Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category


Unconsciously I must have known this allegory of me as Bionic Knight (read B.K. pulps here) was needed as 18 months of unknown physiological and neurological symptoms that two previous visits to ER saw everything come back as normal. Mysteries persisted and sick time evaporated, culminated in the ER cluster storm of my 39th b-day forward. A new reality that has seen symptoms evaporate due to attrition of time, not medical intervention while others persist. Yet it is in the writings of the story of a middle-aged hero that was my first super hero creation that I could begin to unpack what was going on within my own mind, heart and soul.

labyrinth

I love writing, as many who know me know… Whether it is fiction, non-fiction, poetry or plays I just love to share worldviews and percolate thoughts…I dislike recently after a good run the beating my own brain gives me as tonight I feel like I was on the losing end of a boxing match. And left outside in a winter storm. #neurolife (Facebook post from December 4, 2017)

brain-labyrinth

“4 months since 39. 9 weeks since “I can’t”.

and my faith broke.

For it is within the allegory of Super-hero we can honestly look at those that serve those in most need go through, without having to just yet look at our society in a mirror and go: we collectively decided that it was okay for this level of poverty to exist within our society, for our children, youth, young adults, elders, seniors and neighbours to live like this as we worshiped the zero-based budget.

Yet that choice, as with every choice, is like a pebble in a pond or a butterfly flapping their wings. No one can know what those ripples or wings will cause down the line, but know it is a question each of us most be prepared to ask.

It was easily summed up with these for words and punctuation many a time over:

Who is my neighbour?

stepping stones

And today we MUST continue to ask:

And how shall we live justly, safely and healthily together in community?

Where is hope found in my life?

How does my faith heal?

Advent of something new?

heart

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How’s it going?

How are you?

Innocuous questions asked, that honestly no one truly wants to hear anything but good or getting better.

But then the white noise hits. For the last 48 hours, it can be as innocuous as the hum of a router, or Enmax doing something with the electrical lines in the alleyway or sound system feedback that triggers a cascade…or flashback to those warehouse ceiling fans. Apartment heating systems. Wind tunnels created in urban jungles…want to be safe raves that predators invaded. Amazing how it all sounds the same in memory’s ear.

whitenoise

Yes, I have time now to spend doing things I enjoy—with my kids, my wife, writing, reading—yet the focus it takes for a few scants hours spread out over days, if I get off lucky and it does not trigger different types of mystery neuro events— leaves me knocked for a loop and sleeping.

But why?

Does anyone truly want to know why? Some I am sure do. Some have stuck around and walk with us, some have returned that surprised, more surprising are those you have been there for that have up and broke contact.

Yet life if life.

“It’s my fault. I quadrupled capacity, fire me fine, but I will not judge who lives and who dies in a Canadian winter when I can find space.” 

For almost a decade our shelter system ran in states of emergency during winter time, this was parallel to years of prosperity for certain folks in the province.

How do you explain a rough day? When the neuro events are the simplest part even if the experts aren’t truly sure what it is.

How do you explain the rough days where you weep from a soul pain?

Physical pain like a bite that may or may not have broken skin. A torn up back muscles. Arthritis in the shoulder. Blow out knees. Spit in the face or scalding coffee. Death threats to knives held close to my own throat/stomach could have just as easily been a discarded syringe that may have poked into my skin.

Not a physical pain that is fed by years of trying to be a light for dark paths, or a lamp post to the light.  For hopelessness is not the absence of light in the darkness, it is the belief that there never will be light again in life. A minor spark.

The tears of healing on your shoulder from one who is finding home…finding self…finding belonging…place in a world of chaos and turmoil. Knowing their own intrinsic worth and value goes beyond codes, labels, and monetary value… they matter because they are human–my neighbour.

A minor spark once more. That for me was a passionate blaze to change the world, now is crackling embers not only in brain electricity, but on the heart. For a rough day also brings the sounds, the smells, the sensations of the past.

Church basements.

Fight the urge to request prayer because—well—how would they handle knowing the devastation of the helpers? For the work is to be its own selfless reward.

Under bridges.

Back alleys

Line ups taking names.

Body swinging.

Clicking of a gun.

The smell of combustibles and other narcotics thick in the air.

