The Body Moves

It’s supposed to. We’re not designed to be merely talking heads.  Tonight I saw this truth vividly.  I went to the annual recital of Dance London.  There had to be 150 kids and teens, strutting their stuff in 42 (!) performances.

Two years ago I worked with a girl who I’ll call “Jessica”, as a volunteer in her Grade 6 class.  I saw her a few months ago and she invited me to come to the recital.  I said yes right away.  It was a privilege to be there.

The evening started with a video.  A woman founded the studio in 1993, and she was sitting with the current owner.  She wanted to teach dance techniques to the young ones and she wanted them to be happy as they were learning.  No competition among the students.  Everyone treated equally, as I saw tonight.  When there was a group number, everyone had a chance to be at the front of the stage.

I loved the conversation.  Soon there was another one: two moms of young dancers reflected on 25 years ago, when they were the little kids onstage.  Sweet.  And then a third pair of human beings graced the chairs.  They were both under ten, and clearly loved to dance.

Jessica performed in four numbers, surrounded by a variety of colleagues.  I followed her every move, as proud of her grace and commitment as any grandpa would be.  She was in a ballet troupe that floated through a gorgeous piece featuring the rich tones of cello and violin.  The sound system was awesome.  During Jessica’s last dance, there was a moment when she and her partner were at the back of the stage.  Then they strode rhythmically to the front, oozing confidence.

The costumes were brilliant – shining this and flowing that.  My favourites were glittering green and silver dresses for a Roaring Twenties number.  I can’t remember what those dresses are called [now I remember – flapper dresses], but the kids were giving ‘er, and that’s all that mattered.  Oh, the smiles on those faces!

I watched arms extending full out to the side or up to the sky.  There’s something about the body at full stretch that inspires me.  And the choreography!  So seamless and graceful.  Combine that with a driving bass beat sometimes, and there was great joy on the stage, and in the seats.

Tiny kids had their turn too, often mentored by an adult at the end of the line.  Who cares if some of them were unsure of the steps?  They were out there, fully visible, moving and grooving.

So … this not young body needs to move as well.  A whole bunch of six- to eighteen-year-olds showed me the way.  Happily, we all teach each other.

Smart Guy

His name was Chögyam Trungpa.  Here’s what he had to say:

If you have awareness in whatever you do, you always have a sense of basic decency.  You do not cheat.  You do not do things just because they are traditional, and you don’t just do something this year simply because you did it last year.  You always try to practice your discipline as genuinely and honestly as possible – to the point where the honesty and genuineness begin to hurt.

The source of action is a very large me, rather than other people and the past

***

We do not have to be ashamed of what we are.  As sentient beings we have wonderful backgrounds.  These backgrounds may not be particularly enlightened or peaceful or intelligent.  Nevertheless, we have soil good enough to cultivate.  We can plant anything in it.

We are “good enough” kind and awakened to do great things in the world

***

The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute.  The good news is there’s no ground.

There is nothing in life that can damage the essence of who we are

***

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.

And so I welcome the staleness, the not knowing, the falling short of goals

***

In the garden of gentle sanity, may you be bombarded by coconuts of wakefulness.

Eyes open, dear man – to the jolts, the disorientations, the nonsensical

***

Compassion is not having any hesitation to reflect your light on things.

There is no thought of “Who deserves this?”  We all do

***

The idea of a warrior is based on a sense of fundamental fearlessness.  There is no reason why you should be a coward.  It’s as simple as that.  You are not being a warrior because a state of war exists in your country.  We are not trying to win against the egohood people.  We are not trying to fight with them.

You are being a warrior because you are a warrior.  If someone asks you, “Are you twenty-one years old?” you say, “Yes, I am.”  They don’t ask you why you are twenty-one years old or how you have done this.  You would have no answer for that.  You are just twenty-one.  Warriorship is a basic sense of unshakeability.  It’s a sense of immovability and self-existing dignity rather than that you are trying to fight with something else.

am this.  I bring a fierceness to life that doesn’t require an opponent

***

We can change the world, definitely.  The problem is that we don’t smile when chaos occurs to us.  When chaos occurs, even within that chaos, we can smile, which cures confusion and resentment.

Welcome everything

***

You are sitting on the earth and you realize that this earth deserves you and you deserve this earth.  You are there – fully, personally, genuinely.

