LONDON, ONTARIO – When Larry Henderson died thirteen years ago this fall, obituaries printed in newspapers from coast to coast and short clips tucked into the later portion of all the national TV news reports, focused primarily on Larry as the first full time national news anchor on CBC TV from 1954-59. During this pioneering period in electronic journalism, the CBC was the only national broadcaster around and for the better part of that decade, Larry’s was the best known face in a country full of TV sets that mostly pulled in just the one station.
LONDON, ONTARIO – This week I set before you a series of snapshots which I believe are not unrelated, outlining the gradual fraying of our social fabric. Let's start with the very earliest of them all; recounting a hot afternoon in my 13th year when I was taking temporary leave from my most constant companion that summer to go home for supper.
We had decided to run an experiment. My friend stood on the sidewalk in front of his house on the south side of Baseline Road as I walked backwards up the very long block to Wortley Road, and every ten feet or so I would call out “goodbye” and if he could still hear me, then he’d wave his arms and holler back. We were testing to see whether we would first move beyond one another’s range of sight or sound.
LONDON, ONTARIO – This Easter will mark the thirty-sixth anniversary of my conversion, baptism and confirmation into full membership in the Roman Catholic Church. Getting out my handy actuarial table I see that I have now spent the better part of my life as a Catholic. In one way, that feels about right. I know that this is the Church where I belong and I have felt that way from the moment Bishop Sherlock baptised me and anointed me with holy oils at the great Easter Vigil at St. Peter’s Cathedral on April 22, 1984. Yet in other ways – thirty-six years into this glorious game – I still feel like a callow newbie, hopelessly out of my depth in the company of those lifelong Catholics who live the life of the faith at its fullest.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Except for thirty seconds one evening in the winter of 1973, I’ve never really been much of a dancer. Not only is this an incapacity which I have come to regret, I recognize it as something I share with the vast majority of my peers. It’s a bit of a paradox but the rock music we grew up with – arguably the most physically agitating music ever played by Western man – didn’t generate much in the way of great dancing. Certainly there were individual performers who developed a reputation for their dazzling moves but most rock concerts were just that – concerts. Up until the 1950s, few popular musicians gave concerts – not even the biggest headlining acts - without provision being made for their audience to dance.
LONDON, ONTARIO – “My goodness, why is he reading that right now?” my wife sometimes wonders when she sees me go digging through a book so apparently eccentric or retrograde or unconnected to the sort of fare that usually beckons my interest, that its appeal utterly stumps her. But recognizing the powerful influence which she uniquely exerts on my consciousness, she usually manages to muffle such questions for a while at least. Stuffed to the brim with prudential wisdom, she understands that – with reading as with writing – a word of discouragement or bewilderment that is voiced too soon may jinx the possibility of worthwhile engagement and exploration.
LONDON, ONTARIO – I first got to know Howard Katz, the founding pastor of Open Door Christian Fellowship Church, in the spring of 2008. I was doing up a feature article about him and his younger brother, Harvey, for the old quarterly, Christian Life in London, which was then edited by Rob Hueniken. The hook upon which the article was hung was that both brothers had published books just the year before with Believe Books, the U.S.-based publishing house operated by one of the great heroes of my life, former London mayor, Dianne Haskett.
LONDON, ONTARIO – If your house is anything like mine, in trying to accommodate your latest Christmas infusion of printed matter onto your shelves, you’re staring at your packed and buckling bookcases and asking yourself some challenging and even upsetting questions like, “Is there anything here I can part with? What’s the stuff I’ve got to keep, both for reasons of personal enthusiasm and because I want to maintain a coherent representation of the big picture, literature-wise?” May I recommend a handful of books to assist you in this ticklish matter of discernment? (If you don’t want to compound your problem with capacity, perhaps you should see if you can find any of these titles at the library.)
LONDON, ONTARIO – I’m staring down the deadline of another project that needs to be completed this week so, reaching into the Tickle Trunk for an oldie but a goodie to kick off the 2020’s (and commemorate the second anniversary of the Hermaneutics blog) let me favour you with this rather unorthodox profile of a brave and insightful London family. This piece has been tucked away in the vaults of my website since we launched it a few years ago, and I’ve been delighted to see that in just the last month, it’s been outpacing lots of more recent material and racking up hundreds of views. It’s been one of my all-time favourite pieces since its first publication in London magazine in 1985 under the editorship of Douglas Cassan.
LONDON, ONTARIO – When I was coming into the Catholic Church over the winter of 1983–84, I attended my first-ever midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica downtown and was amazed to see what even then seemed a throwback to something from the earlier half of the twentieth century. In a corner of the raised dais to the east of the altar was a tweedy looking technician wearing headphones and seated at a small wooden table, twiddling knobs on what looked like a World War II-issue transmitter. As inconspicuously as possible, this fellow was modulating the sound level of the entire ceremony – from the pre-Mass community carol sing to the readings and the homily and the Eucharistic prayers to the final rousing, trumpet-propelled recessional of Joy to the World – and sending it all out in a live broadcast over CFPL Radio airwaves to shut-ins and the elderly.
LONDON, ONTARIO - In addition to some of its more routinely trumpeted pleasures and solaces, as you get older Christmas also becomes an annual opportunity to spend time communing with the ghosts of the beloved dead. One old friend who’s taking up more pronounced residence in my thoughts this year is Jane Loptson, who died in the hallway outside of her apartment at the Mary Campbell Co-op in the early afternoon of December 27th, 2013. She had been venturing out to buy some groceries following a rough Christmas when she’d had more than her usual difficulty breathing. Jane would have turned sixty the following April though no one expected her to make old bones, saddled as she was for nearly half of her life with multiple sclerosis which incrementally wasted her body away (the 1980s would’ve been the last time she weighed more than a hundred pounds) and stripped away one physical faculty after another.
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 :