Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My Grandfather And Others

As I deal with people, some of whom are very close to me, I think of my grandfather, whom I have mentioned before. He died of "fever" in his kidneys at 87 years of age, and it was said that if you listened carefully at his grave, you could still hear his heart beating. My point is that the way he chose to live was very easy on his heart. I never saw him excited, and his lifelong habit was to be 20 minutes early for everything. I remember him on Sunday, with the horse and wagon ready outside, sitting reading while waiting for the rest of us to appear. A couple of months before he died, he had mowed the front lawn carefully with a scythe, in preparation for our arrival from Halifax for the summer vacation, and then had run over a mile to help put out a fire at the creamery in which he held shares. He was part of a bucket brigade bringing water from the lake, and this is how he developed the kidney trouble that took him away about two months later.

With the exception of emergency situations like this, my grandfather was knowingly not under stress, and was always ready ahead of any appointed time. Not everyone is like my grandpa -- some like to see how close to the line they can come, and they frequently miss, some being late by a predictable 20 minutes, which seems to be the magic length of time to be late or early. For myself, I am on time for things. In fact, as a deadline creeps up on me, I resort to my training in radio and television before there was tape delay. This means that I tend to be about five minutes early for whatever is happening, and it is so calming that I do not know why everyone does not deliberately follow the example of my grandfather.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

American Express

Because my wife is in a nursing home -- one of several types of institutions specializing in reasonably comfortable, but very expensive, accommodations for senior adults -- my finances, which were looking better than for a long time, need careful re-examination.

Leave us begin with credit cards, most of which "save money" by allowing us to "take advantage" of golden, silver and brass opportunities, sometimes in very far away lands, where you can get great bargains by spending a few thousand to get there and, of course, back again (by this point in the sentence, I've forgotten who's taking advantage of whom). If I seem to be casting doubt on all these prospects and their premises, of course it is intentional. Anyway, back to my title, and the fact that I hold title to such a card, at least until AmEx gets tough with me, which I sincerely hope never happens.

To feel prosperous, I took out American Express a few years ago, and since I have an inherited Presbyterian conscience about money, I keep it paid with a warm feeling about these nice folks allowing me into this exclusive club of countless millions. I have an AmEx Gold Card, as well as a regular one, for all of which I pay an annual fee. But since these days there seem to be so many other credit angels offering me free money, I must stop and rein in the vanity, because that is all it is -- I refer you to Ecclesiastes: "All is vanity".

Unfortunately, since this is a blog post, which for me begins its life on the written page, my time has run out. To my credit, I've kept within my self-imposed one-page limit.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Who Are You?

Here in Canada, we are hearing much about nationhood, or at least about nations. We have the First Nations, the Quebec nation, the nation of Alberta, and more (Newfoundland?). We hear also of the Catholics, who used to be the Roman Catholics, and of course there are Greek Orthodox Catholics, Coptic Catholics, and more. The word "catholic" is still used to mean "universal", as in "catholic tastes", and "nation" means that beyond our borders, all are foreigners. I'm afraid Humpty Dumpty has been at it again, with his "words mean what I mean them to mean", and his firm conclusion that what matters is "who is to be master -- that's all".

It is easy to insist on definitions, even legal definitions, in matters such as these, but in every case we can see a struggle for dominance, or at least for survival, and we find ourselves back for another reading of Instincts of the Herd. One thing is certain: the legal profession will always be with us. It is apparent that each of us wants to belong, and to defend the herd or group with which we identify ourselves. Of course, since each of us belongs to several herds, we cannot always be sure to which herd we are loyal at any one time. Is that herd geographic, ethnic, religious, economic, or other? Wolves don't have this problem, nor do ants. But we have this problem in abundance, even with the sexes, which now are three, or is it four?

So who are you? Who I am depends on where I am, and with whom I am. All right -- like the rest of us, I'm not sure.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Series Habits

U-pun my word, my title is serious. Habits are very serious things indeed. Without them, we would have to figure out certain actions anew each shining or foggy day. I suppose memory would help, but morning routines would be matters for attention, rather than things to be done on autopilot while planning the day. So clearly habits are not all bad; in fact, they make orderly life possible. And habits do come in series -- one leads to the next, and they supplement each other. We have a series of actions to get us up and cleaned and dressed and looking our best for whatever sort of day we see ahead. Then another series gets the car out and down the driveway and navigating the morning traffic. We can arrive at work having forgotten a very important errand that we intended to do on the way, but which was not a part of our usual routine.

Other habits cannot be regarded as good without some thought. We can gradually stay up later and later, and acquire all the ills of sleep deprivation. We can consistently stop in at the bar on the way home for a few drinks and some fried food, without consideration for calories or a history of family heart troubles or the possibility of having to breathe into a police machine for a routine alcohol check.

Clearly bad habits are hard to change, but good habits are wonderful. At the very best, we can put a good habit into the place of a bad one. The worst option is to pay habits no attention, and they will indeed look after themselves.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Blogs: Servant, Master, Or Free Mouthpiece?

I am now a veteran of fifty or so blog posts, but like all the rest of you, I have cogitated for years, which for me is generations. I have thought and written about my various opinions, and about all the wisdom which must have been repeatedly worked out and then lost again throughout the millennia. In light of this, I am impressed beyond words (well, almost) by the arrival of this form of communication called the blog, which, at the very least, equals the invention of the printing press. Read that, and remember that it is coming from one (me) who is regarded (by me and others) as glum and difficult where words are concerned, and generally not inclined to be effusive.

Blogs are wonderful. Vanity is served at once. If you don't listen, it is your fault. Also, by the very nature of the medium, your audience sorts itself out. Readers don't pay anything, so they really can't complain. Anyone can join in, rebut, whatever -- surely this is democracy, whatever that is, at its most lively and pushy. In the realm of human communication, blogs seem to me to be the atomic units that transistors are in the world of digital devices that surround us.

Having said all this, I am careful, questioning, and a little frightened about the future. I do not think that we, with our unique facility of language, are to be trusted with much. But at the same time, I don't want to stop the momentum of whatever it is that will emerge from the tunnel. Stay tuned.