Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Mile High Jesus

Things have suddenly got very military.
For one thing, I have just emailed the Canadian Legion, thanking them for their website information on Grandview Heights, the community of homes built for Canadian veterans in 1948, and the place where the Lamb family landed one happy day early in September of the same year.
Memory is a funny thing, more often than we would like a victim of the owner's sloppy thinking, and the Legion, with a host of military historians at its willing beck and call, has been helpful in thoroughly cleaning up the loose ends of my recollections. It has also reminded me that once upon a time both Canada and the Empire/Commonwealth were on a war footing, and it was in that climate and its following years, an unmistakable imprint on the psyche of the time, that I grew up. Only an idiot ignores his roots, and yet fortunate is the man who has all his roots brought home to him. I had some of the streets mixed up or forgotten.
This happens, of course, when you don't keep in touch.
But I am in touch again, and thus precision is daily orders parts one and two, as they say in the army. The mystic, of course, is in touch as God wishes him or her to be so.
Once upon a time there was a birthday party. In a house built according to the prescriptions of a government realizing it had to do something for the returned soldiers and their families, so many of which were holed up in the highly questionable blessings of the old Hotel Vancouver. At that birthday party some adult, I suspect my father, said "It's his birthday. Isn't anyone going to give him a hug?"
And at that point a very lovely young lady zipped across the room and registered one unforgettable hug. It was the first I'd had from a female other than an older relative, and it was actually the last for a number of years. I could admire from afar as well as the next lad, but I never did get into the boyfriend/girlfriend thing on any sort of steady basis whatsoever until I was in university. A year or two after the hug I did think for a time of trying on a relationship with the hugger, but my always active mind drifted away to other interests. We encountered each other a few times before we both left high school, and the encounters were always interesting and memorable, but I had already been high-graded toward the life of the theologian, the mystic, the writer, thus the university, and she went into the work force. I saw her only once again, when she did not see me, the night my cronies and I went to a night club we had not visited before and did not again. At some point in the evening her engagement was announced and I saw her walk up to the MC to receive a corsage. I thought of introducing myself, of course, but I also unthought it, on instinct, and I was probably right. She was about to marry a Catholic, I was at that point experimenting in atheism and quite possibly would have said something that would not have contributed to the joy of the occasion. There were times when I owned the world's worst mouth, and that might have been one of them. We never saw each other again.
But half-a-century later, we converse. One low-key high school get together in the offing and my first published short story are the catalysts for the re-connection, and the responsibility of keeping the following tales accurate and properly credited requires us to keep it happening.
There seems to be quite the symbol at work here. We were both the children of the victorious warriors, as were most of the others at the party. We lived on streets named after battles, generals, and one murderously effective ship of war. The party was a peaceful enough affair - with my old man handy it was hard to conceive of it getting out of hand - but it came in the wake of the trumpets and the pipes and the guns that had blared away for six long years, coming to a happy conclusion, and all of us had to some degree a quiet gratitude that we could go one with normal lives, not having to brace ourselves to polish jack boots or learn emperor worship.
And in fact I was myself soon after carrying on in the military tradition, as an army cadet, and it was possibly because our cadet corps had girls in it that I was distracted from paying more attention to my gentle hugger. And because of cadets, and officer cadet school afterward, that I was not hanging about the neighbourhood in the idle days of summer, where we might have crossed paths in our leisure.
And now she has turned up in the Net in the same weeks that I begin a ww3 of my own against the infernal slop that has overtaken the Catholic liturgy when it is time to sing.
But not really my own, simply, of course. Whenever truth, goodness, beauty have to get to work, it is you-know-who that is actually calling the shots.
I have two pertinent images in mind.
The first is that of the state of mind of Guy Crouchback, the main man in Evelyn Waugh's war trilogy, 'The Sword of Honour", as it clears once he becomes aware, as an English soldier, that he is going to get a chance to take a stick to both the Nazis and the Russian communists together. Both are a blight upon the earth, and after the Ribbentrop pact they were a pair of blights to be dealt with together. But then Hitler makes one of his many odd moves and suddenly the communists are allies, which for Catholic Guy, quite muddied the lines of sight and organized and complete solutions to global mayhem. I've always been struck by the first situation. All the ducks in a row, when it came time for clean up. Thus, for me, not only inefficiency in music education universally, but also the piles of garbage stinking up the alleys behind most episcopal palaces, as their music committees keep throwing out the last decade's ditties to make room for the new twaddle.
When I was joining the Church in 1958, finding 'Father Smith Instructs Jackson' the finest text I'd ever read up to that point - it dealt with issues Hemingway didn't go near - I was over and over struck by two streams of memory. The first was of my love for the natural - confirmed, of course, by Ernie, - and how the Church had always blessed all that, as Father Smith kept explaining - and my second, my grateful experience of the military and its preparation for dealing with the concept of The Church Militant head on. No line of meditation in those months was stronger than the sense of me and my marriage surviving, simply because we would always be committed to the Faith, whereas I was already intuiting the eventual collapse of many of my peers' relationships. (Indeed, my life had only one flaw: I was not reading John of the Cross, even though I was living through the experiences he described.)
MT has been reading me from her research, and I have been getting the grace to think up new directions. Or maybe old directions. Maybe the whore masters that have been defying the real Vatican Two directions on the liturgy - as opposed to their fantasy lives - should get hold of my first published short story, and explore the symoblism of that.
You think I'm exaggerating?
Ah. Just in, yesterday, from an old friend concerned with liturgical standards: the story of a nun, still supressing decency in our diocese, actually kicking the shins, under the table, of a woman, a genuine professional musician, trying to express her legitimate concerns at a meeting of the parish council, called to deal with that unfortunate abortion known as CBW III.
Cut to the title.
March, 1993. That's when I saw the mile high Jesus, in the clouds of a rather wettish evening, as we were returning from a stroll to the mall on the lake shore. There was a moon behind his head, as the clouds drifted here and there. Even I felt a little awe, used as I am to having him drop in at regular intervals, albeit much shorter so as to fit under my roof or even that of the cathedral.
He also had been, in an oblique way, talking about this blog. It was all rather mysterious then. It's rather plainer now.
Bob Dylan has a rather prophetical song with the opening line "Sixteen years . . . ." I don't think I ever really understood how it fit into my personal responsibilities until now.


cabbage ears said...

Was it Aristotle or was it Aquinas who rebuked a nun with the notion of humility regarding her very large feet? Now reading a book very much in the vein of rebuking the recent crop of atheist gurus. My head was in the gym last weekend dealing with the distilled thoughts of Aristotle and Aquinas contained in this book. Actually author does lighten up here and there...but not often. My eyes are still blazing and my mind is definitely woefully hurting. I cannot say I dealt with the material successfully on my own; but I certainly tried. Final believes that you cannot deny the existence of God with an intimate acquaintance with either of these two. I like how he sucker punches the atheist gurus without apology. At times when reading I looked for the mercy. Well. Pick your poison, eh. After am Canadian. Irene

the kootenay ranger said...

good timing. yesterday read in our Canadian encyclopedia about Ukrainian writers in Canada and thought of you. It could not have been Aristotle in on the rebuke because he died a good 300 years before there were anything like nuns in the universe. But rebuke is current, as yesterday I was quite stiffing it to the Angelicum in Rome. That's the short name for the U of Saint Thomas, run by Dominicans. John Paul went there and had for a professor a chap who was allowed to publish a quite troublesome book teaching a fair amount of tommy rot about mysticism. His time has come.