Recipe Cards (Part Three)

I’ve spent years thinking of the “what” of all these words, and virtually nothing of the “who”.

Who are the people that will sit down at their computer and find my encyclopedia of “Transformational Subjects” in the Google universe?  Who will have the commitment to find “Identity” in the table of contents and sift through the pages to arrive there?  And then read the dozens of quotations about the word?  Then just sit there and let the wisdom of the ages wash over them, perhaps returning again and again to deepen “Identity” in their soul?  Plus … will it make any difference in their life?

The other “who” is me.  In the 80s and 90s, I was willing to sit in my cave and read hundreds of quotes, putting a corresponding number beside each (e.g. “Health” is 420), and then typing them into the right place.  No such willingness in 2021.

I’ve imagined myself, fairly decrepit in a nursing home, my laptop on the overbed table, me sipping liquid meals from a straw … and working on my categories.  Surely then I’ll have the time to complete my project.  But will I have the mind?

So … what’s to be done?  Hire a secretary?  Despite receiving money for the work, who’d be willing to commit to such a massive undertaking?  And I’d still  be the one to decide which quote goes into which subject.

Oh me, oh my.

Glancing through all these bits of paper over the last few days has been nostalgic.  “I remember this guy.  I wonder when he wrote down this passage from some book.”  Here are three samples of my recording wisdom.  The first is a month or two ago.  The second a few years ago.  The third many, many moons ago.  Look at how the handwriting has changed.

Ah … life is a potpourri.  Whither shall we go next?  What beckons me?  Is there a loosening?  Yes, I think so.

And there will be a Part Four tomorrow.

What Happened?

A long time ago, when I was just a pup, I came upon a black-and-white poster that nailed my shoes to the floor.  The top half showed a young boy, giggling away.  On the bottom was a 60ish fellow, wearing an impeccable suit and a crushed face.  The caption?  What happened?

I spent half-an-hour this morning trying to find that poster on Google.  No luck.  Another search brought me these two photos, which filled the bill nicely.

What do we do to ourselves as adulthood emerges and lengthens?  What do we learn under our parents’ roof and in the schoolyard and on the job about who we are?  Is it society’s fault that we numb ourselves so that the joys of life slip away?  Where does the need to be more, better and different come from?  What happened?

All is not lost.  There are vibrant human beings walking down Main Street if we have eyes to see them.  Some have secret smiles but others hit you between the eyes with their joy.  Shall we join these bright spirits?  Shall we contemplate a new question: What will happen?  If you’re 20, what will you bring forth when you’re 30?  40 … 50?  60 … 70?  It really is up to us, not to a painful childhood, financial disasters, or the loss of loved ones.

When I meet you on Main Street, please show me your future photo.  We’ll celebrate together.

Taken

Will you walk with me now to the far horizon?
Following the scent of a creature unknown
Will you gaze from on high to a vista sublime?
And feel other bones alongside your own

Is there a reason to venture far afield in the evening?
Is there a plan of your own mind’s creative aplomb?
Or is there launching of caution to the billowing wind?
And a glimpsing of what truly is home

It’s tempting for the journey to be a sole expedition
The lonely survivor of a world deemed unfair
Being right and strong and controlling the outcome
Who wouldn’t say yes to such a true dare?

Another voice waits in the depths of the canyon
“Just an echo of mine?” you casually ask
A nod says you’re sure there’s just one speaking
It’s crystal clear – your glorious task

But linger a bit, my friend of the journey
Pause with your basking in future applause
For there’s one, mostly hidden, curling his fingers toward you
Whispering a message of a far vaster cause

Walk through the canyon in the heat of the sun
Feel the eyes upon you, blessing your way
Revelation, exultation may be yours for the longing
Go on then to the shine of unknowable day

We Wait For The Next

The notes soar to the morning sun
As the wings of democracy remember their flight
Captive too long within the bars of steel
We can sing again

Faces twisted into the lies of stolen things
Faces crushed as the family sinks low
The scourge of disease beside the list of “others”
And we sink into the morass

There is much to say about the morrow
There is more to touch when we can touch again
I look in your eyes of whatever hue
And see myself looking back

There is me and there is you among our unknowings
Your clothes, your religion, your party intrude
But we can look past the left/right, the red/blue
To see the purple dress of the arriving one

I’m not of your country … I’m of mine
But we share so much across the borderline
We see the face, we hear the words, we sense the soul
And know what’s true

On we all go through the stories of country and soul
On we go as friends or foes … but not enemies please
The listening will come, the speaking will be soft
And prevailing in peace will be ours

Obonato

The anthropologist invited the children from the African tribe to play one game.  He placed a basket of fruit near the tree and announced, addressing the children: “The one of you who reaches the tree first will be rewarded with all of the sweet fruits.”  When he signaled to the children to start the race, they locked their hands tightly and ran together, and then they all sat together and enjoyed the delicious fruit.

