Friday, April 23, 2010

Toasting NBC

No, Virginia, I don't mean the Nelson Brewing Company, although that outfit certainly deserves recognition. Right here in Nelson, in the old turn-of-the century brewery building up on Latimer Street, some twenty years ago it brought back local brewing. I've nothing against the big guys, as someone has to have the money to own hockey and soccer teams, but I also like the atmosphere that comes from the breeze bringing you a good sniff of hops and malt on brewing days. I will have that in our own kitchen on Sunday, if MT has her way, as we head into a batch of light for the sake of the upcoming summer, but I don't mind honest rivalry, and in fact the old brew master sold me a bag of dark malt when I couldn't get it at the local supplier.
Yes, Virginia, I really do mean the National Broadcasting Corporation, the gigantic concern operating out of New York and Los Angeles, bringing us news and entertainment. Well, not me precisely, as hermits like myself really only use the box for DVD's and the weather and a bit of whatever the Vancouver Canadian channels pump our way, but you know what I mean. One of the really big guns of the world media. On the cutting edge of information, drama, comedy, and music.
Well, sometimes.
Hands up, those who remember the NBC TV production of  a Life of Jesus, back in the middle 70s. You might not, and for that omission you need feel no guilt, no mea culpa at all, as it was a forgettable production, so forgettable it lost NBC shareholders - this is not Canada or Britain remember - a cool 10 million. That's how much the production lost.
Now the thing is, I tried to warn them. Well, God tried to warn them. Not by showing up Himself in head office and waving a cautionary finger, but by scaring the pants off me and ordering me to the phone to dictate a telegram. A very odd telegram on a warm morning in the late summer of 1976. It instructed NBC to put 10 million dollars in my bank account in Nelson.
I had lived in two different fraternity houses in my later days as university, and in one of them heard some pretty hairy tales of initiation stunts, but nothing like this. The natural reaction was easily obvious. This guy's either a really stupid con man, or he's crazy. I know about those alternatives because back in the winter of  64-65 I had used them on a university president. I was edging into discussions about my unusual relationship with the Almighty, and I said, "Father, either I'm lying, or I'm crazy, or I'm right."
I didn't get much of a reply, but that may have been because the word lying may have disturbed him so much as to momentarily numb his brain. As I learned later, he had been up to a great deal of lying in his priestly career, both with his tongue in words, and the rest of his body with women.
And I didn't get any response from NBC, although I would not assume for the same reasons. But on the other hand, there was no healthy curiosity as to why they would receive such an order. What sort of man could even think of such a thing? Is he a nutter, or is he a prophet?
Now they were making this film on Jesus, weren't they? And Jesus was both in blood and spirit descended from the prophets of Israel, so there might be a connection there, could there not? Anybody here ever read the book of Ezekiel? And so forth, until some fairly literate human being sleuths around a bit, or picks up the phone and dialogues and discovers the situation at the other end. That's what's supposed to happen, isn't it? Isn't this why we make movies? And television dramas? And then we get something better than we started out with. Or maybe we find out that we should stop what we're doing, because we're not doing it right, and save ourselves 10 million dollars.
But of course that didn't happen, or the story wouldn't be coming out this way, now that it can be told on the Net.
Let us move on to January, l984. January 25, to be precise. Again, those interesting disturbances in the soul that mean action has to be taken or else. Bye bye peace of mind and the getting on with one more orderly day in the life of order, unless you do what your told. It was early in the morning here in the Kootenays, very dark, but they were up and at the working day in New York. So I rang NBC.
"Hello," says a very pleasant, young, female voice, after I got through to the news desk. "What can I do for you?"
"I'm calling from  Nelson, British Columbia," I said, "and I have to tell you that when Pope John Paul comes to Canada in September his journey is not going to go smoothly. His schedule will be disturbed." I gave her my name, and she asked me if I had a title. I said I was a prophet. We both hung up, and no one more senior called me for more information, not even after the Pope's scheduled landing at Fort Simpson was frustrated by an unseasonal bank of fog rolling down the Mackenzie.
This not a full report, especially as it does not include what happened ten days before the call to New York, when I phoned the telegram people to send a stiff note to John Paul himself, but things are moving very swiftly around the Net, and this information needs to be out there now, if only to give the real journalists a chance to separate themselves from the wannabes who have yet to learn that a lust for headlines can be much more dangerous than the other kind.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Catch Us the Little Foxes

