To Sing a Song

Next week, The Evolutionary Collective is meeting for five days on the Monterey Peninsula south of San Francisco.  There probably will be a hundred of us there as we explore consciousness together.  Usually EC meetings are just during the day, but this time there’ll be some evening activities, such as … karaoke!

Woh.  I love karaoke.  It doesn’t matter if the voice is elite or if the songs are transcendent.  It’s about self-expression, from the heart rather than the mind.  The e-mail I received actually talked about that – choosing a song that speaks of love, of togetherness, of spirit.

So … what shall I do?  I suppose nothing is a choice but that feels pretty pale.  “Just go ahead and sing, Bruce.  You’ll reach people.”  Thank you, dear inside voice.  That’s what I’ll do.

I sat quietly for about four seconds and then a song burst through.  It’s resided in my heart for decades.  John Denver and Joe Henry collaborated on the creation:

The Wings That Fly Us Home

There are many ways of being in this circle we call life
A wise man seeks an answer, burns his candle through the night
Is a jewel just a pebble that found a way to shine?
Is a hero’s blood more righteous than a hobo’s sip of wine?

Did I speak to you one morning on a distant world away?
Did you save me from an arrow?  Did you lay me in a grave?
Were we brothers on a journey?  Did you teach me how to run?
Were we broken by the waters?  Did I lay you in the sun?

I dreamed you were a prophet in a meadow
I dreamed I was a mountain in the wind
I dreamed I knelt and touched you with a flower
I awoke with this: a flower in my hand

I know that love is seeing all the infinite in one
In the brotherhood of creatures, who the father, who the son?
The vision of your goodness will sustain me through the cold
Take my hand now to remember when you find yourself alone
You’re never alone

And the spirit fills the darkness of the heavens
It fills the endless yearning of the soul
It lives within a star too far to dream of
It lives within each part and is the whole
It’s the fire and the wings that fly us home
Fly us home
Fly us home

How astonishing lovely.  And I’ll be singing it to the beloveds on May 3 or so.

I have about ten days to memorize the words.  Some of them have already worked their way into my heart.  I know that the rest will follow suit in their own good time.  They’ll be part of me when I open my mouth one evening in Asilomar.

And then there’s the singing.  I sat down at the piano last night and discovered what note I needed to start on.  I chose a low F.   The song has a range just beyond mine.  If I start too low, the bottom notes will be lost in a growl.  Too high and I’ll squeak out the soaring ones at the end.  I went to bed with the problem, sweetly confident that an answer would come.  This morning it did.  I can lower the notes of the second last “Fly us home” and make it work.  I’ll now start on the E and take in a lot of air before “There are many ways”.

It’ll be a performance, I guess.  But far more than that, it’ll be a love letter.

Stargirl

The school’s resource teacher, “Stephanie”, came up to me a few days ago and said she’d been reading a book to her young son.  As they got deeper into the story, she realized that the high school heroine reminded her of … me.  She not only suggested I read the book.  She went to the school library and scored me a copy.

Susan transforms into Stargirl and plunks herself down in her new high school.  She wears floor-length dresses, carries a rat around in her backpack, and sings “Happy Birthday” to kids in the lunchroom, accompanying herself on the ukulele.  Now, wait a minute … that doesn’t sound like me.  Stephanie urged me to be patient.  “You’ll see yourself.”

Stargirl dresses weirdly every day … me just occasionally.  I do remember one time two years ago when kindergarten kids had done my hair – about twenty closepins hung from me.  I decided to go to a community dinner that evening at the arena without removing the halo of wood.  Many, many stares greeted me, just like for Stargirl.  But mine is just an occasional burst of strangeness.

Stephanie mentioned that I don’t care what people think of me, just like Stargirl.  That’s partially true but I seek approval from a few people.  Mostly she’s right.  I say lots of spontaneous things, have been known to sing our national anthem loudly, and have done a little jig now and then.  But Stargirl is way more over the top.

“You’re kind, like Stargirl.”  Okay, I’ll go with that.  One time, when she was a cheerleader for football games, Stargirl went over to comfort an injured opposition quarterback.  She held him in her lap.  She would cheer for the other team when they were losing.  “Us versus them” was nowhere near as important as “all of us”.  Wow.  What if we just cheered for everyone in life?  I see myself as doing that.

The community of students rejected Stargirl when she had compassion for the opponent.  Only one girl showed up on her side.  The narrator of the story, who was in love with Stargirl (and she with him), wasn’t brave enough to stand beside her.  I don’t know how I’d fare in the face of massive shunning.

Stargirl was love.  No one was left out.  May I live up to her astonishing standard of care.

The Desiderata

As a young adult, I had the poster on my wall for many years.  Within the delicate emergence of something beyond my self-centered concerns, it spoke truth.  The words vibrated inside me.  The poem rightfully took its place next to empty bottles of Chianti Ruffino wine, which I transformed into candles.

