Is it possible to miss someone you never really met?
I'm here to tell you that yes, it is. I miss my brother.
My identical twin Baby Boy A Breadner, named Monty by my dad after his best friend, was born ahead of me. We were supposed to come out on April 10th, 1972. It didn't work out that way...we were born on February 6th instead.
We were puling, sickly things, the both of us. I don't know how much Monty weighed, but I was three pounds, three ounces at birth. I was in and out of hospital for much of my first year of life.
Monty never got the opportunity to be in and out of hospital. He died two days after he was born, a victim of several things that all boil down to being over two months premature in 1972.
Usually in a case like this it's the firstborn twin who lives. Not this time.
Ever since I've been old enough to muse on existential questions, I've wondered why that is. Why he died and I lived. I mean, on a basic level, his handicaps were too much to overcome and mine weren't. But why?
You can spend a lifetime contemplating questions like that, and I have. It's like a detective mystery, except in addition to a dead body, we have a live one: me. Why? Why am I here? And the flip side, probably the more unanswerable of the two queries, why isn't my brother here instead or as well?
Even as a kid, I started gathering clues. My stepdad, John, gave me the first of them, often saying that hoary old chestnut "life is what you make it." I think a lot of people hear that phrase and dismiss it. I know I used to: I was sure life was something that just happened, rather than something I chose. This was patently obvious: why would I choose for people to beat me up? Why would I choose to be shunned? Why would I choose the early home life I had, which was far from idyllic?
I was baptized Catholic, and so I searched for answers in the Bible. I didn't find any that satisfied me, either in the text or in church. Again and again I was told to turn my life over to God. At first I interpreted that dictum rather childishly: it meant, I thought, abdication of all personal responsibility. Later I came to understand that it means the exact opposite: Christians are expected to act at all times as if a Higher Power is acting through them--because, they believe, It is.
Which is fair enough, but you don't have to be a Christian to believe the same thing. Virtually every religion going, along with asserting that "we are all one" in some form or another, suggests that we can access higher modes of thinking and acting. Even humanism makes that point. And atheists need not capitalize the 'h' in 'higher".
Later still I discovered Neale Donald Walsch, who personalized the Higher Power for me. At one point early on in his Conversations with God series, he makes a point that if we are made in the image and likeness of God, that would make us "co-creators". Click. That meshed very well with what John had been saying to me for years. The answer to "why am I here?" is thus deceptively pithy: Because.
Perhaps to explain how deceptively simple an answer that is, I should hyphenate the word: Be-cause. Or make it two words: Be cause. At some level, we are at cause for what happens in our lives.
English is cool that way, with the compound words you don't always notice. I've talked before about "en-joy", to put joy into, and its deeper meaning that any thing is not the source of joy, but rather that you put the joy into the thing. Responsibility is a good one: you have the ability to choose your response to a given situation....choose wisely. Atone is another one: to atone for something you did to someone renders you at one with that person and yourself. Be cause is just one more way of saying "life is what you make it".
I truly believe this, you know, even for such things that seem to be completely outside our control, such as the moment of our death, or things you'd think you would choose to avoid. In this as in so many other things, my stepfather had it right.
This answers the age-old question of evil. Why did the Holocaust happen? Because. It's up to us, in other words. As Conversations with God has it, the true horror wasn't Hitler. Hitler thought he was doing good for his country...you might say "Making Germany Great Again". The true horror was that he got the vast majority of eighty six million people to agree with him on means and methods. The text warns us that "there will be other Christs, and other Hitlers" and that we should be ever-watchful for both...so that we, as a society, could use them as benchmarks. This we will strive to emulate. This we will not abide.
Incidentally, a Christ, in this de-Christianized context, is a person Who has realized that Higher Power lives within Her, and radiates that power for the betterment of the world around Her. Compare John 14:12, which is one of my favourite verses in the whole of the Bible:
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (NIV)
Christians read this as a call to believe in the Divinity of Christ, and to join together as His Church in order to do "greater things". When I first came across this verse, I couldn't help but think of all the places in the Bible where we're told we are all children of God...in other words, made of the same stuff God is. Co-creators. We are "children" of God because nearly all of us have forgotten this, and act as if we are separate from God and from each other. The Truth is something rather different, of course.
(If the word "God" bothers you, by all means feel free to substitute a synonym such as "Love", "Life", "The Universe", "Everything".)
Anyway. I could ramble for hours on unity, and being at cause, in various faiths. Science is catching up. One of my go-to meditations concerns the spiritual implications of the observer effect, to wit, the mere act of looking at something changes it. Science has always sought to minimize spirituality and magic, believing itself incompatible with either....in reality, all three are only different ways of seeing the world, each very useful in its own way, none particularly helpful in another's realm.