Miscarriages in washrooms. Girls in shock. Boys traded for sex. The succumbing of addiction to null the pain and the lengths one will go. Why would they see themselves as more than commodities when that is all their government sees them as?

Death rattles.

Death threats.

Cold hands.

Outbreaks.

Cold sweat.

Questioning if they would be loved in heaven.

brain-labyrinth

                LGBTTQ2+ communities disowned and cast out. Veterans- from allied and enemy nations. Child soldiers. Persons without country. Temporary foreign workers cast aside at capitalism’s whim. Men and women. Children. New born babes. Babies born into custody. Institutional releases—mental hospitals, general hospitals, child and family services…. justice system. Systems more concerned with the churn than with creating health in the community. A system of justice more worried about revenge than restoration.

Seniors. Elders. Survivors. Thrivers. Barely literate to PhD’s. Experts. Celebrities. Life takes a course correction. Resiliency wains. Grief. Sorrow. Overwhelm. Addictions found, addictions succumbed to. Survivors of religious abuse. Mental illness and mental wellness. Those who believe they are oppressed, those who are oppressed. Economic refugees. Environmental refugees. Refugees fleeing violence and to save their lives. New Canadians, First Nations. Those seeking the Alberta Advantage realizing the blight. Persons with disabilities.  In a few decades the “Common Sense” revolution and the province that was made will be judged by cultural anthropologists based on the treatment of the most vulnerable, the elders and the children? We will be found failures.

A thousand faces. A thousand labels. All to the same gathering. A true Canadian Mosaic.

The stench of evil in backrooms.

Using skills, words and actions to fight against persons becoming defined by debit/credit columns, codes and commodities to those who wield political and monetary power, wondering if deafness is in institutional genetics.

Having words and lies spewed against you as other scamper for power and to create hold over others.

Lines drawn in the sand to church boards, political parties, gangsters, politicians, believed to be friends/allies, dealers and traders in evil veiled by supposed goodness, rapists, pedophiles, and neo-Nazis.

Times after dark in offices, sharing life. Folks looking for hope.

Constant on call awaiting the worst for years not sleeping soundly.

Sharing words at memorials. Baptisms. Weddings. In visitation rooms in prisons. Speaking with patients with advance Alzheimer. Sitting in rooms in schools working with students to choose life over quick cash.

Fighting with communities that preach love and inclusion yet spend more time caring about money and buildings, and who/how to segregate those that aren’t pretty enough for their idols.

The pain of a child pondering why God takes his buddies.

Words of finality spoken as earthly life ends. Hundreds of times over.

Jingle of keys into a new homes door.

Hope the predators will stay away this time.

Going through tables.

Knuckles into body.

The burn of bear and pepper spray.

The throat closing with chlorine gas exposure and other mysterious chemicals.

A body that physically aches upon awaking. A mind that cannot be trusted to function as it always has been.

The past haunts the present. Freezing one from the future.

Watching new and old colleagues alike, thrive and feel pain.

Wondering the whole time of life at a crossroads…has it mattered? Has anything or anyone’s life been changed for the better?

Asking your neighbour—yourself— how goes it? Only matters if you are ready for an honest answer.

I may choose to walk into the darkness and make a difference. I may choose self-care. But then things happen outside of our control and it cascades down and what is left is reliving…not the joys of life’s triumphs…but what rends the soul into one’s own personal hell:

The failures. The times when you couldn’t. The times when you are left standing in the valley of the shadow of death in the many forms it takes—relapse, recycle, crime, abuse, trauma, assault, eviction, unemployment, and worse of all loss of hope.

So how goes the day?

Depends on the day. Depends on the moment of the day.

The challenge moving forward in each moment is to keep grounded, and know who I am.

I am in a good place in the world.

I have walked through darkness, and yes sometimes the light may not be there but I still hold to hope that the light will come—until that moment I don’t.

What doesn’t fade is the white noise that holistically blocks me to accept me.

That moment when even I will lie to myself that it is okay because what is staring back from the void of the soul is darkness in need of light. Light that begins not with a lie to myself, but with affirming that light and beauty exist in the world.

Just a moment of peace is what is thought in the soul.

Just a moment of peace that can be found when my brain cooperates.

Just want that moment…

                                To feel like me

                                                                Once more.

