Nuggets

There is no country in the world that is not the motherland of some Canadians.

We are living the golden age. This is it. There has never been a better time to be alive, certainly in Canada. That’s the good news. The bad is it won’t be getting better. Our golden age will be remembered a thousand years from now as the age that squandered the planet’s future. We spent it all for ourselves and left garbage for our great grandchildren. Unless . . .

I stopped playing tennis after seventy years, driving after sixty. Habits of a lifetime are easy enough to give up. It’s all in the timing, like so much of life.

When your people have lived in this special place since the beginning of time it gives you a unique perspective. (Said of the Gwi’chin of Old Crow, the caribou people)

There’s just as much evidence for life after death as there is for no life after death. There’s zero evidence for either.

Nothing dies that is remembered. (After Brian Patterson)

In the industrial age we had the haves and the have-nots. In the communications age we have the knows and the know-nots. (After Frank Ogden)

Family includes those you would never put up with if they were not family.

Empowerment of women solves a lot. (After Christopher Hitchens)

Inuit are the pre-eminent ice-age survivors.

It is of equal value to the community overall that one has a million dollars as that a million have a dollar more. Each of those with a dollar will spend it. The one with a million will build.

In the capital economy the mint packages and distributes new currency. The mint of the knowledge economy packages and communicates new ideas.

Attention is the currency of the information age.

Chief enablers of alcoholics are usually those who love them most — family and friends.

Most people don’t read any more, or any more than they have to.

It’s never too soon to get your head in the cloud.

It takes a lifetime to break free of the zeitgeist you’re born into. For some it takes dying.

In poker the hand that needs no position is a good hand. The life that needs no position is a good life.

I’ve written too much because I’ve lived so long.

The situation you’d never be caught dead in is more than likely the one you’ll be in when you die.

Men need Mary. Men need Magdalene. Happy is he who discovers both-in-one.

All we know about what might have been is that it wouldn’t have been what is.

What a shame if after all none of it means anything.

Milestones is McDonald’s for the expense account crowd.

Communication + unity = Community

We receive the spark of life from forebears and pass it to progeny.

The war on drugs was the 20th century equivalent of 16th century witchburnings, irrational fear maintained by a bureaucracy of cops, courts and correctional services.

I’m a believer, just not a true believer.

All religions are cults but some are more cultured than others.

I may not be more creative under the influence of mind altering substances but sometimes I feel more creative and that counts for something.

Journalism is a public good and should be supported from the public purse. A City Editor on the provincial payroll would be a good start.

The internet is the start of the noosphere.

What a privilege it is to exist.

Before Igor there was the pretence of amity. After Igor came the Cold War.

To be, to exist at all, is either impossible or inevitable.

If you must choose, it’s better to love than be loved. (After “Pat” Patterson)

Everybody is different but every life is the same. (After Placide Gaboury)

None are so hidebound against change, so blind to consequence, so indifferent to side-effect, as those whose principles coincide with self-interest, the natural condition of the conservative.

There’s no beginning, middle and end to film. Just a beginning and a budget.

You stop when you have to. If you don’t stop then you’re dead, sometimes living dead.

How long can I be this lucky?

Once in every century there’s a palindromic year. Once in each millennium we will cross a lengthy palindromic bridge. Is it just magical thinking to invest significance in these dates? The turn of the third millennium saw the re-awakening of Asian giants that had been suppressed for centuries, unparalleled prosperity throughout American and European democracies, the advance of technology from fast flowing to torrential and, probably most important, the inexorable advance of women toward gender equality.

You can preserve yourself a little bit longer by depriving yourself a little bit more.

Life gives no choice but to take each day as it comes. Today I am heartbroke. Tomorrow my heart will sing.

Recuperative power so strong there’s never any sign the day after of how you were the night before.

The A-List of people who don’t do what they say they will is composed of alzheimers patients, adolescents and alcoholics.

There are certain civilities it does well to attend to even when you’re in the middle of a difficult situation.

I often don’t do what I should and I often do what I shouldn’t but usually I do what I must.

If you’re well when you die you don’t know about it. You feel fine. Then you’re dead. If you’re sick enough you want to die. It’s a relief. The trouble with dying is all about thinking and worrying about it. This is the fault of the medical profession. Instead of telling people that they’re going to die because everyone dies, here’s a pill and call if the fever rises, doctors tell them they have something terminal so they can worry themselves to death even before dying.

I’ve learned what I’m doing wrong but I haven’t learned how to stop doing it.

The ugliest is as hard to pick as the most beautiful.

For everyone who does what he wants and damn the cost, others pay the price.

Alice Munro and country music come as close to the truth of life as anything I know.

Life and labour will evolve to the stage when work consists of getting up in the morning to contemplate. (After Paul Buckley)

The essence of wisdom is mulled experience, perceptions turned round in the mind and seen from all sides. The more you see, the more is revealed, the more understood. This explains why the old are wiser. They have more to mull upon. They have more time. There is nothing more important for the old to do than reflect upon their past.

Journalists of the twenty first century face extinction unless they professionalize.

Journalism must be recognized and supported as a public good.

Poker leaves one so accustomed to cruel loss that it no longer hurts.

Nobody wins in life who hasn’t got used to losing.

In a near-death struggle you must focus.

On the whole I’ve received more than I’ve given. That wasn’t my aim. It just sort of worked out that way.

She sometimes has to get quite rough to turn men off, so powerfully does she turn them on.

Writers live twice. Once when it happens. Then when they write about it, cleaning it up a bit, adding a few imaginative wish-it-had-been-so’s. Writing is a great experience extender.

Some people don’t know what love is. Some do and are afraid. The rest of us are electrified whenever it strikes.

Some people want to go out in style. I don’t care a damn for style. Let me go out in love.

At 25 people know most about the future, at 35 they are very much in the present, while from 45 on most are cuffed to the past and need to be yanked hard if any change is to happen.

Half the men a woman wants to attract are otherwise engaged or impervious to her particular charms and the half she does attract are mostly a rotten fit.

“Look no hands,” the boys show off but the girls look away.

Some say she changes her mind a lot but I say she just talks her decisions through out loud.

My religion is my life, and vice versa. The way I eat, sit, talk, behave. That is my religion.

The quieter you become the more you can hear.

Anger defeats one in battle and in life.

Live long, die healthy, that’s the ticket.

The meaning of life is consciousness.

The purpose of life is to pass it on.

To be human needs constant revision, like editing a text.

Cultivating the mind is as necessary as feeding the body.

Canadians are people of the cod in a land of too much.

Profit is the corporate equivalent of love.

Principles are only as good as their practitioners.

