Friday, August 24, 2012

Giving it a try

I've always been impressed with the dedication Jim over at Down the Road has for his blog; the discipline of posting twice weekly. I'm not sure I have much to say but I suppose I should just try and say something so the years don't just slip away and leave me wondering what I was doing all that time. The years 2005-2009 or so are fairly nicely laid out here... more recent years, not so much... cat deaths notwithstanding.

So speaking of which, this being the first full day since Max died (right about exactly now yesterday, as I look up at the clock), and one of my last summer Fridays off, I didn't want to just sit around doing nothing and sitting next to the empty cat bed beside my chair... which, of course, is what I'm doing right now. Just before 11 I got out and headed down to the city archives. I took a new route this time, down the Don Valley Parkway to Rosedale Ravine Road and along to Davenport. Probably no faster, but it was change from creeping down the last quarter mile of the Allen.

When I got there, they'd moved everything around. The light table for viewing slides was right out in the open (so much for sneaking close-up photos of them) and completely lit. Does this seem like a good idea when the idea is too look at something dimly bottom-lit? Not to me.

Also, all the glorious old aerial photos from the 50s on up have been scanned at last and put away, because they were falling apart. Sensible, I agree, but it really takes all the fun out of going down there, hauling them out, looking back in time across a 4'x4' image. Now you have to go on their site, there in the building, and view the photos in a browser. They're nice enough to make it possible for you to make screen caps and email them to yourself, gratis, which is some consolation... but it's just not the same. All the charm of spending a few hours down there has just bled away.

I wandered over to their book section and just kind of browsed. One thing I found was the memoirs of Leslie Saunders, a guy who was mayor of Toronto briefly in the 1950s. I knew he was an Orangeman, and it was kind of a big deal to him, but I had no idea how big. The book is called An Orangeman in Public Life, and its cover is a crudely-done Union Jack. Since it's a reference book (as, it turns out, are all the copies held by the Toronto Public Library), I couldn't borrow it. I flipped through it and was just appalled. The man seemed consumed with Catholicism. I knew he blew his chance at re-election by blowing off some speech about how the Battle of the Boyne was the most important thing to democracy ever, alienating even the voters in 1955 and opening the door for, of all things, Toronto's first Jewish mayor, Nathan Phillips... but that seems to be mostly what Leslie Saunders was all about. The book was published in 1980 or so, and includes a 1978 clipping from The Toronto Sun in which Claire Hoy pours scorn all over then-Mayor David Crombie for not attending the Orange Parade, and asking why it's okay for everyone else to celebrate their heritage but not WASPs. It seems to have escaped Hoy that when Chinese guys are doing dragon dances, or black people are dancing in Caribana, or Italians are in procession with the Virgin Mary, what they're NOT celebrating is the subjugation of another group and the transplantation of those sentiments to the New World. I can see why a mayor in the last quarter of the 20th century might want to stay home from something like that. Hoy and Saunders, not so much. There were photos in the book of Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis accepting a ring from a cardinal in the 1950s. How obsessed was this guy? Well, Nathan Phillips was "mayor of all the people", and has the square in front of City Hall named after him. Saunders was mayor of the Orange folk. Don't know if there's anything named after him.

This is not to say I don't understand and appreciate the importance of the Reformation. To put it in perspective... my own immediate heritage, technically speaking, is Catholic. My parents are each the product of "mixed" marriages of Protestant men and Catholic women, and each was raised Catholic, and so I was baptized Catholic. I went through adult catechism about ten years ago, partly out of spiritual yearnings and mostly out of cultural interest. For a while I attended Mass. But there were a lot of things I didn't like about the Catholic Church. The sacrament of confession, for one... I don't see why God should be unwilling to forgive a contrite person, and even send that person to Hell, on the basis that he or she didn't actually express it to some other mortal human being, designated though he (and it must be "he") may be. I don't like that the clergy can't marry. I don't like that priests must be male. I don't agree with the Church on issues like abortion or same-sex marriage, and when they pressured us during the liturgy to sign a petition in the foyer to demand Parliament use the notwithstanding clause to overrule the Supreme Court's ruling striking down the opposite-sex provision of the federal definition of marriage, that crossed a line for me. In fact, at that point, I believe that the Catholic Church technically disqualified itself from tax exemption in this country. I've rarely attended Mass since then.

I'm not religious, not really. I never really was a sincere believer, though I did sincerely go looking. I did enjoy the fellowship of the Mass, and the liturgy, and singing and the recitations. That was all moving, and it's probably the only thing I really miss about church. But something changed in me. I suppose I went from being a "cultural Catholic" to a "cultural Protestant" like my non-observing grandfathers. In this culture, most of us grow up at cultural Christians in a general sense; we hear about Jesus and pick up the broader strokes of the Bible, at least the good things in it. Those things resonate with me and they always will; they're in the bone. But if I felt compelled to begin attending services again, I think I'd either be Anglican or United Church (my dad's dad was UC). I kind of like Anglicanism because its worship is similar to what I was used to as a Catholic, but I think at heart I'd be a little closer to the line of the United Church. But in either case, those are progressive churches whose stands I agree with. I think a guy like Leslie Saunders would have found them a little soft, though.

...Wow, did this really start off as just a short, do-it-to-do-it post about how bored I was going to the city archives? Maybe I should write about being bored more often.

1 comment:

jim said...

My blog is my main hobby. Sometimes I feel like I have to feed the beast, but most of the time it is a great way for me to do something when I have an hour to spend at it. I do a lot of prep for it, mostly in taking pictures, but given that I have a demanding job and am raising teenagers ideal hobbies for me are ones I can do in small bursts.

You actually had at least four distinct blog posts in this one post! I've learned how to recognize that in the things I write, and it is one other way I keep the blog going.