How Jian Ghomeshi Imprisoned My Blog for Over Two Years [and Albert Schultz Liberated It]

Okay, lie. Sort of. Jian Ghomeshi didn’t do that.

But in March 2016, getting ready to plot my next post, I discovered that my previously “fave new radio host” – the guy whom I, as a devoted listener, hoped might be taking CBC radio back from decades of redneck government budget-hackers and CBC-haters – seemed suddenly to be tanking at interviews. He actually cut off a really interesting woman actor and filmmaker (Lena Dunham) who was answering his questions. Twice. Cut her off. She was not randomly musing. She was answering his question and it was a great answer to a good question. Whereas he was randomly cutting her off.

Sheesh, I thought, Jian, what is up with you? You’re ruining this interview.

In a week or so Ghomeshi was off the air. My sense deepened of some swelling mystery. Eventual explanations cited the death of his father. Not long after, news broke that Jian Ghomeshi was accused of sexual assault. And the story was gruesome. Oh crap, here we go. Asshole. Within a month, what I’d fully expected – that more women with allegations would come forward – had happened, and legal charges hit full bore.

Two years later NOBODY would have to wonder why a media host went off the air abruptly. Men of his ilk continue falling like ninepins, and their falls are accelerating.

Ghomeshi’s victims were female for the most part, but of course males too know this sort of abuse. Unfortunately, given the nature of sexual assault law in Canada, Ghomeshi – whom we all have no doubt is guilty – got off in a court of law. He did not get off in the court of informed feminine opinion, that court which is the reason we all have no doubt he’s guilty. In this court we know from experience that similar stuff is everyday caca, as pervasive in the arts as anywhere else, and in this court, standard wisdom says that all you have to do is stand back once the first accusation hits: proof of guilt will always lie in a multiplicity of stories. Cause for every bad guy, there will be LOTS of women. The first accusation generally is the brave emerging trickle; the trickle will become a stream, and in some cases, the stream will become a raging river, and in others, a tsunami.

As we know, bad boys do not transgress only once. Awareness of this is why women are beginning to speak up. They realize they can’t possibly be alone…. and that sisters not yet abused may need them to speak up. And hey, look! We now have a wasteland of fallen demigods (at least in their own minds) to prove it! Even Soulpepper Theatre’s Albert Schultz, for pity’s sake!

 

Oh ALBERT! GROW UP AND GET THERAPY!

So Jian, you were just the tip o’ the ol’ iceberg. The Titanic fat cat who fell overboard when the floe connected. Now look at all these equally important Culture Ship-Running dudes flailing in the water around you, and know that you all get to be assholes drowning together. There’s poetic justice in my resumption blog coming while you’re all in the water. Thanks, Albert.  …Not really.

Of course, everybody’s an asshole and monster at some point or other. [Or most of us, anyway. I have done life readings for a handful of people whose holiness in lifetime after lifetime knocked my socks off and made me spontaneously Namaste them, like I was meeting the Dalai Lama. But they’re uncommon.] In some of my own previous incarnations, while admittedly those lives were way back – like, caveman way back – I was as nasty a male as they come. So we don’t get to hold onto superiority as a sure thing.

But we do get to know that presently,  in THIS life, the abusing assholes are that bad, and this is your life to work on it, guys. Get busy.

Back to how Ghomeshi imprisoned my blog.

Oh, you evil jerk, how dare you?!  went my inner rant when news of his transgressions broke. Devastated, furious, and in shock, my inner blogger sat down hard and refused to get up.

Other aspects of myself got up again in short order, but not my inner blogger. Sometimes, right when you want to love some vessel of culture, you learn that the vessel you’ve chosen is decorated by the thinnest tissue, much of it layered over lies. Then the tissue tears and you’re left to ponder where your faith in that vessel went wrong. Lately a host of media consumers have been going through this same process over figures they once trusted. And now we’re all asking: is it faith in a male vessel of culture that’s the problem?

Another case in point: Joseph Boyden, Indigenous Writer Award -winning fake Indigenous Person.

God weeps.