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And the man plays on

This story isn’t about me, not much, but my eye goes blurry a month before I’m to play tennis at the World Masters Games. Right eye. The world will be in Edmonton — 22,000 athletes 35 years of age and up — for the games, not that Edmonton cares. It’s an athletic extravaganza that brings together more competitors than the Olympics every four years. But in 2005 Edmonton media pay no attention, consumed instead by the murder of Liana White, a twenty-nine year old mother and pregnant, by her husband.

Best of all at 81

Best of them all at 81

The ophthalmologist finds burst blood vessels. “Looks like you’ve had a mini-stroke,” he says.
“Don’t say that.”
It’s as bad as anything I ever heard. Dad was cut back drastically and too early by a stroke. My sister came back from one, praise the Lord, which she does incessantly, the stroke having deepened her already intense religious disposition. Stroke runs amok in the family.
“It’s just minor,” says the eye doctor. A mini-stroke doesn’t portend a maxi-stroke, at least not necessarily, he explains. With this modest assurance I hasten for an ultrasound while he calls for a retinal specialist to repair the damage.
But it’s mid-summer and specialists are all gone fishing. The appointment is set six weeks forward and long before then I am committed to the Masters. I’m playing mixed doubles with a woman coming from Australia who has won provincial titles. It has been arranged on the games’ mating site. I haven’t met her but I’m not about to let her down.
From Edmonton I’m booked to go to Saskatoon for the Canadian Senior Tennis Championships. Here again I have a partner, flying in from Toronto.

Family gathers for  Medicine Hat court naming

Some of Pammy’s great3great4great5grandchildren gather for Medicine Hat court naming

I’m playing singles in both tournaments as well, but I’d give them a miss while waiting for the retinist if not for stranding my doubles partners. I’m not nearly as competitive as most of the guys at these tournaments. I go for those moments in locker rooms and on club verandas where I reconnect and reminisce with many I’ve played with or against since I was a boy. In Edmonton a half dozen players from Medicine Hat show up. Excited by their new tennis club there, they’re singing the praises of Pammy’s great3grandson Brian, who long ago scored a minor footnote in tennis lore as the first Canadian to meet Rod Laver on court, at a junior tournament in Ottawa. He didn’t win but he was playing those days at a level to compete with the likes of the Carpenter brothers, Mike and Keith, Smitty Chapman and Dave Pemberton-Smith. They would all chase balls in the 1950s for Davis Cup matches on the manicured grass courts at the Mount Royal Tennis Club in the heart of Montreal’s anglo west end. The hero of the time was Vancouver’s Lorne Main, already playing Davis Cup and on the international circuit at 19. Later, Keith Carpenter would make the Canadian team and he and Mike were Canadian doubles champs in 1966. Smitty was a Canadian squash champion. So was Pem-Smith, who would also partner Main to the squash doubles title. But that was long ago. The news the guys from Medicine Hat brought to Edmonton was that they had named court No. 1 at their club for Brian, who had been instrumental in getting it built. As it happens, Lorne Main is one of the guys I’d be seeing in Saskatoon.
Brian is among the second generation of the family to move west from the city of churches and city of sin where Pammy’s granddaughter Kate settled. Montreal is where all thirteen of her kids lived pretty well from childhood through expiry. Kate had been the first to venture away from the Chaffey’s Lock homestead, where some cousins remain to this day and probably always will. It was her grandkids, Pammy’s great2grandchildren, who began the exodus from Montreal, where again some remain. There are clusters of the clan east (Halifax, Fredericton), north (Yellowknife, Kuujjuuaq), west in Calgary, Edmonton, Yellowknife, Vancouver, Victoria and Bowen Island, as well as Medicine Hat. (There is no Canadian south. Toronto? Big bunch of the clan there, bien sûr.)

The sun was bright the day they presented Brian (at right) the new signage for his court

The sun was bright the day they presented Brian (at right) the new signage for his court

Brian isn’t the only one of Pammy’s clan to make his mark in the west. David, a great2grandson, is a hero in Alberta for uprooting a major company from eastern Canada and replanting it in Calgary. And high in the Coastal Mountains of British Columbia there’s a unique tribute to Jim, a great3grandson who in 1993 was the first Canadian to reach the summit of the world’s second highest mountain, K-2.
Guides and other professionals consider this to be more difficult than the more publicized ascent of Everest. K2 soars 8,611 metres at the border of Pakistan and China but can’t be seen from any inhabited place. Styled “the mountain of mountains,” it rises out of a bleak wilderness, particularly treacherous because of its steep height, frequent avalanches, savage winds, generally unpredictable weather and contours that offer little natural shelter from the elements. K2 has claimed the lives of at least thirty three mountaineers, including one who climbed with Jim’s party in ’93.

Pammy's great2grandson Jim

Pammy’s great2grandson Jim

Six years later Jim himself would lose a climber’s gamble when he was swept off a cliff in Alaska by a slab avalanche. He was a well loved and respected guide and before long volunteers with The Alpine Club of Canada were planning a memorial tribute. It saw the light of day seven years later in the form of a Hut to shelter climbers traversing the Coastal chain. A wood frame structure with kitchen, sitting room and bedrooms with bunks, it’s there for anyone to use and can be reached in about a half day by climbing a few thousand metres in the Tantalus Range of southern BC from a start in Squamish. Once there, mountaineers find inscribed at the Hut, “Jim was an internationally certified full mountain guide, freelance photojournalist, national best-selling author, motivational speaker and a loving husband, son, brother, uncle, friend and mentor.” The Hut was built, “to celebrate Jim’s spirit and to remind us what a gift he was to the world.”

