LONDON, ONTARIO – Though I didn’t plan it this way, I have long enjoyed a rather handy numerical symmetry in my life. Whenever a birthday comes along which is distinguished by a zero or a five for its second digit – as will happen later this month when I achieve the full Biblical allotment of seventy – then I know that come November and December, I will also be marking significant anniversaries for occupancy in this home (our fortieth) and marriage to my favourite human being (our forty-fifth). Two of our three babies were born in this house, and all of them were raised to an approximation of adulthood here and shared precious space with a succession of four superb dogs and one so-so cat. (Not Una’s fault. She couldn’t help it if her species is dull.)
LONDON, ONTARIO – About a half year ago our son outfitted his digitally-challenged parents with a remote control device that we can speak into and magically instruct our oh-so ‘smart’ television to retrieve some program from the outer ether and pop it up onto our screen. In January and February when I was flying low with some physical afflictions that I described a couple of Hermaneutics ago, I was spending a few hours most nights on the couch revisiting forty and fifty year-old dramatizations of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. While this snappy new remote spares us the aggro of all that sausage-fingered poking at a finicky little keyboard, you do have to enunciate your request quite clearly or else that wheel indicating that the interwebs are being scanned to no avail starts spinning away on your screen, just above the message: “No results for ‘Dorothy Ulcers’.”
LONDON, ONTARIO – In a recent email exchange with someone who finds me just a wee bit judgmental, I was asked why I refuse to discard my quaint allegiance to that primary doctrine of both theology and biology that there are only two sexes. You too may have noticed that this article of dogma which has enjoyed universal acceptance from time immemorial, began to encounter a coordinated squall of tetchy turbulence about ten minutes ago. My favourite formulation of what I still regard as one of the more foundational doctrines to live by – positing that which shapes and drives and bestows most of the charm and wonder which are to be found in human existence – hails from the King James version of the Bible and goes like this: “Male and female created He them.”
LONDON, ONTARIO – I invite you to join me in a tearful salute to the great Gary Brooker – the main composer, lead singer and pianist for symphonic rock pioneers, Procol Harum – who died last Saturday in Britain of one boring form of cancer or another at the age of 76. Everyone, of course, remembers Procol Harum’s first and by far biggest hit which took the world and the barely-formed band themselves by storm, A Whiter Shade of Pale.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Greetings, Hermaneutics readers. As many of you have noticed (“HG, where are you?” “Cat got your tongue?”) it’s been a month since I’ve posted anything new here. While I wasn’t surprised to see my viewership numbers drop from mid-January and into this first week of February, I was gratified that they only dropped by about a fifth and that a lot of the people who came here looking to see if anything was going on, decided to dig into the archives instead and checked out some of the more than two hundred essays I’ve posted here over the last four years. It makes my labours feel a little less ephemeral when a few dozen of my better realized flashes from the past can generate significant traffic during a period of downtime.
LONDON, ONTARIO – In the fall of 1996, our family was travelling up to Midland, Ontario to visit the reconstructed Jesuit mission of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons where for ten years (1639–49) sixty Jesuits and lay French with 12,000 Huron Indians, created and operated the first in-land European settlement in all of North America. (See more on that visit in this May 3, 2021 Hermaneutics: Wilf Jury and the Saga of Sainte-Marie). Zigzagging our way along secondary highways northeast from London to Midland, we passed along the main drags of many smaller Ontario towns, stopping in every third or fourth burg for washroom breaks and to load up on essential provisions like gas and local newspapers and sticky buns.
LONDON, ONTARIO – That’s our firstborn daughter’s dog, Gummy, which is short for 'Montgomery'. He was named after Montgomery Clift - not the famous field marshal - and is sporting the protective cone that a British Columbia vet outfitted him with about ten years back so he’d stop licking and fussing with a wound that needed time to heal. Our daughter had acquired Gummy in the fall of 2008 when she and her partner and two thirds of our grandkids were living back in London for a spell. Gummy had attained a particularly gangly adolescence by the time we acquired a new puppy of our own on May 1st of 2009 and through that summer, Gummy taught Grace all of her essential life skills and the pair of them simultaneously destroyed our back garden through sheer canine exuberance.
LONDON, ONTARIO - With a particular focus on his more devotional writings, this month our Christian men’s reading group revisited the literary remains of Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801–90) for the first time since he was elevated to sainthood in October of 2019. The foremost Newman scholar in the world today, Fr. Ian Ker (now a senior research fellow at St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford) was predicting Newman’s elevation to sainthood as early as the 1970s when he began work on his monumental biography, John Henry Newman which was first published in 1987. In the expanded edition of that work in 2009, Ker upped the ante even further and expressed his confidence that Newman will one day also be deemed a Doctor of the Church.
LONDON, ONTARIO – The death of Michael Nesmith this week at the age of 78, called forth a lot of mourning from ageing Monkees fans and a lot of sniping from half-informed curmudgeons who’d always regarded that deliberately manufactured group of ‘60s pop musicians (with their very own TV show and a line in commemorative lunch pails) as irredeemable capitalist stooges and soulless phonies. Yes, the Monkees were brought together in a totally inorganic way, contrived from the get-go to cash in on the success of The Beatles with a less discerning and younger audience. But the Monkees underwent a considerable evolution over the course of their short career and managed to provide more than a few decent tunes that stand up pretty well half a century later. And I look back with even deeper affection and regard for the much less celebrated work that Mike Nesmith produced once the Monkees had packed it in.
LONDON, ONTARIO - Only one year older than myself, when Tom Gosnell was elected mayor of London in 1985 at the age of 34, I doubt that I was the only member of that tiresome generation familiarly (and sometimes sneeringly) known as the Boomers who suddenly experienced a moment of slightly giddy uncertainty. (He had actually served seven years before that as an alderman but that hadn’t significantly registered on my consciousness.) Tom’s elevation to the city’s highest post could best be compared, I suppose, to the first time you find yourself entrusted to the care of a physician who’s roughly your own age or (perish the thought) even younger. It was a moment of realization that, ready or not, our lot was in charge now. Regardless of how ill-prepared we may have felt, we were now the responsible adults in the room. Were we really ready for this?
If you would like to contribute to the ongoing operations of Hermaneutics, there are now a few options available.
THE AQUINAS LECTURE
G.K. CHESTERTON AND THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE
ALL LIFE IS A GIFT :
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION :