching out, for beckoning, for drawing the other close.  Of course we can do that with words but there’s something magical about the curling of the fingers.

The palm is pretty cool.  There are all those lines and the stories they apparently tell … about me.  Then there’s the fact that the whole thing is a cup.  It’ll hold water.  It’ll hold anything that’s precious.

Growing up, I had no clue what a “whorl” was.  I do now, and it’s a pretty funky word.  Staring minutely at my fingertips reveals all these curved lines.  I wonder where they’re going.  I love how they meander across the skin … my skin.

The backs are immense as well.  I stretch my hand upwards and all these bones appear, in a fan shape.  I often look at the backs of my hands.  They remind me that I’m physical – an animal, full of bones and veins.  Blood is reaching every little bit of my dear body.  Nothing is left out.

I like the four and one nature of my fingers and thumb.  They get to embrace each other in a universal “okay” sign.  When they spread apart, there are lovely spaces between.  If I’m paying attention, I see that the space around things, and people, is important.  Room to breathe.

Then there’s the mirror effect – the left hand and the right.  They teach me the inner wonders of symmetry.  Plus I love it when they cuddle together, and when they fly apart to the sky.

And now my hands rest.

One hand I extend into myself
The other toward you

Wavery

I’m thinking of the adjectives that seem to fit me these days.  Here they are: tipping, untethered, woozy, disoriented, toppling, floating, soft, falling, yielding, loose, crumbling, unravelling.

Woh.  Guess that hodge podge sounds pathological.  Apparently here’s a man who’s lost, who’s coming unglued, who’s losing touch with firm reality.  Except I don’t see it as pathological at all.  Something is changing.  There’s a morphing into newness.  There’s an innocence, a sense of not being protected, a welcoming of all life.  There’s a relaxing of my analytic mind, of opinion, of having a solid place to view the world from.

I woke up in the wee hours to a dream.  From age 12 to 18, I played cello in orchestras.  Last night, I was in the concert hall, searching for my instrument.  I found myself in the middle of the flutes, wondering why they weren’t cellos.  Actually, was I in a concert hall?  I wasn’t sure.

I wandered aimlessly, sensing that home was somewhere in the vicinity.  I just couldn’t point my finger in that direction.  Finally, I found an instrument that sort of looked like a cello.  Its neck wasn’t rounded but instead flat and hugely wide.  “Is this a cello” I asked the hall.  No one answered.

I never did find home.  I never even became confident that I would find it some day.

Just before waking, the wall behind the stage opened up to the sky beyond, and I was being sucked out into space, just like in those thriller airplane movies.  The concert disappeared … and so did I.

***

Not knowing
Not caring about not knowing
Floating free in the starry, starry night