A few thoughts

A few thoughts as our neighbor to the south prepares to hand over the presidency to what is surely a clever and also troubled man.  I assure you, these are not political thoughts but just a few observations on some all-too-typical human situations.  The president who is leaving after two terms was, and is, an imperfect human, as we all are, but he spoke of hope and grace, including a divine hope and grace, to a distressed and divided nation.  In other words, he did what he could, in his talented but fallible way, in his sometimes very good way, to make a better nation.  As he leaves the executive office that nation will have to discover whether it can or will take up the torch, though the lies, horrors, and governmental stalemate of the past few years place that in considerable doubt.

I said that these are not political thoughts, for I have seen this kind of thing before in other contexts, far from the world of national governments.  Many human organizations, whether social, artistic, scientific, educational or religious, have seen this before.  They have called someone to lead, to come and help them in a trying situation, and someone came and did to the best of ability what he or she could.  And some time thereafter a few troubled minds began a campaign of opposition, of denigration and defamation.  And often there was much damage done because too many people allowed themselves to be swayed by fear, by untested allegations, and by that terrible human tendency to deal with one’s own self-doubt by believing the worst about others.

The people who incite these crusades of internal division are typically those with considerable personal challenges, troubles which they have not well overcome, and they have learned (perhaps subconsciously) how to manipulate others to follow them into the chaos.  Frequently these adversaries know how to use against their target one particular mistake or instance of poor judgment, and their hearers are taken in.  Such vocal people need help, yes even our empathy and assistance, though instead they are often taken as truthful experts.  And people do follow them, without a proper checking of the facts or sometimes not even so much as speaking to the vilified ones to get their side of the story.  It is the sad account of many human organizations.

Yet there is hope.  There is the possibility of enlightenment, the kind of learning that happens when we open our eyes, clear our minds, get on a higher level and see how things are on our dysfunctional planet.  That takes some humility, an admission that we ourselves are part of that dysfunction.  And there is grace, for us and for all who pray that good will come out of these kinds of troubles, and we can become better people for having had such pains.

 

Aboard the Plain Talk

I am not a Roman Catholic, nor a Southern Evangelical, and I have gotten to know several LGBT people in the course of my life, some of them over a long period of time.  I support them in their aim to be treated with respect and dignity, and to travel the long road (along with everyone else) to true inner dignity and the respect of others with whom we may disagree.

Where I seem to differ is in a matter of theory.  I wonder about the theory behind the Rainbow Flag.  Recently I read that there are more than a dozen different genders, and I questioned whether that really helps young people who are struggling with their sexual identity.

Well, that’s all I have to say about it.  It is only questioning a theory, though I realize many people hold to the Rainbow Flag as a very personal symbol, and so even this question many be offensive to some.  But very recently I came across a Reuters News article about this matter, so here is an excerpt — and I say again, I am not a Roman Catholic but the present pope sometimes makes a lot of sense.

 

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE  (Reuters)

Pope Francis said on Sunday (Oct. 2) that homosexuals and transsexuals should be treated with respect but that teaching gender theory is unacceptable “indoctrination” of young people.  He said that as a priest, bishop and even now pope, he had ministered to people with homosexual tendencies as well as some who were not able to remain chaste, as the Church asks them to be. “I accompanied them, I brought them closer to the Lord,” he said. “Some were not able (to obey Church teachings), but I accompanied them and I never abandoned one of them. That is a fact. People must be accompanied just like Jesus accompanies them.”

During his trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan, he told priests and nuns that teaching gender theory in schools was part of a “global war” against marriage.  Gender theory is broadly the concept that while people may be biologically male or female, they have the right to identify themselves as male, female, both or neither.  “What I was talking about was the nastiness that is present today in indoctrinating people in gender theory,” he said when asked to elaborate on his earlier comments in Georgia.  “It is one thing for a person to have this tendency, this option, and even change sex,” he said.  “But it is another thing to teach gender theory in schools along these lines in order to change mentality.  I call this ideological colonization.”

