Wednesday, August 9, 2017

SPLASH!


One identifies, or not. For me, the Victoria Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt, swelling up from the anchored barge, had me enthralled. (I’d twice directed the rather complex play, back in ’91, and then ‘09.) It certainly had a national identification for Victoria’s new Maestro, Christian Cluxen, originating as he does from Denmark. With his first performance at Canada’s annual Victoria Splash (since his new appointment to the Symphony,) the sound he orchestrated had a resonance that reached far beyond mere performance; it evoked passion. 

The “Victoria Splash” is very special. Forty thousand people (announcements affirm) congregate every August around a huge barge in the harbor. Sonorous music wells up from under the cavern-like tent. People come to seat themselves with their own portable deck chairs, self-regimented in rows and rows from the dock-side edge along the ledges of the sea wall, and up across the sectioned off streets, and on the green lawns in front of the majestic Empress Hotel, and over the sloping gardens of the magnificently imperious Parliament Building. It is Victoria City’s front-yard celebration of a lifetime.

Kayaks and rowboats cluster and clump and clank gunwales in front of the barge; the best seats in the house. As far as the eye can travel into and amongst the myriad people, there are no police, no authorities; yet there is no alcohol, no smoking; there is just a munching here and there of home-made meals. Some people purchase food from nearby vendors. The smell of caramelized popcorn drifts enticingly. Some people had been there since dawn. Others still come; and the numbers all day grow and grow toward the magical start time of the main event.

At precisely 7:30 p.m., the Maestro arrives! And eventually, in the four-hour length of Canada’s setting sun, in the seemingly made to order absence of wind-gusts or broiling clouds, in the choreographed glides of flocks of silent sea-gulls, in the riveted attention of the vast and superbly polite audience, in the clarity of excellent sound, the harmony of accord and appreciation of both raw and expertly tamed beauty all around, The Victoria Splash goes on and on.

Virtuosity does not necessarily arise out of a single person; it can be a collective of thousands of fingers and movements all streaming together to arrive at a perfect accord.

Yet the solo giftedness of eight year old pianist, Felipe Jiang, with Mozart’s 21st, was truly mesmerizing. Time stood still. The orchestra played Grieg’s Homecoming, Morning, and In the Hall of the Mountain King, as well as Nielsen’s Maskarade Overture, and Symphony No 2. There was also Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, Sibelius’ Finlandia, and the Violin Concerto (with 18 year old Ryan Howland). Korngold’s Seahawk Suite, Lumbye’s Champagne Galop, Lincke’s Berliner Luft came next, and then, of course, the majestic sweep to the thunder of the culminating cannon and fireworks, at about 10.00 p.m., of Tchaikovsky’s 1812. Wow!

Wow. So too for the specialness of each pin-prick of light, wending homewards. In a fairyland of flashlights probing the dark spaces, of small boats and kayaks with Rudolph-like noses plying the dark waters, of lit-up lamp-posts like isolated molecules in the great blanket of the universe, we each are but a bit of light, a sole pin-prick of enlightenment in the dark, wending homewards.

Would that our collective and isolated home-bound fragmentations might also so readily re-unite in harmony and accord, when solo, and apart. Sound for sound. Light for light. Now for now. 



                                                                                        [Photo by J.Neway]

Monday, August 7, 2017

"It's Not Cricket!"


Old School Cricket (at Pretoria Boys High)

"It's not cricket!" The phrase carries. It reaches into one's past. It calls to accountability. It relies on your knowing the game, playing by the rules. But more importantly, it’s an expectation that one honour civility. Cricket was played in white, by both teams. Eleven men fielded the two batsmen. And everybody, the players of either side, the spectators alike, applauded any good play with a "well done", and "jolly good!" Any good play. It mattered not whose side one was on. And certainly, no unseemly behaviour, or bad sportsmanship, or unfairness was tolerated. The game of cricket was played by gentlemen, and observant spectators came dressed in whites too, with parasols, cucumber sandwiches, and flasks of tea. All so very civilized! Ah, cricket. 

But no longer. Time and competition has eroded much of custom. Like baseball, or hockey, or football, or soccer, or rugby, the players go into exorcisms of glee when the opposing team member is caught "out!" Back in my day (forty years ago,) when an opposing team member was leaving the field, we applauded his play politely "good effort!", and so too did we applaud the new batsman walking on, in a sign of encouragement, "Go on then, give us a good game." But things have changed. Collectively, and generally, we accept if not encourage these changes. (It’s interesting how many patrons at sports games nowadays are disappointed if there was ‘no fight’).

Still, unfairness deeply rankles. We have persons who break the rules, who grease the ball, pull at strings, bet against the team, cut corners, and undermine ethics. In politics and commerce the problems seriously affect us all. And the worst of it is that it is the honest, the ethical, the sincere, the well meaning, and the patient who pays the price. No wonder we seek to buck the system. No wonder we may choose to put "gift" on a parcel sent overseas, rather than "sold to". Especially when there are insurance fees, and brokerage fees, and transportation taxes, and import taxes, and export taxes, and currency conversion rates, and worst of all, clerical errors en route!

