the view at 65 is worth it

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Onward despite setbacks

On Thursday February 11, 2010, my oldest son had a very serious vehicle accident. He was critically wounded and rushed to hospital. My wife and I began commuting between our island home and Vancouver. It’s 25 minutes from our ferry to Nanaimo and then another 2 hours by big ferry to the mainland. Plus hours of waiting in ferry lineups. Of course my mind began racing in all directions. Life would not be the same for my son anymore, at least not for a very long time. Would it be different for me? I mean, my children come first - always. Do I cancel my graduate studies? I didn’t panic, but a father’s heart can have many directions, especially when there’s nothing to do but think. So, I packed my course textbooks and notes and immersed myself in preparing for the Spring Institute. Round trip in a day meant about 4 hours of study. Onward despite setbacks. Our 40 year old son became our “miracle baby,” and just over a week later, he began walking again. A sense of peace returned into our lives on our island enclave. Mt. Arrowsmith still looks inviting. There is much to do, but I press on.

In search of a school

In search of a school.
As long ago as 2005, I began researching various possibilities for going back to school. My interest was focused on studying and writing about communications based on my background in the business world as owner and creative director of a national advertising agency, a background that ran a parallel course with my journey as an artist. They were good ‘ol 70’s and 80’s of poofy hairdos, bell-bottoms, orange and green acrylic shirts, lapels and collars as wide as wings, and I wasn’t the only one. Back to my search. I especially wanted to track the issue of communication and technology along arts leadership lines, based on a personal conviction that much of what has been traditional and very good has been tossed out for what is contemporary and rather meaningless – disposable is probably a better word. Disposable means something ( or someone ) just vacated the top-of-mind- awareness position and there’s a space for a new-and-improved version of what we already have. Great for consumerism though.
Since I already held an associate degree from OCAD University and a BFA as well, my next step was to look towards and MFA or MA. With all my personal, family, ministry, community, and studio commitments, going “back to school” in the conventional sense was not an option. No sour grapes, but it has to be said: “Canada is a lousy place for arts education beyond a traditional bachelor’s degree. A wasteland with no prospects for a quality, high-end studio program unless you’re willing to pack up and abandon your family and community.” The US was out of the question for the same reasons, especially the plethora of diploma and degree mills. There was a PhD available for $500.
Back to Canada. However, there was some light on the horizon in the form of “other” masters degree graduate studies by distance learning. Distance learning is a respectable and worthy academic resource and that’s the route I chose. “A Masters of Smarts degree,” said my godchild.
The University of Alberta MACT program was an excellent choice. I was most impressed by the way I was treated, not gratuitously because I’m 65, but in a genuine scholarly way. In fact, one faculty staff member, said, “we love having someone just like you in the program.” So here I am.
I received notice at the end of January ( 2010 ), that I had been accepted. In the meantime, I had begun some advance reading of one of the course texts. Challenging to say the least, especially with all that new vocabulary. But I have an “old and traditional” dictionary of the American Language, dated 1890, whose editor was Samuel Webster, before they named the dictionary after him. Cool. Electricity is described as a liquid. I’ve been told, my fellow MACT conspirators constitute a “cohort.” So, it’s meta-patience time till May when I meet them all at the Spring Institute in Edmonton. In the meantime, I have to stop myself from smiling because our BC winter’s gone ( early ). We have had no snow on the island, and I’m excited about my new adventure, despite the forlorn hopes of 2010 Winter Olympics enthusiasts who keep praying for cold and snow.

Who decides?

Who decides?
I do need to offer another, more serious perspective, albeit a brief one. Who in fact tells us we are too old, or too feeble to scale our vision of Mt. Everest, or Mt. Arrowsmith? ( That’s Mt. Arrowsmith at the top of this blog. I photographed the mountain during a recent winter. It’s just 20 minutes from where I live and visible from our small island ).
Canadian culture is market-driven. Art is market-driven and not artist-driven. That’s our loss. Bureaucrats and politicians decide who’s professional and who’s not, who’s in and who’s out. Postmodernists profess everyone is an artist and the deconstruction of art’s fabled canons leaves nothing but a plethora of nothingness, bound by an irrational fear of becoming un-Canadian, or worse – American.
But any fears of being swallowed by culture americana is really unfounded. Surprise. The Americans are not the enemy of Canadian culture. Canadians are. At least Americans seem to recognize what and who an emerging artist is.
I will fight for as long as I can to preserve the title “emerging artist” for any artist of any age, who chooses to emerge from a boxed-in place and present culture with a breath of fresh air, past or present, and not just the artist who rides the default slide into the predictable culture of youth. As much as I love and admire youth for their vitality, I concur with Canadian comedian Dave Broadfoot, the Honourable Member from Kicking Horse Pass, that when I turn 65 ( he said 70, but I take the liberty ), “I can say anything I want.”
And they had better listen as I have a lot more to say than simply asking for a senior’s discount. Canada’s aboriginal people believe wisdom resides with the elders. They are the elders, the keepers of history, who direct the courses of life. And I agree. But the market prefers youth, because they are better targets for the slow but steady metamorphosis of an undiscerning teenager into a conspicuous consumer. Brand loyalty over wisdom-loyalty any day. Who really decides what’s right? Mass media? God help us.
At the risk of excluding anyone else, I ask who is worth listening to? It’s the elder artist historian, who merges the creative streams of life into the experience of history, to form a basis for truth beyond the reach of politics and the stock exchange. Call me whatever, but that’s the reason I’m going back to now school, not old-school. To offer, in the words of an ancient king: “like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in the right circumstance.” And that circumstance is now. To be the elder artist historian who embraces communications and technology as a resource for informed leadership, by the grace of God.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Official launch of blog

