Burwell

If it’s the Sunday of the long Civic Holiday weekend, it’s time for fireworks on the Port Burwell beach. Twilight is here and the pleasure boats are twinkling on Lake Erie. I’m surrounded by families on the sand – lots of bathing suits, sunburns and happy faces. Glow sticks are shining in their circular paths on necks, wrists and waists and the world is at peace. A great grandma jiggles a tiny boy, much to his delight.

Earlier I was in the beer garden, right up front, sporting the appropriate beverage. A duet played old folk songs, such as Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle”, she of 15 years and he of 70 or so. Avery was so nervous and kept looking out to her friends in the crowd for support. She did fine, and the tunes went down as sweetly as the beer. Seagulls soared over the stage. I sang along. And all was well.

Back to the moment of now and the darkness descends. Excited chatter all around. Kids straining to see their sand castle creations. Others asking what there is to eat. All of us eager for the explosions of light.

“Mom. When are the fireworks going to start?”

And then … poof! The first streamer and banger. Yay for the bright.

As the flowers opened above me, I looked out to the lake and saw the ripples shining. And between were silhouettes of human beings, heads tilted to the heavens. I do believe we were all in awe as the show went on and on. My favourite was a shimmering gold curtain filled in by at least six explosions. It lingered above our heads for so long, seeming to bless us.

Kids oohed and adults ahhed. Though we didn’t know each other, the crowd was family, enraptured with the bursts of white against a blanket of black. And I heard the message: “Wake up! There is so much to live in this world.” May we heed the call.

Hiding and Emerging

I’m sitting under a tree in the Tottenham Conservation Area in Southern Ontario, waiting for Tour du Canada riders to show up. I’m hiding. I left the tour on June 23, exhausted physically and emotionally. But in the few days we had together, we formed a bond. Even though I was closer with some of the 19 folks than others, we all are forever linked in a mysterious way. And now I want to surprise each of them as they arrive.

I stroll over a little rise from the parking lot and see that Chris has shown up. And there’s Grant, who drives the truck. Their eyes brighten as I approach and then we are three smiles. We chat about the ride but it doesn’t matter what the topic is. We’ve shared a journey, even though my physical part of it was brief. So how much time is needed for deep human contact? I say not much.

Now Jim! Now Ruedi! Now Keith! Hello, my companions of the near and far. For each of them, “Glad to see you” is a two-way street.

After each greeting, I retire to my comfy green lawn chair under the tree, ready to burst upon the next unsuspecting cyclist. Oh, it’s so delicious being sneaky!

Weeks ago, in a member’s blog, I learned that one of our riders had fallen on the highway and broken her collarbone. So sad to hear that she’d left the tour … and I didn’t even know which woman it was. Today I found out it was Jane. She’d fainted on the bicycle and was motionless on the tarmac until a Good Samaritan truck driver stopped to help. Now she’s recovered enough to rejoin the group on Monday. Good for her to be so brave.

I just said hi to Dorcas after she rode in. We shared panting lungs and assorted cycling worries in June. Now she’s supremely strong, it appears. Waydago, Dorcas. She just got in a car, heading to Toronto for the evening. Our eye contact was all that needed to be said.

This morning, I’d vowed to keep a secret: that I’ll be showing up in St. John’s, Newfoundland on August 31 to cheer the riders up the final hill. For the last couple of hours, as I renew friendships, I’ve been choosing my words carefully:

“I wish I could be in St. John’s. But cancellation insurance is a marvelous thing.”

There. I didn’t lie, just gave the folks the impression that I had taken out cancellation insurance for the flight from St. John’s to Toronto. But I hadn’t. Wanting to surprise the cyclists on the 31st, I went the devious route.

Many conversations later, my mind turned. “I want to tell them that I’m coming.” So I did. Dorcas! Sorry for sort of lying to you. Go for the gold!

My evening ended as the sun declined. A group of us sat near the tents, chatting about I don’t remember what. Ken, Terry, Keith, Jim, Mike, Paul … fine folks all. Ken asked me if I wanted to hear a favourite tune on Spotify. Soon his little speaker was wafting “The Wings That Fly Us Home” and “There’s A Lift” over our campsite. (Cool. I just said “our”.)

