Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Bear and a Distracted Driver

In the Rockies today, driving un-distracted, I saw a black bear with a yellow ear tag sneaking across the transCanada highway. I slowed, moved to drive behind him over the center lane. The tag meant, “Don’t stop! If this bear gets dangerously used to humans it will need to be put down.” An oncoming blonde my age saw the bear and me and gave a salute-wave as she passed.

Also today I saw a noble deer at bay, with a broad black nose. He stood, thought better of crossing the highway, and spun about to nimbly return to the forest.

Today I saw a sign by an interesting brown road joining the highway, in the middle of nowhere, “School bus Stop Zone.” Are you curious? I regret I didn’t turn off to coolly explore whatever might be up that less traveled road. No, for although I am on holiday until Monday I had to hurry home by Wednesday afternoon. Sorry.

That’s because over a year ago I had a dozen cars stopped behind me at a red light. Green. A nanosecond passed. The distracted driver behind me, who was on his “hands free cell phone” and had “just broken off with his girlfriend” suddenly noticed the green light and stomped on the gas. Good thing my headrest was precisely adjusted. Too bad I was trying to suck a sour candy with my jaw wayyy out of line. Good thing his girl hadn’t told him she was pregnant—he could have seriously crashed my car. Instead he only impacted my life—now I have to cut my holiday short to see my doctor; my jaw is in dire pain.

“Save the bears!”

 If you are a girlfriend, then please don’t be what alcoholic husbands call an “enabler.” Don’t enable your boyfriend to call you from his car in traffic, whether he is moving or still. Tell him there’s no fire, you’re not pregnant, and there’s no reason he can’t wait to call you until he is safe, and legal. It would be the loving thing to do.

Sean Crawford
Now on the pouring rain side of the mountains

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Longest Day

This week at our Friday FreeFall the prompt was "The Longest Day," since Friday was on D-Day. Someone wrote about Dieppe, since it too happened, by military reckoning, on D-day at H-hour. It was a sad morning as many of us remembered our relatives... literally gone, or here in body but gone in mind... Freefall writing, as the name implies, is where you just write like mad after hearing a surprise prompt. It can be powerful because it is so messy; you just write your way into it, without any editing or inner censor.   

Prompt-The Longest Day
It’s a long day. The trick is to attack at high tide—for the brass, that means more clearance between the hulls and the obstacles. For us it means more chance to survive because if we can keep our heads above water there is less chance of drowning—not in water, anyway, maybe in the hot coppery stuff.

It was a long day because I was skipping out. I was miserable and depressed and I had no telephone so no one could phone me and they would have thought I was in school anyways. Like every teen I had a transistor radio and every hour I would hear the news of three guards held captive—or did we say “hostage” in those days? I later heard that my dad had to hold on with all his might to keep a knife from his throat. Luckily another con came and held the con’s arm away.

I don’t even know if I benefited, really, by staying away from school. I don’t suppose I got caught up on trying to understand algebra or cleaning up my place. Once I hallucinated that I heard my dad’s voice. But he wasn’t around, he was at work, at the penn, what we kids called the joint.
He didn’t get any extra money for being held hostage, but he did get an early retirement out of the deal—just try getting any favours from the department of soliciter general.

The hours trickled by, oozed by, stealed by like some digital clock that didn’t register seconds or minutes, only ticked over for hours.
I suppose I read. And at last I was at the armoury where everybody is devoted to excellence and luckily we didn’t have any drill training because my mind would have been too distracted. Or no, in those years I would have thrown myself into things. Today it is so easy to memorise a serial number, in those years we all thought our middle aged NCO’s were crazy to expect us to remember the number of a rifle we were issued for just one night.
The battalion orderly room had a telephone to the outside world, the phone was in the phone book, and the whole battalion learned that my father had been freed. Not like Mary Steinhauser. And we all climbed the long stairs to the mess and drank our manly beer and forgot about it. For we were strong and young and immortal.

My father landed ten days after D-Day, went to Bremmen, the furthest reach of the Canadian Forces, and got to come home soonest as he had been so long in the war. Now he’s in a wheelchair in Bamfield pavilion.

Sean Crawford

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Some Silly Masochism

I wish people would listen to their bodies when they are being masochistic, because then they might not be like that: Not as often, not for as long.

I thought of this on Saturday night among people who listen well for inner signals: I sat with new agers and free thinkers—as spiritual as they were religious—gathered at Unity Church for a movie and popcorn. The documentary, by the way, was about Joseph Campbell and something common to every culture on the planet: The Hero’s Journey. I respected how my neighbors in the pews, wearing unthreatening drab everyday dress, were without interest in fearful conforming, while being quite interested in new ways of being. They would understand me listening to my body for signals from my better angel, or my subconscious, or some source unexplained.

The greater mundane society, to be sure, has some awareness too: No one ignores strong signals of fear; many will feel but then ignore medium strength signals of being uptight, or twisted; fewer will listen to inner whispers of opportunity, or a hushed, “Hey, I’m going against my better judgment, here.”

For my part, sometimes I notice such signals but push on and do it anyway, my way, only to look back long afterwards and say, “I was wrong.” In this I am only human, like my spiritual friends.
We had a discussion after the film. If my fellows are keen to achieve their potential it is partly because they once lived so far below their potential—hence they were understanding near the ending of our discussion when an alienated man spoke up saying, “I’m not part of the choir,” and expressed at length his frustration, dragging out our discussion ending. Instead of being annoyed, they smiled and thanked him for directing our attention to a “better than the film” TV series about Joseph Campbell by Bill Moyer. I don’t suppose the man could listen to his inner signals; in his frustration needs he pushed aside his better judgment.