Partly it’s unconscious awe of males. But not always. So I think it’s misplaced faith that’s the problem. And as harsh as it may sound, I’ve learned this: nothing and no-one is deserving of your faith except a benign, merciful, God. (And under pure conditions, Nature.) (Also the Dalai Lama. I forgot him. )

Period. The rest of us are going to prove flawed. If we’re garden-variety flawed, you can celebrate our very human flawed-ness and shake your head ruefully. Maybe laugh. If we’re really ghastly and bad, then after the big discussion, the big court battle, the settlement, the payback, the jail time, the firing, whatever Sane Ethics demand, we are going to need you to let go of just how bad we’ve been. Not for our sakes – for yours. Cause angry hurters are not happy. [Lest this sound trite: letting go can take YEARS.]

Note that also, as in my case with Ghomeshi, we mistake collective talent for the public man.  I just forgot (cause I know better) that a media host has an entire team who book interviews, do the main research, and write the interview questions. They also produce, edit, and package the show.  Same with any media heavyweight. In fact, I pondered, did Ghomeshi himself have actual talent?

Like any modern person, I looked to Facebook memes to help me decide.

“Yep,” said a (male) friend of mine who used to counsel abusive men. “Another  charismatic psychopath.”   (My friend was not surprised it had come to this. But then, my friend also is not a lifelong CBC radio listener, nor a sometime contributor.) So Ghomeshi had charisma. And at his best, on air delivering interview arcs constructed by hard-working production people, I think Ghomeshi had a flair for performance and for talk. It was great while it lasted. Now it’s history.

I have often wondered if those of us who hold out for noble media culture are just terminal fools, or if even our errors of naivete express the Holy Fool: that stubborn rebounding Quester After the Best in human behaviour.  Probably both. Because to believe in and note the best when you find it, is good; while to turn those ineffable moments into an entire projected personality on whom you then endow higher-than-normal-people status, is a no-no.

Especially when we’re speaking of  the public arena. Where I certainly ought to know by now (and I do, I do!) that careful crafting and fabrication of a public persona for a show host are not only the norm, they’re required. They’re how radio or TV or the movies or just plain Internet Personal Branding operates.

For instance, and speaking of no’s [I regret to bring this up lest it seem a personal attack, which it isn’t: it is a critical query of possible corporate policy] – is it just me, or do extant CBC Ghomeshi photos Photoshop his nose?

 

I say this as one with an unenviable nose but with a fully functioning pair of eyes.  Google a few images yourself. There’s quite a few similar examples worth comparing. Someone has told me this is now standard PR practice, but it still stinks of narcissism – Ghomeshi’s, and the CBC’s.

But okay. I’m over my crash, over the disappointment, and though still angry as heck because crap like this is pervasive and sickening and sad and wearying, I’m over being surprised that, as a well-connected academic repeated the story to me at a dinner party months later, CBC brass had been warned by York U (where Ghomeshi also cut a swathe) that York U couldn’t & wouldn’t give Ghomeshi a recommendation… but CBC brass hired him anyway. Oh, you assholes, how dare you? Did the safety and grace of women and your work environment, or even of the CBC as a public service entity, mean nothing to you?!

I stand in solidarity with the legion of women who’ve had to learn that when it comes to how Justice serves sexual assault, we’re going to have to bombard the world with stories so it’ll change.  Forever in human society, as my counselor friend says, “females are trained from babyhood” to  put up and shut up if someone calls them pretty or offers them the right carrot. To disavow their own right to a self-referential point of view – including the view that knows their own pleasure is as important as, AND distinct from, a man’s.

Given this conditioning, no surprise that in adulthood survivors of sexual assault like Ghomeshi’s accusers might enter the witness box and proceed to “muddy” the legal waters.  No surprise, because not all assaulted women are lawyers; while the number of assaulted women given a manual of Legally Correct Post-Sexual-Assault Behaviour is… oh, let me see… ZERO. Cite Ghomeshi’s victims as “bad courtroom witnesses” all you want. ‘Cause it happened.  But they still didn’t have a manual. They were still raised from babyhood to pander. This means that when they did decide to resist or speak up, the decision might’ve come surprisingly late, with conflicted thinking around it, and even conflicted expression.

In the anointing of public personalities many people are also conditioned to assume that men fill the role better. So the able and admirable Shad took over from Ghomeshi on Q, and though Shad was fine and has now left for his own good reasons and Tom Power is Q’s capable new voice, the arguably equally qualified, experienced, and more interesting Sook-Yin Lee apparently did not even get a shot. The CBC surely knew that her show, DNTO, was ending; why did they not scoop her sideways?! Because she’s female? Both she and Shad, like Ghomeshi, play or played in bands and therefore qualify as Hipsters to the brass who obviously wanted a Hipster for Q’s host. Is there a sigh loud enough for this habitual sexism?

There is not.

So R., Blogger, is back. Cause hey, the world needs yet one more internet voice added to the cacophony, and not only that but my friends need yet one more obligation to read longwinded stuff issuing from the tower of Babel.  – Just kidding. I promise I’ll try to stay relevant, and failing that, entertaining.

You who follow these posts, happy readin’.  God is not dead. Uplifting metaphysics endure. And there’s lots of shared culture that actually can nourish our inner Holy Fools.

P.S. Have decided to alternate blogs on Edgar Cayce topics or my spiritual stuff, with blogs on culture or my literary writing stuff. So those of you who prefer one topic over the other get to choose.

PPS. If you see an ad of some kind below this or any post, that sucks. WordPress did it. WordPress has decided to launch ads in hopes of extorting money out of me to make the ads go away. But hey, this is a blog without a budget. On the up side, it’s also a blog that’s not voiceless on the subject of WordPress & ads.

Cayce for Advent

sarapha's excitement

[Sarapha’s Excitement]

Advent season’s culmination is nearly upon us, Santa Claus has Paraded in the service of retail, and I’ve spent weeks in a massive push to curate the extensive PowerPoint imagery which now accompanies my Cayce Christmas talk.

Gave the talk in Toronto to a group who found it quite electrifying. If you’re missing a sacred take on the season and would like to book it, just let me know. Check the description under that button up on the top right where it says Talk Dates Here!!(Gotta love those exclamation points. Not sure why they’re there, but they always fill me with hilarity.)

So R. has recently spent time trawling the internet for spiritual imagery, and exposing herself day after day to the highs and lows of the byte superhighway.

Laptop question

The highs are centuries of reproduced sacred art depicting classic Christmas subjects – subjects covered in quite a bit more metaphysical detail, and quite a bit more moving human detail, by the Christmas discourses of Edgar Cayce’s Source. In hunting for imagery to reflect those stories, I’ve travelled miles of alternately glorious, wonky, dogmatic, innocent, clumsy or sentimental or simply unutterably tender & beautiful, images by artists inspired to explore iconic faith content. My research has been moving; a journey of sorts to Bethlehem and back.

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Many of those images now accompany my talk, so anyone attending will get to travel the Christmas art arc with me. The preRaphaelites for instance – what dreamy intellectuals they were! Composition and settings startlingly outside the box; emotions uniformly solemn.

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On the other hand mediaeval artists left us their own inspiringly awkward versions of the same two prevailing habits.

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Yet in fact try to find a natural, happy, light-hearted, Holy Family  and their relatives and friends, and you have two choices: 1. the twentieth century or twenty-first;

Elizabeth & Mary 72. Giotto. In Giotto, of course, it’s most often the animals that look happy. His people are gentle and for once actually move like real people, which is also nice, but Giotto started out as a shepherd boy. Discovered by Cimabue & brought to apprentice in C’s urban workshop, Giotto’s original affectionate kinship with domesticated beasts shows. Camels, donkey, cows invariably sport sweet grins of well-being. God Alive In Creation isn’t just a subject they know about; they’re livin’ it.

Giotto Magi

Otherwise the modern Christian Right has nurtured painters whose imagery is often really really lovely. Illustrative in style; but not afraid of emotion and humanity, full of energy and joy and pulse and light. There’s Spirit there. When the sheer intensity of these painters’ soul or heart overcomes any sensed obligation to fundamentalist dogma, they get it.

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…Then there’s the rest of the internet. Try to google Young Girl In New Testament, or Biblical Man and Child, and you get photos from church rallies mindlessly interspersed with empty or increasingly weird Facebook posts of middle class White People, followed by drunks, weirdos, tattoo art demons, and unappealing women or men in regrettable states of undress doing things (usually in public) that you realize are precisely why humanity had to attract a Christ anyway. The sheer volume of these images became fascinating to me for how deeply, subtly, discouraging they were. Steady, nagging, ugly, banal. Downers.

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Eventually, of course, I was forced to notice that such records of homo sapiens mayhem are probably why I’m actually doing this talk – whatever I may have thought the reason was.

