Thursday, April 30, 2015

Gonna Change Again and Again

I listen to 'Gonna Change My Way of Thinking' a lot. 

It's a diamond set on the dusty road through Bob Dylan's conversion to Christianity. 

It's a repudiation of the power games, cravenness, violence, persecution, hypocrisy, alienation, self-hatred, and apathy that we meet in this world.

The original version, from 1979's landmark record 'Slow Train Coming', is written and sung by a person who's found the courage to say: the game is rigged: things are not right. 

He revisited the song again in 2003 - as a sketch and duet with gospel legend Mavis Staples. The lyrics are almost completely rewritten as a personal, pastoral shouting blues, backed by a crack band laying out without reservation. 

There's spine-tingling determination in every note: I'm breaking the trance, not gonna be hypnotized anymore. Not by the world outside (1979), and not by my own mind and heart (2003).

Gonna change my way of thinking. Make myself a different set of rules. 

Gonna put my good foot forward,
Stop being influenced by fools.

Many ridiculed him during this 'Christian period'. But whether or not you believe (I happen to), his fearlessness is bracing. 

Anyway, it's hardly an emotion exclusive to Christian belief - or to belief at all: across the denominations, and outside of them, there is wisdom meant to wake us up to what's really happening, in our lives and in the world.

For me the song is a challenge to my smugness in the high times, and a sign of hope when I'm foundering in the shadows. 

It expresses the constant newness available to us if we're willing to believe in - and act for - peace, justice, love, possibility, non-judgment, generosity, reverence for life, and a love of the natural world in which we live. 

Constant, radical renewal.  Gonna change my way of thinking. 

You can do it as many times as you want. Every time you press play. 

Every time you realize you've forgotten. 

Every time something sneaks up on you, falls on you, drops out from under you. 

And every time is the perfect time to do it. Changing it all again today.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Through all this

I thought they had all gone, been consigned to memory, or better, gone away, totally gone, no trace, something you can just let go of, something that sublimates, no need to cling, no need to express, but here they all are, back again, the boat, the blocks, the bottle, the cross, the desire, the pipe, the terrible imagining, the one-liner, the wedding, the wheelchair, the brimming over, the joy, the ease, the anger, the shortness of breath, the garbage, the dirt, the hair, the smell, the cold, the grasping, the gasping, the distance, the deadness, the chasm, the chrism, the shame, the salt, the rain, the road, the field, the past, the pot, the night, the gas, the fish, the bowl, the birds, the cage, paralysis, secrecy, pain, rage, hail, thunder, lightning, morning, missing, disconnection, unity, love, innocence, memory, ragged memory, and the feeling, never really gone away, that I'm going to have to write my way through this.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Holiday's end

When we're together, we may bark, or snip, or growl, but from our little hearth, arm in arm, we meet it all, small dispute or great disaster, the joy that brings tears, and the tears that try to drown the joy. 

And before long we must pick up and go out into our various worlds, which we forget are all one. 

It's easy to feel forlorn, bereft, separated as we may seem to be from our various members, but truly we are no further apart than a planet and its moons, or a river and its source, or a melody and its harmony and its rhythm are. 

And when we come back to each other, we are grateful, so very grateful, that we're reminded of why we yearn for time off together in the first place. Everything begins again.


Friday, November 8, 2013

A Tangent

I read an article a while back & got the impression that the Environment Minister isn't comfortable uttering the words 'climate change'. 

Which is strange, because she's from the Arctic. I wonder if it's because the government is not keen on certain kinds of science.

My pal Finley does well working on the oil pipes in Alberta. He welds. The western cities are booming. I hear stories of towns awash in lonesome men with cash. He does it for his family.

I turn on my car and drive to buy things.
I go by Finley's house and wonder 'will he come back before winter?' That makes me think of Four Strong Winds.

When I listen to it, I can hear the bleakness. It gives me shivers. The tear ducts burn. It's like seeing the world from the air. Finley working on the pipes a wayyyy over there. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Train Engine Bell

The train engine bell
In its urgent, mechanized march
Could raise a panic in me
At one time

It was a summoning of worry
An invocation of concern
A reminder that the beginning of the end was at hand
A clang - clang - clang and you're mine all mine, hand it over, hand it over, I need your heart just to fool 'em again.
A classic submission move
A cadence just quick enough to awaken chemical defenses.

