Come From Away

I’m so taken with the story of 9000 Gander, Newfoundland residents welcoming nearly 7000 “plane people” on 911 when the USA closed its airspace. The musical “Come From Away” has been playing the Elgin Theatre in Toronto for many months. Originally I told myself the tickets were too expensive but a few weeks ago the magnet of the story drew me in. And tonight was my time – 8:00 pm to be precise.

I showed up at Anne and Ihor’s bed and breakfast around 6:00 pm today, in plenty of time to take the UP Express train downtown. Or so I thought. A few hundred metres from Union Station, we came to a halt. A fellow came on the PA to say “There’s been a partial power failure at Union. We don’t have any signals. Sorry for the inconvenience.” Major oops. And so the sweat flowed. I knew the musical had no intermission, and most likely “latecomers will be seated at an appropriate opportunity” wouldn’t apply. So is that it, my expensive evening up in smoke?

Ten or fifteen minutes later, we were moving again and soon I was standing on Front Street, twenty minutes to curtain time. I started running the seven blocks but my knee immediately shouted its protest. So power walking it was.

I took my seat at 7:55. Thank you, dear gods of the theatre.

There was so much to revel in over the next 100 minutes:

1. A young stranded American guy, so worried about a Newfie stealing his wallet. He gazed in wonder at homes with unlocked doors, and voices inside that said “It’s open … come on in.”

2. A Muslim fellow enduring insults from a few of his fellow travellers. “You’re not an American!” “I don’t want to get back on the plane with him.” Turns out that he was a chef at home, and offered his cooking skills to the locals. They were hesitant at first but finally said yes, much to the pleasure of countless taste buds.

3. A local resident asked the question “Are there any animals aboard these planes?” She was originally told no but suspected that wasn’t true. Her digging revealed nineteen creatures and she cared for them like a saint, despite official warnings to keep off the planes.

4. An American woman was desperate to learn the fate of her son, a New York firefighter. She was befriended by a lovely grey-haired Ganderian, who held her to her bosom. They remain friends long after the planes have left Newfoundland and together they face the reality of the son’s death.

5. Then there was the gorgeous choral singing of “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace”:

Make me a channel of your peace
Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there’s sadness ever joy

Present were Christians with bowed heads, two Jewish men in communion, two Hindu women with eyes to the sky, and our Muslim friend. The hearts soared.

6. Imagine a kitchen. Travellers looked on in awe as locals danced to the music of the fiddle, squeeze box, penny whistle and guitar. Joy abounded, all through the room. And the American folks got to taste a Newfie rum called screech (yum) and kiss a cod (yuck).

7. Love far afield: a British gentleman and a woman from Dallas, Texas were on the same plane, and in the same community for five days. Their accents and their hearts blended. Finally, he flew back to Europe and she to the USA. But it wasn’t finally. He came to visit. They continued the falling in love. And they married, with a honeymoon in Newfoundland.

8. After thousands of visitors had left the rock, life slowed gradually to normal. Tasks briefly left undone were accomplished. Someone opened the suggestion box at Gander City Hall and found $60,000 in cash inside. Tricky tourists. The Newfies didn’t want money, only thanks.

***

September 11-15, 2001 … April 4, 2019
Twin celebrations of life
And we stood to applaud humanity

Day One: Up, Up and Away

Oh yes … another roaming of the world. Who will I meet? What moments will I cherish? Will I let myself be undone on the other end of the continent?

Since my flight zooms away at 6:30 pm, I had time to go to school. It was March Break last week so I hadn’t been surrounded by 12-year-olds for ten days.

On the road through farmland, I spied a V way high in the sky. I slowed and wondered as at least 80 tundra swans flew over Scarlet. These huge white birds come through Southern Ontario every spring on their way to the Arctic. They flowed out both ways from the leader, their wings appearing to be in unison with their friends. The power … the grace … the sense of a group direction. Wow.

