Friday, October 23, 2015

'Gainst Guns

I'd done enough killing. It was time to sell my guns. Sure, there was the possibility of target shooting, but even that was always dangerous. (A .303 bullet can travel unhindered for over two miles; unless absolutely sure of where the bullet will stop, why fire it?) Besides, guns, no matter how beautiful or rare or privileged to own, were made for the express purpose of killing something. Yes, much is made of the need for self protection. Even target shooting was designed to hone one's kill-skills. Robin Hood knew that much. So did the Sheriff of Nottingham. And I'd done enough killing.

My first rifle in Canada was a pellet gun, 1976. Asked to get rid of the pesky starlings I'd eventually returned with a bushel of them in hand. The farmer's wife looked at me, astounded. "My husband just used to scare them off," she said. But it was not a lust for killing that led me to collect other rifles; it was by dint of circumstance. As an African I'd been taught to shoot before I was yet ten years old. And so, over the next five years, I'd actually collected seven rifles, each a piece of art or history in its own right. But it is the stories that went with them that now matters. Especially at the end.

Soon after the pellet gun I acquired a Russian made .22. It was for the purpose of getting rid of gophers (another temporary farm-related job). It was deceptively dangerous. The bullet is small and thin, but the range is sufficient to kill a running man at a 100 yards. Along with those two came a .410, which is a single barrelled shot gun, good for grouse. (That gun was really owned by my wife at the time; I used the .22.) We were privileged to know Russel Fex, the caretaker of the multi-acres of the defunct Anaconda Iron and Ore Mine, near Nakina, Northern Ontario, and for awhile hunting and fishing were part of our concept of 'paradise'. Moose; deer; beaver; elk; and especially the partridges; all were fair game. In those days we'd park the powerboat in a special spot and literally pluck the pickerel out of the water, like shooting fish in a... Well, you get the idea. Thing is, by the time I had to shoot the bear on the shore of Cordingly Lake (since it three times threatened to break into our little cabin for food) I'd acquired a WW2 Lee Enfield, which was a beautifully balanced and deadly accurate point 303, somewhat similar in power and range to the R1 automatic I'd used as a trained sniper in the SA Army, 1971 to '75. (Conscription had given me few options.) Yes, I knew that guns were made to kill. Isn't that why I'd escaped Africa? (And yes, this story is leading to an unhappy ending.)

By the time I'd finished my studies and become a teacher, based in Calgary, I had a gun rack with the twelve gauge double barrelled shotgun, the old Lee Enfield, the Russian .22, the old pellet gun, my wife's .410, and a German Mauser rifle from WW1. Yet I'd killed with the .22 the most. Back in Thunder Bay there'd been a catastrophe of feral cats at our cottage on the outskirts of the city. In one summer some thirty or more appeared to haunt my black cat, Temba, moaning and caterwauling for him to come out and play. At night their chorus and internecine fighting kept all within earshot awake. So yes, from my second story window I put each one down, thinking I was doing the local cottage community a service. But then, when I lifted one of the dead things up from the long grass I noticed the collar, and the glistening silver tag. The tag bore a name. It bore a name! Just like I did in the army, just like... And the sobbing escaped me. I cried and cried, determining never to kill again.

But the guns still came with me to Calgary, 1981. And a fellow teacher, learning of my collection, and fed up with her husband who'd deserted her, gave me two more. They were 'his' ugly things, deadly things. I found them really beautiful. One had a scope. One sees more clearly through scopes.

And then I met Pierre Tardif. Another fellow teacher. He bought them all from me, rack and all. We each had our gun-carrying licences; it was a legal transaction. And he took them off in his big brown jeep, and he stored them in his basement suite, against the wall, perhaps for a year or so. And then they were stolen. Someone broke into his house. Someone took the lot. And to this day I feel quite sick about the idea of them. From beginning to end. But especially the end. Who uses them now? Are guns not made to kill?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Indelicacy of Dreams

Symbolism and ontology go hand in hand. Both can be obscure. Yet symbolism is usually that which is known, that which is accepted. Like Bulls. Or Lions. Or Doves. (In one of my illustrated booklets I deploy animals: an Owl; a Sloth; a Giraffe; a Lion; a Fox; a Raven; a Pig; and a Ram. Any guesses why?) Yes, some symbols are so atavistic, so ancient and readily recognizable that one hardly needs guess. Still, ignorance is forgivable. Should one not be raised in a given culture, or have had opportunity to be apprised of certain symbols as one grows up, they can mean nothing but the thing itself. Seven virtues or seven sins can have many idols.

