Wednesday, 27 February 2013

John Robert Colombo- We Need to Know Ourselves

     In a section from the preface of a book written by Order of Canada Member and author John Robert Colombo titled “Fascinating Canada: A Book of Questions and Answers” strikes me captivating. The reason being, I feel in a few sentences he has managed to explain why I decided to stick to this blog, why it exists.
     “Many of us seem to have lost touch with our innate curiosity, especially in regards to our great country, and that is unfortunate, because curiosity is a great and essential gift. Curiosity is a trait that encourages us to wonder about ourselves and other selves, about the sciences and the arts, and ultimately about man's fate and human destiny” (page 8).
     To be honest, this is always a question I ask not only myself, but those who are ever up for a good old educated conversation. Why are we not more in tune with our own, incredible history? Our own captivating current affairs? I felt that there was one person who could maybe give me an answer as to why my generation (and even several members of generations before me) might be forgetting to delve into our massive nations', equally massive stories. That man would be John Robert Colombo himself, so ask him I did, over Reading Week 2013.
     John gave me the answer I myself had felt this whole time, public schools have been failing for the past half century in teaching national knowledge, which John believes is only an extension of self-knowledge in itself. The fact that he mentions “for a half century” is exciting, because for a half century, John has done some amazing things, here's a short explanation of his educated and interesting life.
     Born in Kitchener, Ontario on March 24th 1936, there was little knowledge or inclination that John would go on the career path he did. His first recollections of serious literature involved flipping through an astronomy book and being taken away by the images. He told me this has since left him with a “taste for space”, that can for sure be seen in his works. Starting with self-published compilation of poems (he even helped operate the printing press) called “This Citadel in Time”, he progressed to vast genres such as true-as-told UFO and extraterrestrial stories, fantasy, science fiction, several more works of poetry and as him and I had discussed earlier- Canadiana. Of course, coming back every now and then to space.
     Canadiana is were the “half a century” comment made me smile. It brought me back to a line in the preface of the book I had mentioned earlier titled “Fascinating Canada: A Book of Questions and Answers”. John, for the past fifty years, has dedicated roughly an hour a day to learning about our country. The knowledge has granted him such titles The Master Gatherer, I would say that's pretty accurate. When asked how he hasn't run out of things to study he explained to me how he thinks he never will! From our country growing in unexpected ways, we will always have more to learn. As a back up though, he mentions how the depth of quantum physics and infinite galaxies will keep him going. That first astrology book returns.
     To the fact that we know very little of ourselves, he says this needs to be ratified. Most of the residents from his now-home-city of Toronto not only come from a different town.. but a different country. They need to know about where they live as much as the residents who have been forever do.
     John isn't one to give advice, but he mentions the late Pierre Berton who said “find your klondike”. Find what you're passionate about, and learn it. Be it Canadiana like John and I, or maybe hockey like my roommate. Be it animals, or whatever your major at school it.
     Maybe us as Canadians need to learn our history more in schools, or take the time to do it ourselves. We as a nation (regardless of our comparably young age) can write a narrative as think as any other nation. We have reached levels of culture, development and historical footprints no one assumed we could in this time.      John has given me a clearer vision of why we need to do this, as well as given me personal pride two aspects. First that I now know more about my home country, but also that I have now had the honour of discussing it with an Order of Canada Member. I feel like someday John and I may talk again, maybe this time in person about our home nation. With all of this in mind, I want to leave you with some of the facts that I have learned from his book. Maybe others will flick through it after this.

#100. Thirteen year old Leonard Thompson was the first to benefit from insulin, in a Toronto hospital

#186. Russian Revolutionary Leon Trotsky was imprisoned in Amherst, Nova Scotia during the early days of the revolution.

#191. Prince Edward Island could fit into Lake Ontario

#250. A Canadian invented the Whoopee Cushion

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