And now in the classroom. As I opened the door, I heard a few cries of welcome, even with the Math lesson in full swing. I decided to sit back and see if any hands went up for help. There was only one, and I helped the guy, at least a bit. I wanted to have conversations, to hear about the kids’ vacation adventures, but the task at hand was long division. Inside, I felt a loosening, a relaxing into the possibility that today won’t be about 1-1 moments. I smiled, sat off to the side and waited for the approach of any kid who wanted to talk.

As the morning twirled away, a few young ones came over, curious about San Francisco. One girl told me about Los Angeles, and all the cool tourist stuff to do there. Another one talked about her sister waking up screaming one night, in great pain. She’s fine now. It was clear to me that it doesn’t matter what kids and I talk about. The moments of being together are all that I need, even if there are few of them.

Now I’m deep in the concourse of the Toronto Airport, enjoying an arugula and feta cheese salad. I’m so pleased with myself for not choosing some high-fat alternative.

I’m thinking about “Jeff”, the fellow I lined up with in front of US Customs. We were in long looping lines with probably 200 other folks. And we got talking. It doesn’t matter who went first … I’m pretty sure that both of us were open to conversation. Jeff lives in New York City and we’re both in love with the place. I got to revisit my favourite moments from two months ago, much to his delight. Central Park! The MET! The 911 Museum! The noise and hurry! How astonishing to launch right into life’s joys with a so-called stranger. Jeff even knew the San Francisco area and recommended a ferry ride to the cutesy village of Tiburon. After visiting the customs guy, we bid each other farewell with “Have a good life.”

Now I’m beside my friend “Philippe” on a big Boeing plane, 298 of us zipping along at 900 kilometres an hour. We’re heading to the Evolutionary Collective meeting on the weekend, sharing plane seats and a hotel room. We’ve talked for two hours about falling in love, living freely and uniting with the people around us. We’ve shared joys and foibles. We’ve leaned into the future and found mystery there.

Tomorrow morning, we go in search of a healthy restaurant and emerging miracles. What will San Francisco and Berkeley share with us? If we listen very, very carefully, all will be revealed.

Inside You

Jesus offers himself to his companions under the guise of food and urges them to eat and to be filled with his life and energy … He shows that he means to put himself literally inside the other persons, and that he wishes to nourish them.

The basic spiritual practice we do in the Evolutionary Collective offers us the possibility of throwing our consciousness out into space, having it arc upwards and then fall through the eyes of the beloved sitting across from us.  There can be an urging to go “over there” and to know it as home.

Until recently, I’ve thought of home as being inside me.  Over there was a you, with your own home.  We were separate.  We may have loved each other, and joyed in each other’s company, but there was a membrane between.

What if that’s not true?  What if we’re joined into one at the heart, while I still get to be Bruce and you get to be you?  What if, in our entering in, we feed each other the most nourishing of foods?  Salmon, kale, garlic, mussels, potatoes and blueberries pass from your fork to my mouth and from mine to yours.  The nutrients flow out to our fingertips and the flavours bring joy to our soul.

Our bodies lean towards each other.  As our foreheads touch, it’s as though there aren’t any bones.  We simply merge.  And we wonder … are there two beings here, or just one?  I can feel me, I can feel you, but most deeply I can feel us.

Inside you, there is a wonderland.  We sit together on the couch, in a room of dark wood, brightened by the glow of the fire.  We are full together, wanting for nothing, knowing we can bring the world alive.  I am inside you and there’s nowhere else to go.  No need to move our bodies apart, or to get up from the couch, or to burst out into spasms of opinion.  We simply rest in the touching, gazing in wonder at the shimmering coals.

Spondic Love

 

I was on an internet call tonight with members of the Evolutionary Collective Global community.  I revelled in the experience of beaming love at a partner and then receiving it in return.  The topic for the evening was spondic love.