Thing is, it takes the slightest slip of a pen to make mistakes. A name can be forgotten by a "change agent" in the address label! Without ‘an official' recipient, an overseas package languishes in a distribution depot, stays undelivered beyond the fourteen day limit, and is charged as per: "** Please note:  Customs will raise possible penalty of R2500.00  + 10% of the VAT for due clearances not done within the prescribed time (14 day’s)  from the date the parcel arrives in the country."

Now add importation taxes, at over $700 Canadian; for what reason? Because it was not 'a gift'? The UPS tracking number enabled the intended South African recipient of my painting, "Old School Cricket", to trace the professionally parceled package to a South African distribution depot. Despite the contact emails of the UPS and Customs manager(s), STILL, to this date of August 8th, that painting has not yet been received. Yet it left Canada on the 6th of July! A UPS agent “in transit” made the error. Yet one pays $599 for the service! In the meantime, the original invoice, proof of the recipient's identity, and mine, as well as the packaging agent has been established. The saga goes on!


The devil is in the details. "I just want to know God's thoughts," wrote Einstein. Yes, if we were to use common sense, to be fair, reasonable, considerate, compassionate, and to play by the rules (yet be sensitive to disabilities) we'd have a more sensible society, perhaps. "One can tell the sophistication of a populace," wrote someone, "by the amount of rules in their charter." Yes, if I were king of the forest, I'd have one rule: 'Respect Everything and Everybody.' (Which part of that do you need further explicated?) But throughout history we've been made subject to the most severe restrictions and excises and hardships that dictators could devise. Still, life's 'rules' have always changed. Always. No, life has certainly not been a consistent game of cricket; nor for that matter has the expected delivery of my painting gone by our expectations, despite the ongoing gentility of the potential recipient. Cricket, or not.


                                          (Giving or Taking, oils, also by this writer)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ego, Ergo, Esoterics



"I've been traduced, abused, and calumniated," averred Hadrian the Seventh, (V two sticks, ha!) It was a phrase that stuck. Back in 1973, in professional theatre with CAPAB (Cape Performing Arts Board) of Cape Town, as Hadrian leaves his apartment en route to being Pope, I was foreman of the furniture movers, as well as a guard. Thing is, the ballet of choreography that might have been applied, as I recall it, was formal, stilted.  Yet of the many words mouthed by the actors, that single phrase has stuck with me through the years. It struck me as the epitome of the slanderous, disingenuous, and self-serving ways in which we abuse others. Traduced and calumniated against, indeed. We each fall victim to the opinions of another. (And sometimes their words make no sense!)

Ego would have one hit, hurt, bruised. Ego would have one rile! Ego would have one at least leap to the defense, if not physically, then in likewise demeaning, derogatory, and incendiary language. Ego determines that one has at least sufficient a boundary in order to protect oneself against the slings and arrows of an outrageous 'other'; we know when a line has been crossed!

But ego is also hurt when the poetry is not accepted, when the art competition was not won, when the potential award was not announced. Ego feels things keenly. It leaps up in anger at wrongs and slights and unfairness. It belittles foolishness and derides idiots. It decides one is unfit to be seen! Ego wants a beach body and a sports car. It wants a better paying job and a grander house. It wants a new hairdo. Ego niggles at imperfections and misspelled words. Ego makes a mockery of another's phraseology. Ego has us feeling inferior at another's diction. We are so comparative. We are so evaluative, yet can be so judgmental. And we operate so very much from what our own expectations are, what our own experience has led us to believe.

Picasso, Dali, Pollock. These were painters who broke the mould. Seurat, Dada, Monet. Shall we go on? In theatre too there are a host of names. Boleslavsky; Alexander; Laban. All were masters. And all were misunderstood, maligned, traduced, abused, and calumniated against. But their ego survived the onslaught. They persevered, and eventually succeeded. Others too!

In theatre, such newfound qualities of subtle semiotics and the unique spiral-dynamic proclivities of character, along with conscious psycho-geometric variegations of personality, let alone the endemic deployment of the intrinsically affected Actor's Alphabet of staging principles, is hardly elementary. It takes one to know one. The masterful adaptation from the stilted staging and black and white verbatim of a script can best be appreciated by those who've read that script, seen others' laborious staging of it, and are so used to the traditional methods of production that when something is challenging, suggestive, demanding, and original, it is entered into with a spirited and comprehensive sense of suspended disbelief. Yet we bring our expectations, lose our childlike humility in believing that our outstretched finger is a six-shooter, and castigate a fellow actor when imprecision is perceived as necessary where no precision was intended. (Go ahead and do it, offhandedly; make my day!) Bang! Such is the power of suggestion. Such is the reason we slander and squabble and dispute and castigate and relegate another to dross.


Let me not to the marriage of like minds admit impediment. There are great gatherings of highly structured organizations whose members adhere to sets of expectations. Some most evidently necessarily so! Aeroplanes require fundamental tenets to be adhered to. Still, there are very many types of aeroplanes. We each fly by what we need, by what we most prefer, and mostly we even choose our own destination. Yet we are necessarily given to being birds of a feather. (A true Holland's Theory.) Thing is, the more we know the more we can be comfortable with just how much we do not know. We can sit back, let go of prejudice, and enjoy the ride. Yes?


