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Posts Tagged ‘Red Cap’

Show time

And so we are coming to the end of the road with our new friend Tommy Tumour. In about 12 hours from now he will be surgically removed from his hiding place in the spinal column of my companion who has been behaving quite well under the circumstances.

We took him to Bokkraal where he could reminiscence about the good old days of his childhood. We celebrated his 70th birthday in the bush with a cup cake with one candle to spruce up the festivities. It was a wonderful, quiet birthday, the way he likes it most.

“Maturity begins with the capacity to sense and, in good time and without defensiveness, admit to our own craziness. If we are not regularly deeply embarrassed by who we are, the journey to self-knowledge hasn’t begun”. Alain de Botton

Into the wild where we all recharged our batteries for the battle ahead. We do not like hospitals. We do not like knives and grinders and what not slicing and splicing our bodies up, even if it is for a good cause.

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.”

– Hans Christian Anderson

(Photo by Hannelie)

At 3 this afternoon we mus book into the hospital. At 12 on Monday it is showtime. We are not elated, but we are grateful to first world science that can rid us of this little bastard causing so much havoc.

At the ripe old age of 70 bumps in the roads are to be expected. Friends of my moron of the same vintage are having much more trouble with their bodies than we are, and we feel for them, and we are grateful for a relatively smooth ride so far.

“That is impressive, the age of a man! That summarizes all his life. This maturity of his has taken a long time to achieve. It was grown through so many obstacles conquered, so many serious illnesses cured, so many griefs appeased, so many despairs overcome, so many dangers unconsciously passed. It has grown through so many desires, so many hopes, so many regrets, so many lapses, so much love. The age of a man, that represents a good load of experience and memories. In spite of decoys, jolts, and ruts, you have continued to plod like a horse drawing a cart.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

We are grateful for the support that we have received during this time. Wife and children and friends and even strangers helped soothe the old man into acceptance and virtual timidity, which is a great feat indeed, given his headstrong stubbornness, arrogance and on occasion, stupidity.

We will keep you up to date on proceedings and his physical and mental health as we go along.

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Befriending a tumour

Day -29 Report by the Red Cap

So, here we are, me and my “dummkopf” companion, trying to come to grips with the doctor’s diagnosis and verdict: “You cannot escape this one. You can postpone it for a short while, but we have to remove the tumour or else you will end up in a wheelchair.”

Like a pregnant teenage girl, you cannot run away from this one. So, what do we do? We can rage, we can cry, we can pray, we can go and sit in a corner and feel sorry for ourselves, but we know none of this will make the evil thing sitting pretty in the 8th Thoracic vertebra (or T – 8) go away.

The only alternative is to accept it, to accept “what is”, to accept life in both its good times and its inevitable bad times. Nobody ever promised you only good times in your life. If that is what you hope for you are a fool. Pain is inevitable, (psychological) suffering as a result of physical pain is optional. (“There is no birth of consciousness without pain” said  Carl Gustav Jung).

We decided on the alternative; to accept the diagnosis and acknowledge the blighter causing the problem. We will befriend it/him/her. We will talk to it/him/her. We will be mindful of its presence day and night, and we will talk to it, calm it down and try to decipher the message it is trying to convey to us … if there be such a veiled message in this messy and painful affair.

And that is indeed what we are doing. What started out as a very painful, at times even unbearable suffering about three years ago, has turned into a new way of being, a new way of doing life. The way it used to work was; Little Tommy Tumour would wake us up at three in the morning with a pain so severe that it left my poor moron friend nauseous and on the verge of screaming in torturous frustration. The ritual then was to grumble and moan and turn from side to side and hope that the pain will miraculously go away. After about ten minutes of this the help of painkillers (even morphine) was called on. The only thing to do after the painkillers were taken was to wait for the numbing effect to kick in, and then followed a restless sleep till morning.

But after the last visit to the good doctor we decided on the new strategy, we started to befriend little Tommy Tumour. We started to talk to him and started to feel grateful for waking us up at three or four in the morning. Every morning now we say good morning Tommy, thanks for waking us up. We see that you are not feeling too well again this morning. You are kicking and screaming down there, begging for your meds but we must take care that you do not get hooked on the stuff. Hang in there, we will get to that in good time.

