What Came Before

Be Here Now is a monumental spiritual book written in 1971 by Ram Dass. It was one of the first expressions in North America of living in the moment, feeling the all of it, whether that was beauty or agony or anything between. Don’t be caught in the woes of the past or the unknowns of the future.

All well and good, and valuable. But there is a place for flowing towards the evolving that is to come, and for allowing past events to wash over us. Tonight was a visit to the land of before.

I went on a nighttime tour of Ghent centrum with an historian named James and about fifteen learners. The darkness above the evening lights of the city showed me the way to long ago. What drove the people of centuries past? What dominated the culture? Tonight there was a lot of nasty stuff on display.

“When the people of Ghent refused to pay extra war taxes in 1540, Emperor Charles made the notables of Ghent go around with a noose around their neck, as a sign that they deserved the gallows. To this day, the noose is the symbol of proud resistance to any form of tyranny and misplaced authority.” What’s missing from this account is the fate of those seventeen civic leaders. Charles decided not to hang them. Instead he had their heads cut off.

We stood in Vrijdagmarkt, an ancient square with a long history of coronations … and executions. I felt long dead human beings, some no doubt waving flags of celebration, and others yelling “Off with his head!” The whole symphony of human behaviour. The most heinous crime back then was apparently circulating counterfeit coins.

We paused before the stone walls of the Old Meat Market Hall. The rich people of the past went inside to buy choice cuts of meat. The poor folks lined up before little shacks attached to the main building. Their dinner consisted of entrails … whatever was left after the good stuff was sold. For these people gossiping wasn’t a good idea. If you were caught, your ears were nailed to the market hall walls for 24 hours. People would wake up and head over to the market for their supplies, wondering who they’d see impaled. The job of decent folks was to throw rotting fruit at the transgressors.

James did a masterful job of painting pictures of the past – some of them inspiring but most deadly. I could give you many more examples but that’s enough revulsion for a day. All I can say is …

Thank God for evolution

May we learn from prior meanness and ignorance


A few years ago, I sat myself down and moved into self-congratulatory mode:

Well, Bruce, all this meditation and Buddhism seems to have made an impact.  You’re not antagonistic anymore, not angry.  You’re a peaceful, loving fellow who welcomes the world.

Much of that is true, just not the angry part.  I’m angry at the meanness of Donald Trump, the lies, the abandoning of other human beings.  I’m angry at the countless Republicans who say nothing in the face of his witchhunting and his rants about voter fraud.  Whatever happened to morals, and the truth, and speaking out when speaking out is needed?

I get discouraged.  And I ask myself why no one on TV gets angry about this crap when they’re speaking or being interviewed.  Where’s the high decibel outrage?

Which brings us to yesterday, and Gabriel Sterling, the Voting Systems Implementation Manager for Georgia’s Secretary of State office.  Gabriel had had enough.  He stood at a podium in Atlanta.  Two recent events infuriated him.


Sterling said his anger boiled over when he learned that a contractor with Dominion Voting Systems helping with the recount effort in suburban Gwinnett County received death threats after someone shot video of him transferring a report to a county computer and falsely said the young man was manipulating election data.


A lawyer for President Trump’s re-election campaign said former U.S. cybersecurity official Christopher Krebs should be “shot” for rejecting the President’s claims that the 2020 election was rigged.

During an interview on “The Howie Carr Show”, Joe diGenova outlined a number of baseless accusations around the elections, including that “mail-in balloting is inherently corrupt”.  He then criticized Krebs.

“Anybody who thinks the election went well, like that idiot Krebs who used to be the head of cybersecurity,” diGenova said.  “That guy is a Class A moron.  He should be drawn and quartered.  Taken out at dawn and shot.”


Gabriel speaks:

“There’s a noose out there with [the contractor’s] name on it.  That’s not right.  This kid took a job.  He just took a job.”

“Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language.  Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions.  This has to stop.  We need you to step up, and if you’re going to take a position of leadership, show some.”

