Tuesday, February 28, 2012

538 PNJ

538 PNJ (with special thanks to ICBC's Tania!)

Wherever we go we leave our mark. Most places we land demand of us a record, a passport, an accounting of our existence. We need proof of our privilege to stay. We need the passwords in order just to pass through. So it becomes necessary to keep it academic, this multiple demands for identity verification and the subsequent search for age-old documents, or else one may too easily become quite frustrated. The necessity of address change, telephone change, driver's license change, vehicle registration change, health care change, banking address change, chequing account change, and then finding a new doctor, a new dentist, and even discovering new sets of contacts and making new friends all becomes part and parcel of the transition. And at each step of the way it is the helpfulness of yet another stranger, the considerations of unknown others, the happy co-incidences of the moments in the meetings that give the newcomer, the sojourner, the journeyer, and the neophyte to the new place the feeling that one is being accepted, that one is making the right choices, that the new life sought after is indeed headed in the right direction.

The smallest of gestures mean a lot.

Such was the helpfulness of Tania, of British Columbia's Insurance Bureau at the moment of my vehicle's plate-exchange. Her letting me choose the plate from those available meant a great deal. She might have just handed me one. I've seen plates on vehicles with all sorts of suggestive combinations, and there was a strong preference in me not to have my old steed saddled with such. After all, do not most people make inferences from letters strung together, such as 001 JRK, or how about, 000 SHT? And so, thanks to Tania, when flicking through the box of plates, I came across 538 PNJ.

538 PNJ: Five Virtues of Knighthood; Three Life Principles, and Universal Infinity, yoked to Pentelbury's New Journey. At least, that how I choose to see the new license plate. It inspires me! That one ascribes such sort of significance to things in the first place is somewhat silly, admittedly, but nevertheless, icons being what they are, symbols being what they are, I am grateful that I got to choose.

Courtesy, Compassion, Purity, Frankness, and Fellowship make up the symbolic old Pentacle of the Knights. Rightness of Mind, of Heart, of Body makes up the Triumvirate of Virtues. And as for the Unity of Eternity, always Contributing to the Health of the Whole becomes one's Holy Grail. Inasmuch as 538 then is attached to this new Journey of mine, here in Lala-Land (as my friends would have it,) so it is that my trusty old steed and I commit to carrying our new nameplate. Would that all one's baggage be so light!

Numerology, the Cabala, the Purple Meme, and Superstition itself shoved aside, we each are identified by a host of designated digits. Even one's telephone number may have significance. Interestingly, Canadians have to have a Social Insurance Number (a bona-fide SIN number!) And when I look at the nine digits of my own SIN number, I sure wish it wasn't quite so long! ha! Give me 538 any day! Especially on P's New Journey!  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Way for Way

Charity can have a far reaching effect. When they emerged from the heavily laden car that drew up in front of my Pretoria poor-house neighborhood, back in 1966, I knew instantly that I was in trouble. There was a squeezing sensation I still get in the spine that signals that I have crossed a boundary. But my mother, bedridden though she was, was courteous, expressed gratitude, and as I recall it, even confessed to shame at her impoverished condition. And after the mattresses and the bedding and the clothing and groceries and the household products and even laundry soap had been brought into the house, my new school friend and his mother and his five-year old baby brother were for an instant all crowded in my mother's bedroom with my two younger brothers and myself, giving greetings and reassurances that their charity was really nothing. And then they were gone.

"How dare you!?" were the first words my mother yelled at me. I'd made the mistake, contrary to her explicit instructions, of telling a school friend of our rather meager living circumstances. And with my mother's shame came her anger and her making me promise not to maintain the friendship. To some degree it must have worked, for I do not recall having overly much between my charitable friend and me after that magnanimous moment, despite another three years of his being in the same school as me. In fact, in our penultimate year, he disappeared, and I did not hear from or about him until...

"You could have knocked me over with a feather..." were the first words I received by email, some forty years later, just over a year ago. We both had changed names. And so our communication, our friendship, once again was opened. What's more, he came up from the States to visit me in Canada, and re-introduced me to that younger brother of his, a man now fifty years old, who happens to live all of only 40 odd minutes up the coast from Victoria. Small world; big Facebook. Connections, having been resumed, remain a constant tic-tac of camaraderie amongst us; even as recently as the wonderful dinner we shared last night, at Sticklebacks, right on Vancouver Island's shoreline.

"I have been calumniated, traduced, abused, and misused," are among the memorable lines from Hadrian VII, in which I performed back in about 1973, in Cape Town. And as part of our stories, the words still ring true. But Hadrian's phrase is of the past. Now, as men, we face a future in which the battle scars and varied badges of our attainments are foundations rather than chains; they are the brandishing of our preparedness, rather than indications of our vulnerability. We are men who've been there, done that, and are ready for yet more. We are men who have been given a hand-up (in my case a hand-out, ha!) and at times a smack-down, but we now are champions of the search for clarity, for care and compassion, and for extending charity toward those in need. We are girded for the decades to come, galvanized by the very history from which we came.

Last night, sitting with my new-found friend, that once upon a time five-year old, I asked if it would be alright to write to his mother, after all these long years, to express my gratitude. He smiled. It is never too late to let someone know they touched you. It is never too late to show just how well one has fared; it inspires, as way leads on to way.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Larger Than Life

Great elephants can move with careful grace. They have a power and presence that resonates. To have been close enough to have breathed near one, especially in its natural and unfettered state, is to have a certain sense of privilege, of awe at the sheer magnitude of potential inherent in the being. And when that massive aura of their magic in the meeting has passed by, moved on, there is a sense of having had one's existence blessed. At least, that's how I felt when he left. My friend. What's more, he took his lovely wife with him, and as partners, they had visited my space and filled it with love.

Love has no attachment. The wine bottle they brought, having been had at dinner, was put into recycling. The coke bottle from which he drank, that bore his fingerprints, went into the same bin. The plates, the cutlery, the crumbs, these are not the things by which one might retain a sense of the presence of missing friends; it is the feeling that lingers in the core of one, even as I write, some two or even three weeks later. In fact, the books on attaining one's dreams that they brought, or come to think of it, the relished box of Godiva chocolates too, are all objects that are deeply appreciated, but for which we bear no untoward attachment. Nor is it that we went here, or there, or that they were with us when we drove to... These are not the memories that matter. These are not what real memories are made of. In fact, the facts of such memories eventually will change; I for one will not, cannot remember what we had for dessert.

Love is a sense of utter acceptance. There is no wish to change whatever the other is. It does not compare. It is not jealous. It does not cling or demand or expect. Love is a feeling one gives. It does not even need to be returned. Love is a spontaneous feeling that arises even when thinking of the other. It is not halted by borders, by continents, by seas. It endures in the memory, elephant like, through the decades. Indeed, is there not some sort of famous biblical parallel to add to this? Worth looking up. Love has no end.

In the scratched and scarred hide of the mature elephant there is a lifetime of stories that go to teach others, that go to illustrate the discovered pathways of life, that go toward further foraging in the proverbial veld and forests. One cannot chain an elephant and expect it to be fully what it is. One cannot steer an elephant and expect it still to be free. There is in the very acceptance by an elephant a sense of being trusted, and it's a trust under which one would not easily budge.

And so, when the next day came and it was time to see off my friend, the great elephant, before he and his wife took off to other ventures, I stayed in my chair at the floatplane docks and watched the twin-engined otter, or beaver (but it certainly wasn't a Cessna, was it?) slowly throttle its way along the Victoria harbor entrance until it eventually disappeared toward its wave-tossed take-off zone. And they were gone.

