Who goes there?

Sunday 4 December 2016 REVIVE US AGAIN #2 It’s a fitful time, a time fraught with ill political winds, fiction masquerading as fact, climate upheaval, seasonal change.

It’s also a time for reflection. First of the season snow arrived today. Nice flakes are falling this Sunday evening. Thank a Salvation Army bell ringer when you shop–and give.

The week, not in the least in an unsmiling way, saw me celebrate another birthday, gather for a fine time with the greater family here and in Ontario, join the pace of Advent waiting, and anticipate Christmas and New Year.

Just the ticket for 2017

This week we ordered tickets for the 2017 season at the Stratford Festival of Canada. (My membership lets me order ahead of the general ticket release in February).

With friends Dean and Gwen we’ll see four shows in May, and a few later in the summer. One of them is Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, written around 1601. In this topsy-turvy romantic comedy Antonio says, “In nature there’s no blemish but the mind; None can be called deformed but the unkind” (Act 111, scene iv). Feste says, “That, that is, is” Act IV; scene ii).

The program booklet describes Twelfth Night as: “Shipwrecked twins, a lovesick duke and a self-important servant who becomes the ultimate fashion victim: love throws everyone for a loop in a comic riot of misdirected desire.”

One show we’ll miss is Romeo and Juliet. Still, I’m intrigued by a one-time discussion during the summer of what this divide between two clans has to say about youth. This cautionary tale raises pointed questions, the program booklet notes, of “a society that marginalizes youth to the point of alienation and self-destruction . . . dysfunction that gives rise to youth suicide–a symptom of society’s breach in intergenerational understanding.”

From the stage life gets unmasked. Break a leg, Stratford.

2017, Canada celebrates its 150th birthday

The Festival is celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday. The 14 plays and musicals have been chosen to explore identity. What’s in a name? Who am I? How can I be myself yet belong to the greater whole? asks Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. He concludes, “Finally, as we celebrate our national identity, we might do well to remember that, no matter how we name ourselves, actions, not words, will define us.”

Words, telling words

These words popped up this week: pettifogging (to engage in legal chicanery), petty jealousy (small, minor, narrow interests), hectoring (to play the bully), inflated rhetoric (overinflated, I’d say). There’s more than enough of that going around to pin the terms on any one person. I’d prefer to think of better times in terms like style and substance of leadership, translate vision into reality, world standard, being for the common good, building peace.

I’ve still not come to terms with the forces behind the divisive election 2016. The term “identity politics” has surfaced again. Oxford Dictionaries defines that as “a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.” The term came into being during the Civil Rights Era of last century and is used to refer to nationalist movements, the KKK being among the first such movements.

It’s hard to think straight and have a healthy exchange of ideas in the global village that was once the internet. One writer in WIRED says that the internet global village “has been replaced by digital islands of isolation that are drifting farther apart each day. . . . Without realizing it, we develop tunnel vision. Rarely will our Facebook comfort zones expose us to opposing views, and as a result we eventually become victims to our own biases.”

Another writer, Sam Brinson, said, “Worryingly, research has found that 61 percent of millennials use Facebook as their primary source for news about politics.”

Well, I’ve thrown up probably too many quotes and not enough commentary. May that be as it may. I sure do not want to bore or boo anybody in the blog. And I’ll soon want to get a bite to eat. What? A sardine sandwich. And some cheese curds.

Among the week’s pictures

One more quick quote

I finished Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am. Whee. A lot of the dialogue in this family of five left me in the dust at times, but the cumulative story of parents invested in the children and losing out with each other made its impact. Son Sam: “The pressure of Sam’s unreleased insides often took the shape of unshared, useless brilliance. . . .” Or, from his obsession with online design,  “It was better in his head than in reality, but everything was.”

I liked the rabbi’s wise and surprising words at Max’s bar mitzvah. And Max himself distinguishes himself with an insightful, funny, and penetrating speech. Sadly, though, the parents find divorce as their own best option for each other.

A day in history

I had a birthday this week, as you may have noted earlier. I share my birthdate with Napoleon Bonaparte who in 1804 was crowned Emperor, the first Frenchman to be so named in 1000 years. In 1908 Payi became Emperor of China–at age 2. Yes, 2. He was the last Emperor of China. In 1954 the US Senate voted 65 to 22 to condemn Senator Joseph R. McCarthy for “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor ad disrespect.” In 1976 Castro became president of Cuba. It is what it is.

The week that was real fine

We spent last week with family and friends in Ontario. What a fine time. We used the American Thanksgiving weekend as Christmas for my extended family. Youngest Hazel Christa at five weeks, family community.

I also briefly visited the Community Justice Initiatives of Waterloo Region office in Kitchener. Because of snow and ice I didn’t attend the public meeting they had at Conrad Grebel University College. So, after a third annual lunch with friends, Marty and I stopped in at the office in Kitchener.  In April 1982 I spent a week sifting through the files and interviewing people connected to the agency’s forerunner, the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program, pioneered in Waterloo County, Ontario. The two-part article I wrote appeared in a number of publications. The innovative approach to crime focuses on righting relationships. The program involves victim, offender and community in a process that seeks to restore relatilonships broken by criminal action.

I was delighted to see that the Kitchener-Waterloo senior lecture series agency,  Third Age Learning, has devoted its Winter 2017 lecture series to Building a Just Community:  Understanding and Implementing Restorative Justice Principles, The-eight part series will deal with Theories of Justice, The History of Restorative Justice, Community Crime Prevention, Community Policing, Victimization and Trauma, Offenders, Restorative Justice in Practice, and Building a Just Community.

I wish I could be there. For instance, wouldn’t you just love to learn more about community policing? “Back to the People! Waterloo Region Police Chief Bryan Larkin will talk about community policing and working in a more collaborative approach with citizens to cultivate safer, more just communities.”

In the K-W Record (Monday, Nov. 28) I read a feature by Valerie Hill on the life of Ken Schwartzentruber who was a missionary in Brazil. Ken died Nov. 17 of age-related illness. It’s an upbeat story. In his retirement years he volunteered at the New Hamburg Thrift Store, retrieving copper for recycling.  Hill wrote, “In a tribute his children remembered Ken as quiet, determined, sometimes stubborn, hard working, innnovative, witty and above all an affectionate family man.” One a friend to many.

Who goes there?

In Hamlet, prince of Denmark, the sentry Francisco is at his night-time post at Elsinore Castle. “Who’s there?” a voice calls out of the dark. Francisco replies, “Nay, answer me, stand, and unfold yourself.” His shift replacement, Bernardo, pipes up, “Long live the king.” That may have been the password or as we would say today, “A friend.”

Ophelia, in the same play, says, “Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind” Act III scene I).

I wish for a day when we can be less suspicious, less afraid, less vulnerable, less conscious that riches make the person.

I read Jill Ker Conway’s memoir this week, True North (Vintage Canada, 1995). Check out her bio online. You gain fresh appreciation for what she did for the cause of women through her teaching, writing, speaking, administration at the University of Toronto, and then presidency of Smith College. Reading her is like hearing from a friend. Who goes there? Jill Ker Conway, friend. May that be amplified for multitudes to see and hear. A friend.

Advent 2: God’s harmony is at hand. Come, friend, walk in the way of God’s heart.




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