Thursday, July 20, 2017

From A for Applause to Z for Zoubi


Authenticity needs no specific forum. Songbirds can sing wherever they're caged. Or do they? It takes a rare talent to be able to be just who you are, wherever you are. And any artifice one may add to another's stirring performance would perhaps be just that, a conscious accretion of stylistic values held by others to make a performance more palatable, more professional, more sophisticated. But there'd be no falsehood, not if the raw deal, the profound talent, the ‘real’ authenticity of the songster, the poet, the artist already is abundantly grounded. Such is the voice and artistry of Zoubi Arros. Such is the privilege of spending time with this invaluable songbird whose reach is beyond her grasp, whose great potential is as yet unrealized, whose affect upon others is yet sufficiently to be broadcast so that her voice may become a household heart-held 'tumble' of lyrics given a familiar sound. Then those stylistic artifices of presentation semiotics, emotional chiaroscuro, polychromic and personal tastes may indeed give alternative perspectives. (We each are given to preferential tastes.) But there is no denying another’s secure voice of authenticity, however stylistically someone else (like me) might appear to tinker with the experience of performance.

We are each affected by art in its many renditions. And the five principles of enduring art (see: http://mrpswords.blogspot.ca/2010/01/mona-lisas-smile-pentelburys-pentacle.html ) are subtly there if art is eventually to become all-reaching, self-consciously or not. So too for the addition of the Classical Mountain Diagram to any rendition, exponential song for aching song, as well as the effective drama that over-arches the entire performance. Then too, the unique Alphabet of Performance Principles might be applied, patina for patina, layered over the performance until habitual, natural, and absorbed into those comfortable conventions of being in front of others, performing, singing, and ‘acting’. (Acting, it is such a 'dirty' word.) Yet when in front of others, on any stage, we are 'actors'. And whether a speech, a song, a monologue, or a metaphorical ballet of suppositions for any art, we are at once in the spotlight of others' eyes. We are seen!

We see. We bring ourselves. As onlookers we identify primarily with that which is inside us. To not have been homeless, or abandoned, or drunk, or hit and hurt and abused, is to bring oneself, one's identity, merely as a relational entity to the art. But although we may not know the precise recipe by which the painter achieved his effect, or the real specifics of the weaving story behind the songster's rendition, or the iambic craft by which the poet achieved words affecting a relational significance, we can be reached. Our souls are touched. Our emotions are plucked. It is in identification that we most relate with another, with a place, with a sense of connection, and with The Art, piece by piece, or as a whole. Just show me "your integrity" is a phrase that resonated with Zoubi's stellar performance.

"Your problem, Richard," an actor once leveled at me, "is that you do not know how properly to receive a compliment. Praise is a gift. Your dismissal of the compliment, of the applause, is like saying that what is given to you is worthless. Instead, look a person in the eye, thank them for their gift, and honour the fact that they bothered to give it to you in the first place."

We can share lessons. We can learn from others. We can absorb and change and adapt and accrete and mature and more effectively resonate with life. Such is the value of adding to that which we already know. Pablo Casals, at 90, said when asked why he continues to practice the violin, "because I'm hoping to improve." It is that very entelechy, that quality of inner drive and ambition and instinct that has one always reaching beyond one's grasp ("or what's a heaven for?" wrote the poet, Robert Browning.) Yet in our reaching for yet more, even in all our authenticity, we may fear losing our integrity, our old paradigms of practice. But not Zoubi!


"I just want to know God's thoughts; the rest are details," Einstein said. Yet we are still best to learn, and to keep on learning. One can sing atop Mount Tolmie, or perform in one's basement. If you're like Zoubi Arros, your authenticity will always shine through. And even in our learning, yes, integrity can remain.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Attenuated Acceptance(s)


They lied! The deception rankles. Yet we perpetuate it ourselves, ad infinitum, it seems. We teach about Tooth Fairies and Santa and Father Christmas. We teach about the Easter Bunny. It's kiss the Blarney Stone, and love little leprechauns. And it's watch out for black cats and cracks and the Tokkelosh. (Of course, you'd have to know what a Tokkelosh is, but that's why many Africans have their beds up on bricks, just to prevent the Tokkelosh from leaping up!) Children learn to fear it. So too for the Boogeyman! Yes, we advance the Gods of yore too (especially in reincarnations of Greek mythology). And how easily we o'erlook the Roman Gods, never mind Ra or Isis. Yet although not everything is scary or real, there remains the sense that, Icarus like, one's flights of fancy ought not to go too near the Truth. Still, Ockham's razor divides, (we’ll learn.) But deceit and prevarication marries the self, and in its guises we respond with emotion. We feel things. We are touched. No wonder when someone outright lies, or is in and of themselves false, we are uncomfortable, outraged, incensed, and deeply cut. Or not.

Who amongst us has never (ever) lied?