And then, at the very end, a lady pointed out briefly that yes, we here are functional middle-class people who can benefit; we can turn our lives around from learning of the Hero’s Journey, but what about the homeless? As it happens, this lady was somewhat entitled to her opinion, since in her life she had undertaken some action, not just words, to help the homeless. But still, I had a sudden image of a man, a “White liberal” as passive as a sheep in a field, bleating with eyes sad, eyes frustrated and eyes masochistic, “What about the homeless?” Yes, and what about those “White middleclass” guilt-without-action people? The ones who would masochistically flog themselves and others, without anything being accomplished? I wish they could feel their twistedness inside, and then think before they speak.

Sometimes masochism, while feeling stiff or twisted inside, has a realistic purpose. Like the small town girl on the edge of adulthood, standing on the stoop who says, “This town is no good,” or the university student who disparages himself to other students by talking with an inward twist about his not being “in the real world.” The good result, for these two, is they may summon enough energy to finally leave their sheltered campus or small town, and perhaps their listeners can summon the energy too.

Usually, though, masochism serves no purpose, except, perhaps, to evade the issue.

Lately, I’ve been hearing people in everyday life saying, “This is only a first world problem!”—Meaning that others have it worse. Sometimes they say it feeling smooth inside, achieving perspective and happy humor. More often, though, I hear it said with a rough masochistic judgment of themselves and others, combined, sometimes, with a desire to avoid dealing with some little issue.

In my youth some people tried to avoid helping Blacks get equal rights by saying, “How can Blacks complain; what about the hill people in the Appalachians? They have it worse.” They would say this while doing nothing to help hill people, or Blacks either, perhaps easing their conscience with a strange penance, a twisted guilt feeling inside.

I dimly recall Senator Robert (Bobby) Kennedy, while trying to help folks in a Black ghetto, shortly before his assassination, answering, “The fact that other people have it worse does not console me, and should not console anyone.”

While being unable to quote from memory, I am reminded of a reverend (priest) standing at a reception, in an air conditioned hotel, in the newly relocated U.S. federal capital of Denver, eating treats and calmly saying that although the plagues have been managed, the dying will continue, there will be further deaths from crops going unharvested, and so forth. In Book One of The War Against the Chtorr, by David Gerrold, the hero gets irate at this calmness. The reverend replies by asking will it help if I am not calm, or not eating treats? And please lower your voice, I am standing right here. The hero has no answer. The reverend is centered, the hero uptight… because he is all jumbled inside.  The reverend helps him to straighten out his thinking. During the series, by the way, the hero matures, and in Book Three that same reverend leads him through some human potential training.

I can’t recommend the Chtorr series to any of my spiritual friends, (Too violent) but I did once sit on the grass reading aloud to a friend, Linda, a leader in Community Building. This was because I knew Linda had just had an experience similar to a chapter in Book Three where the reverend, leading a meeting, is dealing with those who would prefer to duck and dodge, to quibble and comment after hearing a clear question rather than honestly answer, or respond to a request for action. I find there are so many ways of evading, and only one way of facing life. Linda really liked the chapter. She said she wanted to know what becomes of the characters, adding, while looking at the cover illustration of fighter jets strafing, and a foreground guy in uniform, “I would never read that book on my own.”

Linda was an example to me in being responsible. When she led a meeting, with whatever group turbulent emotions might come up, she took care to constantly get centered before she spoke by taking time to say her name, and then using “I (not “you”) statements.” We both came to have more responsible lives as we learned to listen more to our inner body signals. And, with all our ideals in this imperfect world, we had enough self-honesty with our feelings that we never wimped out by having silly masochism with others or ourselves. I suppose “getting centered” is partly for becoming clear enough to examine what you feel.

If I were a slogan making man, I could say, “Get centered before you feel” and then “Feel before you think,” and then “Think before you speak.” May peace be with you.

Sean Crawford
(Hurray, I’ve been caught in my first snap thundershower: (from heated air rising) summer is established!)
~I write, “White middleclass” for my U.S. readers: I very seldom hear the term used in Canada.

~I use the past tense because Linda is now deceased; she was the peaceful, proud mother of Corporal Nathan Hornburg, who was killed in action in Afghanistan. Linda would think globally but act locally, her community building was for peace.

~If a Muslim asked me how, locally, she could contribute to peace by realizing her human potential, then after saying, “I don’t know,” I would advise starting with understanding “victimhood,” “science” and “boundaries.”

I would ask her to understand it takes time: You can become aware of what victimhood is, and realize it is unproductive while at the same time being still in the victim state yourself. Even today, sometimes, I find myself being unscientific and feeling twisted inside—as I said, it takes time.

“Boundaries” are not only in space but in time, not only interpersonal but inter-geographic. And inter-group. If someone from Edmonton “insults” my hockey team (The Calgary Flames) I have a responsibility to choose whether it is an “insult” or whether I have a boundary. If “my” team loses I don’t have to be a loser.

A growing student “on the upward curve” might spend an entire semester, or season, going around having meaning-of-life conversations to deepen understanding of these three terms. I say this with understanding because I too have slowly grown over the seasons.