Friday, December 24, 2010

Novel: The Convicts

2005 (Iain Lawrence)

Captivating. Starts out at a breakneck pace, leaping from one improbable Dickensian circumstance to another before settling into a sustained bout of ever more depressing downturns.

A grilling emotional swamp-ride of a book that took me by surprise when it ended with so few questions being answered. I hadn't realized it is "part one" of a self-proclaimed trilogy. In fact it is not a trilogy by any respectful use of the English language but is one-third a story published in separate slim books as our greedy shallow marketplace-driven society produces so much of.

Lawrence proves a very competent storyteller though, with vibrant characters and much more engaging subtlety than you usually find in tween fic. I am forced to read "book two" whether the young readers group wishes to or not!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Novel: Farewell Summer

(2006) Ray Bradbury

Pure unmistakably-Bradburian magic!

His genius stems from his constant cognizance of childhood curiosity and sense of wonder. Most eventual writers lose all this through adolescence and later must unearth it - or some new version of it. But Bradbury in his life, never lost it.
A re-fermentation of his novel Dandelion Wine (1951), Farewell Summer looks at the mysteries of time and age and human connection through the eyes of boys who know that the end of boyhood is near. He doesn't only make you feel like a kid again; he makes you feel something much dearer, I think: like the world is big again.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Gate

I stand at the gate
Strong at this moment
Having long faltered
Regressing in fits
Is this my time to enter

Looking back I see my loved ones;
Family I label friends;
Friends I label family
It has grown so difficult to touch them
I am forgetting how it was
Having lingered so long

Regressing in fits

Will I ever touch them again
When strong at this moment
I stand at the gate

On a cold and windy morning, said goodbye to all my friends. They were hanging 'round the corner. They were staying 'til the end.
- E.L.O. (song: The Stranger)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Novel: The Boy From The Basement

Whoa. This is a very heavy emotional ride but we're perfectly safe in Susan Shaw's hands throughout. Frightening, haunting, joyful and funny, the story is very well-written and well-told, drawing you fully into the head of it's struggling hero and stripping bare the wires that connect people together, for better and for worse.

I read the first two pages of each of a bunch of 'teen' books, looking for potential reading group candidates. But this one, I could not put down until the end.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


My volunteer schedule happened to coincide with the first day of school on September 7th.

It's odd to see how seemingly fast my young friends have changed. Faded freckles. New shoes. Longer hair. And they seemed quieter; more mature than they'd seemed as of our last meeting in June. But then, the first day of school is perhaps simply a more sombre affair than the last day of school.

I must wonder how parents perceive such observations. What is it like to have your child constantly disappear on you and re-emerge as someone else? It sounds vaguely frightening.

I stopped in Thorold on the route home to spend an evening with Skeeter Willis, kicking off the Strat-o-Matic season with a pair of one-goal losses for the Ybor City Tabaqueros. On the up-side this technically makes us the statistically most likely team to acquire Sydney Crosby in the 2011 entry draft. Always a silver lining in our world of dual perspective.

Back at the place I've never thought of as home, it's late and the man some people refer to as my dad is sitting motionless in the dark out back. He's drunk naturally and everything stinks of whatever horrifically putrid chemical concoction forms cigarettes. My presence triggers the motion-sensor spotlights.

Rather than flee to my room this night, I linger. It weighs on me that our time is almost up. Soon our colossal failure of each other shall be official. Three loads of the truck some afternoon soon and I quietly slip out of his life or lack thereof.

"Nice night," I say.

"It's cool," he says. "The way you like it." And there it is. The one and only thing he knows about me. I owe him some explanation.

I wish neither to talk nor to leave him. I step out of the light and and look up for stars. It's as good a night as you can get for it around here. No clouds. No moon. Immediately I catch a shooting star.

"Meteorite," I say.

Venus sparkles fiercely, accompanied by just a few dozen pale companions to penetrate Hammertown's hefty film of light pollution.

Eventually I give in. "I'll be right back."

I grab my cigars and a couple Guinnesses and do what one does if you can't beat 'em.

At the patio table I clip, light and pour and study the stout's hypnotic cascade. I already know that I will not be emboldened. I will not coach or lecture. I will not reveal myself and have rare truth be thought a lie. Because it's pointless. Because he's confused by things outside his little shell and he's deeply unpleasant when confused.

"I want to do things but then I don't do them," he suddenly says.

This is new.

"Like what?"

"Like stop this." He holds up his cigarette. Quit smoking, he means. "Like pulling those weeds."

The poets would say it's the devil holding you back. Or God. Same thing, I refrain from saying. Nor do I say, Your brain is managed by a floating hierarchy. The agent in charge one moment is demoted the next, in response to a laughably redundant roster of survival instincts.

"I'm losing things," I say instead. "Bit by bit. Like the capacity to perceive which are weeds and which are plants. I see green stuff fenced in the garden and green stuff coming up between the flagstones. But which are the weeds and why? Weeds are the things that evade our control?"

"Weeds are the things we don't want," he says.

Speak for yourself.

We smoke and drink and talk intermittently. I dumb myself down to avoid confusion and unpleasantness and come off sounding absurd. Just when I'm sure he can't make one more visit to the fridge without falling down he says, "Time for bed, Charlie." The little ball of fur and teeth looks up at him from his basket lounger. I stand to leave.