For I am sorry I am not there to save you…

My neighbour….

     Spiritual thought of the week of Hope:

In the liturgical season of Hope this week…light in the darkness. A line from JL movie last night– hopelessness is not the absence of light in the darkness, it is the belief the light is never to return (Lois Lane). So the journey is in finding a way for those without hope to believe the light will return—for some it is companionship, some mindfulness, some community, some spirituality/religion, some need psycho-pharmaceutical intervention or therapy, some need all of the above…but ya wanna know something– regardless of the solution the individual needs, we are all in this together, and without loving acceptance of one another just the way we are hopelessness wins…so take time this week to shine your light of acceptance and let hope win, eh?

John 1

 


The journey has been completed, with a new one to start in 2018. That is the book journey through Levi’s Aquarian Gospel. Section XXI brought closure to the circle of the journey of Brother Jesus, and laying out what is known in sacred teachings from time immemorial (and even some science). It is a new age text of universalism, that I encourage group exploration of the work to see connections, and how similar we truly are as people. It also speaks to the idea of metaphysics, which for those who may not know is the simple study of being (our next sacred text study will explore the Qu’ran beginning in 2018).

Many good conversations came out of the discussion, but one piece of text struck me. It is a tie back by the writer to the foundation myths of Genesis 1-11. Yes, they are myths, not because they are false or fiction, but foundation meta-narratives that share the why of existence (how is and should be left to science, but the why discourse begins and continues with our foundation and trans-formative myths). Within these myths is the story of Noah’s Ark. It is the story of world wide destruction. Yet after this event a rainbow of promise is placed in the air as the new creation starts.

Through the original sin lens the event is punishment. From original blessing, it can be seen as something more. It is the transformation of life that happens within each one of us. That transformation of adolescence to young adulthood. Think of the changes that happen within your life as you move out of grade school into the world, whether it be post-secondary or work. Relationships that end, relationships that begin. Things that are seen for what they truly are warts and all.

Yet amid what be chaos and catastrophic world destruction, here is a blessing in the sky. A rainbow, a promise that life is not wiped out without love and love to come. The transformation of life. Here is how the Aquarian Gospel ties in:

  1. Brought immortality to light and painted on the walls of time a rainbow for the sons of men; and what I did all men shall do.

Chapter 176:14

For me it resonated with the line in the Apostle’s Creed of Jesus descending to the dead. Other early church writings point out this is a razing/releasing of the souls in hell. Yet hell for the early community was not what Dante or Milton would have the “enlightenment era” Christian believe it was as a place of torture. There was two-fold ways to be looked at:

  • The Gethsemane garbage where lost and “unclean” folks were discarded to. Could it be stating that a final place of inclusion is created and they were welcomed into belonging.
  • Metaphysically, the idea of Greco-Roman Hades was a storehouse of souls that stopped life after death from happening or in Ancient Hebrew Sheol, literally a warehouse. So the razing was the release of souls to new life, new energy, renewal. Something to hope for beyond the veil of death.

Both tie nicely into what Brother Jesus spoke of in the canonical Gospel of Mark 1:15:

“The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”

(English Standard Version)

The unity of the holy breath (spark) breathed into us at creation. The Cosmic Christ/divinity that ties us into the Holy Mystery. It is the divine source of love within that when we acknowledge and live into it, we truly love the creator and then our self and our neighbour. The Shema, the Greatest Commandments.

The cascade of transformational love.

Beautiful unity in diversity reflected as light beyond darkness as a promise bow in the sky.

As the Kingdom being here and near.

The end of segregation by labels. The end of casting aside the neighbour. The understanding all are loved.

Whether physically or metaphysically. It is not a false dichotomy, or the false arguments of either-or. Rather it is the Holy Mystery literally showing us that it is both-and. We are not separately spirit and flesh, but rather blessedly both. The life and teachings of Brother Jesus laid the path for a just society, because it showed the blessings of the flesh and spirit as holistically one.

Look upon the rainbow and know one simple thing about the Holy Mystery when lived out is four simple letters:

L-O-V-E.

And simply ask yourself, will you live into and out of that love today.

