31 March, 2011
27 March, 2011
Most of my adult life has been spent advocating the merits of a positive attitude and embarking on tasks and challenges with enthusiasm, dedication and yes -- a sense of humour. I've talked and written extensively about tapping into our endless flow of spiritual abundance. The written word has been an ally in putting forth thought-provoking forms of inspiration and motivation for others. It has been a self-driven calling that has admittedly at times bordered on the unorthodox, perhaps even somewhat unconventional by some standards. Involvement in youth activities, community service, human rights and church outreach have been particular personal passions. All that, in retrospect, is so much history with questionable impact.
Purveyors of thought live in fear of their work falling on deaf ears and eyes that fail to see. Nevertheless we persist, compelled to do what we do in the seasons of our lives. As short-term memory fails and the mind struggles to process everyday perspective with an annoying, troublesome and persistent haze, I am moved to commend those who are in the enviable position of continuing to give of themselves and their talents for the benefit of fellow man and the world in general. I have long been an advocate of "giving back" to the society from whence we came.
I may well be alone in this season of my life. I am weary, I am burdened, I have little left to give of a meaningful nature beyond the necessary and immediate personal subsistence of Rosanne and I. Forever the athlete, my playing days are long past. I can no longer answer the umpire's call of "play ball", the referee's opening faceoff whistle or the crack of the starter's pistol. Intensity has gone the way of creative and physical wherewithal.
As I reach back to pass the baton in the relay race of life, I do not sense a ready grasping hand. The finish line is immanent and I am assuredly losing the race. Hail the victor!
I have reluctantly accepted the role of also-ran. The world is filled with us! As hard as we try, there are times when our best is simply not good enough.
And, after all, no one ever said we had to win every time out. I take liberties with an old saying: "It is better to have played the game than never to have played at all..."
Please excuse me now as I place my pen in the old bat rack of life and play a less active, more selfish game in my twilight seasons. Veteran players have to learn to pace themselves and to pick their spots.
It's not so bad watching from the press box. I've been there before.
12 March, 2011
Apropos my previous post "Honouring Full-Time House Wives..." below.
Eleven people were hanging on a rope attached to a helicopter...10 men and one woman. The rope was not strong enough to hold them all, so they decided that one of them had to let go because otherwise they were all going to plunge to the ground more than a mile below. They weren't able to choose who that person should be until the woman shouted a very selfless proposal.
She said that she would voluntarily let go of the rope because, as a woman, she was used to giving up everything for her husband and kids or for men in general, and was used to always making sacrifices with little in return.
As soon as she finished her sky-high suggestion, all the men started clapping...
10 March, 2011
Earlier this week I received an interesting email message from Rebecca Beausaert, a PhD candidate in the Department of History at York University. Her doctoral dissertation is about life in small town/rural Ontario, ca. 1870-1914 and she is focusing on the communities of Dresden, Tillsonburg and Elora with emphasis on the development of social activities for women. She has conducted extensive research on the subject and expressed disappointment at the dearth of useful information in media and library records in particular; all of which is not too surprising considering that to me the rural, small-town housewife of 100-150 years ago is the most unheralded segment of society in history today.
I promised Rebecca my full support, for what it is worth, and wish her all the best as she continues with this worthy undertaking. Meantime, she has inspired me to offer the following from the far reaches of my memory.
When considering the period 1870-1914, we are talking about my grandmothers, my mother and my aunts. I have little documented information, but what I do have are stories passed on to me and memories gleaned from overhearing recollections shared by demonstrative family elders. Mine was an extremely expressive family and I learned very early to be a good listener.
As a youngster, I came to appreciate the fact that the women in my family and the families of our close acquaintance, came from humble roots and as dedicated full-time housewives (home makers in today's vernacular) utilized skills and tender loving care that was their birthright. I don't think that it is a far-fetched generalization to suggest that most women in small town Ontario 100-150 years ago were resourceful, true grit, hard workers who invested totally in their homes and families.
These women knew nothing of the luxury of vacuum cleaners, automatic dish washers, automatic
washers and dryers for laundry -- the list goes on. Even indoor running water and toilet facilities were available only to the very privileged. We're talking about multi-taskers of the highest order here. Cleaning, care-giving, mending, knitting, quilting, putting "down" of jams and preserves and baking were common ordinary tasks with continuing emphasis on nutritious meal preparation dictated by limited budgets and availability of seasonal foods, much of which came from back yard gardens.
In lieu of any formal health care and out of necessity, mothers of this period had to be their own in-house health practitioners regularly administering mustard plasters, goose grease rubs and linseed poultices for those in their care. There was also nothing like good old chicken soup and hot lemon juice and honey for children coming down with the flu or a cold. Baking soda, apple cider vinegar and cayenne pepper too all came from the kitchen cupboard with special medicinal benefits.
Much of the economy in small town rural centres was agriculture oriented and the contribution of the farm wife who did not hesitate when required to exchange her house keeping apron for a pitch fork or a hoe, was so commonly taken for granted at the time and subsequently overlooked in present-day history.
Social life was pretty much centred around church activities, women's organizations being the catalyst for most fund-raising and mission and outreach work in the community. With family homes the focal point, card parties, afternoon teas and summer picnics were a popular form of socializing and fellowship. Quilting and sewing bees, oddly enough, were considered to be change-of-pace activities outside the home. Music concerts were also a well-attended community family function as were rare productions staged in various town halls by roving theatrical companies. For most women, however, there was little time in their busy weekly routine for recreational activities. Generally, more often than not, any spare time was spent reading a good book.
Remember too, that there were no radios, movies theatres or televisions in those days. Alexander Graham Bell had yet to invent the telephone and all communication was by word of mouth. Gas-powered carriages instead of horse and buggy?...Don't be silly!
