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)