Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Number Eight

            Kitchener, Ontario was my home for over 10 years. The latter part of that decade was spent in a 17 storey apartment building called the Alexandrian. Located in the heart of the downtown core, mere feet from City Hall, the building was built in the early 1970s. It most certainly was not a perfect choice when we decided to move in but we were sure that we could make it our own. First we signed on the dotted line, then we settled in. We had no idea that we would be staying there for 6 years. The place was acceptable from a vantage point and we bought in to the initial viewing. It was not a high-end building but it wasn't a low-end building either. We certainly would not have taken the place had we known what was to come. The building seemed clean and taken care of. The pool looked pristine and the grounds cared for. We chose to move onto the 16th floor, well knowing it would be quite some time before we relocated again. The moving in was the easy part. It was all the chaos that came with living there that stole away the peace and serenity that is supposed to come with a rental contract.
            It just goes without saying that the building wasn't the problem. Locked up inside our space we found solace and silence and security. The moment I found out that the superintendents of our building were fundamentalist Christians, I knew there would be trouble. The inalienable rights such creatures grant themselves always interacts poorly with those who do not tow their line. Instead of following a pathway and living by example, more extreme forms of Christianity (and almost any other world religion) tend to use Jesus (or any other icon) as an excuse rather than a catalyst. People who condemn others, figuratively crucifying men for their faults, will then go ahead and do the very same thing they accuse others of (most times even worse). The blood of a deity will apparently wash those sins away but this only manages to leave greater room for greater folly. Some new crack can fracture the window. Although these terms do not apply to all Christians, the ones that I have had contact with over the years have convinced me of nothing but fear and lack of trust. My restoration is my concern. Self-righteousness is not a positive character trait. Rather than being humble, they presumed. They presumed salvation. They presumed truth. They presumed.    
            You can measure the validity of a person's religious or spiritual conviction not by words or ideas but through their actions. It's not about what scriptures you know or how deep your meditation. Those who are truly enlightened regarding God should have no religion. Their focus should be on expressing the agape love they serve through acts, not semantics. Faith can only take you so far. At some point you're actually going to have to start living as the 'child of God' that you profess to be. It is your "fruits" that will define you. Not once in half a decade interacting with the managers of the Alexandrian was I convinced that they adhered to the beatitudes, let alone any part of their professed belief structure. Yes, every Sunday morning they shuffled out the door to church but they might as well have been going to brunch for all the good that it did. In all my years of soul searching, I have never experienced  more artificial Christians than the husband and wife team who were paid to take care of the building. It started slowly, then it started to grow. One thing led to another and the place where we lived turned from comfortable and safe to decayed, abandoned and very much ignored. The quaint city living that we signed on for turned into an experiment in the ridiculous.

"Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." (Matthew 22:21b, KJV)

            If you're going to practice a religion, you have to play by the very same rules as everyone else. You make a commitment and are supposed to apply yourself accordingly. If you follow the Bible, for example, you don't get to pick and choose what scriptures to follow and what scriptures to ignore. Claiming to be a disciple of the Christ means adherence to the entire work, not selectively literalizing whatever works for you. Your belief is meant to change you, allowing you to better spread the Gospel. It is not just the Faith you practice through words that matters. It is your response to your experience that suggests your definition. You are not only bound to spiritual law, you are bound to mortal law as well. Jesus is very clear that we must not only do our duty to God but we must follow the laws of the land and government as well. "Giving unto Caesar" means that you pay your taxes. You appropriately respect the authorities. If you have a job, then you do it. If you have something against a "brother" you make it a priority to resolve it. To be a Christian entails a long list of dos and don'ts. Should you claim to be saved and live a 'Christ-like' life, then every single line of scripture becomes binding. It's just like scribbling your signature on a dotted line. You can't just say you're a follower of Jesus unless you actually follow Him.
            People spout off about the God they serve all the time. Everyone thinks so differently so, of course, everyone else is usually wrong. We end up believing that we have been let into an exclusive club that secretly knows all the answers. This hyperbole has existed since before the library of sacred texts that mankind worships in place of the one true God. If I have been given the answers through Holy inspiration, then there is no way I can agree with yours. It's only my way or the highway. I would be constipated if I stopped to feed on the lack of professionalism and negligence exhibited by the superintendents of our former home. It was immediate but took time to become visible. It really started with the small things. Little by little, this was cast aside or that duty wasn't respected. Ever so slowly the place fell apart. It's one thing to skip a few things but if you continue on in the same manner, eventually there will be nothing left to ignore. No true Christian (or any other true religious person) would sit idly by and not do the work that they were paid to do. I have always found it strange that followers of this deity or that God always seem to ignore their own offenses. I guess not so well-meaning disciples of faith are not accountable like the rest of us.
            Nothing gets done but somehow the cheque for the work you've done always gets cashed. Taking payment for services rendered implies you did the work. If you take the money well knowing you didn't meet the standards of the contract you entered into, then you are no better than a thief. Actually, you are a thief. For the entire tenancy, we witnessed the lies, the disregard and the deadliest sins of all. Rather than loving your neighbour, giving to your fellow man and attempting to live a Jesus centred life, sloth and greed and all sorts of vile hubris came with each encounter we had with the management. If either one of them had not at some point told me they were Christian, I would never have known, let alone believed it. You can't steal from people and still claim to be a servant of the Lord. Being born again means personal restoration, becoming a new being in Christ. In no way does that mean you get to do whatever the hell you want with no repercussion and no responsibility to others.

