Living In A Cave

I always marvel at people who have done something for decades. It could be an occupation, hobby or even a relationship. I can proudly boast to have breathed for such lengths of time but little else.

Is it some character flaw or am I inherently dynamic? Is it natural to be somewhat static or are we meant to be instruments and products of change?

If you look at technology and products, change seems to be an aim as much as a need to fulfill a present need. If you look at nature change seems to be part of the design. Mountains become hills, rapids brooks and trees soil. Death may seem to be static but a life lived carries forward in the hearts and minds of many. We ripple through the ages through family, friend and foe. A word spoken or a fist raised may weaken but does it die? If a poet inspires one person or a generation is it not somehow felt by the next?

Possibly, our notion that there is an end to something leads to carelessness. If you believe the gesture is simply that, it may be easier to be casual about it. If you believe it is a current that touches more than one shore, it may be prudent to be more tactful.

Have you ever scolded a child or pet? They are forgiving and resilient but what is said remains lurking somewhere in their minds. They may not cower at the next consonant but what do they carry into their futures beside your words and actions?

Some argue that the past is simply the past but I see my past as essentially what I am made of…it can’t be anything yet to happen. What I have seen, what I have heard and what I have experienced and felt have a huge impact on today. It may be something like coming out of a cave. The present experience of the outside is directly impacted by the former experience of being in the cave. Is it the brilliance of the light or lack thereof in the cave that causes you to squint and blink? Is the view actually unimaginable or has the sterility of the stone walls made it so?

We all live in caves of habit and routine. It could be the aforementioned occupation or hobby or something less productive. What we continue to do we continue to experience. How we react and act towards one another is a result of these experiences. Can we change anyone or anything without changing ourselves? The past will always reside in the cave but do you want the future to reflect those stone walls or the brilliance of what lays beyond?

“Please Sir Can I have Some More?”

I volunteered at a courtesy meal provided by one of the churches in our city. It was my first time and I consider myself an observer only. The saints are those who show up every time.

My job was pre-scrubbing the plates, glasses and cutlery for the dish washing crew. Jell-O was part of the menu so it wasn’t long before my soapy water was pink. The odd floating pea was of no concern but part way through the evening I was curious as to what percentage my rinse water was saliva.

Before I was inundated with 150 plates, knives, cups and dessert plates I was watching the first to be served. Many seemed to have a system. This was not a first for many if any. Their plates were placed at their table to ensure a seat. The food was quickly abandoned as they headed for the tables containing loaves of bread. The more seasoned could be seen feeling the bags checking for the largest loaves. It is bad enough that there are those among us in need of a meal today but to pre-worry about what might fill your stomach tomorrow is insult to injury.

We ran out of purple grape juice and it was substituted with the more expensive clear grape juice. It was a hard sell. What appeared to be water was passed by or sniffed with suspicion. Most refused the risk of filling their stomachs with anything less than calories.

There were more than a few who handed in their plates with the only thing on their mind being another. “Are there seconds?” “Please Sir Can I Have Some More?” It’s only gluttony when it’s not your only meal. God Bless those with an appetite and Peace Be Upon the hungry.

One of the guests was an accomplished pianist. It was a welcome spirit and easily worth scrapping plates and scrubbing utensils. I knew my place was in dishwater and not at the piano.

To be honest I worked hard but to be more honest I do not have it hard. I know where I will sleep. I barely think about the three meals that come my way and I am seldom with a plan for tomorrow’s calories. My fridge is rarely near a state of empty. Hell, I have a fridge – have you ever considered the disparity between not having something to eat and owning a $700.00 box to house an array of food?

I saw several plates with a fair bit of food scraped into the garbage but who says just because you are poor you have to like peas? I was happy to know there were people not desperate enough to accept everything dished out to them. I hope I can always retain my dignity and taste.

 

Puddles

I used to be naive about many things in life. I thought love was something I had to earn and search for. I would often concentrate my efforts on mirages. From a distance things seemed lush and I gravitated to the idea of quenching my thirst. I could be standing in a puddle but what I saw in the distance was where I thought happiness resided. Sometimes love finds us when we don’t even know we are looking. Other times it seems buried deep in the sand and we are without a shovel. We think we know the spot it is buried and flail away with both hands to uncover it. At times I have thought that the kind which is buried is more valuable because I have to work for it.

We often guard our secret gardens because none of us lives without the memory of some heartache. The usual result is atrophy. We rarely admit anyone for fear they will trample what is the core of who we are. As a result we have no one to help us care for our garden. Some things wither and others grow uncontrollably but the real loss is not having someone to witness its beauty. Our garden is useless unless we allow others to walk within it.

