Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Twenty 


The Vine of Resentment


            Reid arrived in Kingston late Tuesday night without any money to spend on transportation, having just enough money to pay the 286 dollars for repairs for the motorcycle and pay for his bus ticket back. Once he had accepted the fact that his father's earnest pleas were not based on spite but rather a deep love and concern for his welfare, he enjoyed the time he spent with his father talking about jobs he could get if he graduated with his commerce degree and the kind of life he could have if he just stayed the course. He sympathized with Reid that the courses were dry and boring at the beginning but that they would increase in depth and become interesting to him over time. Reaganomics was at full tilt and the wealth North America was generating open limitless possibilities. His motivation was renewed and his faith in his path restored. An übermensch bond trader he would become.

            After walking the first three miles from the bus station to the student ghetto, he still wasn't there. He didn't have a coat or gloves so he was forced to keep his hands in his pockets, rubbing his stitches raw. As he passed the century-old brick homesteads on the way to his house he thought about school and Drake and his new life without rowing. He wanted to buckle down and spend less time with Taylor, who he blamed for his misdeeds. He knew it was easy to use him as a scapegoat but that was what he did. Then he started to think about Daphne. Cold and miserable walking in the cold night air, thinking of her comforted him and made him warm. Simple, not to complicated and she was sexy. He considered asking her out before she was snagged by someone else. He would put it as a possibility. When he finally arrived he didn't think anyone really cared whether he was back or not so he left his grey sweatshirt in the front hall to indirectly announce his return from St. Catharine's. He would deal with his housemates in the morning.

            He tried to sleep but he couldn't. In his overtired state he devised a plan to salvage his term by divorcing myself from social activities and burying himself in his studies. The only thing that worried him at school now was his philosophy term paper. It was crucial for his grade point average. He decided to show Professor Bakhurst that he was in to the readings and liked the classes, but that he didn't have the necessary essay-writing skills. After an hour of restless turning, he started to read his philosophy book. It relaxed him because the readings gave his mind something to chew on. But it was also the way philosophers wrote. Plato and Aristotle and Hume and Schopenhauer and Kant and Nietzsche; these were his surrogate fathers who provided the wisdom and direction he lacked. As hard as he tried to be democratic in his choice of readings, he came back to Nietzsche. Required readings for the course were boring compared to the dynamic voice of Nietzsche. So to earn a high mark he made up his mind to go talk to Bakhurst in his office to confess his fears about writing the essay. It was either that or to continue letting it bring him down.

            A few minutes after he heard the post-pub ruckus from his window above the street Taylor and some others came into the house and played music. He could hear them laughing in the living room so he snuck back into bed. Almost immediately someone climbed up the stairs towards his room.

            "Reid! You madman!" He knocked on the door without waiting. "You awake?" Taylor flicked on the light. Reid was slow to react.

            "Turn it off. I'm sleeping."

            "You're back!" He didn't say anything. "We waited an hour for you after the dance until we finally had to leave. What happened?" He sat up.

            "Ah, a little turbulence but ultimately not a big deal."

            "What's with your arm?" Iodine and blood had soaked through the bandage.

            "Well, I got five stitches here and two there. And one here," he said motioning to the back of his right hand.

            "What happened?"

            "Well, there was a complaint about a glass door of a home that was smashed and I was at this other person's house washing my cuts when the cops came in. It was all pretty weird, so I went to the hospital for stitches. It's a bummer but everything's okay." Reid was as vague as he could be because he didn't want to talk about it. He just wanted to be left alone.

            "What?" He was quiet for a moment.

            "I'm all right," he said. Taylor let it go.

            "There's a party going on downstairs and your presence is requested."

            "I'm sleeping."

            "Oh come on you lazy cus, we're the hosts tonight." Taylor expected him to join in with his usual tentative zeal.

            "I'll pass. I have an early day tomorrow." His first class started at 1:30.

            "But never let school get in the way of your education. You know my dictum."

            "Taylor! Don't you listen?"

            "Yeah, I listen," he said, sounding genuinely hurt. "Sorry...  Ah, have a good sleep, I'll see ya tomorrow." He gently closed the door after him. A penetrating ambivalence weakened Reid's resolve as the music played below. He tried to sleep but there was another knock on his door.


            "Yeah." What ever happened to privacy?

            "Can I come in?" Michelle's voice was noticeably tender.

            "Well..." He sighed.

            "Taylor said you didn't want to come downstairs." She stood for a moment at the door. "What happened to you in St. Catherine's? Are you all right?" She walked cautiously towards him in the dark.

            "I'm all right. I missed the bus, that's all." Sitting up he saw light of the moon reflect off her cheek.

            "Sorry, I'll leave if you want to sleep."

            "Well... No, it's okay." Tension in his stomach eased up. He could tell she had been dancing from the fresh smell of Ivory soap. Michelle sat on my bed.

            "We missed you tonight."


            "I just wanted to say..." she turned her head and he saw a tear welling up in her eye.

            "What?" Reid wanted to gently reach out to her.

            "My-" She took a deep breath and exhaled, lightly showering him with the scent of beer. "My weekend has been long and tiring too." When he heard this he dropped his head. He felt the wrath of impatience. Laughter from downstairs was heard. She looked up and saw the tension in his features.

