Monday, March 15, 2004


"Waves of freezing rain amassed layer upon layer of crystal chaos -- as destructive as it was beautiful. Ottawa was a city of ice. Tens of thousands of homes were cast into darkness and left without heat as hydro poles snapped like toothpicks. It was the storm of the century. Damage topped $1 billion. Crippled communities shivered in sub-zero temperatures that numbed even the hardiest." (Katthleen Harris, The Ottawa Sun, January 1998)

As I noted below, I'm getting together notes for a talk I am giving Friday in DC about the Sexual Revolution. We are using Ang Lee's film The Ice Storm as a jumping off point for our discussions. Here's me gathering my thoughts....

Great art is found in the combination of mastery of craft and lyrical/poetic imagery. A piece "works" in so far as its imagery speaks "thousands of words" to the receiver, by combining with their past experience to lead them to new or deeper truths.

Unraveling the meaning of art can often be as simple as taking its central images at face value. People struggling with what a painting or a poem or a film mean, too quickly abandon the literal meaning of the images to start struggling with the meanings to whcih they might be pointing.

A sign of a great work of art is that its central metaphors are so carefully chosen, that the more a viewer plumbs the literal meaning of the metaphor, the more the lyrical meaning is manifest.

So, the central metaphor in The Ice Storm, is an ice storm. The film is about two families, basically being ravaged by the Sexual Revolution. I am going to build my talk around the image of an ice storm, drawing heavily from a fabulous three-part account of Canada's "Great Ice Storm of 1997" written by Kathleen Harris, that appeared in the Ottawa Sun - love that it was the Sun here! - in January of 1998.

"First drizzle, then rain fell from the sky. Chilly temperatures quickly transformed the liquid to a glass-like ice which coated everything it touched.

A day earlier, people were pre-occupied about how the weather forecast would affect skating conditions on the Rideau Canal. Soon, roads became slippery and treacherous, killing a 36-year-old Toronto man and his 61-year-old mother. Both were driving to a local funeral service. Yet people stood transfixed at the beauty of crystallized trees and growing layers of icicles pointing down from rooftops like silvery daggers.

Few realized then what price we would pay for that glorious, dazzling beauty. "

Do I even need to comment here? The parallels to the causes, experience of and the effects of the Sexual Revolution become so amazingly clear when you substitute it for the disaster being described in Harris' piece. I'm afraid to ruin the effect of the metaphor by saying too much....Really too fun and fascinating...

On the impact of sexual activity without a moral context. How, contrary to the Gospel of contemporary culture, sexual license doesn't free, but ends up sapping energy....

"As ice layers continued to thicken, tree branches began to weaken under the weight.
Within days, they began to snap off like toothpicks, bringing down anything in their path.
Power lines and poles followed, leaving more and more people in a blackout."

Where did the Sexual Revolution come from?....

"Was it El Nino? Global warming? Or a freakish event that signals the dawn of a new millenium. Paul Delannoy, manager of Environment Canada's regional weather centre in Ottawa, isn't willing to dabble in theories of the dawn of a new millennium; he quickly dismisses those thoughts as 'quack science.' Delannoy prefers the simple explanation to what caused the ice storm: Mother Nature. 'I don't believe any man-made measure of time has anything to do with it," said Delannoy. "How does Mother Nature know it isn't 2010 or 2020?' "

All of the government officials and bureaucrats in the Canada ice storm story stand in for all the culture makers and social pundits who for forty years have been telling us what a good thing the Sexual Revolution is. They keep offering strategies, adjustments and excuses to deal with the storm. It's like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic...

As temperatures plunged, some tempers rose in rural areas still without power.

And much of the frustration was directed at Ontario Hydro. As power outages dragged on, the provincial utility faced growing criticism that it had done a poor job of informing people about progress. People were left in the dark in more ways than one.

Earl Davison, a design engineer for Ontario Hydro, admits there were flaws in response procedures. "We did lots of things right, but we did some things wrong," he said.

Workers were more sharply focused on the immediate task of restoring power than on updating customers on progress. Ontario Hydro responded to criticism by launching a public relations program, which included visits to shelters to give reports to storm victims and placing full-page advertisements in newspapers and on radios.

Yes, what we need is more explicit sex education in schools...oh, and an abundance of colorful free condoms! And then we need stars from ABC television shows to tell us to talk to our kids about how to have sex without getting AIDS! That will fix everything!

How living through the Sexual Revolution has felt to most of the good, simple people who have been flung around in the last forty years, like sheep without shepherds...

Most storm victims did an admirable job of keeping chins up, but fatigue and frustration took their toll on some. Physical signs of weariness became evident as one day without power tortuously followed another. People walked around shelters with bags under eyes and sallow complexions. Some were brought to tears by fatigue.

But most tried to keep at least the appearance of staying upbeat. One woman at a Kemptville shelter said she went into the bathroom and wept alone.

Another resourceful resident managed to keep a positive attitude even though she was forced to move her family to an emergency shelter. But she cracked once, and all it took was a cut lip to trigger it. "Do you ever watch a movie while something is really bothering you and it doesn't take much for tears to come?" Diane Bartlett asked. "That's what happened. It wasn't one feeling. It was overwhelming."

Dr. Robert Cushman, Ottawa Carleton's medical officer of health, said stress levels rise each day for those without power and normal routine. "Either way, they're stressed," he said. "They don't want to stay at home and they don't want to leave."

Some storm victims suffered sleeplessness, anxiety and mood fluctuations. Disruption was particularly hard on the frail, the fiesty and the elderly. Many became fearful and teary.

While some storm victims began to feel a sense of despair, volunteers and emergency workers drew on an amazing source of adrenalin which allowed them to work long hours to help people.
"In some ways, it's a case of the strong getting stronger and the weak getting weaker," Cushman said.

But even the most strong-willed can only work full tilt for so long before they become weary and worn down, he said.

On how people of classical virtue who have authentic spirituality to sustain them weather the Sexual Revolution, and naturally become a beacon in the darkness...

Ken Grahame probably never dreamed his century-old oven would help get Kemptville's 2,500 people through a week-long power outage. But that's exactly what happened when the baker and his family opened up their business to anyone wanting to use their 113-year-old wood-burning brick oven.

"It's the last commercial wood fire brick oven operating in Ontario that we know of," explained Grahame, whose family has been involved with the bakery for nearly 60 years.

For eight days, Grahame, 63, his wife Rose, his mother Lila, and their daughters Debbie Wilson and Cindy Colfe, were putting in 16- to 18-hour days at the bakery, cooking hundreds of pounds of ham, beef, pork and turkey that had been donated and then delivered to area emergency shelters.

In one day alone, Grahame estimates the 18x18-ft. stove -- built in 1885 when the bakery was erected -- cooked about 200 lbs. of turkey, 100 lbs. of beef, 80 lbs. of pork and 50 dozen muffins.
Over the course of the week, the family also whipped up about 80 dozen cookies and heated about 150 frozen dinners.

Besides broiling up goods for other people -- with the help of countless volunteers -- the Grahames also made the oven available to up to 20 people a day who cooked their own hot meals to take home to their families.

Gotta go to work...stay tuned for the long-term effects of the ice-storm, and how people recover from it.

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