Searching for Peace: The Strange Adventures of Biff and the Fox

Hot Dog

To download Searching for Peace: The Strange Adventures of Biff and the Fox, click here.

I started posting the Searching for Peace blogs in December 2014 and into March 2015. All two people who read my blog were astounded by the sheer absurdity of the posts and read them only so they could laugh at me. But that’s OK, I laugh at myself and the blog posts gave three people a reason to laugh.

By the time March rolled around Biff and the Fox still hadn’t found peace, though they’d almost come close somewhere in their minds. So, this is an unfinished story, serialized over several months. Boy…my two readers were pissed.

They said, unison, “We hate you, Biff, for doing this. There’s no ending. Where’s the ending? It’s like losing power just before the end of a mystery movie or missing the last five minutes of a Leafs game when they’re up 5 points and still manage to lose. We want to see how they do that. We want to see how Biff and the Fox either find peace or don’t find peace. Where’s the ending, Biff, where?”

All I can think of is this: Successful or not, if the search for peace ever ends, we’re screwed.

 

Searching for Peace (In the mall)

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“Hey, Biff,” said the fox. “Hope you had a great vacation in Veradero, hope you had a great time recovering from bronchitis and I hope you had a great time slacking off and watching the first season of Sons of Anarchy instead of writing, but it’s time to get back to your search for peace.”

“I dunno, fox,” I said. “I think I’ve searched just about everywhere and couldn’t find it. Maybe peace doesn’t really exist. Maybe it’s just a dream that never was and never will be.”

“You giving up on searching for peace, Biff?” said the fox.

“I feel like a hamster on a wheel to nowhere,” I said. “It’s like peace is right in front of me shining like a golden sunflower seed that I can almost touch…and then I read the news or see a picture of people killing each other for no good reason than to just kill someone…and that golden sunflower seed turns into a bullet pointed right between my eyes.”

“You’ve never been a quitter, Biff,” said the fox. “Why start now. And besides, you’ll have to admit it’s been fun…and interesting.”

“Not always so much fun,” I said. “You shrunk me into a tiny Biff and surrounded me with about a billion dust mites. I felt very fragile, fox.”

“It was a learning experience, Biff,” said the fox.

“I’ll never see my living room carpet the same again,” I said. “But, yeah, it was interesting.”

“That’s better, Biff,” said the fox. “So where are we off to now?”

“How about the mall?” I said.

“Biff,” said the fox, “foxes don’t go to the mall. We only consume what we eat.”

“We’ll go there to observe,” I said. “Watch people drool over things they can’t afford and then watch their eyes fill with angst when they buy those things anyway…on their credit cards.”

“That’s just plain sad, Biff,” said the fox. “And how does that get us any closer to peace?”

“Pieces in the puzzle, fox, pieces in the puzzle,” I said.

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And there we were, in the mall, surrounded by store fronts and the bustle of people looking for that perfect thing that will make their lives suddenly meaningful. A brand new red shirt that doesn’t go with anything else in the wardrobe but wouldn’t I look so good in that red shirt? Gotta have it.

A silver pendant with a huge fake emerald gleaming out from the silver. Something to go with the perfect blouse I know I’m going to find today. And no one will ever know it’s not a real emerald.

“Biff,” said the fox,” this is really sad. What are all these people doing here?”

“Searching for the dream, fox,” I said. “Searching for something they’ll never find here, but they’ll keep coming back, looking, hoping, being fooled again and again.”

“Kind of like your search for peace, Biff?” said the fox.

“I hope not, fox,” I said. “But maybe there’s something here…I don’t know what…but I’m running out of ideas.” I thought about this for a few hours as an unhappy horde of shoppers herded around us, their eyes darting from one display window to another. Searching. I was beginning to feel a little better about my own search. “I know a few people who never go into malls,” I said.

“They search somewhere else?” said the fox.

“No,” I said. “They don’t search…they find.”

“How can you find without searching?” said the fox.

“By knowing what you really want,” I said. “And then going to the place where you know you’ll find it.”

“So where do they go?” said the fox.

“Places like farmer’s markets, independent craft and clothing stores,” I said. “They make a lot of their own stuff…like clothing, food, booze.”

“They make dandelion wine like you do, Biff?” said the fox.

“Some of them do,” I said. “But the main thing is…they don’t let anyone else tell them what they need. They make those decisions on their own.”

“So how do they do that?” said the fox.

“I think it has something to do with knowing themselves,” I said.

“Like accepting themselves?” said the fox. “Like you said before…just accepting yourself with all the good and all the bad?”

“That…and more,” I said. “Accepting themselves and accepting the things they need to do to make everything in their lives acceptable. They’re aware of the world around them and where and who they are in that world.”

“Sounds like a lot of work,” said the fox.

“It is, fox,” I said. “It’s a lot of work, but they get something precious out of it.”

“What’s that?” said the fox.