I, and you, have a place here.  We matter

***

We must be willing to be completely ordinary people, which means accepting ourselves as we are without trying to become greater, purer, more spiritual, more insightful.  If we can accept our imperfections as they are, quite ordinarily, then we can use them as part of the path.  But if we try to get rid of our imperfections, then they will be enemies, obstacles on the road to our “self-improvement”.

Just this is just fine

***

Thank you, Chögyam

Permanent?

Tim Hortons is an outrageously successful chain of coffee shops in Canada.  The country’s caffeine needs are covered coast to coast with approximately 5000 outlets.  I can vaguely remember when there were no Tims but that was in the ancient era of teenage life.  If a town has four shops, it’s a good guess that a fifth is coming soon.

I was driving down Highbury Avenue in London this afternoon, approaching Hamilton Road.  As I slowed for a red light, I glanced to my left to see … a derelict Tims.  The familiar reddish brown brick was still there, and the high oval sign out front, but the “Tim Hortons” on the vinyl above the brick was a shadow of its former self, and the ovals were merely full of air.  Beige curtains fell down the many windows.  And weeds were taking over the parking lot.

I gaped for as long as the light was red.  This did not compute.  A Canadian icon had died a ghastly death, and my stomach churned.  Somehow our national identity felt wounded and a fear bubbled up that it could all come to an end.  “Because of a coffee shop?  Get a grip, Bruce!  Drive ten blocks and you’ll find a thriving Tims.”

As Scarlet slowly left the scene of the crime, I reflected on permanence, and how I dearly love to hold on.  The inner voice says I need safety, predictability and stationary happiness.  Hmm.  Not too likely.

1.  Bruce remembers names.  Bruce remembers everyone’s name.  Except now I don’t.  People I talked to three weeks ago are often a mystery when they reappear in my life.

2.  Bruce is a master of words.  He has such a wide vocabulary, don’t you know?  Except I now struggle mightily with the names of … containers.  I’ll look at an object sitting there on a shelf or on the floor and no descriptive label will enter my brain.  (Okay, now I’ve looked it up on Google!)  Is it a bowl, a basket, a can, a bottle, a tub, a bucket, a jar, a pail, a vat?  I don’t know!  In polite conversation, I retreat to “container”, unbeknownst to my companion of the moment.

3.   Bruce drives so well, including at night.  Ha!  Not a chance anymore after dark.  That’s when I have to concentrate so hard.  And during the day, the time is long gone when I can pass someone in moderate traffic.  I have trouble judging distance and speed.

4.  Bruce loves playing famous golf courses on the computer, creating works of art called batik, and running 10k races.  Okay, but those were much earlier versions of this man.  How did those passions float away?

All this brings me to the present moment.  What I love right now seems so solid: my work in the Evolutionary Collective; my travels to Belgium and Senegal, New York and San Francisco; my red-walled home in Belmont, Ontario; my Wednesday evenings at the Acoustic Spotlight folk music club.  Could it be that they too may crumble away into the past?

And then the ultimate:  Bruce Kerr was a boy and now is a man.  That too goes poof!  A world without me.  Maybe no me at all, anywhere.

As Bob Dylan sang …

As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

Brand New

I went to the regional track and field meet today, featuring excellent athletes from Grades 4 to 8. I loved watching the contorted faces, the blurred legs, the raised arms and the bowed heads. It was a spectacular day on the high school field and I wanted to see all the events. The high jump competition was in the gym so I went inside to watch the action. The athletes soared and my heart lifted with them. It was such a graceful movement, approaching the bar from the side and throwing themselves backwards up and over.

And I remembered. It wasn’t always this version of grace. When I was a kid, we’d face the bar and try to throw our lead leg over. And then something new happened:

Dick Fosbury took a moment to meditate as 80,000 people looked down at him from their seats in Mexico City’s Olympic stadium. The fans at the 1968 Olympic Games didn’t know it at the time, but they were about to witness not only the setting of an Olympic record, but the complete revolution of a sport.

Like most schools in the 1960s, the landing pit at Fosbury’s high school was made of wood chips and sawdust. Before his junior year, however, Fosbury’s high school became one of the first to install a foam landing pit and that gave him a crazy idea.

What if, instead of jumping the conventional way with his face toward the bar [the scissor kick], Dick Fosbury turned his body, arched his back, and went over the bar backwards while landing on his neck and shoulders?

