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.”

Doctor Wenliang

Doctor Li Wenliang was a 34-year-old ophthalmologist in Wuhan, China.  He died in February of Covid-19.  In December he heard disturbing reports about people who had become ill after going to a local market.  He did some research and his eyes opened horribly wide.  The illnesses looked like SARS.

So … what do you do, especially in a country like China, where speaking up is often followed by being shut up?  “What will happen to me if tell the truth as I see it?  What will happen to my family?”

Doctor Wenliang spoke up.

Li sent a message to his medical-school alumni group on December 30 warning that seven patients had been quarantined at Wuhan Central Hospital after coming down with a respiratory illness that seemed like the SARS coronavirus.

“When I saw them circulating online, I realized that it was out of my control and I would probably be punished,” Li told CNN.

What would it be … a government hit squad knocking down his door and dragging him away in front of his screaming children?  His personhood disappearing, due to some “indeterminate cause”?

Doctor Wenliang was no doubt terrified, while remaining absolutely committed to humanity.

The police did come, with a letter for Li to sign:

[We are] now filing an official warning and admonitions to you on the illegal issue of posting untrue statements on the Internet according to the law.  Your behavior severely disrupts social order.  Your behavior has exceeded the scope permitted by the law and violates the relevant provisions of “The Public Security Administration Punishment Law of the People’s Republic of China”, which is an illegal act!  The police authority hopes that you can co-operate with our work, listen to the admonishment by the police officers and stop conducting illegal activities.

We hope that you calm down and reflect carefully, and solemnly warn you: if you continue to be stubborn without any regret, and carry out illegal activities, you will be punished by the law!  Do you understand?

At the bottom of the letter, Doctor Wenliang signed, and wrote “Yes, I do.”

In a formal statement at this time, the police said they would “investigate and punish with zero tolerance these illegal acts that fabricate and spread rumours and disrupt social order”.

Your light will shine for a very long time, Doctor.

 

Hands Up

Sometimes I sit towards the back of the class as the Grade 5/6 kids gather on the carpet in front of the SmartBoard. The teacher was rolling through a Language lesson this afternoon, and most of the kids were engaged.

I looked at the variety of human beings spread before me. Outgoing, shy, adventurous, cautious … all of that is good. The world needs each of their flavours.

“Jeremy” often asked questions and I got to see hands going up. Quite a few of them, actually, like a little forest.

Every volunteering arm seemed to be straight up – beyond the crown of the head. Some fingers waved frantically. The kids so much wanted to be heard. I loved it.

I thought back many years to a time when I worked with blind children from Grade 5 to Grade 8. The hands of sighted classmates taught me. Grade 5’s showed me the same thing that I saw today. Gradually over the grades, however, the fingers stopped waving, and the height of hands dropped down to shoulder level. And there were far fewer volunteers.

Is this what happens to us human beings as we grow older? Do we gradually forget the zest and the thrill of sharing our thoughts? Yes, for some of us. There often is a dampening, a suppression, a desire not to stand out.

Ah, dear adults … let us return to the waving fingers. Let us stand up and be seen. Let us contribute our uniqueness to the general good. There is much work to be done.

Let It Go

I can’t remember what I was doing in 2013 but clearly it didn’t involve keeping up-to-date with hit movies. I had vaguely heard of Frozen but that’s as far as it went.

Early last December, I was talking to some kids about films and admitted that I hadn’t seen Frozen. The universal response was basically “What!?” with the implication that I must have spent a fair slice of my life in a cave. Having been suitably humbled, I added a movie viewing to my mental to do list.

Later in the month, on a plane that was going somewhere, the entertainment system revealed that Frozen was an option. I jumped at the chance, but I do believe fatigue diminished the available joy. The film made no real impact.

Then there was last night. Disney Plus was telling me that Frozen was only a click away. I clicked … and sat in wonder for the next two hours. Elsa was a revelation, and so was her sister Anna. I fell in love. They were both so alive, such examples of full humanity.

And then there was the song. Elsa was seeing a new realm inside her, ready to burst. I was pretty close too.

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I’ve tried
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know

Now they know, Elsa. There’s no turning back after discovering a vivid, ecstatic, vibrant way to live. “Throw yourself into the world, Elsa.” And she did.

Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway

Ahh yes … they will say lots of things, some of them mean, designed to diminish the outrageous happiness brimming through you. “Settle down, Elsa.” No thanks. Bring on the winds. Let them buffet me, smash me to the ground. I’ll stand again.

It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free

I’ve had my moments when those last two words escaped my mouth. It was real. It was a message I could trust. It was home … lying on the couch before a crackling fire.

Really getting that I’m free, now what will I do? Think I’ll watch Elsa one more time. I believe she has an answer or two.

Damning Courage

Mitt Romney, a Republican, voted to impeach Donald Trump, citing his “abuse of power”.