“You shall not steal." (Exodus 20:15, NIV)

            As much as I hate to admit it, I am grateful for the experiences I had with the superintendents of our former apartment building. They have been a constant reminder that not everyone is always as they claim to be. Not every person of God is actually from god just as not every Christian is from Christ. I suppose that is why Jesus asked us to follow him (Matthew 16:24), not the Pharisees or John the Baptist. For me, these two pseudo-disciples are the epitome of what is wrong with Christianity. Granted, they do not represent every person in their belief system. In my personal experience, this is what a modern Christian really is. There are more of them than not. It goes to show that every single person, regardless of the idol they worship, comes into your life with a purpose in doing so. It may be grand or simple but there is always a reason in everything this life throws at you. Sometimes the light you're looking for turns out to be shadow. We can still learn from the dark. It can teach us what we should not be doing. If you pay attention, even the most offensive person has something to offer in the way of example.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

            Six months since our move and the company that owns the Alexandrian finally fired the pair in question. The details are unspecific, even the friends who still live there could grant little in terms of information. They have been removed just the same. I am unsure if it was karma that caused the downfall. I am unsure exactly why it took over seven years as deadbeat superintendents for justice to be served. I just assume they blame the devil rather than stopping to look at what they did to finally cross the dotted line. I could laugh inside at their folly. I could rest in their defeat. Unfortunately, such matters always make God look bad. Imitation is the most sincere part of flattery.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tales from the Crypt

"Usually in the morning
I'm filled with sweet belonging
And everything is beautiful to see
Even when it's raining
The sound of heaven singing
Is simply joyful music to me
But sometimes I feel like a sad song
Like I'm all alone without you"

            Whenever I enter a cemetery, I feel like I just arrived home. Like safe harbour, I find great comfort surrounded by those gone before. I often see an eerie glow rising from the ground, but only the hallowed ground. I have had this "ability" ever since I attempted suicide at the gravesite of my late partner far back in 1995. I do not know whether my near-death experience (at the time) has anything to do with it but I must admit such events inevitably make me feel welcome rather than merely paying a visit. It doesn't matter what graveyard, how many stones or even the faith system of those buried deep within the consecrated place. The incandescence to which I am witness may never expose its purpose but I suppose that may well be the entire point of these experiences. Like sunshine or a coming storm, it just is and nothing more. This, at least, I tell myself as those deceased give off an almost fluorescent aura. On occasion, I have even heard a distant humming, music by which the remnants of the dead dance about, leaping, crawling and floating above it all like any collective ghosts would do.  
            After more than twenty years catching such visions, I am convinced that they are representational rather than just revealing. There is no subtle message I am to learn from them. There is no secret proof from which it does disclose. These chances are simply an encounter with the remains as they lay. For many years I did not believe the glow was anything more than my mind playing tricks on me. I would not validate them or give them heed. Every time I enter a stone garden, the place always gives up the dead. I don't know what it all means, nor does it matter. For me, the proof is in the pudding, the message loud and clear. Just the manifestation of this oddity is more than enough. Whatever happened to me that night, so long ago,  introduced me. It made me aware that there is more to this world than we know. Although I have never been one for superstition or the unexplained, I cannot help but feel comfortable admitting that just because I don't understand the experiences doesn't make them any less real.
            I have entered so many graveyards over the years that the dead, apparently, see me coming. In spite of this constant drone straight up in my face, there is a curiosity within the curiosity. My experience turns out to be that way. Every stone, every marker, tells of who and when and sometimes why. The light rises from each of these. It seems as if a million or so fireflies hover over each assigned hole. In contrast, like patches, scattered through each cemetery, are black spots. They seem a place of no energy, a void rather than remnant. There is no essence floating for these. No matter how large or small the monument, there is never any force coming from the cremation walls. I have come to understand that it must be one's remains that send off this aura only. A few mental visitors will manage to see. I often feel like I am bound to know these things. There was a cause and an effect to my actions so many years ago. I am suddenly made aware that there is much beyond my reasoning. They never let me forget.

"So many different places
A million smiling faces
Life is so incredible to me
Especially to be near you
And how it is to touch you
Oh, paradise was made for you and me
Sometimes I feel like a sad song
Like I'm all alone without you"

            My first exposure to people dying occurred in my youth. When twin girls who lived across the street were mercy murdered by their mother, I was terrified. I had never known dead people before. When my Great-Grandfather Giuseppe Pascuzzo died of natural causes just a few months later, I got to see my first dead body. Ever since then I seem to have collected the departed, like a list of who went first. I lost friends in high school, victims of drunk driving or cancer in the throat. Throughout my late teens and twenties, my comrades in the gay community continued to drop like flies from AIDS and all the related factors. I lost count at this point, there were so many, so quickly. My friend Maurice accidentally set himself on fire in the early 1990s, introducing me to my personal connection with euthanasia and mercy. When my first partner committed suicide in 1995, my encounters with the dead became a daily exercise in both imagination and futility. I attempted to off myself in order to escape it all. I failed at the only thing I had left to do. My NDE propelled me into seeking something more than just the truth. On every visit to his grave, the glow I have come to behold manifests and lingers throughout my stay. The experience of almost dying tossed me into an exclusive club. I became friends with the dead, not just casual acquaintances. I began to notice a unique yet collective aura rising from each grave. This only helped me survive the onslaught of dying relatives, polished coffins and very much, much ado about nothing.
            Although not a regular activity, I like to spend time with the glow that must be all in my head. Several times a year, I sojourn to the resting place of my late partner. This process I will repeat all the days of my life. Randomly, and on the spur of the moment, my current partner and I take day trips to search for ancestors and dead people well-known.  From the smallest country grave in the shadow of Niagara Falls to an isolated outpost near Teeswater, Ontario, instead of barhopping we go 'grave hopping.' Being huge fans of the television program Will and Grace, we spent a day hunting down the headstone of Gregory Hines, who died from cancer in 2003. Some people collect stamps but we collect pictures of our dead, at least of their final resting place. It seems to me a tactile experience, much more rewarding that mere prayer or contrition. By the very act of searching for a marker, one automatically acknowledges the dead. Remembering blends with reality and in so doing the tribute stands alone.

           Some of the most peaceful and beautiful places I have visited are cemeteries. The regal testaments to all those men and women and children sit quietly with quaint little lanes and tree-lined sanctuary. Over time, the ever-changing landscape becomes littered with new granite and rock and marble. There is always someone dying to get in. The graveyard, specifically the Avondale, located in Stratford, Ontario, is not only a resting place for the dead and their accessories but for me as well. Whether on the sunniest day or in the darkest night, I find refuge alongside people I will never know in their mortal frame. I see them all regardless. Every time I step into a place of goodbye, I bid hello to one and all. I'm not afraid of dying because I will be in good company. They each are strangers but I know them all so well. I have become, in a sense, a man waiting for my sleep. There is not trepidation, no fear for what the other side brings. The glow of so many confirms my suspicion. There is more. There is more. 