William Ockham, in medieval times, outlined a split between perceived reality, and that which is actually real. It was the dawning of science. To one side was declared that which is True, and to the other fell that which is 'good' (or bad, for that matter). Religion became divisive. Science triumphed. And the Ptolemaic system was replaced by the Copernican. Knowledge of itself became a pursuit of facts. Intuition, that ephemeral substance of superstition and supposition, was sliced aside by the incontestable, by the rational and actual-factual. And to this day our schoolchildren and our populace are led to place a higher order of value on the materially attainable, on that which can be measured in accountability. Spiritualism and Angels and Friday the 13th are for zombies. It is no wonder that the marvel of Spider-Man and Wonder-woman and Thor and Harry Potter entertain us so; we easily delight in our suspended disbelief.

Which of us still really believes in the Gods? Believes in magic? Believes in miracles? Believes in ghosts and goblins and sprites? Believes that our sacrifice will do much to tally the balance of our karma? Believes that our connections with others are 'forever', and are independent of our actions that disconnect and dissolve and fragment and bifurcate the expected from the actual? It is in our very politics. We argue. We are present to each moment, yes, but Future and Past are adjustable, even so for the very depth of breath one may take at coming to a single tiny period.

We breathe. We are alive! But let us not unto the farce of our fragile thoughts admit that we do not search for some succour for our present predicament. “Somebody, save me!” We each feel insecure in the perpetual climate of uncertainty around us (since it is predicated so much on the actions of others: how they drive; how they dance, dress, think, behave, speak; and what their avowed politics are!) We feel helpless in the face of all the conflict. We are victims. We cannot do much else but exercise our one poor lonely little vote. Say our piece. And the bank rates will change. Taxes will change. Death will steal us each away. Ideas will rot at our stability. New habits will break our comfortable old paradigms. New expectations will threaten our very soul.

And so, which of us has not disliked that with which we do not agree?


Learning to accept and allow for and integrate and have compassion for and include that which is not understood may take lifetimes. (Or is that stretching 'a truth'?) We can feel the other's upbraiding of our Self as a physical punch, as a slap in the face of all that was meant, that was intended, that was learned. Potential and purpose, or presentiment too, dissolves to disillusion. We are incomplete. And in accepting incompletion, so are we more accepting of another. No?


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Coordinating Contrition


Immediately wrought contrite over a childhood thought, of more than fifty years ago, the old man deeply shuddered. The searing of it had resurfaced, unwittingly. But why now? What was the cause? Where did it spring from? Who else had he hurt in the long hurtle from the 'there', in the once-upon-a-time, to the here and now? How aware had he been? And why had he not, as far as he could remember, recalled with sufficient regret having had that ‘bad’ thought, again, until now?

Guilt is an awkward thing. It resonates with rancour. One easily can beat oneself up. What self-serving impulse, what shallow instinct has not invaded any one of us? And how can one be forgiving of another if not having had, albeit in some smidgen of a way, a similar 'sin' visited upon the self? Have you never (ever) wished someone dead? Have you never-ever filched, stolen, or sneaked so much as a cookie when not supposed to? Not even thought of it? But there are much more subtle issues at stake in the monitoring moments of the self than taking actual action. There is thought itself. And such thoughts that we know instinctively to conceal are those that we might examine in ourselves more closely. For they indubitably saturate the consciousness. They can cause others to feel uncomfortable. They can be unethical. They can harm one's integrity. Yet we think of almost everything, (and which part of Everything is 'not'?)

Indeed. "I am not to be held responsible for the thoughts that enter my head," said Einstein, "just the ones I entertain." Yes. We easily have thoughts ballooning by, but being conscious of them, learning when to look away, to veer off course, or purposefully to go higher (if not deeper) into the realms beyond their immediate import, now there's the thing! We are too easily impregnated by “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune". We too easily (especially men) can lean at an atavistic slant to one side and with cocked heads study the click-click of high-heels bobbing by. Distractions abound! Thoughts infiltrate. Yet it’s in deeds that we perpetrate who we are, indeed.

"We are what we think", writes James Allen (in 'As A Man Thinketh'). It affects our character. It affects our circumstances. It affects our health. It affects our purpose, our achievements, our visions and our ideals. In fact, the effect of our thought affects, ultimately, not only ourselves!

Thing is, the territorial imperative would have us linked by constellation to the genetic code impelling us since Adam. (We can hardly be held responsible!) Yet 'sophistication', (that word that connotes a veneer of civility yet denotes the management of one's animal instincts, one's selfish desires, one's self-serving impulses,) sophistication would have us manage our motives, manage our base natures, manage even our memories. Yes, how does one free oneself from the tyrannical grip of the past? Somewhere in thinking-about-our-thinking (that essentially meta-cognitive process of practicing more than being predominantly led by intuitive feeling, and with our using the perpetual bridle of thought on the free range of emotion) we attain a sifting through the shallow, callow, lewd and rude. We slough off the dross of objectifying and vilifying and adjudging those whose condition renders them insensate to our own preferences. In effect, we become more and more enlightened, if such a thing be recognition of being more and more at peace not only with the self, but with everyone and everything, despite their given predilections.

