Archive for October, 2008

Keep From Crying I Started To Sing

October 25, 2008
ns river

Out Of A Sense Of Loss One Suffers, But Love Survives

In The Woods Of Cape Breton Alone

July 24, ‘82

I expected to find Mike back at the beach, but he was still a no show. Only when I was cleaning my bike at a gas station did I finally run into him. He had left his billfold in a phone booth and had to backtrack to find it. He lost a whole day in the process. After he told me his story, and after both of us had taken showers and had eaten a dinner of tuna fish sandwiches, we were still no closer to figuring out our future plans. Mike had refigured his time and had come up with a couple of extra days. He wanted to bicycle the entire Cabet Trail. That sounded like a good idea to me except for the fact that my time was running out also. I still had to bicycle back to Michigan (not to mention that our sunny days had given way to clouds and rain). I decided to head south instead. Mike would board a train and head back to Michigan, but first he would continue to bike around the Cape. We parted on good terms. Our goodbyes were short, though. If I had my way, goodbyes were always short.

We separated under normal circumstances. However, the effect of that separation was anything but normal. Yesterday, after we had parted, I felt very melancholy. The abruptness of leaving Mike bothered me, and coupled with the thought that my father would not greet me upon my return home depressed me severely. He had died last year. My defense mechanism kicked in, though. To keep from crying I started to sing. I sang morning, afternoon, and on into the evening—until my voice gave out. That kind of emotional intensity brought with it a very high level of sensitivity. The scenery became animated. In Cape Breton the scenery was beautiful anyway, but with my heightened sensitivity, it jumped out at me. Even though I had bicycled through the same area only three or four days ago, and the sun was shining to boot, I was now experiencing the mountains, inlets, bays, creeks, streams, and rivers in a totally different way. Everything was absolutely gorgeous. I was still depressed, tired, and wet, but somehow that whole experience had become sublime!

I’m alone now, in the woods, listening to the pitter-patter of rain on my tent, with an ache in my stomach that won’t go away. Mike and I are physically, as well as mentally apart, and I am sad because of it. This feeling of emptiness is not strange. “Breaking up is hard to do,” isn’t that what the song says? Am I really breaking up with Mike? Am I in love with him? Was I in love with him all along? Is this why I can’t sleep? Love is not a dirty word, is it? I love Mike. There, I’ve said it. It’s in writing; I can see it. I feel better. Don’t ask me why. I just do. The pain of separation is less now. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know. The distance remains; I can’t change that, but boundaries do not contain love. Mike is a beautiful person. Maybe less beautiful then he used to be (I am to), but love isn’t that fickle. Out of a sense of loss, one suffers, but love survives. It’s ubiquitous. As the breath of the universe, love penetrates all. Wounded lovers look to the healing powers of time, but love, unconditional love for sure, renders time meaningless. The divine becomes Divine through love; and I am its witness. Sweet dreams, Mike. We’ll be together again. I’m sure of it. Goodbye—and thanks!

July 26

Yesterday, when I arrived back in Antigonish, I found a note attached to the bulletin board. Bill was known for his planning abilities, so I wasn’t surprised to find a note informing me that he would be in on the 1pm train. I was looking forward to seeing him. I was also, however, a little uncertain about biking all the way back to Michigan with him. Time would tell on that one.

After borrowing a map, I figured my route and I will have to average 72 miles a day for the next 25 days in order to get back to Michigan on schedule. Probably that is an unrealistic figure, but it is certainly something to strive for. And, that bit of information will help me impress upon Bill that I am not into unnecessary delays.

I’m presently sitting in the Antigonish youth hostel. I just had a nice chat with two young ladies from France who are backpacking Canada. Last night I took in a movie—The Road Warrior. That was fun, and now I feel rested and clean, and am ready to meet Bill. I’m kind of excited.