"Thank you," he says.

I remain motionless a long time. Finally I say, "The reason I always stay in my room; why I don't join you out here, is that I can't stand the smell of cigarette smoke. I just thought you should know that."

He brushes his fingers through the air at me. "Go to bed," he says, which means, I know that already.

"Well something's lost and something's gained in living every day."
- Judy Collins (song: Both Sides Now)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010



Why do we mourn death when it is inevitable? Why do we treat it like a tragedy when dead is without doubt, the natural state of all things? Life, whether from a spiritual or scientific view is almost universally regarded as miraculous. And given the age of the world, life is as brief as it is miraculous. Nothing lives for long. Nothing.

From a selfish standpoint I think an other's death reminds us of our own mortality which is something we're programmed to ignore by the "great union" or the "matrix"; terms I like to use for that overwhelming system of forces acted upon us by the symmetrical ruling structures of society and instinct. And with regards to those departed special loved ones who touch our lives in meaningful ways, we mourn our own loss of something we cherished and foolishly counted on; their magic touch.

But for those not-so-special people who go through life transparently selfish, sadly the larger contingent I suspect: I think we don't so much mourn their death as we mourn their official failure to ever live. We mourn the expiry of their last chance to do something with their life. I suspect that many of those who die slowly and with mind intact, experience toward the end a profound sense of failure and devastating regret over this.

Poets of old talk about the living death and this has resonated with me for a long time. Drawing breath; existing, is not the same as "living" in the poetic language.

To "work our job and collect our pay and glide down the highway" in the slightly-paraphrased words of Paul Simon is not in itself to live. Collecting possessions and coveting them is not to live, nor is building and coveting our reputations; something a vast majority of all our energies and resources are dedicated to daily, directly or indirectly whether we realize it or not. To vegetate in front of the television set, that most vacuous sedative; false art for the dull masses - that is not to live. Pursuing sex is not to live. Can you really live and still participate in some of these things? Of course. Though it depends upon the manner in which you participate; to what degree you make it an exploration.

Paul Simon says we're all slip-sliding away. The poets say we are "forever hurled into the pit." Certain Hindu-based offerings suggest that the dull masses are just animals and I perceive the same. Animals have no, or very very little consciousness, say neurologists. They are utterly slave to instincts. And though people need not be slave to instincts, we mostly are. Consciousness is a very new evolution on the grand scale of things - and as early evolutionary stages of any manner tend to go - consciousness is tragically ineffective in this infantile state. Consciousness absorbs a horribly small range of our actual experience. Just enough to confuse the holy crap out of us. Just enough that we invent such inept concepts as belief, and to then believe in the most self-evidently preposterous of ideas. It is just evolved enough that we perceive our own existence but in a terribly flawed way. Though consciousness seems our only link to perception of self, we can only see the product of our self as through the "eye of the other"; that image we seem to portray through our own manipulation of others' perception of our self - which does not actually exist because we really only conceive of our intentions while others only see our outward results. So we are doubly removed from reality. The self we see is an isolated phantom. Does that sound vaguely horrifying? I can tell you it is starkly horrifying when you first truly grasp it. But that's okay. You don't believe me right now because your instincts won't let you.

Yuck. I've taken us on a gloomy tangent, haven't I? If by some miracle you haven't completely dismissed all the above because it's too depressing to contemplate and you are actually finding some usefulness or consolidation in these understandings - please do not despair. There is a wonderful upside to all of this and I will treat it very briefly because the title up there says "death" and I've fallen off topic.

The matrix invites entitlement. There is much legitimate joy in stock for you when you defeat that entitlement and come to objectively appreciate the miracle of your own existence. And then again when you come to appreciate the power of the evolution of consciousness and it's tremendous rewards and tremendous accessibility. For evolution truly happens in individuals. It is only the very slow pattern of evolution that scientists measure and refer to as simply "evolution." As an individual you have the power to evolve your consciousness immensely if you're prepared to be courageous and to do the work. Why is it so accessible? Because mutation of bodily things require a reproductive generation per stage while your brain is literally re-wired with every thought, perception and observation!

To practice at evolving your consciousness is to separate yourself from the animals in the poetic view. I don't know how many ways there are to make this happen but I know how it works for me and for some others before me. It is through the arts. The genuine arts. Reading and writing. Absorbing music and composing it. It's in cinema and art galleries. It is in creation and imagination. It is in the blank page. It is in solitude. These pursuits enable understanding. They enable true learning. There is a fearsome hurdle along this path unfortunately but it's the only path I know so far. I'll talk about the hurdle another time. These pursuits above; it is in them that we live, in truth that we live, in loving kindness, in charity, in honest conversation, in the pursuit to improve our lives and that of others. We live through the products of consciousness because consciousness is the only thing separating us from the animals. And it is where harmony is conceived.

Do you grasp what I mean about living and living death in the poetic language?

I do not mourn death or the dying. I really don't. I only mourn the failure of breathing people to wake up and really live.

If my failure to mouth the typical words at times of bereavement puts you off, it is not that I am heartless. At funerals I am always in tears or just on the verge; just not for the presumed reasons.