Jim's hut

Jim’s hut

In 2005 in Saskatoon Lorne Main wins in his age group (75-80) as he usually does, thereby qualifying to represent Canada at the International Tennis Federation championships that year in Manavgat, Turkey. The federation, based in London, with almost a century of history, is the governing body of tennis, which is one of the few truly global sporting activities. ITF oversees 201 national tennis associations and controls the major international team events, including the Davis Cup for men and Fed Cup for women, wheelchair tennis and the Olympic Games, to which tennis was reintroduced as a full medal sport in 1988. ITF is a member of the Grand Slam Committee that controls the Australian, French, British and United States open tournaments. It also runs the global championships for junior and senior players.
In 2005 Roger Federer is the best tennis player alive. Everyone knows this. By a number of measures he may be the best of all time. But not by every measure. There’s one record that Federer will never match, let alone exceed. Perhaps the most unbreakable in all of sport, it’s a challenge at the start of every tennis season. Again in 2010, as in 2007, 2006 and 2004, as he swings for immortality by brushing aside all opponents in the Australian Open, the great Swiss champion knows it’s hopeless. Whenever he looks at the name on the stadium wall at Melbourne he knows.
Rod Laver won the Grand Slam in 1962, all four slam events — Australian, French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open tournaments — in the same year. It had been done just once before, by Don Budge in 1938. Those were the days when only amateurs were allowed to enter the slams. Greats such as Jack Kramer, founding father of the pro era, and Pancho Gonzalez, unconquered champ of its early years, were not competing. When slams opened to the pros in 1968, Laver promptly joined their ranks and won the Grand Slam for a second time in 1969. It has never happened since, not once in more than forty years. All successors, including the brilliant Federer, eat their hearts out each January in the Melbourne arena called Laver.
Nicknamed Rocket, Laver was the starburst at the peak of a procession of Australian superheros who paralyzed opponents and dominated all surfaces of the tennis world from 1950 through the 1970s. Groomed by Harry Hopman, a slam-quality player in the 1930s who became a legendary coach of young talent, they included Ken McGregor, who won the Australian Open in 1952 and was half the doubles team that won seven consecutive slam titles in 1951-52. The next open Down Under went to Ken Rosewall, who then took the ’53 French Open on Roland Garros clay. He was 19. Called Muscles by his peers for his apparent lack of them, Rosewall would go on to win more than 130 singles titles, including a dozen slams, one more than Laver in total but never all four in a single year. The slam champ of all time until Federer dethroned him a half century later was Roy Emerson, with 12 singles titles and 16 doubles, mostly partnering Aussie compatriot Neale Fraser. In reserve for the never-to-be-equaled tennis team of the century were Lew Hoad, still on everyone’s top-ten-of-all-time list, Mervyn Rose, Mal Anderson, Rex Hartwig, Tony Roche, John Newcombe and Ashley Cooper. From 1951 to 1976 Australian men won 60 of 104 slams, where the battle is one-on-one. Their teams took 15 out of 18 nation vs. nation Davis Cup ties between 1950 and 1967.
First out of the gate and first among equals of these net superstars was Frank Sedgman, who won 22 slam titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles between 1949 and 1952, the year he won his second consecutive U.S. Open.
Sedgman was ranked No. 1 in the world in 1950 when he led the Aussies who came to play at the Mount Royal in Montreal. It was an early round in that year’s Davis Cup series. Canadian expectations were not high. Australia would win the Stanley Cup before losing a tennis match to Canada. Lorne Main, the teenage phenom from Vancouver, would get a crack at Sedgman. Not in his wildest dreams did he expect to beat him. In fact he was mercilessly racquet-whipped, trounced by Sedge 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 and out. It was particularly hurtful because it’s the first big match with his sweetheart Ivy looking on.
Ivy was perky and pretty and the little sister of the club pro. All the junior players at Mount Royal desperately craved her attention. But they had no chance once Lorne Main came to town, though some found consolation on warm summer evenings with her flame-haired younger sisters on the roof of their low-rise apartment building nearby.
Main had an unusual stroke for the day, a two-fisted backhand and forehand that he’d created to generate power and compensate for his slight build. Coach after coach had tried to wean him off it. But the day he won the U.S. 16-and-under championship Jack Kramer was watching and told him, “The two-handed grip is a winner for you. Never let anyone talk you into changing it. Stick with it.” Harry Hopman saw him use it in Montreal and thought it a great way to compensate for size. McGregor at 6’4” and Sedgman at 5’11” were sizable enough for the power game. But Hopman had a couple of smaller guys back home he said he’d get to try the two hand grip. The tennis world would be hearing a lot about them soon. “Hopman said I should go to Australia to show them the grip,” says Main. “Good thing I didn’t listen. The juniors were Laver, Rosewall and Hoad.” (Laver had his own secret weapon, which is not always appreciated. He swung his racquet from the left, a decided advantage in the game.)
It didn’t matter much to Ivy that Sedgman had trounced her guy. She loved him and, after all, Sedge was ranked number one in the world. Sedgman “was the quickest I’ve ever seen,” said Kramer. “He could attack off his second serve, or he could come in behind his little slice backhand — and once Sedge got to the net, forget it, because he was so quick you had to thread a needle to get anything past him. Anything he could get he would put away. Frank Sedgman hardly ever hit a second volley. If he got his racquet on a volley, it was almost always a placement, deep and hard.”
Lorne Main was just getting started, a couple of years past junior. He wouldn’t turn twenty for another two months. He was hope for the future. So he was blown away by the best of his time anywhere in the world. So what? Ivy was in a tennis family. She knew well the ups and downs of wins and losses.

Lorne's forehand

Lorne’s forehand

Tennis stars were the real deal in Australia in the ’50s but this was still long before athletes became financial empires. Amateurs weren’t supposed to be paid at all to compete in tournaments, but name players got under-the-table appearance fees. “There is no such thing as amateur tennis,” Roy Emerson declared. The year he topped the rankings he was called “the highest paid amateur tennis player in the world.”
Young Australian players worked their butts off to make the touring team, after which they would get a boost, often by staging exhibitions. The money wasn’t big, but enough to get by on, particularly for a youngster. Rosewall and Laver each earned about $1.5 million over their entire pro careers, but they were exceptional. Most tennis stars of the era retired before 30 and went to work like everybody else, playing with the better local talent when work and family allowed.
Frank Sedgman was the exception. Born October 29, 1927, he passed the worst day in his life on his second birthday — Black Tuesday 1929, the day share prices on the New York Stock Exchange began a freefall that marked the onset of the Great Depression — after which he was pretty well golden.

Jack Kramer at right, 86, visits Sedge on his 80th birthday.

Jack Kramer at right, 86, visits Sedge on his 80th birthday.

He had always been the toast of Australia. When he was tempted to become a professional in 1951, Hopman orchestrated a public subscription through a newspaper in Sydney to keep him eligible for the amateur-only slams and Davis Cup play. The campaign raised $25,000 as a wedding gift. Frank postponed his professional plans for a year, helping Australia win another Davis Cup. He finally turned pro in 1953 and promptly broke all earnings records for tennis players, taking home $150,000 from match play and exhibitions that year.
But for Lorne Main appearance fees were few and far between. It wasn’t a bad life. Just a kid when he lost to Sedgman, the next year he won the Canadian championship, first of five in a row, and played Davis Cup for the second of five consecutive appearances. In 1951 Tennis Canada sent him to Europe, where he played Wimbledon and the French Open, losing in the early rounds but not disgraced. He wasn’t making any money but he was making good connections. Interesting people. Business executives. Politicians. And he wasn’t always knocked out early. In 1954 he won the Monte Carlo open, for more than half a century the best singles victory by a Canadian, one notch below the slams. (Milos Raonic won two ATP titles in 2011-12 to equal then surpass Main’s achievement at that level.)

