Now I just need it in Latin.

It's a fun question to ask: "If you were on a desert island disc, what five albums would you bring with you?" The real sport of this is always watching someone try to abstain. "Oh, I couldn't pick just five," they'll say, and then they're cajoled into throwing their entire music collection into the ocean, and everyone is entertained by the anguish this causes. I used to play along in the same manner, but I finally realised that I actually do have a straight answer to this slanted question:

"Music Inspired by the Group of Seven", by the Rheostatics. And then four others.

This is really the only CD I need. On a desert island, this would be the one that reminds me who I am, so that I may return to society after my ordeal. It's a beautiful ever-shifting landscape of sound, and it always somehow manages to make me feel like I'm home whenever I listen to it. It's more than just a few songs. It's also a collection of background sound clips and monologues and interviews, and right in the middle of it, none other than John Diefenbaker is reciting a poem, and it sounds like this: "I have done a hundred things you have not dreamed of - wield a sword, swung high in the sunlit silence."

I've always loved that passage. It starts out with the promise of bold adventure, but then shifts not into a litany, but a request - for the listener to take up a sword. And do what with it? Go to war? No, simply to hold it high. Don't worry about impressing people, and don't try to be sneaky. Go into the sunlit silence, and swing it around. In my opinion, that means one thing only - practice. Find that thing which gives you joy, and work on it. Master it, and embrace the journey which that education shall provide.

It's a wonderful sentiment, and so I decided that this would be the proper thing to get inscribed on a pocket watch a friend had given me. Not wanting to misquote the original, I looked it up... it turns out that it's a poem called "High Flight", by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. The line in question is actually: "wheeled, and soared, and swung high in the sunlit silence." That disappointed me somewhat. It's still a pretty image, but now he's just talking about how great it is to fly. Where's the deeper meaning in that?

Oh, well. Sometimes, when something speaks to you, you have to listen to what you heard.


Adam said...

"Wield a sword" is definitely the more evocative phrase.

Denton said...

Thanks! I like it too - the only problem now is that if someone asks me, "where's that from?", I have to figure out a short version of this story. : )

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Canadian explorer. Chemist by training, biologist by nature. Long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month. Known as "Aquadeo" in most Internet circles. Also known as "that guy with the pants" to people who have seen me in certain pants.