Thursday, November 30, 2006

In Living Out Of My Time

Watching television, including CBC and TVO, with which I had so much to do, and especially the programs on museums, with which I also had so much to do, I realize to what extent I do not belong. Those working under good pension schemes retire after 35 years of service or less, and so people retiring today from jobs in media and museums came into them as fresh recruits just as I was completing my 35 years of service, and moving on. They are the authorities now, and I am a generation "out of touch", wondering what my opinions could possibly offer, or matter. Yet perhaps that is too pessimistic. Very recently, I was asked to give an interview for an article to mark the 60th anniversary of the Canadian Museums Associations, of which I am the only surviving founder and original member.

This is, of course, how time flies. Space travel is old stuff to the new retirees of today. Television was old stuff in my day. My father worked for Alexander Graham Bell, and was out of university with three degrees by the time the Wright brothers flew. As I watch war in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is all so familiar to me at 92 — the good guys, the bad guys, loyalty, slogans — and I remember that Germans and Italians were once our enemies, then the Japanese, and now terrorists of all origins.

Of course, I am loyal, but sometimes confused as to whom that loyalty should be directed. My grandfather was born British in Nova Scotia, and as a blacksmith working in Virginia at the outbreak of the American Civil War, was not yet Canadian — Confederation wouldn't happen for another six years. Since it was not his fight (the Civil War, that is, not Confederation), he lit out for home. Now I am Canadian, watching on this TV gadget the never ending struggle to determine what I am supposed to be loyal to. Do you wonder that I feel like a spirit come back from the dead?

58 Comments:

At 11:14 PM, Blogger duncan_m said...

Sobering, sobering post Don. So well written and it invoked such a heavy heart with such simple words.. Thanks.

 
At 3:58 AM, Anonymous Ann said...

Hello Don,

I believe you are an inspiration to many. Your words here would encourage us, the younger ones, to find meaning in serving and giving. :) I hailed from the Philippines, and I'm so glad I found your blog. I'll be dropping by your site for some tidbits of wisdom coming from a man sweetly ripend through time :)

 
At 8:05 AM, Blogger chksngr said...

Too often my generation and those that have come after me assume that those who have already come and gone have nothing to offer in the way of relevant wisdom. In our day of instant gratification, we have completely lost the perspective of distance and are doomed to an ever-shortening repeating cycle. Voices from both the near and distant past are so important in these times…in ALL times. Tragic that so many of us today are not listening for that guidance. You are the same age as my grandfather, a man I cherish for his just-right words of wisdom and his sense of timing. He has shared so much of his life with me, and I fear I will not have enough time to hear all his stories, to learn how he became the man he is today. I’m so very glad to see your thoughts and opinions posted “out loud” for us to read. THANKS!

 
At 8:08 AM, Blogger MadameBoffin said...

This will sound trite, especially from someone who's only just reached her first quarter century but your comment about the familiarity of things resonated with me. Of course, it's all brand-spanking fresh and new for me but, as a student of history, I can appreciate intellectually that old adage that the more things change the more they stay the same. Sometimes it feels like we're going in circles rather than lineally forward. Humans don't seem to change, just the accessories.

I find it slightly awe-inspiring about your connection to the past. Your father worked for Alexander Bell?! And your grandfather fought in the Civil War!

 
At 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for blogging. I find your thoughts sobering. I do feel that we do not respect the viewpoint of people who have lived through the turmoil of the last century and have not learnt any lessons from that turbulent time.

 
At 12:22 PM, Anonymous CJ said...

I love your writing, Don. This post did not fill me with the feelings of loss or heaviness mentioned by the other commentors.

Instead, I saw a vitality and connectedness in it. I saw you marveling at the changes over time, your role in those changes, and how you provide a living connection to these things that people of my age (~40) can connect with.

No, you may not have a lot in common with a 25-year old college student. But I see that as my job. I provide the bridge between you and the college student... the bridge that keeps history close, and makes the Civil War and Alexander Graham Bell real, rather than silly caricatures in pathetic American history textbooks.

You feel vital and alive to me. And your words feed me.

Thank you for that.

 
At 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness.

I can't even imagine that that your grandfather lived during the American civil war.

That is just incredible

 
At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Ook said...

I am loyal, but the object of my loyalty is elusive.

But I am loyal. It may be my only quality.

I am loyal and adrift, out of sight of land, in the deep water, where I swam, thinking I was going somewhere. And now I am nowhere, down in a trough that I can't see out of from time to time. Or riding a peak from which I can view the ever constant horizon on a good day.

My sister wants to visit home. I look at pictures and wonder how disappointed I might be if I accompany her there after 4 decades of growing and change.

I am hesitant. I might find my world of origin is lost. It might simply be more convenient to think of it as still there, that is, not wrestle with the reality that is is lost to time, or whatever time is, illusion.