______

End Notes-Apostle Creed Text:

creed

 


It is intriguing for some who view what I share in regard to media. Once you remove the political and true crime geek side of me, what is usually shared is tied to the world of cults, and not the innocuous ones that in a 100 years society will just accept as standardized religion-spirituality, but rather the abusive-murderous ones.  The question arose this week as to why? And was there a central theme within.

I am a student of human behaviour. I believe it comes from being a fiction writer that enjoys science fiction and mysteries (which is an out growth of the world of literature the comic writers of my youth opened me up to). To truly write well, you have to understand the subject which is the world. But why the cults?

Let’s accept a few things first which may be hard to stomach (and no it is not repeating the academic definition of cult that it is a collective of like minded individuals):

  • All current religions at one point or time were viewed as a heresy/cult of the mainstream when they started.
  • As one comic book writer phrased it while they were putting together Lex Luthor’s run for president in 2000. A great villain like Lex Luthor does not make his decisions based on him knowing he is the villain of the story, no, Lex is great at being a villain because he truly believes he is the hero of the story and can do no wrong for in his world he is the pure of heart.

We enter stories such as the Oasis centre in Edmonton; the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saint’s in Bountiful, B.C.; Nvixm in British Columbia, and Raelism in Quebec to name but a few close to home.  This does not touch upon the more mainstream of hale bop, Japan’s suicide cult, Jamestown, or Waco, Texas. The weird side note aside of L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology. It does not touch upon the smaller movements that go unnoticed or unreported.

Yet it also does not touch upon those that may not end in sexual abuse or death, but those that leverage a person’s belief system for financial abuse. Whether it is driving a prosperity gospel, a “those who are deserving will get wealth” or the 20th century indulgence peddler that was the televangelist that fell from grace.

In the moment, they all shared their own theme, much like Lex Luthor they were out for power, prestige and yes, they believed and currently believe they are doing right.

In the moments, they become cautionary real-life parables for those that we in trust our intrinsic worth too. Yet, for the clear majority that enter helping professions or cleric roles this will never develop for there is something within the person that takes them down that path. It is a switch that may have switched before they started the journey or during the journey that allowed them to see the world through the lens that they are the supreme being and the only way.

It is patterns within cults you can see within mass murderers, spree killers and serial killers. To the lesser point, the break that causes the one that acts in isolation. To those that partner and you will see escalation (look to the case of Bernardo-Homolka, from serial rapist to serial killer once he partnered with her).

But even more than those that run these movements or partnerships, what is even more astounding one can say is how they attract followers?

That is not a hard question to answer. Anyone who has studied the hate movements or youth gang movements fully understand what drives these groups thriving even with all the reality shows, media coverage, documentaries, studies, criminal cases, and academic literature on the subject.  It is one simple desire for the human being that our world has slowly been pushing out since the mid-20th century with the drive to keep up the Jones’:

B-E-L-O-N-G-I-N-G.

Think about that. We have created such an isolating society that allows for isolation, segregation and loss of worth that these groups can proliferate. It is what happens when we shift from an understanding of a person as having intrinsic worth because they are a person, and want to treat them with dignity simply because they are our neighbour and not a number or a budget line.

Why my fascination with cults?

Simply put it shows when we fail as a society to compassionately respond with a Just Society to the question of who is my neighbour?

It shows when as a person we fail to be a compassionate neighbour to our neighbour. And yes it can be as simple just being friendly, a simple smile, a hello.

What is being a neighbour about?

Building a world, a country, a province, a city, a neighbourhood, a home that moves beyond labels to define and segregate. It is about creating space of belonging.

This week, what are you going to do to be a neighbour?


 

woodsworth

J.S. Woodsworth’s follow up to My Neighbour, was Stranger’s at the gate…a treatise on New Canadians. Our nation is built upon multiculturalism. Yes there is a darkness to the beautiful mosaic that we as Canadians need to acknowledge as part of our discourse. Yet reflecting on my own life during this time of neuro uniqueness has opened myself up to an image that sticks in mind from child hood.

We camped at Skunk Hollow just outside of Water Valley. Back in the day it was the still run that may or may not have been run by relatives who also appeared on itinerant preacher rolls of the Methodist Church. Yet it was also how you got across the creek (pronounced crick, just cause we loved driving our mother batty with bad English).  Recent posts one can see in me the journey of now, mixed with the journey of the past.