"I know that life goes on just perfectly
And everything is just the way that it should be
Still there are times when my heart feels like breaking
And anywhere is where I'd rather be"

            The nicest, largest and most spectacular cemetery I have ever set foot in is Arlington National in Washington DC.  Row upon row of limestone markers, for as far as the eye can see, line up perfectly sculpted along chiseled roads, cherry trees and thousands of miniature American flags. It left me breathless and tearstained. I did not possess the view I have now when I visited it then. There was no glow, no aura, just sadness, stretching out for the entire world to see. The Saint Louis Cemetery in New Orleans, Louisiana looks like a forgotten place. Walking into all that eerie instantly reminded me of every Anne Rice book I had ever read. It is heavily tarnished and desperate, a testament to the age of the city and the lack of care that seems to have come with all those years. The entire time I walked about the place I felt like someone had done the voodoo that they do. I am almost glad that I did not have my gift when I travelled here. I don't imagine I would have wanted to see what I just might have seen. A few miles past Wingham, Ontario, just off Highway 4, stands twin cemeteries. The Protestant (Culross-Teeswater Cemetery) and the Catholic (Sacred Heart Cemetery) are separated by a simple country road and centuries of dogma. My paternal Grandparents are buried on the Culross side of the street. My Aunt Joyce is with them and many of my Grandmother's relations. Across the street more kin lie in waiting, seldom visited but not because of their faith. Such hallowed grounds for so far out in the middle of nowhere. You have to go looking for this place. We always made an effort to journey north of Kitchener to pay our respects. It's sad to say that I see them more in death than I did in life. Every time I show up, the place starts to glow.            
            There was something so iconic, so mythical about Hollywood that I could not resist the urge to return there. All three times in California pre-dated my NDE and the resulting oddity. On my second trip, I made sure to attend Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills) in Los Angeles. I was surprised at the layout. It looked more like a miniature golf course than a cemetery should. The monuments of marble and bronze revealed the affluence of each bearer, large and opulent and stunning in nature. It was the green space between the markers and monuments and mausoleums that confused me. The almost two hundred and seventy acres played out like 18 holes. A huge expansive design, with gardens and memorials and solemn refuge, was clearly a place for the wealthy to reside after their fate. A stunning vista of the San Fernando Valley was a backdrop most suited for the scene. There were no rows of tombstones, just acres of courts and posh tributes to the dead. Ground markers littered the concourse and the picturesque Old North Church looked out of place in a congregation filled with the rich and famous. My fondest memory of the place was the memorial to Bette Davis. A Romanesque stark white statue of a woman with flowers stands over a minimalistic display of the star's name in marble. The entire experience was unforgettable for me, even without the glow that was soon to reveal itself. I had no idea of the bumpy ride to come.    

            Consecrated in 1871, holding 30,000 dead and covering 17 acres, my first encounter with Avondale Cemetery was dark and bitter. On a snowy and windy New Year's Eve, as the clock stuck 12 midnight, I stood on an incline staring at the headstones of Doug's relatives long gone. You could not have convinced me that this place would become like a second home to me. A few years later, after his death, it became just that. I tried to die here, right after his exit. I return here over and over again. I have become familiar with the massive collection of stone and soul. I know many markers by name. They almost call out to me, of the futility of living and the sadness of our storms. They welcome me each time I pass through the gateway. It had been six months of travelling back and forth from Strathroy to Stratford. As I passed into the cemetery and past the enormous mausoleum, I noticed something odd and out of place. At first I thought that a fog had settled over the ancient tombs and headstones that lined the older, weathered part of the place. The cloud lingered and seemed to spread over the entire view I had of the grounds. As I went forward from the old into the new, the fog seemed to grow denser and glow. It was a dim bright, an aura without colour and lacking any shine. I had no idea that I was the only one who could see it. Every time I enter a cemetery comes the gleam. It doesn't matter how massive the place or how small and out of the way, something always flickers then fades in like a stage production would. I approached professionals in order to explain the phenomena. I checked with a therapist to make sure I wasn't out of my mind. There was no distinct sense of surprise when not one of them knew the answer. Apparently, I'm either crazy or there is something seriously wrong with my eyes. I think it happened on a dark snowy night when I laid down in the snow looking for Doug and for Jesus. I am resolved not to know what it is and why it comes and goes now. I still look to see if there is someone inside the fog.   

 "Oh, and in the night time
I know that it's the right time
To hold you close and say I love you so
To have someone to share with and someone I can care with
And that is why I wanted you to know
Sometimes I feel like a sad song
Like I'm all alone without you"
            The dead are much better company than the living, at least it would appear so from my experiences with them. Whatever my encounter with the light really is, it is no longer a thrilling event after over 20 years. I have grown accustomed to it. It is there, in every depot, and it looks like it will not go away. Would it hurt to spice it up with some colour once in awhile? Would it be so bad to have even one spectre pop up from that glow and ask me for directions to the public washroom across the way. It can be quite maddening to be able to see something but never know what it is. It can make you feel as if you are losing your grip on reality. I mean really, just what the hell am I supposed to do with it? How do you explain it, portray it and even share it with others? I could use more communication, more information and the reason for the melodramatics. I just want to understand but I cannot with a simple visual distraction. I need more.
            On a recent expedition, we discovered an unknown graveyard just outside Niagara Falls, Ontario. The Lyon's Creek Cemetery is a testament to my partner's history and the part those buried there played in settling this area of Canada. The markers were old and rugged, damaged here and crooked there, all tricks of time and exposure to the elements. You could barely make out the epitaph on each headstone. It was the strangest thing. Dead centre of the small burial area was a giant tree, grand, powerful and old like the hallowed ground upon which it lay. It seemed to me an oak tree (Quercus). It commanded the centre of the grounds and towered over the entire lot. Ben's ancestors were the first persons planted here, along with that tree. The grand monolith is in much better condition than the stones. The glow off the thing was enveloping. I couldn't see even the smallest fraction of light extruding from the two dozen or so gravestones scattered about the place. Either the tree absorbed their light or they have disintegrated along with their boxes. Each now beyond organic recognition. As I stood in awe of the thing, I wondered if somehow this experience related to cremation and the need for matter to project the glow. In bits and pieces, it would appear, the dead do give up their secrets.   

            Birth is like signing a contract with death. You don't even need a pen. The moment you enter this world you sign on the dotted line, whether you are able to or not. From life comes death and from death the unknown. In the most literal sense, you are born to die. Since no one really knows what happens to us when we cease to exist, you can only grasp at the hints and the unexplainable for any clues you might discover along the way. In the end, it is inevitable. Just because a person has died does not mean your relationship with them need die as well. You can choose to hold on, even if only a small part of them remains. You can spend the effort and try not to forget, although most people do. I know that I will never lose affection for the people and things that went before. The dead are of great benefit to me. They remind me, tell me that there is something else beyond all this living. They are a soothing relationship, as I glare into the limelight and stand before their place. My assurance is not what they are, or even who they are. My assurance comes because they are.