Lorne's backhand

Lorne’s backhand

By 1955 Sedgman had pretty well retired and gone into business. He acquired a gymnasium in Melbourne and started to invest in real estate. With Rosewall and Hoad, he bought into a resort hotel that did very well. He was careful with money, a trait shared by his teammates. Australians had a reputation for cautious spending and would laugh at their own “deep pockets and short arms.” The tradition carried over to their senior careers. Pancho Segura, when asked about his greatest thrill in the Grand Masters, said it was “the time Frank Sedgman picked up the dinner cheque.”
The Grand Masters tour was organized in the early 1970s to promote matches among a dozen of the big names in the game who had reached or passed their 45th birthday. This was comfortable hunting ground for players who would be legends — Vic Seixas, Pancho Gonzalez, Anderson, Emerson and, later, Laver and Rosewall. Sedgman had always stayed in shape. He came back a big winner, playing with his old, standard-size Oliver, the only wood racquet on the circuit. For half a dozen years he dominated the Grand Masters tour, even after a painful and crippling Achilles tendon snap in 1978. Following surgery he returned to win both the singles and doubles again in 1979.

Jack Kramer (L) and Frank Sedgman (R) flank Australian aboriginal artist  Albert Namatjira

In the time of the Grand Masters: Jack Kramer (L) and Frank Sedgman (R) flank Australian aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira

As well as great competition and great entertainment for fans, the Grand Masters served as something of a refuge for the best of the forty-five-and-older tennis players. John Sharnik in Remembrance of Games Past, his engrossing history of the Grand Masters, writes that “beyond it there is nothing but the so-called supersenior tournaments for fifty-five-year-olds, for sixty-year-olds and so on. These . . . used to be disdained by most world-class players. The early rounds are populated by old geezers in elbow braces and baseball caps, with dubious strokes. The later rounds are minefields packed with danger to the prestige and egos of old champions. It can be discomfiting to find yourself bracketed in the semi-finals against, let’s say, a former twenty-fifth ranked player who has stayed in shape and worked on his strokes for twenty or thirty years, while you had no place to go but down.
“The general feeling used to be that if you’d once won Forest Hills or played in the Davis Cup, then you had nothing to prove in an old geezers’ tournament — and a lot to lose. As Vic Seixas says, ‘Eventually someone you shouldn’t lose to will beat you, and then it’s a big deal’.”
Sedgman played his last match in the Grand Masters in 1984. At the start of the schedule Rosewall was detained so, writes Sharnik, “a hurry-up call had been sent out to Frank Sedgman in Melbourne, and he had flown in, looking about as fit as a fifty-six-year-old grandfather can without being downright freakish.”
While Sedgman was swinging from success to success, Lorne Main was on a different course. There was no livelihood in tennis even after a decade at the top of the game in Canada. He had been playing since he was a kid and never held a job. In the early 1960s he joins the promotion department of the Toronto Telegram. His actual assignment is to be house pro for the larger-than-life proprietor of the paper, John Bassett, a tennis fanatic whose drive and reach will propel his son Johnny to the Davis Cup squad over bigger talents and his granddaughter Carling to No. 2 junior in the world at 14. Main keeps a good salary and Bassett’s good will as long as he shows up on court at noon to help the boss demolish the day’s competition, which often includes the Tely’s major advertisers.
“Isn’t it bad business sticking it to the customers every day on court,” he asks Johnny, who’s on court with them when he isn’t in school. “Of course. But the old man would rather lose an account than a match.”
With little else to do much of the time and few friends in Toronto, which wasn’t his home or Ivy’s, he spends hours in the club lounge, where drinks are on offer from around 11 a.m. Ivy’s time is increasingly occupied by the boy and girl they adopted and then, surprise!, by a girl born to them in 1963. Pleading family necessity, Main works a transfer to Montreal, where Ivy at least has parents, siblings and friends.

Lorne with doubles partner Ken Siclair

Lorne with doubles partner Ken Sinclair

It may have seemed a good move but it broke the close tie with Bassett and left Main at the mercy of those who resented his connection to Big John. When results in Montreal fall below expectation and reports of questionable behaviour travel back to Toronto, he is vulnerable. Alcohol is playing an ever larger part in their life together. Ivy likes to drink as well. Main is just 5’8”and Ivy’s even smaller. No matter whether genetic predisposition or body size is the determining factor, it isn’t long before liquor is leading them. In 1967 Bassett fires him. Ivy is eight months pregnant with their fourth child. The family picks up and heads for Vancouver, Lorne Main’s home town.
In a succession of menial jobs — including driver for an obese, alcoholic and unscrupulous antique dealer — Main hasn’t the resources or the interest to join the local tennis fraternity. Lorne and Ivy live in isolated days of wine and roses. His face is puffy. His gut hangs over his belt. She is overwhelmed by the demands of child raising with little money. By 1974 they are reduced to returning hundreds of gallon-size sherry jugs stacked in the basement for deposit refunds to replenish their liquor supply. Not long after, Ivy dies suddenly of acute pancreatitis. A well known danger of chronic alcohol abuse, this is more common in men than women. Despondent and terrified, fearing the same end, Lorne piles the kids and the few belongings worth saving into a barely legal banger and drives 2,400 miles back to Montreal. He parks the kids with Ivy’s family and enters a residential treatment program for alcoholics at Beaver House on Montreal’s south shore, in a bleak setting opposite a cemetery. He joins A.A. and will become an ardent practitioner of its steps to sobriety.
Leaning heavily on the kindness of friends Lorne starts a long and tortuous climb back from the crater bottom. He takes on managing a small tennis club in a Montreal suburb, where he opens the doors in the morning, locks them at night and when it rains before a tournament he sweeps water from the courts to get play started. He throws himself into work, sometimes 18 hours a day. He hasn’t held a racquet in years but starts rallying with members. He’s asked to teach some juniors. Working with them he works himself into shape.
Back on the court he abandons his original two-hand grip, only to see some new stars — Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Jim Courier, Monica Seles, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray — adopt it with devastating effect. The grip was not his only idiosyncracy. He subsists on an unusual diet, heavy on Pepsi and Mars bars.
One night we have dinner together, poached salmon. Born in hailing distance of the Pacific, Main tolerates fish. He shakes salt on his butter, pushes the cauliflower and beans to the side of his plate. “I never touch vegetables, fruit or salads,” he says. “Probably not a good idea for everyone but it works for me.”
Despite the fare, over the next few years he gradually regains fitness as well as self-respect and finds new challenges within the relatively close-knit tennis community. The 1980s find him teaching at a tennis academy in London, Ontario owned by Ken Sinclair, a power within Canada’s tennis establishment. Sinclair, who has never been other than fit and is uber-competitive, asks him in 1986 to be his partner for the Canadian Seniors Championship. They win the doubles and Main wins the singles title. This qualifies them as Canada’s entry to the ITF-sanctioned Austria Cup for players 55-59 in Pörtschach, Austria.
Australia wins the Austria Cup that year. The Australian team is led by none other than Frank Sedgman, still anxious to compete after superannuation as a Grand Master.
Each year, after the trials for national teams, ITF sponsors the world championship for individuals of a certain age. At Pörtschach it plays down to the leaders of the two far flung Commonwealth teams facing each other. Sedgman vs. Main, shades of that Davis Cup match in Montreal three-and-a-half decades earlier. This time the outcome is reversed. Main wins and they are even. A few years later they meet again, on Sedgman’s turf in Australia, with the same result. Lifetime score: Main 2, Sedgman 1.
Main is wound up. He wins world championships in his age bracket in 1991 in Australia, 1993 in Spain, 1995 in England, 1996 in Austria, 2000 in South Africa, 2001 in Australia.
After Saskatoon in 2005, he wins the 75-and-over in Turkey in his first year in that category, beating his friend and doubles partner Sinclair in the final. He does it again the next year, and the next. He wins again in 2011, bringing his total of world individual championships to thirteen. Main and Sinclair have captured a record thirteen world doubles titles over the same period. They have also combined to win thirteen ITF nation-to-nation tournaments.

