Thursday, 7 January 2016

Life as an Hourglass

The moment I was conceived in my mother's womb Old Father Time must have filled my hourglass to the brim ... or almost ... for tomorrow I shall join the hallowed flock of geezers who have attained the ripe old age of 80. Although the sand no longer sifts through the slot from the upper to the lower chambre with the gusto of yore , yet I feel its movement in my every step , gesture and breath as it trickles through the narrow opening  .... slow but constant .... a far cry from the rhythm of yesteryear.... and there is also the uncertainty as to just how much sand is left in the top bulb  ,  one of the great unknowns in life. These reflexions are not meant to be overly poetic .... neither philosophical nor pessimistic as I am enjoying my old age in a  very possitive way  with the woman I love ...... and a wilily independent cat named McDuff a slow-moving life style that I can keep pace with. I have likewise been blessed with two sons who sent me birthday greetings today from Québec both vowing their love for me .... adding that the world became a better place for all to live in the day I was born some 80 years ago. I FEEL LOVED ! Now there's a morale booster for you ...... so what could a guy ask for better ?

An aging body goes along with getting old .... our physical activities are limited and I have no trouble accepting that my hockey days stay tucked away safely in my memory treasure chest ... no longer can I shovel the quantity of snow I piled high around our house in Lac-Beauport during the winter of 2007 -2008 .... no more strenous digging up plots of earth for gardening .... over those days and nights of pumping water from perennial flooding in our basement over a 34-year period of my hourglass ....

Over the years I have been thankful for many things .... loving parents , family and friends , long and successful career , reasonable well being , etc but now as the dusk enshrouds my hourglass and life in the fast lane means outrunning snails I find myself deeply indebted to Minerva , Roman Goddess of learning and knowledge as well as my own Deus and Prime Mover for having instilled in me from an early age a hunger and thirst for learning ..... topping all of this with keen appreciation for incongruity which is the sine qua non of humour. Were I to lose my zest for knowledģe and my sense of humour I would cease being , therefore dead even though still breathing and heart still thumping along....

Friday, 6 November 2015

Nature or Nurture ?

I first heard the terms "nature" and "nurture" defined and discussed while attending an introductory course in psychology at Assumption University in 1958. The word "nature"referred to our physical make-up or genes while "nurture" harked back to the formative years of our early childhood and adolescence in the home , school , church ....our family and social surroundings and the impact these had on making us what and who we have become psychologically. In other words whom or to what do I owe a big THANKS for being the insupportable bastard or the sweet-natured , loveable guy I am today? The upbringing my parents , school and church imposed upon me  ...or have I always had it in my blood ...genes ... ?  ..... thereby implying a necessary link between my physical make-up and my outlook on life , etc
In hindsight I can safely say that being born into a Catholic family in the North End of Saint John back in the 1930s branded me with an indelible mark that is still visible today at age 79 ... not so much in my physical appearance but rather on my deep subconscience which surfaces sporadically , almost like a tug .... and especially on Sundays and high moments throughout the  liturgical years ... Christmas ,Lent , Easter,etc.
I discussed these questions the other day with an old childhood friend , Paul Brideau , to whom I confessed my loss of the old FAITH but reassured him that HOPE and CHARITY were still alive and well. In fact ,I'd say that I the only big difference is that I no longer follow the road map to heaven set out  for me is my early childhood. However , ... much like my friend Cicero in his great work entitled De Amicitia who says , " For I do not agree with those who have recently begun to argue that soul and body perish at the same time , and that all things are destroyed by death." Moreover , I have the deep feeling that my belief in God has been awakened these last few years and is slowly gaining strength with each passing day as I age "gracefully and peacefully" with a warm and loving wife to encourage me onwards  , being afirm believer in God herself .....although she be the product of a somewhat different religious Weltanschauung  .... all in all though I believe we stimulate each other in a very positive way.
When I hear scientists brag that science has all the answers I get the shivers ... even though I often agree with such slogans as , " The good thing about science is that it's true whether you believe it or not" .... referring to the popular belief that the earth wascreated roughly 6000 years ago. Amen for the moment as I can go no further today on this question.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Ad Vitam Aeternam , Amen !

