Sharing our Humanity

 

flowerseller

Nivia Gonzalez, “El Mercado de Flores”

Two days ago I went for a follow-up mammogram and ultra-sound. Nobody likes to get these things. I always tell the technician a glass of wine would go nicely, sometimes it gets a laugh but I NEVER get a glass of wine.

 

It was good.  I mean, I had a nice time if you can believe it.  As it was a follow-up exam I made a point of telling everyone that actually had to touch me that I have had cancer twice and am now being monitored for a pre-cancer.

“I can understand how you might be nervous because of that.”

It seemed to make a difference, but I can’t be sure if it was a result of the release of tension I probably carry without knowing it or because of the technicians actually showing more than the usual amount of compassion.

I like to say that compassion is not something anyone can own or take as a virtue but an environment that we can share when we let go of the “self and other” mentality.  I have no proof for this and only a vague recollection of experiencing this as my usual internal narrator was absent. The moment, transitory and aberrant has only a tether to my Zen practice which is almost impossible for me to talk about.

Nevertheless my own pressure release of expressing what could likely make me feel separate from other people, (or at least one of the things that so often limits me) did serve to connect me to what was going on and that usually has good effects.

Something else I realized, if you make people aware of your shared humanity, they increasing look ridiculous as they try harder and harder to deny it.  You only have to look at ranting racists on social media who are confronted in a calm but consistent rebuttal by the people they are invested in hating and how they look more and more pathetic, eroding in their rhetoric into petulant potty mouths.  I think it is interesting because they look like two year olds… just a thought…

Nobody should be written off as hopeless.  We all behave like children often enough and yet, like children, given a shared opportunity to learn we can be quite remarkable in how kind, helpful and even courageous we are.  Oh and good news, results in, it’s fine, nothing to worry about. 🙂

the poster was in the waiting room of the breast screening clinic

Buying Time

This is a link to some famous guys talking about their time.  You can Google Warren Buffet and Bill Gates and find out who they are if you don’t know.  Which is cool right?

http://www.swiss-miss.com/2017/03/you-control-your-time.html

Anyway, a basic lack of awareness is the biggest time waster of all and no amount of structure, lists or schedules can provide it.  I remember when a mom I knew who had been a palliative care nurse in a hospital told me she had had nervous breakdown.  She said the cut backs in support staff were so severe that her job had become moving patients around like cords of wood just to get the basics done like changing sheets and cleaning bed pans and she realized that she had started to see them as impediments to the function of the floor rather than the reason why she was there. “I wasn’t interacting with them as human beings. I had lost it”.  What had she lost? She lost the awareness of what she was actually doing there, perhaps because it was no longer possible.  I don’t know, I don’t doubt it was devastating for her.  She loved her job, she said she felt had been good at it.

This is a drastic example but not unusual.

Still, we have more time than we know, we have right now.  We have the breath in our bodies. We have the light entering our eyes from whatever screen we are looking at this from, the air moving around us, perhaps playing with dancing tiny flecks of dust, the sounds around us, intentional or insidious, humming aspects of twenty-first century life.  Or maybe nature: Robins bursting with exuberant declarations of spring love, or trees swaying in the wind or rain falling on hard ground…

Ah but there is that other blog we wanted to check and the coffee we want warmed and damn aren’t we late for something!!!  But if we bump into another human being as we rush to where we are going we can take a moment to notice them (if we are Canadian we can apologize) before we rush off.  We can be AWARE and it can make a difference.

Have a Nice Day!

This moment is brought to you entirely free. 🙂

 

 

Personal Transportation Vehicles

Sitting staring at a blank wall the image of a zafu, a small round cushion, flying through the air and hitting me on the back of the head came to mind.  Wait, let me back up a bit: I have grown very attached to my zafu having clocked  so, so, many, many hours sitting on it.  At times I realize I have an almost obsessive affection for it. It has been repaired and recovered and in it’s heart it contains my former teacher’s zafu.  *Sigh*

None of these things has anything to do with my practice or the value of it or my sincerity or effort. At the end of the day it is just a cushion… And you may ask, quite rightly, what does this have to do with cars?

Well we all have to get to places. We can pay attention to where we are without getting confused about how to get to where we need to be. *groan*

We all, at least begrudgingly, acknowledge we  affect each other with our behaviour, certainly we acknowledge when other people’s behaviour upsets us in some way. But put us in our very own vehicle, encase us in “top of the line performance” and drench us in the joy of our favourite mix of tunes OR WHATEVER, driving along in our cars, flying like Isadora Duncan’s scarf down a ribbon of hi-way, well, that is freedom.

The images of driving and freedom are endless thanks to really clever and expensive advertising.  Too bad they are untrue.  It isn’t free.  It is very costly.  It costs in waved penalties for environmental damages for the HUGE companies that produce all manner of stuff for cars. It costs in road maintenance, insurance claims, hospital and emergency response costs, and in broken bodies and destroyed lives.

