What to bring to a zombie apocalypse? Stories

“. . . the shortest distance between a human being and truth is a story.'” —Anthony De Mello

Perhaps there’s a simple explanation for our society’s current fascination with zombies: We are living with them right now. Something to think about anyway, according to the moderator of the United Church of Canada, Rt. Rev. Jordan Cantwell.

At our Easter service on Sunday, the minister at my church brought to our attention a podcast interview with our moderator. During an Illuminate Faith interview, Cantwell was asked by a participant at a youth forum what she would bring to a zombie apocalypse.

I can’t imagine she could have been prepared for a question like that, so I give her kudos for providing the best spontaneous answer to an unexpected question I think I’ve ever heard.

“I think we’re in a zombie apocalypse,” she said. 

She described zombies as beings who appear alive but who are kind of dead. The “walking dead” can be . . “anything that sucks the hope and the life out of us . . .”

Cantwell suggests we can find walking deadness in ourselves and on the streets.

I’ve seen it in myself. Have you? I can think of a few people who live almost exclusively in walking deadness. Can you?

The zombies that surround us “drag us into the illusion that life is miserable, that the world is falling apart . . .” and they “suck others into their living deadness.”

And what does Cantwell bring to the apocalypse? Stories.

Zombies, she says, “believe in the power of death as stronger than the power of life and of love,” and stories refute that belief. Stories of compassion and faith feed energy and life back into ourselves and our streets.

Cantwell made her observations in the context of our Christian Easter—a story that involves missing corpses and life after death—but I think they apply to all people in all places at all times. Stories of compassion and faith don’t eliminate the reality of death for all people in all places at all times, but they do feed energy and life back into those people. 

“. . . even when death does its worst, God’s got another chapter.” —Rt. Rev. Jordan Cantwell


Listen to the full Illuminate Faith podcast here: http://illumin8faith.com/files/archive-april-2017.html

The music of the universe

Have you ever noticed that when a sports team celebrates a spectacular play or a big win they gather in a group and jump up and down in a rhythm that matches that of every other sports team celebrating a spectacular play or big win, no matter where or when it happens in the world?

Baseball players jumping around the walk-off home run hitter, soccer teams jumping around the penalty shot goal kicker, football linebackers jumping around the winning touchdown receiver—they all jump up and down in the same rhythm.

It’s the Big Win Beat.

April is National Poetry Month so my mind turned to rhythms, and  thinking about rhythm led me to ponder baseball/soccer/football team jumpers, and sports teams made me ponder the music of the universe.

Anna Maria Island beach

The rhythmic sound of ocean waves

Rhythmic vibrations, like chirping crickets, cars travelling on a gravel road, cicadas piping in, cardinals calling to each other, car doors slamming, winds howling . . .

Discordant sounds we want to write out of our daily life symphony—a Sea-Doo on a quiet lake, a frantic child’s cry, bombs . . .

Do we all subconsciously live by this rhythm? Do we all adjust our actions to it? Are we picking up music from the atmosphere like the child in August Rush?

Is that what leads us to poetry?

I don’t know the answer, I’m musing so you can muse along with me—rhythmically, not discordantly.


April 27 is Poem in Your Pocket Day. People are encouraged to pick a poem, carry it with them through the day and share it with others.

Find out more here: http://poets.ca/pocketpoem/


My poem will be one written by my much-missed friend Bruce Henderson, who had to learn how important it is to receive gifts from other graciously.

GRACE OF THE GOOD GIVEE

Bring me your gifts,
I will be strong,
strong enough to take them.
Yes, I have room for your gifts,
in my hands, in my home, in my heart,
I welcome you in—to my infinite yin.
There is a time to give
and a time to get,
and every Giver needs a Good Givee.
I am ready to accept,
to receive your loving kindness;
the warm message of your gifts.
In joy we will celebrate
the power of your act.
When you reach out
I will not try to run away.
Come spirit,
grant me the grace of the Good Givee.

©Bruce Henderson 2010

 

Fail: Reclaiming the word

My son applied for a job. He participated in a comprehensive testing and interviewing process and waited for the response. “Successful applicants will hear by Friday,” the organizers told him.

He came home that Friday to join us for a family event. The day came and went with no word. I would say “crickets,” but we’re in Ottawa, Canada, so no crickets in this cold. Let’s say that Friday passed with no sound but the lone call of a blue jay in the hinterland. He didn’t get the job.

“Oh well,” I said to him when all four of us gathered together for dinner. “Failure has its own lessons.”

Stunned silence followed my words. My husband, my daughter and my son stared at me as if I had declared my son—personally and overall—a failure. (No, no, no.)

After a couple of beats, my son said, “I might have put it a different way . . .”

I tried again. “You gave it your best shot and it didn’t work out. You learned from the experience and you’ll be better prepared for the next opportunity,” I said.

Mollified, all three nodded their heads. That was better. I didn’t use the word.

“Fail,” like “dead,” has become a word we’re not supposed to say. People don’t fail anymore; things don’t work out, or weren’t meant to be, or circumstances weren’t right. People don’t die anymore; they pass away, cross over, or go to a better place.

In this time of participation ribbons, and sports played without scorekeeping, and “leaving” ceremonies instead of graduations, perhaps there’s some value in reclaiming failure. Instead of protecting people from ever having a hurt feeling, we teach them how to deal with the hurt, how to build from it and not hide from it.

Maybe we can celebrate each failure as a worthy attempt. “You stood in there, faced your fear, tried something and failed! Good for you!”