Beatrice Bruteau coined this term.  It’s not about what typically suffices for love in our society, where often it’s “I’ll be tender to you if you keep doing what I want you to do.”  It’s not about a couple turning inward in their devotion, shutting off the world.  It’s not about picking and choosing whom you love.  Here are some quotes from smart people to help us all see what spondic love actually is:

(Ilio Delio)

Bruteau indicates that a “person” is not an individual being.  Rather, a “person” is the unbounded activity of freely projecting energies, or what she calls “spondic” energy, a Greek word that means “libation” [pouring into].  Spondic energy does not originate out of thought or will.  It is not the act of an individual.  Rather, it comes from a deep, transcendent center, the still point where we are being held by Omega [“a final point of divine unification”].  It originates spontaneously, arising only from itself.  It is always free.  A “person” is one who acts out of a spondic, self-giving center.  Anything other than a spontaneous energy center of relatedness is not fully reflective of a person … Bruteau indicates that only “persons” can enter into communion consciousness.  “Individuals” remain external to one another.

(Patricia Albere)

Spondic love is the experience of “I am.  May you be.”  In the way we practice, there’s this experience of love, and when you love someone it comes from some place that’s deeper than your personality loving them.  There’s almost this cosmic energy that wants to just go “Ha!  I want you to have everything.  You know … like I love you.  I love you!”  You just want to imbue them with everything.  We feel that for our children.  Sometimes our heart bursts open into this kind of empowerment that is deeper than just human love.

You can feel it when you’re on the other end of spondic love.  It is palpable.  You actually feel like part of your life just got made because this person loves you from a place where they’re in and for you in a way that’s real.  This mutual spondic love is part of the consciousness that we’re working with, and the consciousness that I think is next.  I think that the next place of innovation will be that kind of love – instead of being separate, instead of not being even neutral towards each other and just surviving on our own, or competing or actively using each other and stomping on each other.

This spondic quality of love and connectivity will be the foundation for a ridiculous amount of miracles, innovation, creativity, coming together, working together, doing things that can’t be done, et cetera, et cetera, that’s going to be the next explosion of where evolution is going to be working.

(Brian Wilcox)

Life becomes libation, libation-ing.  Intimacy with Spirit, being one with True Self, from which flows this spondicity, flows into intimacy with the other.  To have this intimacy, we do not have to like the person, as defined by “personality”.  We do not even have to share a physical space with him or her … This libational kindness is non-local.  This loving can reach into the past, into the present, or into the future.  This love is boundless.

***

I asked myself tonight what my life would be like if I projected spondic love to people who come my way?  If such love was present in my thoughts for most of the day?  If it didn’t matter at all whether the love was returned?

Wouldn’t that be a recipe for freedom?

Day Six: Faces Together

I moved through Central Park on my way to the MET … the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As I roamed the pathways, I came upon an alcove filled with circular beauty. It was a huge sculpture of Alice in Wonderland and her friends. Alice gazed down at the Cheshire Cat … in love. I couldn’t look away from the beams of light that joined their eyes. I paused a very long time.

I climbed the stairs of the huge building and stepped inside to the grand space. The choices inside the MET are overwhelming, or so I perceived them:

Jewelry: The Body Transformed

Artistic Encountets with Indigenous America

Seeing the Divine: Pahari Painting of North India

Streams and Mountains Without End: Landscape Traditions of China

Corridors beckoned in all directions but I sat down. Why was I here? To learn about the art of different times and places? No. To experience myself as an artist, walking beside all these creators? No. Something else was present in the space. It had nothing to do with landscapes, or abstracts, or scenes of streets. It had everything to do with the human face. And not the solitary ones. What was drawing me were faces in communion with other faces. Contact.

So I roamed the galleries, rarely reading the descriptions accompanying the paintings or sculptures. Not wanting to understand, just to experience the connections. And it happened. Worlds of joined eyes presented themselves to me.

I took pictures here and there. Once I was in a gallery and looked down the hallway to the one next door. There stood two people facing each other. They were magnetic. For the next hour, it felt that some unknown force was drawing me from one exhibit to the next. And friends in stone or paint kept saying hi. I smiled back.

I don’t know what else to say. The rest is visual. I’ll transfer this post to Facebook and add a whole bunch of photos … faces all. You’ll get the idea.

Day Five: Out and About in NYC

There’s an Evolutionary Collective internet gathering at 2:00 pm. Terry and I have just said goodbye, as he catches his bus to New Hampshire, and me the subway to Central Park. At the corner of Love and Power, we looked way deep into each other’s eyes and said what was inevitable. We are together, him and me, in the service of life evolving on this planet. Distance means nothing.