“Empowerment, fox,” I said. “And all the feelings that come with that…like satisfaction, happiness, a sense of feeling complete instead of always feeling half-finished. The sense of personal worth that comes with setting your own standards instead of letting some corporate asshole set standards that will always keep you wanting and needing more.”

“So, Biff,” said the fox. “Who are these people?”

“They’re people with a low profile, fox,” I said. “They tend to live under the radar, away from the craziness the rest of us call normal life. Let’s visit a few of them. Another day.”

“Not today?” said the fox.

“I’d like to take a nice cold shower and wash away the feeling of mall before doing that,” I said.

“With you on that, Biff,” said the fox.

To Be Continued (but not in the mall)

“I hear you lost a tooth in Havana,” said the fox.

“Bit into piece of cast iron melba toast,” I said. “Bye bye tooth.”

“Let’s see it, Biff,” said the fox.

“Nope,” I said. “It’s embarrassing. I look like an escapee from the Bowery.”

“C’mon, Biff,” said the fox. “Big smile. Give us a big smile.”

“I’m not smiling, fox,” I said.

“Aww…” said the fox.

“I’m not smiling,” I said.

“Tell you what, Biff,” said the fox. “I’ll smile if you smile.”

“You gotta be kidding.”

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Searching for Peace (Anywhere but in my living room carpeting)

Snow Dunes-4

Snow.

I’m sick of snow. The snow here is forever. At first, it’s beautiful, the brilliant whiteness creating Rockwellian images of trees and buildings covered in vanilla icing. But the beauty begins to fade after the third or fourth snow storm, when the snow banks grow into hills and the streets shrink into one lane passages rutted with ice holes.

With each snowfall, a sense of defeat spreads through the vitamin 3-robbed population, depleting our energy and ruining our backs from having to lift our shovels higher and higher.

And there’s nothing to smell but the cold as the unrelenting snow suffocates the scent, color and texture of life, transforming the world into a sensual void, a…

“So, Biff,” said the fox, “getting tired of winter? I seem to recall you in an earlier blog saying …winter, I love you.”

“I want to wear t-shirts,” I said.

“That was your first trip out on your snow shoes, remember?” said the fox.

“I want to wear sandals and shorts,” I said.

“You took pictures of snow covered trees,” said the fox. “It was beautiful in the woods…with all that snow.”

“I want to walk barefoot along a beach…feel water lapping at my feet,” I said.

“You read a poem to the woods…to thank the snow covered woods for all the beauty,” said the fox.

“I want to lie in the grass and watch clouds drift into shapes in the sky,” I said.

“Winter! I love you! you said,” said the fox.

“That was a thousand years ago, fox,” I said.

“Sounds like as long as this search for peace of yours is going to last, Biff,” said the fox.

“Then maybe we should get back on it,” I said. “Shave a few hundred years off the search.”

“No more talk of winter blues, vitamin D deficiency, suffocation?” said the fox.

“I’ll be in Cuba in a couple of weeks,” I said. “I’ll just keep that happy thought in mind.”

“OK then, Biff,” said the fox. “Where should be look for peace today? Maybe somewhere exotic? Somewhere warm and sunny, with beaches and Pina Coladas?”

“Maybe somewhere that doesn’t let foxes in,” I said.

“Maybe some place where they show a little more respect for foxes,” said the fox.

Oh hell.

A friend recently shared a post on Facebook. It went like this: The most dangerous phrase in the language is we’ve always done it this way.

I agree. It gets back to that whole matter of change and how we fear it. We get into cultural ruts. Political stasis. Religious inflexibility. We want to know what we’ve always known…and nothing else. We want to keep doing the same thing day after day, for the rest of our lives. And we want everyone around us to do the same thing…our way. Without change. Without growth. Like putting adaptation and evolution on hold.

We’ve always done it this way.

How many species of animals have perished because they always did it this way? How many empires have crumbled because they always did it this way?

We live in a world of change populated by a dominant species that refuses to change. We create borders to define our sameness and propagate that sameness with advice like: this is the way my parents did it, and their parents and their parents’ parents. We splinter faiths to create intolerant cults that are more political than spiritual and bind the believers into dogmas that will always be done this way…deep into generation after generation.

We’ve always done it this way excludes a better way. We’ve always done it this way dries the well of self-expression. We’ve always done it this way ignores the simple truth that will be the only thing to save our collective ass: maybe we should try something else.

“Like what, Biff?” said the fox.

“I don’t know, fox,” I said. “Just about anything other than what we’re doing to ourselves now. Maybe…get out of bed on the other side. Brush our teeth with the other hand. Say yes instead of no. Smile at someone we’d rather frown at because we don’t approve of their lifestyle, religion, political leanings, sexual orientation, clothing, hair style…you name it.”

“Grin?” said the fox.

“Please don’t grin, fox,” I said.

“Hey, Biff,” said the fox. “Look at me and smile.”

“I know you’re grinning, fox,” I said. “I’m not looking.

“ C’mon, Biff, try something else,” said the fox.

“I’m not looking,” I said.

“Be the proof of your own convictions, Biff,” said the fox. “Walk the talk.”

Damn fox.

I looked at the fox. It was awful. All sharp teeth and twisted mouth. Foxes weren’t meant to smile.But I smiled anyway.

“Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it, Biff?” said the fox.

But it was. One of the hardest things I’d ever done. Trying something else is hard. It goes against our grain. Like ritual is hardwired into our genes.

“But some people do change, Biff,” said the fox. “And it isn’t hard for them.”

“Reading my thoughts again, fox,” I said.

“Hey, Biff…if you weren’t such an open book,” said the fox. “But think about it…some people do change…they never say we’ve always done it this way. The say how can we do this better?

“But their numbers are small, fox,” I said. “So small.”

“Hey, Biff,” said the fox. “How big is an acorn?”

“This some kind of game, fox?” I said.

“How big?” said the fox.

“Not big, fox” I said. “Not big at all.”

“And what does it turn into?” said the fox.

I thought about this for a moment, knowing that I should have gotten it right away, knowing it was something I’d heard so many times…knowing I’d forgotten this simple truth.

It made me smile at the grinning fox.

(To be continued. With acorns.)

“So, Biff,” said the fox. “Whatcha going to do in Cuba?”

“Sit on the beach with my daughter and drink pina coladas,” I said.

“Away from the snow?” said the fox.

“Away from the snow.”

(BTW…these snow dune pics were taken today, just outside Fredericton. For all of you poor souls without snow…feel free to come here and take away as much as you want.)

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Searching for Peace (Through the eye of a needle encore)

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“Whatcha doin’, Biff?” said the fox.

“Searching for peace, fox,” I said as I leaned into the carpeting on my living room floor, looking intently through the eye of a needle.

“Think you’ll find it that way, Biff?” said the fox.

“Nope. Not here, fox,” I said. “Finding about a billion dust mites and some cat hair from when Kiki and Gibson were visiting. And a bread crumb. But no peace.”

“Maybe you’re just not getting into it enough, Biff,” said the fox.

“Whadaya by that, fox?” I said.

Suddenly, I was falling into to the eye of the needle. I wasn’t any smaller, but the needle had taken on the proportions of a giant obelisk and I was heading straight for the eye, which seemed to be rushing at me as I fell toward it and the two edges of the eye rushed at me like two metal columns joined at the top to form a domed gateway that I fell through.

Did I mention I was screaming?

The fox did this.

I landed safely on the carpet, though upside down, surveying the jungle of carpet around me as I balanced on my head. It was kind of cool. The carpet fibers were of wavy and what everybody’s worst hair day would feel like. Something moved a few feet in front of me (which would be less than an inch in non-carpet distance) and I heard a voice calling out: “Hey, Biff!”

“Yeah?” I said, not really knowing who or what I was talking to but, as my vision cleared in the dimness of the carpeting, I started to see about a billion fat spidery bodies with plump double pincers instead of faces…like blobs with short blobby legs.

“Hey, Biff!” said the one in front of me. “We’re dust mites. We live on the skin you shed every day when you do Tai Chi and Qi Gong in your living room. Boy, Biff, you shed a lot of skin. Take a look around.”

I looked around and saw a lot of patches of skin. My skin. And these blobs were eating it.

Yuk..

(Note to self: Cure for dust mites…scrub harder in the shower.)

About a billion dust mites were making giggly sounds with puffy bodies wiggling like gelatin about to melt. They were hanging upside down from the carpet fibers. Standing on my head was starting to make sense.

“So,” I said. “I hope I’m not squashing you when I do my stuff in the morning.”

“C’mon, Biff,” said the mite. “Take a look around. There’s mites to spare. You keep the population down. Otherwise we’d be spilling out your windows and doors.”

“Guess I can find solace in that,” I said.

I was kind of relieved they weren’t pissed off and about to eat me. But…come to think of it…they were eating me. Sort of.

Didn’t see the fox anywhere. Must’ve finally hibernated. Strange thing though…I still had the needle I’d just fallen through in my hand.

“Biff,” said the mite, “we heard about your search for peace. How’s it going?”All around me, mites hanging from carpet fiber wiggled and giggled as they chewed on pieces of my skin.

“Not really sure, mite,” I said. “It seems to be coming in bits and peaces, like a giant jigsaw with missing pieces and pieces that should fit together but don’t.”

“Sounds like life, Biff,” said the mite. About a billion dust mites stopped wiggling and giggling and chewing and turned toward the mite that was talking to me…and I swear they seemed to be nodding in agreement.

So I thought about this. The mites turned their attention to me as I thought. I’m not sure how I knew this, but I did. Maybe I was developing some kind of mite sense. When you’re surrounded by about a billion of them…

“So…you’re saying life is like a fucked up jigsaw puzzle?” I said.

“At first glance,” said the mite. “Pieces will always be missing. And some parts will never fit together.”

About a billion mites bounced up and down hanging from their carpet fibers, making clicking sounds with their pincers.

Clicking sounds.