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Pedaling Up The Mountain Called Old Smoke-360 Meter Rise In 2.2 Kilometers

October 18, 2008

Pedaling Up The Mountain Called Old Smoke-360 Meter Rise In 2.2 Kilometers
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For The Rest Of The Evening, It Will Just Be Me And My Book-The Frosting On The Cake

For The Rest Of The Evening, It Will Just Be Me And My Book-The Frosting On The Cake

Mary Ann Falls

Nova Scotia

July 21, ‘82

The coffee is great, but the weather is not. It looks just like I remember Nova Scotia—cloudy, foggy, windy, wet, and generally miserable, but all this has little effect on me right now because I’m watching it from inside this coffee shop. It’s not raining, which means that when I finish writing and get back on my bicycle, I’ll be okay, at least for a little while anyway. I’m on my way to a scenic spot—Marry Ann Falls. It’s a side trip for sure, uphill, and at least ten miles of gravel road, but that’s the name of the game if beauty is what you’re after.

Yesterday, I waited for Mike until 9 am. Beddeck was the adopted home of Alexander Graham Bell, so I decided to tour the museum that was created just for him. I learned a lot about Bell, but I needed at least another hour to take in all the exhibits. I cut my visit short to look for Mike. When I found him he said he had been looking for me since 8 am. I let that statement slide and we set up a plan for the day, which basically consisted of getting to Ingonish, a national park at the northern tip of Cape Breton—our destination. It was after 11 am when I finally said goodbye to Mike who was still puttering with something. We agreed to meet further up the highway—a highway, I might add, that was punctuated by large mountains. In fact, that ruggedness was what influenced my decision not to bike the island when I was here four years ago.

Pedaling up the mountain called Old Smoke, a 360-meter rise in 2.2 kilometers, I was forced to dismount and push my bike to the top. In my younger days that challenge alone would have kept me on my bicycle, but now I just wanted to get to the top. The beautiful Cape Breton scenery made it all worthwhile though. The people were pretty nice too. I was almost to the top, sweating and panting, when this car passed me. The car pulls over to the side of the road and this French guy gets out, his wife still in the passenger seat, and he pulls a cold beer out from the cooler in the trunk of the car. He then hands me the beer. He doesn’t speak English, but there’s no mistaking the message. I smiled and thanked him, as I snapped the top of the beer. The gesture completed, he got back in his car and drove away, and I enjoyed one of the best beers of my life.

From the top of Old Smoke it was a nice ride down to Ingonish. The ocean side of the park was absolutely beautiful, and there on the beach, I found a bulletin board set up for tourists to connect with each other. I left Mike a message. I said I would meet him at the next beach park. It was getting late, so instead of paying for a campsite I decided to hike down into Warren Lake and set up my tent off the trail. The hike was about two miles, beautiful, quiet, and I was totally alone. What can I say, I like being alone.

It rained hard during the night but my tent kept me almost dry. In the morning I backtracked to the bulletin board where I changed my message to read—“I’m staying 7-21-82Mary Ann Falls. I will return tomorrow.” Some tourists told me that the falls were a must-see, so after I posted the message, I went for coffee and breakfast; now, however, its time to get back into the foggy goop. at

July 22

I’m presently sitting upstream from the falls. You can hardly hear the roar of the falls above the sounds of the babbling creek. I’m in front of a blazing campfire drying out, with a hot cup of coffee in my hand. After an almost five-mile walk on a gravel road, I reached the falls and proceeded to scope out the best photographic locations. After taking some photos, I settled in to enjoy my surroundings. There was enough early afternoon sun to entice some of the more adventurous tourists to go swimming beneath the falls. I joined them for a little while, but then it started to rain again. By late afternoon I was the only person still hanging around. I’m in a no camping area, but bicyclers have an invisible advantage, which I have never hesitated to use. Any more company at this point would be a surprise, at least until tomorrow. The weather guarantees it. So, for the rest of the evening, it will be just my book and me—the frosting on the cake.