Then we quietly get up and go to the spare bedroom so we will not disturb the other people in the house. Here we will walk up and down, five paces North and the five paces South up and down, all the time talking to the our little obstinate friend until the pain subsides enough for step two in the ritual which is to sit down on a low folding chair with a cushion on it and start to meditate for the next fifteen or twenty, or even sixty minutes.

And that is why we are so grateful towards Tommy. He is indeed affording us a time to be still, a time to contemplate and to meditate, a way to live more consciously during each day. This must be the brutal kind of grace that Adyashanti is talking about all the time. Or maybe the Gnostic Jung’s Abraxis in action. We are going with the flow, not resisting “that which is”.

We talk to him all day. We told him that we are impressed by his cleverness to divert the pain away from himself by kicking the old man in the right side just below the liver, causing pain in the whole area and implicating respectively the liver, then the pancreas and then the colon as the bad guys in the story and in this way fooling the doctors who scanned, x-rayed, poked and even peeked with a camera inside the colon and stomach  for two years before they could find the real culprit sitting high up in the spinal column while causing havoc way down below its nesting place.

We told him that he has been caught in the act, accused and tried justly and the unanimous verdict of the jury of a specialist panel of doctors was death by surgical removal for causing harm to, and attempted murder of his host. We assured him that we do not hold any grudges against him, in fact we will try to make the rest of his stay as comfortable as possible by supplying enough drugs to keep him happy.

This weekend we are taking him/it on vacation. We are going to an old haunt of the family. They used to go there over the Christmas holidays about 50 years back!! Bokkraal is the name of the resort/hide-out. The is a small waterfall, deep valleys, huge rock formations and deep natural pools to swim in.

I will keep you updated on the progress of my companion and his new friend Tommy Tumour.

 

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Beethoven: Ode to Joy

The Red Cap

First report on the well-being of of my ageing companion and notorious pain in the butt.

We seem to be entering a new chapter in the life of my moron friend and companion, the insufferable wannabe author/philosopher and seeker after truth. And I, the famous Red Cap must duly inform you that I have enacted a swift and decisive coup here on this WordPress site and will from now on be your sole informant on the physical and mental well-being of my aforementioned moron and companion.

The reason for this drastic step was necessitated  by the onset of a slight disturbance in the emotional, mental and physical stability of the poor sod I call my friend and tormentor for reasons we will come to shortly. I do believe that I am at this pivotal stage of our entangled existence the only one qualified to bring you factual information, unencumbered by emotional and irrational  mental upheavals, about the existential, spiritual and physical challenges that might lay ahead for us in the coming weeks.

A brief history of how we got to this little bump in the road, a road I might add that has seen some major bumps from the day of conception some 70 years ago up till this very moment in time.

Since 2012 (AD, not BC!) the man has been complaining of aches and pains, which was (given the age and state of his battered old body) not taken too seriously by himself or the doctors, but he was nevertheless poked at, x-rayed, scanned and peeked at from all angles. Eventually his gall bladder was removed which almost killed the poor sod. But the pain persisted and after more than R300,000 was spent on further medical examinations in the search for the cause of the ghostly pains, the search was abandoned and a regimen of painkillers ranging from morphine to Grandpa Powders to other illegal substances were initiated to keep the old man going from day to day.

This went on until last week when persistent  and almost unbearable pain that resulted in sleepless nights for the old man, demanded a final assault on the devilishly evasive cause of the un-wellness of my already mentally and psychologically unwell companion.

We went to see a specialist neurosurgeon. My neurotic companion complained that it was a total waste of money to go sprawl naked under some exotic lights in the presence of some lovely but strange young women. (from that remark it is not difficult to deduce that my old man is indeed a very old man).

So he posed this way and that way in front of the x-ray machine, then he was sent into that infamous white tunnel thing that goes humm and haa and bee-beep. Then he was wheeled out of the tunnel, given an injection and wheeled back in again.

Lovely people at the hospital. From the doctor’s rooms to the hospital and theaters the service rendered was excellent. We applaud you one and all.

