Monday, April 30, 2007

It's hard to sit still in awareness when there are so many pleasant thoughts to think

It's hard to sit still in awareness when there are so many pleasant thoughts to think, or fires that need putting out, or work that needs doing. But when the work is done, and the fires are out, there are still wonderful thoughts to ponder: new ideas, new personal projects, remembrances of past projects done well, or a word well said.

But there is value in setting aside even pleasant thoughts, and just be-ing in the moment, being aware of where you are at this very second. You notice the room you are in, and how old you are, and you remember times in this room when you were younger. Or you notice the weather outside, the sounds of the room, the temperature; you might recall times in the past when you've felt as you do now, or the complete opposite. It's funny how we spend 95% of our time in the near future or near past, and very little in the present.

Weekly Artistic Experience: Royal BC Museum

This week's artistic experience was another trip to the Royal BC Museum. I examined First Nations ceremonial spoons, dishes for oils, and shaman's rattles. I viewed suits and dresses from the first half of the 20th century, as well as gramaphones, tin toy cars, and cast-iron tricycles. And all this in two rooms. I will definitely need to come back.

Tree Rings

Sun, wind, solstice, tincture,
Excuse me, do you guys, yeah yeah yeah, that's alright,
Found art, found sound, symbiote, frond,
Sentience rippled in a pond.

Smoke-filled, sand-filled, bone-filled beak
Walkers on the seashore, on the sandstone, on the sidewalk,
Crèpe, crushed velvet, abyssinian jade,
Medicine rattling in the shade.

And to my right there sits
A woman with the scent of hyacinths
Tapping fingers, tapping fingers.

To my left, reflection and sunlight,
Raven and the Sea-Bear
Every new year a ring on the tree.

Jon's Poetry Podcast

Here I read ancient poetry from the New Penguin Book of English Verse:

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Weekly Artistic Experience: Our Town

I am en route to this week's artistic experience, which is the Pulitzer-winning play "Our Town", at Langham Court Theatre. I do not know how exactly to appreciate a play - so I will do my best by treating it critically as I would a poem: watching for analogy, identifying plot and theme, symbolism and the significance of lighting. Or perhaps this is too left-brained and it would be better to just soak it in and let it lead my emotions. Or maybe a bit of both.

* * *

The curtain has closed to a rousing ovation. In the final act, one of the characters, who died while giving birth, is given a chance to re-live one day. She chooses her twelfth birthday, but is agonized to find that her mother cannot hear her. Her mother and father are bustling about, but the family never takes a few moments to *be* with one another. Deeply upset, she leaves life early and returns to her grave.

Is this not strikingly similar to our own age? We spend morning til evening bustling about, yet rarely do we take even a few minutes to be present to one another, to enjoy each other's presence.

Wilder's aim with this play was "to find a value above all price for the smallest events of our daily lives." With the poignant final act, he succeeds beautifully.

Universe, metaverse, and innaverse

I have heard it said that there is a second universe, which Neil Stephenson has christened the "metaverse", being our online digital identities. But there is, I think, a third universe which I will call the innaverse - our private inner thoughts, our inner life, our imaginations. In the metaverse, you have your blog; in the innaverse, your private journal.

In fact there are 6 billion innaverses at present: 6 billion imaginations, 6 billion private thoughts, 6 billion consciousnesses. You are present in some of them; in most of them you do not exist. Some people long dead in the universe are currently alive in several innaverses, though only for a few seconds or minutes. People, ideas, and things are constantly appearing and disappearing from innaverses. Ideas do not exist in the physical universe; they exist only in the innaverse (and more recently, the metaverse).

Also, innaverses are disconnected. With a few controversial exceptions, the innaverse of one person is inaccesible to another. And as people are born and people die, their innaverses appear and disappear with them.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Me in Spiral Form

SnagIt Capture

Transforming insults and epithets into the qualities they attack

One of the exercises in Vein of Gold is to take "damning and daunting words" spoken to us in the past and transform them into hidden strengths.

Here are some such words spoken to me in the past, and the hidden strength underlying each.

