1 … 2

I am me.  Could I be we?

Walt Whitman knew a thing or two about relationship.  His poems often sang with love, and although many words passed through his fingers, my favourite ones are these:

We were together.  I forget the rest

To create a girl or boy, you need a partner.  All the solitary wishing on your part won’t bring forth a new life.  It takes two.  And to create the most exquisite spirals of consciousness, I also don’t think one is enough.  We are meant to unfold each other into realms unknown.  The whole thus revealed is way beyond the sum of the two parts.

Last night, I had a dream
We were inseparably entwined
Like a piece of rope made out of two pieces of vine
Held together, holding each other
With no one else in mind
Like two atoms in a molecule
Inseparably combined

So true.  May we entwine each other.  May ribbons of light float between our eyes.  May we see the beauty.  I sat quietly tonight and waited for the majesty of communion to emerge in a song.  What a marvelous thing – this brain – for the title came to me: Old French Lane.  From somewhere in my past, a very long time ago.

“Yes … this is what I want to share with my WordPress friends.”  But Google was silent on the matter.  YouTube was no help.  And I abided, feeling into the way home.

“Bruce, you wrote about Old French Lane years ago in your blog.  Search.”  And so I did.  And so it is here.

Seven jewels lie in the channel
South of England’s shores
Where you and I once walked together
Where I’ll walk no more

Hand in hand we would go
In the sun and in the rain
Through the streets of St. Helier
Down the Old French Lane

With Jersey sunshine falling on your hair
Shines in strands of red and gold
And eyes of green like the emerald sheen
Of your ancestral home

That was so long ago
Red and gold turn silver now
But eyes of green will never change
In my memory somehow

 

The Transmission of Love

A few hours ago, a voice in my head said “You will write in your blog tonight about the transmission of love.”  Most of my evening has been about online group calls with likeminded souls in the Evolutionary Collective, calls about deepening contact with other human beings.  We’re done now and here I sit at 11:44.  I don’t know what to write.

I’ve learned over the years to tell the difference between the raucous demanding voice and the quiet one.  I trust the softness that spoke to me earlier.  But now what?

The loud voice spews out an opinion:  “Who do you think you are, some author of personal growth textbooks?  You’re not exactly ready to create a treatise on love, bunko!”  Bunko?  Where did that come from?  Anyway, time to tune out Mr. Loudness.

So how does the depth of love move from one person to another?  Anyone can read a Hallmark Valentine’s card and speak similar sentiments but words without the soul’s participation are meaningless.  You can be a champion at sex, know where all the sweet spots are, and be well equipped for the task, and still have the other person feel like a thing.

I think the transmission of love comes down to these objects:

Two hands … as in holding
Two feet … as in playing footsie
One hand and one foot … as in rubbing
Four arms … as in lingering within a real hug
Four eyes … as in holding a soft gaze for a long time

It’s a short textbook but it’ll do just fine.

Bill

If ever there was a William who truly is a Bill, this is it.  Bill Gilbert, my neighbour and friend, died a few days ago.  He was, and is, an immense human being.  How many of us look every visitor in the eyes and send the wordless message “I’m glad you’re here.  Tell me all about your life”?  Precious few, I suspect, but this was thoroughly Bill.

I went to the great man’s funeral today.  Clearly, he was universally loved.  Bill’s daughter Stephanie had the courage to speak about her dad.  Or maybe it didn’t take courage – just a loving daughter revering a loving father, the fellow who held her tiny hand decades ago, who walked her down the aisle, who gratefully accepted her hand in the days before his death.

Throughout her life, Stephanie heard Dad say “You can do anything.”  Clearly, that included giving his eulogy.  It wasn’t “Dad did this … Dad did that.”  It was “Dad loved here … Dad loved there.”  I chuckled at what a committed environmentalist Bill was, years before it was popular, with multiple bins in the garage for all sorts of recyclables.  And how sweet that as he neared death, he wanted to make sure that the expired batteries from some device would be recycled.

As Stephanie said, she had a front row seat for the beauty and kindness of Bill Gilbert.  What a privilege.  And she gets to say to her kids, “You won’t see grandpa, but you will feel him.”  Yes.  Those young ones will become 30-somethings and then 60-somethings and they’ll still sense grandpa beside them, cheering them on.