Brothers and Pammy’s great3grandsons on Mount Royal TC courts 1 and 2, 2009, Senior Nationals

At 81, with 39 gold medals, Lorne Main is the most successful senior tennis player of all time. On June 5, 2012, mid-way through the French Open, he is invited to Roland Garros in Paris as guest of honour at an ITF dinner to mark his achievement. He is the first senior player ever to earn such recognition.
As for me, I got to the quarter finals of the World Masters — my best senior result ever. I lost at Saskatoon in an early round. And it wasn’t a stroke I had that gave me blurry eyesight. Two cataract surgeries later and I see better than ever.

Canada’s Aquinas loved a good joke

Bernard Joseph Francis Lonergan SJ, CC,  liked to laugh. He liked Goldie Hawn in the movies. He liked Jane Jacobs too. Not because she was funny but because she was smart. He called her Mrs. Insight. Not as smart as he was, of course. In that he stood alone.

Lonergan UofT set280X107

Some volumes in UofT’s Lonergan Series

Pammy’s great2granddaughter Eileen had dinner with Lonergan the evening of February 19, 1981. That afternoon he asked to borrow a copy of Eichner’s Guide to Post-Keynesian Economics from the library at Montreal’s Thomas More Institute. He explained that it would be good to have at hand for his visit with Eileen. They knew each other well. Eileen had written her doctoral thesis on Lonergan’s economics. But she was somewhat shy and he was somewhat introverted, neither of them big on table talk. Economic theory would be easier for both.
He was in town from Boston College, where he held appointment as Distinguished Professor. He had consented to a week of interviews by disciples who wanted to mine the fatherlode before it petered out. He was 76 years old, a survivor of cancer surgery with one lung carved away from three decades of pipe smoking, who would be in declining health during the few years left before he died in November 1984.
The outcome of the talks at TMI would be a slim volume of Q&As, Caring About Meaning, privately printed by the Institute and dealing with “patterns in the life of Bernard Lonergan.” This transcript “moves around,” writes the editor, “as in any good conversation. There are frequent and abrupt changes of topic, some repetitions, and the casual use by Father Lonergan of Latin, Greek, German and French,” some of the languages in which he was proficient.

Lonergan shuffling

Lonergan shuffling

In marked contrast to the simplicity of this memoir are the academic surroundings in which the boy from Buckingham is enshrined today. There are gatherings worldwide to discuss his meaning. The Lonergan Research Institute in Toronto and the Marquette Lonergan Project in Milwaukee are jointly digitizing and preserving his papers, sponsoring seminars and publishing newsletters to describe the thriving world of Lonergan studies. There are Lonergan Centres at seven universities and at least another seven independent Lonergan Institutes in places as diverse as Nairobi, Mexico City, Montreal, Sydney and Innsbruck. The University of Toronto Press is publishing a compendium of his works in 22 large volumes at a cost north of $1 million. They’re on the market for prices as little as $18 for a paperback, or up to $114 for clothbound major works. More than 500 hours of his lectures, delivered and taped between 1957 and 1980, are being remastered to CDs. Three decades after his death he has become an academic industry with branches on all continents.
Major international collocutions are scheduled on topics such as “Lonergan’s Insight After Fifty Years: Its Origins, Its Meaning, Its Reception and Prospects,” on the agenda for one of the annual symposia at Marymount U. in Los Angeles. In 2013, for the 40th annual workshop on his work at Boston College, the Lonergan lens is on the “50th anniversary of Vatican II.” Workshops are also scheduled this year for Jerusalem and Melbourne, Australia.
He was the great grandson of a saloonkeeper. Hugh Gorman was among the early settlers of the lumber town of Buckingham, on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. It was largely an Irish community to begin with but later became and remains primarily French speaking. Lonergan’s father was an engineer and surveyor who was away much of the time, marking ways for rail lines through the Canadian northwest. His mother, remembered even today as particularly pious, prayed the rosary three times daily and was the foundation of the home, assisted by her spinster sister Mollie.

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Fleming Mackell followed his Dad into the NHL

A precocious student, he was reading Treasure Island at six and went through four years of high school in two. Much of his drive for learning he attributed to formation at the Buckingham primary school, where the Christian Brothers organized students into three sets of three grades. “I had the advantage — in the ungraded school you kept working. If you had one teacher talking all day long, you just wasted your time.”
Young Bernie enjoyed all the usual pursuits of small town Canada. His delight in winter sports was amplified by the exploits of his cousin, Ed Gorman, who would go on to play in the mid-1920s for the original Ottawa Senators. One of the founding clubs of the NHL, contender for 11 Stanley Cups in 17 years of which it won five, this team was voted the greatest of the first half century by Canadian sports editors in 1950. Another player among the Silver Seven, as this great team was known by fans and sportswriters, was winger Jack Mackell, who married Pammy’s great-granddaughter Margaret (Kate’s niece) in 1922. Their son Fleming Mackell, Pammy’s great2grandson, also won a couple of Stanley Cup rings. Ironically, he got both during his three season run with the Toronto Maple Leafs, while he made his reputation in the game as a rugged all-star centre and alternate captain with the Boston Bruins.
In summer Bernie Lonergan went river rafting on the Lièvre River, which drained a vast region of virgin forest and flowed to the Ottawa River four miles south. He wasn’t altogether free of mischief. He taught his two younger brothers to play poker and took their money at cards, returning it only after they threatened to tell their parents. One of these siblings, Gregory, also joined the Society of Jesus and was able to stay with Bernie at the Jesuit infirmary in Pickering to provide palliative attention during the distressing last year of his life (1984), when he was afflicted by depression and a long-simmering addiction to alcohol as well as the ongoing effects of the cancer surgery.

