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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Before and After Synchronicity ► A Pastoral Letter

A reading assignment from Pastor Ken Wilson.
Dear Pastor Kenny: I began this Pastoral Letter several weeks ago and have been tinkering with it ever since, trying to get it right. Then came the car crash. That's why this essay is bifurcated into Before & After; before my accident and after.


BEFORE:

It's been well over a month since my last Pastoral Letter and almost 2 months since I received your response. I have so much to tell you that I barely know where to begin.

It hardly seems like a year since I rediscovered you and wrote the first of my Pastoral Letters, which I called Finding An Old Friend. It was slotted under the Unpacking The Writer rubric because little did I know at the time it would become another series in the Not Now Silly Newsroom. I don't know how they're working out for you, but they sure are helping me. Being forced to turn what's firing through my neurons into words, helps me get my thoughts straight on these weighty matters.

First let me thank you (I think) for your reading assignment and sending me "Changing Our Mind" by David P. Gushee. (I have so many books on my "to be read" shelf, that the last thing I needed was a reading assignment.) I've yet to crack it open, other than to look at the chapter titles, making special note of Chapter 20, Ending the Teaching of Contempt, the one concerning anti-Semitism that you felt I should read. However, I'll be reading the whole thing.

In your last Pastoral Letter, which I called a Pastor Kenny Responds (in lieu of a better title), you said: 
One of the things I’d forgotten was just how racist things were growing up. You reminded me what it was like to grow up Jewish--- and it all came rushing back, the horrible jokes about Jews, and Blacks, and Poles, and well, non WASPS. I remember being warned by someone not to attend a Catholic Mass because they spoke Latin and you didn’t know whether they were saying bad stuff or not.

It made me feel ashamed. Using the N-word was strictly forbidden in my family. Same with anti-Jewish rhetoric. But talk of “Injuns,” “Krauts” and “Japs” was tolerated. Now I’m ashamed. But I was also ashamed because of my forgetting. Forgetting how bad the Christian participation in anti-Semitism was in that era.
Back in college I edited the school's alternative paper
(ie: the one not put out weakly weekly by the Journalism
students). This was the cover of our Revelations issue.
While I never participated in racial denigration growing up -- perhaps because of my Jewish upbringing or the fact that Pops had a store on 12th Street, where I got to know a lot of Black folk -- I have my own shame over the names I called people in the LGBT communities back then. I console myself with the notion that it was a different time and I simply did not know any better.

My children were taught to know better, which is one of the ways with which we CAN change the world. And, that reminds me of a story:

One day my youngest son and I were walking down the street when he was about 8 or 9. Suddenly he yelled, "LOOK, DAD! A FAGGOT!!!"

Just as I was about to blast him for using such an awful word, I looked at where he was pointing. There, waiting for trash pick-up, was a bundle of sticks. How can you not like word play like that from a child? He now owns a successful restaurant in Toronto.

Ken, you also told me:
I must say I have been honored by your interest in my little LGBT soap opera. Spreading the word about Letter to My Congregation, being interested, curious, sympathetic.  But it has also been comforting to reconnect a little bit with my Gilchrist past through your reaching out. 

The cover design is a bundle of sticks
The fact of the matter is, Ken, that I feel you've written a very important book, which I tell anyone who will listen, for as long as they will listen. With your book you are on the leading edge of an important Social Justice Movement within the church. Only time will tell whether the masses will follow, and I mean masses in both senses of the word.

Books: another one of the ways with which we can change the world.

And, as I explained to you as we walked around downtown Ann Arbor in July, reaching back and reconnecting with my Gilchrist past has become very important to me because of The Trunk Lost In Transit.

What I find amusing, Ken -- and your mileage may vary -- is that I reject almost everything else you believe in. I identify as a non-evangelical Atheist. I don't proselytize because I don't care all that much whether people agree, or disagree, with me. Whether they do, or do not, affects my life not one iota. That's why I don't understand evangelicals, whether they're about Jesus, Atheism, or FitBit. (Say Ken, have you heard about E.W.F. Stirrup and his house?)

Having said that, while you may be used to having your beliefs challenged, I am not used to having my disbeliefs challenged.

