The Vertical and the Horizontal

I like geometry.  Lines fascinate me.  I wonder what they say.

I wrote a post recently about curves.  There are so many cool ones in Ghent.  But what about straight lines?  Do we neglect them because they’ve not of nature?  No.  Nothing and no one should be omitted.

The vertical draws our eyes to the sky, and to the depths of the Earth.  It stretches us gently up and down.  It teaches us to be upright in life, to have unassailable integrity.  We are kind.  We use the moment to contribute.  And … the heights we reach draw others up.  People see us when we stand tall.

The horizontal flows to the horizon and beyond.  It encircles the planet to find brothers and sisters in China.  You may be 4’11” (150 cm) and me 5’10” (178 cm) but our eyes are level, perfect for looking deeply into each other.

You have your gifts and faults.  They’re different than the stew that is me.  Both are delicious.  You are essential in the evolution of consciousness here.  So am I.  The world “equal” doesn’t fit but we each have a place.  We stand together, back to back, looking outwards to see how we can serve.

And … what is the magical point where the vertical and horizontal meet?  Who invented that?  What majesties are invisible to our puny eyes, and perhaps always will be?

How can we speak of the mystery?  How can we embrace a mist that melts away in the sunshine?

I don’t know

There is much that I don’t know

Red Light, Green Light

I love my cell phone.  It allows me to reach out to the world … talking to friends, buying concert tickets while standing in the most unlikely locations, reading the words of Ken Wilber or Stephen King.  Plus it has a cool red case.

I was charging my lovely device yesterday.  But it was time to go.  The light was red, indicating that charging wasn’t done.  I detached the cord and the display said “100%”.  And I thought, “I’ve never seen that light switch from red to green.  Think I’ll replug and sit for a few more minutes, and gaze lovingly at the light.”  So I did.

And so the mind proceedeth.  I was focused on my object of meditation for 30 seconds and then roamed off to another world.

“You’re not a very patient person, Bruce” … Return

“What’s wrong with you?  You just spent three months in a meditation hall.  How come you can’t maintain focus for more than a few seconds?” … Return

“What’s with all this self criticism?  I thought you came home with lots of love for yourself?” … Return

“This is silly.  You’re staring at a light” … Return

“What do these lights mean about change in your life, Bruce?” … Return

“I’m tired of this.  Why doesn’t this light turn green?” … Return

“It’s a plot.  That’s what it is.  Unseen forces are conspiring against me” … Return

“Let go.  Let it all go.  Green will appear when green is ready to” … Return

“Don’t look away!  You’ll miss the moment of change” … Return

“Concentrate!” … Return


Maybe eight minutes on, happily when I was looking at the display, red turned to green.  I caught the moment I wanted to catch.  And received a deep education about the wanderings of the mind.

I’ve learned that change in my life happens little by little.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all that.  But the lights show me something else.  If I’m mindful of the moment, could there be instants of transformation just waiting for me?  I think so.  And now I’m watching for them.  Thank you, dear lights.


Artsy Fartsy

That’s what an ancient friend of mine used to call herself.  Kath was an art student at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta.  A very nice person.

Yesterday I got to explore some of this world at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.  I showed up for the “Mystical Landscapes” exhibition.  There must have been 100 paintings created by masters such as Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Emily Carr, Lawren Harris, Georgia O’Keeffe and Bruce Kerr.  (Wait a minute … that last guy doesn’t fit.  Must be an interloper.)

I consider myself a spiritual fellow.  No doubt I would be moved to tears by all of the works.  But not so.  Only about five paintings hit me.  The rest were too brownish, dark or complex for my eye and soul.  Naturally, that’s just me.  Joe sitting beside me probably saw transcendence where I saw none.

I’ve collected quotations over the past three decades, but usually didn’t write down the name of the author.  Same thing here.  I can’t remember who painted some of the creations that touched me.  Oh well.  Not important.

