brain


When I got my first job in Canada, in 1954, with the Quebec North Shore Paper Company in Baie Comeau, I was given a copy of "Trees to News" by Carl Wiegman. It told about the Chicago Tribune's pulp and paper mills in Thorold, Ont., and Baie Comeau, Que, and associated forest holdings, hydro power supply, and the latest methods used to process and ship newsprint. Fascinating story in which the main figure is Baie Comeau's founder, Col. McCormick of the Tribune and of the The New York Daily News. I met him once, a year before he died.  3

Baie Comeau was a nice community. English-speaking mostly. Most of the French Canadian workers lived in Hauterive, a few miles inland. I was soon made to feel that the English are superior to the French. French Quebeckers were made to feel that too, I now suppose, and so it isn't hard to grasp the separatist sentiment in this province. Not that the English were unkind in their behavior, but somehow ... I don't know quite how to say it.  4

There were two churches. One Anglican, the other Catholic, higher up the same hill around which he town was laid out. I was told that the Catholic church was named after the Colonel's wife, but that isn't quite true as I learned upon checking on the internet. That church was named after Saint Amelia; the Colonel's wife was Amie. Amie derives from a French word for beloved; Amelia from an old German word for work. A nickname for Amelia is Amy. Close, yes, but no cigar.  5

There really was a Saint Amilia; born in 741. Amelia was destined to join a religious order when her beauty and virtue caught the attention of Pepin, king of the Franks, and of his son Charles, later known as Charlemagne. Charles pursued her for several years. He broke Amelia’s arm in the process. What else is new? Her arm was miraculously healed and legend has it, and she performed many miracles herself, such as healing injuries to arms and shoulders. Clearly, Amelia was well qualified to become a Saint.  6

Anglicans went to the Church of St. Andrew and St. George. Ten months after I got my first job, my newly arrived fiancé and I got married by its minister—in the vestry, not in the church itself because neither of us adhered to any religion. When I first contacted the minister, he told me that I better not spread any ungodly notions; he could run me out of town. Eventually he got his bishop's permission to marry us, but in the vestry.  7

      Only make believe I love you,
      Only make believe that you love me.
      Others find peace of mind in pretending,
      Couldn't you?
      Couldn't I?
      Couldn't we?
      Might as well make believe I love you,
      For to tell the truth I do.


That was from "Showboat" by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. Ever so melodious, and romantic. Want to hear it? Go 18:30 minutes into the
movie. Come to think of it, you can hear "Ol' man river" from my previous story by clicking here.  8

Lots of times I have a song in my heart. Maybe that comes from my years in the army with Radio Palembang in Indonesia. It is there that I began corresponding with my future wife. Could she tell stories .... One about a coworker who gave birth to a enormous tapeworm instead of, as expected, a baby. Sounds incredible? I have it on the best of authorities. To tell the truth I do. We wrote one another for more than two years before we ever met.  9

How times have changed during the 65 years since we got married. The Queen made it known, not so long ago, that she wishes Prince Charles to be her successor. I assume that goes with him becoming head of the Anglican church. A divorced head. Our minister, too, has divorced. "To have and to hold until death us part," I believe he said at our little ceremony in the vestry.  10

Quebec has become secular. More secular for some than for others, mind you. A provincial law (Bill 21), which came in force a week or so ago, forbids those in authority and in contact with the public to wear any religious symbol whatsoever. No kippahs, no headscarves, no turbans, not even crosses. Not for judges, policement, teachers. O tempora, o mores.  11

After my bride-to-be arrived at Montreal's airport, we stayed overnight in rooms at the Queen's Hotel in Montreal. A rather dingy place, demolished three decades ago. Just off the ship that took me to Canada, I happened to walk passing the hotel on the way to the train station when I was asked by a young, black couple on their honeymoon if I knew a place for them to stay overnight. They had just been turned away by the Queen's Hotel. It felt bad not being able to help them. Still feel that way.  12

sugar shaker

Writing this brought forth a long-forgotten memory. Of my cabin mates on the ship that brought us here. They were a Czech, a Spaniard, and a German. The Spaniard had been a member of Hitler's bodyguard. The German had been in Canada before; as a war prisoner I guess. Once ashore, we had coffee and a Boston cream pie together. On the table was a sugar shaker and the German was the clear authority on how to use the thing. Immigrants must learn a lot; lickledysplit.  13

Old fogeys forget a lot. Like where I want to go with my writing. I'll try to go there after a pee. Lickedysplit!  14

Yes. Make believe. About Constantine I first, then Clovis I. Just to highlight some belief makers among Christians.  15

The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is among the finest pieces of architecture in the world. Built as a Greek Orthodox cathedral, it later became a mosque, then a museum, and now, as a recent news item from Turkey tells us, the Ayasofya may well become a Mosque again, a change driven by election politics.  16

That news item made me think of the Roman Emperor Constantine, the one who had his son and mother murdered. Nice guy, Greek Orthodox Christians made him a saint. Saint Constantine. How so? Constantine badly wanted to improve his empire’s administration and it was the Church that could provide good administrators. In return, I suppose it was, Christianity became the only recognized religion and Constantine supplied copious funds for building churches and cathedrals. He even convened the first council in the history of the Christian church, the Council of Nicea, in 325. The gathering of bishops from far and wide imposed on Christians the belief that Christ is divine and not a created being, thereby overruling Arian Christians.  18