***

How did the high jump community react to Dick’s innovation? Initially with criticism: We’ve been doing it this way for decades. How dare you turn your back on history? Dick was referred to as an “aberration”, as “the world’s laziest high jumper”, and was described as “a fish flopping in a boat”. None of that fazed him.

Consider … the Fosbury Flop, an upside-down and backward leap over a high bar, an outright—an outrageous!—perversion of acceptable methods of jumping over obstacles. An absolute departure in form and technique. It was an insult to suggest, after all these aeons, that there had been a better way to get over a barrier all along. And if there were, it ought to have come from a coach, a professor of kinesiology, a biomechanic, not an Oregon teenager of middling jumping ability. In an act of spontaneity, or maybe rebellion, he created a style unto itself.

***

So dear friends, are we up for a perversion or two, a leap into the outrageous? Are we willing to bring something new into the world, whether or not IQ tests have said we’re really smart, whether or not we have “academic credentials”, whether or not we’re young, old, male, female, outgoing, shy, black, white, Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian … anything!?

Let’s do it.

Dozey

I find it valuable to write about emotional, physical or spiritual experiences when I’m right inside them, rather than “Here’s how I felt yesterday, but I no longer feel that way.”

So here I am … heavy in the eyes, spaced out, vacant.  It’s right here, right now.  And the voice starts in: “Write something tomorrow, Bruce, when you’re feeling better.  You’re too woozy right now to make much sense.  When you’re at the top of your game, that’s the time to do a WordPress post.  You say you want your thoughts to contribute to people.  There’s just not much coming out of your brain right now.”

Well, that’s one perspective – quite a reasonable one, I’d say.  Perhaps, though, the world doesn’t need so much reason.  Could it be that listening to someone who’s in the middle of an experience can be valuable to the reader, no matter what that experience is?  In my fairly stupefied state, I say yes.

“Your words will come out garbled.  You won’t find the right word for what you want to say.  You’ll make all sorts of spelling and grammar mistakes and won’t be alert enough to correct them.”  I see.  Quite a persistent voice.

What do I enjoy reading?  Stuff that’s real.  The writer is not trying to impress with their intelligence, wit or creativity.  He or she is just telling you the way it is for them.  And the readers probably can put themselves in the writer’s shoes.  “I’ve been there.”

The “there” right now is so very dull.  The clarity and joy that have often shown up recently seem to be hiding behind a curtain, and my reaching hand can’t find the hem to pull the heaviness aside.  Strangely, it’s not an emotional blahness.  I can see the animated Bruce as a silhouette just out of reach.  I know my gifts haven’t gone anywhere.  They haven’t deserted me.  They’ll come back through the fog to say hello.  How strange … right now there’s a little smile on my drooping face, even as my eyes call me to sleep.

What can we human beings create when the body is not co-operating with transcendence, power and union with others?  Can I just “snap out of it” and be all set for a brisk walk in the world?  It doesn’t feel that way.  My body will continue to do what it chooses but my heart has a say in this as well.  I get to decide the extent to which I reach out to my fellow travellers.  In every moment, brimming with energy or slumping my way along, it’s up to me.

Hmm.  I chose.  I wrote this post.  Thanks for listening.

 

Reunion

I just got home.  Two hours and twenty minutes of my evening were spent walking the fairways of Tarandowah.  Lucky me.

The air was cool and the wind was brisk.  With a down jacket under a water resistant shell, and the hood tied tight, I headed down the first fairway.  I was happy.  It felt like the grass was caressing my feet and they were returning the favour.  This was a time to be alone with my friend.  I saw a few golfers off in the distance but basically the course was mine to explore.  And I know all the nooks and crannies.  (Speaking of which, have you ever seen a cranny?)

I wondered at the rolling fairways … so sensuous.  The fescue grass was just starting its growing thing in the rough, green instead of mid-season wispy brown.  But the blades blew strong anyway, rippling like the ocean.  Tarandowah also has long fescue growing on the far edges of the bunkers, so mini-oceans graced my path.

Birds said hello.  Swallows dipped and dived close to the grass.  Five little birdies were fanatic as they chased a big bird away from their nests.  The pursuit must have extended for two hundred metres.  And then there were the little pecking fellows in the rough.  Apparently there’s lots to eat in there.

Crossing the bridge in front of the seventh tee, I saw a swimmer exiting stage left.  It was a muskrat.  She swished that long tail to get away.  Once I was at a safe distance, she pulled onto a tiny sand bar and washed her face.  Very cool.