"Sometimes I feel like a sad song
Like I'm all alone without you
Without you"
(Like a Sad Song, John Denver 1976)



Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Better than Nothing

"Just got back from a pleasure trip: I took my mother-in-law to the airport." (Henny Youngman, 1928–1987)

            Before his death, the relationship I had with my first partner's father was frail at best. I wasn't the easiest person to get along with back in that day and both parents seemed to simply tolerate my existence. We were not close by any means. They knew nothing of our true relationship and all that it entailed. I must admit I cared little about either one of them. Once the dirt covered the grave, things changed quickly. I formally outed myself to everyone, including Doug's parents. It was confirmation and emancipation. The act may have been redundant but I needed to do it just the same. In hindsight, I should have waited much longer to expose myself. It may have explained everything to people but only served to complicate the heavy grief we all experienced at the time. His father did not take me well. His mother fared better but remained at a careful distance. Despite the sum of all our mistakes, I managed to keep contact with Pauline and slowly built something resembling camaraderie. Once she acknowledged the nature of her son's life, she seemed to make a conscious effort to keep in touch. The same could not be said of the father. He appeared quite pleased with himself by confronting me on many related issues. We did not build bridges, we were only able to maintain them, for the most part. Five years after we laid Doug to rest, we buried his Dad. Sometimes bridges collapse and there is no way to cross them. As with my mother, he dropped dead from a heart attack and was gone before he hit the floor.
            After the death of her son, then her husband, a cloak of darkness and death seemed to settle over my "mother-in-law." Her mother then passed, Warren's father then passed, a cumulative death march apparently strutted through her life for over half a decade. She was left alone in her home, all alone, wondering what she had done to deserve this fate. Her remaining child was the only glimmer of hope left in her life. I found it revealing how well she seemed to handle it all. She didn't just make it through, she survived, relatively intact for the most part. So much death and destruction yet she stood her ground like any solider would. She did not grin and bear it, she took it all upon herself and carried on. In my experience, only my own mother manifested as much strength and fortitude in the face of calamity. Pauline's world became a complicated puzzle but with no image for her to follow. Periodically, over the last fifteen years, one family member after another has died, adding to a grim pile. One person passed of cancer, or another suicide, or the ravages of aging. Eventually, it seems as if she knew more dead people than those living. She picked herself up and continued to walk through what some might call a living hell. When everyone around you keeps dropping like flies, and you don't, you have to wonder (or at least she did) whether you are doing something wrong to deserve all this. I have never witnessed one reason that merited what she got. 
            So many years ago, I made a conscious choice to remain in contact with Doug's parents. To this day, Pauline remains a close friend and confidant. We have had a relationship with one another much longer than I ever knew her son. It took commitment when it would have been easier to just walk away. I owed them nothing and they wanted nothing from me. Still, there are reasons we remain so close. There are most certainly not a lot of people she can talk to about her son. They don't want to think about such things let alone listen to someone else toss it into a conversation. His death binds us, like a contract, and we both decided to sign on the dotted line. It would be quite easy to simply fade away and forget. Had I done so, I would not have such a rewarding friendship and our last connection to Doug would be lost. In befriending each other, we have managed to somehow keep Doug alive. We make the effort to stay in contact, not only for our relationship but what we both believe is something that would greatly please him. It is strange and often odd to maintain it so.       

"I told my mother-in-law that my house was her house, and she said,
'Get the hell off my property.' (Joan Rivers, 1933-2014)

            I have to admit that the strongest, most vivid memory I have of meeting my current "mother-in-law" is that of the hat she was wearing. The flat south-western look made me think of Wynonna Judd, who still had a career at the time. Just minutes before the knock at the door, I had been standing sorting laundry in my underwear. Needless to say, I had not dressed for the occasion. Her announced but surprising presence forced me into the closest thing I could find to put on. The meeting was brief but nonetheless uncomfortable. I was not prepared to entertain anyone from the life of my soon to be partner. The entire experience sent shivers of "flee" and "run, run quicker" through my overwhelmed mind. It wasn't that I wasn't receptive, or nice even, I just felt trapped, cornered by a complete stranger that I had not even considered meeting at that point. This almost humorous encounter began a stranger camaraderie. Since then, the presence of Joanne (Jo-Jo Bean) has been a constant in my life. Every once in awhile she appears at parties, dinners or just along the way. She pretty much looks the same as she did 17 years ago, although she is not the same person as she was back then.
            Our history together is more a tale of friendship than some artificial endearment. She isn't really my mother-in-law any more than I am her son-in-law. The words just don't fit even though, on some level, the terms may apply. I've never thought of her in any other way than as a friend. We get along very well. Whatever it is that we have seems to fit and it is what it is. We shop together, talk on the phone, email each other and we even team up in times of grief and danger. Perhaps nothing else defines who she is, and why we work so well together, as her humour. She knows how to laugh in the face of it all. She has made it through so much, many overlapping trials and tribulations. Somehow she always manages to laugh at the most appropriate of times. Her strength comes from building, I suppose. She moves forward although not always using the most effective tools.  Her struggle has cast upon her great fortitude, even if she doesn't always recognize that this is so. A formidable woman, she is shaped by the endless agony that comes with all our living. Even her moments of weakness forge walls to help her make it through. She is a complex weave of maturing woman and old soul. I am constantly surprised and often amused by her endurance. She is one of a kind to be sure.
            Sometimes people polish themselves up so that others don't see all the dim. For others, the dim fades the polish until it loses all the shine. For Joanne, what you see is what you get. Her tenacity is something to which few transcend. I don't believe that she is aware of just how I appreciate who she is. Sometimes she's a mother. Sometimes she's a bitch. Sometimes she is friendly. Mostly, she is oh so very human. Her grace reveals itself in her struggle against the act of being mortal. She is the rose bush, that comes with thorns and all. We each manage our way through this life. For most of us, the burden is constant and the rest seldom. Sometimes we discover a kindred spirit. There are common grounds that unite us. Perhaps Joanne's experiences when she was much younger are the ties that bind. We both know great heartache from early on. Her loss when she was a teenager lingers just as my encounter with death does. This is a foundation based in understanding and a choice regardless of the outcome. It is a contract, an agreement we seem to have although we have never signed on the dotted line.

"My mother-in-law has so many wrinkles,
when she smiles she looks like a Venetian blind."
(Les Dawson, 1931-1993)

            I have always had a thing for strong women. I suppose the obvious reason would come from my mother. Even all these years after her death and she still reigns as centre of my relationship with "the fairer sex." Beyond her and the effect she continues to have on me, I have been fortunate to have other women to view as a glowing example. I always gather such fortitude to me. I guess like attracts like. They come from every avenue. From Sigourney Weaver to Taraji P. Henson from Empire, I am drawn to women who really strut there stuff. Each powerhouse is a confidence booster. The songs of Amy Grant have shaped me and continue to do so. She is a silent strength, a hiding place. The gumption of my cousin Lisa and the survival skills of my friend Sharlet are reminders that this too shall pass. They all carry on, revealing how to rise again. Even the little old ladies that I know from Kitchener are a testament to determination, steal magnolias one and all. They are all well noticed. Not one passed by me without relaying their message. The secret is their strength. 
            Most people begrudge their in-laws. People spend their entire marriage fighting over a nosy mother-in-law. The relationship is tried at best. I have been given a rare gift, a special benefit from this life I have lived. To have one "second mother" is one thing but to have two is often disaster waiting to happen. For me this could not be further from the truth. I have a relationship, a good relationship, with my partner's parents. I have maintained a connection to my first partner's Mom, slipping beyond obligation into friendship. My current "maternal influence" has turned from a polite acquaintance into a close friend. I trust them both. Both are abundant in the strong department. While they each are very different women, it is their substantial nature that I hold in high regard. I just love it when a woman is strong. When she stands up for herself and makes it count. When she survives and then thrives. I desperately needed these examples when first Doug and then my mother died. These women did not compensate during my grief, they influenced, demonstrated and revealed to me that even I could go on.
            What destroys us can be used to rebuild us. You never really know all the little purposes that lie hidden in all the chaos. Every problem is an opportunity to gain resolve and a tool when trying to survive god. When we dissect our lives, we see that most of what we know doesn't come from events or incidents but from the people that enter into it. For good or for bad, be it right or in error, we have the choice to pay attention or to ignore these matters. Of these women, I am grateful for the support and thankful for their example. It is hard to find such stamina in the best of us. Doug may be long gone but I still have a connection. My mother may be gone but her strength is fully represented. These forces to be reckoned with are, most of the time, much better than nothing.

"My mother-in-law had a pain beneath her left breast.
Turned out to be a trick knee." (Phyllis Diller, 1917-2012)



Tuesday, April 5, 2016

These Human Eyes

"For everything in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - comes not from the Father but from the world."
(1 John 2:16, NIV)

            As my partner and I approach 20 years together, we have purchased a home in Paris. Of course I mean Paris, Ontario, Canada, not the more famous locale just across the pond. There is no Eiffel Tower to mark the centre of our new village. In fact, this small town just west of Toronto holds nothing overtly stunning in its make-up, with the exception of the Grand River. A tremendous view of the watercourse stretches from the Grand Valley in Central Ontario to the north shore of Lake Erie. Like the Seine, it passes through the heart of Paris. The Grand River Street Bridge and the Rail Bridge are testaments to its flow. The latter, a train crossing, is marbled in old cast iron. The first, a monument to cement in my opinion, hosts the most lovely scene in the area. Both tower above the water, its eroded shores speckled from beneath with trees and paths and places to fish. Founded in 1850, now with a meagre population of just over 10,000, Paris blends both 18th century charm with modern embellishments. It remains a duality of both the past and the present and is picturesque in the very best ways.
            In the 1970s, my Father used to take us to the Paris area to visit his friend Ray. Before the industrial complex that has scourged the distance between Toronto and the Greater Toronto area, the ride into the country was still a ride into the country. Lake Ontario was not only a landmark but a scenic escape from the 100-plus kilometres that make up the journey. You could watch the gulls and swimmers basking in the surf from the safety of your speeding car. Before the expansion of the 400-series highways in the 1980s and 90s, the route to my Dad's friend consisted of leaving Toronto by the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) and merging with Highway 2. The thoroughfare eventually brought us to Paris, which we passed through almost every time we travelled westward to this area. It was more lovely then, although not in leaps and bounds.
            I remember the quaint little town and its bridges and views. I imagined, when I was much younger, that this Paris was the kind of place one would want to live in. A loyal Torontonian, both then and now, I could never have imagined that one day I would settle for a residency outside a large city. Kitchener, London and especially Toronto (as an adult) all landed me in the heart of metropolis. I find that now that I am over 50, I yearn for less traffic, less noise and more stars that I can spot up in the sky. I prefer the quiet and the natural to the skyscrapers that once thrilled me. The shattered glory of a downtown core is more an experiment in claustrophobia for me these days. My bi-weekly visits to Toronto no longer bring fond memories of my childhood living in the suburb of North York. Instead, I cringe as I approach mass civilization. The world I once flourished within has turned into something dark and crowded and unappealing. Before I even approach the city limits, I am engulfed by progress and urban sprawl. I want to turn around before I reach my destination. Should I never return, should I never go back, I am sure that I would not miss these concrete jungles.

"Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:9-10, NIV)