I would often look long at the whole spectrum of love that Max Ehrmann created.   I don’t remember analyzing the thoughts.  Instead I simply let them waft over me.  Somehow I knew that was enough.

There must have been one too many moves in my nomadic youth, because The Desiderata left me one day.  I don’t even remember missing it.  My walls filled instead with paintings – visual heart-tuggings rather than the majesty of the phrase.  I didn’t think of Max’s masterpiece for decades.

But the man has returned.  He smiles at me once more.  And it’s all so gentle.  Not all of the sentences still shimmer, and that’s okay.  The whole has guided me over the years, and I didn’t even know it.  A magical absorption was at work.  And I am the better for the words having roamed around within me for so long.

Here is The Desiderata.  I hope you enjoy it.

***

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.  As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.  If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.  Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.  But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.  Especially do not feign affection.  Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.  But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.  Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.  You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.  Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.  And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.  With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.  Be cheerful.  Strive to be happy.

Dad

Today being Wednesday, it was time to venture into London to hear folk music at the home of Christine and John.   “Acoustic Spotlight” is their creation.  The first set always features the piano majesty of Jake Levesque, and usually includes Jake accompanying the impeccable vocals of his dear wife Julia Webb.  I’m especially moved when she sings one of Jake’s songs.  Tonight these lyrics slipped from her lips:

The stars burn bright over this town tonight
And it sure feels good to be home

Home indeed, within a living room of music lovers.

Tonight’s feature act was Emily Garber, a singer-songwriter of vividly “real” compositions, and with an edginess that reminded me of Alanis Morissette.  Sitting on the couch right in front of Emily was her dad Nathan.  Once she pointed him out to us, I could see that we were in the presence of family.  It wasn’t similar looks.  It was the bond that stretched between their eyes.

“I wrote dad a song.”  Emily admitted that the two of them have often tangled but the love I felt between them filled the room.  She sang “Forty Years” to him, and to us.  Her eyes never left his face.  Emily wrote about long ago, when her tiny hand fit into his, and she felt safe.  And then recently, when her two young daughters did the same with Gramps.  Dad was melting on the couch.  I watched him closely, wishing that I too had been a father.

Half an hour later, Nathan came to the front and Emily took his seat.  As he sang and played guitar, their eyes were once more joined.  Stillness hung in the air.  Father and daughter share a love of the song, and so much more.  It was as if they were thanking each other all evening.

I’m not a dad.  I’ve often wished I was.  But as I sit at home tonight, having witnessed the tenderness stretching between two human beings, I feel myself relaxing into not being a father.  I’m nodding my head in recognition of there being no deficit.  My life has not been “less than” because I don’t have children.  I feel the richness of many relationships.  The fact that no one has ever called me dad brings an ache to my heart and also a smile to my face.  So bittersweet this life sometimes is.  May I embrace it all till my time here is done.

 

Loving Profoundly

During the Last Supper, Jesus used the analogy of food to show his disciples what he wanted to give them: himself.

While they were eating, Jesus took a piece of bread, gave a prayer of thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples.  “Take and eat it,” he said; “this is my body.”  Then he took a cup, gave thanks to God, and gave it to them. “Drink it, all of you,” he said.

(Good News version of the Bible)

What does it mean to give all of myself to the other?  It is the deepest love, where I want you to be supremely happy.  I want to pour myself into you, and draw forth your best.  I want all of you – all of your sweetness and all of your power and all of your frailty – because every part is sacred.

Beatrice Bruteau reflected on Jesus’ commitment:

He means to put himself literally inside the other persons and … wishes to nourish them.  This is his way of expressing his love for his friends.  That love is offered to the very heart of their beings as persons.  It is not an approval based on their performance, nor an affection elicited by their agreeable qualities.  It is unmerited and unconditional, free and creative.

The effect of accepting this love is a whole new image of oneself, other persons, and the way the world is structured.  To be loved so profoundly and so securely, beyond all the circumstances of one’s conditions and qualities, satisfies the deepest longings of the human heart and therefore releases the energy that had been committed to the tasks of defending and augmenting oneself.  The loved person has an experience of being the interior and central person who is loved in this unconditional way, instead of being identified with the social positions and roles of circumstantial life.

Realizing oneself this way, one is able to perceive other persons as their interior and central selves instead of their social circumstances or temperamental qualities, and one is able to relate to them on that basis.  There is now energy to do this, because one no longer needs to protect oneself against the other person.  In fact, there is a surplus of personal energy that can be offered to other persons for their benefit.

If I love so immaculately, if my attention is “over there” in you, rather than focused on self-analysis, what’s possible for me, you and the world?  My eyes lift away from my belly button to meet yours.  I look into you and also pass through you to the entire human family.  All is relationship.  All is service.  All is love.

