LONDON, ONTARIO – The world’s very first autobiography (as we understand that term today) also happens to be the great granddaddy of all Christian conversion narratives. Though it was first produced a mere 1,624 years ago (and is only one of an estimated 113 books that he wrote in his lifetime) such is the inquisitive, generous and downright playful cast of St. Augustine’s mind, that his Confessions remains more uncannily readable and relatable than a considerable portion of the religiously themed books that are published today.
As a mid-life convert myself – thirty-two years old at the time of my plunge but intermittently fascinated by the prospect since the very dawning of self-awareness – I have always been interested to see how others managed to grope their way along the path to Christian belief. And in service to that abiding curiosity, I have probably read at least a hundred conversion narratives both before and since coming into the Church.
LONDON, ONTARIO - Now here’s a little tribute to a writer I’ve adored for most of my life and am reasonably confident that nobody else on the planet will be commemorating this week. For one, he’s dead and has been so for twelve years. Out of sight and out of mind. And at this point in his obscurity I don't sense that anybody’s inclined just yet to start considering whether he’s got the makings of a classic. The man had a peerlessly unpretentious style, a devastating sense of the absurd and a seemingly instinctive genius for imparting delight - none of them qualities, methinks, that carry much weight in the too self-conscious literary marketplace today. And there are a couple other aspects that would seem to work against the odds of anyone making large or serious claims for Keith Waterhouse today.
LONDON, ONTARIO - This is a dedication to London historian, Orlo Miller, which I composed for my 1989 collection of essays, Towards a Forest City Mythology.
“Because of Orlo Miller’s books of London history, I carry around a ghost map in my head; a sort of transparent grid which I can lay over the city as I move through it and see what’s no longer there. I see where a drunken nineteenth century mayor drove his buggy down a sidewalk and I see Dr. Neill Cream dragging his first murder victim to the back shed behind his shop. I see the east end typhus and cholera dumps where hundreds of new Irish immigrants took their first and last sightings of London and I’m present at the Donnelly trials where six murderers brazened their way through to a verdict of ‘not guilty’. I’ve attended regimental balls at Eldon House and helped pass buckets of water that didn’t do very much to contain the great fire of 1845. No other writer has evoked these visions and experiences with half his clarity and power, nor his abiding sense of justice.
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THE AQUINAS LECTURE
G.K. CHESTERTON AND THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE
ALL LIFE IS A GIFT :
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION :