The rain pounded in torrents on the boathouse roof last night. I fell asleep before it ended and woke up sometime after midnight to the stillness. I could hear a loon calling in the distance, its yearning voice searching for something lost. The moonlight, reflecting off the lake, made oily shapes on the ceiling. The shapes kept melting just before forming something my mind could identify – their dance was alluring – the patterns seemed to carry knowledge just out of my reach, like a conversation spoken in a strange tongue.
I’ve always hoped to get a firm hold on knowledge, to be able to identify it clearly and have it sit solidly in my hands, like a dictionary or a book, but I seem to rush past it as I whirl along consumed with one project or another.
If knowledge could form into a shape it would look like a withered old apple tree standing alone in a farmer’s field, dropping fruit that rots on the ground. Occasionally a child comes to play in its branches. She reaches for an apple and bites into the sharp fruit. She explores the deep cracks in the bark and hides things in the hollows of its trunk. But life pulls her away, and she forgets about her hidden treasures. She remembers the tree from time to time, and dreams of its branches reaching up to the sky. As time passes she drives her children by the old tree, but they don’t have time to stop. The malls are just down the road. Nobody notices the old apple tree and it may get cut down soon to make room for a subdivision.
Can we lose the knowledge we have? I read somewhere that we have lost the knowledge and skill that built the great cathedrals across Europe. Our stone masons, our tilemakers, our craftsmen have lost the knowledge previously handed down through years of apprenticeship. New technology is introduced every week, but can it replace the old?
Something tells me that our society isn’t getting any wiser. I may know how to use certain computer programs, how to drive a car or how to handle certain tools, but I’d struggle in the world of my grandmother – a world where every herb and plant had a use, where every bird and shrub could be identified and where even the slightest change in the weather was noticed. The more knowledge one had the easier life was. I believe this is still the case, although it isn’t as noticeable now. Knowledge has changed, but is the change for the better?
I often blame time for my lack of knowledge. I don’t have time to read all the books I should, to study the weather, to improve my understanding of the world around me. But I have just as much time as my grandmother had. When did life lose its simplicity? The world expects things a little faster than it once did, but I can still walk at my own pace. I have to force myself to slow down, stop and read a book, perhaps I’ll pick up Carl Honoré’s new book titled Slow (Random House). It looks at the new trends such as slow foods and other ways to slow things down.
This newspaper pushes me to learn and drives me to think; I hope it also does that for others. We try to base every issue around a theme. This month the focus is on work. Does our society still work in order to live well or are we living in order to work?
My work is my life and without it who would I be? I can’t honestly call what I do work. It doesn’t feel like work, although I do have time commitments, scheduled meetings and a list of things that must get done each month. I don’t feel as if I’m punching a clock because the clock doesn’t separate my life from my work, I work from home, from the cottage and from the office. Whether it’s meeting a new client, responding to e-mail, writing an article, searching for financial backing, or editing a column, I love every aspect of what I do. To know that I can publish words that will, in some small way, pass on knowledge is perhaps the strongest driving force.
In the publishing industry there is one requirement that a person must have to become a publisher: She must be a little nuts – not completely nuts – but a little. I’ve noticed the trait in publishers of both small and large publications. There is an element – a passion – that drives them to print words and thoughts, to get ideas out into the realm of conversation. But the passion is consuming. It devours the separation between home and office, between night and day, between rich and poor. While there might be some financial reward at the end of the road, most publishers don’t do it for that.
Lately, I’ve wondered if the passion gets lost with mergers and acquisitions? So many newspapers seem to lose their unique voices and the eccentricities that make them a vibrant part of their communities when they get bought out by larger media organisations.
The passion of the publisher disappears from the pages. I wonder if a publisher of 10 newspapers has as much passion for each of them as I do for mine?
I’ve talked with the presidents of international corporations, with artists, musicians, and writers and what I’ve found is that those with passion don’t separate their work from the rest of their life. Instead, what they do is an integrated part of who they are.
This newspaper was a challenge from the start. I put far more of my life and passion into it than anything I ever did before. I used up most of my savings, rented out my home, moved in with my mother, lived without holidays, new clothes or even a car. I leaned on friends and family, and with their help I was able to build a newspaper that is finally self-sustaining.
I didn’t do it to become rich, but for the reward of knowing that little by little we’re spreading knowledge. By making people think, by debating ideas and discussing issues, by capturing a unique moment and passing it on, this newspaper is doing something good in the world.
I must thank the writers involved, and the advertisers that make it possible – without them we couldn’t afford to print and distribute the 60,000 copies we publish each month. I encourage you to support our advertisers. Please call TD Canada Trust at 1-866-228-8881 to find out how to win $100,000. Their continued support is allowing us to grow.