From the good doctor we received the good news, and the bad.

The good news is that we now know what the cause of all the pain is.

The bad news is that the culprit in the whole drama is a tumor (about 16x12mm) right next to the spinal cord, or as it is stated in the report: “Extramedullary intradural lesion demonstrated at the level of T8 vertebral body demonstrating mass effect upon the thoracic spinal cord from postero-laterally, right off the midline.” These very clever people keep on amazing me, I mean, is this exposition of the diagnoses not almost poetic?

Just listen to the concluding statement: “T8 vertebral body level extramedullary intradural contrast enhancing lesion situated to the right of the midline and posterolateral to the thoracic cord with anterolateral displacement to the left of the thoracic spinal cord with resultant spinal canal stenosis at level of T8 vertebra body.

So that is the bad news delivered in the most beautiful language.

The good news is that the Evil thing can be removed  using microscopes and modern robotics and a very steady hand …. and lots of praying and chanting and burning of incense.

The bad news is that the operation will be painful, that the old man might have a problem walking again after the operation and will have to go for rehab (not THAT kind of rehab, not yet) to get him up and running again, and he might have a problem with incontinence for a while (this last warning caused the old man some grave concern and loud protestations because he believed the doctor to have said “impotence”).

This all happened on Friday and the good doctor wanted to schedule the operation for Sunday, but my dick-headed know it all moron decided that he has got a lot of work lined up till the end of April that MUST be done, after which he will gladly go to the hospital, take his clothes off once again and like a lamb to the slaughter will he offer himself up into the hands of the master.

And so, the operation is now irrevocably (death excluded) scheduled for Monday the 29th   day of April 2019.

To end this first report by me the Famous Red Cap on the well-being  of my pupil, companion, sometimes asshole and sometimes … well almost friend, I give you the final conclusion on the diagnoses based on scans as penned down by the doctor at MRI.

This is pure prose, almost an ode to a tumor. The man should quit his current job, dump his Ferrari and start writing books!

In conclusion: “The radiological findings are suggestive of a nerve sheath tumor (schwannoma or neurofibroma), although an atypical meningioma and extramedullary intradural metastasis from an unknown primary cannot be excluded,”

Friedrich Nietzsche once said that “Sickness liberated me slowly:” I can only hope that this episode or sickness which dumped the old man into a new existential crisis will eventually liberate him in the same way, for heaven knows, he needs liberation from himself desperately.

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The Life and Death of an Accountant

A Homage by the famous Red Cap.

Johann 7/02/1954 – 7/10/2018

“Show me your face before your parents were born” the Buddhist Master will ask of his student, and most of the time he will whack him on the head if he starts to ramble about previous lives or something to that effect.

But here we will stick to what we know, or think we know, and be whacked over the head because we do not yet know what reality is, what truth is. But we will not be deterred by trivialities like that, we will march on regardless.

Where did it all start for The Accountant? We do not know much about the beginning. We know that he grew up on a farm, but all we have is a photograph of him on his tricycle in front of an apricot tree, a very fateful apricot tree, because it was there that the knife was, the knife that pretty much determined the course of the rest of this life, the youngest of six dirty little barefoot buggers running wild on a maize farm, miles from the nearest town.

The pocket knife with the very sharp, pointed blade used to skin prickly pears that was left unattended on a table. The knife that he picked up on that fateful day, that cost him his eye and sped him into a life of rejection, distrust (even disgust?), questioning, seeking, and depression, the life of the outsider, the silent witness who later in life could identify strongly with outsiders like Harry Haller in Herman Hesse’s ‘Steppen Wolfe’ and  Joseph Knecht in ‘The Glass Bead Game’.

Primary school was mostly a blur (with a girl named Catherin moving in and out of the haze of his freaked-out consciousness). The rest was a futile exercise of trying to be invisible, of flying under the radar, but his intellect projected him into the limelight which both delighted him and frustrated him. He hated attention, he hated competition. He did not want to be “better” than anyone. He just wanted to be, but the race was on and he had to stay ahead of the pack of hungry and envious little wolves and their ambitious parents.