It would appear to be time to quote a bit from John of the Cross, and then comment. The above title is from his Spiritual Canticle, stanza 16, although I take liberty with the exact words of the Allison Peers translation, as he says "Drive us away the foxes", while the Kavanaugh/Rodriguez version has 'Catch", but omits the "little" that one finds in the source text for John of the Cross' creation, the Song of Solomon.
And to be truthful, I want to say that I don't find the foxes I have in mind very little at all. Bigger animals on the whole, wolves on the one hand, jackals and hyenas on the other. But foxes will do for the poetry of what is in hand, because of the tradition of fox hunting as it is carried on in England, Ireland, and few other places fond of galloping along on horseback in a group. Not everyone agrees with the sport, but there are a number of stirring elements in it, and it will do as an image, inasmuch as it feels to me like the hunt is up, although I'm not totally clear about what we will catch at the end, or how much of it.
I've actually seen very few foxes. They're primarily nocturnal hunters, from what I understand, usually must be woken up to be hunted themselves by day. Usually by a large pack of beagles. I think my very first sighting was of a rather big Reynard, sitting in the middle of the highway to Vancouver, years ago, in broad daylight, without any hint of pursuers anywhere. He struck me as a symbol. He seemed very friendly, although we did not stop to see if he was up to a pat on the head. He was probably a symbol of Firefox, our server for this blog. The second I saw in the Kootenays, a few years later, and it was dead, probably hit by a vehicle, leaving a field near Rosebud Lake. Otherwise, my principal experience of foxes is from watching films, invariably BBC, in which a hunt is part of the plot.
I'm hearing the horns now, and baying of the dogs, and the thunder of the hooves. Not quite a cavalry charge, but close enough.
To John of the Cross, of course, foxes were a symbol of vices, malicious and envious spirits, and disorders of feeling or imagination within the soul. In other words, he's primarily concerned, as a spiritual writer, with good advice to the soul struggling to perfect itself, and paying attention to God's efforts on its behalf. But from time to time these images spill over into a more general activity, if not a perfecting of a sizable segment of humanity, at least a purging of some of the segment's deficiencies.
It is also correct to think of the fox as a symbol of cunning, and, furthermore, as a creature that enjoys is own cunning, like priests I have known who have turned out to be pedophiles, womanizers, homosexuals. And then there were the lesbian nuns, or feminist nuns using their position of trust and respect to get their own rebellious ways in regard to Church doctrine or practice. Saint Thomas speaks clearly about those who enjoy hiding their cunning minds behind the clerical or religious facade. This is why sympathy for these abusive examples of "humankind" can only go so far.
I like those images of the fox hunt, written two days ago, still wearing well, still escaping the waste basket of the writer's morning after. I have some ideas about the significance of the horns and the hounds, but I'll sit on them until I find out if the drumming of the hooves is equated with the droning of an airplane or two. I have sent out some instructions, rather similar to some I sent out early in 1984, which if obeyed, would have started the Irish round up far earlier than is the case and also made the world press look like less of a goat than it's going to.
Are you listening, NBC?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Return of Sigmund Freud

Believe me, I never in my life expected to throw a title like this one up on the blackboard.
While there is no question that my 1956 decision to leave law school and for some months take up the study of the social sciences on my own was an utterly sensible thing to do, not only clarifying much of my thinking, but energizing my spirit, really letting God get at my view of life and my relation to it, I always found Sigmund Freud a very mixed bag. In some areas he seemed helpful, in others too strange and depressing for words. I could not stick with him for very long, and in retrospect often thought that the best thing he did was to point me in the direction of the anthropologists: Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, Malinowski, Hanz Boaz. Freud had taught me something of the need to analyze and probably escape the super-ego, and the anthropologists, illustrating the questionable social dictates of other cultures, seemed an entertaining as well as accurate way of identifying my own socially acquired baggage. I was already pretty good at finding and keeping my own sense of self-direction, not only because I always read, but because the Lord of the mystics had an immense variety of ways of cutting the rug out from under the clay feet of those who over-assumed their authority over my mind. Novelists are such annoying buggers, especially when they're mystics.
But as grace must build on nature, and the presumption of willful ignorance is sinful, one must study, and study I did. I never knew it could be so much fun once you got away from the classroom and the prescribed  textbooks, none of which ever carried the spirit of  the original sources. It was a wonderful winter, and in the spring I began to study philosophy and also to think that when I had a family I would march it off to Church on Sunday, probably of the Canadian United persuasion.
I think the final kiss-off with the Wiener-Schrinkel came with his piece called "Moses and Monotheism". Enough was enough, already. His metaphysics were even worse than Jung's, if that were possible.
But I did admire his compassion for the troubled and thought for a time about becoming a shrink myself, little  conscious of the undoubted fact that I was, being a story teller looking for interesting tales, one of the best listeners I knew. And ever after, I ran into people who, not being very interested or studied in theology, inevitably messed up their own lives by trying to work them out according to the supposed norms of Ziggy and his followers. I also learned Pete Seeger's song about Adler, Jung, and Freud, and sang it on all appropriate occasions. It is not, of course, a panygeric.
But I also recognized that Freud had not been a complete waste of time, and so when the Lord indicated the other day that I should trot down to the library and take out a biography of the man, I swiftly did so, full of fond memories of those informative months, and hoping the library had not tossed such a book out in one of its recent culls.
I found two, but chose the one by Frank J. Sulloway, 1979. There was something appealing about the list of contents. For those interested in the field, and who appreciate authors who labour to put myths in their place, this is, I would say from short acquaintance, a good treatment. I would not mind owning it, in fact, so that I could browse through it when so moved, especially any time I encountered a Freudian who needed hosing down. But as I puttered through the early pages, and thus leaned much that was undoubtedly useful - I am dead serious here - about Freud's undoubted predecessors and peers, mentors, collaborators, and critics of his own time, I wasn't quite sure what had been on about until I encountered the passages on male hysteria.
That's what all these honcho journalists and queer public statesmen have got. Hysteria. Religion sets up neuresthenic inflammation within their systems, and it goes into their writing processes. Mention the Pope - any Pope, but  especially one who really does know that two and two make four - and their authority problems become so emotionally acute that they cannot help but shriek till their wombs fall out. It makes you think of the movies, where every once in a while a director will show us a scene where the only way to calm down an hysterical woman is to slap her until she shuts up and breaks into tears. Quite possibly, according to Freud's mentor on the subject, Josef Breuer, it is their husbands who should get the violence, a lot of boots where it would do them the most good, but at the moment I can't recall a film where such a scene took place.
Hollywood is not very good on self-control of the sexual appetite, having found that buying into certain aspects of Freud's teaching, the less intelligent part, is really good for the box office.
But I really appreciate the rewriting of the traditional opinion that only women suffered from hysteria. It explains better than anything I can think of, what's been happening in certain areas of the fifth estate. Ah, if only we could bring back Turgenev.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Publishing My Journal

I mentioned a few posts back my now blogging daughter's question, when she was a teenager, inquiring as to why I didn't simply publish my journals. From where she sat across the room she could easily see the growing shelf to the left of my chair. That would have been about the time the entry I am going to quote was was actually being made, give or take some months either way, April, 1984. She knew that I had been puttering away for four years at my magnum opus, and she also knew that I had so far had no luck interesting a publisher. I replied by giving her every hope for the eventual printing of at least part of the shelf to her left - it was then a mere foot long, and included a couple of her mother's notebooks - but added that such an event would probably not precede my death, or at least my being published as a novelist.
Never a man on the cutting edge of technology, I in no way foresaw the Net or, and could only assume that all the signs of infused hope the Holy Spirit merrily, constantly, along the lines of "In this house you will be published.", a few days after we moved in, September, 1975, referred to the ordinary means of the publishing trade, without, in my case, the tra la la of reading and signing tours.
But, thanks to a variety of people, I have been for some time now published, globally, in the most convenient manner I could ever have thought of asking for, and therefor a little journal exposure is perfectly in order, especially following the coincidence this week of a letter by our bishop in the Nelson Daily News, dealing with Gwynne Dyer's latest flunking out of catechism class, and my own musings in the letters pages of the New Denver Valley Voice. My letter spells out the harmony of thinking, on the molestation issue, of our Bishop John and the Pope, currently being badgered by the leading half-wits of  western civilization, not one of whom has the you-know-what to come to my study to discuss the issue, or even pick up the story of a life time, if he or she really wanted to give the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic a black eye in the name of the whole truth.
And to think that in the past I have been, actually, an admirer of the New York Times, the Manchester Guardian, the Independent, the Globe and Mail, and even my own one-time employer, the Vancouver Sun!
 The Cockneys, the ancestors of my maternal grandparents, have a word for these lightweights: gormless.
But I digress. The journal note, with some prefatory explanation for those who are not intimate with the geography of the Queen City of the Kootenays.
Gordon Road runs more or less north and south, and is, or at least was, the eastern boundary of the city. It is one of the routes for getting to the campus that used to be occupied by our little, Catholic, university, and when your are walking on the very steep grade of the upper part, you have a magnificent view of the West Arm of the lake and the mountains to the east, especially of the peaks of the Kokanee Range. I mentioned these mountains, incidentally, in my very first letter to the present Pope, some nine months before the date of this journal note. Bealby Point was then where lived the then Bishop of Nelson, Emmett Doyle.