"Go, Jon, go!" (sarcastically, during floor hockey)
=> showmanship

"I'm going to call the cops" (our neighbour, on seeing my brother and I make a fort in the bushes)
=> imagination

"Instead of spending all that money on books, ..."
=> knowledge

"If you want to listen to music, go to the Royal Theatre, not there."
=> open-mindedness

"Ghetto. Just buy a Kinesis. My work one, at least, was a deductible business expense."
=> resourcefulness

"your suggestions are confusing. don't attempt to sound clever - the Fowlers names are crystal clear, and your names are opaque."
=> clear naming and clear thinking

"Hmmm... Not only is it web-enabled, it's also fucking ugly. Congratulations, moron."
=> vision

"Next time, don't contact the client without going through me"
=> efficiency

"That's too much."
=> generosity

"Please change the lines back."
=> aesthetic sense

"You are reading a book on interacting but apparently not applying it, resenting any computer stuff you do for a sick friend."
=> self-knowledge

"I am puzzled how some visitors influenced you to act so weird."
=> effervescence

"Don't apply Physics to God..."
=> ability to transplant concepts

Monday, April 16, 2007

Jesus with dark reddish hair

At this evening's communion service, Sister Judi asked us to imagine ourselves in a place where we were beloved. I thought of my brother and myself as children, nestling in our parents' arms during the afternoon family nap.

Sister Judi then asked us to imagine Jesus to be present. In my imagination he had dark reddish hair and a dark reddish beard, and was floating up near the ceiling, looking at us.

But most important was his smile: a friendly, warm grin. He did not wear the stern expression of Michaelangelo's God, nor were his eyes strict or severe. This rather scruffy, shaggy Jesus looking at us was beaming and plainly friendly - like the picture of the "laughing Jesus". And probably a healthier image of Jesus than the cold, stern one that Hollywood gives us.

If this be truly what thou art,
I love thee, Lord, with all my heart.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Weekly Artistic Experience: The Queen

For this week's artistic experience, I watched the movie "The Queen" at the Roxy Cinema in Victoria. How fascinating it was to see the human and often humorous personality underlying that demeanour "quiet and dignified".

Notes on Video 1 from Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication

Notes on Video 1 from Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication:

* The two focuses of this kind of communication are: What's alive in you right now, and What would make life wonderful for you right now? Or more succinctly: feelings and needs

* All people ever say are Please and Thankyou: what would make life wonderful for them, and gratitude for it

* Self-empathy: observing our own feelings and needs, before continuing with the conversation. And "giraffe mourning": regretting past actions, but without criticism or judgement.

* Take your time, take your time: reorient yourself, rather than assume the default pre-programmed way of looking at things

Time runs runs runs

The clock. Must keep my eye on the clock. Time runs runs runs and I am so busy and I must do this errand and complete that task but

Meaning. Making meaning. Creating meaning. That would be a life well lived, a life not regretted. To see how my meaning intersected with the meaning of others and the meaning of all things, all places, all times. I could live with that.

Time is to be lived, and not to be anxiously clung to, nor wasted.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Three things I like to think about

Three things I like to think about:

* My brother opening the box containing the new laptop I ordered for him
* The four points of my mission statement
* The possibility of God actually being "nice" - a possibility offered in the book Good Goats by the Linns

Three aspects of the way I like to do things:

* proper
* proven
* impressive

Monday, April 09, 2007

This week's artistic experience: a visit to the school

I am heading to Vancouver for this week's artistic experience, which is a visit to my old school, the University of British Columbia, for the first time in 5 years. The 90-minute ferry ride is part of the experience: today the sky is a pale gray, the waters without color, and the islands obscured by a light mist. It is a typically drizzly day in British Columbia, and we pray for sunlight.

* * *

My journey begins at the Totem Park dormitory where I lived 10 years ago. Unfortunately I cannot enjoy a meal in the cafeteria because they do not take credit card or debit card. So I will need to press on with an empty stomach. I am reminded at least of the hunger pangs of my student days. The cafeteria retains its yellow and red banners of stripes and arrows.

At Ritsumeikan House, where I lived for a couple of years, some of the paving blocks have become dislodged. I see the old ping-pong table in the lounge. I'm reminded of after-school bible studies.

Much has changed. The Civil Engineering / Mechanical Engineering (CEME) building seems to have been replaced by a modern glass-and-steel structure. I will miss the old rusted iron of CEME.

Now walking along Main Mall - the oak-lined road I walked daily to my classes for five years.

And then I sense the smell of new construction - the smell of wood and cement, the exciting scent of iron cable and concrete, the familiar smell of a new springtime.

I tried to visit the beloved Main Library,"The Stacks", intending to pull from a musty shelf some aged tome. But alas, no aged tomes could be found - the crumbling Library was being demolished to make way for a new parking lot.