He later recounted an incident when he was in grade two where one of the less intellectually endowed, but aggressively ambitious class mates, eager to demonstrate his (mostly imagined) Rambo like physical superiority over this one eyed sissy-boy, tried to coax him into a fist fight. Enter another member of the clan of the six barefoot buggers, (the same twerp who much later became the frustrating and extremely irritating companion of me, the famous Red Cap), a skinny little man, not too bright in the top story but a reasonably good athlete, who quietly went about the business of persuading the cocky dumb ass of a would be Rambo to forsake his foolishness and go play with his toys, which he promptly did.

Strangely enough, it was this same youngest of the 6 siblings that, a couple of years later, punched my moron companion a solid blow on the nose, (he was so small that he had to jump to deliver the blow to that nose) causing said nose to bleed profusely, and that for simply stepping accidentally on one of the little attacker’s toys where he was playing in the dirt under that same fateful apricot tree. That was the only punch on the nose that my moron received in his entire, foolish life, and incidentally, the only punch that The Accountant ever delivered to any nose in his entire life.

But it was also during this time that The Accountant discovered the magic of silence. Towards the end of his life he recounted to a friend how he used to hide in the dark, almost sacred sanctuary of the living room (exclusively reserved for important guests like the Dominee) on Sundays before the family’s monthly excursion to the church in town. Here he would lie down on the carpet in the semi-darkness and enter that ineffable state of complete silence, which he later learned all the esoteric traditions called “no mind”. A state of mind that takes most students of spirituality a lifetime to reach.

Life in Highschool was for him, if possible, even worse than primary school. Now a very self-conscious  one-eyed teenager, who battled to fit in. He was called ‘dead-eye-dick’ by some of the more envious morons who could not beat him intellectually, and so he became even more of an outsider.

Sadly, his dad was also not very impressed with his youngest’s intellectual prowess. He wanted him to be a man, to stand up for himself, to be a real farm boy with dirt on his hands, to at least show some interest in farming. To make a man out of this softy, he bought him a horse. A boy must be able to ride a horse to prove that he is a man. That was the world the old man grew up in, a world of horses and ox wagons, and that was how life and men should be. But The Accountant didn’t like horses, he liked to play chess. He loved chess and represented his school in tournaments, but his dad never attended one competition, nor did he ask about the results of the games he played. Dad insisted that he must get onto that bloody horse or else …

In silent rebellion he bought himself a bicycle and started to ride back to school in the afternoons to play tennis. Despite having only one eye, he found that he could play tennis better than most of the other children at school. He excelled in the game and became the number one player for the school and represented the school at inter-school competitions. And again, his dad showed no interest in his youngest’s accomplishments on tennis courts and refused to attend the matches that he played. In his world a real man played rugby and girls played tennis and that was that.

Then it was off to university to study, on his father’s insistence agricultural sciences, to obtain a BSc degree so that he could one day become a farmer. Naturally it didn’t work for him, so he changed course and studied B.com instead, which of course did nothing to bridge the divide between him and his father. In fact, that was about the time that they stopped talking to each other at all.

It was then that our Accountant started to lose all interest in the games people play. He put away his tennis rackets and gave away his chess board. From now on the big questions about the why and the how of life that has been simmering on the backburners of his mind started to step forward and demanded attention.

As a famous Red Cap, my experience is that  people who suffered severe trauma early in life, who needed and begged and prayed in this desperate dark hour for help from Above like a good Christion should, but received no such help at all even though the church promised that if you asked, it will be lovingly given unto you, either turns against God in anger and become insufferable atheists forever and fiercely fighting a (for them) non-existent entity, or they go the exact opposite way and become zealots for his or her wrathful God and promise death and damnation unto all who does not believe in their very loving, very angry and wrathful god sitting on his throne somewhere up in heaven.

But not so for our Accountant. Spirit started to stir deep inside of him, and he started looking for, and demanding answers to his questions. He became involved with the guys from Practical Philosophy, but soon parted ways with them when they started to demand money “for the bi- weakly drivel that they dished up as truth to impressionable and naïve searchers after Truth”, as he called it.

He started to read profusely. Aldous Huxley’s ‘Doors of Perception’ intrigued him and he was inspired by transpersonal psychology and the work being done at Esalin.