I’d heard that sound before, when I was doing Qi Gong in the morning. It was dust mites. Clicking in my carpeting. About a billion of them.

“So if my search for peace is like life,” I said, “then I’ll never find it?

“No, Biff,” said the mite. “I mean that you’ll eventually find something…something that makes the search worth it in spite of the missing pieces.”

“So,” I said, “the search goes on?”

“Missing pieces and all, Biff,” said the mite.

About a billion dust mites wiggled and giggled and bounced and made clicking sounds across the firmament of my living room carpet.

“Look into the eye of the needle, Biff,” said the mite.

I looked at the needle, right into the eye, and it grew to immense proportions all over my living room, and I was falling upwards through those gargantuan columns again and standing in my living room with the needle in my hand.

Did I mention that I was screaming again?

“So, Biff,” said the fox. “Did you find peace in your carpeting?”

“Not really, fox,” I said. “But I think I’m going to start walking a little softer when I do my morning workouts.”

The fox grinned. I felt a cold chill racing up my spine.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that, fox,” I said.

“So you talked to the mites?” said the fox.

“About a billion of them,” I said. “And I’m still not a hundred percent certain what really happened in my carpeting, but I think my search for peace is starting to make little more sense.”

“How so, Biff?” said the fox.

“Not sure yet, fox,” I said. “But I’ll figure it out.”

(To be continued. But not in a carpet.)

“You could have warned me about the needle, fox.” I said.

“Hey, Biff…what doesn’t kill you…doesn’t kill you.”

Searching for Peace (Through the eye of a needle)

Needle

“So, Biff,” said the fox. “Why do you keep sewing that shirt? I think it’s, like, mostly thread now.”

“I love this shirt, fox” I said. “It’s the most comfortable piece of clothing I’ve ever had. And I’m going to keep sewing it until it turns into a ball of thread.”

“How long have you had it, Biff?” said the fox.

“Remember when dinosaurs walked the earth?” I said.

“Vaguely,” said the fox.

“Not that long,” I said.

“You one funny guy,” said the fox. “But I think you must have had that shirt for almost fifteen years. It’s turning yellow. Don’t you think it’s time to give it a decent burial? You could even tie die it.”

“The grin, fox,” I said. “It gives away your sarcasm. And it gives me nightmares. While I’m still awake.”

“Watch it, Biff,” said the fox. “Or I’ll smile at you.”

“Just joking, fox,” I said, as I finished the sewing and started looking through the eye of the sewing needle.

“Whatcha doin’, Biff?” said the fox.

“Looking through the eye of this needle, fox,” I said. “Maybe that’s the way.”

“The way to what, Biff?” said the fox.

“The way to get closer in my search for peace,” I said.

“Don’t get it, Biff.” said the fox.

“I’m going to take a look at things through the eye of this needle,” I said.

“Careful you don’t poke your eye out with that needle, Biff,” said the fox. “You know how accident prone you are.”

“I’m not accident prone, fox,” I said.

“Big dent in your chin there from meeting a sidewalk when gravity wasn’t on your side,” said the fox. “Two false teeth from falling off the top of a building into a heap of scrap metal. Big scar on your right arm from crashing through a glass door. Three broken ribs from…”

“OK, fox,” I said. “That’s enough. I’ve had a few unfortunate accidents that anyone else could have had.”

“’Cept they weren’t anyone else,” said the fox.

“You know, fox,” I said. “You could be the first fox in history to hibernate. You could get yourself in Wikipedia for that.”

“Biff, how many times do I have to…” the fox tried to say.

“Time to see things through the eye of a needle,” I said.

And there I was, needle in hand (and not making pinholes in my head or eyes), sitting at Read’s Coffee and Magazine Shop holding a needle up to my eye, looking at what I’m writing on my laptop and people are looking at me strangely.

“They’re waiting for you to poke yourself in the eye with the needle, Biff,” said the fox.

Ignoring the fox and the people waiting for me to stab my eyes out, I focused through the eye of the needle at the word needle. All I could see were the two ‘e’s.

And this made me think.

What if we all had to walk around for a whole day looking at the world through the eye of a needle? What would we see? How would this make us think?

“Biff,” said the fox. “You’re starting to sound a little crazy. And you’re looking a little wide-eyed.”

“I’ve been crazy all my life, fox,” I said. “And tomorrow I’m going to be just a little crazier. I’m going to spend a day looking through the eye of this needle.”

“And you get this from looking at the word needle through a needle?” said the fox.

“You got it, fox,” I said.

(To be continued. Through the eye of a needle encore.)

“So what did you see in those two e’s in the word, Biff?” said the fox.

“Two e’s, fox…two e’s.”

Searching for Peace (In the way we ask questions)

Zen-2

People don’t ask questions.

I mean it. Sure, we ask innocuous questions like, “How much is that furless guinea pig in the window?” (even though we have no intention of buying it…we’re just curious about how much shit like that costs) and “How’s things going?” (and they’d better not tell us the truth or we’ll stop asking them).