In some ways life is like being on a train. We don’t always choose who our fellow travelers are and it can be a relief to see some disembark. Others have the same destination; they can be family and friends or acquaintances and loves. At each station there are some who transfer with a different destination in mind. Seldom are we alone in the boxcar and many of us are fortunate to have many accompany us on our journey. I sometimes find myself looking at the stations we pull into and wondering if it wouldn’t be better to disembark. What do these people know that I do not? Is their path possibly the one I should be on? Where I find myself is always where I am supposed to be. It can be a place of suffering or of ecstasy. Without the one the other loses its meaning.

The importance of our gardens and our travels is that we share them. We can choose some of the individuals that accompany us but others are not meant to be a choice. They are a gift. We do not shop for our own gifts, they are simply meant to be graciously accepted. Sometimes we have no clue as to the worth of a gift. Sometimes we find little value in something so freely given. Sometimes it is difficult to recognize that we have been given more than we would have the audacity to ask for.

When the coat is thrown down in the puddle for us to walk on it does not mean the coat is worthless. It means the wearer finds more value in the steps you take than you possibly do.

Eye of the Beholder

I am at the family cottage sitting on the picnic table at the edge of the pond. It’s not much of a pond at present. It is low in water and made murky by its clay bottom. My dog is taking dips and stirring up the goldfish only aware of her pleasure. I am otherwise alone here listening to music. I am rich.

I have seen uglier times. Perhaps that is why I have such an appreciation for these moments. I could wish for more but peace is not having things but appreciating things. I can recall peering through bars and a heavy metal screen a pencil would not fit through. I was witness to sunsets that although obscured, I remember still. Colour penetrates much. I have been witness to many great sunsets here on Lake Huron but the ones that penetrated the jail seem more memorable. I wonder if my fellow inmates saw what I saw. I believe the gift of the sunset is Grace but the ability to recognize its beauty is also Grace. Is the meal extraordinary or our present sense of taste? Is it what resides in us that allows us to interpret beauty and be moved?

Two people can taste a fruit but neither will experience the same sweetness. Perspective and interpretation can be gifts. I am at times grateful for people and experiences in my life but I forget to be thankful for perspective. I am richer when I can acknowledge the fact that beauty is in the eye of the beholder; beauty does not exist unless it is beheld.

Psychosis

To be the Second Coming of Christ can be exhilarating but also a terrible responsibility. Part of the problem for me was that I had no disciples. Knowing the story of Christ, disciples have their downside but at least they can attest to your miracles and share a meal.

My Garden of Gethsemane moment came while I was secluded in the medical cells. What you read here happened just like your first date. I remember it as you might. I remember what I could see and touch and what I was thinking and the emotions that resulted from all. I remember it better than my first date possibly because it was so real and intense for me; I did not plead for God’s mercy on my first date.

I waken in the night and hear nothing. No breathing, no snoring, no footsteps, no keys; the jail is lifeless. I begin to panic, my mind starts to somersault and I think the world is ending. I begin to pace. I hear only my bare feet brushing the cold cement. I start to pray, Lord save this world; nothing. I begin to plead with God to save the world; nothing. I pace with more panic. I pee in my toilet and put some on my head, I am desperate. I get down on my knees and start crying. I tell God I will give up seeing my children ever again if He saves the world. Still in tears I resort to the unpardonable sin, I curse the Holy Spirit. I know this will banish me to Hell and keep me from loved ones but it is my last hope, I curse with all my heart. My arms slash through the darkness as I throw every word I know into the night. I flush my toilet, an unpardonable sin in jail at night. Everyone on the medical range is awake. There are swear words and I grab my bars and scream at them about how ungrateful they are; I have just saved the world. The guard arrives and they lodge their complaints. Quiet once again falls on the jail and I am left to ponder what I have done. In the morning I am lead from the medical cells to the Hole.    It’s as close as they come to crucifixion in Corrections Canada.

 

Giving up the possibility of seeing my children in heaven was possibly more significant than it might usually be. I had not seen, written to or spoken on the phone with either of my children in over three years at the point of this story. When it seemed too painful to carry them in my heart; I looked and they were there. When it would have been easier to put them out of my mind; I thought and they were there.

I was not and am not well versed in the Bible. I had a friend who was a Born Again Christian before and during his incarceration. He was my only friend when I was sick or well. He was in his late 60’s and I made his bunk up for him at night. One of W.’s lessons was when he informed me that there is only one unpardonable sin. He warned me never to curse the Holy Spirit. He informed me I would not be forgiven in this life or the next and pointed out the verse in the Bible: Matthew 12:31-32

“And so I tell you, every human sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And anyone who says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but no one who speaks against the Holy Spirit will be forgiven either in this world or the next.”

