REVELATION

When I was in grade three, I was sent to “see the principal.” I walked up the steps to his office with a stone in my stomach. But there, in the rather one-sided interview with the Great Man, I caught my first glimpse of the modern mind, the secular/manipulative mindset that derives, we are told, from the scholars and artists of the Renascence.

The principal confronted me with my scribbler showing the regression of my handwriting since the beginning of the year. To demonstrate, he folded the first page in half so that I could compare it to the other half of the last page at the same time. “Look, boy,” he said, “your writing is getting worse!” I was flabbergasted: he was able to show me something from two different days of my life at the same time. This clever man was able to fold time back upon itself.

It was a revelation. If I had thought about time at all I would have said it was just something you were in. But this grownup was able to extract time from wherever it was and look at it objectively as a thing in itself! The evidence was there to see: he had it clenched between his thumb and his fingers.

Well, I was startled, I tell you, but the lesson didn’t sink in. I went on living in the child’s medieval world of ritual, prohibition and compulsion. The times table was to be memorized because that’s what the times table was for. Summer fallow: I took it for granted that my father harrowed the summer fallow because the function or purpose or destiny of summer fallow was to be harrowed. I thought you did the things that were to be done, you learnt the things that had to be learned.

When I was a little older I took to hunting with my little single-shot rifle stamped .22 RABBIT on the barrel. One evening I heard the elevator agent talking to my father about duck hunting, an activity they shared. The agent was a thoughtful man. He described an experiment he had just been making with his shotgun. He had set out to find how the two barrels scattered the shot, each in a separate pattern. He set up targets and shot at them from various distances. He examined the patterns that resulted so as to have a mental reference when he was out in the marsh and the mallards came whistling in from the grain fields.

It was another revelation. This man didn’t just shoot in the casual way I did; he stepped back from the act of shooting, he separated it from the world, took it apart, looked at the elements, drew his conclusions and put it back together .

I began, hesitantly, to see how one could perhaps question the world after all.