I thought that the sunset would do its job before I completed my eighteen hole journey, and I was right.  The declining sun turned the bunker sand golden and gave the fairways an animated sheen.  Long shadows danced through the hollows and brought the mounds alive.  And the wind died.

I stood on the thirteenth green, at the end of the world, with bare fields on two sides.  I was alone in the universe, and yet immersed in a communion of spirit.  I stood on the high point of land behind the sixth tee, and gazed over 360º of beauty.  Faraway pins standing on faraway greens.  The odd car making its way along a distant country road.  I stood on the mounds behind the eighth green and was entranced by all the curves.  An artist named Martin Hawtree (Tarandowah’s architect) had used broad brush strokes here.  And then there was the broad sweep of the fourteenth, looking suspiciously like the mural on my bedroom wall.

On the eighteenth fairway, darkness was settling in.  If I had been golfing, I wouldn’t have been able to follow the flight of the ball.  I looked to the tiny clubhouse as I finished the journey … all dark.  Golfers and staff members had gone home.  I was already there.

Have I Left Tarandowah Behind?

1.  I moved to Belmont three years ago because I wanted to be closer to the Tarandowah Golfers Club.

2.  I haven’t played a round of golf in two years.

Put those two statements together and the answer to the question would appear to be yes.

Tarandowah is a links-style course that was created from Ontario farmland.  The British Isles are home to many courses carved from “links” land – tracts of wild grasses and sand dunes that separate farmland from the sea.  No ocean resides anywhere near Tarandowah but there are magnificent mounds of fescue grass gracing the rough, along with rolling fairways and over a hundred pot bunkers.  You see very few trees, similar to famous courses such as St. Andrews in Scotland.

I’ve long considered Tarandowah to be a home for me.  A place to walk and feel the land far more than a place to hit a little white ball, obsess over the details of my swing, and judge my self-worth by the number on the scorecard.

I’ve talked to members of the beauty I see, and very few folks seem interested.  “Aren’t the mounds behind the eighth green amazing?”  And then there’s the sublime island of fescue in the the middle of the sixth fairway.  Plus the long dogleg sweep of the par five dogleg left fourteenth.

I keep the fourteenth close to my heart.  An entire wall of my bedroom hosts a mural of the hole, viewed from behind the green.  From that spot, I can see the approach to the sixth, the faraway thirteenth at the very end of the world, and the cavalcade of mounds reaching from the fourteenth tee.  On my better days, I wake up with “Good morning, Tarandowah” on my lips.

Back problems stopped my golfing but those ills are now in the past.  Still I don’t feel pulled to play.  I don’t hit the ball very far off the tee (180 yards) and I’ve never broken 100 at my friend who disguises herself as a golf course.  But I can feel the love affair.  Walking the quiet fairways near sunset is a caress on the soles of my feet.  I love the sweep of the greens – so many dips and dives of a gentle kind.  The curves suggest a woman’s body to me.  I am often in awe.

There’s usually a breeze and it feels good as it permeates my body.  The stroll is slow as the sun declines.  The birds have things to say.  And very occasionally … there is the red fox.  Standing on the thirteenth green, I am alone in the world, far from the clubhouse.  On the mound behind the sixth tee, I turn to see ten holes spread before me.  To be on the high point of land seems right.  It’s home.

Tomorrow is a holiday in Canada – Victoria Day.  She was the Queen of England way back when.  Thank you, Victoria.  I will use your gift to walk the fairways of Tarandowah again, as the day begins its farewell.  Lovers should be together.

***

So the answer is … no.

Consciousness

The field of consciousness stands beyond time, space, or any known dimension and instead includes all dimensions, without being altered by them. The infinite field is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient and uniquely identifiable as the Absolute … There is no “here” or “there”. There is no “now” or “then”. The totality is equally and permanently present everywhere.

David Dawkins

Alrighty then. Given this immensity, what should I do with my life?

Well, anything that my dear heart desires, while sensing that my mind is in the middle of something vast and timeless. Can I even get my head around a realm that’s beyond time and space? Not really, all that much. But that’s okay.

I have things to do in life, stuff that’s structured within minutes and metres. I better obey red lights and income tax deadlines or there’ll be trouble. But what of the rest of reality? When I’m planning the events of my day, the mind is doing certain things. However, when I’m thinking about someone I love, the mind is in a different place. A very loose place.