Speaking of power, consider the express train northward. It hurtles through space, blasting past local stops, rocking and rolling and surging. I feel the power within as the subway shakes in the power without.

Speaking of love, consider the black woman standing in front of me. She wears a shining black heart-shaped backpack, with a gold zipper. The whole thing vibrates. And she has no idea how moved I am.

I need to be on time. Being more than a minute or two late means not being on the call. Out of the subway staircase, it looks like three blocks to the park. Turns out to be four. I need to be away from the street noise and onto a bench. At 1:57 they are missions accomplished.

As the call begins, it’s time for my toque, hood and mittens. Joggers are flowing past. “Deb”, my partner in the mutual awakening practice that makes up half of our time, is sitting in her home in California. She loves seeing the cold and the runners and the bare trees. It’s clear to both of us that these moments are far beyond her and me. The folks passing by are part of us. We include them in our caring.

A young girl and her dad, both bundled up against the weather, come strolling along. She moves right up to me and points my way. I shift gaze from my Californian friend to my new one. Smiles both ways. “Hi” from me. “Squirrel!” from her. She was pointing to the bundle of fur that was scampering behind me. Yes, let’s include everybody. A minute later, she and dad are waving goodbye. Me too.

(Tuesday) Later it’s a beer and nachos in Dylan Murphy’s, an Irish pub on Third Street. Cozy. Gemma, the bartender, has a lilting accent and a soft smile. We talk about life. She asks me why I’m in New York. I tell her about the work of the EC. I sum it all up with the word “eyes”, as I look into hers.

I’m an evangelist but naturally people don’t like to be cornered, compressed, told they should do something. So I simply say, “If you want to know more, Google ‘Evolutionary Collective.'” Absolutely enough said.

Today I’m heading to the MET – the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’ll let you know all about it in a few hours.

New York

Arggh! I just completed a blog post about my upcoming journey to New York City. WordPress told me that my words were being saved as I typed, 380 of them. I edited the piece and moved towards “Publish”. And then the whole darned thing disappeared. I’ve tried recovering it, but my reflection on what starts tomorrow is … gone.

I’m tired and there’s an early wake up call in the morning. But I committed to let you know about my trip, and to do it tonight. So, back to it!

***

Can it be that I’m going to another new place? First there was Belgium, them Senegal, and tomorrow … New York City. What mysteries will reveal themselves? Will I stay open to what draws me, moment by moment? Yes, I will.

I got an e-mail in Belgium from an Evolutionary Collective staff member, asking if I would be interested in assisting at the upcoming three-day weekend. Folks who for years have been a part of this consciousness of mutual love and awakening are gathering at the Affinia Shelburne Hotel. My answer was immediate. I get to run microphones, move chairs, organize nametags and in general look out for what’s needed. And I’ll bathe in the beauty of others. I’m pretty new on this journey but I’m clear: I want to be where those folks are – immersed in something big.

How did I come to be with so many opened-hearted people? How is it that I discovered the work of Patricia Albere? It’s true that I’ve cared for people for many years, wanting the best for them, but that doesn’t entitle me to anything. It’s by grace that I have come this way. Now it’s my job to serve, to remove any distractions so that the participants can dive deeply into “being with” each other.

After Sunday, I have four days of exploration. The only “for sure” items in my mind are visiting the 911 Memorial and going to a Broadway play. I remember my immense sadness in September, 2001, and I know it will return next week. I have a DVD of footage shot while the planes slammed into the World Trade Center, and of the aftermath, where people were trapped in the rubble – broken bones, bleeding, difficulty breathing. What horror. When I’m there next week, I want to sit with my sadness, rather than cover it over with political analysis or stories of heroism.

This morning, as I was driving into London, I listened to an interview on CBC Radio. Tom Power was talking to a cast member of the play Network, based on a 1976 movie about the rantings of a TV news anchor who was “mad as hell and not going to take this anymore”. I was fascinated with the discussion and soon was yearning to go. “I wonder where it’s being performed.” The answer came right away … Broadway. That’s me! I got on my phone and scored one of the few remaining tickets. This fellow will be sitting in the balcony of the Belasco Theatre next Wednesday evening.