As Stephanie spoke, her son Devon sat nearby, facing Bill’s family and friends.  He was clearly torn up at losing someone he deeply loves.  I was touched by his courage, with tears close by, and him fully visible to all.  Then he stood and recited beautifully a poem which I believe Stephanie created for her grandpa.  So perfect for honouring Bill.

Towards the end of the service, Pastor Art said something about Bill, or something about what’s important in life (I can’t remember!).  I nodded in agreement, and just as I did, the electric candelabras on either side of the sanctuary flickered.  They too were saying yes, to a fine human being, and to the rightness of loving and being loved.

Well done, Bill
Look what you’ve created
It shines in your family’s eyes

The World Cup of Spirit

I love watching the soccer games in Russia this week and I wonder what they can say to me about a transformed life.  Are there perspectives open to me that can bring alive the events of the game and point to other realities?

The World Cup is about nations, people cheering for their countrymen.  It’s about belonging to a group, and what a fine feeling that is.  But what if the group was … everybody?  We could cheer for all the great passes, shots and saves, no matter who made them.  We could cheer for players who push the ball forward, launch lots of shots at the net, throw themselves through the air for a header, rather than those who play defensively, hanging back, not risking a pass in heavy traffic.  I would like that.

I love watching the ball fly through the air.  When a right-footed player curves a ball towards the goal, and it looks like it will miss to the right, but then tucks inside the post, it’s a thing of beauty.  It makes me think of times when something I’m doing isn’t working out right but somehow providence intervenes and I’m being carried on the winds of goodness to a safe landing.

I love seeing the fans go crazy when their team scores – the ecstatic smiles, the hugging, the jumping up into the air.  Especially little kids, maybe with painted faces, their eyes so wide with delight.  What if we could have the same explosion of joy because we love each other – a celebration of including everyone in our human family?  No one left out.  What if a man or woman walks into the room and our immediate response is “You’re here!  I’m so glad to see you”?  That would be lovely.

Near the end of the Portugal – Uruguay game today, Edinson Cavani, who had scored both of Uruguay’s goals, fell to the ground, injured.  Portugal’s Ronaldo, acknowledged by some as the best player in the world, helped Cavani limp off the field.  What life is all about, I think.  Fierce competitors, yes.  Companions on the human journey, even more so.

And then there were the national anthems.  It looked like every player on both teams held their head high and belted out the familiar lyrics.  What if we all expressed ourselves that way, looking into the eyes of those around us and saying what was true, expressing ourselves without antagonism or a beating of the breast?  That would be so fine.

Sport points to the truths of transcendence and community and love.  May we have the eyes to see that winning and losing are pale shadows of what really matters.

Giving

Today was the second last day of school and the Grade 5/6 kids got to play board games most of the day. They had so much fun. Laughter and shouts filled the air. Amid all the hubbub, I occasionally looked around to see what life is all about.

1. For a long while, I played “The Game of Life” with five enthusiasts. It took this adult a bit of time to figure out what the rules were, and the youngsters were so patient with me as I groped along. “No, Mr. Kerr, you need to do this” – said with no edge or impatience. I think they were simply happy that I was at the table with them. I was happy too.

2. As the six of us made choices about education, career, homes, pets and hobbies, and dealt with the money impact of those choices, a girl sat near us but outside the edge of play. “Jessica” looked like she didn’t want to play but did want the companionship. One of the wheeler dealer game players, “Joy”, was the closest to Jessica. Once Joy had had her turn, she would usually lean towards Jessica and update her about her income and property situation. I mostly couldn’t hear Joy’s words but there was no mistaking the smiles on Jessica’s face.

3. As the games in the Grade 5/6 portable continued, a game of tag was in progress among the school staff. If another adult touched you with a certain green highlighter, you were “it”. The job then was to approach another colleague sweetly and calmly whip out the marker when they were lulled into comfort. The dear teachers and educational assistants made sure to include this volunteering human in the festivities. In fact the whole exercise brought us all together – no one escaped the highlighter, or the laughter.

4. On the yard at recess, two Grade 2 or 3 girls came bouncing up to me. One stood in front of me, took my hands in hers and started in on a clapping and slapping and singing game, in which I got to share my favourite colour, my favourite number, and other stuff that I can’t remember. She was directing my hands to go this way and that in co-ordination with hers, laughing all the while. Her friend stood off to the side, beaming. Then it was their turn. The two of them did the whole patter at the speed of light. Giggles all around as the old guy was brought into the realm of the 8-year-olds.

