Walk on the Ottawa River

At 72 years of age I feel I’m entitled to extol the athletic accomplishment of a half-hour walk in the park. There must be a time when it’s acceptable – and maybe even preferable – to give up the pretence of youth and immortality. Today we punctuated the end of what has been an historic Christmas 2020 with a short but invigorating stroll along the Ottawa River.

Though today is the day after Boxing Day and normally things would as a result have returned to business as usual it’s nonetheless a Sunday and all appears to have dissolved into what for me at least was the traditional atmosphere of the Sabbath. I say this not as a remorseful Christian – in fact I have instead gleefully adopted the insight of Thomas Paine who only now is gaining the attention he deserves. What I appreciated about the day’s unanticipated peacefulness was its release from traffic. This I am certain is attributable not to any want of paganism but instead to the saturation of the seasonal commercial and related religious fixations. It is an unfortunate sequel to the mania of the “season “ that so often people end pushing themselves to the brink of gluttony of every imaginable description – whether gastronomic, material or religious.

In consequence the replacement preoccupation is a denial or retribution of all that preceded the event  – an atmospheric combination of diet, parsimony and irreverence. The interruption of standards – frankly for both people or animals – is never to be taken lightly.  The overlords of the deviance are guided by less than altruism. For people my age the effect can be catastrophic not to mention unsettling. I for example have learned to survive most usefully on blandness – undeviating and repetitions familiarity. It isn’t a trait I advertise nor one of which I am especially proud; but it is an omission which I have learned to accept as dutiful but appropriately selective.

Regrettably this seemingly Stoic devotion can be misinterpreted as curmudgeonly.  And it probably is. Yet that doesn’t diminish the frozen truth of the observation. I prefer however to align this putatively insipid posture with personal utility. Surely the time must come – and may I suggest sooner than later – to reckon one’s own choices in life.  The upshot of not doing so is ultimately the threat of dissatisfaction or the more injurious punishment of psychological disturbance which can in turn linger and cause a lifetime of inconsonance.

Having dwelt so monotonously on the subject it warrants account that the stance like anything else in life is more easily advanced than performed. For one thing we seldom accept that others will tolerate such focus. Aside from sometimes appearing to defeat the needs of others, the conviction to intimate desire is frequently misconstrued as perverse selfishness. The irony is that the minimal conduct of individuals – not in a cloud of kerfuffle but in the rarity of close and refined behaviour – is far more meaningful than an abstract performance. This trite assertion has been extended to the height of human conduct in such critical matters as the recent presidential election in the United States of America.  For me the thesis is axiomatic; namely, each of us must in the end be driven not by exterior wands but rather by interior wells.

As a colleague of mine only recently wrote,

Numb to the numbers, many are
An ending’s in sight, we’ve come so far
But this year Christmas, not the same
Next year let us please reclaim

Rocci Fisch, Random Thoughts

Today, with the dubious clarity of hindsight, a peaceful transition never seemed in doubt, but we should never forget that the fightback was mounted not by someone at the pinnacle of politics but near the bottom. Van Langevelde was one of millions of ordinary Americans, quiet on Twitter but strong in spirit, who put backbone into the republic.

Matthew Syed, The Sunday Times