Finally I found one building with an unlocked door: the Buchanan building, of the Faculty of Arts. I now sit in one of the cramped desks, with a tiny foot-square surface on which to write. The stepped lecture theatre is edged with cross-hatched steel.

My last stop: St. Mark's Chapel, where began my return to Catholicism. But when I arrived, I could not find it. Two new apartment buildings occupied its place. Saddened, I walked past them and discovered rows of new duplexes, and condominiums. I peered into half-finished garages and imagined the happiness of their wealthy future occupants and their children. But alas, poor St. Mark's - your newly built chapel was short lived, your fledgling and aging staff unable to withstand the bureaucracy. But I was mistaken.

I was mistaken, for as I turned the corner of the last duplex, as I filed past the brand new Lincoln parked in front of it, I saw amid the construction debris the beloved sign "ST. MARK'S COLLEGE", and below it, in construction orange, "DO NOT DAMAGE SIGN". St. Mark's had been preserved; on the northeast corner of the campus, it still stood. I opened the large doors of the chapel, entered, and sat. It is here that I type this message, and here I end.

A question that has been troubling me: How should we relate to God?

Easter Sunday
Holy Rosary Cathedral
Vancouver, British Columbia

A question that has been troubling me: How should we relate to God? How should we view God? As a sheep to its shepherd? As a chick to its mother hen? As the prodigal to the compassionate father?

Or as a subject to a member of royalty? A handmaiden to her mistress? A slave to the owner? A worshipper to a deity?

What is the proper posture or stance before God? Do we address God as friend to friend, or as servant to master? As athlete to judge? As one accused to one's lawyer (or to the judge)? As an unproductive tree to its hopeful gardener (or to its frustrated landowner)? As a grafted branch to the main vine? As a trembling mortal before one who punishes? As a scattered seedling to its sower?

God has been represented by these various metaphors. I suppose they must be taken together to get the complete picture. Based on these images, it is clear that God is not one's buddy. God is one's superior, and can be angry, sad, and compassionate: angry about the pain we cause, grieved about the pain we suffer, joyful when we remember God, compassionate when we feel remorse.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

I am sitting in pew 3 on the far left of St. Andrew's Cathedral in Victoria, British Columbia. My mother is on my left, reading a missalette. I'm fully armed with geekery - PDA in my wallet, moleskine and Uniball Vision in my left secret pocket, a book in my right, Canon camera affixed to my belt, and a Swiss Army knife. The Good Friday mass begins in 10 minutes.

I'm a bit hungry, having skipped breakfast. I read somewhere that a reliable way to know the level of cleanliness of a restaurant is to assess the state of the washrooms.

The entire church is now approaching a large cross in single file; each person kisses the cross or touches it and kneels.

* * *

I must confess that my brain hasn't yet synchronized with the significance of this day. It is more than a commemoration of the death of one individual. People die each day; people undergo torture each day, in various parts of the world. I suppose the significant difference is *who* was tortured, who was killed. Yes, that's it - brain resynchronized.

I suppose it would be analogous to me visiting the place where the neighbourhood cat eats and sleeps, sitting in the bushes beside it, sleeping on the same mound of soil on which it sleeps, under starlight and heavy rains, without change of cloak or the amenities of a bath, sharing in its meals of bloodied rodents and puddle water,and finally expiring in the open air. For one to come down to such a base state shows extreme dedication to the creature.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I need more time outside

I think I need more time outside, even just a little. Recess, like we had in school.Walking outside this afternoon, I am definitely reminded of schooldays. It must be the images, sounds, and scents of spring.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Palm Sunday

Homily of Bishop Richard Gagnon
St. Andrew's Cathedral
Palm Sunday, 11:39am
Victoria, British Columbia

"taking the form of a slave"
crucifixion theme: obedience
ob audire = to listen
obedience to God's will, even without full understanding

His Grace walks around the altar, incensing it

I visualized this, and here's what I saw.

This morning's exercise in "The Cup of Our Life" was to "Open the door of your heart. Go inside and be with God." I visualized this, and here's what I saw: My heart is like an old wooden house, painted red of course, and it has a door. It's a 30-year old dwelling - ivy vines are strewn about its walls. When I pull open its door (with some force), it's dark inside. It's a small room actually, with a simple wooden bench and a pleasant musty smell. All there is to do is to sit, leaving the door open of course to let some light in. You simply sit, and contemplate, and ponder; then you stand up, close the door behind you, and be on your way.