5. It was nearly home time, and Jayne had let the kids out a few minutes early. They were bouncing basketballs, swinging on the swings or just chatting. And here come the Kindergarten kids, some seemingly with backpacks as big as them. Those little ones look at me and launch into yesterday’s chant: “Mr. Kerr! Mr. Kerr!” Oh my God. All this for me. They kept it up and I tried to shhh them but some hardy souls kept up the beat … out of their mouths and out of their eyes. Thanks, kids.

6. Minutes ago, I got in Scarlet and headed to London for a house concert. The hosts aren’t expecting me for weeks. I pulled onto the 401, our local freeway, something I’ve done hundreds of times. Seconds later, fear flooded me. Even though no bicycles were allowed on this road, the speed was the same as in B.C. This time I was in a car, not emotionally naked on my bike. Still, I started shaking.

And then something opened inside. Some force or some person, perhaps my lovely wife Jodiette, was there with me … calming me, holding me.

I give
I receive
All is well

Homecoming

For what indeed is home?  Whether it’s blood relations, a circle of friends or a class full of kids, home is the experience of loving and being loved.  Such was my day.

I got home from B.C. at midnight and proceeded to sleep for ten hours.  I woke up knowing that Jayne, the Grade 5/6 teacher with whom I volunteer, had invited me to the class’ potluck lunch and the school play day all afternoon.

A tiny part of me wanted to hide out, safe under the covers, but I love those kids, so tiny did not defeat huge.  My car Scarlet and I drove to the school.  As I pulled into the driveway, three or four kids were bouncing up and down and waving.  Oh my.  I’ve had horror stories in my head about the kids being distant because I didn’t complete my ride across Canada.  What a silly head I sometimes have.  When I think deeper, I see that children “see” me.  They know my heart is pure.  And usually their hearts respond in kind.

I went in the front door of the school to sign in.  There was some kerfuffle in the hall but I blocked it out.  As I walked out of the office, the whole class surrounded me, smiling and yelling something.  Jayne rushed forward to hug me.  I was being held.  I tried holding the tears back but I was deeply touched by their love.  I felt electricity smash through me and it all seemed headed to my right hand.  It started shaking and appeared to have no interest in stopping.

Back to the Grade 5/6 portable for the communal eats.  My head was reeling, thoughts were jumbled, and I even struggled to get the meatballs on my plate.  I was invited to sit with a group of girls and happily obliged.  My eyes moistened again and again.  I stuttered.  I knew I was surrounded by love but the fear of my bicycle days had not disappeared.  The hand continued to shake.  One girl reached out and put her hand over mine, trying to still the unruly beast.  What a sweet thing to do.  When she lifted her hand, mine went vibrating again.  Later another girl did the same, with the same results.  I guess my body has things to do.  There must be a natural rhythm that can’t be rushed.

There was a sign on the board welcoming me home.  Little hearts adorned some of the names.  Some kids came up to say they were proud of me.  I walked around stunned, feeling disoriented, embarrassed at the result I’d produced, sad at the loss of a dream, and scared still about nearby semitrailers whizzing past.

After eating was done, I was going to take something to the office for Jayne but she asked me to stay in the portable.  We had a fine talk.  She’s such a marvelous support for me, and I hope I am for her.  After a bit, she held out a red “Canada” t-shirt and asked me to put it on.  “Jayne, did you buy me this shirt?”  She smiled, and I’d guess the answer was “Yes”.

The dear teacher then led me out of the portable.  I glanced towards the back corner of the school and saw a Grade 5 girl and some young kids standing there.  They seemed to be saying something.  As I got closer, I made out “Mr. Kerr!  Mr. Kerr!”  Sure seemed to be a loud chant for a few kids.  As I rounded the corner, spread before me in a long line were all 230 children and all the staff members.  The first group held up a sign with the flag of British Columbia.  Then it was Alberta … Saskatchewan …  “My God!” I thought.  “I’m crossing Canada.”  Oh … I was being held in the arms of love.  I have failed as a cyclist able to cross my country and I have succeeded as a human being.