Which brings me to what I really want to talk about: Cosmic Synchronicity. But first, some definitions:
Merriam-Webster defines "synchronicity" as "the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality—used especially in the psychology of C. G. Jung."
In the same post I defined it differently:
Think of your own personal synchronicity as a blanket you are shaking rhythmically up and down. The sine waves created by the blanket is a two dimensional representation of your synchronicity in a 3-Dimensional space. However, everyone knows that synchronicity works in the 6th Dimension, where it interacts with the 'waving blankets' belonging to everyone else. Where these waves collide are where the EXACT moments and locations the FSM [Flying Spaghetti Monster] has stitched together Space and Time and Gravity and Dimensionality and Predestination. If, as they contend in Quantuum Mechanics or String Theory or Whatever They're Calling It These Days™, that all choices are possible in the Alternative Universes that exist, then the chances of anything so improbable can be proven possible by multiplying boiling water with pasta and adding sauce.
So . . . where to start? Let's go all the way back to the beginning, Ken. And, get comfortable, because this is going to take a while.

Barbara way back when
Back when you were visiting me in the early '70s, my first ex-wife was going to school at George Brown College to learn all about the Sewing Arts, the field she eventually made her living in. There she met a gal named Barbara. I don't think I met Barbara back then.

A few years later I lived and worked on Bedford Road. Barbara lived on Bedford Road, just up the street. I don't think I met Barbara back then.

I finally met Barbara when I was a freelance writer selling my words to any publication that had a few extra dollars to spend. Among those was TO Tonight, Yorkview Magazine and a tabloid called Entertainment Weekly (long before and no relation to the tee vee show), where Barbara worked.

She was gorgeous and I asked her out. We went to a concert and then a bar. Afterwards, full of liquor and hormones, we repaired to my place on Nassau Street, in Kensington Market, which makes me an official Marketeer. At some point -- maybe we were discussing George Brown College, or maybe it just came out in casual conversation -- but Barbara realized she knew my ex-wife. Which explains why we never did The Deed that night. Sisterhood Solidarity was more important to Barbara. She left shortly after that.

Later Barbara left Entertainment Weekly and I became its Editor and Head Writer.

Skip ahead another 30 years, or so, and somehow I became facefriends with Barbette Kensington, her online persona. She's done community outreach for more than 3 decades in The Market and is often called the "Unofficial Queen of Kensington Market." She's posted a lot of pictures of herself and the various Marketeers at various locations in The Market. There's The Stoop, The Office, The Office Annex, the Alley and Lola.

Every time I saw one of her pics, I would gasp. She simply takes my breath away. She's gorgeous.

Knowing she's an event organizer, when I needed to throw myself a party in Toronto, I went to her (digitally) and asked where she'd hold such a party. [Read: The Nuptial Nostalgia Tour and the follow-up, Love Makes The World Go Round.] In all honesty, I had no expectations, other than she might know of a place. I haven't lived in Toronto in 17 years and Canada in 10. What do I know about entertaining in Toronto these days?

I certainly didn't expect her to take that ball and run with it. As an event organizer she assumed that's what I was asking. She found the perfect location in Kensington Market, Lola, and went about organizing the whole thing. Selfishly I let her because I didn't have to do a thing. However, I did sent out the invites on the facebookery.

When Barbara and I met up I hugged her. Hugged her hard. She tells me was not the kind of hug one normally gives an old acquaintance, but she allowed herself to fall into it. We've been allowing ourselves to fall into it ever since.