Because when you finally hit on the right search engine phrase, and “Journey to Bethlehem” or “Flight to Egypt” or “Nativity” or “Annunciation”, or, I learned eventually, “paintings of Renaissance/Victorian girl” (this often yields more tender, lovely, and convincing images to use for Mary than deliberate Mary searches do); and your eyes fall on those visual offerings; the contrast in how you feel is stark. Pure relief.

'Mary' at 12

Serene & Happy 'Mary' at 15So you can trawl the net, ingesting infotainment liberally sprinkled with time-waster trash; or you can surf sacred topics. And if you do both, simply sit back and watch what happens inside you. The results are amazing.

As for my talk it’s now good to go and runs 200 slides through a couple hours of Cayce storytelling. An exciting tour of gorgeousness through many painters’ hands; another tour of another sort of gorgeousness through the words of the supreme trance channeller.

And yes – I couldn’t resist including the occasional work of stone relief carver, manuscript illuminator, tapestry embroiderer, or mosaic tiler, too. Such goodies!

So if you had to miss my talk in Toronto, no worries. Invite friends in for egg nog, then invite me. I’ll come deliver it again for you. Have done this more than once. It’s fun – and sets an entirely new tone for the Season of Joy, launched so iffily otherwise by the annual cultural stampede for Stuff.

Digital toaster, or divine newborn? Hm. You decide.

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Twelve Random Thoughts on Ottawa: A Day in the Life and Death

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Last Wednesday a Canadian dude suffering from mental illness, homelessness, & serious addiction problems shot up government icons in Ottawa, including a beautiful young soldier & single father guarding the National War Memorial unarmed. It was a rage breakdown: would-be jihadism as the closest coat hanger for anger problems way deeper & more garden variety than any perverse theory of spiritual dedication. My heart breaks for the divine smile Corporal Cirillo’s five-year-old son will no longer get to feel beaming over him. I only hope by looking at the photos as his memories fade, this boy will never lose sight of the fact that he inspired that smile.

Cirillo's smile 1 (2)

Cirillo's smile 1 (1)

– And that he probably inherited a smile very similar. Like his father, may he shine it often until it’s gone. May we all shine our smiles often until they’re gone.

Random Thoughts which are probably not all that random:

The gunman’s mother. One feels terrible for the families of victims; one identifies deeply and grieves for their grief even while grieving one’s own grief. Then the family of the bad guy – do you think about them? I imagine having to be them. I try to figure out what, in the name of love, must be done. And usually I imagine the statement I would find it impossible by the rules of caring Community not to issue in the wake of a family member’s transgression: a  statement filled with honest horror and apology, with sorrow for the victims and their loved ones. Do we ever hear such statements, though? Not commonly. Later, if ever. But this guy’s mother responded  within hours: publicly, from the gut, with courage, heartbreak, and a terrible, angry, confusion of her own. Her statement is heart-wrenching. It is a painful blessing. God comfort her. She too is a heroine – new member of a tragic crowd we rarely consider.

Ending helplessness. A cousin’s Facebook Page: I can’t remember a time, EVER, that I have watched TV and other outlets, endlessly, seeking a reason for obvious, murderous hatred acts on Canada and hoping for an explanation that makes sense.

By nature murderous acts have no rational explanation. This is our first clue that to respond appropriately we must not change who we are except to plunge deeper into compassion. Our most empowered response would be to break into prayer for all involved. Deep, serious, prayer. Not demonizing. Horribly misguided behaviours are ultimately pitiable, the reactionary flailings of a familiar, sad, unstable fringe. I’ll call these people the Desperate Unhinged (DU’s). The fact that DU’s have learned they can annex a cause and get media attention – which does not equal media approval, a distinction too easily glossed over – shouldn’t shake us from this basic understanding.

Heinous, painful, & tragic as the consequences of Desperate Unhinged actions are, we’ve all recognized quickly in the face of Wednesday’s disasters that the worst possible consequence would be to let those disasters lead us to change the best in our inherent character as Canadians: lead us willingly into fear, or into exaggerating the power & presence of the statistically very rare DU individual who erupts into violent action. We do need to assume these individuals exist and to act accordingly. As one retired solider on the street said: “Wake up and smell the gun powder.” Naivete is not an option. But such a grievous if familiar human being remains, after everything, still a volatile dot in the disturbed social edge-lands. It’s only us who can move them into the sacred centre.