Criticism of Romney poured out of many mouths:

As a Utahn, I could not express more disgust for what Romney is doing. I ask Utahns to begin a recall of Mitt Romney as a senator for Utah. The precedence being set by his vote is damning to the country and its future.

Romney is now “officially a member of the resistance” and “should be expelled” from the Republican Party.

This is not the first time I’ve disagreed with Mitt, and I imagine it will not be the last. The bottom line is President Trump did nothing wrong, and the Republican Party is more united than ever behind him.

Mitt Romney absolutely despises that Donald Trump was elected POTUS and he was not. The sore loser mentality launched this sham impeachment and corruptly rigged and jammed it through the House.

As an American, does ANYONE, REALLY want Mitt Romney on their side?

Those that believe in the competence of Mitt Romney, what do you trust in him to do?

***

Romney knew what was coming if he spoke his heart. Party loyalty was expected. Mitt knew that his loyalty needed to be elsewhere … the principles of the US Constitution. So he looked America in the eye and said his truth.

Good for him.

Improvising Life

On the plane from San Francisco to Toronto last Friday, I thought about folk music. I thought about Acoustic Spotlight concerts at the home of Christine and John in London. Last night I showed up.

It’s cozy in the living room – long and narrow, full of couches and chairs. I was back home again.

A gentleman came to the front with his fiddle, ready to play a mini-set with Jake Levesque on the keyboard. Martin Horak is a jolly soul with a bend to the unrehearsed. He wanted to see what two musicians could do within the mystery of improvisation. No borders here. No set schedules. Instead a whole bunch of flow, weaving together a tapestry of notes.

Martin suggested that Jake play eight chords and that the violin would meander through the sequence with a mind of its own. I marvelled at the unknown tune which emerged … a fairyland of leaning into the next moment, again and again.

Next, Martin wanted Jake to create a melody from the wisdom of his fingers, and the fiddle would respond into the spaces with harmonies and counterpoint. As they put fingers to key and string, I didn’t know what was happening in the blending: “Who is leading and who is following?” It didn’t matter. The swaying of two human beings into the composition being composed was all right by me. Clouds parted and the shining illuminated us all.

One more time, with Jake playing increasingly minor and weird chords and Martin leaning into the disharmony with tender bowstrokes. What was going on in his mind as he was taken to fields afar? I’ll never know. What was clear was the union of the two players as they ventured forth into the land of audience cringing, and then took us out the other side.

Should a musical piece resolve at the end with a major chord?
Should poetry rhyme the second and fourth lines?
Should I contain myself within convention?

Or … not?

Frozen II

At the movies tonight, I was swept up into the blast of Elsa and Anna.  I didn’t see the original Frozen and that didn’t matter.  The intensity of II was extreme and I fell in love with the two heroines.

Right now, I can’t remember much about the film, which is thoroughly strange, since I just got home.  So how the heck can I write about it?  Somehow I’m confident that what will come out of my mind will touch home.

Elsa and Anna have huge eyes and the contact between them goes deep.  There’s an aliveness in the relationships here, a sense of going to the core of things, casting off the trivial, and seeing the beauty of the human being facing you.

Elsa hears a voice calling her forward to the unknown.  The music swells as she steps out into the fullness of life.  At one point she walks resolutely into the mist, somehow knowing that she will be safe as the landmarks disappear.  Hers is indeed a calling, and she holds her head high as she embraces the mystery of it all.

There are separations and there are joinings.  The ebbs and flows of living are well represented but the ebbs can’t stop the surge of spirit.  When Elsa sings, there’s a brilliant intensity, a full-throated volume as her mouth opens.  No half measures.  Something huge is propelling her into the marketplace of life, grappling with shallow forces and keeping wide eyes on the vibrancy beyond the mundane.

So it remains for all of us to reach out, touch our dreams, stay true to the world we know in our hearts and want to bring forth in reality.  You don’t have to be pretty or handsome, young and virile, or wise beyond your years.  You just have to see it and want it real bad.

Elsa and Anna stand tall in their vision and in their love for each other. They beckon us onward to our own individual promised lands and to a world that serves all beings.  We dare not settle for less.

Unbounded

Write five words you can spell

five
words
you
can
spell

What ended in 1896?

1895

(On a physics exam) What is the strongest force on earth?

Love

Expand (a+b)ª

(a+b)ª … (a + b)ª … (a + b)ª … (a + b)ª …

The man can ______. (rub, run, rug)
The man ______ the dog. (fit, hit)

The man can run.
The man pet the dog. (You should not hit dogs)

Write an example of a risk.

This

You are to assume the role of a Chinese immigrant in 1870 and write a letter home describing your experiences.