I keep telling Barbara that "I don't believe in any of that Mumbo Jumbo." She's Mohawk and deeply spiritual. I keep saying that because of all the coincidences that have built up to the point of cosmic synchronicity.
• Late last year one of Barbara's face-to-facefriends messaged me requesting facefriendship on Barbara's recommendation. I replied, "That's good enough for me." Little did I know that ever since this friend has been urging Barbara to go to me.
• One of the first conversations Barbara and I had at our reunion included an off-hand remark she made about her upcoming birthday and how she always thought she'd be married at that age. Without thinking I blurted out, I'll marry you. And, I meant it.
• Days later, at my Coming Home Party, one of Barbara's dear friends, who is downsizing and loves to give her things to random people, arrived at my party at Lola with a bag of jewellery. Some of it was real, some of it was costume. [I was on the other side of the patio, so I didn't realize this was going on at the time.] She slipped Barbara 2 very simple, tasteful, wedding rings and said, "Here."
This hand shook the hand of Bob Marley
• After the jewellery had been divided up, there remained one piece which was handed to me. It spoke to me immediately. It's the colours of the Jamaican flag and the Rastafarian religion, if a religion is said to have colours. I slipped it on my right wrist, where it has remained. Since returning to Florida several people have taken note and remarked on it. Now I get to say with more emphasis than ever something I've been saying for many years anyway: "This hand shook the hand of Bob Marley."
That's as far as I'd gotten with this Pastoral Letter.


AFTER:

And, then came the car crash. Long story short: I was sideswiped by a car turning right on the red as I motored through a green light just a mile from home. After all those 3,000 mile road trips it seems ironic to be taken out of commission so close to home.

That was more than a week ago and I didn't know where to take this essay after that. Therefore, I've just let it sit and stew in its own juices hoping I would be inspired.

The problem was: I no longer felt inspired. I'd read this and re-read this, not knowing where to take it, what to add, what to subtract, and whether to start all over. Yet, this morning I woke up inspired by the word "bifurcated." Here's where I'm taking this now:


I returned from Toronto feeling better than I have in decades. 

It wasn't just being back in the city that I love and call home, no matter where I happen to be. It wasn't just how Toronto feels as comfortable as a Johnny LaRue's smoking jacket. It wasn't that, as a Marketeer, this was like a homecoming. It wasn't even that Kensington Market, in which I spent most of my time while in Toronto, revitalized the Hippie slumbering in me. And, it wasn't that I fell in love with one of the most fascinating women I've ever known.

Me in Johnny LaRue's actual smoking jacket
No, Ken. It's that one of the most fascinating women I've ever known fell in love with me and calls me handsome. It was such an ego boost to know my affection was being returned. It made me feel good right to my core. It made me forget all the trials, tribulations, and challenges I have in Florida taking care of Pops. It gave me something to look forward to after feeling my life has been on hold for so very long.

Then came the car crash. Like an elastic band, it snapped me back to where I was -- what I was -- before I went to Toronto. I was morose. I was filled with ennui. While I put one foot in front of the other, I merely moved through life, life didn't move through me.

During the interregnum between returning from Toronto and the car accident I had more than once wondered, "What's it going to be like when this good feeling goes away as it inevitably will? What will the bubble-bursting feel like?"

Now I know.

However, and here's the important part: I don't feel as if I have regressed completely. Barbara has provided an important spark, which won't be extinguished. I told Barbara I was seeking her healing energy, which she gladly gave. Her spiritual beliefs go far deeper than my deeply held Atheism.

I feel spiritual when I'm banging two wooden sticks together in a drum circle when the rhythm takes me to a place where I'm not thinking any longer. I call that my Zen space, but I don't really know squat about Zen because I also say that driving with the tunes cranked up is also my Zen Space.

UNITY
I won't even begin to describe Barbara's spirituality (because that would be unfair to her), but I have on several occasions felt the need to say, "You know I don't believe in any of that mumbo jumbo."

Which is, I guess, the worst I can say about your beliefs, Kenny. While we appear to agree on so many Social Justice issues, we have a giant disagreement about the core belief driving us. I act in a socially conscience manner because I've long come to the conclusion it's the only way to live, both with the world at large and with myself. I don't need a God in my life in order to know the difference between right and wrong. You know I don't believe in that mumbo jumbo.

Maybe it would be easier if I could ascribe all events to a higher power. Reconnecting with Barbara after all these years certainly feels fated, predestined, kismet. Yet, the car accident does not.

My happiness can only be found within myself, as opposed to the belief that praying to a higher power brings me fulfillment and makes me happy. That thought, and that belief, makes me happier than I've been since the accident.

Two headlines that crossed my electronic transom yesterday couldn't be more diametrically opposed:


Now, that's funny. We'll see if I'm still laughing once I start fighting with the insurance company of the teenager who hit me.

Your childhood friend,
Marc Slootsky