Winter semester, 1990

Touch wood
The alloyed coin
No exit
No-name society
To purposes fickly faithed
Interlude: Lesson from Leo
Pulex in the rapids
In the brass's spittoon
The whited sepulchre
All-terrain vehicles
Salomé in the buff



I had just begun reading Devlin, a psychological novel by James Fisher,* but after reading the prologue I had to stop for a while and contemplate my own life's experiences in all the insane/inane reality Devlin's main character as well as the book's author and I lived through—we all live through.  3

* * *

You see, when recently cleaning up my files to avoid my family bearing the agony and costs, etc. with what I'll leave behind, I came across some letters from kindhearted colleagues at Montreal's Dawson College. They were in response to my "Letters to my Dawson colleagues." I had forgotten about them after a quarter of a century or so. What I can't forget is that short elevator ride the day after my second letter had reached its intended readership. Before then I had never ever observed my fellow passengers' intense fascination with the elevator's ceiling. Ever since I have been wondering whether or not I had lost my sanity, but I had started on a path and couldn't very well get off it. And so I wrote some 13 letters to my colleagues and administrators in all.  4

The first two or three were printed and distributed as permitted to any faculty member, but then I was informed that the college was not going to further bear the cost of printing them. And so, I coughed up the money myself for printing the subsequent letters. Insane. Most colleagues avoided me, including those in my own department. Some others felt simply sorry for me. I retired five years later with a year on sick leave. I was only 68 then.  5

* * *

When I began writing those letters I could pretty well predict how most people would react. The years that Holland was was under German occupation had taught me that. (After the war, everybody seemed to have been in the underground, but during the war that wasn't quite the case. Yes, there were those heroes who conscientiouisly resisted the Nazis. And, of course, there were those fellow-travellers who embraced—wittingly or unwittingly—Nazi philosophy. But the prevailing attitude was mostly wait-and-see, and survive on subsistence food rations.)  6

Here are letters from those kind colleagues that I kept.  7

1. Dated April 17, 1990:
Dear Henry - or Mr. van Eyken, I'm writing to thank you for your "Letters." I am fascinated and moved. I am struck by the quality of your writing and your lack of conventionality. I think you have said some things that need saying and others which provoke thinking (i.e., provocative).  
2. Dated May 11, 1990:
I have just read your letter of April 19th and am struck once more by your engaging mind. Your response to experience is sensitive and clear-eyed and leavened with humour. What a fine observer and effective writer you are. I'm sorry that there are so many dunderheads in your life. May you have a refreshing summer, dear colleague.  
3. Dated May 11, 1990:
Henry – I am enjoying your very thoughtful and thought-provoking epistles. Your Kefkayeske account of Claude Ryan's entourage was extremely accurate, I'm sure, alas. Keep the letters coming.  
[Claude Ryan was the provincial Minister of Education in my riding. A good man he was, and properly so, highly respected. But as for the bureaucracy .... H.]  7C1

There was also a letter not so kind. It was posted on a bulletin board and unsigned. "Henry, Stop," it shouted.  8

My letters were probably the cause of some educational undertaking being torpedoed after actually been very well received by McGill's Faculty of Education. I believe that their director had contacted Dawson's principal and been assured that I was some sort of a nut case. Behind my back, of course. The project was about preparing students for a society as it likely will infold when times get more harrowing, the subject of some of my "Letters."  9

My experience with our Canadian Senators and bureaucracy bears a similarity. But that is another story, ref. Me and my Senate  10

* * *

When I read those "Letters" again I felt they were, and probably still are so today, quite relevant. And so, I prepared them for publication on my website, in html format. But till now I have just kept them on file because I don't really want to hurt people, notably those who simply do what their job demands them to do, following their boss's instructions.  11


But now, especially after reading the prologue to Devlin I believe that I should just go ahead and put the letters on my website. Some personal observations about my niche of this topsy-turvy world articulated in Devlin's discouse with his Confessor:

      "... everything has lapsed into contradiction: everything real is not acknowleged as such, while everything that is not real is celebrated as real."  12

Dr. Fisher is a former chemist and industrial psychologist. He worked as a corporate executive with Nalco Chemical Company and with Honeywell Europe, then became consultant, professor, keynote speaker, and the author of more than two dozen books. As a consultant he worked in North and South America, Europe, and South Africa. His books include eight in the genre of organizational development, the others—as well as some 300 published articles—are about what he categorizes as "cultural capital," covering risk-taking, self-reliance, social cohesion, work habits, and relationships to power for a changing workforce in an ever changing work climate; all with strong emphasis on our moral compass.  *   fn1

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