Like so many gazillion others , I was born into a religion .... a body of complex dogmas and practices to which I was preordained because my parents were who they were ..... good , staunch , dyed-in-the-wool Catholics....... and their parents before them too ! In other words my whole religious belief system was imposed upon me spite of me ....  holus-bolus---- on a silver platter ..... all I had to do was to learn it by heart  .... mysteries , divine laws, Church laws and rules  ...and comply by believing , obeying and practicing  .....never doubting it to be the one true road to salvation. Moreover , had God Himself not sent His only begotten son among us to show us the way by establishing the Catholic Church the day Jesus said to Sant Peter , our first Pope , " Tu es Petrus et supra hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam." " You are Peter ( Rock ) and upon this rock I shall build my Church". What more certitude does one need ? Dixit nobis Deus ! God told us !

              "Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum, et vitam venturi saeculi. Amen."
                "And I await the ressurection of the dead and life in a world to come. Amen"

The above Latin quotation are the closing words of the Catholic Credo. For the first thirty years of my life this Credo was not only my pledge of allegiance to a modus vivendi but also a roadmap showing me the way to eternal bliss. Growing up a Catholic during the heyday of Latin I was constantly bombarded by "ad vitam aeternam "( to eternal life ) and "in saecula saeculorum" ( forever and ever ) on a daily basis ... especially after I began serving Mass at age 9. So the eternity that awaited me was not the timeless , unconscious eternal empty flatline of the vowed aethiest but rather a blissful and joyous everlasting continuum ... with family and friends .... much like an ideal life here on earth ... except maybe better ! Although it seemed so far off in the future when I was young , psychologically I felt secure in my beliefs and their rewards without ever doubting the system I was born into.

To my way of thinking just making it through life with a minimum of earthly happiness is tough enough without being constantly haunted by doubts as to whether the church into which you were born is the TRUE CHURCH and therefore your passport to eternal bliss ... in saecula saeculorum ! It has been my experience both from discussions and readings that each religion proclaims itself the true "church" of God ..... sees itself as the true body of believers ... However , there is no visible , scientific  proof of authenticity stamped on any one of them by God. Children are born and raised within the boundaries of these belief systems and only rarely question the validity of their church's teaching and see it as the guiding light to everlasting happiness ... and should they do so , they risk excommunication , shunning , avoidance and isolation ... or worse ...

By proclaiming one's belief group to be the "chosen ones " of God seems to me overly pretentious ... even arrogant. It's tantamount to saying that God has preferences to whom He reveals Himself and to whom He "burdens" and entrusts with the TRUTH. Once this faith community established , then it must be a shining light for others who seek the truth .... during the Middle Ages often accompanied by spreading the truth by sword and decree ( Cuius regio , eius religio ) , although much less aggressive forms of proselytizing are used today. and he who had the biggest army "won over" the most converts back then. I can just picture the rather peace-loving Jews of old trying to convince the warlike peoples around them that they were the "chosen ones of God".....

I'll give God full credit for knowing and understanding how humans interact.
 This is a rough draft for the moment ..... it's where I am for the moment in unraveling the Big Plan ....which I shall continually rethink and rework until I am satisfied. I still believe very much in God , the Prime Mover and much like Cicero and the Stoics of old ... that God takes keen interest in the fate of mankind ......  

Monday, 7 November 2011

Tense is Time !!

Grade school is where we learn how to parse a sentence and define the parts of speech. We were taught that the action word in speech is called a verb and that verbs contain not only info about the action as such but also indicate the timeframe in which it happens , whether it be the present , past or future. Linguistically speaking we call this grammatical time "tense". All languages reflect and inflect these three tenses in one way or the other .... many even having subdivisions of each ....... even the present tense as shown in the English ongoing present " he is reading a book" versus the habitual present " he reads three books a month" versus the present subjunctive "it is important he read at least three books a month" ...... plus the present of rapid action where the action happens so quickly one cannot use the ongoing present form .... "he shoots , he scores!" or " he swings and misses!" Ooops! .... I almost forgot the cereonial present ..... used when describing an event which has (written) rules of behaviour for the main actors ..... such as for the liturgy of the Catholic Mass where the TV narrator would say , " the priest now turns, faces the faithful , blesses them and says "Ite , missa est" ....

