Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Journey Home

The plane flew into Vancouver Airport last night. I'd spent the last hour of the flight with a very sick man.  Both flights I'd responded to the call for 'doctor on board'.  It's the responding as much as anything.  In arriving I bring confidence and experience. There is a palpable diminution of distress by all involved.
I am always thankful for my training.  I proceed systematically through the A,B,C's taught so long ago to me by wiser teachers.  I exclude systematically the enormous and frightening, then the less so, and eventually I am convinced that a thing is something like another group of things I had previously encountered as mystery.  Then I share this information with the person who in their anxiety have no doubt done their own checklist but with a lot more concern than I, a little off from the centre of the experience, as it were. Standing side by side, touching an arm, holding to a wrist, looking into eyes.  And no sooner than it has begun, this time is past, the emergency is over, and ambulances arriving at the air port  whisk this shaking pale chap to colleagues in an emergency department who will take it from there.  I am thankful to be part of a team, part of humanity.
My search for God is as important as the finding really.  It comes and goes this thing of faith and grace.  I 'believe'. I acknowledge my 'ignorance'. Only humble can I be present to be presented.  I can not know with the certainty I can believe I can, the existence of a grape.  But this unknown otherness I have learned to long for and trust is a different thing, unseen, but not truly unfelt.  Not emotional or intellectual but somehow transcendent.
I lack the arrogance to put limits on creation.  All is possible in this impossible world.  I am just a traveller and sojourner.  But in seeking God I am lifted out of the mire of myself, moved beyond navel gazing.  We are a society of masturbaters, a 'culture of masturbation',to quote John Burdett.  Alone with our iPhones and television, individualized experiences, like Kurt Vonnegut's "peepholes on reality".
We were described long ago as a 'culture of narcissism', then with our addiction to abortion and now euthanasia, a 'culture of death', but frankly I prefer 'John Burdett's 'culture of masturbation' because it is moving if only in illusion. Hypocrtically we decry the brothel of the east while we have television pornography available in every hotel room.  That's more available these days than the once ubiquitous Gideon's Bible.
So the search for God is a search outside of myself. There's a directional sense from baby to old man. I'm either on the up elevator or down elevator. The rythymn fluctuates. It's an oscilloscope this life.  In the west, that is, whereas in the east its a circle.  There are no direct lines.  Some say you can't get to here from there or even there from here.
I am home. Landing I gather my luggage and enjoy the 'normalcy' of the Vancouver airport. After days of alien experience, surrounded by novelty, the complete unknown, I am now again confronted by memory.  Everything comes together like the experience of watching a man quiver with with hypocalcemia likely secondary to hypokalemia brought on by repetitive vomitting.  I know these things like I know the Jet setter bus will take me to the long term parking where my Mazda Miata will be waiting.
The air is so fresh. It's what I first notice stepping out of the airport. The air is rich in its purity. The weather is cool.  Coolness has such a premium in the south.  Here I could use another layer, a sweater or a flannel shirt, to dispel the chill I feel through my wind breaker. It's wonderful to be back in the chill.  After the heat and humidity I'll once again not be drenched in sweat after a little exertion or wiping my brow of perspiration just walking through my day.  It's home, this air and this climate.  
The city seems little changed. I see it with new eyes and know that there is mystery everywhere if I want to search for it.  I've only gone on my known routes, walked into the stores and homes of those I've grown safe and secure with.  Yet this city has millions and there is so much I can not know, no more than I could knowthe superficial layer of a Kuala Lumpur or Singapore or Siem Reap, previously wholly unknown to me.  I always have to go thousands of miles away to know my home in a different newer way.
I like driving through the city. I like that I've cellular without the extortionary fee risks of 'data roaming'. I can use my iPhone gps and plot the quickest way to Hannah's.  Landing I've texted my arrival and asked when I might pick up Gilbert. The plane was hours delayed in Hong Kong.