But like crossing the crick to the other side whether hiking or biking once you stepped on the stones the only way to make it through as the crick flowed swift (and bloody cold) was to move forward or get wet (and not in a fun way). This struck me as I reflect on the idea of neighbour.

We each have our own path that has brought us to the here and now. For some it has been traumatic, others blessing, others a mixed bag…yet it has brought each of us to the NOW.

The challenge of getting to turn the “stranger at our gate” into our neighbour is to accept the now, and make a choice:

Go back over the slippery mossy rocks and get chilly wet or keep moving forward into the new adventures ahead.

What do you choose?

What makes your community better?

What makes you better?

So the water or the adventure?

stepping stones

(with a nod to my inner child that has never left the exterior me).


“You are right. You can fire me, but you cannot tell me what to do.”

-Jesse Stone to the Town Council (Jesse Stone series)

J.S. Woodsworth was a Methodist minister, a founding member and leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, a labour activist who had the literal beating scars from police to prove it. He had worked tirelessly in his life to get Canada to treat all Canadians as Brother Jesus implored us to. Yet his values of anti-war and stopping evil entered conflict within him as he sat as a MP in Canada’s Parliament when it came time to declare war on Nazi Germany.

See he was against war. More than just conscientious objection, he saw in war for a way of the 1% to get wealthier through munitions and more efficient ways to exterminate human beings manufacturing, and as a way the wealthy used the draft to cull the herds of poor they saw as taxing on the country’s system. Yet, he also believed the horrors against humanity that his fellow caucus members in the CCF reported back about Germany and their program.

So what was he to do?

On that fateful day, Woodsworth would lose his job as leader of his party and movement, and not be elected again. As he would stand on the side of saving lives of poor Canadians and voting against the war. The one vote against, while the rest of his party voted with the other parties to enter the war. It is not about whether Woodsworth’s decision for anyone else was right or wrong, he had a conviction and made a choice. In that choice, he faced the consequences.

In 1990’s Alberta Kevin Taft as a governmental employee would face a similar choice as he recorder in Shredding the Public Interest (1997) where he recounted how one party rule was not for the betterment of Albertans. As it was in shredding documents that showed the government was intentionally screwing over the elders that built the province, and it resulted in a loss of his job.

Another choice of conviction.

These are hard choices to make in life. Yet we are all faced with them. Those moments when we need to decide, is this the hill I die on? Or does this path tie to other values of mine that can lead me forward. A former co-worker once described working with me as an acquired taste, for that resiliency. There was the grand mission of trying to make my corner of the world a better place where I could follow many paths. Yet in those instances where my heart became set on what was right in a situation whether it be for a group, a person or a practice there was no shaking the ground beneath my feet…and yes in those instances it did simply become one of “you as an organization can continue on that path but it will be without me.” Sometimes I chose to end the professional relationship, other times it was chosen for me. Yet regardless of how it ended, I would leave with my head up knowing I had made a choice much like those examples that opened this reflection.

Whether it was choosing communities of full inclusion regardless of gender identity, sexuality, mental health, being differently abled or cultural origin, which was a stand I needed to take on more than one occasion in my service in religions and spirituality.

Putting sitting government’s feet to the fire as a journalist, writer, speaker, activist, and student.

Challenging the norms of an institution to hopefully re-think how they existed to be a more open space.

Even in those moments where a group would pink slip me or so radically change my job description at a public meeting that my role was publicly voted out with me in the room, receiving death threats, being black listed from press access to certain government officials, or  one community having me resign to protect my children, only to have the things we had rattled the establishment to institute slowly roll out those changes that so challenged them (essentially using my family and I as a sacrificial lamb or a scapegoat).

Remembering a famous line, I had used in many battles:

This is about right and wrong for our community. You can fire me, I was looking for a job before I came here and I will find one no matter how I leave here. But what will not change is what those you try to segregate see as the true heart of their community and what they choose.

To the current challenge of where my family worships and the challenge it places on my being. This congregation has been good and inclusive, welcoming and warm. Yet it is part of a tradition that many times knocked me around because it did not want inclusiveness or change, other congregations where literally I had to surrender my ministry because I refused to be apart of acts of segregation.

The value challenge that I can feel Woodsworth must have gone through on vote day. Which value overtakes the other?