Whether it be "Let bygones be bygones" or the idiom "It's all water under the bridge" ..... both expressions make reference to the past ...... as do all languages in the structural or morphological make-up of their verbal systems. First of all there is the simple present or often called the preterite , " He milked the cows". Now should we have two actions or events in the past one of which preceded the other then the former is said to be in an ideal "pluperfect" situation .... grammatically speaking that is ! "After he had fed the chickens , he milked the cows". Feeding the chickens took place before .... was anterior to .... milking the cows .... so therefore , "had fed" is the pluperfect tense of the verb "feed". Some languages ( French and Italian ) even boast having two pretrites .... one more informal or colloquial ( yet correct ) composed of either of the auxiliary verbs "to have " or "to be" plus the past participle of the targetted verb .... the other more classical and often named the historical or remote past tense ..... the latter being highly inflected for all persons both in the singular and in the plural. An ongoing or incomplet action in the past when  expessed linguistically is referred to as being in the imperfect tense ... "I was feeding the chickens when the rooster crowed". The imperfect may likewise connote repeted or habitual past actions ...... " On y allait souvent" ou " Pendant ma jeunesse je dormais souvent chez ma tante Claire".

Now for the future .... time still moving toward us in the present and our attempt to place and describe "potential" actions that may or my not take place within that framework  ..... something like spending money we don't yet have but , given our present salary , all looks rosy for future purchases. There are three types of future or "tense gymnastics" in the future for English ...... the simple future , " I shall mow the lawn this evening". ...... the ongoing or progressive future , " I shall be mowing the lawn when you get here". ...... and the future perfect ( something like the pluperfect  , but applied to future action ) , " I shall have finished mowing the lawn by the time you get here". In English as in other Indo-European languages we use helper or auxiliary verbs "be" and "have"as well as such "helper" words as "shall and will" to assist in harnessing this movement called time by converting it linguistically into understandable units ... i.e. , ongoing , before and after, incomplete , past and present. And time marches on ......

No discussion about time , tense , past and present .... ongoing or static ... would be thorough without mentioning the monkey on every English learner's back..... the past present tense , either progressive or factual. This is a verb tense which combines , includes and portrays both past and present time as being ONE happening ... ONE action. It covers an act which began in the past and continues on into the present and the speaker may accentuate the fact or may wish not only to state the fact but also put emphasis on its ongoing , active nature. Thus ... I have worked here for three years ( statement of fact ) or I have been working here for three years ( statement of fact plus still ongoing ) .... Translating this sentence into French we would write , " Je travaille ici depuis trois ans". The word "travaille" is in the present indicative tense ... and does not express any past occurence. The past ... "trois ans" or "three years" is rendered by the preposition " depuis " ( for , since ) and is in no way included in the verb. The past present is particular to the English language ...... and mastery of this tense is essential for all those laying claim to advanced knowledge of the language.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Time is of the Essence !

Whether time is fleeting , fleeing , being wasted , killed or standing still or marches on .... time and tide wait for no man  ,,,,,, time out ! all in due time .... time's up ..... time's run  out ........ then into overtime ..... doing time .... the untimely demise of a two-timing timekeeper ..... time after time .... suppertime .... in the meantime .... in the course of time ... no matter how thin you slice it , it\s still "time" ! .... and we don't really have a great amount of it when compared to "eternity "! As a matter of fact , there is no time in eternity at all !