頁 – 設 – 是 – 煵 – 엌 – 嫠 – 쯦 – 案 – 煪 – ㍱ – 從 – つ – 浳 – 浤 – 搰 – ㍭ – 煤 – 洳 – 橱 – 橱 – 迎 – 事 – 網 – 計 – 簡 – 大 ㍵ – 畱 – 煵 – 田 – 煱 – 둻 – 睤 – ㌹

浳 – 浤 – 搰 – ㍭ – 煤 – 洳 – 橱 – 橱 – 迎 – 事 – 網 – 計 – 簡 – 大 ㍵ – 畱 – 煵 – 田 – 煱 – 둻 – 睤 – ㌹

煵 – 엌 – 嫠 – 쯦 – 案 – 煪 – ㍱ – 從 – つ – 浳 – 浤 – 搰 – ㍭ – 煤 – 洳 – 橱

Name the shapes: Δ Ο ◊ ∠ Ω

Δ (Bob) Ο (Terry) ◊ (Denise) ∠ (Murphy) Ω (Barb)

(Test on hard and soft water) Briefly explain what hard water is.

Ice

What do we call the science of classifying living things?

Racism

Solve: 1/n sin x =

funny-test-answers-smartass-kids-6

I earn money at home by _______.

I don’t. I am a freeloader.

Can a man still reproduce with one testicle?

No, girls don’t find that shit attractive.

The difference between 180 and 158is ______. Explain how you found your answer.

22. Math.

Where was the American Declaration of Independence signed?

At the bottom.

What happens during puberty to a boy?

He says goodbye to his childhood and enters adultery.

Cause: Tony practices the piano 20 minutes every day.
Effect: __________

He is a big nerd.

To change centimeters to meters you __________.

Take out centi.

Tapeworms are hemaphrodites. What is meant by the term “hermaphrodite”?

Lady Gaga

Miranda can’t see anything when she looks down her microscope. Suggest one reason why not.

She is blind.

How many days are in a week? ______
How many months are in a year? ______
Is this number even or odd? 68 ______
How do you know? ______

How many days are in a week? … 7
How many months are in a year? … 12
Is this number even or odd? 68 … even
How do you know? … because I’m smart

***

Aren’t we all

What Kind of Spiritual Person Am I?

First of all, I am one of those. I know it. No calculating, no comparing “yes” and “no” lists of attributes. My heart is open.

Am I the monk in the cave, blissing out on the oneness of the universe? Certainly not. I’m in the marketplace of living, full of contradictions. Sublime … exploding. Repeat.

And so we have the subject of dinner at Boston Pizza in Toronto. I love nachos, and many a time at this restaurant chain my order has appeared crammed with cheese on the top, and virtually naked on the bottom. Should my spirituality include all, knowing that the world of form is an illusion? NO, it shouldn’t.

As a proactive human being, I asked the bartender to have the chef layer my nachos. She said she’d do her best.

A few minutes later, a full plate appeared me before me. In the spirit of doubt, I peeked underneath the pile and discovered many chips with no cheese or anything else. “I’m sending this back.” The Bruce of five years ago would never have uttered these words.

Soon the bartender returned. She told me that the chef would charge me for extra cheese to meet my request. And there’s the moment. Do I lower my head, accede to the powers in the world, and chow down on dryness? No again. I asked her to have the manager come over.

The gentleman arrived with all dispatch. He heard my story and said that he’d make it right. No surcharge. He was calm. I was calm. And the result was produced. I was a happy customer.

My perception (and I could be faulty here) is that the bartender’s brightness transformed to stone after I spoke up. Hmm. Am I willing to abide with such perceived distance in order to stand with what I see is the truth? Yes, I am.

There’s an edge to my spirituality. It’s pretty new. I intend it to stay.

Unapologetic Greatness

In the Evolutionary Collective, people from near and far meet on the Internet to explore consciousness together, to further the growth of deep love in the world. There is a practice we do, usually 1-1, in which a profound connection often emerges. We glimpse the possibility of a unblemished unity flowing between members of the human family.

Sometimes on our calls, a teacher will ask for a volunteer to practice with her or him in front of the whole group. We see everyone onscreen by way of Zoom, a technology similar to Skype. The intention is for all of us to learn as the volunteer leaps in, sometimes missing the mark, sometimes hitting the bullseye. The teacher gives feedback. Ideally, the volunteer accepts it with grace.

I’ve been terrified of such encounters and have never volunteered.

Until last night.

Without thought, I found my finger tapping the “Raise Hand” button … and there I was, naked in the digital world. I opened to the moment and let the emerging words flow out. My expression was outside of the realms of “good” or “bad”. It was simply real.

Once we had moved on from the coaching, I felt warm inside. Glowing. At peace.

For many months, I’d labelled my timidity as fear of failure. But I wonder. Could it be instead that the image of me having outrageous power to do good in the world was just too terrifying? What would my life become if I was consistently “out there” in a huge way? Could I cope with the fierce bolts of electricity? Would I end up alone?

***

Afterwards, I remembered a woman who spoke piercingly about the fear of being great. I didn’t remember her name. I didn’t remember her words. So I just sat quietly, hoping that a phrase would come back to me. And it did:

“Playing small does not serve the world”

Mr. Google did the rest.

***

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson