Led by the spirit

Ed
Ed Smith
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There comes a time in every man's life when he must sit down and take stock.
Take a look at where he's been, where he is and where he's going.
At the risk of sounding sexist, I don't think women need to do this. For some reason, they always seem to know where they are and where they're going. Doesn't seem to matter where they've been. I don't know why that is, or even if it should be. But there it is.
Name one woman of your acquaintance for whom this isn't true. Better yet, they also know long before you do where you should be going yourself, and aren't a bit shy in moving you along in that direction. Often, you don't even have to ask.
I knew a fellow many years ago who was a proper reprobate. It isn't Christian to be judging your fellow man this way, I know, but "reprobate" was one of the kinder titles afforded this man by the people in that community. "Drunk," "bully," "scoundrel" and "good-for-nothing" were some of the other more pleasant names people had for him.
He was always getting in trouble, always in brawls with the other ne'er-do-wells in the town, and generally made a nuisance of himself wherever he went. His father and brothers were hard-working fishermen, but not Joe. Mornings found him sleeping off the effects of the night before.
The best that could be said for Joe was that, while no one else close to him was, he was inordinately happy.
Then - no one knows how it happened - Joe fell in with a pretty teenager half his age, got her pregnant and married her. Poor girl, everyone thought. What a life she's got ahead of her.

Set to work
But then something happened. Joe gradually stopped drinking and before long was quite removed from the rascal he had been. Ellie marched him off to church every Sunday night (which was when most people attended in those days) and soon Joe decided to join his father and two brothers in the big trap skiff and help them prosecute the fishery as the family had done for generations.
Everyone rejoiced, and everyone gave credit where credit was due: Joe's young wife, for putting her husband on the straight and narrow and headed in the right direction in life.
On his second trip out to the codtraps, Joe took deathly seasick and, while throwing up over the gunnels, lost his balance and fell into the rough water. They recovered his body later that day.
As far as this sitting down and "taking stock" business is concerned, I've got the sitting down part down pat, so to speak. It's the "taking stock" that presents the greatest challenge. For the taking stock to be at all useful, you see, it must be objective and brutally honest.
Many years ago, a friend and I decided to go into business as equal partners. We thought we might begin relatively small and work our way up in the business world. We chose to retail winemaking supplies, since almost everyone we knew was making homemade wine. No one else was providing that service, so it seemed like a splendid opportunity.
Accordingly, we brought in a goodly supply of winemaking paraphernalia, enough to supply most of the major vineyards of Cape Breton Island. We ensconced it all in a room in my basement, opened up the doors and bid the public come in.
Perhaps it was the lack of a proper advertising campaign. I maintain to this day we should've had a gala opening with balloons and free samples. Or perhaps the general interest in winemaking simply took a cyclic dip. Whatever, we built it and they did not come. Of course, that was before the movie, and neither one of us was Kevin Costner.
After some months of discouraging sales with no sign of even modest riches coming from the endeavour, we decided to pack it all in. So one day, we went down into the basement, surveyed our stock and began dismantling our dream. The simplest way to do it, we figured, was for each of us to take from the supplies what we would like for ourselves, tally it all up and settle accounts with each other.

Divided goods
So, that's what we did. (You want that? Yes, OK. I'll take that, too. You have a use for that? Fine with me.) Finally, we had two roughly equal piles on the floor - his and mine. Now to tally up the cost of each item and see who owed what to whom. Did that, too. Then we compared the results.
This is where it gets downright unbelievable. The dollar value of each haphazardly assembled pile of supplies was exactly the same as the other, right down to the last cent. My friend will vouch for that and, being the husband of a minister, he would no more lie than shuffle a deck of cards.
That's what "taking stock" is all about. At the end of that exercise, we knew where we had come from, what we had and what we should do with it. In this case, I think we were being told we belonged in education and not high finance.

Search for meaning
There will be those who, after reading this column, will wonder what the point of all this could possibly be. Well, it's something like looking for the meaning in one of Shakespeare's monologues or sonnets. Look at the two major episodes carefully.
He/she who has eyes to see. …
P.S. Think you know what I'm talking about? Tell me by e-mail and the two people who come closest will get two of my books.
If you mention the one word - which I deliberately avoided in the column - that sums up what I'm saying, I'll send you a third book as well. Would love to hear from you, and I'll reply to each person who writes. Closing date will be Dec. 31, 2009. My little Christmas gift to my readers.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is edsmith@nf.sympatico.ca.

Geographic location: Cape Breton Island, Springdale

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