Yes … the we includes me.

Without Skill

I was walking on Bloor Street in Toronto yesterday. My ankle was sore and I was going slow. Just ahead was a woman in a flaming yellow dress, carrying a parasol on this most humid day. Beside her was a boy of 10 or so, on his bike. The sidewalk was heading up for an extended climb and it looked like the boy was matching his mom’s pace. She was taking her time.

The distance between us never narrowed or expanded. There they were, always thirty yards ahead of me. And I wondered: “How is this possible?” How is that young man staying upright? What an immense gift of balance.

Finally they crested the hill and turned down a side street. Gone from my eyes … not from my heart. I felt a sweep of marvel and a generous helping of “less than”. I thought of the unbalanced state on my bicycle ta-pocketa in downtown Vancouver, and the sadness came.

“Bruce, you’re so unskilled, so awkward, so obvious to others.” Then, magically, the arrows withdrew and the response was sure: “Yes, you’re right, and it’s all okay.”

Almost immediately, I was reminiscing about tendon transfer surgery in 2003 and my many weeks on crutches. Stairs were impossible, fatigue was constant, and self-esteem hung by a thread. Again and again … “I can’t do this.”

Another time, I was so weak after some physical debacle that on my return to the gym, when I went to wash my hands, I didn’t have the strength to push the lever on the soap dispenser. (Sigh)

Then there was the meeting at school about a certain visually impaired student. The topic was his computer hardware. As the discussion revved up, I realized I had no idea what my fellow staff members were talking about. Despair descended.

***

Not being able to do something
Feeling the pain of the deficiency
And yet …
Glimpsing the beauty of being undefended
Naked
Cracks opening to receive the light

Narrowed and Wide

I was riding the train in Toronto today – the UP Express. I love the train, with its big windows giving me a chance to look out at the world. I see into people’s backyards and wonder what lives are being led on the other side of their windows. I watch a long string of cars waiting at a red light for their left turn … and feel sad for the folks inside. Life passes me by.

Today was different. I grabbed the last remaining window seat but there was a partition right in front of me. All I had to see out from was a sliver of vertical glass. My eyes tensed up as images came by too fast. I couldn’t linger on anything, and lingering is truly one of life’s pleasures.

And I thought of other things:

What would it be like to have no peripheral vision, just a small circle in the middle for focusing on things?

What would it be like to have a moderate hearing loss, where you can only catch a few words from each sentence?

What would it be like to have the beginning of Alzheimer’s, and you just can’t remember the names of those near and dear?

What would it be like to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and be racked with terror in the middle of the night?

What would not be touched by a narrowed life? What essence of me would still be there? And could I find it?

In August, 2018, my life is expansive. In August, 2019, it may not be. It’s time to feel into what will always be there.

Holy

I’m in Toronto, staying at the bed and breakfast owned by my friends Anne and Ihor. Two years ago, I was a stranger on the phone, seeking a place to stay. Many conversations later, we are family.

In a few days, these fine folks are headed to the Holy Land for a ten-day tour with fellow members of their Ukrainian Catholic Church. Anne and Ihor are devout Christians.

This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples:
If you have love for one another
(International Standard Version of the Bible)

You look at Anne and you know. She cares for every one of her guests. If the person is a stranger to Toronto, she’s ready with advice about public transportation. Anne spoke deeply at her dear friend’s funeral a couple of weeks ago. And Ihor? He’s absolutely devoted to his high school students, and knows that the curriculum needs to take a far back seat to growing a human being.

Their visit to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, to the Mount, to Gethsemane, and to the Sepulchre, will be a two-way street of radiance – from the symbols of Jesus’ work in our world into two Canadian hearts, and from those same hearts back to their Lord. And by extension, to other human beings, far and wide.

I’m clear to me that Anne and Ihor’s journey isn’t about achieving anything, such as a deepening of their faith. No, there isn’t any deficit here, nothing to improve. My friends go to Israel as an expression of their profound devotion. Sufficient. And all of us who know them benefit.

