Friday, September 26, 2014

In the beginning was the Word

In the King James version of the Bible (John 1:1) we read, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God." So it would appear that the Word is rather important to the good apostle, and hence to a good many Christians.

Now the term "God" I use as a placeholder for what we don't yet understand (lots). Where the use of "Word" is concerned, however, it is quite a different story. To me the term acts as a kind of fulcrum upon which my life moves, and is of crucial importance when making a commitment. This deserves some explanation.

If you say to a person, "Yes. I will do that. I give you my word" what are you really saying? Certainly the person to whom the comment is directed can take heart that you are fully committed to whatever action has been agreed upon. Too often, however, the agreed action fades in importance, and the commitment is reneged upon. Not a big deal, you say, or put in the sports vernacular, "No harm, no foul."

Readers, a great "foul" has occurred.

When you give your word, you are giving yourself, or put more directly, your 'Self". It is as if you have taken your Self in your hands as you would an amount of water. When your word, your Self, is broken, your hands open up and the water, your Self, disappears.

And may never be recovered again.

So keep your Word -- don't open those hands. Just look at any number of politicians who, when not playing to a jaded public, look as haggard and woe-begone as Keats' knight in La Belle Dame Sans Merci. This also applies to any number of marketers or those selling products that don't do as they are supposed to. "Take my Word on it, and you will be forever happy!" Not. In effect, their essence as human beings has greatly diminished, if not completely disappeared.

Of course, considering the gravity of giving your Word, it is something to be done very sparingly, and if you can avoid doing so without compromising your integrity, do so. I have only given my Word six times so far, and not once done it lightly, for I know the storm that follows all too well, to wit: "Oh, c'mon, of course you can! So you gave your Word. No Big Deal."

Yes, it is a Big Deal.

You have my Word on it.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Scottish Reel

A little late with the weekly missive, but I wanted to await results on the Scottish referendum. Those results are now in, and I could not but recall a lyric from the song, Flower of Scotland, to wit:

"But we can still rise now
And be the nation again
That stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again."

As it turned out, the "thinking again" part will have to be done by the "Yes" side of the poll -- the latest results were (rounded off) 55% to 45% favouring remaining in the United Kingdom. Proud Edward had morphed into proud David Cameron, Prime Minister off the U.K., who was far from being "sent homeward".

If the result had been different, an unholy mess would have come about along the lines of a very messy divorce settlement, and the 'who gets what and why' become a dominating, if not the sole, issue for both parties. Moreover, the PM's career would have taken a plunge that would have been very difficult from which to recover. David Cameron is not Bill Clinton. So, on his part, a huge sigh of relief.

There still, of course, remains the "sticky wicket" of certain promises made to Scotland by Cameron involving changes to taxes, spending and welfare programs. The "Yes" side of the referendum, led by the head of the Scottish Nationalist Party, Alex Salmond, will I am certain be relentless in following up on those commitments. In addition, these commitments did not escape the attention of Wales, Northern Ireland and, indeed, England itself. When one plays with fire, even if one escapes being immolated completely, one still can get badly burned. Cameron's weeks ahead will not be entirely pleasant.

Then there is a point made by my mentor, whom I refer to as The Red Queen.

She points out that in terms of the process itself Scotland (and possibly Spain)  should learn from Canada's experience with Qu├ębec and put in place in any future referendum a two-thirds majority outcome, rather than a fifty/fifty split. All such a split indicates that there are just as many for independence as are against it, a recipe for long-standing discontent.

She is a very wise woman.

So there we are, and as for my own reaction, I am pleased, and turn to Robert Frost's poem, Mending Wall for my justification. Put simply, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall."

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Calm Before The Storm

The time is out of joint -- next week promises, in the words of the late John Cameron Swayze,  "to be filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times."  Some examples:

On September 17th, Scotland will decide whether to go it alone, or not. An earlier Westphalian * attempt at becoming an independent nation state failed at Culloden in 1745;  we shall see what transpires in 2014. Certainly there are pros; certainly there are
cons; to explore these in detail would be beyond the scope of this missive. While William Wallace and Robert The Bruce are much in our minds, we shall hold off on such an exercise until the Scots have reached a decision.

Another Westphalian issue has to do with the nation state of Ukraine, whose Eastern borders have been invaded by rebels wishing a closer relationship with Russia. According to press reports, Vladimir Putin wonders who these rebels are, and where they acquired some very sophisticated weapons, including a ground to air missile platform capable of bringing down a Malaysian airliner. What the rebels had against Malaysia escapes me, although I note that the U.N. blames Israel for the whole mess. In any event, a somewhat shaky ceasefire is in force -- we shall await events.

Other pending events include the growing menace of the ebola virus, the growing menace of the Islamic State thugs, and the parlous state of Afghanistan. All are awaiting resolution of one kind or another.

Fed up with all this gloom and indecision, and following Monty Python's dictum in the Life of Brian, I looked for things "on the bright side of life" and conclude with two.

At the Toronto Film Festival, the British actress Keira Knightley was besieged by a vicious wind of gale proportions. This resulted not in having a bad "hair day" but a coif reduced to a total shambles. Ms Knightley handled it brilliantly, frantically pushing her unruly locks away from her face and shouting "Oh, the elements! The elements".

This instantly brought to mind Little Eva bravely crossing the ice floes in Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, and triumphing against all odds. Ms Knightley also triumphed, well armed with a finely-honed sense of humour.

The second bright spot was one of the most unusual things I have ever seen. Canada's austere Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, ACTUALLY GOT EXCITED ABOUT SOMETHING. There he was, deep in the Arctic, bubbling and chirping away happily about being present when one of the ships from the ill-fated Franklin expedition was discovered. A side of Stephen I had not seen before, and in my opinion the electorate need to see more of that side of him.

I mean, it's nice now and then to get in touch with your humanity.


* The 1648 Peace of Westphalia, an outcome of the Thirty Years War, formulated the notion of a "nation state" that had sole jurisdiction of matters that were within the borders of that state. Vladimir Putin needs to brush up on his history. -- Ed.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Much Needed R. and R.

Of late, I have been guilty of having the world too much with me, what with a possible ebola epidemic, drone attacks, beheadings, buildings flying apart, to say nothing about those areas of the planet that have become so dangerous that one cannot even think of booking a decent time-share.

To restore some sort of sane perspective on things, I and several close friends repaired to our local pub, The Three Q's, for a much needed discussion on matters some distance from the grim condition of the world at the present moment.

All went well, particularly when we hit upon a silliness that proved to be both amusing and intellectually taxing. Well, somewhat taxing -- these things are relative. In short, we all tried our hand at matching a song to a condition prevalent in the world. A myriad of answers flowed, and I take this opportunity to share a few of the better ones.

1. Judy Collins'  Send in the Clowns. This we all thought appropriate to commemorate the success of Tea Party members in the U.S. House of Representatives.

2. Let's Go Fly A Kite. Mr. Banks and Mary Poppins comfort the Russian Space Agency on yet another failed space launch.

3. Webb Pierce's I'm In The Jailhouse Now. Mr. Pierce's salute to Bernie Madoff.

4. Bob Dylan's Blowin' In The Wind, an recognition of the weird air-blown stuff originating from Monsanto.

5. The state song of Kansas, Home On The Range, now acknowledged as a veritable anthem of Jenn-Air.

6. And for Canadians, Kermit the Frog's rendition of It's Not Easy Being Green, a tribute to Party Leader Elizabeth May.

So there we are, and we all agreed it had been fun, and hence determined to meet again, this time linking movies with worldly things. Our parting suggestion? Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total Recall, the true story of the Chrysler Neon.

Enough, Or too much.