Back to consciousness for just a moment. The scary question on my mind is this: In what direction is consciousness - as a pattern of evolution - currently evolving? Forward toward harmony (and joy and freedom) or backward toward chaos? Societal structures are born of instinct, arts from the consciousness. Which side is winning? Which brand of humans are breeding like rabbits? Evolution implies natural selection through random mutation; a virtual process of the underlying domination instinct which spawns all other instincts. The hitch: The evolved consciousness does not support the domination parent-instinct. In other words - is this as good as it's going to get for us? I hope not. Because as one who's discovered a bit late in life that kids are actually decent people after all - rather lovable in fact - I'd really like to see them craft a better community for themselves out of the rather dumb one we've provided.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Welland Ontario

I took my time driving down to Welland today, accompanied by a live acoustic Jackson Browne CD full of Browne's typical little-us-under-a-big-sky kind of songs.

Welland looked, to me, as it always does; smaller than it really is, with small houses (though more than big enough).

In the little school with little classrooms and little chairs, in the little library, I catalogued books. Big books. With big pictures; windows into worlds as vivid, rich and imaginary as our own, but each one different. At 3 the cleaning staff departed and left me in perfect quiet solitude.

I finished the cataloguing project but I will return one more day over the summer for more mundane cataloguing maintenance. There are older books requiring attention of various types.

I adore this little library and this "little" town. I sense a good-hearted simplicity here; an air of guilelessness with just a hint of melancholy. All stemming from highly subjective personal interpretation of course. My own recollections of grade-school experience are a blend of sweet and solemn.

I look forward to September; to the return of the staff - a most warm, sincere and dedicated crew. And of course it will be excellent to see again the returning grade-seven-come-eights who I worked with last year. This time around they will have a superior experience given my own learning from last year. The coming year will feature a writing group and I'm cooking up some very special surprises for them!

Leaving town I left the stereo off before hitting the highway because the truck is just developing an exhaust leak so if I must subject the locals to its grumbles, the least I can do is subject myself as well. I accelerated slowly out of each turn; zig-zagging through the neighborhood. Every street is a shelf; every house a collection of stories. People sit on porches, some of them in groups, smiling and talking; some of them alone and still-faced. To those I almost have the urge to wave.

Any town we spend some time in develops a personality it seems, and this one suits me verily. But I maintain this is mostly illusion; subjective experience. In the end every town is built of the very same components; streets and bricks and pipes and wires and human beings of every possible ilk.

It would be nice to move to Welland but in reality Grimsby and St. Catharines are more probable. Welland will likely remain a very nice place to visit.


Saturday, July 03, 2010

Cause Number One and the Number One Cause

Once upon a time there occurred an event;
A singularity; the biggest bang for the buck
Or the snap of fingers if you prefer, of a great creator;
For it all works out the very same!

And this event would be Cause #1
For billions of billions of billions of billions
Of effects
Over billions of years;
Every effect born of millions of causes combined;
Every effect also a cause
For billions of billions more effects;
Causes and effects uncountable.
Every element of reality an effect-cause;
Every one of them natural;
Every one inevitable;
Every one of them owing to Cause #1 at its root.
Every one connected.

Effect-causes spelled unstoppable change.
Effect-causes organized a sea of chaos
Into sets and subsets; formatted a universe
Made of super clusters
Made of clusters
Made of galaxies
Made of systems
Made of spheres
Made of elements
Made of molecules
Made of atoms.

A world of binding attractions great and small
Revolving; everything revolving,
Expanding, contracting.
Dust to dust.
Cause and effect.

Somewhere a sphere
Bearing critical ratio of elements,
A phenomenal collision of molecules,
At a critical distance from a vast hot central sphere,
Through inevitable cause and effect,
Became a blue and white place.

And there it happened.
A miracle of life
At the meeting of layers;
Rock and air,
Pooling water.
A splitting cell.
Cause and effect.

Cellular organization.
Random mutation.
A cause-effect process of natural selection.
A diversity of species; lives of kind.
DNA and sub-code.

Survival instinct knowing no bounds.
Those with domination instinct the great winners,
Those without it, dead, strangled, swallowed.
Survival of the vicious; the parasitic.
Vines creeping; Roots warring,
Fish eating fish; bugs eating bugs,
Herbivores; Carnivores; Dog eat dog.
Viruses and bacteria eating from within.
Thus life: The process of ultimate thievery.
Cause and effect.

Mammals; Brain cells; Intelligence.
Automatons with limited awareness.
Instinctive response.
Cause and effect.

These beasts emerging;
Bipedal; clever.
With greater awareness,
Though still far from complete;
Still so very far.
Perceiving in their limited awareness
That their limited awareness
Is all there is; some full awareness;
Some ultimate evolution or design.

They’re the greatest pretenders.
The great labelers,
Grouping and labeling everything;
The fantasy of generalization making everything seem easy;
The reality of uniqueness dismissed.
Cooperation; strength in numbers;
Ghastly overwhelming strength in numbers!
Victory through cooperation.
Dominance; the ultimate prize
For their kind, they label human.