Being already perfect. DU’s deserve some contemplation time in the sacred centre. Can we ponder DU’s now & grow a place for compassion towards the fallenness that they embody on our behalf, lest we continue to believe, in Neale Donald Walsch’s words, we are not already perfect, and so fail to live from our perfection? Could we act differently as members of a society & catch the DU into our arms, to turn the inner tide of harm?  Could we take earlier actions like that of the first guard in the rotunda of Centre Block who grabbed the barrel of the gunman’s rifle – yes, grabbed the barrel of the rifle that was pointed at him – and yanked it down? (I’m gobsmacked by the level of this man’s presence of mind. And chuffed. Aren’t you?!) The bullet hit the guard in the foot; it didn’t kill him & it didn’t kill anyone else – one shot less that succeeded as plotted. This bullet along with the guard’s warning shouts then triggered instead the already-gathering help needed, and from there no other shots were lethal either, except the shots that ended the suspect’s life.  [Hail, Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers & his team.] Instead, some historic masonry & leaded windows of the Centre Block sport small holes that will get fixed. So I can’t help being struck that, despite the eruption of criticism about  lax Canadian security in the House of Parliament, it succeeded rather well there. (The cenotaph, where guards are traditionally unarmed, is another matter, and how sorrowfully we all know it now.)

Sacred Architecture. The DU didn’t know his way around the Centre Block. He was operating intuitively. Like me, he assumed that if you run through the front door and straight down the Hall of Honour to the doors at the end, this route should lead to some central meeting room where large numbers of politicians might be sitting. But it doesn’t. The governing party was meeting to the left, and the Official Opposition were in their own meeting room to the right, and straight ahead lay – the Library. The Library! Who can’t love this! The Library’s pull being such that in the sacred architecture of the soul, books and their ruminative silence are the magnet drawing that gun barrel towards wisdom.  Let us celebrate how many lives the Library saved. Because depend on it, our DU thought he was heading for politicians to kill.

The problem is more like lawn, less like exotic tropicals. I strongly suspect that the more we understand DU behaviours in terms of unaddressed mental illness and addiction, the more we can get at the root of the problem & short-circuit escalating rage cycles or escalating public responses. Extreme views of any sort = unbalance. Balance is good – peaceful, harmonious, tolerant, diplomatic, capable of diversity; capable of, in my mother’s resolving phrase, “agreeing to disagree”. Balance means we’re fully willing to accept paradox. Paradox is a principle that resolves, not a problem to be solved, in the words of a dear Baha’i friend.  The most useful resolving paradox is this one: We can differ ideologically on nearly everything, and still find a way to get along if we’ll only choose to assign primacy to getting along. That includes figuring out as general citizens what it takes to get along with DU’s, and to help them get along with us. (I’m pretty sure this starts with an inclusive sense of humour, though it doesn’t end there.)

If you’re not Muslim, Muslims of Canada also deserve contemplation time in the sacred centre. (If you are one, you’re already there in the wake of Wednesday’s events) We owe you our solidarity, and our outrage on your behalf. DU acts are not what your Prophet taught. There is no holy path that looks like violence. This is so obvious it’s comical.  – In the Divine sense of comedy, a theme of mine.

Smalltown bigots bite as usual. The fact that yesterday in my hairdresser’s chair I had to overhear the woman beside me talk about her mythical They – “If they don’t like it here they should go back where they came from,” as if that were in any way relevant to Ottawa’s events, doesn’t prove anything’s changed. Business as usual. I’ve learned from experience that confronting bigots directly is largely pointless because they’re too stupid. It’s like wrestling eels. Well, okay, let me be kind – they’re not capable of the subtlety required to understand anything that scares them. Instead I was equally busy offering a distinctly contrasting view from my chair beside her. I trust equally audibly.

Accolades for our natural poetry. Hail to our decent, civil, modest, fallen & unfallen heroes. Hail to our politicians & journalists who have responded exactly appropriately. And hail to ourselves, because we know how to mourn, and we know what to celebrate. Surf to CBC News Videos & check out Justin Trudeau’s speech – Thomas Mulcair’s speech – Rex Murphy’s on-air editorials. Find the footage of tall, dignified, privately emotional Kevin Vickers (not a young man) entering Parliament the next day to a protracted standing ovation. Note the words he used to sum up the event when reporting to the Prime Minister immediately afterwards. “I engaged the suspect, and the suspect is deceased.” Is that sentence not a poem of reportage, reassurance, and humility?! We rock.

