Cause or Effect?

Do I cause my experience of life or am I at the effect of circumstances?  Bad things happen, that’s true, but do I have control over how I react to them?  Why do some people collapse under the weight of unemployment, cancer, lost loves, lost hair or the home team’s losing streak, while others let it wash off their back?

What would my life be like if I just laughed at my travails, while still working to improve things?  I’d have all that extra energy available for love, kindness, compassion and other good works.

Here’s a story that stopped me in my tracks, since I’m the type who gets antsy about creepy crawly things.  Mr. Lama knows a thing or two, I’d say.

Today was particularly bad for me as the rain would not let up.  And the leeches were relentless.  At one point I counted twenty-two of them sucking on me at the same time  … Sloshing along the muddy trail in the pounding rain, I came upon a large, slimy log that had fallen chest high across our brush-choked path.  In my agitated state, I viewed the log as a menacing obstacle that was clearly separate, in my way and against me.  With no way under or around, I jumped, stomach first, and slid over the top.  Regaining my balance on the other side, I was infuriated at the mud and decaying mush that seemed to have covered the entire front of my body.  Rubbing off the crud, I cursed the log and the god-damned rain.  It was my brother Todd who suggested that we wait and see how the Lama would handle this formidable impediment.  Surely this test would break him.

Hiding off the trail, we peeked through the underbrush just in time to see him trudge up to the log.  Ever smiling, he took a couple of steps back and tried his jump with a running start.  With not enough momentum – coupled with a portly belly – he slid back down on the same side of the log and landed on his back in a large puddle.  Shaking his rain-drenched head, he burst into spasms of uproarious laughter.  Staggering to his feet, he repeated the same maneuver – with the same results – two more times.  With each collapse back into the puddle, his laughter grew stronger and louder.  On his fourth attempt, he made it over the top and slid headlong into the muddy puddle on the other side.  Again, the laughter was knee-slapping.  Continuing to chuckle, he wiped himself off as best he could, lovingly patted the log as though it were a dear friend, and proceeded up the trail – smiling.  Todd and I just stared at each other.

Time to pat a log or two

How’d I Get In Here?

I’d be sitting in my man chair, innocent and serene, when I’d suddenly have the strangest thought: How’d I get in here?  That is, I appear to be inside my head, looking out at the world.  Is that the way it really is?

I think about the Caramilk chocolate bar.  The commercial asks us to reflect upon how the gooey caramel is inserted into the chocolate.  That’s a good question.  As for me, did some celestial big guy, with just the right apparatus, inject me inside this mass of bones, muscles, fat and blood vessels?  I wonder.

How come I’m not inside Jody?  Right now, I sitting beside our bed, watching her sleep.  I don’t seem to be over there.  It feels like there’s a distance from Bruce body to Jody body.  But is there?  Maybe there’s some way that I can throw my … my what?  Consciousness?  Spirit? … throw it inside Jody’s head so I can feel another inside looking at an outside.

How come I’m not inside this coffee cup, or the patio umbrella I see out the window?  Even better, why aren’t I inside of Walt, our gracious walnut tree that welcomes visitors to the Kerr’s place?  I’d like to be out there greeting the folks who walk their dogs past our home every day.  Of course, I’d welcome the dogs too.

Actually, why does there have to be an inside and an outside?  What would it feel like to be everywhere?  But if I was everywhere, what exactly would I be looking at?  Would I see a giant globe of faceted glass, every little piece revealing a different scene in the cosmos?  Here’s a rugby match in South Africa. There’s a mom in the Gaza Strip, protecting her children.  Here’s an old man with a cane, tottering along the path by Lost Lagoon in Vancouver.  There’s kids playing dodge ball in the gym.  Here’s an audience in an outdoor amphitheatre in Turkey, cheering for Elton John.  There’s a young couple holding hands on the couch, wondering if it’s time for the first kiss.  Here’s a few locals on a planet in the region of Alpha Centauri, playing cribbage.  There’s a shooting star on the far edge of the known universe.