Rosemary Neering in her wonderful book Canadian Housewife, An Affectionate History, writes about the era of the full-time housewife coming to an end by the mid 1900s. "Major feminist lonnes such as The Femine Mystic, the arrival of the birth control pill, increasing numbers of women going to university and seeking careers, full-time employment outside the home, prosperity, fast food, increasing automation, a reluctance to spend one's life focused mainly on the domestic sphere -- all those things meant major changes in the way women spent their time."
Indeed, times and conditions have changed for women in the last century and a half, and they can be proud of the role they play in all aspects of society today. But on this occasion, the honour goes to those sisters who diligently and faithfully carried out their roles on the home front when life was so much simpler and less complex.
"A man's work is sun to sun, but women's work is never done," the saying goes.
A debt of gratitude is owed all those grandmothers and moms who lovingly toiled over wood-burning stoves and wringer washers more than a century ago. We could not have made it without them! I'm sure I speak for dear old Gramps and Dad too.
08 March, 2011
The upside of this analogy is that there is always a period of calm following a storm and generally a personal acknowledgement that we really do not need as much security as we originally thought. There is always a new course to navigate with a promising horizon in the distance.
The next port will offer some new challenges and opportunities, maybe even a pot of gold. At least that is what I keep telling myself.
Here's to smooth sailing for the balance of the cruise!
05 March, 2011
Classical theology has acknowledged that we cannot know much about "Our Father who art in Heaven", whose essence is hidden and incomprehensible to mere human intellects. Blind faith is a hard sell
for many in this day and age of high tech hype when single narrative teaching tends to fall short. The American writer John Updike said: "Faith is a force of will whereby a Christian defines himself against the temptations of an age. Each age presents its own competing philosophies..."
I acknowledge that we live in a postmodern age where attitudes question institutions and their underlying certainties. One religion writer recently suggested that it is this fundamental questioning about whether truth has any objectivity or universality, that is a contributing factor in people not attending church services today. The relevancy of God in every day life has all but been lost/ignored for many of those among us.
As too often suggested though, I do not think that there is a wholesale turning away from a belief in a Superior Being (God). Most Canadians, I am convinced, believe...The question is, however, what do they believe and who do they trust to discuss it with? Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, it is not in church and not with a priest or minister of The Word and Sacraments. The end result is that there is a void in many lives today that may not even be recognized, or acknowledged.
To address the demise of church involvement and the public profession of faith, several national general
assemblies have taken on the task of studying what church membership might look like in the future. Understandably, discussion is bound to involve traditional vs. the previously-mentioned postmodern thinking and this is where there is a problem for me. I am all for change, but not change that dilutes the intensity of individual faith and long-held traditions and practices.
If we insist on continually revising faith according to the whims of society and our own interests, we will be in danger of cutting ourselves off not only from tradition but the church universal. I wholeheartedly agree that confession of faith in a secular age is not fundamentalism; it is simply Christian. Church worship should not be compromised for convenience any more than it should be for entertainment value. Our churches do not need more, or different membership rules; rather they should focus on creating comfortable conditions where people can encounter the God that has been missing from their lives. Create a familiar, welcoming church environment conducive to relevancy in a present-day context and they will come. There is an inherent need in the world today for benevolency and a robust, joyful, holistic kind of faith.
As for this simple father's son, I yearn only to return to the God of my childhood, the God of Abraham and Moses -- the God that at one time I felt that I had outgrown. I yearn to "cling to the old rugged cross and to exchange it some day for a crown." Amen.
The story of unseen things foretold is my heritage. I pray that church legislators and scholars, do not make it unrecognizable for me.
To be certain, we are individuals in this life but we must recognize that we are united by the Divine membrane of love and forgiveness. We should not look for, nor expect more than that. Would that I could better "intellectualize" it, but perhaps that would be a mistake.
01 March, 2011
There are so many outstanding journalists from my era who literally flew under the celebrity radar in Canada, primarily because they were too busy exercising their craft to become media stars in the present-day context. They diligently and accurately reported the news rather than being the news. Their effective word pictures were painted with fairness, balance, passion and color.
Jim Reed was one of those special journalists who believed in thorough research and backgrounded analysis. He worked as a researcher, writer, producer, director, reporter and news anchor for CTV, TVO and CBC. He travelled widely and freelanced for The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Globe and Mail and other news organizations. He was also a three-time Gemini Award winner, recipient of the “Gordon Sinclair Award for Excellence in Broadcasting” as well as the B’Nai B’rith Award for Human Rights.
If you have not already noticed, I am referring to Jim in the past tense. Having fought a form of lung cancer since last fall, he quietly passed away in hospital February 11 at 72 years of age. He was born and raised in Goderich and lived most of his life in the small nearby community of Dungannon where in retirement he regularly contributed to his beloved blog Reed Writes (has a familiar ring to it) and produced monthly editorial columns for The Bruce County Marketplace Magazine.
According to Marketplace Publisher James Pannell, the always professional veteran wordsmith turned in his last copy only three days before he passed away after choosing to be taken off life support. The column was so poignant and typically Jim that I respectfully reproduce it here. Headed "There really is a light at the end of the tunnel...look for it sooner rather than later", Jim's last written words convey a message for each and every one of us. The thoughts and phrases do not flow as smoothly as would normally be the case with his writing and you can feel the sickness of a man who had come to terms with his life, taking small pleasure in the satisfaction of it all and the one last opportunity to leave behind small nuggets of advice for his readers.
I'm sure he would be happy to be getting a little extra ink with this one.
*NOTE: Due to problems with Google, this newsprint clipping cannot be enlarged. Please zoom in your image to 150% and the print will be easier to read.
It's my privilege Jim. We celebrate you!