But things by themselves, having no other significance, is very much the Existentialist's view of things. As such God and all Constructs, all meanings that we give things, are taken as interesting at best, and foolish quite frequently. What do you mean you were given a sign? What do you mean you took an incident as a demarcation point in your fortunes, your point of view, your perceptions, your intuition, your spiritual alignment, your route to enlightenment? Things are what they are, period. That you dreamt of a bear, or of dead flowers, or of a friend who then called to say he needed you, or of the (um) intimacy of your life is pure coincidence. 

That's what the Existentialist says. Yet...?

Ontology is the big word we give meaning-making. And meaning-making is the very thing that has created through the centuries the religions and ideologies and beliefs and even the political systems that hold us in their sway. It is difficult for most to go against the streams of their upbringing. The family dynamics hold one accountable. And then there's the fact of one's race, one's country of origin, one's ethnicity, one's genes. Differences of dress, of custom, of facial expression and even of language are sufficient to differentiate, fragment, and divide us. We do have different dreams.

Yet, are dreams necessarily about what we want? Are dreams necessarily about the subconscious working itself through you? Are they indeed programmed by an Overseer who designs them, matrix-like, to worm through our sleep into realities of emotion, positive or negative? Or are they journeys on which we travel in a parallel universe? Parallel universe? Which part of the universe is not everything? Or are we here-again creating yet more constructs?

I'm waffling. My own dream last night was very visceral. It concerned vacuuming dead  flower leaves, receiving from a person insisting on anonymity a food donation to give another friend in health distress. It involved pre-teen-aged children gliding silently into my apartment, and one of them opening the door to my study, with me anxious and even angry as he reached to touch my model ship, and my getting him out with my strong remonstrations about how all the precious things in my life have been taken, used, abused, and neglected. Then I locked the door against him. And when I again tried to open the door for me I realized it would not unlock from the inside. I was trapped in my room; trapped within my womb. And surely... Whuh! I woke up. 

I felt ugly. Selfish. Mean-spirited.

Much meaning churns in me. The Indelicacy of revealing all that might be reasoned or gleaned or construed from my dream prevails. Yet at issue is not so much my own dream here, but that we dream. And for some, indeed, dreams do have their meaning.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Always Awaiting

We await things. Such things are wanted, or wished, or prayed for. Such things are eventualities or expectations. Such things are the very vitality with which we greet our day, even if it is the awaiting of the morning coffee, or the undeniably electric-alarm of the bedside tick-tock-clock. We await with patience, or we await anxiously. And finding peace, within the space of waiting, becomes the very art of living. All is a passage between here and there, and in the very moments of breathing en route there is life sufficient to be enjoyed while we wait. (Try holding your breath overlong; air quickly becomes a primary objective!)

So, the new house should let us breathe again. When sufficiently squished into a cage of one’s own makings one adjusts to the distances and the noises and even the awkwardness of always having to move several things first in order to get at the thing, for lack of space, packed away. So too in one’s soul. If enlightenment is freedom from a house of many rooms such that all of everything is view-able and accepted and integrated and accommodated, then being in a body does not easily allow for such completeness. One likes privacy. One likes separations and divisions and even closets. One likes to organize and to have at one's disposal. One likes to like where one is living. At least, I do.

But reliance on geography, on spatial co-ordinates, or even on others for one's happiness can be debilitating. We are best off to be self-actualized sufficient to make our own choices without dependence, without attachments so strong as to glue oneself to the sticking place without courage enough, or even interest enough to venture further afield. (That “rolling stone gathers no moss” analogy was for a time when someone else thought it important to put up with one's lot.) If paradigm shifts are to be made it is necessary to fragment the mold, step off the plinth, disintegrate from the rigidity of structures supporting our statues of perception such that one may indeed be free. (Or do I seek mere validation for my own wanderlust? Am I really excusing the abandoning of the ship, the friends, the expected course?  Does one really know oneself?)

The JoHari Window concept has it that the four quadrants of the Self are such that one knows things about the self that none other knows; that there are things about me obvious to thee and me; that there are things you see about me that I do not see; and that there are things in either of us that neither of us see. So … One moves geographically, physically, spiritually, even conceptually, yet takes one's four panes with oneself! After all, which of us is so clear about that which we await from day to day that there is no room for yet more exploration?