Does the brand matter as much as the local practice?

Finding a resting place of inclusion where my kids can be who they are called to be, where the family can be active. Yet part of me, still awaits the other shoe to drop. That tiny voice in the back of my head that can it be too good to be true? A simple way station where we have been apart of many that have just not gotten it. Where words and practice did not align? Perhaps the heart is weary, and this truth has no reconciliation left.

Or perhaps…

Simply perhaps…

Sometimes the battle has ripples that are left unseen for some…and…

Perhaps those ripples outside, need to simply be experienced. Only time will tell with the shattered bridges, burnt souls, and cast aside lives…if there is enough to continue moving forward, but I do know despite the challenges life has laid before me. So yes I have made a choice, one that sits with my values.

Despite the winding roads of life’s journey, one thing will not change.

That is the central core of my faith system.

Inclusion.

And yes my journey of understanding who my neighbour is has made that simple community aspect a non-negotiable.

What are your non-negotiable? Those ones where you literally would put livelihood on the line? In one word, what is that non-negotiable value for you?


tommy1

 

Brad Paisley & LL Cool J Accidental Racist video: https://youtu.be/QPl-Ss-iJLo

I remember learning the trade of script writing. Whether it was for comics, theatre or cinema it definitely was the challenge of showing over telling anything. It is a medium that the viewer or reader needs to instantly identify where someone’s role falls (for the comic reader this was in the era when 1 to 2 pages would take the story in places that today would see 3-6 issues needed). Enter the love of the stereo type.

What’s that you ask?

C’mon. We all have them. Alberta politics created Harry and Martha as the stereotypical Albertans in the 1990’s. For most of the pre-21st century you know that if a nun in a habit or a collared priest enters a scene it is for a religious reason. A rumpled trench coat-probably a detective. A corrupt politician- thy of the heftier set with the rumpled suit big stone pinky ring and ruddy complexion from imbuing too much “holiday cheer” if you will.

There are also other stereotypes that have emerged in how a gang member dresses depending on the era, type of speech used by certain classes (just think of the Newfie jokes in Canada or Southern jokes in the U.S.)…yet each of these set a specific tone when used in a medium to convey something quickly.

The challenge we face as we continue to sanitize our history, remove critical thought and discourse from the education system, move away from the arts and sciences as the basis for education, and do not allow for free and easy ways for neighbours to gather..well…what happens?

The stereo type takes over the reality. In a world where someone can get their “facts” based on a meme or 140-280 characters in social media the stereotype becomes the facts of life. Even more so, you take in to play isolation, segregation due to labels, and other life struggles where you may believe you are the only one. Then these stereo types can drive further wedges.

What comes from these wedges?

Collaboration. Community. Belonging. Become impossible.

Instead we see a repeat of history. Things we figured out how to solve we throw up our hands as  a society and saw we don’t know what to do.

Whether it was Nazis, KKK, Neo-Nazis, Irish Republican Army, youth gangs, extremists of hatred in all shades and sizes, religious zealots and currently terrorists…. What lies at the core?

Being labelled constantly as the other. Being segregated and stripped of worth. That simple intrinsic worth we all have for simply being human beings and key pieces of the eco-system. We are not people, each of us is an individual person, with a separate story and journey, a separate set of skills, calling of vocation, and place in society. This role moves beyond any stereo type the world wants to place upon you, and is you. Live into the you, you are meant to be.

In fact: Be the person that extends the hand of welcome to the stranger.  For as the old saying goes, there is no strangers just friends we haven’t met yet.

Or from my mentoring days with youth in public schools, churches and the youth criminal justice system it spoke of the transformative power of investing an hour a week in the life of an adolescent for huge results. What does this have to do with breaking down stereotypes you ask?

Simple. There is more wisdom in this than any other idea. A stereotype exists because we are unwilling to see beyond. How do you see beyond? You build a bridge not a wall.

Who is your neighbour?

It can be as simple as the one you share a cup of coffee with to discover about who they truly are beyond the social media stereotype.

What stereotype do you need to step outside of and break bread with to move forward together as one community?

The challenge for you…which stereotype are you going to enter into a discourse with the reality of?

Let’s change our world one cuppa at a time.

tommy2