1. – “We are servants of the mystery. We were put here on earth to act as agents of the infinite, to bring into existence that which is not yet but which will be through us.”
2. – Creativity: “To pull from the silences that which is not, yet.”
Less than a year ago I had the good fortune of reading The War of Art by bestselling author Steven Pressfield. Since then, I’ve gone through it two more times.
Before that, I had no clue whatsoever as to who this “Pressfield” guy was.
The first quote, excerpt, is from The War of Art. The second however is something that I wrote over 2 years ago. The truth is that we don’t have to step too deeply into literature or other sources to find many variations of the same thing. The fact that we both wrote “that which is not yet” does at least a little bit, blow my mind.
The reason I wrote this is to point out that wisdom and it’s sources have nothing to do with age, background, achievements, education etc. etc. etc. We are all creative, whether you’re a kid on the streets or the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Keep in mind that “It is the people no one imagines anything from, who do the things no one can imagine.” Graham Moore
In today’s day and age of social media, the need for likes, success and acceptance, I think that most would be hard-pressed to find people who actually live the idea that, sometimes life is about following what you truly believe in at any cost. For me personally, the process, that point of no return, or at least a hint of it, started when I was about 30. Over the next couple of years I would devour just about every little piece of “self-help” that I could get my hands on, hoping to learn about my demons, understand them and miraculously “find” myself. I even did a stint with a counsellor, a wonderful woman, great listener, filled with compassion and empathy.
At 60, my hunger for understanding continues with a somewhat hidden smirk, that of the kid with the keys to the candy shop.
As Socrates put it: “An unexamined life is not worth living.”Carl Jung, perhaps less brutal, wrote: “Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”Jung then went on to say:
“The highest, most decisive experience is to be alone with one’s own self. You must be alone to find out what supports you, when you find that you can not support yourself. Only this experience can give you an indestructible foundation.”
I have spent almost my entire life alone with the exception of a few years married to a woman far more special than my once young heart allowed me to see. True loneliness however, is not an end product of being alone. As Jung put it:
“Loneliness does not come from being alone, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important.”
Personally, I believe that the most important thing that anyone can do in one’s lifetime is to comb through their soul for understanding, identify the why’s of their actions, understand their fears, act on solving what they are capable of and accept and be at peace with their limitations. This does not mean that I am without fear or demons. They are constants of life. The direction of a boat however, is perhaps better understood if one has at least some knowledge of the winds, currents and terrain and of course the boat itself.
Out of all the knowledge of mankind, self-knowledge is by far the most important. Without it, there is no authentic self.
This article was written by Allan Denne, Royal Canadian Legion Seniors Chair. Branch 302/Zone E5. – Gravenhurst
Walter (Bud) Herd told me he joined The Canadian Armed forces just days short of his 19th birthday.
He joined in Cooksville, Ont.; joined The Black Watch Regiment, First Battalion, Canadian Army, 2nd division. The regiment embarked on basic training in Orillia. Soldier Walter (Bud) Herd trained and resided at the armoury in Orillia where, upon completion of training, the unit was transported to Newfoundland to await deployment overseas.
In July of 1944 The Black Watch Regiment landed on the beaches of Normandy several weeks after the D-Day landing. Along with the rest of The Canadian 2nd division, the Black Watch Regiment was quickly deployed into the northern interior of France. The objective was to clear the enemy from many of the small towns, hamlets and villages around an area from Normandy up to Dunkirk and to keep that area free and clear of Germans.
Sixteen kilometres south of Dunkirk in northern France lies the hamlet of Spycker. Bud Herd’s platoon of soldiers advanced there and liberated the hamlet in September 1944. The next objective was to maintain that liberty and security. The Germans however, were relentless. Allied forces had already landed on the beaches of Normandy and the German defence of the French countryside was being tested to the limit. They were not willing to give up any more ground and they still had superior manpower, advantageous battle ground and the mighty 7th Panzer division to assist them. Clearing and securing those inland villages and towns was an horrendous undertaking involving some of the fiercest battles of the whole war and some of the bloodiest losses. And during the campaign, The Black Watch Regiment suffered more casualties than any other Canadian infantry battalion.
In a quiet moment before yet another skirmish in Spycker, Bud took time to write a birthday message to his girlfriend Edith back home in Mimico, Ont. On the back of a Canadian Legion cigarette box he wrote and sent this message; “It’s just a cigarette box but it brings thoughts and memories of the days past and the days to come. Happy Birthday. Bud.”
