Louis de la Chesnaye Audette, QC, OC was above all a man who by his own admission had his nose well in the air. It was however a distinction to which most of us who knew him considered he was more than entitled. He was fully bilingual (French and English), a naval commander (HMCS Pictou, Amherst, Coaticook and St. Catharines), a war veteran, one of Her Majesty’s Counsel Learned-in-the-Law, a member of the Privy Council, an adjudicator (Court Martial Appeal Board, Maritime Pollution Claim Fund and the Tariff Board of Canada), a published writer of jurisprudence, a Member of the Order of Canada, he came from a distinguished family and he had staff. He even once had the distinction of having had the Prime Minister (Lester B. Pearson) as his Landlord. He had however one trait which was less obvious and perhaps less well-known, and that was his ability to be dismissive. He made a practiced art of it. Generally speaking he lubricated the matter with no small degree of condescension. For example when speaking of a former secretary who took the liberty of contradicting him upon something he had done or said, he simply waved the matter aside, proclaiming it was the privilege of the masses to mock their betters!
I never had any doubt that his art was any more than a device by which to distance himself from the real problem. When he reported that his physician had informed him that he had prostate cancer he blandly commented that that was not his problem, but his physician’s problem.
It was well known that there were certain people in his life of whose company he was able to bear the deprivation. Seldom however would he engage in anything as uninspirational as name calling; rather, he would elevate the scorn to something approaching literary comment by pronouncing the object of his disdain as “preposterous”.
When confronted with something unsettling, if he were momentarily at a loss to make a reply, he lapsed into his catchall phrase, “There are moments when silence becomes you!” Always his tactic was a combined effort to diminish the adversary and to raise himself above the throng, but without the appearance of standing on another to make himself taller.
As much as I admired him, I confess that I have never fully embraced his method of shrugging off people or events. Whether, as I suspect is the case, it is because I lack his intellectualism, or maybe even because no one could match his level of arrogance, I am unable to be so skillfully philosophic about the dilemma. I keep getting caught in the psychiatry of it all.
Lately I have contemplated at some length the difficulties I have had with different people. With each of them I have a bone to pick. Fortunately for me the analysis of the separate problems leads me to the commonality of this simple conclusion – they irk me! This in turn leads me to seek a more global resolution, rather than having to devise an individual ad hoc response. I am also bound to observe that my detailed analysis permits me to conclude that in each case there is a possibility that I may be at least partly at fault. In the result I reason that it may be wiser in the end to avoid condemnation at all rather than risk founding my conclusions on a false premise. I confess there is an element of charity in my decision. I keep thinking it may be advisable to salvage the relationship if for no other reason than that family and friends are ultimately precious. Balancing this seeming generosity (which admittedly may be little more than selfishly motivated shrewdness) is the cold reality that there are occasions when argument, reason or charity have no place, and an abrupt dismissal such as adopted by my agèd friend may be preferable. As one friend has dryly observed, “Caring is at times pointless.”