And then what?
In the face of victory,
Privileged exclusion from the realities
Of the domination quest;
Exclusion from the hunt;
Exclusion from the fight and the flight;
Food and shelter handed down.
The paradox of isolation.
What oh what then does survival mean?
The forces born of instincts need to know!

Instincts turning inward.
Cause and effect.
Individual survival.
Survival within the society.
Ledgers of contribution;
Money the new survival;
Food and shelter a privilege.
Man eat man.

The paradox of cooperation/competition;
However to do both?
Instinctive forces perverting.
Cause and effect.
Necessary duplicity.
Puppets born of reputation and ego;
Pure charade.

The rise of the matrix;
The superstructures that overwhelm
And tell them what things to pretend.
Labels labels labels!
Tribes tribes tribes!
Arbitrary categories
Pretended to be real,
Make everyone a friend;
Make everyone an enemy.

Such pure fantasy can only be pretended
When the reality of uniqueness is dismissed.
Oh the confusion;
Now to navigate?
The domination instincts still thrive,
Looking for victims.
They label them sins,
Pretend the sins are not to thank for their existence,
Pretend the sins do not dominate their living moments,
They ascribe them to a scapegoat and call him the Devil.
They teach this to their children and let the children
Suffer, ever suffer for they each think they are each the devil.
The survival instincts have it covered.
Fight to disallow such crippling despair
Duplicity solves all.
Cause and effect.

Confine it to the greater brain;
The non-awareness.
But oh the self-loathing!
They must ignore those terrifying glimpses;
Suppress the confusion.
For they must navigate the matrix
One way or another
And win their bread;
Oh but not just bread,
But win their almighty material trophies,
For survival instinct knows no mercy;
Only domination.

The structures all demand from them
The appearance of subscription to the rules
And hidden contrariety,
Because in the matrix angels are trodden on
And cheaters prosper.

The dual duplicities:
The lies they tell on purpose
And the lies of the sub-awareness
Tragically mistaken for golden truth.
They think it a matrix of lies and truth,
This matrix of lies and more lies.
Cause and effect.
Puppets tricking puppets.
The matrix weaving layers and layers of illusion
So tightly woven, the pinpricks of truth
Sparkle so rarely just as the tiny volume of light
Out of all stars in the universe
To penetrate a smoggy Toronto night sky.
When finally the young have aged;
Developed sufficient senses,
It is too late; the matrix has snatched them
Through the TV’s and the institutions
And the things you will not hear said;
The endless bullshit eaten and eaten;
The investment in illusions signed and sealed.
Cause and effect.
There’s no turning back.

But wait, there is a second miracle!
Not intelligence but the boon of it;
Imagination! Creativity!
The regard for unvarnished truth.
The capacity to evolve beyond the domination instinct
Simply because they dreamed of it!

Such a phenomenal departure from the nature of life.
A celebration of that idea called love;
That Bordeaux blend of attractions and addictions
Just another label,
But so useful when applied:
Loving kindness; generosity; harmony.

They each participate to some degree; great or small
In living without harming and for that
Every human is beautiful; Hear this, you human!
For that, you are beautiful in this universe!
So fascinating, this evolution, to some.
Some of them scientists; some of them poets, musicians, artists,
Those who engage in true learning; an act of solitude,
Some are the sufferers; forced to bear reality,
Some of them the ancient champions
Of beautifully intentioned religions
Before the inevitable corruptions.
Cause and effect.

They are those who escape the unmerciful web
Of the matrix’ mighty structures
Through rare unexpected circumstance;
Rare causes; rare effects.
Those who embrace the reality of cause and effect,
The reality of uniqueness,
The reality of nature; of inevitability,
The reality that all of one’s frustration is one’s own cause;
All hate, all stress, all fear, all rage,
All intolerance;
All of it the result of one’s own flawed expectations
And flawed perceptions;
The result of all the blaming when in truth
There is no one to blame but the blamer.

For those who fully escape the matrix
There is no confusion but only peace,
No illusion but only freedom,
No sadness but only joy,
No rage but only love; real love;
Not addictive, not of lust,
Not directional but all-directional;
The love that is a state of being;
So awesome; so shockingly euphoric
It is at first devastating
In all but the smallest doses.

And above all there is desire for harmony;
That everyone would give care for all others
And mercy for the less evolved,
Not in the hopes that what goes around comes around
But damn it, for the sheer joy of it!
For that is the ultimate destiny.
All evidence points there; scripture; poetry; science.
Cause and effect.

But where is the road map to that complete evolution;
That ultimate humanity for all?
This imperfect author; flawed poet does not know.
This is the quest; the number one cause.
Flawed versions are written here and there
In the works of poets long dead or just,
In the temples, mosques and churches
So vulgarly and inexpertly taught
By the pawns of old cold organizations.
But while poets survive on the fringe of welfare society
Outside the matrix but privy to its comforts,
Not with false nobility!
Knowing they are cheaters!
But looking to be useful,
Looking to nurture harmony,
Looking for the rare candidate for escape; the next Neo,
They leave their calling cards;
Their hints in these places
Because if just one more can be freed,
By god, It’s all worth it.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Biography: Marley and Me

(2005, John Grogan)

The biography of a simple man who clearly loves his dog and presumably his wife and kids too, is told clearly and without subtlety or style. It abounds with very common relatable perspectives and some decent moments of useful insight.