And yes, nothing comes without a cost. Nothing is totally ‘right’. Perfection is very much in the eye of the beholder. The brand new anything soon enough gets nicked. We find fault and dissatisfaction and un-comfortableness. And some of us move, replace, reorganize, adjust, accommodate, accept, include, go with the flow and otherwise keep on living! Others? Well, they do what they do. One ultimately, in whatever capacity, takes care of the self within the limitations of choice and affordability and eventuality and circumstance and volition. So then, as we await the finality of our time on this earth, some of us move about, a lot! Some, a few times. And others stay put. It all is a matter of choice and opportunity and circumstance and That Within, the which cannot quite wait, but creates chaos in order to bring about yet another order. The  ‘new’, it seems, whether out there or within here or over where you are, awaits. It always awaits.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Momentum ad Momentum

Meta-cognition (that delightful ingredient of an active mind) would have oneself re-thinking this placard. A metal sheet (herein scanned), it was given to me by a friend some 12 or more years ago and was pinned up in my classrooms. "OK, let's think about this one," I'd invite. Ha! Upon reflection, even the last of my three essays do not follow its precise dictum, do they? (Or am I too pedantic?) Your summation? (If you please.)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Multi-Level Thinking, Moment by Moment (#3 of 3)

Multi-level thinking stops where? How much is too much? What infinity has a boundary? Which universe ends? Once we sector space, give it map-like quadrants and demarcations, are the invisible lines (like latitudes and longitudes imposed on the ocean) observed by the asteroids now swimming fish-like and free? Or does my passage dip into Black Holes? Metaphor and Analogy and Simile and even Warhol keep one smiling. (Did you know he painted a Barbie?)

Ideals and ideas are marriageable. They create an ‘other-than-what-is’ quality that captures the music in one’s head. Ideas engender our sculpting from clay, help us make images (however idolatrous,) and let us materialize cathedrals and skyscrapers and fly-planes. We rose from watching shadows cross our Cave Wall to watching TV. And since time immemorial we've made certain our ideas are imposed upon others; or why do we have cultures, borders, rules, and an education system? Even these thoughts of mine, transcribed here, become but part of the loose-language meteorological swirl that may (or likely not) make itself concrete in your head. After all, my house is quite different from your house, as similar as both houses may “equally lay.”  (Recall the Montagues and the Capulets?)

Thing is, if Unilevel Thinking keeps one focused on Things, and if two-dimensional-thinking has one preoccupied with Others, then multi-dimensional thinking, if predominant, may have one being very ‘verstroid’; or straw-minded. Yes? Too many variables become intangible. And tangential thoughts seldom stay on track. So much so that ideas, unsubstantiated and without seeming purpose, may become a psycho-neurosis. But “psychoneurosis is not an illness,” Dabrowski wrote. What it all really takes is allowing for each Other to exist (which best translates into ‘accepting’ each other’s existence.) Now there's an idea! (Or does that become ‘a practice’?)

What am I getting at? For each of us there is a limitation to the want to understand the ideas of another. (We even hope to understand our own ideas!) We struggle with political and religious differentiation in philosophies. We struggle with a definition’s leaving things unclear. We imagine and envision and expostulate and perceive. And we prefer fact, progression, clarity, and tangibles. (At least, even in this essay one presumes my readers are hoping for us much.) Yes, abstraction and multi-level-ness can obfuscate, confuse, and be-devil. To the devil with it all!

But not just yet! If I just read one more sentence, hear one more explanation, explore one more Bay, surely I might understand the map to the thoughts, the ideas, the topography of what may at times have been a startling journey!

Thing is, multilevel-thinking, since it is not necessarily linear (with an ‘if-this-then-that-and-it- follows-therefore’ formula) involves a multi-dimensionality that can be simultaneous. It easily allows for metaphor and simile and abstraction and falsehood and indecision and impurity and the obtuse, the inordinate, and the unclear too.

So what am I saying with all of this? I'm saying that multilevel-thinking cannot 'rest' at simply naming others inferior or mediocre or stupid or fools or even idiots; the very nature of the impermanence of action and thought and being and potential is too replete with moving atoms. (And now to check up what ‘replete’ means; or is that too concrete a necessity too?) Hm?journey?ghts, the ideas, the topography of thush defenitions thinking has one preoccupied with sed on the ocean journey?ghts, the ideas, the topography of thush defenitions thinking has one preoccupied with sed on the ocean journey?ghts, the ideas, the topography of thush defenitions thinking has one preoccupied with sed on the ocean journey?ghts, the ideas, the topography of thush defenitions thinking has one preoccupied with sed on the ocean