That ‘ill’ teenage thought felt by the old man, a day or two ago, had him shudder with regret. Thing is, even though he tried throughout today, and with this writing, to recall precisely what that thought was, he cannot. It is as though we eventually shudder at our past sufficient to sift beyond its effect on us, such that forgiveness of the self becomes a primary platform from which to realize yet more compassion, acceptance, and conscious of others too as they are connected to the self. Always.


After all, "All for one, and one for all!" Yes?   

   

Sunday, July 2, 2017

'Harvey', Homilies, and Hope


How very fragile it all is. One hurtles between cities and hopes all will be well. Like life. One mounts a concept, a production, a venture, and expects a success. All our lives, we have grand schemes, dreams, and beliefs. We wear talismans. We imprint ourselves with tattoos. We pay obeisance to our ancestors. We take on personas and beliefs and expectations. And eventually, it dawns on us: perfection is so very fleeting, so momentary. We best go with the flow. (Learned lines, rules, are so difficult to generate each time, as though truly "for the first time, every time"). And our holding onto what is essentially transitory, each little passage of life itself, tends for too long to be too attached to the past. We each move from moment to moment. We step but briefly on the boards of the great panoply of life, and each person, in their time, "plays several parts."

Where have we heard that before? What part of Awareness; Balance; Character (versus Personality); Demon-(S)-tration; Enfoldment; Fear or Favour; Give; Heighten; Intensify; Justify; Kinetics; Lunge or Lilt; Momentum; Notes; Observe; Pivot; Question; Respect, Receive, Rejoice;
Semiotics of Speech; Tone, Tempo, Texture; Utterance; Value; Waken; Axcept or Expect, (but not Except); Yield; or Zig-Zag is just far too esoteric for you? Precise coordination, definition, or resonance may well be obtuse. (So also for incomprehensible medical or engineering terms. Or for cosmology and astrology and phrenology. Yes, big words and their effect on our eschatology can be off-putting). The more one knows the more one knows how much one doesn't know!

But this I know: We had a marvelous success! We each took a slice out of life, committed ourselves to its import, to its moment, and brought ourselves to the creative collaboration with passion for attaining a product worthy of our time and effort. (For those not "in the know" we might refer to a social engagement, or a graduation, or perhaps even going on a holiday. The generality of 'application to task' is what is here called up for inspection.) The specifics, the details, all add up to what becomes a fragmentary memory, eventually. Recall the holidays you've been on? Recall every day? Recall the parties you've been to? Recall every guest? Recall the birthdays you've had? Recall every present? Indeed, the specifics fade away. But the essence of the time spent, the energy that went into the event, the feelings that were realized, they all become part of the past that we are making, even as you read these words. We can but do what we do within the given moment, imperfect as the collage of moments may eventually appear, on reflection. But that overall 'good' sense, the lasting 'happy' impression, that's the one for the memory banks! (Even though, yes, some of our memories are indeed 'bad'). We each learn. We each process things. And many things strike us each quite differently, indeed.

Science needs have it perfect. Certainly, I want my brakes on the car to work! I want my vehicle's engine, mile after mile after hour after hour to turn over, smoothly, efficiently, and to transport me to yet another realm. So too for our hearts. So too for the arteries and vessels and molecules and atoms that constitute our very sense of existing. Be good, "Or what's living for?"

'Harvey', an invisible Pooka, as the alter ego of Elwood P. Dowd, harboured being pleasant as opposed to being smart. He imbued politeness, respect, dignity, grace, and comportment. He stood for sensitivity to others, inclusion, and integration. He was neither pretentious nor inauthentic. He imbued a sense of collaboration, of a ghostly presence to be accounted for at every occasion, and of a respect for the dignity of the whole. Harvey, indeed, is expected to be a part of all of us, always. To see Mike Johnson play Elwood was to witness the very best of a person brought to light, each and every time, as though being present was indeed the first time, every time. So too then might we represent that much in ourselves, as much as is possible.


Or is that just too full of homilies and hope?


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Just A Judas?


Betrayal burns. Guised in many cloaks, it steals our souls. And although sometimes we, the victim, are able to forgive the betrayer, I find it harder to forgive myself for having betrayed. In the veils of subtlety betrayal arises when I share information that poisons perceptions; such is the sin of scandal. My listener has no need to know what I so insidiously share; even if I am asked, "How's so and so? Have you heard from him or her lately?" Negativity not only adds to bad news, it makes stronger the sensibilities that impelled me to share salacious tidbits in my unthinking offing. Upon reflection, upon introspection, upon thinking about my thinking, I realize I am relaying the creep of crud. Yes, we best block it. We best not betray.

Perhaps i never should have been given the role of Judas. I was but fourteen or fifteen at the time, and the school play, a Passion Play, involved a whole lot of my school chums, way back in circa 1968. I wore a red smoking jacket, (a woman, 40 years later, reminded me). I danced a special Judas-dance, with a girl from Girl's High. (Perhaps the reason so many boys participated was because several girls from that school were selected to rehearse and perform with us.) The thing is, now, some 45+ years later, I realize how deeply my subconscious was affected. The character of the real Judas was hated. The perceptions of the real Judas was vile. And I'd been the one chosen to play the role. (I recall how very much I'd wanted to play the lead, Jesus.) And for too many times in the rest of my life, at some test of withholding onto sacred trust, or of having to disclose incontrovertible yet private truths, I've hedged and revealed and shared. And paid the price afterwards. Bitterness at the self is a hard pill to swallow.