Love. It is larger than life.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Such As We Be

They queued up "for an hour" to hear me talk. One of them came specially in to town "just to hear" me. Empowered Integration was the subject. Spiral Dynamics and Psycho-geometrics were the subtext. And I was in the same time slot as David Suzuki. More than that, he was in a room on the same floor. Calgary's swank Hyatt Hotel. I'd been flown in from Victoria (and back again) for the occasion, put up for the night, and been given a healthy honorarium for my troubles. After teaching for 37 years, I guess some of the Convention attendees wanted to hear what I had to say. Some of them.

When the doors finally opened three eager looking teachers came in. One I instantly recognized. Then too, I had my friendly and ever helpful assistant with me, Dylan, a former student-teacher of mine. He'd pushed my chair to brunch, got my lanyard and presentation package for me, seen to it that I had water and a whiteboard with markers, and was about to do the big introduction. We five... waited.

While we waited I caught up with Joanne. A music teacher, she had served as musical conductor alongside my directing many shows over the last decade, such as Evita, and Carousel, and Iolanthe, and Camelot and... The other two teachers were asked their names, and they, a Kamul and an Andrea, moved up closer to us and we all established where we taught. Two tech experts interrupted us for a moment to check that we had everything we needed. I looked around at the some 300 vacant free-standing chairs. "We could do with a few more chairs in here," I pleaded. Ha! And then the doors closed, and we five, Dylan, Andrea, Joanne, Kamul, and me, were left to conspire.

Million dollar words trip off the tongue, but are readily understood when explicated, and the mind-shapes of triangles and squares and circles and squiggly lines and rectangles are easily envisaged when we accept that we are everything. At issue is our proclivity for a predominant predilection. In other words, we are creatures of habit. And given that one person may habitually resort to or react with a square attitude, while another may squiggle and squirm, it is the preferential order with which we choose response, if not instinctually react, that will determine our degree of comfort with another human being.

In Spiral Dynamics terms we are everything. And again, no matter which of the memes we predominantly practice of the first six habituations in the first tier (being Self-centric, Familial-focused, Ego-centric, Socio-centric, Dogmatic, or Egalitarian) we perpetuate a judgmental attitude toward others, as opposed to an evaluative preference within the inclusiveness and integrative propensity of habituation endemic to the second tier. Huh?

Conspiring, that marvelous act of breathing together in accord (and not necessarily by the fire, ha!) allows for the intimacy of conversation, clarification, collusion, and the purposefulness of compassion. Intentionality, in empowering the self to be yet more integrative, is everything. And indeed, we are everything. Intentionality might well have us reaching beyond our grasp, as did a Lamarkian giraffe before its neck grew longer, but then again, what on earth is a heaven for? Reach, reach for the stars, even if there be but only three. Then again, with as big a star as Suzuki next door, would it not have been better for them all to have deserted me? No they averred. No. We are everything, such as we be.

Brandishing One's Bandy

We can be adrift without empowerment. Empowerment gives us a dictionary. Ontology precedes epistemology. It can be off putting not to know another's meaning. Yet giraffe-like stretches of the Lamarckian instinct lies deep in the bones, in the molecules, in the cells, in the atoms. In every tiny bit, like a hologram, lies the whole. We reach up and back for the stars from which we come, or indeed, to echo the poet, what's a heaven for? And in wanting to see more, to know more, to be more, is our very evolution. So it is written, so it is observed, so it is in our very being, intentional or not. It is the intentional who push at the edges of... blah,blah, blah!

"Must you be so... academic?"


"Don't be sorry; just be... like everybody else!"


"Like everybody else?"

"Like normal people who see and speak and listen and enjoy and talk with everyday words, leastways, so that everybody else can understand. What's the point of, what was it, 'spontaneous combustion'? Who's heard of that? Who are you trying to impress?"