Day Nine: Homeward

It’s over … my west coast communion with Evolutionary Collective friends and my sojourn in the world of Berkeley, California. I’m in the big bird heading to Toronto and Belmont and home. I’m happy in the going, in the abiding, and in the returning.

There was a lovely long lineup at airport security this morning. All I did was mention to the woman behind me that the post-and-strap system to create weaving lines of people was a great invention. And then we began. Priya is Indian in origin and is heading to Singapore to surprise her mom and dad. It’s a big anniversary for them and the husband has orchestrated a surprise party for his dear wife. Neither know about the daughter showing up. She’s so excited. We talked of love, family and the joy of reunion. It didn’t matter an iota that she was young and I was old, that she’s from the business world and I’m from education, that she’s a woman and I’m a man. We felt the same need for connection even though our time together was measured in minutes. We hugged goodbye.

***

A huge mural at the San Francisco Airport filled a wall. You’ll see a photo of it if you’re seeing this on Facebook. It celebrated immigrants finding a new home in the Bay Area. The words on the plaque nearby drew a parallel between those people and the birds who arrive in the nearby wetlands. The painting was orange and green and blue. Flying off the canvas was a mother lost in the eyes of her son, a father tossing his infant daughter high in the air, a likely husband and wife whose auras were blending, a woman holding the head of a monk, folks dancing … It was such a celebration of life, of being thoroughly alive. The power of art to transform.

***

I was packing up this morning when I came upon the card I bought yesterday. A huge owl in mid-flap is looking right at me as he bursts through the sky at sunrise. There’s such power in his gaze and upstretched wings. I want that to be me: unstoppable, unwavering, unaffected by crosswinds. He’s going to have a place of honour in my home as a reminder of what’s possible in life. He’ll be on my Facebook page too.

***

An hour to Toronto. I’m looking forward to being with my loved ones – young, medium and old. I’ll have stories to tell, and I’ll delight in theirs. Home … by midnight.

I See Me

Long long ago, in a Canadian province far away, I worked with a psychologist in giving personal development seminars.  I was also active in the est organization, particularly The Hunger Project.  One of our local TV stations thought it would be a good idea to interview me about such matters, and so it happened.  I was nervous but engaged as I answered the interviewer’s questions.  Afterwards I was pleased with myself.

In a week or two, the TV folks provided me with a video tape of the interview.  I put it in the VCR and started watching.  Two minutes later, I turned the machine off.  I never looked at the tape again.  I was horrified to see how I looked and hear how I sounded.  Just swimming in “not good enough”.

I’ve pushed this incident to the back of my mind and it’s stayed there for the last thirty years.  A month ago, I got to participate in a “Love Panel” online.  Four members of the Evolutionary Collective Global community were being interviewed by an EC teacher.  The intent was to have people with some interest in Global hear from us what we’ve experienced.  I spoke from the heart, and laughed some.  Afterwards I was pleased with myself.

And now a week ago.  Patricia  Albere, the founder of the EC, sent us an e-mail containing news and teachings.  There was also a P. S.  Basically, click here to watch a 30-minute interview with four Globalites.  I stared at the words.  I froze.  I moved on … fast.  Thirty years and still the same fear of seeing myself.

And now last night.  A voice said, very calmly, “Watch it.”  Miraculously, just as calm, I said “Okay.”  I tilted my head in wonder.  Is this the Bruce I know speaking?  Maybe not.  It could be the Bruce who’s just emerging giving voice to wholeness, sufficiency, connection.

Thirty minutes later, I sat here on my couch, stunned.  I was loving the man who spoke.  I was seeing his beauty.  I was seeing his heart.  There’s no deficiency here.  There’s one marvelous flavour of human being just as yummy as all the other flavours I meet during my day.

Perhaps I am free.

 

 

Daddy!

I ventured into YouTube this afternoon, intending to feed my addiction to the song “Shallow”, sung by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.  I went in search of a clip showing their singing embrace at the Academy Awards.  I melted when she rested her head against his at the end.  Today, I never got there.

I was waylaid by a video showing a US serviceman’s greeting to his family on the big screen at a football game.  There was his wife, teenaged son and maybe 10-year-old daughter, all decked out in their finery.  As they stared longingly at the screen, and as his message completed, the announcer asked them to turn around.  Walking across the field, wearing his uniform, was their husband and father.  The little girl’s eyed exploded and hands came to her face.  “Daddy!”  Then she sprinted to her dad, throwing her body up against his.  Arms holding tight around his neck, tears falling.  I cried too.

I kept watching homecoming videos – reunions with parents, spouses, kids and friends.  At graduation ceremonies, jumping out of boxes in living rooms, a special visitor coming into the kindergarten class.  Some soldiers talked a lot.  Some just silently held their loved ones.  Love wrapped itself around all of them.