But something seems to have changed
Could it be my way of thinking?
I can pick one CLANG and let it ring
Or speed up the march of the clapper until the bell becomes a great singing bowl, truly singing, ringing true, reverberating, living in the heart, carrying me all at once away and then back to you.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why I Run, pt. 3

Part of the thing with running along the downtown waterfront in T.O. is that you have to negotiate crazybusy traffic arteries and their colossal sentinels, the condo towers, in order to get there. And back.

Near the stadium, on a street called Navy Wharf, (which is NOT a wharf at all) there are a few such condo colossi. 

One in particular is haunted. Not by ghosts, but by memory. 

I remember when Matthew and Adam lived there. My brothers. On the zillionth floor. Not living there because they were jet-setting, BMW-driving, young upwardly mobile downtowners with limited interest in community. 

They probably would have preferred to live perched atop a steep hillside overlooking Davenport Rd., and the rest of the city, as they had before Matthew was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease. 

ALS gradually robs you of your physical abilities, while your mind remains lucid. It's a terminal illness for which there is no cure, and limited treatment.

As the condition took hold, Matthew needed flat terrain in order to get in and out of the house. First with his cane, then his walker...and then his wheelchair. This highrise condo rental met that need. Plus it was next door to the Dome, within striking distance of a Jays game. Adam decided to move there with Matthew. 

We were all innocents on the journey, devastated by what was happening to Matthew, but firm in our belief that we could do something. Although he may not have been sure he had a choice, Adam's decision was made, I think, out of deep love, and a profound feeling that he was to be his brother's keeper - a duty, and an honour, that lives in the blood.  

I would visit Matthew one night a week, and we would have sushi. We would talk about a lot of things. Sort things out. Get sad about things. Get defiant. He would show me his artwork. We would watch baseball. I would sleep over there, and walk to work in the early morning.  He kicked me out once for asking a couple of pretty serious questions and demanding an answer.

This was hard. This was a time of losing things, slowly, relentlessly. Matthew was losing things, none of us could imagine what it was like to be him. I felt lost - but even then I didn't know how far adrift I was. I can't speak for anyone else. I've learned the very best thing is to listen.

It's been a few years since they lived at Navy Wharf. Matthew is in his own place, in a real community, and he's in uncharted territory, which might be familiar to him by now. He's now lived longer than the vast majority of people who encounter ALS. Even though he needs assistance to do every single thing, he is very mindful of the concept of independence.

As close as the three of us Foley brothers are, there is a blurry spot deep inside that apartment that I will never resolve. A smudge. I wasn't there. It was Matthew and Adam, both intimately engaged in the struggle. I feel it, in the silence, when I remember. But I can't ever know it. 

See, I jog along Navy Wharf, and things like this come up, but in ONE SECOND, like THAT. Much, much shorter than the time it takes to write or read something like this. 

In another second, I remember Rose, the security guard, who really gave a damn about Matthew, and Adam, and my Mom and Dad, and my family. Sometimes it seemed she was the only one, in that great hulking concrete filing cabinet full of lives and lifestyles. I can see her now, salt and pepper perm behind that slab of a desk, in the lobby, on the ground. 


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why I Run pt. 2

I had done an early morning run on the waterfront again. And this time I decided to jog by the Dome. Not around it, but RIGHT BY it, between it and the CN Tower, where I would have to climb a whole bunch of concrete steps. Even though it was the end of my run, and even though I've only just started jogging, so I'm not exactly EnduroMan, I took those damn stairs, two at a time, with a little shuffle-step on the landings all the way.  JUST GAVE'R, y'know? 

By the time I got to the top, my legs were super heavy and I was hoping my heart was still made of strong stuff. But I had done it! 

So I walked along the John St. footbridge over all the railway tracks, tripping on some serious endorphin-induced euphoria. 

About 15-20 young folks were walking toward me along that wide bridge, probably late teens. The girls almost all wearing yoga pants with the legs missing, and tank tops of varying degrees of structural integrity. The boys almost all wore super-brand-new ballcaps.

Two boys were crossing over, moving toward the railing on my side, so I moved toward the middle. Then they split and headed right for me. They were so young you couldn't stick a burr to their faces for lack of stubble. But they knew how to intimidate me. They drew close and one guy said to me 'you got somethin'?

Dammit, these were boys! 

I was out of breath, and just kept moving my lead-weight legs. I shook my head, and mouthed the word 'no' with a smirk that I hoped would hide that I was actually afraid. 

And that was it. They were on to something else, like a couple of cichlids.

I did those stairs like Rocky Balboa, but I was still afraid. But that's OK, because Rocky was afraid too. Right? Right?