Silence. I am back at boarding school, the senior boys surrounding me. I've just finished reading the essay I wrote for Pienaar's homework assignment. He wanted me to read it aloud to the group in the study. He loved it. Going to get me an A+, he beamed. But it was Broeke who lit into me, venomously. Broeke did not appreciate any pretensions, precociousness, or persons with a predilection to prevaricate. Even my accent was far to pompous for him. Alliteration and metonymy were lost on... Er... Broeke wanted to keep things simple.

Empowerment has many guises. Our interest in a recipe allows for reproducing the meal. Our knowledge allows for identity with classical or contemporary allusion. Our delight in any art form is added to by our identification with it, or even not. Integration as a concept essentially is about the inclusion, absorption, acceptance, and assimilation of everything else. And in that last phrase lies the rub. Everything else. The degree to which we are discomforted by anything else determines our degree of being integrative, and taking things personally, or judging another's behavior, let alone brandishing one's bandy at the expense of others, are limit-ating, debilitating forms of being. So to be or not to be, indeed. Necessary to us all are the boundaries betwixt a thee and a me. Yet at which polarity of opposites do we draw the line over which we will not cross? Forcing another not to cross it is not always easily accomplished. It is within ourselves that real empowerment is wielded. We are it. We are responsive or we are reactive. We are...

And insomuch as you've kept reading this, you're being integrative. Broeke would have given up on me, long ago. Ha! And then again, where might one such as he be at, now?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Adrift, Are We?

It broke free of its moorings some weeks ago. The storm was not that violent. It did not whip up waves of discontent. It did not knock other craft against each other. It did not reach into the innards of the house- boat and wrench at the heart of it; it merely plucked up the anchor and then set the whole home adrift.

Rudderless, directionless, I did not even notice the change. Perhaps the thing lost its bearings in the dark. Perhaps it came loose in the energy of the height of the storm. What with the distraction of the winds and the casually frequent whirling of free flags of emptily floating bags that once were full of foodstuffs or other things, I was taken by surprise to find it suddenly adrift. Perhaps I was too inundated with other perceptions to realize that the grounding was no longer there. Did not see it as it came closer. Nor did I notice it getting stuck. It was only after it appeared to me in an unusual countenance, in the full light of day, that I was given to remark about it at all. But now it is as bulky and intractable as a great wart on the moving mirror of the inlet. And at night I can imagine the creaking of its skeleton, feel the thrust of the rock that perhaps tears up at its spine, grinding the thing on the fulcrum of its capture. There is no one there to care for it, then.

Stuck on that tidal-hidden rock in the muddy shallows of Celia's Cove, over which my vantage directly peers, I note the houseboat's forlornness, its lack of occupancy, of captainship, though the potential of its promise is so distinctly there. It has been visited by the coast guard, by other boat-owners, circumnavigated by curious kayakers, but it has not been entered, least ways, not that I can tell. The bulk of it is listless, pivoting around a point of no escape, needing some guiding hand to get it on the move again.

We humans are not like that. Are we? We might be moored for a moment or two, even perhaps mired in the mud for more than a month at a time, but then we grab at the life lines of thoughts, feelings, friends, and move again. Not so for that houseboat. Should it be perforated by the rock it will sink, rot, die of neglect. Thank goodness we humans are not quite so easily set adrift, eh? We have so many resources hovering around us. We have so many instigations, prods, nudges, tugs. We have the interest of others within which we feel compelled to answer to our call. And we have a curiosity about the birds and bugs that settle on our surfaces, an interest in the fish as well as the demons that lurk beneath our passage. We are not given to being tied down, yoked, captured, or even tamed. Or are we?

In being adrift there is great potential, not necessarily of danger. But the implication that one is unguided (if not misguided) is clear. Theroux would have it that even without a paddle a person can still will one's boat ashore. It is the very yoking of one's energy with an eternal energy, perhaps, that allows for just such an instigation. We move in a kind of prayerfulness with all energy when we have direction, purpose, though many may not quite equate their everyday intentions with such terminology. Still, one avers, we are at the very least, one hopes, not really adrift. Or are we?