Looking in the mirror. Let’s  also not be shaken from the basic understanding that sooner or later we’ve all behaved in ways that mirror where the DU are living. By luck or by grace, we just didn’t get stuck there. Or did we? Only you know for sure. So  again: when things like this happen, pray for the DU. Pray white light to them, to their targets, & to the whole situation they’re unfolding, and pray it immediately. It can help. It may be the swiftest helpful response, and also the most powerful because potentially the biggest (God  -embodied exponentially by the number praying). Because the DU are us, writ large.  In fact we should probably watch all news in this spirit of awareness: that in some life, hopefully long past but maybe only the immediate past, we were just like that ourselves.

So onward, Canadians and lovers of Canadians. Compassion, balance, and insight are ours for the seizing, and always were.

Too bad Isis. Nobody smart is buying it. We know you aren’t true Muslims, no matter how hard you try or how mean you get. We also know even if you don’t, that attracting the mentally ill and addicted is not an accomplishment. The easiest most cowardly thing in the world is to influence the isolated & vulnerable into committing acts they would avoid if they’d been stable to begin with.

Well, never mind. Our inner DU’s will recover & grow. Wednesday’s marauder will recover and grow. In a next life, since that’s what it came down to.

Sanctity. And Corporal Cirillo? He’s a saint. It’s in this world, alas, that he’ll be so horribly missed.

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Isis Has Already Lost

for Isis Sept. 2014

Been listening to journalists talk about “Isis” lately. You know about Isis. If you don’t, it doesn’t warrant your time or attention and you can be more helpful to us all if you don’t go searching. Keep fast to your blessing: that of holding steady in the human abyss the candle of a certain paradoxical purity. You’re in a special minority, like Himalayan monks cloistered from the world not as rejection of the world, nor in willful ignorance of it, but in order to be able to pray for it more powerfully. So if you haven’t followed anything about Isis, say a prayer for aching humanity, and stop reading now.

For those of you who have heard, what you may have noticed & what’s fascinated me is that Western journalists who cover Isis and feel obliged to cover it – and they are obliged –  are also very busy wondering and discussing whether they are contributing to Isis’ “success” by doing so.

They’re giving Isis, the argument goes, exactly the publicity Isis is demanding and craves. So they the journalists are just the compulsively obliging patsies. Isis is using them. And Isis has now won in the publicity arena, because thanks to news coverage we’re now all talking about it, which means theirs is the most successful kind of PR campaign out there, hitting all available media: print, t.v., talk radio, magazine shows, and of course their main venue, the Internet. So, the worry continues, are we as journalists wrong? Is covering Isis at all, wrong? Or if not, what level of coverage is too much and what level of coverage is necessary? In fact are journalists maybe helping Isis even by agonizing publicly about the level of attention they give it?!?

A CBC radio panel assembled on the airwaves, discussing all this. It had me glued to their angst as I puttered in my kitchen. It had me pondering the ethical pros & cons, weighing and wondering about shades of grey in their dilemma…. standing in their shoes right alongside them, worried too.

Then it hit me: the resolution to this problem already lies in the questioning itself.

Isis, which trumpets their intention to create a totalitarian religious state won by terrorism and sociopathic [male] dominance, isn’t “successful” with their ugly PR foray. We’re not obliged to define PR success in such terms, terms Isis might like. I say we can legitimately declare them a failure. Proof of their failure lies in these same journalistic scruples so painfully expressed.

In asking and wondering and discussing; in our judicious conscience; in our courage to question at all,  our assumption that we must allow the questions and discuss them – out loud, in public, both collectively and as self-examining individual players – we already display something inherently triumphant that Isis will never understand: respect for the impulses and activities that civilize us.

By contrast, in the arena of ideas and discourse Isis is a resounding failure. Our first clue should have been their need for extremes of  ugly behaviour, but in case we missed that clue, our ongoing response to the ‘PR campaign’ only illustrates the resilient worthiness in our own alternate ways of being.