Francis told the story of a Spanish person he met who told him of how much he had suffered because he felt like a boy in a girl’s body.  The person later had a sex change operation and married a woman.  The person told Francis in a letter how much the couple suffered when a local priest shouted to them: “You will go to hell.”  Francis invited them to the Vatican to talk, and the couple were pleased that they were treated with dignity.  “Life is life, and things should be taken as they come,” the pope said.  “Sin is sin, but tendencies or hormonal imbalances … can cause many problems and we have to be careful.  But each case must be welcomed, accompanied, studied, discerned and integrated.  This is what Jesus would do today.”

 

It is tragic that relatively few people know how separate the “spirit” (or worldview) of a movement or social issue from the people and the particulars. The schools and universities fall down on this, and so do many of the leaders on all sides of these issues.  I suppose some of these leaders would not think that a worldview approach helps their cause and strategy.  Consequently, the Internet is full of reactive attacks and harsh comments on almost everything, on all sides of any issue and polarization is everywhere.  We need to educate ourselves, and the above Reuters  article is not a bad place to start.

 

 

What’s in a name? (repeat)

If all goes well, we will be moving soon to a small town an hour-and-a-half away on the fast road, or several hours meandering through curvy little by-ways near the ocean, through thick forests, along many lakes and farm meadows, until we reach the village of Bible Hill.  I had thought the place might be the site of a Christian college or of an especially large old church, or even that the place was named after a settler family with the unlikely last name of Bible.  As it turned out, it was none of these.

Local people sometimes refer to a “Holy Well” that used to be there, just below the large but not very high hill on which the village is located.  I know there are many such holy wells in Europe, ancient places that were used even before Christian times for sacred rituals or healings, but I was surprised to learn of one so close to home.  It seems that in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the French-speaking pioneers known as Acadians found a spring at that location of which the water was very pure and sweet.  It was therefore the place to get “holy water” for Roman Catholic ceremonies, particularly baptism.  And it is not impossible that the location held a similar special interest for the Mi’kmaq tribes in the area before the arrival of the Acadians.

A tragic scene played out starting in 1755, when British troops in response to competition and hostility from France, expelled most of the Acadians.  Their homes and barns were put to the flames, and a few years thereafter Protestant and British settlers were welcomed in.  One of the English-speaking pioneers then found the remains of a French Bible near the “Holy Well.”  And so the first hint of association was made between the hill and the Bible.

Over the next generation, a certain Matthew Archibald, an Ulster-Scot (and therefore usually called “Irish”) lived in a house at the top of the hill.  This man was what people would call an outstanding citizen — a farmer, tanner, justice of the peace, county coroner, and member of the provincial legislature.  He was also reputed to be very pious, often seen with a Bible in his hand.  This strengthened the association of hill and book.  Many area people believe it was mainly because of Matthew that the village got its name, and every year they still hold a festival to honor him.

That’s not the end of the story, because during the 1800s, a Reverend William McCullough of the Presbyterian Church lived in the old Archibald house, and he continued the practice of his father of handing out a Bible without-charge to any one who cared to walk to the house on the hill to obtain one.  For almost fifty years, the free distribution, a considerable expense in those days, spread Bibles through the village and beyond.  By then the connection we’re speaking of had become etched in stone.

Today, the community is more multicultural, being known also as the home of Atlantic Canada’s first mosque and first Islamic community center.  It’s the contemporary world, but it would seem that the name of the village has been proudly owned and accepted by most everyone in Bible Hill, Nova Scotia.

If you like it, pass it on.   

Comment: black man shot by US police

THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST POSTED ON THIS BLOG ON APRIL 7, 2016.   ALTHOUGH IT DEALS WITH VIOLENCE AGAINST THE MENTALLY-ILL, THE MAIN POINT IS APPLICABLE TO OTHER SITUATIONS AS WELL.

Another week, another reckless shooting by a police officer.  Another citizen is dead.  I know that these instances do not represent the many police interactions with the public that turn out well, but a recent American report found that up to half of all people killed by the police are, in the study’s words, “mentally disabled.”  This was followed shortly by a Toronto study that showed that nearly half of the people who had been Tasered by the police were those who were “emotionally distraught.”  Police forces are often called into situations when mental health personnel would be more appropriate, or when both public services could be working together to resolve a challenging situation.