Exhibit number one was vivid red hills in front of a misty sun, with circles of light emanating from the centre.  So simple.  So red (my favourite colour).  And the power of those circles!  I thought of passion and the possibilities of contributing to my fellow man and woman.

Next was a crew of black coniferous trees against a bright yellow sky.  Such a contrast.  I thought of one of my two favourite words – animation – and how the yellow brought everything alive.  I would like to be that yellow.

Then there was a pastoral background, replete with woods, fields and a meandering river.  The foreground, however, showed a long building with a sandbagged entrance and two soldiers wearing gas masks emerging.  A sickly yellow cloud hung above it all.  Death colouring life.

I do remember one artist’s name – Lawren Harris.  His triangular mountain, plastered with a huge angular glacier, reached to the sky.  Such a symbol of the world beyond the physical.  I was lifted up.

Finally a night streetscape, with twin lines of lights receding into the void.  There was the suggestion of trees to the right and a looming office building to the left.  A bit scary, but not really.  Nature and civilization hanging out together.


After supper, I went back to the AGO to hear Ross King talk about Claude Monet.  He was so funny, not at all like my stereotype of art historians.  Ross told us about Monet the person.  He wanted people to be happy when they looked at his water lily paintings.  His vision was to have six-foot-high images wrap around the walls of an oval room.  And after his death, it happened.  Waydago, Claude.


Next lifetime, I’ve decided to be a master

Hand Dryers

Sometimes objects out there in the world have a lot to say to me.  When I go into a washroom, I make sure that I use soap.  I also want to have my hands dry when I walk out the door.

Years ago, my office was at Catholic Central High School in London.  I’d do my phone calls and paperwork there, and then zoom off to all sorts of schools to see low vision kids.  The stress of the job often overwhelmed me.  I was just going so fast.  A washroom was right next door, and I’d sometimes fly out of there with hands dripping.  It took me maybe two years to figure out that my bathroom behaviour was a symbol of what was “off” in my life.

One day, I decided to wait until my hands were completely dry.  That was a trick, since the CCH hand dryers were definitely underpowered.  But I was determined.  I rubbed and waited and then rubbed some more, turned the dryer back on a few times, and felt the tension growing in my chest.  What an education.  Having a natural completion of the task seemed wise, but it was so hard to not lean forward into the next moment.

Then what about companions?  I’m in a restaurant washroom rubbing away but another fellow is washing his hands at the sink.  He’ll need the dryer in seconds!  And my hands are still wet.  What discipline it takes to finish the job while feeling him standing behind me.  But that’s what I do.  It’s good to feel the pressure, and to hold it gently, realizing that I will still be alive when my friend and I exit.

But some dryers are painfully loud.  Such an assault on my whole being.  I’ve decided that if there are no paper towels, I’ll drip dry.  This seems to defeat my commitment to dry off completely, but really it doesn’t.   What I’m committed to is my well-being, whether that means not subjecting myself to noxious noise or seeing a task to its natural end.  If my heart and soul remain balanced and happy, then they’re available to the next person I meet.

So … thanks, all you manufacturers of hand dryers.  Little do you realize that you’re contributing to my spiritual development.

Why Am I Doing This?

I drink Gatorade on my cycling excursions, and I’m an equal opportunity guzzler – blue, green and orange.  A couple of weeks ago, I looked in the orange container and there wasn’t even a scoopful left.  So I poured the bits into the blue.  Before my next ride, I tried to get as much of the orange pieces into the scoop as I could.  Same on the ride after that.  Lately, though, I’ve been taking a teaspoon and picking out the orange grains and dropping them into the scoop, unavoidably accompanied by some blue.

Today I was like a surgeon, moving aside the blue stuff with the teaspoon and getting every orange granule that I could lay my eyes on.  It took me about fifteen minutes to fill that scoop.

So the question:  What am I doing and why am I doing it?  And then it came to me:  I am purifying the blue container as a symbol of purifying myself.  All this time I’d spent and the true meaning of it was just under the surface of my awareness.