We had to know how it was going to end but that didn't sway the tears from falling. So familiar is that final drama to myself and a multitude of other dog lovers.

I thought much of Blue, my own special companion who departed a few years ago and of a dear friend who lost his canine pal, Simon, just days ago at too early an age. I read the last few chapters with Blue's old training collar wrapped around my hand and now find myself unwilling to let it go. I think I shall have to sneak it into my wardrobe somehow.

The book has been edited into different versions including teen and adult. Definitely go with the mature version.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Novel: Little Brother

(2008) Cory Doctorow

The early techno-babble load is a bit of a chore to wade through for those who aren't so techno-curious but the reward is worth it. The back half is a hell-raising blood-boiling roller coaster ride with a distinct and relevant cautionary message.

The boys reading group chose this piece of fiction. None are old enough to remember 9/11 yet they found this very similar material compelling.

To what degree should a government be entitled to restrict freedom and liberty in the supposed interest of protecting said freedom and liberty - or the illusion thereof - from that spectre we call terrorism?

Says the self-sacrificing hero, seventeen year-old Marcus: A democratic government is empowered to serve the interests of its peoples and when it fails to do so - it is the peoples' right to dismantle it, according to the Declaration of Independence.

Well done, Doc.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Song: Working Town

I'll put a little video (music-slide-show) together soon for this song. But for now:

I'm underground in a working town
Seeds of wonder all around
But every hand and every sound
Is holding them down

They're asking me what I want to be
But they don't really want the truth
I don't want to be anything
I just want to do


They're asking me where I'm gonna go
Where am I gonna live
But living's not about a place to own
It's what do you give

Working town
It's a working town
It's smokin' towers in the sky
Working town
It's a working town
Smoke and mirrors, never asking why

They're asking me what I'm gonna do
What kind of wage am I gonna earn
But there's no gold in what you make
It's what do you learn

Working town
It's a working town
It's smokin' towers in the sky
Working town
It's a working town
Smoke and mirrors, never asking why


Working town
It's a working town
Smoke and towers in the sky
Working town
It's a working town
Smoke and mirrors, never asking,
Never asking why

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Amazing Kids

When I was young I always wanted to be around older kids. The ultimate experience for me was when older cousins would visit and let me hang out with them.

As a young adult I wanted adult things and adult pursuits. I wanted sex and booze and sophisticated conversation. And aside from that I wanted peace and quiet. I never wanted to be in the company of children. Ever. They were noisy and unpredictable and beyond my comprehension. I was always sure I'd never want kids of my own.

Forty-one years into this experiment called life, I had a conversation with an excellent friend who happens to be a very conscientious and free-thinking educator about my desire to re-enter the volunteer community but working with people with special needs.

Super-condensed version of conversation:

"We have kids with special needs in the schools. Come volunteer with us."

"No," says I. "I don't get on well with kids." Okay, so I'd actually never once made any effort to, but it was a safe assumption.

"You like books."

"I love books."

"So you could start out by volunteering in the library, cataloguing our great collection of new books."

"I couldn't do that. It sounds like too much fun. I wouldn't feel like a proper volunteer."

"But you could see how you feel being in a school environment and find out if you might be comfortable working with kids." He then proceeded to tell me stories about some of his former students with special needs which broke my heart in about eight places.

"Okay. Let's do it."

The great cataloguing project took up close to half the school year. The kids and I got along fabulously. I couldn't believe how many of them loved books. That shared love of literature finally bridged the gap between me and youngsters. Then it was time to make the move to the special needs community. And here my principal friend played the trump card.

"You have no experience working with special needs kids. It's not easy. Why don't you run a reading group for advanced readers instead. We don't have the library material nor curriculum to support them."

And once again: "I couldn't do that. It sounds like too much fun. I wouldn't feel like a proper volunteer."

"It's a much needed service and it would be right up your alley."

"Okay. Let's do it."


The experience has been - the bomb.

I'm running three groups which takes up the entire school day once a week. I work with eleven young people; seven girls, four boys, aged 12-14 I guess; grades seven and eight but for one grade sixer who is in a special situation. They're all amazing. Bright. Curious. Sincere.

They're seriously more intelligent than half the adults I know, perhaps to some degree because they simply haven't collected as much detrimental false learning as adults have. They've collected less fears than adults. They've constructed less walls that ostensibly guide people along paths but really serve to block out possibilities in their lives. They're not clinging to societal investments that shut down realms of perception. They're open.

Among them are musicians and singer-songwriters! Some are visual artists, sound-collage artists, photographers and at least one junior videographer! And of course writers and poets. They have socially conscious, enlightened voices that I never heard from my peers when I was that age, at least that I remember.

While ostensibly helping them learn to get more out of their reading and to increase their love of reading, my not-very-hidden hidden agenda is to turn them all into permanent writers and creators. Because the only path I know of thus far to find real joy, peace and harmony in life starts with the contemplation of the blank page and so it is my duty - and joy - in life to propagate the creative and poetic lifestyles.