The thing with questions like this is that they don’t change anything. They don’t really mean anything. They’re elevator questions filling up the background of communication. Like a clear subject in a photograph with a faded background (technical term is bokeh…pronounced bokeh). But without the clear subject.

I think the main reason we don’t ask meaningful questions is that we’re afraid of the answers. How long does a husband or wife put off asking, “Are you seeing someone?”

I used to be a bartender. I worked in the games room of a club, which was quiet for most of the night, so I got to know some of the customers well as they sat at the bar building liquid courage for the evening ahead. One of those customers was Hakusata (name changed to protect her innocence) who came in early in the evenings for a couple of months and tortured herself over thinking that her husband was having an affair. In situations like this, bartenders are supposed to say something infinitely insightful, or just keep their mouths shut and nod agreement when appropriate. But one night, after a couple of months nodding and keeping my mouth shut, I had to ask, “Why don’t you just ask him if he’s seeing someone?”

She looked at me astounded, lips quivering, on the verge of tears, and said, “Because he’ll tell me he is. And then it’ll be over.”

So, I suppose not having a clear answer to a clear question meant that it wasn’t really happening, that everything was fine. But more importantly, it meant that nothing had to change. It wouldn’t be over. It would just go on and on.

Things wouldn’t change.

The vast majority of us hate change. We become emotionally and intellectually lazy in places where we’re not likely to make mistakes because we know the rules of the way. Asking questions can really fuck up complacency. Unless, of course, the question is background music in front of a clear subject that you don’t want to see.

I’ve worked for a number of IT startup companies. One thing you can be sure of in an IT startup is that 99 percent of them are going to have shaky periods and most will likely go under within the first two or three years. There’s this thing so many of them have in common: the layoff. I’ve seen so many of these. Times when staying in business meant paring down the staff. Thing is…we all knew when these times were coming. But very few had the nerve to go to management and ask, “Are there going to be layoffs?” And then ask, “Am I going to be one of them?”

OK, in a situation like that, they’re probably going to lie to you…so you might ask, “Why bother to ask the question?”

Got an answer for that one. Because if you’ve come to the point where you find yourself asking those questions, then it’s time to start sending out resumes. Before the axe falls.

The simple act of asking a meaningful question clarifies things in itself. If you’re brave enough for the question, then you’re brave enough for the answer.

“Hey, Biff,” said the fox. “I have a question.”

“Go ahead, fox,” I said. “Ask away.”

“Does my grin really disturb you?” said the fox. “Go ahead…I’m brave enough for the answer.”

“Yes, fox,” I said. “Your grin really really disturbs me.”

“Bastard,” said the fox.

“You asked,” I said.

“Ever hear about little white lies, Biff?” said the fox.

“Fox,” I said, “are you happy with your life?”

“I have fur and a tail, Biff,” said the fox. “What’s not to be happy about?”

“Good point,” I said. “You know what one of the toughest questions is for people these days, fox?”

“How does my hair look?” said the fox. “Oh…sorry ‘bout that, Biff.”

“I’m going to ignore that, fox,” I said.

Damn thing grinned. I won’t go into details.

“Am I happy with what I’m doing with my life?” I said. “That’s the toughest question.”

“How’s that, Biff,” said the fox. “Seems pretty straight forward to me.”

“It is,” I said. “But the answer would be pure dread for most people. It would mean looking at what they’re doing and changing it.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people complain about their jobs and say day-after-day how much they’d like to be doing something else. They already have the answer to the question they should be asking; they’re living it every day.

But they’re not asking the question.They’re not speaking directly into themselves and asking, “Am I happy with what I’m doing?” I think the answer, then, would cause regret, panic…tears. So they go on living the wrong answer. I think, if they could honestly answer another question, they might be little more honest with the first.

“What’s that, Biff?” said the fox. “Go ahead and answer. I’m brave.”

“Am I going to die someday?” I said. “I think most people come to grips with this one too late to look back on fulfilling lives.”

“Is that what you’ve done, Biff?” said the fox.

I thought about this for a couple of years and said, “I honestly don’t know, fox.”

“Any hope for you, Biff?” said the fox.

“Not dead, yet, fox,” I said. “Not dead yet.”

(To be continued. Into something different.)

“So, Biff,” said the fox. “What’s this got to do with the search for peace?”

“Everything, fox,” I said. “We need to be asking a lot of meaningful questions and be ready for terribly beautiful answers before peace is ever going to be something we own.”

“You’re not going to die anytime soon, are you, Biff?” said the fox.

“If you’d stop grinning, I’m sure that would add many years.”

Searching for Peace (a closer look at acceptance)

Mirrors

A thousand feet.

I used to work in sales and marketing. It really sucked. You never really had a chance to just be yourself…with all your strong points…and weak points. You weren’t supposed to have any weak points, at least, none that you could ever let anyone know about. Weak points could be exploited and used against you. Weak points could lose a contract or a client. Weak points could get you laid off or fired. So they weren’t allowed. You had to be perfect in every way.