A teacher gave me a bullhorn and I told them all that I loved them, and I do.  I haven’t talked to every one but I know their hearts.  Those vital organs were on full display along the length of the school.

Blessings show up unbidden
We see each other
All is well

Day Ten: The Beginning

I’ve been jolted over the last week. Life certainly has the ability to do that to each of us. Here are a few of my lowlights:

1. I was at a stop sign at an intersection. The road to the left curled to the right up a steep hill, with trees blocking my view of descending traffic. As I started forward on ta-pocketa, a car swung down the hill and blasted past me at full speed, missing me by a couple of metres.

2. I stopped to get a power bar out of my CamelBak water backpack. I couldn’t open the clasp with either hand to get the backpack off. Everything just felt so weak. After five minutes of trying, I put the clasp between my teeth and bit down. A power bar entered my mouth a minute later.

3. Yesterday, I was sitting in my hotel room with my left hand on my thigh. The fleshy spot between my first finger and thumb began to vibrate, and I watched, fascinated, as my body did its thing for a few minutes.

All of these painful days are now in my past. I figure there’ll be some residue of fear and sadness for awhile, but basically the question is “What’s next?” What will I bring to life over the next weeks and years?

I take inspiration from today’s World Cup soccer game between England and Panama. England was up 5-0 at halftime. Panama had never scored a World Cup goal. Late in the game, they knocked in a beauty, and fans in the stands and at home went nuts! It didn’t matter that the team was way behind. We can still bring forth joy. So … I commit to:

1. Bringing joy into people’s lives

2. Having conversations that mean something with everyone who’s interested

3. Talking to children and giving them one example of a caring role model

4. Engaging with folks from around the world, as we explore the depths of relationship possible through the Mutual Awakening Practice

5. Making people laugh

6. Being generous with anyone who needs my attention, time and money

7. Being love

***

Here are some wise words spoken by Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Visitors

I had set up my new tent in the family room but that’s not the same as staking it down outside.  And I’d better learn how to do that before I fly to Vancouver on Friday.  So after supper yesterday, I got to it in the backyard.  Made a few mistakes but that sounds like me and technology.  I know myself pretty well and I’ve learned to laugh at my foibles (usually).  Finally the tent was up and was being embraced tenderly by the waterproof fly.  Yay for me!

I was about to crawl into the finished product when I heard “Mr. Kerr!” from around the corner of the house.  And striding towards me were five wonderful kids from last year’s Grade 6 class.  I love them all.  I’ll make up names here: Jessica, Darla, Aimee, Dinah and Jeremy … all smiles.  These fine young people had graduated and are now at another school.  I hardly ever see them.

I was thrilled that the kids wanted to visit me and say bon voyage.  I would guess that right now their friends are most important, with adults a distant second.  These Grade 7 human beings are smack dab in the middle of discovering who they are, and that’s a big job.

They wanted to crawl into the tent (which I’ve christened “Ben”).  Okay … come on down!  In a flash, all six of us were crowded into a two-person enclosure.  We laughed and laughed, especially about Aimee, who seemed to be regularly escaping out the second door.  She was a good hider.  The kids chattered on about this and that, and I just sat back and beamed.  What a privilege to be in the same space with them.

After awhile, they wanted a tour of my house and we went inside.  Four of them squeezed onto the couch and whipped through the pages of the book that the class created for me at the end of last year.  “Darla, here’s something else you said to Mr. Kerr!”  Aimee curled up in my red lazy boy chair and poured through kids’ books I’d bought at a recent book fair.  One was called “Hotel Bruce”, a particularly apt title I thought.

Then it was time for the grand tour.  I love the colours of my walls: red, rust brown, yellow, blue, turquoise, green and purple.  I think the kids enjoyed them too.  Jessica played my keyboard in the bedroom.  Kids bounced on the bed.  One ventured behind the shower curtain in my ensuite bath.  In the den, I told them the story of the ancient toy truck I was holding.  When I was five or so, I left the truck outside and a bird pooped on the cab.  “Somebody painted my truck!” I screamed the next morning.  Mom and dad took their time in letting me know what really happened.

In the family room downstairs, Darla started in on her rap lyrics.  Actually, she was pretty good at it.  Jeremy wanted to know more about my ride across Canada and I loved answering his questions.  They all wanted to try my cross country ski machine and managed to schuss along in their sock feet without hurting themselves.  At one point, I looked around to see Dinah rolling on my exercise ball.  Gosh, it was fun!