It was at this stage that the eldest brother of the family gave my future companion, the skinny, barefoot farm boy (the one that got punched in the nose), a copy of Erich von Danikin’s ‘Chariots of the Gods’.  That was a mind changer for both the Accountant and the future owner of me, the famous Red Cap. Add to that the works of Carlos Castaneda, Baal Shem Tov and Islamic Sufism that they discovered in second-hand bookshops, and you have the beginnings of a serious intellectual and spiritual rebellion.

They found common ground, they found a world full of exiting possibilities, a world away from the stale (Aristotelian and Cartesian) ‘if – then’ predictabilities and entered a world of ‘what if’ possibilities. ‘The varieties of religious experience’ by William James and von Danikin’s books, as well as Zecharia Sitchin’s “The 12th Planet” confirmed their suspicion that the Old Testament of the Bible with its horrible and immoral bloodshed and unpredictable and unforgiving god, might just not be a true rendition of what really happened back then, or what should happen in a just and civilised world ruled by an all knowing, omnipresent, almighty God. God, The Accountant argued, is not an old man, a cross between old Zeus, Neptune and Father Christmas as most churches like to portray Him as, and as most god-fearing believers saw him. There was something seriously amiss in this picture and the search was on to find ‘the holy grail’ like the Gnostics of old.

The question for the Accountant turned from “what is life about” to “what would constitute the good life,” a train of thinking that led him to Buddhism (or led him astray, as some would later accuse him of). As a philosophy, Buddhism accorded with his intellectual approach to life, and, as a psychological system encouraging a life of non-violence, contemplation, meditation and compassion,  confirmed his own intuition of what a good life entails, and how life should be lived. It was a way of being far removed from the average Christian’s ‘go-to-church-every-Sunday-and-do-as-you-like-during-the-six-days-inbetween’ way of life he grew up with. He believed that, if you cannot live your spiritual convictions (or walk your talk, as the New Agers like to say), then it is no use going to church at all. Going to church more out of convention than conviction, does not make you a Christian, nor does it make you less of a barbarian if you beat up your wife or fuck your secretary or your own daughter in the days between your pious visits to the church. (Kierkegaard: “The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.”)

He used to get quite worked up on that issue! (meer…)

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Jingle the bells

‘So, it was that time of the year again,’ said my old friend, the world famous Red Cap, from the top of the Christmas tree. I thought it would be a good idea to have a philosophising Cap on top of the tree instead of the traditional star or angel. From up there he will have a better view of the festivities and traditions of us the, according to him, “inferior mere mortals”.
‘Yes,’ I confirm merrily. ‘Jingle Bells were ringing joyously down the isles of shops in tune with the jingling of cash registers all over the world, and Boney M’s Little Drummer Boy competed with the sound of children throwing temper tantrums in front of shelves stacked to the roof with toys of all description while desperate mothers, in the spirit of Christmas, tried not to murder them in public. It was marvellous, absolutely wonderful, don’t you think?’
‘Yes, I know you are mad about it, you just love the spirit of it. You find it thrilling and exciting and joyful. Me, I fail to see the sense in any of this, but then again, you are a mere mortal, a stupid creature driven by senseless passion and uncontrollable emotions.’
‘But look at all the beautiful Christmas trees with the little lights in them. The streets were aglow with colourful lights and marvellous decorations,’ I tell him. ‘The people were happy and friendly and more forgiving. Laughter and love was in the air. It always stirs something deep in you, it fills you with wonder, with awe as if some miracle is about to happen. (meer…)