Gilbert is beside himself with meeting. He sniffs me briefly then jumps and shouts and barks and squirms and is quite inconsolable. Lifted up he licks my face and down on the ground again runs in circles looking no doubt for a yellow tennis ball. His girlfriend dog is joining in the canine carnival of meetings.  Mia is there with Hannah's sister. I'm invited in but really feeling badly at the gracious hospitality fear driving home even now as I'm so utterly tired and exhausted after a 20 hour journey. It is evening for others here but near midnight for me and a day a head as well.  There is such tension in the acceptance of responsibility in emergencies.  It's been a working vacation in more ways than one, with days of lectures, two emergencies and such learning of experience. I'll be a better doctor for my patients who come the east. I've been in an immersion experience.  My 'whiteness' has been challenged and my comfortable assumptions have been confronted.  Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu, Animalist, Pagan.  Malaysian, Indian, Chinese.  As a Christian and Canadian I was a distinct minority.  I so often had to explain where Canada was, and few knew where Vancouver was.  My very importance was inconsequential in the irrelevance of my own geography to that a world away and millions more.
The god journey is like the journey home. I've been to Ankgor Wat in Cambodia.  Now I'm in Vancouver.  Angkor Wat was the temple complex for Hindus then Buddhists.  A site of empire and war and peace.  It's a monument of artistry and a celebration of God and life. I prayed in the Changi Chapel in Singapore, attended St. Andrews Cathedral there too.  I was glad to be among soul searchers there as  I was to meet with colleague healers at a conference addressing the idolatry of our age, the addictions of heroin, cocaine, cannibis , gambling, sex, alcohol.
I am thankful now to be home.  I'm alive and have my health and all that was in my two bags has arrived safe with me.  Every moment of my return my possessions explode. From being alone I'm now with this little buddy whose head was  intermittently out the sportscar window or coming over to my side to lick my ear.  Reassuring us both of restored friendship. I am his human. He is my dog.  My known relationships are expanding. My possessions increasing.  First the car and then my boat.
Arriving at my boat on the dock, I found the electricity has been disconnected. It was very chilly and I went through a diagnostic only to find the shore cable has come lose, no doubt, in wind.   Electricity restored again and yet with the batteries charging, I can not fully use the heaters so lit candles and propane stove.
Then I filled my water tank, thankful the water lines weren't frozen or just turned off.   I lit the propane water heater. There was hot water  then for the much appreciated shower to cleanse away the clammy soiled feelings of travel. Clean clothes and food.  I threw the yellow tennis ball between every activity. Gilbert was ecstatic with this return to normalcy.  He races up and down the boat twisting and turning chasing the ball and returning it to my feet wherever my feet maybe.
Bundled up warm, clean, I relax, surrounded by all the wants and needs of a lifetime.  There is even a stethoscope here and scalpel, needle driver, iodine along with myriad other tools.  My little comrade is curled on the couch beside me, having eaten two little caesars, the batteries are charging, candle light and heaters warmed the space,  the gentle rolling motion of sea beneath me.  I am on the couch, my couch, in my man space, this corner of the world where I'm most at home, with laptop and book, wifi connected, email read, cell phone within reach, relaxed, safe. There is even a cutlass hanging on the wall to dispel intruders.
This is my space, my home, in my greater home, Vancouver.  Here I have searched for God and myself. Here I have journeyed across oceans and chasms.  Here I am home as home as I can be in an uncertain world, a world of mystery, here in this space I know. I am surrounded by radios, fishing rods, books on navigation and literature, panels of dials and gauges. Here I am home. Here is all that I need of the world to sustain the physical self.  There was even frozen bread, butter and peanut, apples and potatoes in the galley.  I've canned goods   beneath the seat and spare parts and tools to repair almost all that might go wrong.  I've friends near by as well. I've already got calls from good people I know, not strangers, not unknowns, friends who have proven true for decades.
Just as my dog was ecstatic to see me after a week and a half, I'm so happy to hear and see those people I know after a similar lapse of time. But my journey has been half a world away and cultures and history and multitudes.  I'm home and here is where I meditate and pray and read books of inspiration and ask for guidance from God. Here I look to this world and the next or the in between, the unseen and the seen.  My brief departure has been so alien intense.
Here I'm home.  Here I can relax. I love the sea air.  I look forward to the sound of sea gulls cries in the morning.  I've awoken in the night, my inner clock not yet coordinated to this longitude.  It's dark and daylight will renew this city that is mine. Then the journey will be of the day. One day I will progress, seeking God, in myself, in my fellow man and in this world around me.  In this known world I'll continue to long for the creator, seek the peace that passes all understanding, and be thankful.  I'm here again.  The journey home begins anew.
The journey home is always the spiritual one.

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