LONDON, ONTARIO – I first became aware of G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936) in my late 20s on a literary tip from my friend Jeff Cencich. “I think you’ll like this guy,” he said, dropping a copy of his Selected Essays on the counter of City Lights Book Shop where I was working as a clerk. As I identified with Chesterton so immediately and so strongly, I’m glad that introduction wasn’t made any sooner; that my character and literary proclivities were more or less established before he arrived on my scene. We’re both inclined to portliness, we both have walrus moustaches, we share a birthday, and we both enjoy the composition of humorous essays. The overlap between us (cue Twilight Zone music) was a little spooky. I admire the man tremendously but I’d hate to be accused of aping him
LONDON, ONTARIO – As Labour Day draws nigh, we sigh along with our deflating beach balls and dinghies at another summer’s passing and turn our gaze back to the work-a-day world we must now rejoin. Anything new on the horizon to distract our ennui at the same old routine? Well, any sort of vista is a little hard to make out with all those electoral signs cluttering every intersection and sprouting up on more and more front lawns. So yes, it would seem we’re having ourselves another municipal election on October 22nd.
LONDON, ONTARIO – I suspect I’m not the only person who walks by a house or apartment where I used to live and wishes there was some way to slip back inside for a few hours and see what kind of memories and associations come burbling up to the surface. But I don’t have the gall to knock on the door and ask a suspicious stranger if they’d mind terribly if I just barged into their personal space and mooched around for a while. But on an admittedly less personal level, I do get a somewhat similar sort of charge whenever I pay a visit to Eldon House.
LONDON, ONTARIO – As summer 2018 starts chugging its way through its final third, here’s a book tip for anyone looking for a worthy volume to take along to the cottage or the beach or your air-conditioned basement: White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s by Joe Boyd. It might help if you retain an abiding fondness for that most fertile and inventive of periods in popular music when – in the wake of a Beatles-led British Invasion of the entire English-speaking world – unprecedented numbers of young musicians, alone or in small groups, started making music in vital and ingenious new ways.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Our old friend Chris Aikenhead had no sooner greeted us as we touched down at Vancouver Airport on the first leg of our West Coast tour on Monday, July 9th, than he gently, gingerly asked if we’d heard the news out of London which we’d only left behind about seven hours earlier. Oh God, the dog-sitters had screwed up and Gracie got hit by a car? Kirtley’s mom had taken another tumble and we’d have to fly right back and stand sentinel at her bedside? “Marion Woodman has died,” he said and was perhaps a little miffed when we practically sighed in relief.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Hermaneutics is still on holidays this week but here is a piece from two summers ago about our discovery of the glories of Catholic tourism . . . .
IN THE LAST DAYS of July my wife and I elected to take our place among 49 other pilgrims on a chartered bus of the incongruously named Badder line out of St. Thomas that took us to St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal (stomping ground of the newly canonized Brother Andre); Our Lady of the Cape in Cap-de-la-Madelaine near Trois-Rivieres (the most thoroughly Catholic town I’ve ever visited on this continent); the Basilica of Ste. Anne de Beaupre (a magnificent cathedral dedicated to Our Lady’s mother and the oldest pilgrimage site in North America); Notre Dame Basilica-Cathedral in old Quebec City (our first visit to that exquisite burg since our honeymoon in 1977) and the touchingly modest Shrine to the even more recently canonized Kateri Tekakwitha in Kahnawake.
SALT SPRING ISLAND, BRITISH COLUMBIA – You were promised a field report this week from our continent’s west coast, otherwise known as the zone of the woke, where I suppose the politically correct might say we’re having ourselves an endangered whale of a time. I’ve had my very own I Ching hexagram thrown on Hornby Island with a change line in the fifth place which means that I am proudly transitioning from ‘#33 Retreat’ to ‘#56 The Wanderer’. I’ve wolfed down a gluten-free muffin on Salt Spring Island while standing outside a public washroom designated “Universal” and have charted the transit of Venus (she was perched right on the lower tip of a waxing crescent moon) from an observation tower in the northern Washington seaport of Westport while chugging a can of sugar-free Fanta Orange.
LONDON, ONTARIO - Hermaneutics is on the road this week, sampling the progressive fleshpots and political flashpoints of our continent’s west coast. In place of the customary up-to-the-minute commentary which has made this blog such an internet phenomenon, I offer you this essay from precisely one year ago in which I announced my reckless decision to get married for the second time:
LONDON, ONTARIO – The single book with which George Orwell (1903-50) is most identified – Nineteen Eighty-Four - was published 69 years ago this fall. An oppressively dark vision of social manipulation and political tyranny in late 20th century Britain, few books have so completely worked their way into the popular imagination and vocabulary. Borrowing from Orwell’s dystopian novel, we call euphemistic or neutered language ‘newspeak’. Politically incorrect ideas are ‘thought crimes’. An epidemic of surveillance cameras monitoring public and private spheres makes us no strangers to the concept of an all-seeing ‘Big Brother’.
LONDON, ONTARIO –
Here’s an essay I wrote 29 summers ago:
I stepped out our front door at one p.m. to sample the humours of the new day I’d risen to, when my five-year-old son came running up to me with an amazing bit of news. “Did you know old people bleed?” he asked. He’d been riding his bike on the sidewalk with his friend when they saw an old lady keel over and smash her face against some concrete steps across the road. “That’s her over there?”
THE AQUINAS LECTURE
G.K. CHESTERTON AND THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE
Monday, January 28
St. Peter's Seminary
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