It was bullshit.

And probably why there’re so few great sales and marketing people around. Maybe if we could all accept that nobody’s perfect and that our faults may even work towards making each of us distinct from each other, then just maybe we could accept that it’s OK to be human.

A thousand feet.

We used to have sales and marketing meetings in which some bozo would always say, “Let’s take the thousand foot view on this.” Sometimes it was 800 hundred feet. 400 feet. I think it depended on how much you didn’t want to see that didn’t fit in with what you wanted to see. You know, obscure everything with too much noise so that you could bore into those places that promised a whole new approach without having to essentially change anything.

I mean, what can you really see from a thousand feet up? Oceans of motion. The confusion of the moment multiplied a thousand times. It only worked for people who wanted it to work, but few did.

I always wondered what would happen if, like in Bruce Lee’s movie Enter the Dragon, those long and boring sales and marketing meetings were held in a room full of mirrors with all the meeting participants shuffling around trying to find a new idea and seeing only reflections of themselves and the other participants.

Talk about your thousand foot view…trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Some ancient cultures believed that mirrors reflected the true nature, or shadow soul, of the viewer. Can you imagine all those sales and marketing people wandering around seeing themselves and the others with all their strengths…and all their weaknesses? They’d all be out of jobs.

Unless they just accepted what they saw and said, “Hey, Arnie, you’re a human being. And that’s OK with me.”

“Thanks, Sabrina…you’re OK too.”

And they might even find that bright new idea.

But then…

“Arnie. Sabrina. I see your weaknesses. You’re both fired.”

There’s always that asshole to fuck up the best of things and scare everyone away from just being themselves.

“Hey, Biff,” said the fox. “Remember what you said about just looking into a mirror and accepting yourself?”

“Yes, fox,” I said. “I do.”

“Well…” the fox tried to say.

“I’m not looking at my naked body again while standing at the edge of a thousand foot cliff,” I said.

“Maybe more assholes should do that,” said the fox.

“If only,” I said.

(To be continued. Somewhere else. Again.)

“So you were one of those sales and marketing assholes, Biff?” said the fox.

“Please don’t grin when you say that.”

Searching for Peace (piece by piece)

face-3

Standing at the brink of a thousand foot cliff makes you think.  The gulls sailing in the air probably don’t have the same thoughts a human has with all that distance under them. They can stop the mad plunge, turn it into a magnificent swoop and carry off a delicious wiggling fish. For them, the sky is a place to relax and be a bird or something. Anything they want.

A thousand feet.

It provokes thought. Weird thoughts, like, what would it be like to jump or just relax like a gull and fall forward into all that roiling air and close my eyes and feel weightless and free if only for few moments. I wonder how many people, if the knew that had just minutes to live and they were standing at the edge of a cliff, would fall into all that emptiness. Smiling.

Or making their last selfie.

A thousand feet.

The soap had a point…we can make things real by accepting them as real. Thousand foot thought.

People jump out of perfectly safe airplanes…wearing parachutes of course. And that’s another thousand foot thought…accepting that the parachutes will open. Accepting that they were packed right, that they have no defects. Some people would call this trust. I’d say it’s more like accepting their fate, one way or the other.

I read about a man who jumped out of a perfectly safe airplane and his parachute didn’t open. But he landed safely. Don’t know all the details but I always wondered if he screamed all the way down…or just accepted that he was about to die and enjoyed the ride down.

Or maybe he just accepted that he would be OK. “Yep, on my way down. Wicked nice view. Gonna land safely. Takin’ a selfie. Lookin’ good. Oh look…a hundred foot long mattress. Everything’s gonna be OK.”

Everything we approach with enthusiasm starts with acceptance, the notion that things will turn out the way we expect them to turn out, the way we want them to turn out.

“Where you going with this, Biff?” said the fox.

“Not sure, fox,” I said. “Thanks for the interruption.”

“Anytime, Biff,” said the fox. “

Now, where was I? Oh yeah…acceptance. We accept so much, not because we want to or don’t want to, but because we need to accept things. We need to accept that the sun will rise no matter how many rainy days fill out lives. We need to accept that the tanning lotion we’re going to buy will be used. Or why would be buy it? Everything we do and everything we are depends on some degree of acceptance.

In one of his books on self-esteem, Nathaniel Brandon suggested that we stand in front of a mirror, naked, looking closely, and just accept ourselves. Without having to like or hate ourselves. Just accepting ourselves. All the good. All the bad. Just accepting.

What a non-judgmental thought. What a beautiful concept. The freedom from judgment. And once we refuse to judge ourselves, we can be free of judgment from others. And maybe even be free of judging others.

How can someone who can honestly accepts themselves…see themselves for all they are and just accept…believe that they are any better or any worse than anyone else?

“Hey, Biff,” said the fox. “Lookit me…standing in front of a mirror, naked, just accepting me without judgment. What a cutie am I.”

“Fox,” I said. “Please don’t smile. You have no idea how disturbing that is.”

“Judging me, Biff?” said the fox. “Maybe you should try this.”

So there I was, standing naked in front of a mirror (by a thousand foot cliff) in all the glory of my still too large belly (even after going from a 35 to a 31 waist and having to buy all new pants), the wrinkles and crooked teeth from too many fights and the scar on my jaw from too much Scotch (and a failed bout with gravity) and…well all of it me. Including the not so bad shoulders and blue eyes.

So I didn’t throw up.

“Hey, fox,” I said. “Lookit my cute little pug nose. And please stop smiling. Try grinning.”

The fox grinned.

Ouch.

(To be continued. A closer look at acceptance.)

“Maybe the world would be a more peaceful place if there were more mirrors in it,” said the fox.

“Let’s look at that,” I said.

“You know, Biff,” said the fox, “you really do have cute little pug nose.”

“Thanks, fox,” I said.

“And my grin?” said the fox.

“I think I’ll need a lot more time on the mirror for that.”

Searching for Peace (connectivity in the real world)

Ball

When I was a kid, I played weekend baseball in the schoolyard. Those were hot summer days, the kind that practically make you gulp down an orange popsicle before it melts in the heat. We were all dusty and dirty with summer and baseball and none of us had jeans that weren’t torn somewhere. We all wore the same black and white sneakers. When we were in our positions on the diamond, we watched each other.

“Who’s on first.”

“What’s Who up to on first?”

We watched each other’s movements, waiting for telltale signs that would give up the other kid’s next move. One mid-July day―so hot mirages hovered in the school parking lot and the sand in the baseball diamond was so dry that we trailed clouds of dust running from base to base―we were short on gloves and I was the catcher…without a glove. I forget the pitcher’s name, but his fastball screamed from the mound to the plate. A bit faster and it would have cracked the sound barrier and broken the school windows.

And I had no glove.

All it took was one pitch and it wasn’t the sound barrier cracking…it was my thumb. The sound of a bone breaking is sickening. Not just to the person with the broken bone, but to anyone close enough to hear that dull crack of calcium under flesh rearranging the physiognomy in an unnatural order. Some people throw up.

But not any of us. We were baseball players and none of us were going to chuck our cookies over something like a broken thumb. At least not in front of everyone. Long story short, saw a doctor who wrapped it up and said, “Someday you will meet a fox.”

Always wondered about that.

The thumb hurt like hell for days but it didn’t put me out of the game…I was the umpire. A very mean angry umpire with a painfully broken thumb. Who would never play baseball again.

“Where’s all this going, Biff?” said the fox. “You don’t even watch baseball anymore.”

“Hey, fox,” I said. “Somebody warned me about you 150 years ago.”

“Biff,” said the fox, “that can’t be…you’re only 105. So…what’s all the baseball memories got to do with your search for peace?”

“Everything has something to do with the search, fox,” I said. “But those summers are closer to the next part of the search.”

“How so, Biff?” said the fox.

“We were all real,” I said. “We could see each other, yell at each other, throw the ball to each other. We could break a bone, lose an eye, get a bump the size of an egg on our heads. But we didn’t care. We just wanted to be out there, pleasure or pain, and play baseball. And we were all connected physically and mentally by the game. Know what I mean, fox?”

“I can do that just by messaging people on FB, Biff,” said the fox.

“No, fox, you can’t,” I said. “It’s a different connection. If the person on the other end breaks a bone and they don’t mention it…you’ll never know about it. Your connection will be only what they want you to know. You won’t see or hear their pain…you’ll only read their words. ”

“OK then, Biff,” said the fox, “I’ll Skype them.”

“You won’t be able to give them a hug when they break the bone,” I said. “And that’s the problem with online connection, fox…it’s not full connection. It’s not a complete engagement with life. You don’t get the full story.”

“We might get that someday, Biff,” said the fox. “When they have, like, surround Skype complete with smellorama and pain and stuff.”

“But how will you know if they haven’t turned down the sound when they fart so that you won’t know they’ve farted? You can’t do that in real life. You’re stuck with what actually happens. And there’s honesty and certainty about that.”

“But…” the fox tried to say.

“And you won’t be smelling the same air,” I said, “feeling the same temperature, sharing the same danger if an earthquake suddenly swallows one of you up. Instead of losing your lives together, you’ll just lose the connection.”

“But the earthquake might happen on the other end, Biff,” said the fox. “I think I’m OK with that.”

“There might be free beer and pizza at the other end, fox,” I said. “Real life is all the good and all the bad. Shared. It’s real connection. And we’re losing it.”

“But we didn’t have peace even before computers and social media, Biff,” said the fox. “So what’s this got to do with the search?”

“Not sure yet, fox,” I said. “I think it tells us something about ourselves, something that’s always been in us but that’s manifesting itself through mediums it couldn’t use before. And now we can see it. I think it might be in the connection…or maybe the disconnection.”

“Worth a closer look, Biff?” said the fox.

“I think so, fox. Always good to look closer at things.”