What will emerge over the next nine days? I’ve told you about a couple of knowns, but really they’re unknowns like everything else. Let’s go ‘splorin’. I hope you’ll come along on the journey.

Extraordinary Ordinary Folks

I was walking down Weston Road in Toronto yesterday and told myself that I needed a hot dog. I didn’t, really. What I wanted was a visit with Rosina. She and her husband George own a tiny restaurant called God Blesses Canada. My history there has been yummy ice cream cones but my shivering bones weren’t up for that particular menu item. A hot dog would do nicely.

Rosina came out from behind the counter to greet me, and once I had unbundled from my winter togs, she gave me a big smile. How lovely to be remembered.

We must have talked for fifteen minutes before I got around to ordering anything. Rosina’s calm reminded me of the folks in Senegal, and I reminisced about their beauty. She was interested in my journey and was happy that I had been welcomed so.

“Any kidnapping of white folks in Senegal?” Ouch. “No, not at all.” > “It’s a big problem where I’m from – Nigeria. I don’t want to go back. Canada is home.”

Rosina told me about her mother. The family lived in the jungle. The women were naked. The men wore some large leaves around the middle to cover the naughty bits. When mom was 12, a man of maybe 25 returned to the home village from the big city, looking for a wife. He picked Rosina’s mother. It was arranged that the girl would live with him in the city. She and her grandma travelled there. The girl, and maybe both of them, entered the city with no clothes on. Can you imagine the trauma and disorientation for the child? The new husband swiftly found her some garments.

Rosina, like her mother, was deposited in an arranged and essentially loveless marriage. How very sad. Since then, Rosina escaped her husband, went to Canada, and fell in love with George. She’s a committed Christian and has served many homeless people in her coffee shops in Toronto and Keswick, Ontario. Rosina wants to adopt a child from Haiti and bring him or her to Canada.

I read a sign in the restaurant that talked about brutal conditions in Nigeria and how Rosina gives in Canada. I looked back at her and saw a glowing face, a kind person. Someone who undercharges me for a hot dog and bottle of water. Thank you, Rosina.

Next on my menu was the Weston Arena, built a very long time ago. It’s the home of hockey teams and a snack bar. I was hoping that the chuckly fellow I’d seen before would be serving up “The World’s Best Fries”. (Sorry, you Belgian readers) And there he was … chuckling.

I asked Wayne “Do you have any of those French fries that are second best in the world?”

“No! They’re the absolute best in the world.”

Okay, Wayne, okay. I’ll stop arguing the point. We continued to say silly things to each other. I sang a snippet from a song to Wayne’s admittedly grumpy co-worker. The guy stared. Wayne doubled over in laughter. I’d like to get to know this guy.

I entered the frozen arena with my world’s best and a Diet Coke. I could see my breath, and in the background were two teams of 12-year-olds – mostly boys and happily a few girls. They were skating like the wind and sometimes getting weak shots on net. It was so cool to see. What was uncool were the two male coaches. They took turns throwing around the F-word, aimed at the referee or an opposing player. What a contrast to Wayne and what dubious role models for all those young folks.

Think I’ll rest my brain cells in memories of Rosina and Wayne. Extraordinary.

The Gift of Illness

It’s a strange life, with the body sometimes just zipping along and at other times dragging its feet.  My feet are low right now and it’s such a opportunity to see what life is really all about.

What’s possible in the moment when you’re hurting physically?  To what extent can we move beyond the yuckiness to truly be with people?  These are good questions because I intend to contribute to my fellow travellers no matter what life is serving up.

I’ve discovered that I often cough when I’m moved by other folks, when I’m feeling love.  That started happening in Belgium when I was enjoying the presence of Lydia and Jo and their family and friends.  Then we went to Senegal and the openness of the people touched me deeply.  “I’m glad you’re here” came up to me again and again.