Even if the mental health system is inadequate, there is still something the police could do differently.  We are sometimes told that the average cop experiences fear on the job, and that is understandable, especially in some places. But what if, even with fear, the police were required to be peaceful?  That may sound odd, even inconsistent, but think about it.  What if the aim and guiding principle of a police force would actually be pacifist:  nonviolent intervention in order to maintain the peace?   Would insistence on that principle really be so much in conflict with what the perceived role of the police is now?

One of the chapters in a book of essays by C.S. Lewis, entitled The Weight of Glory, starts with the  heading “Why I am not a pacifist.”  Although boldly creative in his thinking, Lewis could also be quite conservative, and so it came as little surprise that he uses all his superior learning and powers of reasoning to tell us that pacifism is rationally inconsistent and not according to the best authorities in history, with the possible exception of Jesus.  But at the end of the chapter, he acknowledges that “moral decisions do not admit of mathematical certainty, (so) it may be, after all, that pacifism is right…”

This is what I appreciate about Lewis, a cracker of a sharp thinker but typically a humble one, who knew there were limits to his reasoned positions.  This could be called his “useful inconsistency.”  It is perhaps why he never considered as an enemy someone who had a different belief or idea from himself.  It did not stop him from being strong in his own views or persistent in advocating them with all the logic at his capable command, but throughout it all, he was able to see an opponent as a fellow human being who deserved respect.  It was not unusual for Lewis to share a friendly drink with him.  I could wish more people were like that.

Only a really peaceful principle can prevent the increasing unnecessary use of lethal force by “peace officers” in today’s communities.  For sure, a strong response is sometimes needed on our violent streets, but only if a police officer and his unit are basically committed to a pacifist understanding of the job, can it be safe to use a weapon when dangerous circumstances require it.  The thought of a “pacifist police” may sound inconsistent with a police “force,” but it’s a useful inconsistency, and it could be seen just as a matter of sensible balance.  While not implying any criticism of individual officers, the present difficulty is that more and more police detachments in the larger centers seem to be evolving a culture and excuse of fire-arm use.  The beat-walking boys-in-blue of yesteryear are becoming the helmeted men and women in black, almost a para-military force.

The sad truth in confrontations with the public is that a person with mental health problems may not be capable of a reasonable response to being surrounded by police officers who are shouting orders, especially not when illicit drugs or alcohol have been added to the mix.  And such a person may be suicidal, actually hoping that police will use their guns.  These people have their serious personal issues, but they are rarely the enemy of society.  They are part of the public that the police are sworn “To Serve and to Protect.”

In order to keep this popular motto of many North American police forces from becoming too abstract, it has to be applied in all specific cases.  C.S. Lewis said in that same essay of his, “You cannot do simply good to simply Man;  you must do this-or-that good to this-or-that man.”  It has to be specific or it is merely a slogan.  “Serve and protect” should be taken out of the realm of public relations management and brought back into the streets as the daily and hourly working principle of police forces in almost all situations they may face.  The next life this will save may be yours.

Please note — Any ads that may appear on this site are beyond my control.  But if you like any of my posts (including previous ones), please consider passing it on to a friend.  Thank you.    CS

Emoji spirituality

So here we are at “Bookends,” and just when I thought I had seen it all, along comes the translation of the Bible into emoji characters!  You know, those cute little pictures that appear in e-mails and other on-line messages.  I suppose the idea behind it is to introduce the Good Book to a generation who may not otherwise read it.  Far be it from me to pan such an effort.  In my own youth there were comic book versions, including a paperback book called “The Gospel according to Peanuts,” claiming to illustrate biblical teachings in the mouths of Charlie Brown, Linus and company, including Snoopy (who, however, did not speak but was a mute witness).

So all that is cool, if you like that sort of thing, though experience would show that accurate insight and useful understanding will have to go at least a step or two beyond the comics and emojis.  And like any difficult topic, it only becomes simple after we have grown to really understand it quite well.  My observation (not criticism) has been that only after many years of living and learning have acquaintances of mine become able to summarize in a nutshell what the Bible teaches about the living of life.  Before that, they had many theories and preferences, but now they often just speak of “a walk.”

The walking-part is about learning and living in relationship.  Yup.  Relationship is what they now say it’s really all about.  All kinds of relationships, with oneself, with special others, with people out there, with animals and nature, and most of all with God.  And I agree with them.  Certainly, most of us have had some serious issues with God, often because it’s hard to understand why some very tough things happened to us and we instinctively know that God must have had something to do with it.  But just saying it’s about the relationship is not enough — rather, do I understand the relationship and the person who is in it with me?

