September seems to be a month for exploring beginnings.
Such as getting back to school or getting back to work. All kinds of wonderful things begin after the summer.
It’s only natural, therefore, that someone such as I — who places what passes for his thoughts, ideas and humour in front of the reading public each week — would want to think about that as well.
I’d like to talk about the different types of people who claim to read “The View” and what their expectations of it might be. I do that from time to time, although not very much. Nevertheless, I should be taking into account the various individuals and groups of individuals who expect to be enlightened, informed and inspired on a regular basis.
If you think catering to the interests of maybe a hundred people is easy, think again. In that vast number of readers, I include one clergyman, one clergyman’s wife, two immediate family members, one Pentecostal person, one ex-mayor, one lovely lady, one old buddy, two Salvationists, one newspaper editor, Perry F. Rockwood’s studio audience and a wide assortment of people who otherwise hold me in high esteem.
Try satisfying that lot with a scintillating and insightful brief glance at the world as I see it — in short, “The View From Here.” As St. Paul put it (my interpretation, in my words), “Would if I could but usually I can’t.”
Allow me to give some of my perceptions on just a few of the groups who try to better themselves each week at my expense.
Take the Pentecostal person, for example. Pentecostals are noted fundamentalists. I am anything but. They take the Bible literally, word for word. I do not. What can I possibly say to them that will have them thinking, “He’s not a bad fellow after all”?
I am pleased and proud to announce that I have some really good friends in the Pentecostal church. I can say to them, and have on occasion, “How on Earth can you possibly believe that?”
And they’ll come back to me with exactly the same words.
One such fellow has a marvelous intellect, much better than mine. But at the end of one of our give-and-take sessions, I can say to him honestly, “You know, I learned a lot from you today,” and I’m delighted when he says, “And I also learned from you.”
I know my column must disappoint my Pentecostal friends terribly sometimes, as well as the several others with no faith or belief structure at all. But that’s OK. I know they still love me. In a perfect world, that’s how it would be with all of us all the time.
Speaking of atheists — and I was — this was seen on a headstone.
Here lies atheist Marvin Snow;
All dressed up with nowhere to go
In all the years I’ve been writing this column, I don’t think I’ve ever had a letter from an atheist. At least, not that I know of. Of course, I may have had letters from ax murderers and not known it. No atheist has ever said, “Dear Ed, I’m an atheist. Just thought I’d drop you a word or two.”
The problem is that atheists don’t believe in anything other than themselves, so it’s a little hard to offend them. Besides, I’m always left with the thought that atheists are so much busier than the rest of us. I don’t know why. It may have something to do with the fact that they might believe in the devil and think he’s on their tail all the time. I think that’s how I’d feel if I were an atheist.
Anyway, I never have them in mind when I write anything. Sorry.
Take the “one old buddy.” The problem with old buddies is that they’ve seen you at your worst and can recognize when you’re being an absolute hypocrite. That’s a label I try most strenuously to avoid. I despise the very word. Our minister had this thought for us last week:
“Some people characterize the church as being full of hypocrites,” he said. “The proper response to that is that there’s always room for one more.”
When I talk about young people and the way they carry on these days, I tend to forget that my old buddies have walked the roads with me after dark on warm summer nights and each of us knows what the other was up to. They know, when I complain about the boys raiding my fruit trees, whose gooseberry bushes we swiped clean on a regular basis. I have reason to be wary of the term hypocrite, although that doesn’t stop me from writing like one.
When I was a university student in Halifax in 1957-58, there was a radio show called the “Old-Fashioned Gospel Hour.” I was a divinity student in those days and felt that I should listen to it as often as possible (more fertile ground for hypocrisy). The theology was espoused by an old pastor called Perry F. Rockwood, and was about as far away from my own beliefs as Cape Spear is from Gibraltar.
On each broadcast, Pastor Perry would read letters from Tasmania, Botswana, the Philippines and other far-off locales. Curiously, none ever seemed to come from Halifax. These letters would proclaim how the pastor’s sermons saved their souls from eternal damnation. I used to picture him in his studio surrounded by his congregation and choirs, ripping open envelopes with funny looking stamps with furious abandon.
Now I know he’s practically all alone in that little studio with a couple of microphones and a CD player. Impressively, the good pastor is still broadcasting and that was more than 50 years ago. But I’m not thinking of him when I write.
If I’ve omitted your group from my thought processes, feel free to write and thank me.
I love you all.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale.
His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.