Other parts of Senegal were not so kind, especially to my lungs. Toubacouta is in a very dry area and the town has dirt streets.  Dust floated everywhere, including into me.

A lot of people moved about on motos – small motorcycles.  They not only stirred up the dust, their tailpipes spewed out exhuast fumes without any pollution controls.  I spent a lot of time on the back of a moto.  When we travelled on the highway, passing cars and trucks fed me more poisonous gas.

Finally, some folks near me smoked.  I often moved away when they were lighting up.

Given all these inputs, what to do?  Certainly not hide out in my room.  The beauty of the Senegalese people far outweighed my breathing problems.  I continued to interact with the kids and adults, to joy in their joy, to revel in a deep level of personal contact with each other.  And I’ll do exactly that when I come back in December.

In Senegal, I coughed a lot and Lydia worried about me.  Back home in Canada, the doctor says I have bronchitis and penicillin will fix me up fine over the next few days.

I got home last night and soon had a two-hour internet call with about forty members of the Evolutionary Collective.  This was a call we had all agreed to be on and there’s great power in keeping your word.  But the coughing was out of hand and I felt myself contract.  “These people shouldn’t be exposed to all this noise you’re making.”  Well, that is an opinion but it wasn’t going to hold sway with me.

Soon into the session, we were paired up.  “Jessica” spoke for the first five minutes.  I worked hard on suppressing the cough instead of totally being with her.  Then it was my turn.  Speak, cough, speak, cough … My eyes kept leaving Jessica’s, and then returning.  She just was with me, all of me.  I felt so naked and yet so loved.  Everything was fine, even my body’s loud reactions to congestion.  Thank you, Jessica.

Later seven of us did an exercise together.  Part of the experience was to have each person read the agreements we were entering into.  When it was my turn, I couldn’t get the words out so others took turns picking up the slack.  One more time I felt included.

Yes, these moments are gifts if I have the eyes to see.  And I intend to keep looking.

Day Fourteen: Connections

We set off today to give some clothing to the two-month-old son of a young Senegalese woman who’s the sister of my new friends Ali, Aziz and Ansou. Ali led the way through the Toubacouta streets. Paths and side streets brought us past waving local folks (walking or on motos), goats, donkeys and chickens. Many of tbe humans said hi to Ali.

Holding that young man’s hand is a miracle for me. Once in awhile, he’ll come up beside me and slowly let his hand embrace mine. It’s a soft touch and I make sure to adjust my pace to his, and to pause when he’s greeting a friend. Sooner or later, Ali will leat go, and isn’t that just like life? “I love you. I don’t possess you. Go in peace when you need to go.”

In Ali’s home, we were greeted by his mother, his sister and his dog. Mom made quiet requests of him, and Ali responded with grace, without complaint. The star of the show, naturally, was the baby boy. Adult after adult held him, and I finally asked for a turn. There sat the bundle of humanity in my lap, his tiny fingers wrapped around one of mine. His back was so cozy against my chest and I mourned not having been a dad. In an instant, though, the heaviness drifted away and I was left with love.

Later we were welcomed into another home. A grandma in a bright blue dress held a young boy. Mom chatted with us with such a sweet smile on her face but I was drawn back to the child. He and I locked eyes and kept the gaze for maybe a minute. It was just him and me in the whole world. He was inside me and I was inside him. Communion.

Mom showed us the room where she sleeps. On the floor was a small carpet for daily prayer. I asked her how many times a day Muslims kneel down to pray. The answer was four, starting at 6:00 am. The peace on the woman’s face was all I needed to know.

Late this afternoon, about ten of us went to the bissap fields to pick the flowers. The petals are made into a drink high in vitamin C, and into jam. Picking the flowers is deemed to be women’s work, and in the one to two months of the season, they spend five hours a day picking the blossoms and avoiding the thorns. An hour out there in the sun was definitely enough for me. Our hands were stained bright red by the end and I know my back was feeling the effort. I tried to talk to a woman of perhaps 80 who was picking with us but she spoke very little French … just like me.

Lovely human beings are crossing my path every day here in Senegal. Thank you for saying “Hi”, dear ones.