They still have the possibility of joy and harmony for their futures but of course high school and college will exercise their massive powers to destroy all that, and that knowledge is a needle in my heart because I really do love them. I'd like to take them all home and be their dad and protector but I'm guessing they already have parents who probably would rather keep them! Oh well.

I'm already mourning the approaching closure of the school year and the loss of participation of the five eighth-graders. I hope we'll stay in touch somehow. I hope all the younger ones will return next year.

So what is the deal here? Are these the eleven most amazing kids in the world or are all kids amazing and I'm just the last dull idiot to figure that out?


Monday, May 24, 2010


From time to time I read about the concept of oneness - most prominently in novel Siddhartha and in the Gita. I don't connect to the idea, either because I'm not clear what they mean about oneness or else it's something I just haven't thus far experienced.

It always comes up in a context where everything surrounding it rings familiar to me but just what are they trying to say about oneness?

I know what it's like to contemplate (and be moved to peacefulness by) connectedness; how every single element and action in the history of the world is inevitably and unarguably connected through the omnipotence and omnipresence of causality - something every human reliably witnesses - what? - a million times a day? Why this is pristinely obvious to some people while other brains apparently lack the functionality for this to register is a matter of some dismay. But I digress.

I know what it's like to feel bonded to every sentient creature on the planet by a state of lovingness (a legitimate word, yes); a state of love that is so overwhelming one must pull onto the shoulder of the road to recover because it is so powerful. It seizes like I imagine a heart attack would and it incapacitates. I imagine that the experience becomes more tolerable with practice.

I know what it's like to fully discover the horror of one's own duplicity; that there really is a devil lurking within us, but finally then to discover that no, we are really the angel lurking within the devil, waiting to fulfil the tide of human evolution which proposes a full and proper mutiny; a unity of consciousness and non-consciousness; of angel and devil; where we, currently the conscious angels, finally inherit the drivers' seat.

And I know what it is to feel drowned in in the eternal, to sense that the dust that is mistaken for "me" has been so for others before me and will be again for others still, when the illusion of me is gone.

Causal connectedness. Global lovingness. Unity of mind. The eternal. Do I know oneness? Or is there something else?

"You'll be in me and I'll be in you together in eternity. Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me."
- Bruce Cockburn

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Purple and Green

Very late last night I met a curious young man in purple hoodie and green shoes. I was only helping search for a lost dog. He was lost too. Boy was he ever.

He was wildly drunk and wildly friendly. I took him to his home but his bigger twin brother was there, waiting to beat him up. So we left again.

We talked. He cried. I held him. I'm no saint. I had to fight selfish instincts. He's only seventeen. I held him and nothing more, until it was safe for him to sneak back in and go to bed.

I never told him that I live nearby, nor gave him any manner in which to contact me. I would have liked to remain a source of support; a role-model even. But I don't know that I can trust myself. There will be no end of men who will take advantage of him but I will not be one of them. I'm no saint but I'm decent enough.

The dog too, got home safe. I went to the harbour and watched the sun come up and worked through some feelings and twiddled with the guitar. Thought about writing a song about purple hoodies and green shoes and then didn't. I'm no saint. But I'm decent enough.

Friday, May 21, 2010

This blog

So I did this blog re-launch thing and then proceeded to ignore it.

Given it's been stripped of comedy and altogether latent of late, it's likely hosting very few visitors - which is fine. It's probably a good time to finally get its new gears turning while no one is around scratching their heads.

In essence its purpose remains the same: To act as a diary and to give life to the writable explorations that don't fit into current writing projects. The difference is that I won't be moved by pressure to be entertaining. In other words - by pressure to be popular.

Under the new rules I have had much blogworthy thoughts daily but I've been thinking them unappealing to the established audience. Not a very useful thought. I'm now keeping in mind the future audience: chiefly ME. And those who will care to stay in touch once I go mobile. I'm planning to move to the St. Catharines/Welland area and I'm confident that will be my last stable residence before the road becomes home.

So there.

Onward! (as Doc Lock would say.)

Saturday, May 01, 2010


Regarding the suicide attempt and the distraught friend: I'm delighted to report that the injured party is recovering from multiple injuries, having graduated from Intensive care to a ward and that the boys are still friends and visiting every other day. Hurdles remain but the biggest have been cleared.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Love is not something to fear

I was on duty last night around 4 AM when the police called. "We have a frantic mother trying to reach her son at the residence. Can you look up his room number for us?"

"At the residence? No. But I can transfer you to the receptionist there." And I did so.

Soon after, I got the call from the residence receptionist. "The police are here. They're looking for a student."


After a short pause: "Self-harm."

We sent a guard over to the residence and while she and the police were looking for the student, the boy was elsewhere. He had made one phone call to say only, "I love you, mom." and now he was speeding his car through a low brick wall to plunge over the lip of the escarpment.

Today his injuries were downgraded from life-threatening to non-life-threatening.

What I loved about the patrol guard position was my ability to interact with people who were in bad circumstances and to make a positive difference in their lives; from the little things like helping them get to their exam on time to the bigger things, like first-aid situations; or like the time I helped two former lovers gain perspective and settle peaceably after a strained break-up led to stalking charges. I accepted the promotion to sergeant in order to get more free time to write on the job - because writing is my best way to potentially help people. Right?