In From Eternity to Eternity where I did my damnedest to detach myself from my formal scholastic training in Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy and express my very own inner thoughts on the subject ,  I rambled on about my personal understanding of two fundamental notions : time and eternity. To my way of thinking , the night (?) my parents made love back sometime in early April , 1935 I was plucked from eternity ..... where I "stood " potentially on stand-by waiting to be "activated "....... then catapulted into the reality of time ..... the concrete world of movement where every thing and action is measured in terms of past , present and future ... the before , the now and the after of all that exists within the framework or dimensions of time ! In other words TIME is nothing other than a word -concept that mankind has invented to help itself grasp , rationalize , describe , justify and explain the durative framework in which all happens in real life. Nowhere is the notion of time better expressed than in the verbal systems of the languages we speak ... and no two languages in the world divide up the continuum of time in the exact same way. One thing seems sure though ... and that is that time seems to come out of the future towards us in the present .... then flow on by us like the slow-moving waters of a stream onto the beaches of eternity ...... well beyond the reaches of time...... thus we say , "Christmas is coming soon!" or " Old age will come upon you sooner than you think!", etc ....

Up until now I have neither mentioned God nor divine design in this soul searching journey of mine ... however, I am a firm believer in both ! I believe that when God created the potentiality of the world we know and live in and set the whole shebang in motion .... that time began at that precise moment. I equate God to eternity ... that is both  having neither beginning nor end. Time , on the other hand , shall come to a grinding halt sometime down the road ...... ceasing to  exist because of  its own innate , finite essence ! Time exists only because the universe exists ! Beyond the universe there is only eternity ..... a timeless "somewhere" movement , no motion , no linearity , no duration ..... simply and hopefully a blissful state of  peace and rest. Amen !

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Neverending Quest !

These last four years I have revived interest in a few of my old loves ...... namely the classical Latin authors and their works. By far my favourite is Cicero since his quest for knowledge and truth constantly crosses paths with my own ongoing search into life's ultimate whys and wherefores. Caesar's "Bella Gallica" ( Gallic Wars) impressed me greatly ...... portraying him as a worthy leader and warrior ...... and has provided me with an ample sketch of those ancient peoples who inhabited first-century-B.C.  Gaul , England and southern Germany. Back in 1954-55 I had "wrestled" my way through the Gallic Wars in order to pass the Ontario Senior Matrics exam and succeeded. However , in those days I was more into grammar ... especially at getting a good mark .....and not so much interested in the historical or semantic content of Caesar's exploits.  Works like those of Caesar gained my admiration and added much to my overall knowledge of history ... but left unquenched my thirst for philosophical question-answer queries so often associated with the pre-Christian Greek thinkers  such  as Aristotle , Plato , Socrates and so many more .... then I happened upon Cicero's work entitled De Senectute ... About Aging ..... and immediately knew I had hit paydirt ....                                                                              

Monday, 7 March 2011

From Eternity to Eternity !

We common mortals deal constantly in beginnings and ends……. days , weeks , months , seasons ,  years ,  baseball games ,  races , leases , relationships ,school semesters ,  snowstorms , TV programmes ,  trips , love – making , etc………. and , of course , the big one….. life itself !! Philosophically and religiously we refer to the aftermath of death as eternity…….. pay back time for all should our belief system teach such dogma……..either eternal punishment for the wicked or everlasting bliss for the good !! Now as far as I am concerned eternity is nothing else than endless or interminable duration  …. the length of which is totally unfathomable for our limited  minds ……. mainly because eternity has no lengths ….. or rather IS one long length of "foreverness" , "neverendingness"…….infinite in its very essence !! It is seemingly a continuum with neither beginning nor end !!…. a continuum without intermission !! When I was born I was drawn from eternity into parallel time that we call “life” with all its joys and sufferings ……….. and when I die   ,  much like the space shuttle which drops its booster rockets ,   I shall slough off ” this mortal coil”  ( Shakespeare’s Hamlet meaning flesh , blood and bones ) and soar back into eternity where I belong. Folks always told the story about the  atheist all dressed up in his coffin but nowhere to go. To my way of thinking he’s surely going somewhere …… whether he likes it or not…….. eternity !!!…….infinite duration…… total oblivion ....….and I guess that’s about as far as our linguistic and mental ability will allow us to go  ….????
Post Scriptum.
The big problem I have with the above rant is that I am using words such as time , duration , etc to describe and fathom the notion of eternity which , to my way of thinking , is not amenable to analysis using time-oriented terminology ..... yet , it's all we have !!..... or is it ?