“Failure made me look forward to the next game. If I had a bad game, I couldn’t wait for the next day, when I could brush off the failure and try to do better.” —Gary Carter in Still a Kid at Heart: My Life in Baseball and Beyond

My son plays baseball, so overall I’m not worried about his ability to deal with failure. An exceptional baseball hitter fails two-thirds of the time at the plate, and pitchers fail over and over when their fastballs end up on the home run side of the outfield fence. Playing the sport he loves, my son has learned how to brush himself off and carry on with the game after one type of failure or another.

But he still doesn’t like the word.  

Here’s J.K. Rowling on The Fringe Benefits of Failure.

 

 

 

My mother and your mother . . . Who’s It?

I woke up this morning with a childhood rhyme running through my head.

We used it to determine who was “It” in games of tag, or blind man’s bluff, or kick the can, or whatever. We all stood in a circle with one “duke” extended. Someone said the rhyme and pounded a different fist in the circle on each word.

My mother and your mother were hanging out the clothes.
My mother punched your mother in the nose.
What colour was the blood?

Whoever owned the duke that coincided with the word “blood” yelled out a colour.

“Orange!”

The person then carried on hitting fists in the circle on each letter of the colour word.

O-R-A-N-G-E.

Wherever the word ended, that person was It.

I spent some time puzzling over why—heavens why—this rhyme popped into my brain. I hadn’t thought about it in at least four decades. I moved on to analyzing the words. How gruesome! I then pondered who came up with this violent ditty first. What kind of society normalized hand-to-hand combat amongst mothers?

I made me realize the responsibility we have for today’s children.

As children we carved out gun-shaped pieces of wood and played Cowboys and Indians. Guess who always won? Now I cringe about the violence AND racism.

Speaking of racism, another popular It-picking rhyme we used as children started with the words “Eeeny meeny.” Remember that? Would we ever think of using the version we did in the 1960s and 1970s now? You couldn’t pay me to.

But my friends and I played those games, and then went home to mothers who didn’t come to fisticuffs with the neighbours. We recited those rhymes in the playgrounds of schools that taught us about other history and other cultures. Because of the stability and the education, we were able to grow into adults with an expanded world view.

Our responsibility for today’s children is to provide the stability and ensure the education for all, so that violence and racism affect the fewest members of our future generation.

We’re It!

I know they’re millennials and I’m old, but . . . I need depth of moment

Skaters arrived in my city and hurled themselves down a steep, curving ice track at speeds of more than 50 km/h.

crashed ice starting gate

Crashed Ice starting gate with the Chateau Laurier in the background

The ice cross downhill athletes performed the feat on a track constructed in a breathtaking setting beside the historic Chateau Laurier and inside the Rideau Canal lock system. Who knows if anything like it will ever happen again in Ottawa?

Red Bull® Crashed Ice was an event not to be missed.

Off we went on Friday night. The sky lit up for miles around with the flashing light show. The bridge on which we stood over the Rideau Canal vibrated with the thumpa-thumpa of the non-stop pumping music. We craned our necks to see over the huge crowds and tried to figure out what was going on. We needed to deduce the action for ourselves because the young announcers for the event failed to live up to the basic requirements of their job description; that is, letting the spectators know what is happening. Information arrived to us in spotty patches. Skaters flew out of the starting gate with no warning. We didn’t know who most of the skaters were, where they were from or even what event they were skating in. I’d guess that five of eight skaters had backflipped down the track before the announcer informed us it was the semi-finals of the freestyle event. The commentary consisted mainly of “Whoa! Wow man.”

The Bytown Museum lit up with Crashed Ice lights

The Bytown Museum lit up with Crashed Ice lights

In the end, I didn’t marvel as long as one might expect over the daring of skaters who, by choice, (no one shoved them from behind off the starting block or anything) leaped off a precipitous ledge into a steep, icy hairpin turn. I didn’t gape at their breakneck (literally) speed.

Instead I mused about how we as a human race seem to be losing depth of moment

No need to know or remember the names, the inconsistent commentary seemed to suggest: You can Google everything later. Were you looking down at your Twitter feed when a skater whizzed by? No worries. It’ll probably be on YouTube.

Before the Internet, before search engines and social media, the announcers of such an event would have felt the weight of their responsibilities. They would have known that they were the sole, fleeting source of information about the happenings unfolding in the moment. They would have felt some urgency to get the 5 Ws and the How to the spectators at the time. Our younger don’t feel the same pressures.

We are drifting away from “living in the moment” toward “living in the moment we look up later.” 

I know they’re millennials and I’m old, but I like to live fully in the now with all the information I need for that moment.

I won’t need to look anything up later. I’ll be too busy enjoying the next fantastic deep moment. 

The Crashed Ice track under construction in the Rideau Canal lock system, with the Chateau Laurier in the background

The Crashed Ice track under construction in the Rideau Canal lock system, with the Chateau Laurier in the background

 

 

 

 

Crossing lines

Adults yammered on and on around a little boy about 3 years old. He grew bored. Squirmed. Squiggled. Stretched out on the floor.

mazeTo entertain him, I handed him a sheet of paper with a maze printed on it. Happy to have any distraction he sat up and began to trace the path as if meditating with a finger labyrinth. The boy’s finger made its way over the printed paths with delightful disregard for lines that might be in the way. After blowing through any number of twists and turns that might have blocked progress, his finger reached the end. The boy raised his arms in victory.

“I did it!” he proclaimed.

“Yes, you did,” I affirmed.

Who was I to dampen his enthusiasm? Why tell him that crossing lines isn’t always that easy? Why burden a child with the idea that some lines are best left uncrossed and sometimes it’s hard to figure out which ones.

Better to let him savour his accomplishment. Better to send him out into the world ready to obliterate barriers blocking his path. Better to equip him to cross the many lines there are that need to be erased. Better to encourage than discourage.

He’ll figure it out.

And the adults yammered on.

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