Boy from Buckingham ready for Loyola

Boy from Buckingham ready for Loyola

He waved goodbye to Buckingham at fourteen to study at Loyola College in Montreal, now a division of Concordia University, but then a Jesuit-run liberal arts college which was organized, he would write some years later “pretty much along the same lines as Jesuit schools had been since the beginning of the Renaissance, with a few slight modifications.” After schooling, he would return home only occasionally as his work took him further and further afield (late in life he would count that he had been “across the Atlantic about forty six times”). But Buckingham remembers him. The town’s public library is the Bibliothèque Municipale Bernard Lonergan and a plaque at the door reads, “Born in Buckingham, member of the Order of Canada and considered by many intellectuals as the best philosophical thinker of the twentieth century, he was a Canadian Jesuit philosopher and theologian of world renown.”
A philosopher and theologian indeed, also an economist of original perception, though most who look carefully at the vast expanse of his work conclude that none of these labels really capture him. He was essentially a methodologist, whose vocation was to teach how we can “appropriate our own rational self-consciousness,” by which he meant understanding the operations of experiencing, understanding, judging and deciding as we perform them in our daily routines. But first and foremost he was a Jesuit, which provided both his greatest support and his greatest frustration.
At Loyola “I acquired great respect for intelligence,” he would say years later. “The Jesuits were the best educated people I had ever met.”
As much as anybody, once Jacques Cartier had found the place for Europeans, the Jesuits made Canada. The Society of Jesus was founded in the mid-16th century by Ignatius Loyola and immediately set to work to counter the reformation being promulgated by Martin Luther. Their primary tool would be education  — Ignatius Loyola, founding “general” of the Society and his first half-dozen recruits were all doctoral students at the University of Paris  —  that they deployed in order to strengthen faith, gain converts and cultivate influence, both within the Church and beyond. Education was the hottest product in the cultural arena as literacy began its run following Gutenberg’s marvelous invention barely a century before.  As the Society’s origin coincided with a great age of exploration, discovery and settlement in new worlds — the age of Cartier, Columbus, Cabot, Verrazano, Hudson and hundreds more — its schools spread worldwide, some to become major universities (Université Laval in Quebec City, among the oldest institutions of higher learning in North America, would evolve out of the Collège des Jésuites). Many members of the order through the centuries became renowned scholars and scientists, making significant contributions particularly in fields such as astronomy and anthropology. And they became inveterate travelers, carpetbaggers of the church, seeking to spread the Roman Catholic faith throughout North and South America, and in the far east, particularly China (even today the largest Chinese dictionary in a western language is a Jesuit publication of 9,000 pages).

Jesuit college and church, Quebec City, 1761 (Nat. Archive of Cda)

Jesuit college and church, Quebec City, 1761 (Nat. Archive of Cda)

The first Jesuits to reach the land that would become Canada were Pierre Biard and Ennémond Massé on May 22, 1611. They and many who came after them went to live among the native nations. They followed the wanderers through forests, along waterways and across long portages. They acquired some fluency in aboriginal languages and customs, and served as interpreters, guides and go-betweens for the early traders and colonizers, who could hardly have survived the harsh climate, rocky soil and distant treks to fur-bearing resources without this assistance. Some blackrobes set out to explore the vastness of the American continent. Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit priest, and Louis Jolliet, who studied eleven years with the Jesuits but backed away from ordination at the last minute, were the first Europeans to reach the Mississippi. Others taught, baptized and ministered to the settlers and “sought to insulate the Natives from the consuming ravages of greed.” The annually published Jesuit Relations, begun as reports from missionaries in the field to superiors back home, gradually evolved into travelogues and adventure tales circulated in Europe to attract immigrants and enlist support for the mission. As colonial powers began to negotiate treaties with aboriginal inhabitants during the 18th and 19th centuries, Jesuits acted as counselors and interpreters in an effort to protect indigenous interests. That they were not always, or even often, successful was acknowledged by Peter-Hans Kolvenback, the General of the order, in 1993. He offered the Society’s apology to American Indians for “the mistakes it has made in the past (when) the church was insensitive toward your tribal customs, language and spirituality.”
The million or so Canoriginals today are proportionally much more numerous than their cousins in the United States. There, indigenous peoples were not regarded as trading partners but as barriers to western expansion. They were cut down like trees in the forest so that white Americans could achieve their manifest destiny, range their cattle and farm their fields. Jesuits were among those who imprinted a pattern in Canada that moderated the military violence and wanton massacres so common south of the border. (Which is not to say that Canada treats its indigenous peoples fairly and justly. It doesn’t.)
Jesuits were intrepid to the point of sacrificing their lives. Jean de Brébeuf and seven companions are canonized as saints of the Catholic Church. In their memory each year on Sept. 26 a reading of the religious ‘office’ proclaims that their lives were “like a martyrdom because of the character and wretched conditions of the Huron Indians of that time.” In the mid 17th century the Hurons were wiped out by the Iroquois and blackrobes were among the casualties of conflict, some of whom “endured almost unbelievable tortures with such invincible courage as to arouse the admiration of the savage executioners themselves.”

The Canadian Encyclopedia says “the torture and death of blackrobes Gabriel Lalemant (left) and Jean de Brébeuf (right) in 1649 was one of the most powerful images distributed of the New World, not least for its value as propaganda.”

It should not be hard to imagine why impressionable young men are attracted to this adventurous, historic band of brothers. I dare say that almost everybody who spent as much time at Loyola as Lonergan did, or I did, gave some thought at some time to joining the Jesuits. They are figures of authority and of mystery, a fraternity with great traditions, who opened many frontiers for European civilization in new found worlds and ancient. They had been advisers to emperors and teachers of princes. They also had been persecuted, martyred and, for forty years in the 19th century, disbanded under a papal prohibition. There were some places in the world where the ban was not rigidly enforced and one of them was Quebec. By going underground and keeping the dream alive the Jesuits survived and eventually were allowed to raise their head again. They were a magnetic draw for boys (there were no girls at Loyola then, nor in the Society of Jesus).
I gave it a few days consideration before concluding that the strict vows of poverty, chastity and obedience required of Jesuits were not for me. The fathers bent little effort to persuade me otherwise. Some of the more courageous among my friends took the spiritual path, among them David Asselin, who would have become a brother-in-law had he not died so young; and Jean-Marc Laporte, a philosophy wunderkind who dazzled us in caf and coffee shop sessions with his grasp of subtleties in Aquinas, Scotus, Kant and other lights, including the recently published Bernard Lonergan. After long apprenticeship (the road to full membership in the Society of Jesus stretches fourteen years) Laporte would become Lonergan’s personal secretary and in 2002 he was appointed Provincial, the highest administrative post of the order in English Canada (Jesuits long ago divided Canada into just two provinces, English and French). Provincials report to the Jesuit General in Rome, who reports to the Pope. In fact the General is referred to by scoffers as the black pope. Jesuits are the papal legion, canonically speaking. (This was written before the election of Pope Francis, an unexpected event that likely portends more change for the Church than for the Society, which seems to be dong better than its founder Ignatius could have dreamed.) 