So I was enjoying my free time in the control room while other guards were present at the pub earlier that night, as a tiff broke out between friends. These other guards intervened, learned the nature of the quarrel, and sent them on their way to resolve it on their own.

A friend had admitted the feelings in his heart, you see, and the other friend, to which the feelings were directed, did not respond in kind, but with hostility instead. It might surprise you: which of these two friends got the notion to end his life. All while I was not present; no longer available to seek to make a difference through personal connection.

Now one boy is a mess from the waist down and the state of his mind remains to be seen.

The other, mentally, is a wreck. He blames himself. And he's terrified that his dear friend will not wish to see him upon emergence from the Intensive Care Unit; perhaps ever again.

Love is not something to fear. However did we start thinking it can be? That is just one simple piece of advice out of a great many that I would offer were I not handcuffed by policy from interfering. My heart aches for them both and for the mother. I'm deeply compelled to act. So many perspectives I could share. I know how instincts cage the mind in these circumstances, enslaving it to one's fears, stripping one's field of vision.

He lived. He lived!

And now there is opportunity - for many kinds of healing and many kinds of learning and for new appreciation of the miracle of life and the miracle of love. Because critical life events breed new perspectives, new intelligence, new capacities. Sometimes people just need a gentle nudge or two from someone who cares and who understands some things.

And I don't think I give a damn about policy.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Novel: Siddhartha

(1922, Hermann Hesse)

Two different people who were relative strangers to me at the time, immediately recommended this book to me upon hearing from me a summary of my current "poetic life journey." The telling of my journey in each of these cases, was told rather effectively by the way; something much more difficult to achieve when speaking to my old friends and family; a phenomena which happens to be addressed around the climax of the novel, by the way.

Almost immediately I began to connect thoroughly to the Siddhartha character. Every encounter, every perception, every reaction to his experiences almost precisely mirrors my own. Add to that comforting symmetry the simple, gentle, almost lyrical prose and this reading experience is by far the deepest, most endearing of any I've had.

But the character and I did not go through our mirrored experiences in the same order and as we finally crossed paths - that is - the moment in the book when Siddhartha had gathered the same set of perceptions that I currently hold - we were moving in different directions. Not that this matters much. I read the remainder with rapt attention of course, wondering whether Hesse was about to reveal my future to me.

What I read then, through to the end, contained more perceptions that Siddhartha gathered in his lifelong pursuit of enlightenment, harmony and unity. I could not have predicted the conclusion. He finds subtle error in some of his previous positions; positions that I still currently hold, and a key component of his final core enveloping understanding; that which makes him at par with Buddha, according to Hesse, is one that I would have much trouble consolidating with my own understandings because the beauty of my own understandings as they currently sit, at least so far as all my critical auditing so far reveals, is that they all support each other and are all in symmetry with the basic poetic origins of the main religions (as I perceive them), in symmetry with the sciences as far as I understand them, in symmetry with the purest application of logic, and in symmetry with all honest observation through our five senses.

But this one core component upon which Siddhartha's final answers depend upon - does not conform with honest observation of the five senses. Not mine, anyway, and doubtfully anyone else I know. Though it does conform with some theoretical scientific testimony concerning the nature of space and time - as far as I grasp it.

But no matter. The core idea which initially sent both Siddhartha and I on our respective unbeaten paths was our perception that knowledge and wisdom can not be taught but must be experienced. And so I put this dear book aside and despite the deep deep trust I have for it, I leave its climactic testimony as testimony and I go on with experiencing and learning, but now with a little more strength and motivation; a little more validation; a little more confidence that I am not alone in my place in life.

Though the book has left me breathing a little shallow, my eyes a little watery, I can't say if I recommend it to anyone I know. Those who have been through the things I have been through - you would want to read this, undoubtedly. And I know you're out there somewhere. But sadly, we have not met.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Book: Ella Minnow Pea

This book clearly demonstrates that Mark Dunn has an incredible knack for words and probably marks his first and last thin excuse to utilize that knack so indulgently.

This book was very powerful in that it had the power to make me forever $18 poorer - to my lasting regret.

The characters are dimensionless and speak with much the same voice. Good laugh at the end. A quick read but still too long for the mediocre punchline.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Thousand Loves

I posted this poem here a long time ago, then a year ago I turned it into a song. The quality is poor. You'll have to crank the volume.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Julie, Julia, Me and You

The writing life is a constant bout of amnesia. Each time I return to it after too long an absence I am shocked to discover how joyful it is; how rewarding.

How is it that I keep forgetting how integral writing is to my vitality? Each time the habit derails upon collision with a busy schedule or laziness or a pursuit of some addiction (but really, always some combination of those things), how quickly I forget that writing is my truest companion. Then we're reunited finally and yet again the blank page surprises me, revealing that only here upon this endless white field am I - at home.

And just as this certain knowledge is repeatedly stolen from my wretched consciousness, so is this piece: That the thoughts which spur me to write at any given time are never the meat of the story but only the doorway. Always as I struggle to convert those thoughts to meaningful words, so the real questions emerge and the real ideas follow.