Not that The Hagia Sophia has anything to do with Saint Constantine; not that I know of. It was built 200 years after Constantine I died, but it was built in Constantinople by which Istanbul was known at the time. And Constantinople was named after Constantine I.  19

Yes, I have been rambling badly. Sorry about that. Most people don't like to listen to such rambling. But what can I do? I am an old fogey and facts can easily get out of order. Not funny! But with a bit of effort things may get sorted out. Eventually.  20

The Haga Sophia is known for many things, among them an appearance in Dan Brown's "Inferno." It was in this building's cisterns that symbologist Professor Langdon of Harvard University, found a deadly virus designed to kill one-third of the world's population. What a writer, Brown, fast-paced, short chapters, cliffhangers, the works. His most famous mystery thriller probably is the "Da Vinci Code." The book has been much criticized for suggesting that Mary Magdalena was a companion of Jesus. Cannot spread that kind of notion around. The book's two main characters, symbologist Robert Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu, never got married. Not even in a vestry.  21

And so, what did many ambitious Romans do when their emperor fills important posts with Christian administrators? Yes, they became Christians, or simply made people believe they are Christians. Did you know that the word "person" comes from the Latin persona which means mask? Ambitious Romans began to masquerade as Christians. Sailing through life under a flag of convenience. As did an uncle of mine: Lesson from Leo.  22

      There is only one way to achieve happiness on this terrestrial ball,
      and that is to have either a clear conscience
      or none at all.


Ogden Nash wrote that.  
23

Constantine cleansed his conscience on his deathbed by having himself baptized as a Christian. I assume that his sins were hereby forgiven.  24

It strikes me that by banishing religious symbols from classrooms, etc., Bill 21 banishes minority groups of persona—masks—not minds. Anyway. Clovis who by the telling in the "Da Vinci Code" is a direct descendant of Jesus and Maria Magdalena. Hand me the salt shaker, please. But many people just love a juicy scandal. Make-belief, sort of.  25

Clovis I, France's first king, was born a pagan who later converted to Arian Christianity. Arians did not believe that Jesus was divine and, henceforth, were codemned by the Council of Nicea. Eventually, the Wikipedia tells us, " Clovis came to the realisation that he wouldn't be able to rule Gaul without the help of the clergy and aimed to please the clergy by taking a Catholic wife." Ever since, she kept urging him to become a Roman Catholic as well. Eventually he did, after a battle against a confederation of German tribes, the Almanni.  26

Fighting the Almanni had gone badly at first. But then he called upon the god of his wife: "O Jesus Christ, you who as Clotilde tells me are the son of the Living God, you who give succor to those who are in danger, and victory to those accorded who hope in Thee, I seek the glory of devotion with your assistance: If you give me victory over these enemies, and if I experience the miracles that the people committed to your name say they have had, I believe in you, and I will be baptized in your name."  27

Clovis won the battle and became a Roman Catholic as did some 3000 of his companions. This, making a long story short, eventually led to a religious unification across France and much later, in the tenth century, to the birth of the Holy Roman Empire.  28

For many in Gallia, conversion was simply putting on a mask. Many a nominal Christian worshipped at pagan shrines as well. But judicial and ecclesiastical coercion, impressive ceremony in a language foreign to the flock, the eloquent spreading of stories about Christian miracles that far outweighed the puny pagan kind, all of these were on the Church's side. One might suspect that something similar had happened under Constantine I.  29

Incidentally, Clovis's prayer was recorded by Gregory of Tours (538–593), a bishop with an agenda.  30

England's King Henry VIII had an agenda as well: divorce from Catherine of Aragon. He had a problem: no male offspring. But the Pope did not let him off the hook. In response, Henry reformed the church in his domain, separating it from the Roman Catholic church, and appointed himself the Supreme Head of The Church of England. In 1534, that was. I am skipping here over a lot of detail as, it should be obvious, I also did in the cases of Constantine I and Clovis I.  31

The invention of the printing press led to a rapid spread of ideas that took issue with Roman Catholic doctrine and practices. These also had their effect on theological thought in England and reforms that entered into the Church of England. We may now perceive the internet as a vehicle of an even more, and more widely spread of ideas that not only affect Christian denominations, but other religions as well.  32

I left Montreal by train to Toronto along with many other immigrants. It was an old train and black smoke belching from its steam locomotive entered my compartment through cracks in the windows. My fresh, white shirt kept for the occasion turned gray. I don't remember whether I arrived at my final destination, Hamilton, by train or by bus. There I was destined to meet my kind sponsor, Prof. Graham of Hamilton University.  33

Upon arrival in Hamilton, I was met by a minister with a list of immigrants and their destinations where he would take them. He was disappointed to learn that I did not belong to a church, but, after some hesitation, he would take me to the university anyway. Obviously the Christian thing to do. (Luke 10:25–37.)  34

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