The Kilted Scots Threw The Saber, Tossed The Caber And Flung The Ball And Chain

October 11, 2008
The Kilted Scots Threw The Saber, Tossed The Caber And Flung The Ball And Chain
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Antigonish, Nova Scotia

Antigonish, Nova Scotia

July 19, ‘82

I’m eating chocolate fudge cookies and drinking milk. I’m in the shade on some Indian Reservation in Cape Breton in 32 degrees centigrade heat. To my east, there is a thunderstorm going on. I’m not sure how that’s going to play out. The Maritimes need the rain. The weather, at least for biking, has been exceptional—a bit hot today, though.

Mike and I left Prince Edward Island and made it over to Nova Scotia with no problem. The first day out we rode 20 or 30 miles and then camped under some power lines, next to a large patch of wildflowers. The blue and white flowers were refreshingly nice. The second night out, we camped at a trailer park in Antigonish. The Highland game festival was going on, so the atmosphere in the town was all-Scottish. After doing laundry the next morning, I stayed at camp and read, while Mike went to the beach with some friendly campers. Like him, they were schoolteachers; a husband and wife team out of the Hudson Bay region of Canada– a very desolate place. Listening to them, I figured they must have been on a “calling” because no way could I have put up with the hardships they described.

The next day, Mike and I went to the Scottish heavyweight games and watched the kilted Scots throw the Saber, toss the caber—a huge flagpole like object that was supposed to go head over heels vertically, and, throw the ball and chain—a large iron ball attached to a chain that was supposed to fly half the length of a football field, or at least a quarter of the way. And, afterwards, on the streets of Antigonish, we were entertained by Highland dancers and the drum and bagpipe competitions. All in all, it was a full day of fun and games. After our stay in Antigonish, we were off to hook up with the Cabot Trail, the main highway moving up and around the large island of Cape Breton.

We camped in a forest on the first night out, and I’m presently waiting for Mike in the town of Brookfield. Today is another hot one, and I think Mike is having a hard time with the heat. I asked the Brookfield dairy truck driver if he had seen a guy on a bicycle, and he said “yes”. He was putting air in his tires just outside of town at a gas station. I took that to be Mike, so at least I know that he’s in the town somewhere and it’s only a matter of time before we meet up. All things considered, this trip has been fault free. An interesting sideline is about to take place, though; in a few days I’m going to meet up with Bill. He made arrangements with Mike to meet us, or at least me (Mike will soon be boarding a train and heading back to Michigan soon). Bill wants to bicycle back to Michigan with me. He is presently in St. Johns, Newfoundland, doing some sightseeing or whatever. One never knows what Bill is up to. Anyway, he’s an old high school buddy of mine. In fact, Bill was with me when I hitchhiked to California fifteen years ago. I’m somewhat apprehensive about this rendezvous, but one thing is for sure, whatever happens will be interesting—Bill is always interesting. It’s starting to rain, so I guess this is the end of this entry.

July 20

I’m In Baddeck, Nova Scotia, on the Cabot Trail, drinking coffee in Wong’s restaurant. Mike and I ran into two more bikers, Dave and Shannon. It was getting late, so after drinking a few beers in a bar with our newfound friends, Shannon suggested that we set up camp in the backyard of the little church across the street. Everybody liked that idea except Mike. Rather than camp in the church backyard, Mike headed out of town to camp in the woods.

As I’m writing now I see no sign of Mike, which, it seems to me, requires a few words of explanation. Mike and I grew up together. He was and is, by far, my best friend. Up until the late ‘70s, the “free spirit” in both of us had always kept us close. That said, however, it is apparent that we have grown apart. I suspect it’s like when two lovers grow apart and end up in a messy divorce. Mike and I are feeling that kind of pain. Our values are different now. My interest in God probably has a lot to do with it. Mike’s spiritual side never strays far from the earth. Here’s an example: Yesterday, after I bought some food and walked out to the end of a pier to eat, I noticed that Mike stayed behind. When I walked back past him, I said, “This sure is a beautiful place to eat lunch, eh!” He replied, “When I’m hungry I don’t look around, I just eat.” That pretty much sums up the distance between Mike and I. I don’t know what happened (Vietnam probably had something to do with it.)