Thursday, February 10, 2010, in a private ceremony attended by me, I and myself, in my computer room cum once-spare-bedroom ,was the official launch day of my blog “Back to School at 65.”

To all who aspire to reach 65 and beyond

To all who aspire to reach 65 and beyond, I commit myself to writing this blog as an encouragement to you and advocate that 65 is not synonymous with “out to pasture,” nor is it “retirement.” And if there’s anything I wish to accomplish in this metanarrative, it is to say with conviction, the best is yet to come. At least, now that the flesh has quieted down ( age has a tendency to make me more realistic about mountain climbing and dare-devil bravado ), I am about to enter a revival of my childhood years, that wonderful time when I could soar with the eagles and imagination knew no bounds. A revival where no digitally-mastered, mind-numbing, dummying-down, info-commercial-riddled, consumer-driven, viagra-worship world of pseudo-achievement has a hold on me. It’s been a long haul through that seemingly never-ending modern jungle, but I am glad to say, when I got older, I began to see new light, a confirmation that the city was actually within reach.

Connecting Knowledge and Experience

Connecting knowledge and experience….
But why go back to school? Simple, and I don’t mean it in a simplistic way insinuating it will be a breeze. I know I am in for some serious mental stretching, self-analysis, challenges, doubts, uncertainties, victories and defeats. Nevertheless, the process feels like a grand adventure.
So why? I am an artist first and foremost. I don’t think of myself as a scholar, but I love to study. In fact, I have always maintained a personal view regarding that special connection between theory and practice, the creation of art and the study of life, called discipleship. That special connection is an inseparable bond between knowledge and experience, especially when building on the foundation stones of other masters, a bond that has grown out of favour in our contemporary age. Or, to put it in more prosaic terms, “to follow in the footsteps of masters,” which has been my credo for over 46 years, since first enrolling as a young art student in September of 1964, at the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD University) in Toronto, and validated 5 years later when during our honeymoon, I stood in front of Michelangelo’s work in Florence, Italy. Since then, my aim has been to focus my life on following in the footsteps of masters, including to find through writing of epic poetry, the “city not built with human hands,” or as Augustine called it, “the City of God,” the essential fabric of a living tapestry called the Kingdom of God.


This blog is dedicated to the invaluable encouragement and faith of my wife Alice, my entire and extended family of children and grandchildren for whom “father,” and “opa,” as well as “godfather,” are a comfort and inspiration. Then there’s the care of one-of-a-kind friends such as Michael, Wayne, Verna, Alisha, Ciaran ( you know who you are ). And last but not least my mentors, among whom I am proud to name Michelangelo, John Gould, David Owen Campbell, C.S.Lewis, J.R.R.Tolkien, Oswald Chambers, and Paul of Tarsus.

Raw Data

I will try my best to keep this blog as close as I can to a written form of raw data, and not attempt to write a more profound work of literary prowess. In fact, I may even try out my new voice-to-text software and convert my propensity for endless chatter into legible text. In other words, it’s a discourse without borders yet within reason, thoughtful yet unapologetic. All errors and omissions are intentional.

Good News

On January 28, 2010, I received a letter from the University of Alberta to inform me that the admissions committee had formally recommended my name to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. The letter stated I had been “selected from a strong slate of candidates.” Nice to know it’s still in me at age 64. April will be a month of preparation, even though I started studying before the new year already, just to become acquainted with the research material. Classes start officially at the Spring Institute on campus, on May 3, 2010, after a Welcome Reception the evening before. Rest assured – it’s good for the heart and mind.

How I got here

So how did I get to that place of choosing to go back to school at the young age of 65? Needless to say, the prospect of turning 65 on April 15, 2010, contributed a great deal to my decision to go back to school. On September 15, 2009, I sent my application for admissions to the University of Alberta, Canada, to undertake graduate studies in Communications and Technology. My goal? A Masters of Arts degree and hopefully, perhaps somewhat optimistically a doctorate degree. And yes, despite my usual criticism of an over-digitized, saturated information age, that same digitized technology has made my studies possible because of UofA’s most welcome distance learning and live online streaming program.

accutane lawsuit