“Mr. President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia.  We’re investigating, there’s always a possibility, I get it.  You have the right to go to the courts.  What you don’t have the ability to do – and you need to step up and say this – is stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence.  Someone is going to get hurt, someone is going to get shot, someone is going to get killed, and it’s not right.  It’s not right.  This has to stop.  This is elections.  This is the backbone of democracy, and all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this.  It’s too much.  Yes, fight for every legal vote.  Go through your due process.  We encourage you.  Use your First Amendment, that’s fine.  Death threats, physical threats, intimidation, it’s not right.”

“Be the bigger man here.  Step in.  Tell your supporters don’t be violent.  Don’t intimidate.  All that is wrong.  It’s un-American.”

Thank you, Gabriel

Soft Venom

I was having dinner tonight at Wimpy’s Diner in London, savouring one of my favourite meals: Philly Cheesesteak.  Lots of beef, roasted veggies, melted cheese, coleslaw and ciabatta bun all decided that my mouth was an inviting target.  I agreed.  But a couple of tables away, there was trouble in River City.

I was reading on my phone about a 16-year-old girl named Jade who has a chance to make the Canadian Women’s Soccer Team for the upcoming World Cup.  I was enthralled with her spirit.  The energy near me in the restaurant was another thing.  A man’s deep voice kept inching into my consciousness.  There was a staccato forcedness as he talked to his female companion.  I couldn’t quite catch their topics but complaining seemed to sum up his presentation.  She said very little in reply.

More troubling was how he treated the young waitress.  It wasn’t blatant, where someone like me needs to confront him.  No, it was more subtle, but the intent was clear:

You’re not really a person.  You’re a thing, an object getting in the way of me
receiving and enjoying the perfect meal I deserve.

My serving friend was shaken, and more than once.  “Why weren’t certain options available on the menu?  The food was … (enter any negative term that comes to mind).  The service was … (ditto).  I’m upset about all this.”  The waitress returned twice with altered plates of food.  No thank you’s were to be found.  There was a low, rumbling grumpiness that wouldn’t go away.  The fellow seemed skilled in halting his barbs just before the onset of abuse.  Actually, though, I don’t think that’s true.  The series of calmly spoken digs at her accumulated to emotional violence.

I chose not to speak to him.  I chose to send love to her.  In retrospect, I should have included him in that love.  I didn’t talk privately to her about him but I did joke with her when it was time to pay the bill.  I told her about a time when I wasn’t paying attention as I had the machine in hand.  I thought I was doing my PIN number but instead I was at the tip part of the procedure.  Just before I clicked yes, I looked down in horror to see that I was about to leave my server $11,000!  Tonight I told the woman standing in front of me that I just couldn’t afford that with her.  We laughed together.

Did I make any difference tonight?  I’m clear that the answer is yes.  Not a confrontation in the spirit of defending the well-being of a teenager.  Not an empathy session with her.  But yes … a contribution.

Horror No More?

Stephen King is my favourite author.  Yes, he’s a horror guy, but he’s also a master of character development, making them so real that I fall in love, even with the bad guys.  They too have a pilot light of goodness.  Books of terror, such as The Shining and Pet Semetary, have always been enthralling for me as well as scary.

Yesterday I started King’s novel The Regulators.  In the first hundred pages, the occupants of vibrantly coloured vans are terrorizing the residents of a suburban street.  They’ve already killed a man, a woman, a boy and a dog.  Despite all this, I loved reading about the dynamics of the neighbourhood … who’s doing what.  Who’s saying what about whom.

I slept poorly last night.  I’m still pretty dopey.  Stephen, did you have anything to do with this?

I see myself as a spiritual person.  Am I moving towards letting go of the 6:00 pm news, gossip in the coffee shop, and perhaps Mr. King’s depictions of murder?  As for the author, I read fiction and go to international movies to see life vividly displayed in front of me.  I want real people feeling real things.  I want stunning moments between two people.  I want love, sadness, anger … the full meal deal.

No, I’ve just decided.  I won’t stop reading Stephen King.  There are too many “ah hah” moments within those pages, where I recognize humankind, and pause to consider my world view.  To consider what’s important in my life.  To learn.

Bring it on, Stephen.  Teach me.