"As we came down Gordon Road there was an interesting phenomenon of nature one would like to be able to take as a sign of hope. The sun, from behind the general cover of clouds, shone only on Bealby Point, and then as I looked about, on the bridge. The bridge, of course, is the thing for which Pontifex was the natural name."

It was in the time of the first Christians that the Pope was called Pontifex, due to the key position he occupied on the passage from earth to heaven. The Nelson bridge in question is that which joins the city to the North Shore of the arm, built in the late 50s to replace a ferry. Some years ago it was painted orange, and is featured in endless photographs and painting by local artists.
It is now, most contentedly, being featured by a writer.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


The year before my lovely singing voice of a wife returned to Nelson, the village that had raised her, dragging me in her wake, there was functioning on Baker Street a coffee house known as The Trivium. The Trivium was the name given in the Middle Ages to the group of studies we are now inclined to call the Humanities, more or less, as it comprised grammar, logic, and rhetoric. This last we today call literature, thanks to Gutenberg and the invention of cheap printing. In medieval times, books were scarce, and  manuscripts took time to copy, so oral learning was big. One of the founders of the Trivium, so I was told, was a philosophy teacher at our little university - the reason I came to Nelson - thus the supposedly arcane title of the facility. I use the word 'arcane' because I am very much aware that I have joined battle both with and against the journalists, of every medium, and I am very much aware that journalists generally are professionally hooped on their view of themselves as "modern". Thus their first reaction to any intelligence escaping from anything earlier than, the latest, the nineteenth century, is suspect as being inferior to the latest bafflegab from those functioning in the public eye after World War One, thus 'arcane'.
They - the journalists - therefore incline to suspect all sorts of things that might make them wiser than they are, and are incredibly hide bound to their own childish rationalism, as ridiculously rooted, say, as any idiot of a British lord of the Age of Enlightenment, that is, the eighteenth century.
But the simple fact is that in the middle ages the subject of music was much more scientifically taught than it is now, as I have been at pains to point out in earlier posts of the Ranger. All the teachers were smarter: they knew music was a branch of mathematics, and music itself was, along with arithmetic, astronomy, and geometry, a member of the Quadrivium, the other part of basic education. Or perhaps they weren't actually smarter, it was just that their students would have lynched them had they ever been so thick as to insist on some of the methods that are standard now, in both pedagogy and testing and certifying. Medieval students were like that: they were easily upset, and walked when suitably provoked. Or lynched. This inclination was only one of the advantages of lacking high school counsellors trained under Sigmund Freud.
I bring this up now, somewhat repeating myself as my few faithful readers will realize, because while I have been manfully getting up my chops in order to put my instrumental hands where my mouth is, a couple of energetic and enterprising lads hitherto unknown to me have been at work creating exactly the kind of entertainment space here in Nelson, on legendary Ward Street, where all of this theory just might be about to be mightily proved. They don't have a name for it yet, and if they thought of calling it the Quadrivium they'd have to go into the publishing business to explain why, given the massive level of illiteracy about these days, but at my experience of the decades of local history, I tend to see it all as part of a grand plan, and, optimist that I have to be, expect great things.
What they do have, I hear along the grapevine, is a certain amount of unwonted hassle from the city fathers, and perhaps not quite the attention from astute investors that they deserve. If I were Bill Gates, or the Mac guys, I'd be there with my checkbook. But I'm neither of these fellows at the moment, so I just play the quiet observe and watch to see what happens, basically juggling the import and application of the divine locutions of the last fifty years.
It struck me as a most unfortunate glitch in the overall plan, back in 64 when Shawn and I arrived in Nelson only to hear that the Trivium had closed. Trouble with a liquor license, and the philosophy teacher had gone elsewhere. Had it all gone forward, we might have set up a regular gig, cut some albums, given the town a little universal dignity. But of course the Almighty has always thought of good music, and especially great music, as a sign of something to celebrate. If there's nothing to celebrate, thanks to the filthy behaviour of an overwhelming fraction of Catholic clergy and religious, and further thanks to the rationalistic idiocy of a self-triumphalist community of journalists, or slovenly police and government agencies, who can sing?
There are psalms which explain this situation. They should be read, and interiorized, because I have a feeling that their Author is up to something.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mixed Blessings