I took a taxi downtown in a frantic rush

I took a taxi downtown in a frantic rush, hoping to make the 8pm start time of a concert by Ora Cogan. But when I arrive, the bartender informs me that it begins two hours later. Rats! And only recently was I lamenting how little time there was in a day - alas, here I am, several dollars and two hours short. And I have not even read my feeds for the day. Panic sets in.

Or not. Perhaps I shall use these two hours to read my "Letters of E.B. White" conveniently stowed in my knapsack. Or wander about Cook Street, a part of town I rarely visit.

* * *

OK, I'm now in the performance area of Logan's Pub, a welcome change from the biting cold Canadian air outside. On the stage is an acoustic guitar, a small orange speaker at which is pointed a microphone, and a viola case containing its instrument. The room is dark, and I can't make out my E.B. White without straining my eyes, though I suppose I could use my PDA for illumination. Pulsating accelerating music emanates from the multitudinous amplifiers around the room. There are conversations to the left of me, conversations behind me, conversations far away.

The stage is decorated with rainbow Christmas lights and a backdrop of black cloth.Flashes of light to the left of me - laughing women are taking photographs.

There are four main spotlights. Two microphones, one a quarter-foot above the other, stand at the edge of the stage.

* * *

It was either this concert or the symphony - I thought this would be more fun (though the Rite of Spring would have been an experience).

* * *

It is late for me (10pm) and the concert promises to be long. I steel myself for the experience. I will ned to stand up periodically.

* * *

Opening act. En francais. Blue guitar. Drone. Pentatonic vocals. Capo. New strings. Percussive taps - ripple / fingertips; close to the bridge; syncopation; Joan Baez; suspended chords; back of the voice; scoops; evocative, provocative lyrics, spelled;.

Song "for people from the west coast" - partly en francais - rapid - alternating bass/treble strings; banjolike - staying on a dissonant note; artificial echo; "I am a sea anemone I am a sea anemone" - fade and down.

Syncopation; open tuning? Syncophony; unison; chorale; high frets; pulsating - using the natural pitches of the three bass strings. Folk; blues. Ends with "It's sharp and it's beautiful; it's sharp and it's broken too." Major notes on a minor chord.

* * *

Anni Rossi and Ron Hunt. A buffoonish piece. Rossi has a virtuostic, smooth voice with a drawl - jumping from melody to harmony. Refrain "Stand by your man."

Rossi is into experimental music and pop; I think she's playing with the comedic genre. The guitar background she plays is with the pick at the centre of the guitar, with buffoonic bending.

Anni picks up her viola. She speaks hesitatingly and quietly, but sings forcibly. She plucks chords on her viola - double-stops. Floor must be amplified - her stomping is quite sharp. Music stops abruptly, as is her signature.

Back of the violin comes loose - she asks for "tape".

Violent bowing (and singing at the same time), overpressure; harmonics; underpressure; hitting viola with bow; pizzicato; random interruptions of amplified scratching; random punctuating shrieks and shrills.

Guitar position, arpeggiated, quoting "round here" but with the melody bent out of shape; hitting strings with wood of bow; strumming in both directions; Lisa-Loeb-like stream-of-consciousness; interesting rotary bow motion - organ-grinder-like harmonics bowing at front and back of fretboard.

Syncopated jambalaya piece - some interesting double-handed percussion in the standard violist position. Occasional catty shrills.

A cough.

Bass and chord, bending up. A percussively spoken "interstate". Bridge: plucked arpeggios (5/4?). Legato. Speaksinging (vocalizations).


Long, drawn-out strokes, harmonics. Pace picks up a bit. Heavily plucked march. "In an anticipation".

Ends with her trademark song, "To be a beekeeper in the Himalayas". With stomping!

Ora Cogan takes the stage. A melancholy song, "Where's my lover now." Open chords, bit of a gypsy scale / pentatonic.

7th chords and unusual melodic wending - avoiding the diatonicity. C F Bb. Quaver in the voice.

Daisy - 7ths, 9ths, 11ths, trills, lilts, and some neat exotic chords.

Another signature song. "Nobody's going to steel the stars from your sky." A laid back disposition. Two-string drone with dissonant walking bass.

Duet with Cogan and Rossi. Rossi adds some harmonies. It's an ambient piece with

New song now, mandolin-like - from high-fretted notes. Rossi plucks the viola like a bass - draws out drones. Syncopation, and a riff.

Final song. Ora on the violin; Anni on vocals. Gypsy melody, with a bit of a Frankensteinish turn to it. It's her "Motherless Child" song, backed by her galloping pizzicato.

Encore. 12-bar.