So, in the psychogeometric proclivity of my squiggly line nature, I've guarded against the instinct to be free with my words, to be free with my revelations, to be free with my judgements and my want to ingratiate myself, puppy-dog like, with strangers. (And even more so, with those close to me.) No, it's better to cordon off loose-instincts with the square shape of promises to myself (let alone to others). It's better to contain the circle shape of trusting-integration within me to the square of expectation and loyalty. It's better to harness the triangle shape of my ambitions and self interests yet again within that square shape that has declared a wall against scandal, or of spreading rumours, or worse, of outright betrayal. And it's best not to be indecisive, rectangular, or wispy-washy with my commitments. Yes, the mind-shapes of triangle, square, rectangle, circle, and squiggly-line apply. If we were evenly balanced we'd be exercising 20% of each, but our predominant proclivity arises most of the time, especially when put to the test, and that'd make for at least 25% of oneself to responded to tasks, or to any crisis, from one's predominant 'shape'. (For myself, being a squiggly, my creative and flexible anything-goes nature can be a weakness. I can be fickle. I could betray.) Best to guard against that!

Our weakness can prove to be our strength, should we guard against it. We can temper our obstinacy. We can draw our boundaries more clearly. We can consider the sharpness of our impact on others more carefully. We can consider the effects of too much vacillation. And we can more considerately practice the need to commit, to see a project through, and to keep one's word.


Being Judas is different from playing Judas. When we play we are making choices. When we just let ourselves be, we dip into and exercise and do and perpetrate the predominant proclivity of our natures, and too much of anything tends to harm others, let alone ourselves. The life unexamined is hardly worth living, wrote Socrates. We come mostly from one of five minds, in fact, a psycho-geometric proclivity, purports Susan Dillinger. And to that end, being just a Judas, or choosing more carefully one's role in life, is hereby submitted as part of the juggling act. So may one affect one's very soul. Indeed in deeds. So may we give shape to our lives. Always.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Voting for Veracity


The golden coin rolled into the vomit. The man in the wheelchair could not reach it. He still drooled from the fresh offal. At his feet the puddle of rancid yellow and brown goo prevented people from standing close. Yet still, his outstretched hand, begging passersby, beckoned. And since there, I stooped, plucked the golden Canadian dollar up from his wretch, and though it dripped from the pinch between my forefinger and thumb, I more carefully dropped it into the filth of his palm. A regular on the street corner, the homeless man could only grunt. He does not speak. He cannot move himself. Inarticulate, uneducated, virtually immobile, and indisposed, this man has been on much the same corners for over six years now. He always recognizes me. He always gives a wave. At times I've gone to get him a coffee. (He once was able barely to get the phrase out). Sometimes he'd get a coin or two. And sometimes I've happened to be close enough to see other homeless people dipping into his silver coffee tin, giving him a pat, and then their ambling on. What he does for his toilet needs one does not want to know. What he thinks, day in and out, there with his head hung low, and there with his rags for clothes and his hair unkempt and his teeth rotten and his eyes glazed and his hardly able to talk is a great pain to see. In fact, for most people as they go on by, he is made invisible. Very few acknowledge his presence. Very few drop coins into his cup. And when he sits there, in suspect puddles beneath his wheelchair, or with evident droppings close to him, he is among the great sad sights in our universe. Late in the day an old woman, achingly disheveled, hauls him away. Yet to take on the full responsibility of attending to him; to see to his longevity; that's something entirely beyond normal expectation. We have institutions for that. We have a social contract. We have government workers and programs. And so we can walk on. After all, the value of picking up a dropped coin in the vomit is dependent entirely on the value of the coin itself. I would not have picked up a dime, nor a quarter, not a nickel, and definitely not a farthing.

Back in my parked car I carefully wipe my fingers with two or more of the antiseptic cloths from the plastic container we keep handy. Passengers in the car, sometimes a dog, children especially, all leave fingerprints and... Well, better to keep things clean. But we cannot wipe away the offal of our societal constructs. We cannot always choose who we see. We cannot make invisible the makings of others. We are best to watch where we walk. And by looking ahead, we can even avoid the unpleasantness of stepping into the turds below. Sometimes hindsight helps too! After all, since history happened, we may as well learn from it. No?

The voting card between my fingers (the same ones I'd dirtied with vomit) I now carried into the booth. Around me were tables of officials, all making checks of identification documents and people's addresses. And when putting down the distinct privilege, for me, of my X, I knew that my choice reflected the freedom to do so. But was my choice the right one? We sift through the crap given to us by the political system. No sooner do I feel strongly approving of one candidate than someone else, some TV advertisement, some newspaper heading or essay or article spews out to confront my surety. Friends and acquaintances do too. No one is pure. No one is entirely right. Or is he, or is she? Hope springs eternal. And in the confusion of obfuscations and improprieties and insecurities, I make my best stab at finding the gold among the dross. Like plucking up the coin; one hopes that one has made the gesture worthwhile.


Our actions build onto our societies, however small. Each little thing has a momentum that, if well-intentioned, one can but hope one is contributing toward the health of the whole. But the degree to which we fool ourselves, too, is measured in the detractions. Yet not to act, to pretend that some bits and parts of life are to be avoided; not to be critically examined, included, assimilated, and integrated; is to miss out on being effectual where one can. The degree of conscious thought we put into things becomes the measure of our progress, our measure of contribution. Or do we simply not vote at all?


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Potential, Privilege, and Peace


Privilege has its disadvantages. Running out of deodorant, oh my! A pesky fly in one’s 2,500 sq ft domain, dang it all! The new brakes slightly squealing on the brand new sports car; better take the SUV. And then, to top it off, there's a leaky shower in the tenant's condo, over 1000 miles away, so one may as well fly there and go oversee the expensive renovation. And what of, back at home, running out of skim milk, and 2% milk for the coffee, and.... Well, ain't I got problems!

Meantime, I gloss over the predicament of the ever ubiquitous refugees. They slide into my consciousness as I lie back on my comfy-couch. My annual donations to World Vision suffices, surely? (How much more do they want?) Yet the images of the fly-besieged children provokes. And then there's The News with its interminable offerings of bad, "bigley-bad" news, ‘breaking news’, and its raw displays of mankind's impoverished condition.

The disparity between what's over there and what is here is very apparent. It is galling. Life is indeed unfair. Particularly to those whose familial and geographic containment is imposed from birth. How does the one fly, of all flies, make its way away from the usual existence that is its lot into the protected space of a plethora of availability? Within the closed up windows and walls of my domain there is food and crumbs and almost invisible treasures for it. For four days it has flitted about, distracting me, the God who lives there, sufficient that, on the fifth day, it got exterminated, killed, done-away-with. (And the Zoroastrian in me, who decided its fate, having done so, did think, 'Would the Master not have set it free?') But to do so would be to allow it to tell all its family (and their families) of the great feast and spoils available if only they would bide their time, await the right moment, and then besiege the briefly opened patio door! They breed!

Did we not do the same to continents? Did Colonialism not invade countries and spaces and overwhelm people and abrogate unto itself rights and expectations? Flags were replaced. Gods were replaced. And now (as one sees the vast amount of foreigners in-cringing on what used to be the familiar,) cultures, rather than being adopted, are being replaced. Gibberish! No wonder there are rising rates of xenophobia, of 'resurfacing' racism, of discord and protest and brutality. Or is it just that we are now nearly eight billion; flies squabbling over earth’s rotting corpse?

Ugly imagery abounds. That's the news. Yet sometimes, when I drive about in 'the wife's' new sports car (or even when in my usual SUV,) it is with a delightful surprise that I see so very many manicured lawns and beautiful gardens and posh mansions and town streets full of shopping people. Amazing that the world still is on its axis, at least, from my point of view. I do not see evidence of the things The News talks about. Well, except that there are indeed a lot more foreigners to observe, in crowded places, indeed. But they are doing the same things we do, talking, checking cell-phones, eating, shopping. And they smile back. And they are, after all, just people, like you and me.

Here in Canada we are privileged. But it comes at a price. It takes the perpetual busyness of maintaining a bank balance, of paying a mortgage, of filling the fridge from the grocery store, of paying for restaurants, and of being extensively taxed on everything. Oh my! And then there is the daily dictum of emails and phone calls and occasional disconnections with wifi to contend with. Oh my! Not to mention that the microwave door that slams needs replacing. Or that the TV console really needs to be specially designed and made to house all our records and DVD's.


We are creatures of the immediate. Each of us. And each moment is all we have. We do not know exactly when the hands of God will clap, summoning us to an unknown. Do we? In the meantime, we wait. We make do. Or do we not? No, peace and privilege are not synonymous.

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Tue, 2 May 2017 05:00:00 EDT CBC NEWS
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Why (K)not?


"Why?"

Mr. Thumbite gave the curt response over the phone. His school chum (from over 50 years back,) having at last located him, offered to go for a coffee, beer, or lunch. "Why?" Now, voice tone or adjectives, like “belligerent”, or “inquisitive”, or “dismissive” might well alter the story, consciously, but with the denunciation clearly denoted, the two old school friends did not meet.

Consciousness has it that we not only think about our thinking, but that we do it as a continuum of habit. (Surely we are conscious some of the time?) Surely we have a meta-cognition, that ability to realize we are thinking and to redirect, address, question, and even choose in which direction to steer our thinking. Animals are less so. Dogs, cats, pets, farm animals, they all learn and show intelligent choices at times, but not as a continuum. And even then, it is averred, quite a few humans do not live in much consciousness either. We are creatures of habit, reactionary rather than responsive, and atavistic rather than progressive. It is in our nature to nurture that which we already know, to perpetuate that to which we've become inured, and to settle for that which is on the TV. Or do we creatively compose our lives? Do we perpetually consider our choices, not just from a good or bad, left or right, or even an up or down perspective, but from the kaleidoscope of compassion? (Complete compassion, here, is comprehensively integrative.)