The first thing I want to say about syndicated columnist Gwynne Dyer is that he is the one journalist I consistently read more or less to the bottom of the page. He appears regularly in the Daily News and is a trusted source on world politics. The other sources are the rest of the household via radio news, especially the international feeds my wife listens to in the middle of the night when she is not sleeping. I first heard of Gwynne some years ago, when he brought out a documentary on the CBC about military weaponry. I was long ago trained on army stuff, both small and large, and I occasionally like to let my thoughts drift back to those times, with a view to looking at the changes since.
The next encounter with Mr. Dyer's intelligence, basically a formidable one, was during the first Gulf War, when he struck me as one of the few observers who seemed consistently to know what he was talking about. He was instance, much in contrast to a tall, handsome, self-assured Fisk correspondent busy telling us at one point how the Americans didn't stand a chance. I won't go into his list of reasons, but I will mention that his spirit was interesting, similar to, at one point, that of Saddam Hussein and his cabinet, and at another point to that of some nonsense coming off the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, albeit on a subject in no way connected with the Gulf War. The Father of Lies really does get around.
The next  time Gwynne was of interest was when he phoned my wife, in her capacity as director of the Nelson Museum, to ask about venues for speaking in our area. She took the chance to pass on the family compliments about his accuracy on the Iraq situation.
And then some months ago, possibly as long as two years or so, he began mounting the strangest attacks on religion. The first was on its relative uselessness, especially in Great Britain. He was raised in Newfoundland,  but now resides in London. This puzzling outburst emerged just around the same time as I had been reading, in L'Osservatore Romano, of how many areas of Africa were in such turmoil that only the churches had both the organization and integrity to be useful to the suffering public. How was it that a man ordinarily so well researched on the military and political situation in any part of the globe he chose to analyze, could be so stupid or perverse about the obvious? I thought of writing him, I thought of a letter to our own daily, but decided to let it be, as John Lennon said. Every dog gets his first bite free.
The second time was even stranger. He told us that Jesus was illiterate.
 I have no idea how he came to this conclusion. Certainly not from reading the Bible or paying attention when he was a lad in catechism class in Saint John. Early in his public career, the words plainly say that Christ read the lesson in his own home town synagogue, and later, we are told that he knelt and began writing the personal sins of the Pharisees accusing the woman of adultery. Then, for an educated man at least, there are the simple principles of metaphysics, or natural theology. It is impossible for the Creator to lack any ability, simply because he is the author of all abilities. But the modern universities will insist on granting degrees to people who refuse to study philosophy in organized and humble fashion, and Gwynne must have been one of these.
I think I have read that some Moslems believe that Mohammed was illiterate, but Mohammed never claimed to be Allah. Possibly Gwynne got the two founders confused.
This time I wrote. There was no reply, no journalistic curiosity, and that's a shame, because had we got into a dialogue about the real history of abusive clergy, including possible Vatican negligence, he might have got himself a real story  instead of that  masterpiece of error he concocted last week about the current Pope. Dyer will have to apologize somewhere down the road, because the truth of Benedict is that it is precisely he that has made the modern Church accountable, if only because the information he's been fed from this part of the world since 1983 has rendered such accountability the only option.
I'm back to teaching school. Even being the principle again. As the final term of the year kicks off, little Joe Ratzinger gets the gold star for attentiveness; little Gwynnie Dyer sits in the corner wearing the dunce cap.