All In Good Time

There are times to cultivate and create, when you nurture your world and give birth to new ideas and ventures.  There are times of flourishing and abundance, when life feels in full bloom, energized and expanding.  And there are times of fruition, when things come to an end.  They have reached their climax and must be harvested before they begin to fade.  And finally of course, there are times that are cold, and cutting and empty, times when the spring of new beginnings seems like a distant dream.  Those rhythms in life are natural events.  They weave into one another as day follows night, bringing not messages of hope and fear, but messages of how things are.

Chogyam Trunpa

***

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time of peace, I swear it’s not too late!

Pete Seeger, from Ecclesiastes

***

These eight worldly conditions, O monks, keep the world turning around, and the world turns around these eight worldly conditions.  What eight?  Gain and loss, fame and disrepute, praise and blame, pleasure and pain. 

These eight worldly conditions, monks, are encountered by an uninstructed worldling, and they are also encountered by an instructed noble disciple …

When an instructed noble disciple comes upon gain, he reflects on it thus: “This gain that has come to me is impermanent, bound up with suffering, subject to change.” And so he will reflect when loss and so forth come upon him.  He understands all these things as they really are, and they do not engross his mind.  Thus he will not be elated by gain or dejected by loss; elated by fame or dejected by disrepute; elated by praise or dejected by blame; elated by pleasure or dejected by pain …

Loss and gain, fame and disrepute, praise and blame, pleasure and pain: these things are transient in human life, inconstant and bound to change.  The mindful wise one discerns them well.

The Buddha

***

Smart guys
Not their first rodeo

Mamma Mia

I want my writing to be “good”, so that my thoughts will reach people.  Usually that’s what I want.  Tonight I don’t care.  I have a simple message:

Go see Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

I cried.  I sang along.  I applauded at the end.  Truly one of the finest movies I’ve ever seen.  Naturally I’m biased.  Your take may be different.  So what?  Go see it.

What do I say without spoiling it for you?  I don’t know, but I’ll give ‘er a go.  We long for friendship … it’s here.  We long for community … it’s here.  We long for romantic love … it’s here.

The biggest smiles, the deepest sadnesses and the most profound joys.  A few moments that I will play over and over again once I get the Blu-ray.  Moments that stop the world and break the heart wide open.

Good writing tells me to be specific.  Paint the emotional scenes with great detail.  Well, sorry – not tonight.  You’ll just have to trust me on this.

We get to see folks who are young adults, and then decades later.  The souls still shine.

We get to hear the blessed Abba songs that weave into the lives of this story.

We get to celebrate the ecstasy, tenderness and sorrows of life because they’re onscreen, right in front of our noses.

Chiquitita, you and I know
How the heartaches come and they go
And the scars they’re leaving
You’ll be dancing once again
And the pain will end
You will have no time for grieving
Chiquitita, you and I cry
But the sun is still in the sky
And shining above you
Let me hear you sing once more
Like you did before
Sing a new song, Chiquitita

Unknown

All the stars, planets and galaxies that can be seen today make up just 4% of the universe.  The other 96% is made of stuff astronomers can’t see, detect or even comprehend.

These mysterious substances are called dark energy and dark matter.  Astronomers infer their existence based on their gravitational influence on what little bits of the universe can be seen, but dark matter and energy themselves continue to elude all detection.

“The overwhelming majority of the universe is: Who knows?” explains science writer Richard Panek, who spoke about these oddities of our universe on Monday at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) here in Manhattan.  “It’s unknown for now, and possibly forever.”

Clara Moskowitz

***

We have an enormous amount still yet to discover and understand.  For instance, science now knows that 96% of the known universe is invisible.  It’s called dark matter and dark energy, and it’s called “dark” because you can’t see it.  But here we are, in the 4% that’s visible, and I say to people: If we’re going to make materialism our life path, we’re essentially giving our lives over to the 4% solution.  Because the 96%, the invisible part, we’re just completely ignoring.

Duane Elgin

***

Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns.  There are things we know we know.  We also know there are known unknowns, that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.  But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.  And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.

Donald Rumsfeld, former United States Secretary of Defense

***

Difficult indeed.  And if Duane is right, and we can legitimately move from the physical universe to how we lead our lives, what now?  How do I do, feel and think on this planet if immense mystery surrounds us?  Do I swan dive off the solid cliff into the mists below or do I hunker down in my all-inclusive?

