Friday, February 24, 2012

Which Way from Here?

Mile Post 41.70 

If you think these signs are confusing, then...

Mid life, I think, begins when we spend more of our time looking back over the years to see where we have come from as a point of reference to try and define who we think we are, and spend less of our time looking forward to what may lay ahead in an attempt to envision who we hope we may yet become.

If not, then I am just as confused about life today as I was yesterday, and this observation in itself may also be true about tomorrow.

January 27, 1996
The Oddblock Station Agent

You cannot go back and change what has already been

Mile Post 42.76

In today’s edition of the Globe & Mail’s Report on Business, I saw a name and a face that I recognized from the past. He was someone I once knew from my elementary school days and someone who once lived at the top of the hill on Versailles Street in Pierrefonds. Anyway, that person went on to great success in the business world. The notice in the newspaper was announcing his appointment to a senior position in a well-known large Canadian conglomerate.

Although I did not know him well, we were in cub-scouts together. I do remember him as an intensely competitive person with an abnormal desire to win. One late spring evening in the mid 1960’s, our cub pack traveled from Herbert Purcell School to the Riviere des Prairies through the woods. What struck me as odd was that most of my peers were not very comfortable in the woods and meadows whereas I felt at home. Nonetheless, at the end of our session we had to return to Herbert Purcell School and our cub-pack leaders made our return trip into a race. I took an early lead by leaving the trails and cutting through gaps I knew about in the brush and thistles.

One person was following me and refused to relent in his pursuit but I had managed to lose him by making my way through a barrier of hawthorn bushes. I was not the fastest runner, but I had gained enough of a lead to win the race even as the pounding of his footsteps behind were catching up again. He refused to accept that he had lost the race to me and he kept trying to have the goal line changed to his advantage.

I cannot say that I feel any sense of jealousy for his success because I still won that meaningless race many years ago. Today though, when I look at my life in comparison, I do feel an almost overwhelming sense of inadequacy and maybe even a sense of failure. My life has been a waste so far as accomplishment in the secular world, but that was deliberate by my own choices. Far worse though, my life has been a failure so far as God’s work is concerned because I have not done anything useful, meaningful or beneficial for my neighbour.

Only now, this late into my life, am I beginning to realize the consequences of some of the decisions made in my earlier years. Decisions made in those early years of life are not trivial or inconsequential. The lifetime consequences are crucial and we cannot go back and correct the mistakes of poor decisions. Oh yes, we can certainly try, but to do so is futile and too late.

I can go the grave satisfied, knowing that I shall never be successful in the secular definitions of the word success, and this I can accept. However, I shall go to the grave with an overwhelming sense of failure because I was too often a coward to stand up for my beliefs when it was time to stand and I was too timid to try harder to strive for some of my goals and deepest aspirations when confronted by daunting challenges.

The consequences of decisions made from fear are tragic and the result is a life spent in a grievous waste of God’s gift of time. 

Learn to know which races in life are important to win because the establishment world is not one of them.

February 19, 1997
The Oddblock Station Agent 

Tempus Fugit

Mile Post 52.54 

Again I feel within me an urgent need to write in order to try and express my thoughts and feelings. Writing compels me to coalesce and condense a confusion of thoughts into expressions, forcing me to focus and carefully choose which words to record here, yet adequate words elude me.

These longings and feelings within me foment and I want to cry out in anguish. My entire being groans to cry out to the Lord to be heard and instead I silently suffer in this silent turmoil. My feelings are inexplicable because my life is presently free of any major problems. Nevertheless, my emotions are severely agitated and I am fighting against an inexplicable despair.

At times I wonder whether or not I a suffering from some type of an undiagnosed mental illness. At other times I wonder if I am struggling against the will of God. If so, then what complexities in my life am I struggling with and what really is the will of God?

I believe my present struggle is choosing between satisfying some of my unfulfilled desires and doing what is expected of me. Passing years do provide a deeper insight into the value of time, but becoming older has only awakened a profound sorrow in truly understanding the finite nature of my remaining lifetime.

What is expected of me? 

As more unsolicited demands are asked of my time and undesired and unwanted responsibilities are demanding my time, my spirit becomes increasingly belligerent and hostile against those intrusions into my life that require my time.

What value do we truly place on our time? 

Our waking hours and working lives constantly prove what price we are willing to sell our time for, but can we ever say that we have received value in exchange for the time we have sold?

I do not know the answers to these questions, but as I become older, the ability to answer yes is becoming less probable.

Thursday, October 19, 2006
The Oddblock Station Agent

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Stones Get Softer Every Day

In summer 1963 Ted and I were sent off to Milan, Quebec, to spend a good part of our summer vacation alone with our maternal grandparents. During our memorable visit, Ted and I decided that we would try to go barefoot entirely and live our days as country people. What we did not realize then was that Milan was not in the rural countryside, it was in the wilderness.

Anyway, living barefoot worked well as long as there was nothing to do and nowhere to go. If there was somewhere we had to go, usually there was grass to walk on...but not always. When we were sent on errands to McLeod’s store or the post office we discovered that crossing the railway track to reach our destination was torture. 

When the time came that we finally had to go into the barn, Ted and I then altered our unwritten rules to permit the wearing of shoes. After all, knowing well what cattle could leave behind from their behinds, who wanted to walk barefoot in the barn? 

A few days later, and perhaps a smidgen wiser, we gave up our attempt to live life in the barefoot lane. Not only were the bottoms of our feet stained dirt-brown and almost impossible to wash clean, the stones, no matter how round or smooth they may have been, were unmitigated pain to step on unexpectedly.

When we finally asked one of the locals who lived barefoot all the time how it was possible, the answer given was, “You get used to it. The stones get softer every day.”

Do the stones get softer every day?


I do not believe this for a minute, because to this day, my feet have yet to find the hard way a soft stone.

 March 1992
The Oddblock Station Agent

Title Page

The Stones Get Softer…
Every Day

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion”

Proverbs 18:2