            Once we had signed on the dotted line and taken possession, the world drastically changed. We experienced true privacy for the first time in well over a decade. Years of renting and putting money into someone else's pocket surrendered to ownership. With such great change came greater responsibility. None of that matters little, if at all. There is a freedom when no longer bound to the senselessness of city living. It's cheaper to pay the mortgage than it was to pay the rent each month. Not once has a superintendent knocked on my door. Not once have I feared getting on an elevator that no one has had time to fix. We can argue without the neighbours hearing. We can sleep in whenever we want without the drone of police sirens, garbage trucks or heavy automotive congestion. I heard a bird sing just the other day. The bleeding hearts that grow in the garden, come spring, will once again tell of my Mother and her grace. There is silence when we want it and much more joy in our daily lives. There is something about being able to walk a very short distance and escape the town limits. Metal grates have been replaced by dirt roads. There seems to be much less pollution, which comes as no surprise. In fact, our lives have shifted in an entirely new direction. It's amazing what a little space can do for your mental health. Instead of contracting our lives away, we have reaffirmed this new lease on life. The signing of any mortgage was simply a reinforcement of our commitment to each other. Who needs to get married when you just need a signature or two.
            I often miss the backyard of my parents' homestead, particularly at night when the stars come out to play. Perhaps my most favourite experience since we moved into our home has been the deep, dark nights in our own backyard. City glow usually faded any clear view of the heavens. Although the space is not as stretching as my folks', it is sanctuary nonetheless. Rather than trying to spy the few twinkles up were clouds form, the universe is now clear and bright and breathtaking. As I age, it seems appropriate that my sense of belonging is as well. I have spent the last 20 years of my life trying to compensate for living by way of great contrition. I constantly listened to the survivor's guilt that came with my first partner's suicide. Anything I might own or have acquired since his death has hung like a weight around my neckline. It has become my nature not to become attached to materialistic things. It wasn't fair that I should be happy, and gather unto myself, when he rotted away in the ground six feet under.  
            The idea of purchasing a home always seemed like the ultimate act of self-absorption to me. In my mind, death always loomed close so to possess, particularly something as large as a house, simply wasn't in the cards for me. Although I had previously not denied myself certain acquisitions, they tended to be practical and necessary rather than frivolous. Any treasures I have stored up for myself came with an emotional or spiritual attachment versus a materialistic compulsion. It has not been that I did not have, I simply did not need to have. All the little extras have no power over me.
Having lost so many things along my path, it was necessary for me to hold to nothing. I have come to realize that I can still strive for finer things without betraying the lessons that my life has taught me. Our new home in "Gay Paree" has convinced me that it is not merely our attachment to something that hinders us but our mistaken ideas that somehow being happy and safe and secure restricts our ability to be a better person. As if holding to a material thing is only a bad thing. It is the relationship that we have with these objects of our attraction that will determine their influence on us.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21, NIV)

            You can't take it with you. No statement has ever been more true. This hinders people very little in the acquisition of wealth and belongings. At this relatively late stage in my life, one would imagine that the accumulation of goods would hold no service for me. It is at this point, however, that I have taken a deep plunge into the waters of materialism. Purchasing a home is a huge investment both of commitment and of attainment. It is also an ultimate act of responsibility. I have questioned within my internal dialogue if it is okay to surrender to this new lifestyle. Is it still wrong for me to be happy? Is it fair? I wonder whether I am betraying my spiritual convictions simply through the act of settling down. I can only accept that not all things are sinful and need repentance. Material acquisition has more to do with why you hoard or collect or attempt to keep up with the Jones'. The reasons we obtain are more important than the things that we obtain. Quite often, the very possessions we gather end up revealing more about us than the people in our lives. Your home is a manifestation of who you are as a person and in that who other people will see you to be. I would put money on it.

            It is not only other people that can influence us and how we feel about our lives. Our home is a reflection. It embodies who we are and our feelings about the reality around us. Like some 3-D photograph of our makeup, the world we create for our day to day living is the expression (conscious or unconscious) of a lifetime of gathering. The way people hang pictures, the feel of the room, even the color of Kleenex box we set out in the bathroom more often then not will grant obvious insight into the nature of the display and the displayer. The way we decorate, the essence of our Feng shui, our choice in the plants we use in the garden, each of these characteristics come from some place in our history. We have learned the atmosphere that we try to recreate. Always adding, always picking up more. It can seem more exhausting to have than to have not. In the end, we take what we can and pull things to our self. All the while painting a picture of who we are in the manner by which we choose to live. A house becomes a home and just as we change it, it changes us. It can ground us if we let it.
            I have to believe that at some point it is okay for me to be happy. I have the right to as much safety and security as the next guy. Taking something for myself does not negate the lessons I have learned or the man I have come to be. Material accumulation is only an issue when you let all those things rule you. When the dandelions in your front yard matter more than the abused women in the house next door, your hubris has consumed you. In antiquity, man could find a cave and set up shop there. The entire history of the human race is littered with the taking of land. Property has always been strived for. American psychologist Abraham Maslow concluded that safety and security were a necessary stage in the achievement of self- awareness, part of a "hierarchy of needs." We cannot find peace and balance when we are seeking shelter and a place to lay our heads. These days, it simply takes a pen and signing on the dotted line.

"Death and Destruction are never satisfied,
 and neither are human eyes." (Proverbs 27:20, NIV)



Paris, Ontario

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


"Once upon a time
I thought I had it all
Then life just fell apart
Thought I was all alone
I've never been so scared
Than when I danced with fear
But then you took my hand
And it disappeared"
(My True Love, Plumb 2015)

            It is cliché to claim one's parents as a gift from God. The real gift isn't having a mother or a father or both for that matter. The true blessing is having a parent (or both) that actually gives a damn about being a good parent. In this modern age, having children can seem more of an inconvenience to someone's existence than a joy to behold. Responsibility and setting a good example have been replaced with television sets, smartphones and celebrity. Social networking and the internet have taken over the reigns both as an educator and a moral compass. Kids have become property, like our car or the house in which we live. We might treat our pets better than our own offspring. Just living can seem futile for the newest generation when you consider the divorce rates, a continuing plague of abuse/neglect and the increase in homeless youth. Every year in Canada, "suicide is the second highest cause of death for youth aged 10-24." While I do not suggest that bad parenting alone contributes to these realities, I believe that the strong role models that one is exposed to, in particular from their parent(s), conditions a child for the rest of their life. Whether a good or a bad example, that which trains us teaches us, and can shape us even through our adulthood. Having structure and guidance, coupled with a sense of self and others, cannot help but leave a firm foundation. It is what we choose to do with that instruction that will help determine our success or our failure. Children grow up and make their own decisions but those decisions are filtered usually by what someone else might have said or done. The past repeats and so do our mistakes.    
            Not having any children has nothing to do with my sexual preference. It is my nature to see them as amusement, an attention that passes quickly. I have never really enjoyed long-term contact with anyone under 12 years of age. I am not comfortable in the medium. It's not that I hate children or anything even remote to that feeling. I simply prefer to view them from a distance. When I babysat in the past, I hated it. When I worked a summer as an Early Childhood caregiver, I hated it. This disdain has never been a visible phenomenon. Of all the young people who have met me as an adult, not one would have recognized my lack of genuine interest. Children seem to like me just fine. I just don't like most of them for some reason. Perhaps my tenure as a child has something to do with it. I preferred my time to myself. I never understood anything that anyone my own age had to say. I loved adventure and to play, I simply preferred to do it alone. I would hide in my mind's eye. I loved my friends and our gang from the old Toronto neighbourhood. I still miss those more gentler moments. My youth held me free to just be me rather than bearing all the walls and masks that came with experience and exposure. I just didn't like many other kids when I was a kid. Little has changed. Their noisy ranting and senseless agendas disturbed me even back then. Most of them I would rather avoid than spend time with. While a few tykes along the way have met my favour, most have not. All I can really say about my position is that being gay finally has paid off, at least regarding this delicate matter. Always an uncle I am bound to be, but that's just fine with me. I realized long ago I would not be a good parent.
            It was always my parents who had the most direct influence on me. I adored my Mother, and respected my Father, a cause which I still stand for. Growing up may have led me into dark places, but it was the lessons my parents taught me which, over and over again, saved my sorry ass. I see both of them within me. I see bits of them in the mirror each day. It is by their hands that I survived thus far. They were always survivors. No matter defeat, no matter the tragedy, they rose above and fought the good fight. It is this example I have always carried with me. Their strength and resolve I have gladly inherited. Without who they were I would not be who I am. I consider all other parents based entirely on how my Mother and Father have always been to my life. It is this standard which has laid the greatest foundation. They may not have been perfect, but I already know that. They were as flawed as any other human being, although this has been difficult for me to remember.  It was their commitment to their children, however, that I will never forget.  