Former Chapel (now F.C. Smith Auditorium) on Loyola Campus

Former Chapel (now F.C. Smith Auditorium) on Loyola Campus. Mary Blickstead and I were married here in December 1958.

When I was at Loyola, through most of the 1950s, the Thomas More Institute was a centre of continuing education and intellectual discourse for adults, and so it remains. Founded by Eric O’Connor, a Jesuit and Harvard-educated mathematician, it was here in 1945 that Lonergan began to think through a centrepiece in the ever-expanding universe of his thought. Though Insight: A Study of Human Understanding , would not be published for another dozen years, it was in a series of lectures at TMI that the brilliant, middle-aged professor found inspiration to begin writing what would quickly be recognized as one of the most original and profound philosophical works of the 20th century. Of its origins at TMI he would later say, “It seemed clear that I had a marketable product not only because of the notable perseverance of the class but also from the interest that lit up their faces.”
The spark had been struck but it was soon in danger of being extinguished as year after year, for more than a decade, he was consigned by the order to teach in institutions that he found intellectually stagnant. His personal standard for education was set somewhat higher than the Society’s. When he was sent to Europe as part of his Jesuit training he found he had to work harder just to catch up. “I read Thackeray and made a list of all the words,” he said, “to know the meaning well enough to use them myself. I looked them up in the dictionary and wrote them down and went over these lists; if I still didn’t know the meaning I would look up the dictionary again. I improved my vocabulary tremendously. But I went to England for philosophy, and all the lads there were talking that well!”
Years later he would write to a superior, “At the parish school I always had to work my hardest. At Loyola my acquired habits did not survive my first year: by the mid-term exams I was in 3rd High; by the end of the year I was fully aware that the Jesuits did not know how to make one work, that working was unnecessary to pass exams, and that working was regarded by all my fellows as quite anti-social. For my remaining three years at Loyola I loafed and passed exams with honours . . . Now do not tell me that I am exceptional. I have more than average ability, but not so much more that I did not have to work when confronted with the standards of the parish school in Buckingham or the University of London.”

Lonergan laughing, as often he did

Lonergan laughing, as often he did

Only the strict vow of obedience he had taken kept him on course. In the Society of Jesus, he would say in later years, “you have to do things that are rather hard and you need a lot of grace to do them. That is the advantage of a religious life.”
In the early 1950s the advantages were not evident. The grind of teaching scholastics (Jesuit apprentices) year after year in Montreal and Toronto was wearing him down. Then his superiors relented. In 1953 he was dispatched to begin a dozen years as professor of theology at the world-renowned Gregorian University in Rome. Apparently he had passed the test of obedience.
He finished the last seven chapters of Insight in a white heat between December 1952 and August 1953, fired by the titanic orchestrations of Ludwig van Beethoven. Insight sold out its first printing within a year, “a best seller of its type,” he once quipped. It has since been translated into all European and several Asian languages and still sells thousands of copies annually. I fear to put it this simply, but since he repeats it a couple of times in Insight, I’ll say its premise is that by understanding what it is to understand “not only will you understand the broad lines of all there is to be understood but also you will possess a fixed base, an invariant pattern, opening upon all further developments of understanding.”
Putting Insight behind him, Lonergan turned to shedding new light on old theological questions. At the Gregorian as many as 650 students would crowd into his classes, and the works he produced there had an unusual feature for a modern author. They were written in Latin. He was also fluent in Italian, German and classical Greek, all important to pursue his theological and philosophical studies, and French. Perhaps not surprisingly for a Quebec-born Canadian of his era, he didn’t learn French at home. In Buckingham “we didn’t speak French. That depended on what part of the town you were from. And the hardest place to learn French is Montreal. I learned French in England.”

Receiving the Order of Canada

Receiving the Order of Canada

In fact Insight had never been the end that Lonergan had in mind. His overriding concern was to bring to the 20th century the kind of synthesis of modern thought with theology that Thomas Aquinas had achieved in the 13th century and that had endured, sometimes in observance sometimes in ignorance, for some 800 years. He agreed with Aquinas that philosophy did not consist in knowing what others have said, but in seeking and finding what is true. Bringing to bear the findings of physics and mathematics, often in dialogue and exchange with Eric O’Connor, he built on Aquinas with practical examples just as Aquinas had built on Aristotle’s first principles.
He didn’t delude himself that altering the classical perspective would be easily accomplished. “Centuries are required to change mentalities,” he would say, “centuries. You don’t get a change of mentality by introducing a few fads.”.He found it necessary first to consider the fundamental question, “What is it to know?” The answer he put forward in Insight would have effects far beyond philosophy and theology. His long-time Jesuit friend and biographer, Fred Crowe, points out, “his political thought has been found relevant to problems in the Philippines; his social thought was the focus of a study group in Mexico; his notion of values was used in an analysis of rural development in Ethiopia; doctors and nurses are applying his ideas in their field of health care; there have been similar applications to Anglican moral theology, to Quaker spirituality, and to Australian and Chinese contextualization of theology; to theories of architecture, chemistry, feminism, to jurisprudence and to psychotherapy . . .” In Ottawa his method is used to train border guards how to tell who’s slippery in the line. There is no end in sight.
His shift forward into theology was given a hard check in 1965 when lung cancer was diagnosed while he was on a return visit to Toronto. He remained for radical surgery, first to remove the lung and then to reshape the ribcage. Recovery was slow. He never returned to his Rome professorship. Instead he began to formulate what would become his second masterwork, Method In Theology, which would be published in 1972.
Theology, he points out “is a reflection on religion, it isn’t being religious.” In Lonergan’s view “contemporary theology and especially contemporary Catholic theology are in a feverish ferment. An old theology is being recognized as obsolete.” Not just theology, but all handed-down classical ‘truths.’
“What breathed life and form into the civilization of Greece and Rome, what was born again in a European Renaissance, what provided the chrysalis whence issued modern languages and literature, modern mathematics and science, modern philosophy and history, held its own right into the twentieth century . . .
“Classicist philosophy was the one perennial philosophy. Classicist art was the set of immortal classics. Classicist laws and structures were the deposit of wisdom and prudence of mankind. This classicist outlook was a great protector of good manners and a great support of good morals. But it had one enormous drawback. It included a built-in incapacity to grasp the need to change and to effect the necessary adaptations.”
Lonergan does not attempt a new or revised theology per se. Rather he creates a process, a method of drawing on the past to enlighten the future. It is not confined to theology but can be applied, as Fred Crowe puts it, “in philosophy or theology, in the pursuit of any project in the field of human studies and human sciences, be it theoretical or practical, present or future, peculiar to one culture or another.”
Though his strength had been sapped by the surgeries, he believed that his desire to finish this project “was a psychological factor in my recovery.” Writing didn’t come fluidly to him. “I write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite, eh . . . I could have written more by taking another ten years. But you get sick and tired of a subject and you call it off. Books aren’t finished; authors get tired.”
For relaxation Lonergan often saw films in the company of younger Jesuits who wouldn’t pester him to expound philosophy, and developed an appreciation for the talents of Goldie Hawn. He enjoyed a good joke and could tell one. He read widely, chuckling through Waugh, Chesterton and Lewis Carroll. He championed the work of urban guru Jane Jacobs, whom he dubbed “Mrs. Insight.” Insight occurs with respect to concrete images, not abstractions, and Jacobs is very much grounded in what’s real. But he was no casual conversationalist. In general he displayed a modesty approaching shyness. And while he had a photographic memory and amazing powers of retention for what he read, he was not swift at repartee. The telling comment or response to a question often would occur to him hours after a conversation had ended. He described himself as a “forty eight hour man, strong on l’esprit d’escalier, the witticism you think of when you’re going down the stairs.”
Lonergan’s interest in economics was stimulated by social disruption in the first instance and, in the second, by the quandaries that the profession was experiencing. These instances were separated by some forty years. “When I came back to Canada in 1930,” he said, “the rich were poor and the poor were out of work. The rich were trying to get money selling apples on the street. Many theories were floating around.”