Edith’s 20th birthday was Oct. 5, 1944. The card reached her in March of 1945.
After several gains and losses around Spycker, Bud told me that around suppertime on the evening of Sept. 13 it appeared the Germans had abandoned the village. Budand the rest of the platoon then settled in for the night, but on awakening in the early September morning, Buddiscovered everyone from the Black Watch platoon had also abandon the village! Everyone except him. He was alone! But on a lonely, frightening walk around the village Bud’ quickly discovered he was not alone; the Germans had returned. Bud, along with one more of his comrades, was quickly captured and taken as a prisoner of war.
In Bud’s mind today that was Friday the 13th of September 1944. History might show there was no Friday 13th in September of 1944, but to young Bud and his comrade, fighting for their lives, captured by the German enemy, fearful that every minute might be their last, it was indeed the most unlucky day of their lives.
At 21 years of age Bud became a German prisoner of war. Bud and his companion were repeatedly told “Das kreig ist uber!”(The war is over — for you.) They were immediately transported to a German prisoner of war camp in Dunkirk. In the scramble of battles for control of the French towns and villages, little information was passed along through any networks or channels, allied or otherwise, regarding prisoners of war. Although Bud was allowed to write one letter, he was never sure it was ever mailed back home to his father.
Bud became a missing person. He was listed on reports as “missing in action. presumed dead.”
But they were not dead. They were prisoners, held with a group of about 200 other prisoners in Dunkirk, France; with men from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Canada, France (the resistance) and United States. “Das kreig ist uber!”
Prisoners! Alone; forgotten. Missing, presumed dead. For them, the war was over.
They too would soon be getting ready for Christmas; Christmas as a prisoner of war. Without even any contact with family, friends or the outside world.
At many points in collecting the bits and pieces of this soldier’s Christmas story, I could see the tears slowly welling in that old soldier’s eyes and I knew I had pressed the story to the limit on that day. Through time I hoped the blanks would fill in; they had to. These are stories that must be told. These are the sufferings, the heartbreaks and sacrifices that make possible all the Christmas we are able to celebrate.
The German guards had taken some of the prisoners from the prison camp, Bud told me.
“We were marched out of the compound across the field to an old bombed out building. We figured they were just taking us out to shoot us!
“There was an old piano on the second floor, an old upright piano. It looked to be in good shape. They made us lug that damned old thing down two flights of stairs, cursing, swearing and sweating, fearing those German guards would shoot us at any time.
“We lugged that damn thing across the field into the old jail again.
“The Germans said we could lug it into our bombed-out prison area; use it for Christmas music, play some Christmas carols on it.We did!”
“Oh!” I questioned Bud, “You were there over Christmas?”
“Seven months I was there. Missing; Missing, presumed dead.”
I remember our own family Christmas celebrations usually being a solemn gathering highlighted by a family Christmas dinner, much laughter and wine, fellowship with family and friends followed by a gift exchange then some Christmas carols. How fortunate we were, how fortunate we are! Fortunate that those who serve us so bravely and risk their lives in doing so, do it so well.
I asked Bud what his Christmas meal consisted of in that horrible prison, in that forgettable year and he told me this part of his story.
The prisoners in Dunkirk were forced to forage for food in the bombed fields, dig for vegetables, fruit and any other food roots they could find. There was nothing left of Dunkirk, nothing but a bombed-out pile of rubble. There would be no Christmas feast for Budthis year. The only Christmas rations Bud and his fellow prisoners could manage to find was one old bag of mostly soggy Brussels sprouts and those they had to hide from their German captors. “We cut off the loose, wilting soggy brown leaves, cleaned them up as best we could for a salad and boiled the inner hearts for our Christmas feast,” Bud told me with a quivering voice.
“It was Christmas 1944, Seven months I spent there!Seven months. Missing, presumed dead.”
In the spring of 1945 the allied invasion of France had all but overwhelmed the German occupiers. The German army generals, sensing the futility of their resistance and wanting to free as many of their countrymen as possible, made a deal to exchange 200 prisoners of war from around the Dunkirk prison. Among those prisoners exchanged was Walter (Bud) Herd. He was released, all 97 pounds of him, and was returned to England to recover. He was freed at last, freed about the same time as the letter he had written on being captured reached his father and his girlfriend Edith in Mimico.
Here are a few headshots of Gravenhurst’s Jeremy Rand without any editing or retouching. I do want to thank Jeremy for giving up a bit of his time for this mini session when tonight is dodgeball night.