Relationship as a “walk,”  that’s quite a concept, and very biblical too.  And in many places the Good Book insists that the walk is primarily about two things — about truth and about love — both together and not one without the other.  In fact, in one place the apostle Paul says it boils down to “speaking the truth in love,” and the scholars say that the original language here has the sense of “living by the truth,” not just speaking.  One leg is a genuine interest in knowing what is true, what is right and accurate, and not mere gossip, hunches, hasty assumptions, tradition, or social pressure.  The other leg is living nonjudgmentally towards others, with grace and patience, practical compassion and generosity.  One leg at a time, one after the other, not hopping for too long on one alone — that is how the walk is done.

Too simple?  Just try to be consistent in it for a week or so.  It’s not so easy, but this is how progress is made in the relationship, one day at a time, one leg at a time.  We can get it wrong is if we start thinking the truth is the most important leg, because then we won’t have a balanced walk and people may start to wonder why we’re so unloving or extreme in our views.  On the other hand, trying to be loving without a sound foundation of belief and thought will likely lead to shallow sentiment or the kind of political correctness that pretends to ignore significant differences.  Truth and love are both equally necessary.

To illustrate (without emoticons), on various occasions I have watched a person of faith being figuratively crucified by other people of faith, and the tools used were reviling and gossip.  Those who believed the stories going around typically avoided further conversation with the person under attack, so that they never did investigate or learn another side of the story.  No interest in truth there, and consequently no real love shown.  Yet the same people would insist that they only had the best of intentions.  But no way, no how.  No interest in truth means no demonstration of love, no matter who the relationship is with.

Sorry, but I don’t have a really good emoji to accurately reflect that.

Please note — Any ads that may appear on this site are beyond my control.  But if you like any of my posts (including previous ones), please consider passing it on to a friend.  Thank you.    CS

 

 

 

 

 

Anger about best laid plans

“The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley,” wrote Robbie Burns, meaning that we seriously intend to do some very good things but somehow or other these just don’t get done.  It is a human reality almost everywhere we look, yet we tend to blame particular people for it.  “Why don’t they ever do what they promised?”  So we become angry, as many people are these days, especially at governments.

Just down the street from where I live are two short blocks of homes and businesses that are on land belonging to the Mi’kmaq native people, and a careful look at a good map of the Maritime provinces shows other such tiny reserves, many of them in remote areas with no easy way to get to them.  “Racist governments did this,” I immediately concluded.  But lately I have had reason to change that point of view, or least to see another side of this matter, and of similar problems elsewhere in our lives.

New information came to me from reading Stubborn Resistance, a book by Brian Cuthbertson that describes in detail how native people in New Brunswick were left with such small reserved lots here and there, and how they tried to hold on to it against white encroachment.  But this is not just history because the same sort of process goes on every day, even in our own personal experience.   You see, a very simplified version of the research Cuthbertson has done goes like this — British colonial leaders one after another showed good intention to be generous and fair in providing the natives with sufficient resources to hunt, trap, fish, build homes and villages, and well-laid plans were put in place for this time and again, but somehow much of it just never got done.  There certainly was racism involved, or at least lack of appreciation for the native way of life, particularly among settlers who resisted and undercut the government’s plans.  But there was another problem as well, one that we’re all familiar with.

Here is what happened.  The colonial office in Britain decided on a policy for the fair treatment of the Indians, it appointed a new governor with instructions to see that the policy was followed, the governor then initiated a plan to survey thousand of hectares of good land for the natives so that incoming settlers would know where to stop and would have to vacate any land that they already occupied as squatters, and if any reserve land was later to be sold the profits were to go into a fund to help the sick and elderly among the native population.  The wheels began turning on these intentions, the governor after a few short years returned to England, leaving the accomplishment of the plan to the next one.  Nothing was put in place to make sure the surveys were completed, no squatters were ever removed, no fund was set up, some government officials even disregarded their orders entirely, and important records were often not kept or were readily lost.  It was the kind of loose situation that not only failed to achieve the good plans but that also easily allowed a corrupt official or a violent settler to get his way to the detriment of the natives.

But let’s get away from the history.   These things continue to happen with governments, with businesses, with various organizations in our world including hospitals, churches and charities.  We might even mention our own intentions and New Year’s resolutions.  So often the problem in getting good things accomplished is less in “evil opposition” than in mere lack of persistent follow-through and an absence of the kind of leadership that can chart a good course and stay to deliver it.  That seems to be really hard.  It’s much easier to shout harsh words that express frustration and anger, but this rarely changes anything for the better.

“Deliverology” is the new term being used for moving from good intentions to visible and measurable results.  The current Canadian government is focusing on deliverology to not only promise and plan but also to make sure things actually get done in decent time.  I suppose we’ll see if it works better than the usual politicking and bureaucratic confusion.   But at least I think it would help if we and the media decided to ease up on the habit of hasty personal and political attacks.  Often the way to get good things done, whether in government, in other organizations, or in our personal lives, is basically about putting effective legs onto a body of good plans and intentions.

If you like this, please pass it on.   A new posting of mine appears each Thursday here at Bookends2016.wordpress.com

 

Blogs, books, blarney

This blog site is called Bookends because it’s about thoughts that have come to me after a book, or part of a book, has been read.  Of course, I could just start writing each blog post without any book, and some readers might prefer if I just expressed my own feelings and opinions.  There is a place for that, for sure, and I do read and like some other blogs in which the writers do exactly that, and that’s fine with me.  But for myself I’ve chosen to publish things a little differently, and here is why.

The best thing about books is that they take time to read.  That means I won’t get through one in just a day, let alone a few minutes.  Its content will stay will me for several days, allowing the thoughts and descriptions to percolate and settle and be reviewed.  And I am in control of the process:  I can pick up the book, flip through the pages or read beginning to end, and put it down as often as I like or need to.  But what I like most about books is that, in most cases, the writers have worked hard at putting words on the page.  Some of them have spent years in writing just one volume, researching, rearranging, editing and being edited, and in the end have a really creative and enjoyable product.

Now, a very practical and active person may say, “So what?  It’s real life, its joys and its problems, that I care about!”  And I would reply, “That’s good, and do you care enough to get it right?  Is it important not to be tossed about by every wind of doctrine or every pang and pulse of feeling?  Is it worth our while to get some insight into our lives instead of being influenced by an off-the-cuff remark or some gossipy myth?

What I see and hear so much of these days are cheap-shots and angry accusations.  Just this past week, I followed a bit of the race for the job of Mayor of London in England.  The front runner is a Muslim and his nearest rival is a Jew, and so, predictably, the general media as well as social media were full of charges of “racism” from both camps, making shouts of anti-Semitism! and Islamophobia!  Yet I don’t recall hearing all that much about any actual issues of how these candidates plan to govern the city.  How sadly typical of how things are these days, and not just in the realm of politics.

When I take some time, by means of a book, to think matters through a bit more than I otherwise might, some good things happen.  One of these is that I enter into someone else’s world for a while and learn a bit of how he or she experiences and understands life, and how she views the world she lives in.  That’s sort of a conversation, a kind of communication.  Sometimes I start by not liking the writer’s outlook at all and think it’s all blarney, but instead of throwing the book away, I plug away at reading more, and then usually find myself learning something from the writer and appreciating his personal struggles.

My aim, therefore, through reading books, is to learn more about other people, past or present, and in the process learn more about myself.  And that may be pleasant or it can be downright frightening, but I do find it worthwhile.  I think this is something called discernment, seeing the truth behind the appearances, going beyond immediate impressions or apparent blarney, and getting a longer view that may show how things look from a different angle.  It is something that leads me from point A where I am critical of various people and blame them for troubles in my life, toward the direction of point Z where I no longer criticize people but instead critique certain ideas, delusions, systems, and the evils that life is heir to.

I have always been a “front-line” kind of guy who enjoyed working directly with people, as opposed to being a keen academic who reads mostly for intellectual stimulation.  But I have learned to become a life-long student of life, and rather than blog you over the head with my own strong reactions, I much prefer to write only after someone has helped me think it through a bit more.

If you like this, please pass it on.   A new posting of mine appears each Thursday here at Bookends2016.wordpress.com

 

 

When the brain gears grind slow

When people start to feel overwhelmed and lose their interest, energy, and sense of competence for more than a few weeks, they are said to suffer from “depression.”  Several Canadian sources show that about one in five people  are seriously depressed in this way at some point in their lives, and a certain number are “clinically depressed” on the long-term.  So what can be done?

We can avoid the issue, I suppose.  We can go drinking, though alcohol is a depressant beyond its short-term effects.  But if we don’t deny the problem, we could force ourselves to get exercise.  It can help just to keep moving, and if we exercise with other people, so much the better.  Although that may not keep depression from returning.

We could blame others for the way we feel, but since we can’t change them, that won’t do us much good.  We can expose ourselves daily to motivational slogans (“think positively, be all you can be, just tell discouragement where to go,” and so on), though ultimately lack of motivation is a symptom of depression that mere slogans will not cure.  We could also use a religious approach, which may provide some hope and a better outlook on life, as long as it doesn’t become a form of denial (e.g. “I’ll just praise the blues away”).  Perhaps we can join a musical group (sing the blues away), and though the socialization of that may certainly be a benefit, we also know there are large number of depressed musicians and entertainers out there.

Or, we can get some antidepressant medication and go for talk therapy.  Let’s take the therapy first.  There is a very wide-spread approach called CBT, that’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which focuses on a person’s habitual beliefs about reality.  It’s known as a good therapy but it needs the client to be able to think matters through fairly logically  – and that is sometimes not the case.  Many people who come for help are indeed able to benefit from a CBT approach, as long as their issues are not too deeply-rooted, their trauma not related to more than one event, their personalities not being too damaged, or their mental-emotional development not too stunted.  For them CBT can be useful.  Governments around the world with budget problems in their medical and social programs have been favoring this short-term approach so that clients can be quickly discharged from services.  The political thinking is that those who need more can always apply again later for another cost-cutting dose of short service.

These thoughts were triggered by a recent discussion I had with a friend of mine about the views and writings of a clinical psychologist named Jonathan Shedler. Shedler has serious doubts about the much-publicized usefulness of CBT, and he has also questioned what he calls the “antidepressant superstition.” Though acknowledging that these pills really are effective for a minority of depressed people, he points out that the medication doesn’t just drop out of the sky but is given only when a person finally goes for help, opens up about the problem of depression, and has the doctor or therapist explain and “normalize” depression (to make the person feel they are not crazy or alone).  Studies show that this process of going for help already makes the person be less passive and hopeless, and start feeling better even before therapy is begun or any drugs are prescribed.

So we can certainly help ourselves, if we have depression, by acknowledging the problem and looking for support.  If the problem is moderate or temporary (e.g. seasonal), some of the above methods may help us get over a hump and move on with life.  But otherwise we need to open up to our partner, a good friend, or a professional person, and ask for understanding and help.  And if it’s not our own issue, we can support a friend, co-worker, client or relative, by making it easier for them to get help.  We can aid them with making an appointment, provide transportation, or other assistance.  Most importantly, we can help by having a genuine acceptance of the depressed person, encouraging them with the hope of a nonjudgmental relationship.

If you like it, pass it on.   A new blog article most every Thursday.

What’s in a name?

If all goes well, we will be moving soon to a small town an hour-and-a-half away on the fast road, or several hours meandering through curvy little by-ways near the ocean, through thick forests, along many lakes and farm meadows, until we reach the village of Bible Hill.  I had thought the place might be the site of a Christian college or of an especially large old church, or even that the place was named after a settler family with the unlikely last name of Bible.  As it turned out, it was none of these.

Local people sometimes refer to a “Holy Well” that used to be there, just below the large but not very high hill on which the village is located.  I know there are many such holy wells in Europe, ancient places that were used even before Christian times for sacred rituals or healings, but I was surprised to learn of one so close to home.  It seems that in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the French-speaking pioneers known as Acadians found a spring at that location of which the water was very pure and sweet.  It was therefore the place to get “holy water” for Roman Catholic ceremonies, particularly baptism.  And it is not impossible that the location held a similar special interest for the Mi’kmaq tribes in the area before the arrival of the Acadians.

A tragic scene played out starting in 1755, when British troops in response to competition and hostility from France, expelled most of the Acadians.  Their homes and barns were put to the flames, and a few years thereafter Protestant and British settlers were welcomed in.  One of the English-speaking pioneers then found the remains of a French Bible near the “Holy Well.”  And so the first hint of association was made between the hill and the Bible.

Over the next generation, a certain Matthew Archibald, an Ulster-Scot (and therefore usually called “Irish”) lived in a house at the top of the hill.  This man was what people would call an outstanding citizen — a farmer, tanner, justice of the peace, county coroner, and member of the provincial legislature.  He was also reputed to be very pious, often seen with a Bible in his hand.  This strengthened the association of hill and book.  Many area people believe it was mainly because of Matthew that the village got its name, and every year they still hold a festival to honor him.

That’s not the end of the story, because during the 1800s, a Reverend William McCullough of the Presbyterian Church lived in the old Archibald house, and he continued the practice of his father of handing out a Bible without-charge to any one who cared to walk to the house on the hill to obtain one.  For almost fifty years, the free distribution, a considerable expense in those days, spread Bibles through the village and beyond.  By then the connection we’re speaking of had become etched in stone.

Today, the community is more multicultural, being known also as the home of Atlantic Canada’s first mosque and first Islamic community center.  It’s the contemporary world, but it would seem that the name of the village has been proudly owned and accepted by most everyone in Bible Hill, Nova Scotia.

If you like it, pass it on.   

How the Scots invented us

During my recent extended illness I got through the frequent bouts of pain and fatigue by reading lots of books.  Always finding literature of any kind to be an effective distraction from the problems of the body while at the same time stimulating the mind with better notions than one has while weary and worn, I picked up some of the second-hand books my wife had bought for me, as well as a few others.  As the illness and its lack of appetite wore on, I devoured and digested page after page, volume after volume.

As a Canadian, and as readers of this blog may know, I have a weakness for all things Scottish.  Mind you, I’ve never worn a kilt in my life, have never tried to play the bagpipes, or eaten real haggis (only had the store-bought version at Presbyterian Church Robbie Burns dinners).  And I have found it a bit ironic that modern-day Canadian Presbyterians would be celebrating that romantic poet at all, considering his very loose, un-Calvinistic views and lifestyle.  But this is the twenty-first century after all, the secular, multicultural Canadian world of today, where the serious issues that characterized and divided the Scots during their formative years are for most people, even Presbyterians, incomprehensible and all but forgotten.

So, over the past month I reacquainted myself with the numerous facts of Scottish life and history, being impressed yet again with the extensive impact these particular people have had on the whole world, and especially on Canada.  I spent much of my youth and some of my adult life in southwestern Ontario, where the local histories, place names, and family connections are drenched in Scottishness.  Moreover, the whole idea of Canada can hardly be understood without the presence of various MacKenzies, MacDonalds, Frasers, MacTavishes, Galbraiths, Camerons, McPhails, Grahams, Campbells, McCallums, MacLeods, Murrays, and so many other similar names.

The place of great importance held by Scottish explorers and missionaries, politicians and statesmen, writers and musicians, manufacturers and traders cannot be easily denied.  And, as pointed out in some of the books, much modern science, medicine, engineering, and philosophy originated in the universities of Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh during a period known as the Scottish Enlightenment.  So much has flowered from the ancient stock of old Caledonia’s highlands and lowlands.

To write all this, I realize, may not be of much personal interest to many of today’s Canadians, nor is it “politically correct.”  We live in a time when the focus is on the newer cultures that have more recently made Canada their home, and we want them to feel welcome and not be discriminated against.  Now that is worthy and all to the good if it does not lead us to deny the very facts of who we are as a people, and of how we became Canadians.  Being neither Scottish nor Presbyterian myself, I still cannot escape from their considerable influence on the world and on my own nation.  I live in Nova Scotia, “New Scotland,” and could not escape the influence if I wanted to.  But I don’t want to escape it.  I gladly acknowledge the influence with all its many benefits and positives, along with its cultural peculiarities and distinct shortcomings.

I would never want Canada to be “all Scottish” or to put aside the great role of the Native people, the French, and the Irish, to name but a few of the main other sources of our culture.  But in order to welcome others to our shores it is not necessary that we turn against and forget our own heritage.

             If you like it, pass it on.   New blog article published most every Thursday.