But I don't try to hold it all together. I just avoid confronting how lost it might be.

But I am still loyal. I see bits and pieces--in creatures, people, places and things--of those nameless essences of elements of grace that I pledge myself to so genuinely, in the age of loyalty, in childhood.

I try to respond appropriately.

Actually, that might be a good way to describe my life now. I just keep trying to respond appropriately.

P.S. You were a part of that time for me. I watched you in black and white from an old farm house on a hill in upper state New York.

 
At 7:45 PM, Anonymous bugwok said...

Dear sir,
I too, seem to be feeling a little blue with all what's going on. So much gagetry and nothing really usefull for peace on earth.
Well, today, we got freezing rain, maybe some sun in a couple of days.

reading your blog is very insightfull, thank you

 
At 12:41 AM, Anonymous bascha said...

Do not doubt--you have an enormous amount to offer. I enjoy your writing very much, and think that many others do too.

 
At 10:57 AM, Blogger mac said...

History is always repeting itself. We always live the same things; the intervening ones are the only thing that change.

 
At 11:19 AM, Anonymous fowg said...

How about having loyalty towards principles? Maybe you haven't had time to devolope a template of behavior or mores worth sacrificing for.

For starters, take a look at English common law, traditional Protestant thought and/or the US constitution and declaration of independence. Ponder the the lives and treasure expended to bring you the blessings these thoughts and documents.

Good luck in ending you rudderless confusion.

 
At 12:09 PM, Blogger Inox said...

I've found it worthwhile to extend loyalty to those institutions which afford me the latitude to pursue my interests, and to those individuals who stimulate thought and laughter.

The world seems full of noise and predictable drama, and without a strong selection based on self-interest, it becomes all too easy to spend a large portion of one's time making personal these media-selected situations far outside one's sphere of influence.

This is not to say that I don't see a place for activism, just that concern should be coupled with action and not mere preoccupation.

To respond more directly to your post, I think that perhaps the loyalty questions you feel are related to simply having lived long enough to obtain a context which most people lack.

There's that famous line about those who forget the mistakes of the past being condemned to repeat them. For most, avoidance techniques consist o f perusing books or receiving advice.

You have an expanded personal awareness of the commonalities of the human experience in the modern age. We all may be academically informed as to these recurrent themes and constants, but there's a significant difference between what one knows and what one realizes.

It seems logical that it would be difficult to find causes which ring true from that perspective. I suspect perhaps only those things which promote the growth of knowledge and human social evolution would seem to have merit.

Does any of this ring true?

 
At 7:48 PM, Blogger Keith said...

"The only true loyalty is the loyalty to oneself" - A. Hitler, 1928.
He soon proved that didn't he? The power mad, war mongering b***ard.

 
At 2:25 AM, Blogger kinziephoto said...

Hmmmm that was food for thought. I really enjoy your words.

My grandparents are two of the most amazing people in my life. They never fail to amaze me with the things they know, the things they've seen...I learn so much from them all the time.

I think it's up to all of us to keep learning. We all have something to offer.

 
At 12:36 PM, Blogger THE Michael said...

I love your perspective on this day and age and thank you for sharing it while you still can. You are proof positive that old dogs can not only adapt, but lend a well-seasoned bent to what we observe as relative newcomers. I want your brain when you're through with it; mine is already wasted!

 
At 12:40 PM, Blogger THE Michael said...

Oh, and Fowg, if this is the best you can do with your brilliant observations......Don't. You're not as brilliant as you think you are.

 
At 6:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you feel like a spirit, then I say we definitely need more "spirituality" in this world. Thanks for sharing your wonderful perspective. Maybe "depth of vision" would be another world for it. Even though one's eyes and ears might grow weaker with age, maybe one's "perceptiveness" actually increases...

-- NotQuiteForty

 
At 7:20 PM, Anonymous sereneambition said...

I once did some research into the raison d'etre of museums and libraries. Came to the conclusion that they exist to allow us to see what's missing (not there) and thereby learn to create previously unimagined futures filled with wonder and hopefully not keep recreating what we already have. I'd welcome your opinion of this interpretation.

 
At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember all that your parents taught you and be loyal to God, Don. Having to go doesn't have to be sorrow - Rejoice that you'll soon see Him and all your family and friends soon - Just a little sooner than the rest of us. :)
In Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

 
At 6:55 PM, Blogger John said...

Don,
I am enjoying your blog. My father is 93 and was on the roof of his house last month cleaning out the gutters. (In the UK that is). I find that like you, he is not ready to give in to father time just yet. My mother; she is 91, tripped up just before Christmas with a heart attack and was home to join “us”;for Christmas dinner. I had rushed over to see her in hospital, another one not wanting to speak to St Peter yet. It appears that you have had a busy life. So what is stopping you from continuing to do so? I am so sorry about your wife though. That must be the toughest thing of all.

 
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