No totalitarian pseudo-religious authority decrees what we must think, believe, do, or say. This could simply mean anarchy, but in best practice it means we’ve learned to consider to what degree our humanity might be enhanced or compromised by the facts we choose to share using the freedom we own to share them. We’re the success. We have won and Isis has lost. And amazingly, any member of Isis can emerge from darkness by engaging in the same dialogue. On the physical level, the damage they’ve caused is agonizing & can’t be undone. That’s a separate battle. But in the realm of the spirit, they are promoting only their failure.

Just for a moment, buying too vigorously into notions of winning & losing, dominance & control, our journalists got sidetracked. We got immersed & forgot to notice that the reason we seek knowledge, the reason we value telling the truth responsibly, with diplomacy & appropriate respect, is that doing so makes our world work better. Not perfectly. But better than if we weren’t doing it.

Isis are the shock troops of a barbarian lunatic fringe. There are White Power clubs just as barbaric. Add many prisons, and abusive relationships. Corrupt action is everywhere, and reporting on it as we educate and inoculate ourselves is a glowing element in the most beautiful part of being consciously human – because that which can be questioned, is that which can redeem and heal.

Isis Sept. 2014

A Hundred Poems about Flowers – the first twenty-five

Encounter Stories

My new book’s out, in case you didn’t get a notice.

Jun 30 Child Photo

With the initial print run the number of complimentary copies an author is obliged to provide can become staggering. But all were happily given, and the remainder are selling well, especially through our classy & wonderful local florist Mostly Roses. In fact it’s now time for a second print run. I’m about to do another reading & signing event – Sat. July 19th at 4 p.m. in Brantford, Ontario, at Mostly Roses, if you can come. Reading flower poems in the ozonous fresh air of a flower shop is as good as reading gets, believe me.

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You might know that this book results from the first of four planned public exhibitions of art & poem text + poem audio. This one found life in January 2012 at the Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre with artists Cathy Groulx & Rita Milton.

Next 25 will happen spring 2015 in the gallery of the Masonville Branch of the London Public Library with artists Adriana Rinaldi & Gabby Tutak.

Some of the best experiences for me of publishing & selling a book are what I call the Encounter Stories. These are what happens after browsers pick up a book & start leafing through…and don’t just put it down again. The Mostly Roses folks know that I love Encounter Stories, so they kindly pass on what they witness. One concerns a mother & teenager, & the poem ‘Dandelion’.

Jun30 Dandelion

(‘Dandelion’, Cathy Groulx)

The bored teenager was in the florist with Mother, moody, scoping for something to do, when she opened the book at this poem. She burst out laughing and said something derisive – possibly she thought dandelions ridiculously out of place in a flower book let alone in a florist’s. But apparently from there a conversation ensued – in which the Mum also looked at the poem, then reminisced with the girl about childhood dandelion bouquets she’d picked and presented. The pair’s mood renovated. An altered teenager left the shop, mother and daughter more in sync.

My gratitude for this kind of return is big.

Another time a browser opened at the poem called ‘Pansies’. She read it through – and burst into tears. Not sad tears, I was told. Tears of what I would call Big Feeling.  Being Moved.

To be moved enough to write a poem is one kind of reward; that someone else might be moved is another reward entirely.

More recently a woman interested in the book got an extra jolt of happiness when she saw its accompanying audio CD. She could play it, she said, for her elderly parent who has gone blind.

Women often buy this book, if not only. They buy it as gifts for themselves, for their mothers, girlfriends, or daughters. Men, it appears, buy it for wives or partners, just as they buy floral bouquets. My own mother calls it a ‘mini coffee table book’, and tells me that’s how she reads it – one or two poems at a time, while enjoying the pictures. She keeps it ‘displayed’ in her kitchen.

Alone as artists, we undertake certain creative actions that seem necessary, even as they carry risk; we follow further practical, sometimes challenging, steps in order to carry through on the full original vision; we never know where it might land us.

I’ve learned that such wonderful small human stories always come in response to any attempt at fulfilling a vision. And maybe, as I’ve begun to feel, these stories are actually the bigger point – a collection of riches that, when it’s all over, we can take with us.

Jun 30 Bloom

(‘Whatever Bloom’ Rita Milton)

 

 

 

Send in the Clowns

I’m sad. The Canadian Mayors Clown Show seems to be hitting a lull.