And here’s a fellow looking out from his inside over to his wife gently breathing, her eyes closed.  I like this version pretty well.  So whoever you are that did the spiritual surgery allowing me to be in here … thanks.




You look out.  I look in
I look out.  You look in

I do a lot of driving and I pass by many buildings.  Sometimes I look at their windows … and wonder.  There are people behind those windows – making breakfast, having meetings, serving customers, sitting on the couch with their precious ones.  Folks who are really just like me, all of us yearning to love and be loved; to do well at something; to gather some creature comforts; and to have an impact, perhaps beyond our lifetimes.  At night, I often peer in at these lives and see those human beings moving around, or maybe sitting still.  And it’s like they’re friends.

At home on Hallowe’en, I turn the light out in our computer room and watch the kids coming up the driveway, all fancied up as storybook princesses or the latest superheroes.  What are your lives like, young ones?  Thank you for coming to my door.

Just as I’m looking, so are you.  What do you see inside that man who’s driving a Honda CRV named Hugo?  Or that scary guy dressed up for his trick-or-treaters?  Do you get a glimpse of what’s within?  I hope so.

I remember a bed and breakfast that Jody and I stayed at, near Bayfield, Ontario.  We were on the second floor of a century home, and I got to sit on the window seat, watching the breeze riffle through the tree outside, and lifting my eyes to the field of grain across the way.  Cozy.  And I was a part of what I beheld.

More recently, I was in an office on the 14th floor of a London skyscaper, gazing out of floor-to-ceiling windows to the sweep of the city below.  Functional conference room furniture.  Far less cozy but still there was a reaching out.

On our home road (Bostwick Road, that is), I love waving to the cars approaching.  Sometimes people wave back, and that contact feels good.  Often though, the oncoming tinted glass masks any trace of humanity.  I don’t wave, and that makes me feel sad.

The Retreat Center at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts was formerly a Christian venue, perhaps a convent.  In the room leading to the meditation hall, there’s a large stained glass window depicting the disciple John, with his arm around Jesus’ shoulder and his head tucked in close to Jesus’ neck.  The look on John’s face is of absolute love.  I’ve lingered many a time before this scene.  There’s no seeing through the glass, but there is a seeing.

Windows all, holding the secrets of our multicoloured lives.  May we continue to look.

Costa Rica versus Italy

In the World Cup of soccer, this is a minnow facing a salmon.  Costa Rica is ranked 28th in the world, with a population of 5,000,000.  Italy is 9th, with 61,000,000.  I wonder why I always pull for the underdog, the little guy.  I guess it’s a part of my “no one left out” vision of life.

So I want someone to win, and someone else to lose.  I get nervous when my team is behind.  Costa Rica is “me”, and Italy is certainly “not me”.  But Costa Rica doesn’t always succeed, and even if they do eventually win the match, they’re often trailing their opponent at the half.  So … I get to be unhappy a fair bit of the time.   Gosh, is that really necessary?  Isn’t there some other approach I can take to “the beautiful game”?

Maybe.  How about if I pull for the team who plays to win, rather than the one trying not to lose?  The players who push the ball up the field with long passes, who shoot first and pass second when the scoring opportunity is there, and on defence throw their foot at the opponent’s ball to knock it away, risking a penalty if that foot contacts leg first, rather than the ball.

Or … cheer for the team who really belts out their national anthem at the beginning of the game, whose fans chant and sing and jump up and down.  You know, a country that drips with passion for life.

On the other hand, maybe I don’t have to cheer for either team.  I could just drink in the essence of great plays – the hard shot that looks like it’s going wide right and then curves towards the net, only to be batted away by a horizontally leaping goaltender.  The deft flick of the head or of the outside of the foot, placing the ball softly at the feet of an onrushing teammate.  I could just cheer for wonderfulness, no matter the colour of the jersey.  And  I could stand up for games that are close all the way through, where the excellence of one team sparks the excellence of the other.  Wow … maybe I could be happy all the time during World Cup 2014.

By the way, Costa Rica won 1-0.  I’m happy.