I did this for my mom and dad once, flying back to Ontario from Alberta for a surprise.  I was hiding away in a little space off the living room of the farm where mom grew up.  Mom, dad, Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Orville had just come into the driveway.  And now they were sitting down.  Through the door, I heard the voices of the people I loved.  And then the door opened.  Hugs, tears, holding each other in all the ways possible.

I just spent an hour or more immersed in this depth of love.  I don’t have any kids.  My dear wife Jody has died.  But this love, given and received, is available to me.  In those moments of contact, there is nothing but the beloved.  It’s beyond happy.  It’s so beyond the usual rhythms of the day.  May we embrace it.

Beatrice and Bruce

Beatrice Bruteau was a philosopher, a mathematician and an evolutionist.  She stood in the present, learned from the past, and most especially leaned into the mystery of the future.  So much of my spiritual practice has been about being in the moment.  “Becoming” seemed like a poor sister to the deepening of what’s now.  But there’s a new flow inside, and Beatrice has helped me access it.

Here are some Bruteau quotations, with my take following:

We cannot wait for the world to turn, for times to change that we might change with them, for the revolution to come and carry us around in its new course.  We are the future.  We are the revolution.

I remember attending an evening meeting at the University of Toronto in the late 60’s.  Our plan was to travel to Ottawa and protest the war-induced starvation in the Biafra region of Nigeria.  As I walked in the door, I looked around for the “big people”, the ones who would lead us, the smartest ones.  I never gave a thought to the idea that I could be one of those leaders.  They would speak, I would follow.  Beatrice would have pursed her lips at me.

Somewhere deep down we are all filled with a mystical longing, with a longing for ultimate meaningfulness, and therefore we need to see all of our world in that context.

It’s far beyond “My life has meaning.”  Together, you and you and me … we have meaning, and we long for a world where no one is left out.  We see the economic disparities, the suffering, and still we feel pulled forward by some unknown magnet towards a future which is curling its finger at us in welcome.  The image that comes again and again to me is standing on the moving walkway in an airport and magically being brought forward, with no trying on my part.

There is a basic urgency in life to grow, to expand, to become new and renewed.  We might even say that the very meaning of being alive is to be constantly in the process of becoming a new creation.

New, as in never here before.  Not just a quality improvement of the old model but a radically new design.  And maybe it’s not even a car anymore!  Plus it is urgent … no messin’ around.  There’s work to be done to have everyone feel at home.

The individual animal doesn’t get to choose how it’s going to evolve.  But the individual human being can, and we, by our concerted intention, can make something that hasn’t existed before.

“I’m not an inventor,” I protest.  “It’s only the big people who do amazing things.”  But wait a minute … last I looked I was a healthy 5’10”.  That’s plenty big enough.

Okay, Bruce.  How high can you jump?  Can you teach a Mutual Awakening Practice course for kids and have them open to a love they may never have experienced before?  Who’s to say not?

Deep reality is that place in the center of our being where we experience our existence in an unlimited way.  The deep self is not defined, not described by any of the qualities of our bodies or personalities, by our histories or social positions, our jobs, or our religions.  This is fairly hard to realize.  We tend to think of ourselves, introduce ourselves to others, believe others are seeing us in terms of these qualities.  In meditation and its associated practices, we try to center ourselves in our sense of existing without identifying with these descriptors.  To the extent that we become accustomed to this, we may spontaneously behave in a new way.

You can see from this how our energy is affected.  When we define ourselves in terms of our qualities, we have to devote energy to protecting them and trying to gain more valuable ones – more beauty, personality, wealth, power, social status.  But if we liberate ourselves from such identity, then all that energy becomes available for the radiation of goodwill to others.  We have realized ourselves as the Self that says only I AM, with no predicate following, not “I am a this” or “I have that quality.”  Only unlimited, absolute I AM.

And the interesting thing is that as soon as you experience yourself this way, you at once find that you also are saying toward the whole world, “Let it be!”  It seems to be the nature of that which is I AM to say, “Let it be.”  [Or, as Beatrice later expressed it, “May you be.”]

This is the love that is called “agape”.  Agape is the love that seeks the being, well-being, full being, ever-fuller being, of the beloved.  It is a love that is not a reaction to the beloved but rather a first action, an action beginning in you, coming out from the center of your being because of the nature of your being.  This energy of love is inexhaustible.  It doesn’t have to be reserved or apportioned or used economically.  It is plentiful, bountiful, enormous.  It is a dynamic out-flowing activity, energy.  It’s constantly in motion and radiant, like a star is radiant.  It streams out from us in every way. The True Self in us is constantly radiating this willed goodness.  [Beatrice later referred to this as “spondic” love.]

Not defined by my story
Instead a vibrant spiritual being
With infinite energy pouring into you
Until I am no more