Shining My Light

My desire to write blogs on the theme of A World of Honour likely started with an incident from way back in childhood when I was 5 or 6 years old. I had begun to attend Sunday school at the local Church of Christ with my best friend Gordie.

I still remember the lesson in which Mrs. Wells told us the story of Noah and his ark. God had commanded Noah to build an ark and gather two of each animal on the Earth, herd them onto his ark and then float for 40 days and 40 nights after the world was flooded and everything else perished. I’m sure we all know the story regardless of our upbringing.

But hold on. Something didn’t sit right for this little boy that was I. I wasn’t born yesterday and did know about things like elephants and lions and rhinoceroses. And that where I lived we had wolves and buffalo. Now how could someone gather these animals together from all over the world? To my little mind, something didn’t add up. I asked Mrs. Wells, “Is that true?” I remember her answering me, saying, “Well Rickie, I don’t know, but isn’t it an interesting story?” I can remember thinking that it was an interesting story, and that satisfied my curiosity.

What I didn’t appreciate at the time was that Mrs. Wells had treated my question with great respect. I was too young to know that one doesn’t question the Bible, one doesn’t question one’s elders. I learned instead that questioning is how you learn, that it’s what you do when you don’t understand something. It’s okay to ask questions. Later I would learn that we had a special word for those who questioned the king or the pope: martyr. Just ask Socrates or Christ. And I would learn a much more special word for those who asked questions: philosopher.

Move through time to the early 60’s and we find me and my Mill Creek mob, half a dozen guys in their early teens, sleeping under the stars in our back yard on many a summer night. Our conversation topics would begin with girls and cars and a bit later, usually encouraged by Lumpy and me, get into what we would call “doing philosophy”. The stars would come out and we would contemplate them, and speculate about UFO’s and whether any of those stars had planets with life on them. Then we’d drift into other topics like whether God exists, is there life after death, and if a tree falls in a forest and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound? Except for Lumpy and me, the guys would drift off to sleep. The two of us would often ramble on until dawn began to light the sky.

Then it’s early 1971 and I’ve moved from Ottawa to Toronto over the Christmas break. I’ve received a promotion and have been transferred to the IBM Canada lab to take part in a huge on-line banking project, a world’s first. I share a cubicle with Reg, also moved to Toronto for the same project. But shortly after we begin our work, we’re told that the project has been put on hold. We find ourselves with nothing to do, so we talk about life, the universe and everything. Sex, politics, religion and of course, science fiction; it’s all up for discussion.

We’re both atheists and conversing about something that we don’t believe exists doesn’t last long. We’re both heterosexuals, and talking about sex is delightful but pointless. We’re big sci-fi fans and spend hours talking about the works of Isaac Asimov or our favourite Robert Heinlein novel. Finally, we talk about politics. Here we have a topic in which my ignorance is indeed blissful, although I have opinions galore.

Reg however seems to be knowledgeable in the subject and engages me in Socratic conversations, in which he is Socrates and I am the ignorant student. We quickly branch out beyond politics into deeper, more philosophical topics, like the purpose of life and what does it all mean.

One day after a number of these conversations, sometimes interrupted with annoying work duties, he asks me, “Have you ever read anything by Ayn Rand?” I plead ignorance, but a few days later he asks me again, “Are you sure you’ve never read anything by Ayn Rand?”, and I confirm my ignorance. Then one Friday morning he comes to work and throws a book on my desk. “Here, read this,” he orders. It’s The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I start reading it that evening and don’t stop until later in the weekend when I’ve finished.

I return to work on Monday a different person. I have been shaken to my core, and have a million questions for Reg. I don’t realise it then, but my life of fun has suddenly been altered and I am now pointed in a new direction, one of purpose and passion, a path that would ultimately lead me to finding my wife, having children and later, starting a new life in Australia. I’ve been enlightened! Nothing would ever be the same.

Now jump with me 50 years to 2021. The intervening decades are of interest to me, but unlikely to you so we’ll skip them. I like to think that I’ve picked up a few bits of wisdom along the way and that’s at the heart of what I want to share in A World of Honour. It’s the light I want to bring to the world. You’ll be the ultimate judge as to whether what I have to say is wise or foolish. Bear with me and I’ll make it worth your time.

We can talk about the big problems facing the world, global warming, over-population, lockdowns and the like. But that’s not where I want to shine my light. I want it to be on what’s behind those problems. Consider that perhaps the “big problems” are only that because someone told us to think that way. We take it on faith which points to what I’m offering as our actual biggest problem: our ability to think rationally. This is what I want to shine some light on.

I want to talk about lightening up, not taking things so seriously, so personally. Lighten all that stuff we carry around, holding the world on our shoulders, filling our young with fear, guilt and pain about all the damage they are doing to the world. Lighten our loads by lightening up.

I’m concerned that we are plunging into another Dark Ages, an age of superstition, of suppression of ideas, of totalitarianism and of a gathering into smaller and smaller groupings, each fearing the other, with the ideals of The Enlightenment of liberty, fraternity, and equality being lost again.

Join with me in bringing us together, of ending our divisions and replacing hostility and suspicion with tolerance and respect.

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