So what else do I do as an expression of Spirit?  And not doing it as a way to get something or arrive somewhere, but as a way to deepen what is already inside of me.  Here are a few of my idiotsyncrasies (Jody’s word):

1.  I replace burnt out lightbulbs quickly.  (Having my light and others’ shine)

2.  A small statue of the Buddha sits on the hassock near my man chair.  I turn it so that my friend is looking directly at me.  (Making contact with people, a timeless kind of contact)

3.  When I turn on my laptop, a little sign appears in the bottom right corner of the screen once things are booted up, announcing that I’m connected to the Internet.  I watch that sign until it gradually fades away to nothing.  (All things – good, bad and indifferent – must pass)

4.  We have a ceiling fan in the kitchen.  When I pull the cord to shut it off, I watch the blades turn … slower and slower … until they finally stop.  (I will die.  The body that is Bruce will weaken gradually and someday come to a halt)

5.  I could use a wall switch to turn off the ceiling fan but I prefer the pull cord.  (I am drawn to ancient rhythms rather than modern conveniences.  But I still use light switches!)

6.  I sometimes take my right hand and draw it to the right, palm up, and hold it there for a few seconds.  (In moments of spiritual awareness.  And the palm is up to open and connect)

7.  I park Hugo and Scarlet facing in to the space.  (I want to be with whatever’s next, rather than turning away from it)

8.  When I’m doing walking meditation at IMS on the circular drive, I walk right in the middle of the road, and step aside if someone is approaching me on the same line  (To be balanced in life.  And to yield to others rather than pressing forward)

9.  I place the coffee mugs on the shelf right side up instead of upside down. (So they’re open to the world, not insulated from it)

10.  I stand with my arms falling loosely by my sides.  (So the energy will flow)


I haven’t put all this on video yet
Maybe someday soon in a theatre near you

Just So

Yesterday morning, I had just assisted Jody with personal care and had moved to our bedroom to give her some privacy.  I sat in a rotating chair and looked at my bureau.  The bottom drawer wasn’t closed  completely.  About an inch of the top surface of the drawer was showing.

I was torn.  The part of me that wants everything in its place started contracting.  A less developed section of Bruceness didn’t really care.  But I could feel the tug of the words “totally” rather than “partially”, and of “flush” rather than “offset”.  My goodness, what’s the big deal?  Aren’t there more crucial life issues that need to be addressed?  Well … yes, but something was pulling me in to its domain.  I sure wanted to close that drawer!

Larger principles beckon me, ones that present themselves symbolically to me in the objects of daily living.  Doing a job completely, for instance, before moving on.

Then there’s horizontal and vertical.  In our hallway, Jody and I have put together a collection of small framed photographs on a wall.  One montage of our vacations sits right next to a light switch, and sometimes it gets jostled.  So the others are all at right angles but holiday pics are leaning just a bit, far less than that tower in Italy.  Still though, it’s not right, says a certain version of my mind.  Down deep somewhere is the appreciation of the vertical as representing an upright life, and the horizontal as seeing all beings as equally wondrous in God’s eyes.

Dish towels need to hang loosely from the oven door handle, falling uncreased towards the mystery below.  Being bunched and jumbled somehow interrupts the grace of the infinite.  Toilet paper falls down over the front of the roll, revealing transparency, rather than descending from behind, and thus keeping hidden and unacceptable some part of its being.

“Bruce, you’re nuts.  Make sure nobody ever finds out about your questionable analogies, and the fetishes that unfold from each.”


It’s time for another great life experiment.  Let the tea towels bunch.  Let the montage lean a mite.  Let that bottom drawer show all the glory of its top edge.  Don’t fix things.  Everything’s perfect as it is.  Next week, I can always return to the appropriateness of feng shui principles.  And then return to mild disorder the week after that.

After all, as Walt Whitman said, “I am inconsistent.  I contain multitudes.”