It costs in deluded and dangerous expectations about “what we deserve to have” and gives us an added layer of separation from the harm we might be doing to others.

Whatever you believe about yourself and what you are doing, if it is a means of separating yourself from your fellow beings and their suffering you will get someplace, maybe get there really fast, but you won’t be happy and you can never be free.

You might get a buzz, a high, a sense of being unfettered by worries and concerns and responsibilities but, AND IT IS A REALLY BIG BUTT, AS IN DUMB-ASS, now wait for it, here it comes, the flying zafu!!!!

A Few Thoughts on Traffic from A Crossing Guard who Quit

Dear Pedestrians, when talking about “the flow of traffic” in a big city, I think it is important to say if it is a liquid it is ketchup. It gets stuck just like the ketchup when you hold the bottle over your fries and then suddenly it seems unstoppable and you have a mess pouring out ruining everything! This is how I have come to understand that not only one car will fly through an amber light but three or four will follow and the last will be speeding through a red light.   😦

It can be argued that ketchup is mindless and drivers are not but neither have been proven.

I do not describe pedestrians as ketchup because that is my greatest fear. I never ever want to see any pedestrian covered in anything resembling anything like ketchup. It was one of the reasons I decided to quit.  It’s one of the reasons I am posting this.

This idea that we all have to run across a light as the final numbers count down might be a result of too many game shows in our youth but here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • You don’t get a prize. You maybe save a couple of minutes but you set a bad example for your kids who will, despite all your efforts to supervise them, one day do the same thing. Also you can cause an accident. It isn’t all about your ability to run, it’s about a lot of other people too, some of whom are in cars and also the cars behind those cars…
  • Not everyone can see everything that is happening all the time. This is why when the randomness of rush hour and children’s behaviour (they drop their project, they see a friend on the curb and run back, they sudden stop to crouch down to tie a shoe) WE PAY EXTRA ATTENTION TO THE RULES THAT HELP US ALL STAY SAFE.
  • The length of time you have on a green light should be long enough to cross at a normal brisk walking pace. Running is not a good idea, neither is riding a bike or skate board or a pogo stick! Running with a stroller with a child in front of you, by the way, they do not make good shields against on coming traffic… well, lets just say, is not a good idea and here is why: a driver will take a quick perusal of the speed of the herd of pedestrians and calculate his/her turn based on that. Yes he will be in the wrong if he hits someone, but as I said, its not a game show. 
  • If suddenly a person takes off ahead of the herd a driver can’t anticipate this. Many drivers overestimate their ability to accelerate, swerve and stop. If he/she is making an illegal turn across the crosswalk, and this happens so regularly that it is almost normal, he will have to hit the breaks, AND he might have a flow of mindless ketchup behind him to jam up the intersection.  This has happened so many times that I stopped trying to keep count.

You would think having a crossing guard there would help alert the drivers that there could be children crossing. There is nothing lovelier than working for minimum wage, often sick and in the worst weather to have a driver show me the finger because I have stood there, in his or her way, until the parents and children are on the curb. FORGET ABOUT HIM LETTING ME GET THERE too!  Sheesh. He or she thinks they have 360 degree vision while also interfering with traffic and breaking the law.  I decided it was easier to thank the good drivers than to expect anything at all from the bad drivers.

So, getting back to what pedestrians and cyclist can do: Don’t ignore your charges, dogs, cats, kids or parrots. Behave in the manner you would have them behave. Please don’t text on the phone or stop to greet one another in the crosswalk. (Even if it’s to tell the crossing guard you love her or him!) Wait until you are on the curb. In such a beautiful and warm community as yours (at least we hope it is) it will happen often that you are talking and sharing with each other but do it when you reach the sidewalk well away from the curb so there is no confusion for the drivers or the crossing guard about your intentions to cross.

Cyclists. You are my heroes.  Do not ride in the crosswalk, especially when there is a constable or crossing guard.  Walk your bike or ride on the road. It is illegal always to ride in a crosswalk but especially not a good idea when children or handicapped people are crossing. If a crossing guard is crossing people it is because they may have varying abilities to react to unexpected vehicles in the crosswalk. A bike is a vehicle unless it is a handicap device.

Finally, stay safe. Take chances with your fashion, your creativity, your generosity, and your interests, and your limits but not with traffic. That`s just dumb.

The Things I`ve Seen Standing on the Corner!

Okay, the laughs are hard to come by these days but last week I watched a young woman with headphones on and her hood up (it was cold and had snowed the night before) walk along at a leisurely pace as a sidewalk snow plow continuously honked the horn at her, FOR AN ENTIRE BLOCK trying to get by her.
FYI: I now help texting people across the street as I count them as visually impaired. I have a great idea for improving the smart phone:  Put left and right turning signals on the side so other people can tell which way they are going to go!
Perpetually hooked up people are sensory disadvantaged!