The task of letting go seems monumental.  Maybe I can start exercising my 96% muscle by simply doing one thing in a new way.

I get together several times a week with the online global community of the Evolutionary Collective.  For the latter part of our hour, we can share in the large group.  You simply click on the “Raise Hand” button.  Tomorrow, when the time comes, I’ll click even if I have no idea what to say.  That’s a start.

***

Love is always a leap into the unknown.  You can try to control as many variables, and understand a situation as you can, but you’re still jumping off a cliff and hoping that someone catches you.

Lisa Kleypas

 

Who Is It That I Say I Am?

Who is this Bruce, anyway?

Conventional wisdom points to what I’ve done, what I’ve said … an accumulation of the past.  Sounds logical.  Perhaps, though, I can choose to move beyond reason.  Could it be that hidden beneath “unreasonable” things, the truth abides?

Maybe “Bruce” is fresh at every moment, a flow leaning into the future.  Nothing to do with my mistakes, insensitivities and misadventures – all stuff that’s dead because it’s in the past.  Beyond the reality that society honours, I could simply be a spiritual presence, moving in love.

What if a thousand people said to me “Don’t be silly.  You are your history, your body, your ideas, your joys and sorrows, your relationships, your home … the sum of your life experiences.  There is nothing else!  Grow up and march to the music.”

And what if I said:

No

I seek companions on this journey and I believe I’ve found one.  Her name is Beatrice Bruteau.

The emotional personality may feel like life to us.  The life story that is called by our name may seem to be our only way of conceptualizing our life.  That is why it seems that we would be losing our life if we were to give up identifying ourselves in these ways.

[The word “metanoia” means “a transformation of the heart”]

Metanoia is a shift in our sense of where our selfhood is located, from the dead periphery of the personality description to the living core of transcendent and creative freedom.  The metanoia is said to be like dying and being reborn.  It is a shift in our sense of real being, our sense of being alive, from the emotional personality to the transcendent spirit … By seeming to die, we release ourselves from identification with the dead, and by realizing ourselves as transcendent persons, we establish ourselves in true life and can begin to do divine things.

Airy fairy … dumb … pie in the sky … true … ridiculous … infantile … lost marbles

***

Is the pull of the past so strong that brand new things can’t enter the world?
Is the pull of collective opinion so overwhelming that anything else is rejected?
Am I strong enough to stand with Beatrice?
What could happen if I did?

 

Visibly Lacking

I’m taking an online course with souls from all over the world. We meet live as many as five times a week. It’s astounding to see all those faces on my computer screen.

Today, just before we were to be paired up for a practice exercise, the leader gave some instructions. I didn’t understand them, but then – Poof! … there I was facing another human being.

An image came to me of a male elementary teacher. He was standing in front of me with a yardstick in his hand, ready to smack my fingers. A voice roared: “You did it wrong!”

Later I decided to share with the large group about what I had gone through. The leader was coaching me to stay with my experience, without conceptualizing or telling a story. As I struggled to find what was true for me, I felt myself dying again: “You’re no good. You’re too afraid of the teacher’s disapproval. All these people are watching.” And I shrunk.

The teacher kept trying to bring me back out but I fell deeper into the hole. I was grinding through the moment – so different than talking about a previous grinding moment. “I’m so embarrassed.”

Bruce was disappearing, and not in a transcendent way. It wasn’t a case of losing something and finding something sweeter. Of saying goodbye to the ego and then rising into rarefied air. No. I was just plain lost.

***

So, Bruce, what’s true?

At times, I struggle to stay with what I’m experiencing
At times, I get scared so easily
At times, I shrink under the eyes of others
At times, I wallow in seeing myself as “less than”

But you know, Bruce, something else is true
You’re willing to be visible

Through the warts
Through the fear
Through the not knowing
Through the public viewing
Through the words stumbling out
Through the heart sinking to the floor
Through the desires for approval
Through the not making sense
Through the “wrong answers”
Through the tightness in the throat
Through the blushing
Through the pain

***

I’ll take it