Lock and Key

I have a small collection of antique locks and skeleton keys. I actually owned them before I was under lock and key so I don’t think there is anything subliminal but possibly they were prophetic. I pulled them from the drawer they were in and made a display. As I look at them I realize each key has the same purpose but all are slightly different. Are humans the same? Obviously we are each different but what interests me is whether we have a common purpose.

At times I have been caught up in the material. I was successful; I owned my own business and properties. I was ahead of my peers though I probably felt emptier. Losing all this, I don’t in any significant way feel less than those I see driving luxury cars. Possibly I have enough esteem that I don’t need that of a jealous neighbour.

I am slightly out of shape. The closest I come to a six pack is at the Brewers Retail. My hair is thin to non-existent in spots but again I don’t feel less than the nicely shaped and hairy people I come across. Possibly I don’t get my esteem from the follicles in my head or the size of my biceps. Some would say I was better looking in my youth but I’m fairly certain if this was a purpose to existence none of us would age and we would all have identical hyper metabolisms. The physical and material matters in my life don’t overly matter.

I have had many relationships. I have been a father, a husband, a lover, a brother, an uncle, a student, a friend and none of these. To procreate is a strong urge in humans as are other relationships but without this ability or the stature of being at least a friend, a person does not shrivel. I did not crumble and I am ordinary in every way.

Travel, entertainment or even thrill seeking are certainly desirous but looking at significant historical figures who ventured only within their counties without ever bungee jumping we can assume that despite being great, what we do for fun may have nothing to do with our greatness.

Toil or occupation whether paid or not can provide meaning but unless it is in the name of something we are not much different from Oxen. A beast can pull a plow but only humans can cultivate anything important. The seeds we plant will only sprout with attention.

These are some of my arguments regarding purpose; personal or weak as they may be. What then is our purpose? Does it have to be something greater than ourselves? Is it different for each of us or are we like my keys? If I am a key is it myself that I must unlock? When I unlock myself what comes out? Do we keep the same things under lock and key? Could it be that although I am less than wealthy and less than hairy I am in fact in possession of the same treasure? Do we not all hold the key to compassion, love, generosity, and empathy? Some people seem to have more of these just as some have more money or good looks. Possibly these individuals have used their key to open what many of us fear we do not have enough of to share. These contents are a little like the recycle bin; they will only be picked up if you put them out there. Your empty aluminum cans will never be made into anything new if you bury them in your backyard. Compassion can never heal or touch someone who needs it if it is left in your chest; literally.

Every lock has a key. Obviously I can only speak for myself but I am coming to understand that my purpose is to unlock and share what can’t be seen, measured or appraised. To some these things have no value in any way but when shared with someone else they can be priceless. Interestingly, out of the dozens of skeleton keys I own, none of them fit the locks. I guess that is what makes life interesting. Since we are all different keys I may just happen on someone who opens a lock I own. It is often a mystery as to what a lock protects but historically it is something of value, all the other stuff is simply stuff.Image

Scars

I have a large scar across the muscle above my knee. At one time it contained thirty stitches to hold it together. It was a trauma that I have a total recall of. I also have scars that are less physical. I was sewn together by a great many healers, some professional and some who had no clue they were helping me to heal. Here as well I have total recall.

Eventually you have to remove the bandage and live with the scar. We have to step back into our lives and walk on. A scar can be a reminder but it shouldn’t keep us from what we aspire to. To leave the bandage on longer than is necessary may in fact make things worse. The more we try to protect ourselves the less we experience. After my emergency I went to my family physician to have my sutures removed. He was uncomfortable with my wound and thought it best to leave them in. It was my experience that the longer a stitch is left, the harder it is to remove. I returned home and removed them myself. I was fairly confident I wouldn’t open up again or fall apart. We are more resilient than we sometimes allow ourselves to be.

For me, recovery is not a return to the way things were any more than my physical healing leaves me without a scar. The fabric of my life, like the flesh of my wound has changed. I am fortunate that my scar on my leg like the other scars I live with don’t interfere with the majority of my functioning but I have been altered.

Every scar tells a story but they do not have to be the whole story. Scars of the flesh are miraculous. Without thought or conscious effort the body reconstructs itself. Through Grace some of my other scars have healed as well. It can be time and distance or simply the decision to live with the scar. We don’t have to stand still to mend, in fact going through regular motions is often more helpful. I pick at the scabs of my life like we all do but some wounds heal only when we let them.