(To be continued. In a connected sort of way.)

“So, fox,” I said, “you’re on Facebook?”

“Might be, Biff, might be.”

Searching for Peace (big minds)

Cent (Pictured above: A Canadian penny. They don’t make them anymore. Somebody in government decided they weren’t of any use. Of course. A friend of mine told me that if you have one that sticks to a magnet, it’s worth a lot of money. I have hundreds of these in a big plastic container. Someday I’m going to buy a magnet and maybe glean enough magnetic copper to buy that six pack of beer I’ve always wanted. Or just eat the fucking pennies. Copper’s supposed to be good for something in the body. Read that on the internet.)

“So you think you’re going to find a big mind out there, do you?” said the fox

“Don’t know,” I said. “But I’m sure as hell going to try.”

“Where you gonna start, Biff,” said the fox.

“Thinking about it, fox.” I said. “

(Pause while Biff thinks. And thinks. And thinks. Until he remembers. Thinking hurts. Like hell. So he stops thinking and returns to his natural state. Mindlessness.)

“Hey, fox,” I said. “I know a guy who stands around on the street and offers to recite a poem for a penny to people walking by.”

“Must have a hard time making a living now that they don’t have pennies here anymore,” said the fox.

“He still says ‘Poem for a penny’ only now he says ‘Poem or a joke or a penny.’ He’s branching out,” I said. “I think people just give him whatever they give when they give to someone who’s livelihood depended on pennies.”

So there I was on Queen Street, the poem for a penny guy’s happy reading grounds, but he wasn’t there (timing’s always been my downfall), so I told the fox, “Pretend to be the poem for a penny guy.”

“Aw, c’mon, Biff, I’ve never even met the guy,” said the fox. But I knew he was secretly smiling.

“Just pretend you’re dressed in tattered clothing, with a mangy beard, wearing an impossible toque, mittens that look like something returned to the Salvation Army a thousand times, a backpack with all your worldly belongings splitting the seams and you have a mind that the entire world has stepped on all your life,” I said.

“Just the kind of person I’ve always wanted to be, Biff,” said the fox, still smiling secretly.

“OK, you stand by the curb and I’ll walk by and you say, ‘Poem or a joke for a penny’ and I’ll take out my gun and shoot you dead,” I said. And savored the look of horror on the fox’s face. “Just joking, fox. I don’t have a gun. At least, not today. Maybe tomorrow.”

The fox caught on quickly and laughed. I hope, someday, I’ll be able to erase that image out of my head.

So I walked down the street a bit, turned around and walked toward the fox who didn’t look anything like a fox. He was dressed in tattered clothing, had a mangy beard, wore an impossible toque and mittens that looked like something returned to the Salvation Army a thousand times, had a backpack with all his worldly belongings splitting the seams and looked like he had a mind the entire world had stepped on all his life. As I walked by, he said, “Poem or a joke for a penny.” And some other stuff that I couldn’t make out…just like the real penny poem guy. He even shuffled around as he talked and looked at me and the sidewalk and the road and the street lights and everything in the world all at the same time. Just like the real penny poem guy.

“OK,” I said, and handed him a cheque for two million dollars. (MS Word thinks I spelled ‘cheque” wrong. Fuck you, MS Word…it’s cheque. Woah…three wrong spellings in a row. I’m on a bad boy spelling high.) “I’ll take the poem.”

So the poem (or joke) for a penny guy read a poem. Not sure what he said. Not sure what the title was. Not sure what the poem was about…something like life in the modern world and how we ignore the little things that matter. But I was too mesmerized by his delivery to focus on the words. I watched him express the words with his body and face…the physical conviction of every word he said. This was a truly big mind, a mind so big that it was integrated with every cell in his body.

And he was reading poems (or jokes) for a penny. On the street.

He reached his hand toward me and snapped his fingers. I was in Wilser’s (my favorite bar) sitting at the counter with the fox, drinking Pina Coladas imported directly from Cuba.

“Find a big mind, Biff?” said the fox.

“Yeah, I did, fox,” I said. “And I realized something.”

“What’s that, Biff?” said the fox.

“Those minds are out there, everywhere…right under our noses,” I said. “Peace isn’t in a council or a treaty or meeting of so-called world leaders…it’s in the mass. In the street poets (or jokesters) and the people who scoop up a handful of soil with their heads full of big thoughts about what they’re holding in their hand…the ones who’re still connected.”

“Connected to what, Biff?” said the fox.

“Just…connected,” I said. “To wherever, whoever and whatever they are.”

“Getting closer to finding peace, Biff?” said the fox.

“Yeah, fox,” I said. “Getting closer.”

(To be continued. In a big mind sort of way.)

“Kind of enjoyed that, Biff,” said the fox.

“I know. Saw the smile,” I said.

“Want me to smile again, Biff?” said the fox.

“No, fox. I don’t have enough wine left for that,” I said.

“It’s a Pina Colada, Biff,” said the fox.

“Right. If you say so.”