Monday, June 10, 2013

The Class of 6T8

The Class of 6T8. At St. Michael's College at the University Toronto, alumni gathered to celebrate their 45th reunion. I wish I could have come. Classmates sent me photos after the party. I can pass those photos on to whomever.
At another time I might tell stories of old times, but I have only a small taste for nostalgia. Better to share a tune. Joan Baez had such a sweet voice. The lyrics live in our souls. One Too Many Mornings.
And farewell to Fr. Madden, CSB, he made us a family.

That's enough, on with the news.

Riding to Damascus. Paul was riding to Damascus when God struck him down and made him a preacher..... Those were Roman times, then came the Byzantines, the Arabian tribes, the Mongols, the Ottomans, the French and the British.
Always riding to Damascus, but will we ever get there?

The war rages, but the writer of this letter cautions us to not so easily describe it as Sunni versus Shia. We want to take a side, we want to help -- our intentions are good. But it's an ancient puzzle and we are not ancient people.
Read this Letter to Damascus

Learning Arabic. I have begun to study and learn the Arabic language, spoken by 240,000,000 people. To speak it, read it and write it. I have so far learned the 28 letters and their pronunciation. My teacher is a college student at UC Santa Barbara. She is Chaldean -- you have to look that up. Her home language is Aramaic, plus the Arabic.
I believe that one hour studying the language is equal to 20 hours of reading the history and the news about Syria.

I say a few words, I recognize a few letters, and it feels like my head will explode (in a good way).
Being able to communicate with people -- that takes effort, but it is rewarding.

Below is Syria spelled out in Arabic letters. Five letters starting from the right -- sinn, waw, ra, ya, alif -- those are the names of those five letters.


My teacher, after three lessons, said, "Which kind of Arabic do you want to learn, Classic or Levantine?" I was on the spot. Classic Arabic is the language of the Koran, of educated folk, of Al-Jazeera broadcast TV, and is widely understood, but it is the formal version of things. How people actually talk is the Levantine dialect in Syria -- quite different from how they talk in Egypt or the Gulf States or the Saharan countries, all of which have their own dialects. I choose to be thrilled by this complexity.

Farm News. In addition to delving into the Syrian mystery, I will get back to reporting the farm news from California. Here's the egg story.
Prop. 2, passed in 2008, requires California egg producers to make bigger cages for their hens. And here's my opinion -- well-intentioned consumers who want to be nice to chickens have passed a law that requires real chicken people to act in a good way. This is ignorance, but it's also typical of California voters to pass judgment on issues about which they know nothing.
Instead, I tell my fellow Californians -- you should get your own chickens and spoil them rotten if you wish to, build them palaces, fix them gourmet snacks. I'm not kidding -- that's a good thing to do. Or buy your eggs from people who spoil their chickens like you think they should be spoiled. Spread your poultry gospel of good will across the land.
But don't pass a law. We have far more regulations than anyone can even remember.

Set a good example -- you will accomplish so much more than attempting to control the behavior of other people.

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