So, how’s it going?

The idiom how’s it going is another way to say how are you, how are things progressing, or what’s up. The it can refer to life in general, a project, or your day.

It should be noted that this idiom is said in many countries with the answer expected to be fine or good. This is not usually what a person says when he or she truly wants details of your life or day. Often this is said as a continuation of the greeting (e.g., Hi, how’s it going?), and the return answer should also be a continuation (e.g., Good, see you later.)

If the speaker wants further details, he or she will ask again or make it understood by intonation or facial expressions.

Bearing in mind that all this will end shortly – perhaps more shortly for me than for others – I thought it was time for this old fogey to capture whatever essence remains and to capitalize on what is basically a venture spanning about three-quarters of a century.  I rationalize the apparent simplicity of the project as being equivalent to having gone to the moon and back. When I was hatched in 1948 there was no one in existence who had any idea where I’d end up going, what I would do, what calamity would befall me, what mountains I would climb or into what perils I would descend.  And although the final chapter of my particular performance has not yet unfolded, I thought in the meantime I might afford a record from which some definition of life may be extracted. I do not expect this to be of any historic moment. it will merely reflect what affected one tiny ant on the planet.

The meaning of time has often been reviewed by philosophers and others.  The mad feature about time is that, apart from clocks and waiting in traffic, we’re never fully acquainted with its passage.  One day we’re playing with school friends, hanging about the playground or on the football field; next we’re learning how to file an income tax return.  Between the two events we have remained the same person. Whether we just never grow up – or if we only fool ourselves to do so – I am uncertain. I say that because very often the parameters which govern our personality and inclinations are inalterable. And when one reaches one’s current age – whether young or old by so-called natural standards – the suddenness of the development is inexplicable. We see things in the past as though they occurred yesterday. It’s no joke when old people ask, “How did this happen?”

I know I’ve said it one thousand times already but I believe it bears repetition: namely, criticism is the best autobiography.  I don’t rely on that adage to attack others; instead, it opens doors to understanding. We forget that our particular attraction to hitting something or someone with a blunt instrument likely derives from personal familiarity with the putative infection. In other words, the problem is within not without. A more charitable rendition of this identical thesis is the well-known saying, “We see in others what we see in ourselves.” While most of us are quick to acknowledge the saw, few of us appreciate that we also don’t see in others what we don’t see in ourselves – something which makes accommodation and other social conventions difficult at times. In any event the answer is not conflict.

A binary problem – respect for the elderly; understanding of youth. Young and old people need to spend more time together.  They each have to speak bluntly and freely. It would be good for both age groups. It will teach them that the only difference between them is their age. The same motive applies to rich and poor, a congregation I am certain you’ll agree is not normally proposed.  Once again it will teach them that the only difference between them is their age. Meanwhile the beneficial effect of the meetings is incalculable for both sides.

If all this sounds too cloistered to be pragmatic, I’ll relate what my late father taught me, “You can’t have money and things!” As a confessed materialist (and one who shamefully had a line of credit with every chartered bank in Canada), I can speak with authority when I say my father was right. Materialism is a bit like alcoholism; even a bit too much is dangerous. I won’t attempt a safe half-way house.  Nor will I suggest there is an intellectual alternative for stuff. There isn’t. It’s simply a matter of choice – and the consequent repercussion.

As for love it is beyond the capacity of any human to define. There are no rules.

L. C. Audette QC OC was possibly the most intuitive person I have ever known.  When I asked him 40 years ago what single word of advice he had for a young man, he hesitated then replied. “I have three words of advice: read, read and read!” It’s impossible to know everything; but everything that’s known has been written. My personal reason for recommending reading is primarily because of its grammatical improvement. Knowing how to say things properly is half the battle being legible.

The universe is ultimately personal.  This aphorism suffers the diminishing effect of any axiom; that is, the flavourlessness of 2 + 2 = 4.  Obviously the universe is ultimately personal – it involves matters which affect us individually.  There is however a deeper sense than its axiomatic truth. It has been rendered in the more direct application as, We die alone; or, This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper. Either way – alive or dead – the prediction is not particularly beguiling. It also means that each of us has a responsibility to fulfill our own agenda, not only making ourselves coherent and consistent with our individual mechanics but also making something meaningful of the life we live. There’s no one else who will do it with any authenticity.

It is often tempting to ask, What if…? This signals treacherous waters. Clearly we’re never going to change things, neither now nor in the future. The precept to live for the moment captures not only logic (as best we understand it) but also that snarly element of time; namely, there is always only going to be the moment, never the past or the future. Both epicureans and puritans have battled the meaning of “live for the moment”.  I can only contribute my personal experience; namely, do what has to be done, then enjoy the rest without tempering the basic product.

This brings me to my final observation concerning work. When I consider my evolution from prep school through undergraduate studies to law school, then working for a living, there is an unmistakable element of dedication (most poignantly captured in related devotions in the middle of the night). As taxing as they were, burning the midnight oil never killed me. It just got the job done in the way required. Apparently I am lately recovering those sleepless nights by lingering in the lair far beyond what was traditionally tolerable. Yet it is a reminder that there is no easy way to get things done. It also succeeds to preserve the supportive characteristic of the Protestant Work Ethic, including the corollary of moral virtues such as truthfulness. I never made a display of righteousness other than to promote the exactitude of whatever was at hand.