"I get up, I fall down
Sometimes I feel like I am always on the ground
You pick me up and brush me off
And tell me that I'm good enough
You are faithful to me
You are faithful to me
I am not afraid no matter where I go
You will never leave me
In you I am home
Cause you are faithful to me"
(Faithful, Plumb 2015)

            Both my parents endured a less than favourable upbringing. My Father's father was stoic, very conservative and rigid. My Dad was forced to work at a young age rather than pursuing an education. His mother was a silent support, ever diligent in her quiet love. He had it easy. My Mother's parents were a different breed. I suppose that back in the day it was acceptable to abuse your children, but that does not negate the fact that it was still abuse. I never really liked either of them, I just didn't know why. There was always something about the relationship they had with each other that gave me great pause. Even as a little boy I could smell the rat. Learning about how they treated my Mother, and watching them attempt, on occasion, to do so again, really cemented in my mind the reasons that my Mom was the way that she was. Comparing the two sets (paternal vs. maternal) certainly clarifies, for me at any rate, why my folks' parenting style was so corrective considering those who raised them. Being extremely close with both my Mom and Dad has granted me access to pieces of the puzzle I had no idea about as a child. I can now understand any consequence by viewing the forces that shaped who they both turned out to be. It is not often that we are offered a glimpse inside someone, let alone the secrets and lies of our very own nurturers. I have come to gently understand who they both were and why they made such a striking difference to me.  
            I have always been an observer. This in no way disregards my propensity for anger in the face of injustice or suffering. I will gladly stick my nose in where it doesn't belong, if the situation requires it. For the most part, I sit and simply watch. Even during a conversation, I may be talking but I am really just reacting to you. I try to absorb it all, everything around me. If only I had used this talent on myself when originally trying to survive the life I have led. I have come to realize just how significant my parents' example has been on that life. I never grasped why my Mother held such fury towards those who would threaten her children. I did not comprehend the silent ways of my Father in the face of those same factors. Each one had a unique and separate way of dealing with their kids but they managed to work together to raise five nonetheless. Each of us seems quite able to face the challenges of life. Although we differ in our approach, we survive, a balance, a moderation of both my Mother's gumption and the quiet love that propelled my Dad to sacrifice and function in the face of all the struggles that have greeted him along the way. His parents influenced him just as her parents did. Just as they carry this conditioning with them, in the same manner so too do their children. Although not all of us have become successful people, each of us seems able to continue on in spite of everything that has met our lives. This amalgam does not negate the negative traits that some of them continue to possess, but should they choose to rise above their flaws, you would find each holds both a furious and quiet love. We all do, well knowing that any manifesting of such depends entirely on our comfort zone.

"You are strong
In the broken places
I'm carried in your arms
You are strong
In the broken places
There's healing in these scars"
(Broken Places, Plumb 2015)

            Quite often, people think that life has buried them when in fact they have simply been planted somewhere else. Sometimes you have to wither to grow. I was starting to wither. I had not eaten anything in over a week and had lasted two days without liquid. I just laid in my bed, waiting for death. I don't recall what was going through my head during this period. I know that I wanted to escape and was willing to suffer so that I finally could. The weaker I got, the greater my resolve. I just wanted it to all stop. It was to this end that I had thrown myself down in a cemetery just weeks before. The thirst for that which had been denied to me there had lasted and seemed to take deep root. My parents would hear nothing of it. Like a shadow he came into the room and lifted me into his arms. He placed me across from her, then stood a foot behind me. This intervention would be short on people and long on something I had never seen before. 
            My Father stood silently, only whispering when he whispered at all. When he did speak it was certain that he meant what he said. He loved me and wanted me to stay. Mom was a force to be reckoned with. She pleaded. She yelled. Her love was clear but not so quiet. Together they convinced me. Twenty years later and I continue to rage on. In asking for me to live for them, it allowed enough time for me to start living for me. I would be dust right now had they not used their own unique approach in reaching me. I owe them my life and all that has come with it. I hope each knows how thankful I am that they were my parents. They saved me from myself. I pray they realize that even though they may have made some mistakes along the way that they succeeded in their efforts. I am a sign of good penmanship.
"All the fear
All the bitter
Has disappeared
It's just a vapour now
All the shame
All the broken
That should be here
Has all left me now
I have been made whole"

            You need a license to own a dog but any fool can have children. I think that we do not all recognize our limitations. Some of us should not reproduce. We should have to read the contract before we sign on the dotted line.