If Fifteen Dogs are given consciousness, and their lives followed, surely it is the degree to which each of them exercises that ability that will establish a bell curve along the continuum. So too for humans. Our bell curve, in the long line of history, would show that we've not exercised our consciousness very much at all. At least, not collectively. Yet it might be argued that if the measure of mankind's' consciousness in action may be by the metre (that French word) of compassion, then it is not so much about individuals in action, but what groups have done. And certainly not everyone in the United States need be aligned with the President, nor those in Russia, nor those in China, nor those in the long history of Time's sweep by an Alexander or a Genghis Khan. We rather easily ascribe a condition, any condition, of the human condition to an entire populace, forgetting that they are measured most often by what the leading edge of that populace perforce did to 'advance' the status quo. Think of the 'great' wars. Think of the ongoing wars. How does an individual without much power at all, like you or me, affect those? How do we influence with our consciousness the awareness of others? What communication, methods, or prayers will truly affect 'everything'? We can but do what we do in small measures, one by one, each by each, in an attempt to sway the vote. Ask the 'new' South Africa. Ask a North Korean, or a refugee from Syria. How conscious may they be deemed to be? What of you and me? And what we've done, collectively, given all history, is not show much consciousness at all.

Lunchtime meetings with four separate friends over the past fortnight have much invigorated this treatise. We are of an accord. The degree of meta-cognition impacts the degree to which one lives on in states of consciousness. (And consciousness may be defined as that quality of being aware not only of one's actions, but of the very reasoning process behind the action, most of the time.) Given my friends, when a topic is raised, or a given contention expressed, the essential question of 'why?' is an immediate invitation to further exploration, directed toward a more articulate exposition, and even a reverence for the journey itself. It is never dismissive, or funny.


Yes, sometimes the question is not ‘why’, but, "Why Not?"


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Wise Words


How to avoid the pitfalls of being all too human? A marriage of intellect and emotion might guide us more clearly. Were we to read and read almost all of the very many books available to us on the journey toward enlightenment, we might yet more-better evolve. Some of us attend theosophical meetings; participate in congregations; watch documentaries. We might more purposefully gear ourselves toward monitoring our habits, question keeping our tradition for tradition's sake, or following along for the sake of following. Yet we enjoy being included into a group. After all, to teeter at the edge of being too different, particularly if there are no other birds of a feather to sustain one, becomes too lonely. "Who do you think are?" can cut to the quick.

Words wield wonders, or not. Books invigorate, affirm, entertain, instruct. So might an essay. And a collection of essays, threaded into a complementary narrative, can take one on a journey that is at once enlightening. Such is the work of Edward Butterworth. Heard of him? Then there is also Mortimer J Adler. Read his work? We could go on. You could inject into this missive a host of other authors. Our libraries are burgeoned by those who would have us see through their eyes. And my sharing the particulars of their narrative, that is, of Edward Butterworth and Adler's narratives, here, may not evoke further interest from you. Yet beyond individual styles of presentation, and beyond individual idiosyncrasies of contention, there is a synchronicity with our human condition that bares hearing, that bares reading about. Sentences that would inject wisdom into you, and me, are surely to be shared? (So too for the Bible, one may aver; or what about the Bhagavad Gita, might another. Or what about....? And the list may go on and on.)

"I have no doubt that there are countless millions of people," writes Butterworth,(p.1031) "who are committed to personal/spiritual growth in full knowledge of its implications for the wellbeing of the planet. Each of those people is affecting a circle of others around them, making a change that is below the radar of the mass media." Indeed! So too may each contribute toward the health of the whole! And as Adler writes (p.166): "The common elements that will unite all human beings in a single cultural community will be related to such essentials as truth in science and philosophy, moral values and human rights, man's understanding of himself, and the wisdom that is the highest good of the human mind." Yes! But oh what a tangled web we weave when we try to prescribe 'moral values and human rights', let alone 'truth in science'! Think of the enormous storms raging over whether we have 'climate change', or not. Think of the massive restructuring of morality in religion we'd need afore marrying the East with the West. Indeed, we think this, believe that, and feel honour bound, duty bound, and passionately devoted to the precepts and percepts of that which has guided us heretofore.

Butterworth backpacked India. Adler, apparently, philosophized from his ivory tower. Yet both men gleaned from life the essence of an integrative stance. They saw that the individual can evolve. They felt that one can progress through the maze of differentiators that separate and divide and adjudge man, so that one might attain a place of acceptance for all that is, that was, and even more significantly, that shall yet be. (Not to do so is perhaps to despair so deeply for the future that one becomes despondent, depressed.) And even more, both Adler and Butterworth continue to provide succour for those who would read their works, who would feel affirmed, who may be affected, intellectually as well as emotionally, by the insights of their contentions. Yes, they are influencing "the well being of the planet."

You and I are richer for their influence. We are richer for the very many other words that come our way, words that evoke us toward wanting to be yet more enlightened. And though there be countless tomes of books that so too may add to our personal oeuvres, I give full commendation and recognition of Edward and Mortimer's works. Here are the links, (both available at Amazon): http://edwardbutterworth.com