In Every Human Being God Pulses–The Depth And Center Of All There Is

October 2, 2008

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The Image Of A Superhuman God Should Be Replaced By A More Internalized ‘Depth Image.’ Instead Of Believing In An External God, The Theologian, Paul Tillich, Believed in A God That was The Ground Of Everything—A God Of ‘Presence,’ ‘Feeling,’ And ‘Openness,’ An Openness To All Sacredness And Divinity

“Okay,” I said, “but what I’m about to say is not exactly user friendly. It’s about a different kind of God, one that, as far as I can tell, nobody is familiar with.”

“Well, does God have foreknowledge or not?” Mike responded.

“He knows everything that is known,” I said. “It’s hard to describe, but He knows it all without foreknowledge.”

“You’ve got my attention now,” Mike replied, “How exactly does He pull that off?”

“It’s in his freedom,” I said. “In nature, life, and culture we find God’s ‘self-expression’, and that–is an affirmation of God and God’s freedom.”

“Oh, this ought to be good,” replied Mike, “what kind of image is that? Is He still the old man on high, divine worker of miracles, dispenser of rewards and punishments, or am I missing something?”

“That image is a bit outdated, wouldn’t you say?” I said.

“Well is He limited by time or not? replied Mike.”

“No,” I said.

“Is He omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient?”

“Yes to all three,” I replied.

“Well, I rest my case. It’s the same-o, same-o,” Mike responded. “We humans are bound by law and limited by death. We don’t like it, so we imagine a God without limits. We get sick, but God does not. We are caught in space and time—not God. We face horrendous hardships and suffering—not God. Both Freud, and Feuerbach before him, had it right; god is a product of our own desires because, as cripples, we need a crutch. We need god, but he remains forever out of reach. Religion was born out of that need. God is our security blanket. In reality God is based in false hopes and promises, and exists only in our dreams.”

“There’s more to the story than that,” I responded. “The theologian, Paul Tillich, had a different idea. In fact, he believed the image of a superhuman God should be replaced by a more internalized ‘depth image.’ Instead of believing in an external God, he chose to believe in a God that was the ground of all that is. God, for him, became ‘infinite center,’ a ‘presence,’ a feeling, a reality, an opening to all sacredness and divinity. That’s kind of what I’m talking about when I talk about God, but I came to that image in my own way. And, by the way, as far as gender is concerned, God doesn’t have any.”

“That sound’s a bit pantheistic to me,” Mike responded. “So who or what is this god?”

“Pantheism is part of it, but there’s more,” I said. “I have always been attracted to those images of deity that identify God with nature. Spinoza, Lao Tsu, Whitman, Black Elk, all those guys believed nature to be sacred. God is nature, but nature is also an expression of God’s freedom, and further, God’s freedom is something ‘other’ than God. It is God when God is ‘not being God’–God’s own non-being. I know that sounds strange, but I can’t help it. That’s the way it is.”

“Sure,” Mike responded, “cut to the chase why don’t you, and we’ll see just how strange that idea really is.”

“I’m getting there,” I said. “All nature is a ‘way’ of non-being. And, this non-being is peculiar in that it is not a singular thing. It is dualistic in character, and takes the form of a double negation. In this double negative we find God as affirmation. We find God as freedom, and we find God as environment. Just as a receptacle is defined by empty space, non-being defines God. God, in the form of the ‘other’, is both God and freedom, and through reasoned analysis we can derive the meaning and significance of God. In fact, both freedom and reason, on some level, are present in all non-being, all nature.”

“That’s the chase,” Mike replied. “That’s it?”