Rob Ford

Rob Ford’s taken leave and gone to rehab. [So they say anyhow, though how rehab’s going no-one will really know till he’s been out for – oh, a week or two should do it.]

Pat Sobeski

Woodstock’s Pat Sobeski, who tried to give the new Art Gallery away to Fanshawe College after it had just been refurbished in a new location using cultural infrastructure grant money (he didn’t consult his citizens, he didn’t consult the gallery volunteers & patrons who’d put years + personal cash into the project, he didn’t tell the gallery curator, he didn’t consult the granting ministry, he didn’t consult Fanshawe, there’s some indication he didn’t even consult city council; he just told the press), has been slapped down by stampeding culture citizens and by the original government granters. He’s ceded the new gallery but has just sold Woodstock Hydro to Ontario’s Hydro One, the government company most under current attack by the Ontario Ombudsman for arguably the worst possible customer service (including mad unjustifiable billing practices) ever delivered – and nobody’s noticed. Not a single challenger raised the possible issue of Hydro One’s recently-exposed egregiously bad customer service record being invited onto the heads of Woodstock taxpayers.

Except moi . Here. Luckily I don’t live in Woodstock.

Sam Kutz

Winnipeg’s Sam Katz, who only chases women young enough to be publicity stunts, after funnelling untold dollars of civic taxpayers’ money to his own & relatives’ businesses + swinging deals with top-ranking city officials to increase personal profit down in Phoenix, is watching the past five years of Winnipeg City Hall Business Deals go through independent audit. Uh-oh.

Joe Fontana

And London’s Joe Fontana, after fiddling a bill to get the city to pay for his son’s wedding hall rental (& refusing to resign while charged with a criminal offence) is finally actually on trial. My London friend says that according to Insider Grapevine, this crime is a mere tip in the iceberg of Fontana’s questionable activities, but it’s all we’re gettin’ the scoop on. Sigh.

In my two-hour 10 p.m. phone discussions with cronies who follow this stuff, they grow irate and disgusted while I, though I sympathize & even approve of their disgust (It’s responsible! It’s ethical & civic-minded!), I favour hilarity.

How often in history have we been able to watch so many bona fide clowns coincide at the pinnacle of civic office?! Au contraire, I think of the moaning, time to wallow in glee!

Rob & Joe

Last Photo

It’s true I haven’t surged with so much humour over the daily news in decades. If ever. And this has been going red hot for – well, a few years now! What glut!

Life is long and modern politics are frustrating, boring or venial (or all three), but when the boring and venial become so exaggerated that they move into the higher atmospheres of human idiocy, surely it’s only wise to admit they partake of Comedy.

This is Divine Comedy. Stuff so bad you have to laugh. Stuff so bad you have to celebrate that for once, it isn’t you screwing up. Stuff so bad even the atheists deep down know somewhere there’s a God, because only God could meet these operators on their own turf and know exactly what to do with them so the rest of us can stay sane.

City of Toronto, don’t fret about being an international laughingstock. (You aren’t. Rob Ford is.) Demonstrators at Woodstock Town Square, don’t imagine you won the gallery back. (You didn’t. It was never going anywhere. Official juries would sooner throttle someone than allow a mockery to be made of their grant competitions. Just make the Ontario Ombudsman your friend!) Winnipeggers, don’t mill in the streets in embarrassment. Londoners, don’t shake your heads as if you should’ve known.

Misbehaving Mayors rock. They’re the Universe’s generosity, a show whose admission price is so steep you have to stop thinking the price of admission is actually the most important element in life’s drama. That crack you didn’t smoke; the bills you just went ahead and paid because you owed them; the habitual lies you don’t tell; the media buzz you wouldn’t think of sucking: bad mayors remind the rest of us how basically decent we are, and that’s a great thing.

So laugh at our elected officials trailing their corrupt backroom cronies. Watch them proving their gross unsuitability for the job, & giggle. It’s your right. You understand the pure form of their actual job description, and you elected them trustingly. You get to laugh at them now. Turns out, it’s what you’re paying them for.

There’s nothing like a high-rolling, lewd, stoned, power-mad, money-high, sneaky, uninformed, media-whore Canadian Mayor to remind us that in politics, clowns are reality.

Those of us not in politics can commend ourselves on a job well done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you