Perhaps I’m not just suspended in the huge bubble of everything. Maybe I am that bubble. And there’s nothing outside of that bubble.

I don’t care if I’m making any sense. The bubble is not one of reason. I’m deeply here – in the London Public Library – and everywhere as well. I’m also suspended in everywhen, rather than being tied down to May 18, 2019 at 4:35 pm Eastern Time.

All-present, all-powerful, all-knowing. Not Bruce, but the being in which we all stand. And it’s not a stillness. It’s a moving forward, a being pulled forward into the perfectly unknown. Being at home on the journey.

Could it be that on one profound level there’s no deficit, no problem, no angst? From this space, what can we humans create? What gifts will be given in the coming days? Who is it that we say we are?

It may be simple. We walk together, holding hands and hearts. We gaze into each other’s eyes. We smile.

Soft Venom

I was having dinner tonight at Wimpy’s Diner in London, savouring one of my favourite meals: Philly Cheesesteak.  Lots of beef, roasted veggies, melted cheese, coleslaw and ciabatta bun all decided that my mouth was an inviting target.  I agreed.  But a couple of tables away, there was trouble in River City.

I was reading on my phone about a 16-year-old girl named Jade who has a chance to make the Canadian Women’s Soccer Team for the upcoming World Cup.  I was enthralled with her spirit.  The energy near me in the restaurant was another thing.  A man’s deep voice kept inching into my consciousness.  There was a staccato forcedness as he talked to his female companion.  I couldn’t quite catch their topics but complaining seemed to sum up his presentation.  She said very little in reply.

More troubling was how he treated the young waitress.  It wasn’t blatant, where someone like me needs to confront him.  No, it was more subtle, but the intent was clear:

You’re not really a person.  You’re a thing, an object getting in the way of me
receiving and enjoying the perfect meal I deserve.

My serving friend was shaken, and more than once.  “Why weren’t certain options available on the menu?  The food was … (enter any negative term that comes to mind).  The service was … (ditto).  I’m upset about all this.”  The waitress returned twice with altered plates of food.  No thank you’s were to be found.  There was a low, rumbling grumpiness that wouldn’t go away.  The fellow seemed skilled in halting his barbs just before the onset of abuse.  Actually, though, I don’t think that’s true.  The series of calmly spoken digs at her accumulated to emotional violence.

I chose not to speak to him.  I chose to send love to her.  In retrospect, I should have included him in that love.  I didn’t talk privately to her about him but I did joke with her when it was time to pay the bill.  I told her about a time when I wasn’t paying attention as I had the machine in hand.  I thought I was doing my PIN number but instead I was at the tip part of the procedure.  Just before I clicked yes, I looked down in horror to see that I was about to leave my server $11,000!  Tonight I told the woman standing in front of me that I just couldn’t afford that with her.  We laughed together.

Did I make any difference tonight?  I’m clear that the answer is yes.  Not a confrontation in the spirit of defending the well-being of a teenager.  Not an empathy session with her.  But yes … a contribution.

The Play’s the Thing

How many times in life have I told myself something and then proceeded to do the opposite? Many! I’m so right about something and then in the next day’s breath my vision shifts. There’s a bending here, a flowing rather than a solidity. And I like that.

To supply you with an example, I received an e-mail from the Port Stanley Festival Theatre a month ago, one which waxed poetic about their summer season. “No thanks” was my response. “I have three airplane trips planned and when I’m home I want to kick back rather than stretch out for more.” Now that sounds logical and wise, right? I sure thought so.

Then was then and now is now. I’ve been sitting in the Marienbad Restaurant in downtown London, enjoying a non-alcoholic Heineken beer and yummy portobello penne pasta. Mid-yum, I glanced at my phone … and there was another Port Theatre e-mail. “Last chance!” Without a shred of thought, I started in on picking a package of six plays and what nights would work. Strangely, I was confident that concert dates between plane trips would magically appear, and they did (except for Ed’s Garage, which is on in early August).

I was on a mission and didn’t have a clue what was happening. “They’re all comedies. I hate comedies!” Here’s one about the Donnellys in Lucan, Ontario, and their murdering ways. Or a father and son smilefest. And how about a story of the pastel beauty and ridiculous situations in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia?

Here I am, the proud owner of a ticket for each of six plays, taking me to late August. If one of you wants to go to Ed’s Garage, comment after this post and I’ll send you the ticket.

Oh Bruce, I hardly know ye!