Aimee, Jeremy and Darla had to get home so Jessica, Dinah and I headed back to the living room where we talked about life and family and goats and bike rides and writing.  Dinah said she wanted to read all my blog posts, which would be a trick since there are 682 of them (soon to be 683!)

Finally the last two walked out my front door and waved goodbye.  “Have a good time, Mr. Kerr.”  I sure will, kids.  I will see my country by bicycle and meet Canadians at every turn.  Plus I’ll often think of those five young’uns crammed into my tent.  Thank you for including me in your lives, dear ones.

 

The Vigil

Last night 20,000 of us gathered at Mel Lastman Square in Toronto to honour the victims of last week’s van attack, where a driver mowed down pedestrians on the sidewalk of Yonge Street.

I went to Olive Square Park two hours before the ceremony.  It was the site of a massive memorial: flowers, messages, photos and candles.  Soon thousands of us began walking the 1.5 kilometres to the square.  We were quiet and we walked slowly.

I thought of the ten folks who died, ages 22 to 94.  And of their families and friends.  I saw sorrow in the faces of those near me.  I felt like crying but I didn’t.  Many did.  On we walked.

About 50 feet away, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau comtemplated life, surrounded by TV cameras.  I watched him for a bit and then turned back towards the flow of humanity.  This was not the time to be gawking at celebrities.  Perhaps there’s never such a time.  We were here for all of us.

Young and old, black and white, Caucasian and Asian … we were together.  A voice within said “Look inside” and I realized right away that it was not urging me to self-reflect but rather to look into the souls of my companions.  “Look inside each one.”  And I did just that for many, seeing the beauty of human beings.

At the Square, I found a spot where I could see the stage.  Although it was far away, I was right there.  Looking out over the crowd, I felt our union.  Of course, we each have our life issues, but for that hour I sensed they were essentially laid down.  We stood with our grief and compassion and love.  How marvelous, I thought.  May we harness this sweetness even when there’s no crisis to bring us together.  May we love … just ’cause.

Speakers spoke, spectators shared and many of their words touched home:

In Toronto, in Ontario, in Canada, we don’t run away – we run to help others.

It’s amazing how on this one stretch of street, so many people are connected and affected by it.

Each of those who died are remembered as wonderful human beings who brought light into our world through a combined 539 years of their own acts of lovingkindness.

This is my town and my heart is just rocked by this, and I just want to be strong for my friends and my family and everybody in this city.  Everybody needs love.

Amen

 

Win-Win

We live and breathe within a win-lose context.  On one level, that’s completely obvious.  Stanley Cup champions are face-to-face with hockey also rans.  Elected Prime Ministers and parties are up against colleagues who garner 2% of the popular vote.  And then in Toronto there are the mansions of Rosedale down a few roads from the public housing of Jane and Finch.

How deep does this cultural attitude stretch?  Maybe it’s completely insidious and virtually unnoticed in most interactions we humans have with each other.  If I’m talking to you, is there an unspoken current below to the tune of “I’m better than you, smarter, more handsome, kinder … blah, blah, blah?”  I hope not, but I worry that it’s so.  And perhaps you’re having the same thoughts about me.  Two isolations.  And it doesn’t have to be this way.

The Buddha talked about empathetic joy, in which I can be supremely happy when you have success.  It’s not that there’s only so much happiness to go around and I get antsy if you score too much of the pie.  No.  Have yourself a piece or two and there’ll be plenty left for me, and for everyone else.

What if I knew that my well-being revolved around being good to other people?  What if I wanted you to have everything, to be so deliciously happy and peaceful?  And that became far more uplifting to me than any worldly accolades that come my way?  Is that so very far out in left field?  Can we create a world like that?  I wonder.

What if I knew that in the expanse of life’s goodies there is actually nothing but love?  I’ll cheer when my team scores the winning goal and revel in my promotion and enjoy beach time in the Caribbean while sensing that only we are the world.  Or as Walt Whitman said, “We were together.  I don’t remember the rest.”

I want you to have joy in your heart
Maybe you’ll want me to have the same
Wouldn’t that be the sweetest dessert?