You've heard that 'seeing is believing'? I tell you now, believing is seeing. --Neale Donald Walsch, Home With God in a Life that Never Ends
Why am I here? Because.
Because of what?
I can't speak for you. My answer is love. I'm here, on a strictly physical level, because of a fruitful act of lovemaking. (Fruit ultimately derives from Latin frui, "enjoy", and if there's something easier to put joy into than making love, I don't know what it is.) Oh, and wow, there's another interesting compound word, love-making: it suggests that the product of intercourse both comes about "because" of love, and IS love, expressed. Well, I try to be. It's hard, some days.
Why is Monty not here? Because. Because of what?
Monty's not around to answer this, so I have to take a stab at it.
An absence is a presence. It can be felt. Sometimes it can even be measured. What has Monty's negative presence wrought on the world? On my world in particular?
It deeply, deeply wounded my mother, I can tell you that much. It made her even more fiercely protective of me than she might otherwise have been. I assign no value judgment to that protectiveness, which to outsiders might have seemed obsessive at times. For good or ill, it made a part of who I am: a man who is extremely risk averse, who knows his limitations and rarely tests them. Perhaps that is a bad thing, in some ways, but I would suggest it gifted me with a calm and calming personality.
It also made me an only child. (Only: from OE anlic, "unique, solitary", both of which have suited me at various times). I have a stepbrother and a couple of stepsisters, but no actual siblings save my dead but not departed brother.
Not having siblings stunted my growth and sapped my ambition. Think of it: brothers teach you things. Sisters are people you look up to (or down on, sometimes, I suppose). What they're doing, you want to do as well, and better. A sibling, particularly an identical twin, is your first friend and confidant(e).
That lack of ambition has made me a disappointment to some, and even, at times, to myself. At such times I try to take about ten mental steps back and remind myself that getting ahead can and often does cost a heart, and given a choice I'll take the heart every time. Rather than model personal ambition, I've made it my life's work to love others. It doesn't pay well...in currency, at any rate. Yet I consider myself wealthy beyond any possible imagining I might have had as a child.
As I may have said before, lacking brothers and sisters means I have no understanding whatsoever of sibling rivalry. It makes no sense to me. I'm curious if this is because of Monty's absence, or something I would feel anyway. I suspect the latter based on the sets of identical twins I have known.
I've only known two sets. Dirk and Jeff, in grade seven, were in the 'gifted' program with me. Picture Frasier and Niles Crane as young identical twins and you'd be in the Dirk and Jeff ballpark. How many grade seven kids do you know who take briefcases to school?
It was them against (most of) the world, and they shared an intense bond.
The other set--Pam and Pat. They went to Humber College at the same time as my then-girlfriend Lynne, and because I am who I am I had huge crushes on the both of them. They, too, were each other's closest friends and rarely seemed even out of sorts with each other. I only have personally seen the two examples, but I have heard of many others: it seems identical twins behave very differently from other sets of sibs. In a way that suggests they are more in tune with unity, perhaps.
But I didn't have that. I only had its absence, and had to deduce--and then induce--how it would look and act from close contemplation, as if of a photographic negative. There are times I feel as if I've done well at this, when I think about the richness of love my friends and partners bestow on me. There are times I feel like a failure, when I am reacting instead of creating. (Those are the same word...only the C has moved. When you change the way you "C" things, you can create instead of reacting.) There are times I'm too busy trying to be my Highest Self to assess success or failure. But through it all, Monty looms. Just...be cause.
I sense him, sometimes, in the spaces between wakefulness and slumber, in a hazy dream of floating on the womb's ocean in our relation-ship. When I feel him...when I sense that negative presence, I don't perceive him as suffering from the afflictions which meted out mere hours to him in this incarnation. He speaks to me in emotions--which you might call "e-motions", or energies in motion. I imagine him giving me a little pep talk as we prepare to make our way out into the harsh world that would test me and kill him. He knew that ahead of time, and so he's also speaking to me from another plane of existence entirely--the place I visit sometimes en route to and from Sleep. The wordless words come as poetic pulses, blood-beats, myth music. Myth, as Joseph Campbell so eloquently noted, is something that "never was, yet always is". My life with Monty in this world is a myth to me.
kenny our time our time is drawing short
i know you don't know what time is
it is the drumbeat of relativity
your world waits
i'll see you safely out
and then move on move on
kenny you must make your way on your own at first at first
this place will scare you
it will seem so vast so vast
condensed consciousness does that
but mommydaddy will be herenow
others will be soon
soon is a small measure of relative time
you will feel separation
you will see separation
you will fear separation
yet it is part of the process the process
kenny you are a product of the universe
one from All That Is
as too is each person you meet
and your purpose is to re member
you will spend your life re member ing
finding your place, our place
i will be with you
even though we will be apart, a part
for we are part of each other
and part of All That Is
you will love
you are love
love is All That Is