These twin crimes constantly dull the urge to write and I dare not suggest their origin - because I am not a poet of enough merit to slander those ancients before me by denouncing the beast or the pit, nor am I scientist enough to test the tale of genetic sub-code; of a dedication to species, not self, lying at the heart of the master non-consciousness. As I strive to acquire discipline, my only weapon against that ruling force (as mirrored in the messages of poets and Buddhists), I go against the interests of speciesism; I pervert our ruthless core programming.

Yet I sense with almost certainty that both claims, poetic and scientific, are versions of the same truth but written in different languages.

I look at my neighbors and they show me no indication of awareness of this harsh reality. They seem only to circle this great monopoly board that we dare label life and seem only to see through the eyes of their token. They seem to skitter in a constant panic on the surface of life, like those squat little waterbugs. Do they ever stop and peer below?

You have to slow down to see beneath things. But that is what art is all about, isn't it? Literature, music, theatre, film and the visual arts. They are reflection. They are components of real life but rearranged and concentrated. In them we seek to understand the nature of humanity by looking at our communal selves through other perspectives.

Of course there is an endless swarm of "false art." The bulk of action movie material for instance, which is fast and shallow and appeases the dedicated surface-skimmers by speeding them faster and faster along the surface. "What happens next!" is the constant question, never "What is really happening?." And the answer is bullets and fast cars. Things that appease the base instincts but at least let you explore them in the safety of the cinema; not on the streets.

But for those occasions when we bear a little courage; a little bit of respect for our innate complexity of mind, there is the literary fiction and its counterparts in film and other mediums, there is that patient contemplation; that exploration of fragile human diverseness. Here our empathy is awakened and we become someone else for a while and we laugh with them and we hurt for them and we feel connected and we get just a little closer to understanding ourselves and our kind; an infinitely greater adventure, I suggest, than any bank heist.

I just watched Julie and Julia, a true-ish film about a couple of writers with a passion for food (How could I possibly relate?). I quite liked it. Meryl Streep's performance was of Oscar quality in my humble opinion and Amy Adams was perfectly cast. I shed a couple tears in places where no man should be expected to and not because anyone got cancer or anything, but because the human spirit is miraculous and fragile and because it is at once inspiring and pitiable to watch - nay feel - someone clinging to their dreams.

Empathy. I feel it is at the core of our imagination, our creativity, our love. our connectedness. It is the hinge upon which the human being's unique evolution swings. I am in stunned awe of it.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Terry Anne (You'll need to crank the volume!)

This is one of the earliest songs I wrote - just a couple months after I started learning the guitar. Today I'm learning how to make videos.

If it sounds like I'm playing a three-stringed banjo that's because my equipment sucks as much as my skills! But all things take time - and money - to improve.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Can't wait for the next bash?

Interesting the dominant recreation of our society; a sport really. This endless tournament where the prize is reputation. Points are scored by claiming opinions; by seeming knowledgeable. The more opinions the better and the less thought-out they are, the better - for they are established quicker thus we collect more. More and more nuggets of fool's gold which we treat as real gold, for fool's gold is just as valuable when the buyer doesn't know the difference.

But oh, how much quicker; how easier it is to dismiss those people and things which we yet have no fondness for, then to have to explain why you are fond of those which you are - so dominant are the instinctual criteria of which our consciousness is not fully informed.

So why give anything a second chance? With such a massive wealth of humans and their endeavors available to explore in this troublesomely uninhibited global marketplace, why waste more than a minute on any one thing? So much swifter to write stuff off when the first possible connection fails. Throw it on the scoreboard. Score another point. Appear to climb the ladder by throwing down those around you.

On the balance: A sea of negativity. Everyone's a jerk for one reason; everyone a bastard for another. Every book, film and song and every creator sucks for one lonely little reason or another.

"I hate Blues...", I heard today.

Ah, but you've never witnessed the raw, honest, solid rhythyms of the Madd Scientists singing themselves hoarse for love; not money, have you? And what else haven't you heard?

"Oh, I can't stand R&B," says he who's never heard the creative explorations and fuzions of the open-hearted "The Show" while they still believed in their dreams. And what else has he not heard?

"...that Newfie kitchen fiddle music..."

But what about Quagmyre? That delicate frenzy of fiddle precision, jumping and popping with more electricity than a lightning storm. Fit that into your kitchen with a hundred more East coast bands you've never heard.

Conversations not mired in pointless negativity are the exception and so rare. Well, I've long been painfully bored with the game. It's far too easy. As interesting and challenging as Tic-Tac-Toe. Whoever you are: It's long past time I confess: I do not give a damn what things you don't like. Why won't you tell me what you like instead?

Why won't you tell me about the song that makes you have to get up and dance despite your usual self-consciousness? How about the songs you can't help but sing in the shower? What music was on the radio when you lost your cherry in the back-seat of a car and how do you feel when you hear it now? What song was playing at your wedding? What band's music do you get lost in when you listen by headphones in the dark with a joint or a six-pack? What songs remind you of you; remind you of who you used to be; remind you of who you once wanted to be?

What songs make you cry?

How about we try to cut back on the bullshit, and I mean bullshit in its most primary meanings; claims both counterfeit and trivial. Why don't we lose the bullshit and share a little more life instead? And be a little more alive?

"The only way to win is not to play."
- Joshua (Film: Wargames)