"My heart is so full
My cup overflows
What once was so fractured has been
And you overcome
All I cannot
No matter how fractured
No matter what"
(Restored, Plumb 2015)



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ties of Flesh

"There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all"
(In My Life, The Beatles 1965)

            Often, it is not only our own story that teaches us. The effect another person's life and experience can have on us may exceed our own lessons. Their existence may be the example we have been looking for, if we care to pay attention. Their autograph can matter more then just signing on the dotted line. This in no way minimizes our own signature, but instead their stories act as a co-signer, a variable that augments what we already have been exposed to on the journey we have travelled. Other people's wanderings, when we take heed of them, can help us to understand better. What they go through may in fact cancel out our own need to go through the very same things. We can learn from their challenges, even if they are a stranger. These miniature biographies may even assist us in recognizing our pain is not exclusive to us. They reveal a foreign state of being but they grant us more empathy, sympathy and compassion if we take to time to see life through someone else's eyes rather than just our own. Every single human being we have contact with throughout our journey is bound to be a reflection. There are reasons we meet the people that we do. Their contribution has purpose, whether we care to see it or not. In the same way, someone may be a picture of you.
            I have never met God, or Jesus, or Allah for that matter. I have no idea what they look like, sound like or even if they would be recognizable to this humble sinner. Not one of them has actually appeared on the cover of my favourite magazine. Any rendering is but a substitute for the unseen thing. I have yet to find a playing card with any "true" or "real" representation on it. I have received no flyers in the mail. Instagram and Twitter have also failed to deliver. I have often wondered whether Jesus has blocked me on Facebook. Physically, these archetypes are strangers to me. Jesus himself suggested this type of incognito when he spoke in terms of sheep and goats and the Christian's responsibility (Matthew 25). As with other human beings, the time I have spent with their physical representation has little to do with any conclusion I have made regarding their divine actions. Figuring out whether your next door neighbour drew the swastika on your door is easy once you see the paint all over their hands. As we may learn from other people and what they experience, so too we can learn from the history of the gods that we worship. We can understand ourselves better by viewing the substance of our creations. Anything Holy that we have manifested is simply a projection, perhaps even a deflection, of our own wants and desire and need for more than life can offer. If we focus on the ties of flesh that bind, we can learn.

            So then we do not only learn from others, their account, their experience, their character. We learn from our own subjective encounters with them. In fact, not only do we absorb the experience itself but we remember our reaction to it.  How we respond to each example, and how it made us feel at that time, is what remains with us long after a person's story has been told. Each of us becomes an amalgam of everyone we have chanced along our journey. From the briefest glimpse of someone when we were a child, to the most significant person throughout our life, like a contract they each sign on the dotted line. We carry them with us, even if we don't know it. They have an effect. Some may be for the better, representational of those things we wish to embrace. Others may well be a warning, a symbol of how we do not wish things to be. We are still bound to one another. Whether we care to admit it or not, we really all are one. We have to learn how to see this. There is connectivity between us all. Everyone has ties to everyone else.  

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
(Maya Angelou, American poet)

            People stay with us even after they have gone. We may have been abandoned. We may have walked away. So many years later and we can travel back to when we knew someone. We may not have had contact for ages, but what has been can often be enough. Even the god we once worshipped will linger like a sore, our disdain quite irrelevant to the voices clamouring in the back of our heads. Time is beside the point. Even when you rediscover a person from your past, even after you have restarted them in your life, they may hold little against the comparative of their past example. Of course, trying to recapture the past can seem a fruitless venture. How you view a person in your head may be nothing like who they turned out to be. People we once knew can become strangers. This in itself can be a lesson. You can never go back.
            Death never ceases to interrupt our story. It immediately scribbles out any agreement with the living. There are no dotted lines on the other side. There are no promises, or references or ties of flesh. It's hard to have anything but an artificial conversation with someone whose auditory organs are being eaten by worms or have been turned to dust, then imprisoned. Even God has remained unspoken for all my years. Somehow the dead and the divine can be trusted. They will not utter a word. The strongest relationship you have may be with someone who has already passed on. The dead, especially, can keep a secret. They become a safe place. You keep them with you but others toss them away. Not every relationship after death is a constructive one. People react different to grief and the lack thereof. Ghosts can haunt rather than whisper. This doesn't stop people from using their means to attempt some form of contact and trying to continue the interactions. We are fools listening for the wind while we swim underwater. The only relationship you can have with the dead is one-sided. It's all in our heads. This does negate the matter. Even creating an encounter in your mind's eye can change you, make you see the world differently.

People who need people
Are the luckiest people in the world,
We're children, needing other children
And yet letting our grown-up pride
Hide all the need inside,
Acting more like children
Than children."
(People, from the Broadway musical Funny Girl 1964)

            Of the thousands and thousands of people I have encountered through my tenure on this planet, there are about 100 that I would like to see when I leave this place. Some of them are family. Some are friends. Most I have never met while in this mortal coil. Celebrities, composers and great thinkers have all affected me nonetheless. It is not that I casually disregard the human race, but there have been very few examples for me to follow. There have been even fewer that made a lasting impression. Some of the simple strangers that have passed my way have had more of an effect than relationships with people I have known my entire life.  I spend more time with my dead relatives than I do with most of my living family members. I most certainly like them better. I am closer to people on Facebook and Google Plus than I am to actual people I have met in person. I prefer the company of friends and neighbours more than I do members of any church I have attended, or class I once studied in. The cold hard reality of life is that not everyone is meant to be a part of yours. Not everyone is significant. Most people are not worth getting to know, let alone taking the time to learn from.
            I do not believe in predestination or fate. What will be will be. I do consider that all of the lessons we are supposed to learn in this life are written in this life. Regardless of the choices that each of us make, what happens, the things you are supposed to know reveal themselves. Our lives have a built-in theme of sorts. Despite every variation, the motif remains the same. There are reasons we exist. God speaks to us through the people we know. The souls we encounter are the greatest representation of this. It was chance that I met a friend of mine. A simple moment that connected us both. I have come to know many things because of him. These things I would have had to learn from someone else had he not come along. Someone else may have done just the same. Those things we are supposed to learn are always present, but the presentation varies depending on your choices. Our contact with other people is more serendipity than any form of destiny. Even the archetypes and spiritual models we have encountered were present before we decided to follow them. God is not so much a creature creating but a created creature. Like with people, we tend to shape our idea of something into a neat little box and refuse to upgrade the password. We build on the comfortable and don't stop to think what we are thinking.

“I looked around at the rooms that I did not see as rooms but more as a landscape for my emotions, a biography of memory.”
(The Shape of Water, Anne Spollen 2009)

            It has become obvious to me that not every being I come in contact with has some benefit to bestow upon me. People come and go and life goes on without them in it. Some people don't leave traces when they go, they leave a room full of garbage you take out to the street. Most of the time, things just are as they are. Those who make a difference, make a difference. Whether your Mother, God, Einstein or Willy the homeless guy, the people of our lives may not have been put there to specifically help us but they can help to teach us. Our lives are filled with so many faces but the lessons are always the same.