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Conversations with a famous Red Cap.
Nisargadatta Maharaj
“Listen to this,” I say into the darkness of my wardrobe. ‘When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You’re able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression. You develop enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die. And you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently.’
“You wake me from hibernation on a cold morning like this to tell me something so obvious, a damn mule can understand it. What is your problem? You going mad or something?” replies a grumbling voice from the darkness.
I suppose I should have anticipated a reaction like this from The Cap. He has been sleeping in a dark corner of my wardrobe since the beginning of the winter.
“Are you just telling me this great, earth shattering truth for the hell of it, or is there a question in there somewhere?” glowers the Red Cap from the darkness of his lair.
“Sorry,” I say into the darkness. “I need to talk to you. This is a quotation from ‘The Pocket Pema Chödrön’, that old Buddhist Master from Tibet.
“I know,” scowls The Cap from the comfort of his dark, warm hiding place. “Why are we bothered by old Master Pema and her wisdom so early on a bloody cold morning like this? And by the way, she is not a Tibetan Master from Tibet, she is an American Tibetan Buddhist, born as Deirdre Bromfield-Brown in 1936 in New York City, USA. Her religion is Vajrayana Buddhism from the Shambhala Lineage and her current title is that of Bhikkhuni. She is the Director and principal teacher at Gumpo Abby in Nova Scotia Canada. Anything else you want to know about Pema Chödrön?” (meer…)

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(Continue reading from previous post)

The next morning the healthy dead man was wheeled off to the operating theatre. While waiting in line for his turn to be poked at form the outside and spied on from the inside, he was informed that a small monitor would be implanted under his skin somewhere over his heart. This gave rise to fierce betting between two theatre nurses over the shivering body of our zombie under the theatre lights, as to where exactly the doctor was going to do the implant. Our brave Mr Reg Shoe suggested they each make a cross with a pen on where they thought the implant should be done.

When the doctor arrived and boldly inserted the device, the male nurse joyfully shouted ‘I won. You owe me a decent meal at a decent restaurant!’ The doctor was not impressed, but high-fived the winner and moved to the nether regions of my recently-back-from-the-dead companion.

The anaesthetist explained to my zombie that he was not going to put him to sleep, but that he was going to give him a little shot of some good stuff to make him happy and relaxed so he could enjoy the show of his insides on the monitor. A camera probe was inserted in an artery in his thigh and moved all the way to his heart where the doctor joyfully pointed out to his happy patient that the repair work to the inlet and outlet manifolds of the pump during the previous bypass operation was still in mint condition and could thus not have been the reason for his cardiac arrest this time. He pointed to a small, crooked artery in between the previously repaired ones and said that that one was blocked, and it could have been the culprit giving the surgeon the fright of his life. And then the cardiologist abruptly left the theatre and stayed away for a very long time, which caused some panic in the mind of the living dead on the operating table.

When the doctor casually returned a while later, he said the artery was too small and crooked to put a stens in and with that he removed his probe, stitched up the thigh and left, never to be seen again by me or my Mr Reg Shoe, not even when we were discharged from the hospital the next day.

After the operation, the anaesthetists told us that, while the doctor was moving his probe upwards through the belly of the beast, so to speak, he looked at the area where my moron said the original pain came from. And said he, the doctor had some good news and some bad news. The bad news was that one of the ribs will have to be removed, the good news was that they could create a new wife for him from the rib. In unison, me and my zombie cried NO THANK YOU! We can barely handle one of them. We do not want an extra one.

When the good wife came by we mentioned to her the proposition that was made to us by the doctor. Contrary to expectations the good wife was elated, provided that the new wife took over cooking, cleaning and sex. With that the Zombie almost shot out of bed to go tell the doctor to proceed with the operation.  I calmed him down and pointed out to him that, being a zombie, and an old one at that, we could expect some vital parts of his body to start falling off in the foreseeable future. Considering such a prospect, we decided not to accept the generous offer because a clean house was very much overrated in any case.

And now we are back home. We hit the ground running and haven’t stopped since. The work will not wait for you to die, said my moron réanimé who is grudgingly sporting his original pain in the side for which he seeked medical help and was, at phenomenal cost, rewarded with a score of new pains added for his trouble. He is not a happy man, but being sad will not make it go away, he says.

If he was a cat, I am sure he’d by now be close to, or living his 9th and final life. And I was just beginning to like the moron.

And so, stuffed with painkillers (including the green FECO variety), he is happily trotting along to the finishing line. I, the famous Red Cap will keep you posted on our beloved Mr R Shoe’s hazy progress down the hill to oblivion.

 

“When we believe what we think, when we take our thinking to be reality, we will suffer.”

Adyashanti: Falling into Grace

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