“I told you, my god is not user friendly,” I said. “Freedom exists at every level of nature. It also goes through changes, and these changes represent freedom at more complex levels. After a sufficient level of complexity, freedom becomes less restricted. When it experiences its own double-negatives in the space of higher negation, it becomes alive. In that sense, freedom is always ‘stretching itself’ and ‘reaching out’ for more freedom. At a sufficient level of complexity, inorganic nature becomes organic, and freedom becomes freer. At death, nature’s double negation must be conserved, so higher expressions of freedom dissolve into less free states, and, ultimately, into God because God is affirmed in double negation—in being non-being. This is my religion. This is what I believe. God is not separate from nature, life, and/or culture. That’s how I understand the meaning and significance of God.”

“What has culture to do with anything?” Mike said. “Hell, social insects have culture!”

“True,” I replied, “but they do not bring self-consciousness to culture, consequently, they are not free to expand that culture into self-determined orders of complexity. Only humans can do that. Humans are free
in a way other animals are not.”

“That’s bullshit,” Mike said. “Culture keeps us alive. It’s the same with insects. It’s a matter of degree, not kind, and the same goes for what you call freedom.”

“Suit yourself,” I replied, “but at least hear me out. According to the way I perceive God, human culture is a product of God’s freedom. It is through culture that God acts out the self-aware expression of freedom. This higher-level freedom is two levels removed from God’s least free expression—or the physical forces that govern the universe. This higher freedom brings with it an ‘empty box,’ a box of negation—a box attached to consciousness. Other animals are boxless. Consciousnesses–self-consciousness—uses this box to see what’s not, and ask ‘why?’ With the good comes the bad, however. This box also permits ruthless people to value greed over knowledge, violence over peace, and vengeance over beauty. Without this box though, agreements for the purpose of securing peace and preserving beauty would not be possible. Also, judgments would not be possible. Creative self-expression would cease to exist, and without human ingenuity forget civilization, we would still be foraging our existence. In fact, the history of civilization is the history of this box, the history that records the struggles for liberty and the freedom to overcome that which prohibits freedom. When we seek the origin of this freedom religion emerges.”

“You think religion can save the world!” responded Mike. You think if only people believed as you do, they would act differently? How ignorant! How pretentious! Who is shortsighted and stubborn now?”

“I don’t know,” I said, “Actually, I try not to think of it in those terms. It’s too scary. After searching all these years, it’s enough to have a security blanket that works for me.”

“You deserve an ‘at-a-boy’ for that,” Mike replied. “Everybody’s entitled to their beliefs; that is, as long their beliefs do not deny the beliefs of others. Even if you wanted to change the world, in my opinion, you couldn’t, not with what I just heard. The truth is, I don’t understand a thing you just said. But, if it’s any consolation, I did enjoy hearing it. I don’t know why; but how about another beer?”

“Sounds like a winner,” I replied, “but indulge me for just a little bit longer. I will be specific.”

“If you must,” Mike replied, “Waitress, two more beers pa’ lease.”

“First, God is the inescapable depth and center of all there is. The immanence of God is what I call freedom and this immanence is present as nature. When freedom achieves self-consciousness it is able to name and create truth and beauty. In fact, it calls us forward into life, love, and wholeness. The biblical Jesus was, most likely, so completely transformed by his awareness of the divine that his thoughts, words, and deeds were recognized as divine. Not surprisingly, the gospel writers saw him as the Son of God, and translated his story into the Passion Play that it was, — it is. My religion has nothing to do with ‘revealed truths,’ and it is not about heavenly rewards or punishments. Rather, it is simply a way to perceive and process the God experience, the experience that pulses in every human being. As far as proselytizing goes, all I want to do is open people’s minds to the idea that ‘terra firma’ is hallowed ground. I mean that both literally and figuratively. In our relationship with others we share that ground, and that ground becomes sacred or profane depending on how it is shared. That is what I believe, and that is really the end. Now I’m finished.”

“I’ll drink to that,” replied Mike, “in fact, we’ll both drink to that!”