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.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Dotted Line

Chapter Eleven
The Dotted Line

"Let my life be a picture of you
Let my life be a picture of you
Let me be a letter
Written by your hand
For the world to read
And to see
And to feel
And to know
You live, live in me"
(Picture of You, Evie Karlsson 1981)


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Toe Tag

"All your life you had to stand in line
Still you're standing on your feet
All your choices made you change your mind
Now your calendar's complete
Don't wait for answers
Just take your chances
Don't ask me why"
(Don't Ask Me Why, Billy Joel 1980)

            In the early 1990s, my first partner and I lived atop a split home. The apartment above suited our lifestyle and was close to the college we attended. The lower part of the home was rented by an interesting family. Both parents had significant health issues including extreme obesity, diabetes and they smoked more than I did at the time. Their son was a nice boy, a teenager who, a few years later, ended up in much more trouble than it was worth. I believe he was incarcerated at a prison in eastern Ontario for several years. A heavy smoker myself, I enjoyed playing cards with them when my time allowed. We eventually became good friends and remained in contact after Doug and I left Sarnia, Ontario. For the entire time we lived there, they had major problems with maintaining wellness. Both suffered from disabilities due to their careless lifestyle. They seemed to have a conscious disregard for their health despite the severity of their conditions. After a few years, and graduation, we headed for Toronto, leaving our neighbours to their modus vivendi. I made an effort to stay in touch with them.
            After Doug passed away in 1995, the effort I made to keep in contact became a great challenge. Every time I called, one of them was in hospital. When I visited, you could see the effect that neglect was taking on their bodies. Eventually, one suffered a heart attack and one was diagnosed with the early stages of lung cancer. Each time I ventured back for another visit, I could picture the toe tags dangling from their appendages. Ignoring the factors that led to their fate was something they both seemed to excel at. When I spent time with them, we literally blew smoke in each other's faces. Their predicament had little to no effect on me. It was their problem and irrelevant to my internal state of ill repair. With ten years of puffing behind me then, I wish I had used their warning signs and been an example. If only I had quit smoking from the rear view. If only hindsight was my friend. I was a fool to think such things could never happen to someone like me. Twenty years later and they both rest peacefully. No matter the treatment they sought out, the damage had already been done. Continuing the status quo killed them both. A common grey stone is all they have left to share. Perhaps if they had listened to their doctors, made the appropriate changes, they might be here to tell me that they told me so. I suppose it's true that we often ignore the plight of others. We only notice the danger to ourselves. We don't acknowledge and learn from suffering as a consequence until it happens to us.
"You won't find me
Naked and cold justa sittin'
On the doctor's table
Waitin' to be told justa why
I'm no longer able
To feel my heart beatin'
Give me a good reason why!"
(Nah!, Shania Twain 2002)