The astonished anthropologist asked the children why they all ran together, because each of them could have enjoyed the fruit for him or herself.  To which the children replied: “Obonato”.  Is it possible for one to be happy if everyone else is sad?  “Obonato” in their language means “I exist because we exist.”

I don’t know who wrote this.  It’s not important.  We humanity wrote it.  Similarly, it doesn’t matter if I write a particular thing in this blog.  What matters is that it is written.

We lives and breathes and creates.  We brings joy and reverence for life.  is a mere shadow of what life can be.  The African kids got the message.  Can we adult Westerners, older and supposedly wiser, understand … and live from there?  The future is cheering us on: “You folks can do it!”  Let’s prove the future right.

Six Deaths

A few weeks ago, I was the host on a Zoom call with about thirty people. I was the one with technical responsibility, making sure that anyone with computer problems was assisted to the best of my ability. Partway through, there was an event which I’ll call an “emergency”: lots of people would have technical issues if I didn’t act NOW. My Zoom host training had prepared me for something like this.

“What happened?” you ask.

I froze. My mind blanked. I didn’t get the job done. Thanks to the person who was teaching that day, all ended up being well. The trouble was, I wasn’t well.

I’ve thought a lot about those moments. There’s no wisdom in piling on the self-blame or coming up with excuses. “Poor me” doesn’t fly, nor does blaming Zoom. I remain a curious human being about my imperfections.

And some images have come through:

The first was a wilderness canoe trip in Alberta. I was up front, my life jacket secure, and my inability to swim parked in the nether regions of my brain. Until, that is, conversation with my canoemate jolted to a halt. Ahead of us on the river were rolling rapids. On the shore, people were yelling and scrambling for their canoes. We had missed the signal that we were to come ashore at our future campsite.

I was dead … I knew it.

One gigantic spill later, one frenzied rescue, one being stripped of my wet clothes, I was a pool of jelly inside my sleeping bag. Not much rest that night.

The image of those marauding waves has stayed with me all these years.

I guess there’s nothing to do with the picture in my head. I’ve been to counselling, and I’m happy with my life, but every once in awhile I get zapped. Zoom goneness, for instance.

Five other times I’ve looked in the eyes of death. Two of them were similar to the rapids: I saw the end coming. In one of those, the finale spread before me for thirty minutes. The other three times, there was no warning, just a blast of lethal energy.

As you’ve noticed, I’m still here. Someone large has been taking care of me, probably knowing that I have much to give, and deserve to have the time to give it.

I’m smiling now. The past sits there like a lump – or in this conversation, seven of them. The present is flowing towards the future. Here I go, wondering at the mystery of it all.

Days, Weeks, Months, Years

I remember March 12, and the school secretary telling me that her family had to make a decision about going south to Florida for the March Break.  I suggested that they go, especially because all the kids were looking forward to the sun and sand, but I also mentioned that they should stay away from Disney World.  Seems like ancient advice now.  I was thinking “It’s only nine days.  Not a problem.”

Over time, any thought of “days” has become irrelevant in this time of coronavirus.  The discussion soon blended into “weeks”.  The Ontario Premier announced that after March Break, the kids would be away from school for a further two weeks.  “That’s okay.  I’ll have lots of time for meditating, and reading books, and watching cool movies.  Plus I’ll see the kids again on April 6” … which happens to be today.  School now won’t return until at least May 4.  “Hey, that’s only four more weeks.  We’ll keep our physical distancing going for that time, and then I’ll be able to go out to Boston Pizza for a beer again.”

Or not.

There’s a newer word that’s crept into the conversations of politicians and health officials – “months”.  Perhaps the school year is over.  I volunteer in a Grade 5/6 class in a school where the 6’s graduate.  So maybe I’ll never see them as a group again.  Perhaps there won’t be any US Open tennis tournament for me to go to at the beginning of September.  I’ve been so looking forward to being in New York City and watching the best players in the world hit the ball back and forth!

A few days ago, Doug Ford, the Ontario Premier, gave us dire projections of coronavirus death in our province.  Hidden amid the 3,000 to 15,000 figures (if we maintain physical distancing and good hand-washing) was a smaller number – “2”.  Ontario health officials  think that the pandemic could be with us for another 18 months to 2 years.  Oh my.

So it could be that not only I won’t see the Grade 6 kids again, but also the Grade 5’s.  Oh … immense sadness at the prospect.

Will it be two years before I can go to a party again?
Before I can have breakie with other local folks at the Belmont Diner?
Before I can hug my friends?

The future draws us forward with its unseen arms

1087 … 7801?