We can make a habit of compassion

Things are so weird right now but maybe it’s good that it’s all out in the open so we can see how ugly racism, sexism and entitled criminality are, but that said, violence in television is over the top and I don’t see people cringing, rather they are getting desensitized to it. Will we become desensitized to the sort of ignorant thuggism that is taking over all our public forums? I hope not. I am 60 this year and tired. I feel like “wake me up when they come for me, or not“, which is bad, really bad. I keep reminding myself, Hitler ran for office more than once before he got in power. Persistant thuggism can overwhelm considered intellect and endeavoured compassion, as history has shown us over and over. We must confront it. We must shake off our reasonable desire for comfort and confront it and we must confront it over and over with the same persistance as ignorance.
How we confront it is part of waking up to our own lives. If we find we are hating the person who perhaps took the parking space we wanted or the seat on the subway or the last donut or whatever, we need to see hate for what it is, it is thuggism, maybe in its infancy but it contains the potential that we see rampant in the world. Instead, if we recognize our annoyance for what it is, arising entirely within our expectations and probably, the person we might choose to direct this annoyance at (please try not to call it hate) is completely unaware of any of this, or at best thinking themselves lucky, if we see how this reaction arises in ourselves we can make choices about our response.  Is this the circumstance that requires us to speak up?  Probably not.
But when we have a reaction to someone doing harm, speaking of harm being done, promoting hate, we can see our fear, fear that it might be directed at us, but we can make a choice. Thuggism is a lack of choice.  Being awake is constant choice.  Are we ready to respond not with anger with knowledge and understanding? 
We are essentially fragile, all of us, and dependant on each other and anger is familiar to us though how some are expressing it and what they believe are their reasons for their anger are not acceptable to us.
This is what it is.  It is uncomfortable.  Whereas hate can feel good.  It is a paradox huh, that something that can feel good can be the cause of so much bad in the world?
The alarm clock has rung and we are awake. Now what?  Me? I think I will have breakfast.
“This meal arises from the labour of all beings,
may I be grateful.”

It Ain’t Rocket Science

I realize that it “ain’t rocket science” as the woman who trained me said but it can be demanding, especially at rush hour at a four way intersection in a busy downtown area.

There are many pleasant things about it, not the least of which are seeing all the everyday human interactions that are for the most part lovely. People can be very kind.

-a woman  tells me after I ask if she would like me to cross her that she went to the school as a child and crossed this very intersection with a crossing guard, and “here I am feeling eleven years old again!”
-an elderly lady says she doesn’t live around here anymore; Her friend and roommate died and so she came back to the old neighbourhood, because “you can’t be all alone feeling sad, you have to get out.” She had just been to visit the owner of the convenience store who she told me was “the nicest man on the planet.”
-people with walkers and canes and wheelchairs smiling and saying thank you and you can see that they are, despite pain and difficulty, grateful just to be out and pushing themselves to remain a part of the fabric of the neighbourhood, and people with issues with reality, with their minds, doing the same
-numerous and sundry people thanking me for being there, their hope that I would be placed there as a permanent crossing guard, (some introduced themselves and their children and asked my name)
-I see people parting for the day with kisses, I see people enjoying the sudden warm Autumn weather at the coffee shop patio reading their papers sitting in the Muskoka chairs that are lined along the wall. The gaggles of pre-teenage girls plotting and pruning and laughing, the boys perpetually uncomfortable and posturing, the dog walkers, the harried parents and bubbling babies and bouncing and fidgeting children, the late ones, the ones who keep their heads down, the ones who smile like other worldly beings, wise and gentle…

There is also a pretty awesome graffic on the the wall across from me.  Can’t post a pic but I will take note of the signature and pass it on later.

I find each rush hour intense. The drivers are in such a rush it is at times exhausting to keep an eye out for potential issues but I am sure it will come naturally after a time. It’s funny how some A.Hats will give me a WTF because I am walking as bright as an orange with my sign and vest to the curb as they are trying to WHAT? PUSH ME OUT OF THEIR WAY WITH THERE BIG STUPID HIGHLANDER TRUCK? because they Have to Make a Right TURN NOW!!!…? in a school zone when kids could run out at any time in front of their impatience and then change a whole bunch of lives for the worse? So I shrug my shoulders and make each step count as I step to the curb and lower the sign and smile.

Humans. But these are humans in large fast moving vehicles that weigh tonnes, trying to get to their next big mistake EVEN FASTER. 🙂

Getting to know a neighbourhood is like getting to know a person.

I hope I do go back to this crosswalk next week.

Happy safe Thanksgiving!