Pammy's great2granddaughter Eileen

Pammy’s great2granddaughter Eileen

Eileen, his dinner companion while visiting Montreal to be interviewed for Caring About Meaning, wrote in her review of the economics volumes in the collected works, “Both the 1930s and 1970s were periods of ferment in economic theory because of the major structural changes and crises that were not explained satisfactorily.”
His response was to identify two separate but interactive levels in the economy that produce wealth and income in different ways. The surplus sector produces goods for further production, e.g. rails for railroads. The basic sector produces goods for consumption. As well, when prices rise, workers demand more and the wage-price spiral begins. When prices fall, producers pull back from investing and recession begins. The result is often panic and “panic doesn’t get you anywhere; it is just stupidity, loss of nerve.” He proposes an economic policy based fundamentally on a strategy of education, generating widespread understanding of the way these cycles work and the natural interconnection between them.
He was far from embracing socialism, “which doesn’t work very well.” He believed that “the trouble with the welfare state is that it crowds out investment, and if you crowd out investment the economy goes to pot.” But he favoured creation of benevolent enterprise, small-scale industries that employ people who can’t be taught much, or who can’t find jobs elsewhere. Also, “If you can have government deficits to conduct wars, you can have government deficits for a war on poverty, a war on ignorance, a war on ill health, and so on.”
The first International Lonergan Congress was held in Tampa, Florida in 1970, attracting eminent theologians and other thinkers from around the world. One of the participants was former senator and presidential hopeful Eugene McCarthy, a devoted Catholic who once had given thought to becoming a Benedictine monk. When an eminent intellectual remarked, “there are large gobs of Insight” he didn’t understand, McCarthy quipped, “You’re the first to admit it at breakfast. Most of us wait until afternoon.”
The following year Lonergan was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest rank.
Lonergan’s invitation to self-appropriation is also an invitation to self-development through self-criticism and self-evaluation. Professor Ken Melchin at Ottawa’s St. Paul University writes in his introduction to ethics, Living With Other People, “More than any other author, Lonergan makes self-discovery the central activity of philosophy and theology. While much of his writing is theoretically complex, it is everywhere guided by a single purpose, the understanding of ourselves in our everyday acts of understanding.”

Delphi today

Delphi today

It sounds straightforward yet, as Fred Crowe says, “the full extent of his influence will not be seen for many years yet. His chief contribution was the creation of an instrument of mind and heart for others to use, whose worth will be discovered not only in study but also in implementation. Only the slow process of history can measure the enduring stature of this great thinker who belongs to the world as much as to his native Canada.”
In a lecture just after Insight was published, Lonergan said: “Your interest may be to find out what Lonergan thinks and what Lonergan says, but I am not offering you that, or what anyone else thinks or says, as a basis. If a person is to be a philosopher, his thinking as a whole cannot depend upon someone or something else. There has to be a basis within himself; he must have resources of his own to which he can appeal as a last resort.”
Know Thyself. It was inscribed on Apollo’s Temple at Delphi in southern Greece and has been a precept for human action since before the time of Socrates. But it has famously defied easy doing. Lonergan doesn’t promise to make it any easier. But he may well be the first and only oracle to nail precisely how it can be done.

The best

The War of 1812 against the Americans was finished with the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. The treaty after the war left everything as it was before the war, except for all the dead and dreadfully injured people and the property destroyed. But we had a border. It was the same border as always but now it was recognized. It wasn’t by force of arms we won. We won the war because we had everything to lose and didn’t. We won because we didn’t lose.
The country we got to build over the next two hundred years — the best country in the world to live in — is Canada. It’s not me who says it’s the best country in the world to live in. That would be immodest. As far back as 1973, when The Economist made its first attempt to measure quality of life, Canadians came up as the world’s happiest people, with fewer divorces, less crime, more space and a sufficient number of houses, cars and other toys to make us the envy of the western world. In the first eleven years that the United Nations put forth its human development index (HDI), Canada topped the list eight times, including every year from 1994 to 2000. Only Norway competes. On this ranking of the health, wealth and happiness of people from a hundred and sixty nine countries, nowhere else comes close.
Of course the whole notion of a best country is far-fetched. Most Japanese will pick Japan, despite earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear meltdowns. Americans will vote for the stars and stripes, despite their bloody history and failure to reconcile the races. Icelanders will say Iceland is the best. They would have had just claim in 2007 or 2008. In those years Iceland topped the HDI measurements of the most developed countries, with longer life expectancies, better schooling and superior standard of living. In the twenty-one years that the United Nations has been compiling this index, only four countries have ranked number one — Iceland, Norway, Canada and Japan. But topping the list is no guarantee. Even as it basked in the acclaim, Iceland was about to implode as a bizarre contributor-cum-victim of the global financial meltdown. Its three largest banks crashed and the longstanding coalition government collapsed. Emigration numbers shot up as Icelanders fled the economic wreckage. Best is in the opinion of the beholder. On objective criteria, there are always places better in one way or another, and everywhere some drawbacks. Canada has cold. That bothers some.
But, as far as I can tell, it’s the common opinion of objective observers that no place beats Canada for much or by far. A measuring standard put out by OECD in 2011 to mark the 50th anniversary of that extraordinary organization, allows a check against other countries across a range of indicators from health to income to social cohesion. The last time I looked, it was hard to beat Canada on this grid, no matter which indicators are chosen. You can try it here. And by the way, while on the subject, Ottawa is the best city to live in. This is well known by those who do in fact live here and by many who visit and is confirmed whenever a Canadian magazine recycles its “best Canadian cities” series (e.g. MoneySense April 2011).