This is the 1087th post I’ve written on WordPress. A journey indeed. It all started on June 20, 2014:

I retired yesterday and decided to declare 4:00 pm as the end point of my teaching career. My wife Jody and I have a lovely home on a deep lot. At the back of our lot are maybe 20 metres of trees, and then it’s on to a farmer’s field and beyond that a wide expanse of trees leading down into a ravine.

Taking my trusty red fabric chair in hand, not to mention a Bacardi Breezer, I trundled off to a spot at the edge of the field and plunked myself down. It was 3:00 o’clock. The sky was blue. The wind whistled through the trees. The shade was cool. One hour away from being a retired human being.

That was many chapters ago in the patchwork quilt of a life. “Sitting and Watching” grew out of the person I was becoming since 1949. Reflecting on retirement wasn’t just a moment beside a field in Union, Ontario. The words spilled out under the influence of Toronto, Vancouver, Lethbridge and London; under the influence of accounting, teaching, social work, life insurance and real estate; and under the influence of confidence, depression, courage and wimpiness.

Five years after that first post, I’m still on the road towards the unknown. Who will I be in ten years? What current parts of Bruce will I have left behind? What outrageous newness will flood my being?

The journey hasn’t been a gentle uphill climb. There have been soarings and plummetings, twistings and turnings. More to come.

In 2030, I may not recognize the soul in the mirror. I may be living in New York City. I may be impossibly handsome. But whatever the world gives me, I bet I’ll be smiling.

Moving

Half an hour ago I was walking along Bloor Street in Toronto, reflecting on my current spiritual life.  And the word “current” seems right on, since things are moving inside me … in mysterious ways.

On my right was a storefront full of windows.  Inside was a series of chalkboards.  The middle message hit home:

Truly, God alone has knowledge of the Hour
He sends down the rain, and He knows what is in the wombs
No soul knows what it will earn tomorrow
And no soul knows in what land it will die

As a Buddhist, my spirituality has focused on the depth of the moment.  What do I see in this precious present?  How has time stood still in communion with Spirit?  What epiphany of love do I see in your eyes?  All is still.  All is beauty.  All is the lingering now.

There is sublime being here.  But things are also rolling … in the becoming of it all.  Where will I die, dear chalkboard?  What realm of Bruceness will I inhabit when the breath fades away?  I feel a train flowing over the landscape.  I’ve bought a ticket to … somewhere.  I forgot to ask Via Rail about the destination.

In a universe next to timelessness, nothing stands still.  Love unfolds like a red, red rose.  The future curls her fingers and beckons us forward.  Happy are we in the going.

What will we earn tomorrow?  Maybe that day will bring us gifts that we don’t deserve, and can’t imagine.  Grace may bestow them upon us.  May we welcome the blessings that are to come.

We roll on.

Hurtling Through Space

Many a time, I’ve written about something that I was feeling recently but no longer.  If the experience was real in my soul, the words reached others.  It’s even more special, however, when what I’m telling you about is still with me … such as right now.

I’m in a global community that’s exploring consciousness, especially what’s possible when two or more of us look into each other’s eyes.  Can we experience great freedom?  Can we awaken together?  The answer that returns is “yes”.

Last evening there was a live internet session with about ten of us.  I looked inside as the call started.  I was “space-y”, disoriented, “loose” – but not in a negative way.  The cognitive me seemed to have taken a back seat.  And the question was large: “Where am I?”  What realm of being has come calling?

Part of our time together is the opportunity to practice with another person as we look at each other through our computer screens.  As I sat with a fine fellow, images flooded me and I shared them.  For a bit, I was floating in space, untethered from my spaceship.  Suddenly I was beside the rings of Saturn.  I spun them like a frisbee.  Then I was hungry, and the moon beckoned.  We all know that it’s made of green cheese and I took a huge bite.  Next I grabbed the moon, and having conveniently gotten rid of the planet Saturn, I threw the moon through the rings.  Bulls eye!

Fear came by.  “Shut it down, Bruce.  He’ll think you’re weird.”  As soon as I uttered these thoughts, they floated away and I was back in deep space.  I gasped as the meteor that was Bruce blasted into the darkness.  Fire trailed my splayed arms and legs.  I was hurtling through space!  And I still am.

I’m experiencing being launched somewhere, at supersonic speed.  I don’t know what the “somewhere” is, and I don’t care.  There’s no sense of danger.  Just astonishing velocity.  I’m vibrating with it.

I’ve had many meditation experiences where everything stops.  The stillness and peace abide.  Right now that peace is also here – a great calm – but I’m being thrown into some future.  There’s a vacuum sucking me forward.  There’s a magnet pulling me in.  I’m on a bullet train to the next moment.

Here’s the fear again.  “Don’t publish this.  Leave it as a draft … forever.”

Sorry, worried voice.  I’m about to click “Publish”.  It won’t be a record of the past.  It’s still an awe of the present.  I’m Superman – “faster than a speeding bullet”.