            When my alarm went off at 5:00 AM, I could not have cared less about my heart condition. I just wanted to ignore it all and return to my sleeping. I never imagined that getting up so early on a Monday morning could be so tough. This was just another reminder of growing older. It would not have been a problem for me at thirty. Tougher still was deciding that I would go. By 7:00 AM, I was dropped off at St. Mary's Hospital (Kitchener, Ontario) and I wandered up to the second floor Cardiology department. The delay in the waiting room was short and semi-sweet. The more I sat there, the greater the temptation was to leave. I thought I could easily just forget it and simply pretend that nothing was the matter, but I could not ignore reality. The chest pains that started at the end of the previous year had faded. There was little left for concern. The beta blocker I was prescribed seemed to do the trick. I had waited almost four months for the Angiogram and decided to maintain the course and make damn sure. I was shuffled quickly into a change room and told to strip. One thin gown and an ugly thinner robe were the only company my socks had for the rest of the day there. Despite the occasional scuff or bruise that led me to the emergency room, I had not been admitted into a medical hospital since way back in the later 1970s. The place smelled exactly the same as any hospital did in my childhood.
            If I had known they were going to administer drugs, I would have brought my own. What they gave me was mild to say the least. When they wheeled me into the operating room, I felt like I was part of the opening credits from the television program Six Feet Under. I wiggled my lower digits to confirm I was still alive and looked for the toe tag. I couldn't spot one anywhere. Of course, I had already been prepped, then hooked up to the ECG machine and those damn sticky pads. Next came the clippers. Apparently, my cardiologist only works from the groin area. I got trimmed right down to an itch. With no food or water for the past twelve hours, I sat parched and my lips started to crack. As the 9:00 AM hour approached, one of the gentlemen ahead of me decided to have his heart attack right there in the bed beside me. This in no way made me feel comfortable with the care from those nurses. I told myself I would be lucky to survive. I was pensive, but that in no way made my thoughts less silly. An hour later, I was wheeled into surgery and flipped onto a rather large metal slab. Whatever narcotic they fed me through the IV catheter in my left arm did little to quell my anxiety. When the procedure began, I asked if I could watch on the monitors. I didn't realize that my cardiologist was already deep inside of a vein. My heart beat in rapid rhythm as I watched it from my vantage point. I have to admit it was a little surreal. It was actually kind of cool to see it pulse the blood through me. The thin black wire suddenly appeared and wiggled like a tadpole in a rapidly evaporating pool of liquid. Suddenly, a spray of dark ink filled the cavity, there was a pause and then another spurt from the siphon. It took less than fifteen minutes to determine if I was already dead or not. 
            When I started smoking at age eighteen, I had no idea it would carry over as one of my greatest regrets. Perhaps the idea of sucking on death was apropos back when I was untreated for my Bi-Polar disorder, but the addiction did not go away with proper care and treatment. I had spent the last ten years of my life trying desperately to quit by the time I turned fifty. With that birthday long gone and well over a year since my last cigarette, I am no longer desperate. The occasional cheat got me through the first six months but my health propelled me through the next half dozen. I have become a non-smoker but I am not an anti-smoker. I am not about to turn on my one time compatriots. I hate it when some well meaning anti-whatever acts like their experience is the only one that matters. I refuse to allow the social disdain towards smoking to turn me into one of the annoying martyrs that to this day still drive me crazy. Really, how hard is it to just mind your own business? It's not really my place if smokers are in their rights to do so. Not one of those in your face critics ever made me smoke less. If anything, it made me blow smoke in their face while they blew smoke out of their ass.
            It was less than a half an hour when the cardiologist returned with the results of the Angiogram. It was not my lungs, as I had suspected, from years of huffing and puffing. It was, in fact, my heart. With a main artery blocked completely, and some residue damage from smoking, I was disappointed but in no way was I surprised. The surprise came when I was told the medication I was already on would be enough for now. The future of my heart would be left up to me. If I continued to exercise, made adjustments to my diet and never smoked ever again, I could lead a healthy and long life. Surgery was unnecessary but always available if the problem evolved into something more severe. At least it wasn't cancer. Without the smoking, there wasn't a whole lot that needed to be changed. I was already taking the beta blocker. I already exercised regularly, I eat no fast food, little meat, and my weight is steady to falling. I have one glass of alcohol a year. All my levels are consistent and rarely fluctuate. Considering the forty plus cigarettes I inhaled each day for thirty years, or one thousand and sixty weeks, or ten thousand nine hundred and twenty days, for over half my life, I came out better than one should have expected. My lungs are black but repairing themselves as I speak. I have no chest pain or breathing issues. I have much lung butter to spare. I feel good. I hate using the term, but I am a 'lucky man.' It could have been so much worse considering my family history of heart disease and stroke. The worst part is trying to get rid of the blockage without surgery. I am attempting several holistic solutions. No matter what might happen or not, I am constantly aware that I have no one to blame for any compromise made to my health through smoking. Doing so was the chance I was willing to take all those years ago. Smoking is the chance I no longer am willing to embrace. Although I still miss it, my lesson has been learned. You always have to pay the price, but you have no one to blame but yourself. 

"So I took the road less traveled by
And I barely made it out alive
Through the darkness somehow I survived
Tough love
 I knew it from the start
Deep down in the depth
Of my rebel heart
(Rebel Heart, Madonna 2015)

             I am not invincible. I am not some immortal character from some childhood conclusion in my mind. I may have spent my life thus far hoping that these things were true, but I obviously knew they were false all along. I am not the Highlander, or Gilgamesh or even some form of a Superman. My mortal frame (and all the guts contained within it) is as human and as frail as anyone else's on this planet. There is no escaping this truth no matter how much I don't want to hear it. Still, I have spent most of my life soaring above the ailments that seem to attack me on occasion. Thus far, nothing has kept me down. Perhaps the idea that I was impervious to harm was the wrong way to look at things. Maybe in some strange sense I do have an innate ability to pick myself up and carry on. Most certainly, if my past is any indication, I always manage to rise again. My physical struggles with a chemical imbalance, smoking and genetic predispositions like Diabetes, have done more than taught me how to survive. I'm not some warrior but I have finagled past them, always ready to fight the good fight. In light of my recent heart problems, I have certainly realized there are consequences to ignoring your health, regardless of how much you justify or isolate them on an intellectual level. Apparently, being some Megus was nothing but a figment of my overwhelming ego and imagination. I recognized long ago, one day I am going to die. This fact is not lost on me. It would appear, in my case at any rate, that I am the greatest determiner of just how and when and why that event will happen. I am confident that I shall do my best.


             I am not afraid to die. I never  have been. It was always the method of my future  destruction that left me with much trepidation. Isn't that ironic? To this point, the secret of my survival is not only acceptance of my situation but learning from my mistakes and correcting them. If you change nothing then nothing will change. After all, everything in life is a result of the choices you have made. If you want a different outcome, you have to make a different choice.

"Say goodbye to yesterday
 Nothing standing in my way
 Never was a guarantee
 In my heart I know
 There's got to be
 Gonna take some time
 I'm on the mend
 I'm healing
 Starting over at the end and feeling
 Stronger than I've ever been
 I'm healing"
(Healing, Michael English w/ Wynonna 1994)


Tuesday, January 5, 2016


"Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Luke 12:33-34, NIV)

             I pride myself on being a rather jovial person. Despite the life I have lived, the one thing you can count on from me is my sense of humor. I love to laugh. I use this tool in almost everything throughout my life. I use it as a means to help me survive. It's like I intercept some universal comedy signal and then channel the smartass that comes to me. It seems almost a physical force that I tap into, a base feeling I try to embrace. I don't know why this personality trait has lingered. Most days I have little reason to laugh, let alone take the time for jocularity and the art of being jolly. It's like a sense of something greater than myself flows through me and brings me to this state. It's always been there. When I was a boy, I was the class clown and the devilish sibling. No matter what happens, no matter the lot, I have always been able to use it not only as an escape but quite often as a weapon against tragedy itself. The best way to combat sorrow is through a good pun. I cannot do it all alone. Without the state of jest that finds me wanting, I don't believe I would ever laugh again. It comes and it goes just like the wind. I can feel it. Making other people laugh and feel comfortable is one thing but to disport myself is a delight I always attempt to meet. I amuse me. I am always laughing on the inside. I am a funny guy, ask anyone who knows me. If they say otherwise, then they need to burn the bug up their ass.
            I don't always experience this otherworldly force just through a veil of laughter. Sometimes it overwhelms me for no reason at all. On occasion, I find myself floating on the universe, with access to anything or anyone. If you focus, you can discover it there, always waiting, all encompassing. While there is often a physical response during the merge, the primary benefits of this encounter are far more intellectual and spiritual. Once when I was at my rope's end, I thought I actually was part of the universe. Of course, in afterthought, I chastised myself for being foolish. The truth is we are all part of the universe, a collective of the entire cosmos. All the stardust, the gases, the matter, it's all just one giant entity unto itself. The universe breathes and forms and lives. Great spiritual teachers have told mankind for eons that we could find our place in the scheme of things by realizing we are the scheme of things. So too just as there is a universal body, there is also a universal mind. A collective of all the knowledge, all the wisdom, all the answers. Capturing yourself within it can be a most rewarding yet completely frightening experience. You have to dive into that place blindfolded with your arms tied.

"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17, NIV)


             I am not alone. For centuries, men much greater than me have instituted the idea of a force beyond matter and time. It is a collective of all the data from throughout all of this reality. Every idea, every sensory experience, every act of thinking exists in The Akashic Record, thought to be "a library of light wherein one can access all information." It is from here that modern New Age thinking claims that our "reality is a consciousness hologram." This collective denotes the "matrix of consciousness programs that create our reality within that hologram." All existence flows within the matrix. It is mystical, philosophical, and religious. Also called the astral plane, this "life force" is accessible to us humans just as it is to every other being and creature throughout all the realities, even beyond the universe and all it entails. It is reality, a "permanency of records" available to all who would become aware. This literal "non-physical plane of existence" is available, manifesting as "an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world accessible to direct experience through inner development." Once you have accessed The Akashic Record, you can discover "hidden knowledge or wisdom that offers the individual enlightenment and salvation." This cumulative knowledge is "encoded in the aether," and has "existed since the beginning of The Creation and even before."
            The term Akashic Record  comes from the Sanskrit word akasha, meaning "sky" or "aether." The phrase first appeared in the late 1800s, although the idea of a collective mind or soul goes far back in human history. Akashic historians claim that the ancient Egyptians, the Mayan, Druids and even early Christians once used this resource. Nostradamus claimed that he had gained access to the Universal Mind or Collective Consciousness "using methods derived from the Greek oracles." Each soul, every living entity has been recorded "since time began." Every moment of existence has been stored, hard-drived, catalogued, and once a being has "attuned oneself properly" you can stream ("mindstream") the astral plane. Whether called jiva (Hinduism), atma (Buddhism), or even the Holy Spirit (Christianity), it requires a discipline which trains one to distinguish between actual encounters and any artificial "astral pictures created by imagination and keen desire." In modern schools, the concept is most closely associated with Theosophy and the New Age movement. 

"Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:15, NIV)

            I'm not much for new age thinking. I figure if the traditions of Christian theology no longer serve me then something else can hardly fill that space. I suppose I am, in a simple sense, loyal to Jesus. After all, if I can no longer believe in the tenets of my birth faith, how can I rationally believe anything else that is set on a metaphysical, mythical or supernatural strata? I doubt very highly that the Christ was born to a virgin so how can I logically believe in anything else that is purported in the same vein? Even I don't believe that Jesus was God so I find it hard to imagine the validity of anything else that claims to be or comes from that source. While I believe that the Judeo-Christian scriptures reveal the character of God from a specific place in time, written by men in that place in time, I do not hold them as dogmatically certain. When people in this modern era claim  to have experienced UFOs or angels or demons, I give each encounter the very same credence. If my faith is questionable then so too are other expressions. If I doubt very highly that Jesus actually walked on water, why the hell would I believe that some Indo-Asian from Timbuktu could do the very same thing?
            The only thing we can know for certain is our experiences. What we believe is measured by the interpretations each of us make through those experiences. The truth is I question everything, especially if it stands as improvable or anthropomorphic in its nature. I can only know what I have come to know. It seems almost everyone grasps at strange straws when it comes to the metaphysical. Rather than being concerned with practical applications, mankind tends to focus primarily on varying theories and odd hypotheses, without material form or substance. Our ideas regarding God are highly abstract and overtly theoretical. When a person rejects one theocracy for a weirder and even more incredulous spiritual theory, it's like they have jumped from the frying pan into the fire. There is an elderly woman I know who refuses to concede that the tenets of the Christian faith might be valid because they are so unbelievable and obtuse. In the same breath, she has given herself to the very New Age doctrine of angels being aliens from another world. She will fight to have her truth heard and accepted. She believes that our DNA was tampered with thousands of years ago. She believes that those aliens come and go from the planet, considered angels by the vast majority of religious thinkers. She gives weight to Raëlism (a UFO religion founded in 1974) and discards her birth faith because it seems unrealistic, fictitious and absurd.

 "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever " (Daniel 12:3, NIV)


            Was the xenoglossy the Apostles encountered on the day of Pentecost actually the third person of Yahweh, taking possession of their intellect, or was it something else? When Edgar Cayce revealed the future, was he releasing the untapped energies of his mind or was he accessing a universal well of information? When New Age gurus talk about floating libraries of knowledge and truth, are they really describing heaven, as they claim to be, or are they tuning in to a frequency that contains much more? What about our dreams? Are they simply the unexpressed subconscious taking a relative form or are we journeying into something much more than what we believe them to be? Is past life regression a valid state or are we getting signals from a collective source? Is the past life review that NDEers undergo at the end of the tunnel our God letting us in on the joke or is it less an undertaking and more a stepping stone? What about genius and invention? When Srinivasa Ramanujan, an Indian mathematician who made "made extraordinary contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series and continued fractions" credited the Hindu goddess Mahalakshmi of Namakkal with his brilliance, was his epiphany divine or derived? Where do we go when we astral project? What is really on the other side? There are so many questions, it's hard to keep up. I have found myself using my mind to consider each question carefully.
            It can be ridiculous to expect proof where there is none. After all, that's what Faith is for. To be honest, when it comes to God, there isn't much that I am sure of. I look for answers but I only find more questions. It would be nice to have some ethereal spring of information that I can tap into and use as my own. I know that I have had moments of such joy in my life that I felt I could reach out and touch God. There is a constant flow of laughter that trickles through my heart. I have encountered such magical things. I have always believed that such moments were divine in nature. They are the closest thing I have to proof. Perhaps the gifts of heaven mentioned in The Bible and other religious sources have more creditable substance than gold streets and diamond walls. In the end, it's really all just guesswork. If nothing else, I am consistent. Until something actually is proven to me, I will not be good to go.

“No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived
the things God has prepared for those who love him."
(1 Corinthians 2:7-9, NIV)