Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Life at the Shuswap

Life for Mormons is inextricably connected with the concept of Eternal Life. I spent the first thirty years of my mortal life with the myth embodied in the Mormon classic tale called “Added Upon” as the guide for how to look for a wife. I looked hard and prayed hard but seemed unsuccessful for the most part. I had a friend Kenneth Anderson who also took a long time to find his soul mate. He told my mother that he was looking for the perfect woman. Mother’s rejoinder was, “What if when you find her, she is looking for the perfect man?” Well, I thought, Ken was as perfect as mortals can get. That kept me quiet in such discussions lest Mother might ask me what was taking me so long.

When I met Arta I knew that she was as perfect as women get, and the last fifty years have verified that opinion. But they have also taught me the grim answer to my mothers question. It is terrifying to have your imperfections found out by the best because her virtues strip you of pretense and leave you face to face with the shallowness of your own character. You can’t go back and do it all over again: that is not the way reality unfolds. If, on the other hand, life were a Broadway Play, an actor could humbly say, “Tomorrow is another performance: I’ll do better.” And that is a hope that requires a long run in the Theater to nourish it. For Mormons, that nourishment is called the doctrine of the Atonement, and coupled with it the sobering truth: you must endure to the end …. of the theater run.

When I fell in love, I thought that this will be forever, and so we were married in the temple for all eternity; but to me the phrase “for time” was only a theological chastisement of non-Mormon outsiders. The reality, it turns out, is that “time” is the only part of immortality that we will ever know: knowing is the essence of now; but immortality is promised to all, good bad or indifferent. The ideal “now,” that is the desired reality of being married, is for two knowing time travellers to be intent on making their “now” eternal, that is, Godly. Furthermore, the success of the play is a joint venture. For many it takes hard work and a long theatre run to achieve the knowing that is a group’s best achievement.

Falling in love with Arta brought with it life that was centered in the Shuswap. It began shortly after we met. I went to the arctic for the summer, and she went to camp with her family at the lake. She spent much of that time in the rain, and I spent it in the nightless days of northern light.

End Part One


  1. Hello -- The idea of life as a "theatre run" reminded me of Shakespeare's seven acts of man, which I have copied and pasted below, in case the metaphor resonated with anyone else. Nice for me to be reminded of it in your post. I wonder if Old William S. would have changed the last few lines of this excerpt from his play, given that modern man no longer has to go sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste in that seventh stage. I bow to my dentist, my optometrist and the beauty of a well-stocked fridge.

    And now to the famous quote:

    All the world's a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players:
    They have their exits and their entrances;
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
    Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
    And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
    And shining morning face, creeping like snail
    Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
    Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
    Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
    Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
    Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
    Seeking the bubble reputation
    Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
    In fair round belly with good capon lined,
    With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
    Full of wise saws and modern instances;
    And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
    Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
    With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
    His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
    For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
    Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
    And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
    That ends this strange eventful history,
    Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
    Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

  2. Again, your allusion to the seven ages of man sent me off to Wickapedia where I found that Mulready has a painting illustrating this concept. As well, at google books, whose address is below, I found a book of old wood carvings with separate illustrations, unlike Mulready who gets all of the ages on one canvas.

    How cool is that!