            "Sorry, I'll let you get to sleep." Waiting for a response that didn't come, Michelle walked out of his room and closed his door with vigour. A few minutes later the music was turned down. Reid closed his eyes and heard a distant horn from a passing train somewhere on the dark horizon. Under the full moon the party soon began to die down as the nasty vine of resentment grew in him like a weed.


Chapter Twenty-one 

The Golden Mean


            In the morning the stitches on the back of his hand throbbed, the skin bright red along the perimeter of the cut. He still didn't know what he was going to say when someone asked him how he cut himself.

            Still stubborn that he could figure out how to write the essay on his own without the help of Bakhurst, he forced himself to start it at Douglas Library but on the way he bumped into Daphne. He hadn't seen her since Drake's heart attack. Her hair was all done up and she was looking pretty attractive so I stopped to chat.

            "I love your jacket," she said. Reid was wearing a Christmas present that is father had given him last year. He never wore the Polo jacket because of that God damn little horse on it, but he couldn't find his other jacket this morning. Besides, today he wanted to get back into the fold a bit.

            "I've been busy with rowing season and all that and now that it's ended I wanted to ask you if you'd like to go somewhere for a bite to eat." He hadn't planned on asking her out. It just sort of came out. He didn't know why but he wanted to be with her at that moment - just the two of them away from campus and away from all the social politics.

            "Dinner? That sounds lovely." He might have been a bit insane to ask her out but he felt the need to be close to her plump bosom housed under her duffle coat. There was an urge to know if they were compatible.

            "How ‘bout tonight?" Rash. But he didn't want to spend it at his house with Taylor and Alex.

            "Okay. That sounds grand." For a moment after hearing that word he had second thoughts. "And where are you going to take me?" Reid didn't have the foggiest where they should go.

            "I'm flexible."

            "I heard there's a good restaurant downtown called Chez Piggy. Why don't we go there?" He hadn't heard of it.


            "Come by my place at 6:30?" He said he would.

            "I need to get to class. I'm late." She glanced at her watch and looked at him like he was in trouble.

            "Yes, you are late you silly boy." His head was suddenly full of ideas as he walked swiftly to the library thinking of all the possibilities that dinner might bring.




    Settled in the library he blankly read through words that he vaguely understood in Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, staring but not reading. Finally in a fit of desperation, he took out a fresh piece of paper and began to write:

In a small carrel
Far from peril,
I sit and tarry
Soft and weary.


            Reid sat quietly at his walled-in desk feeling the need to do something but had no idea what to do. Too many questions whirled through his mind every time he picked up his pen to write so he walked to the philosophy department and found Bakhurst's office. His door was ajar so he knocked lightly.

            "Professor Bakhurst?" I said through the opening.

            "Yes," a voice answered. "Come in." He removed his jacket and opened the door gently.

            "Do you have a moment?"

            "Yes Reid, of course. Have a seat." Reid was surprised that he knew his name because he had never raised his hand in class or for that matter ever spoken to him before. Unsure what the protocol was, he closed the door behind him and sat in the chair in front of the desk. It was the first time he had ever visited a professor in their office.

            "How's the paper coming along?" He raised his eyebrows.

            "Actually, that's why I'm here," he said, looking into his intelligent brown eyes. Steady and trusting, he still felt awkward. "Well, rowing has taken up much more time than I had expected."

            "You're on the rowing team are you?"

            "Yeah. The season just ended. We came fourth, but just by a hair." Bakhurst nodded.

            "Did you enjoy it?"

            "Yes, it was a good experience." He shivered in his cold office. "I'm close to writing it but I can't seem to find the right words." Rows of books dominated the left wall and a framed painting of St. Paul's Cathedral hung above his desk.

            "I see." He lifted his hand up to his face and grabbed his chin. "Do you know what you want to say in the essay?"

            "Yeah, I think so."

            "Try to describe it to me." Bakhurst's request terrorized him.

            "I want to say that Aristotle's Golden Mean is like a work of art and, well, that each person's Golden Mean is different. You know how Aristotle describes the Mean as the middle point of a circle?"

            "Yes." Bakhurst smiled and leaned back on his swivel chair and clasped his hands behind his head, giving Reid space to speak.

            "Or better still, he says it's like that of the number six between the two extremes of two and ten?"

            "Yes." Bakhurst's tweed jacket hung off his outstretched arms.

            "I want to say that as a moral theory it sounds good on paper but in reality it's not really the case. For example, being brave for one person may be an eight instead of a six. And for another person, to be brave may only be a four." Reid's face was red and his palms were sweaty. "One's Golden Mean is different for each person."

            "Right. I think I understand. Good show." He lowered his hands to the desk.

            "You know that passage in Book Two, paragraph six?" Reid reached for his book and flipped it to a marked page. "Thus a master of any art avoids excess and defect, but seeks the intermediate and chooses this - the intermediate not in the object but relatively to us."

            "Yes. It's a classic passage: virtue as art," he said. Bakhurst had opened his book to the same page.

            "And he says," Reid continued excitedly, trying not to rush his words. "`Virtue, then, is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean, i.e. the mean relative to us, this being determined by a rational principle, and by that principle by which the man of practical wisdom would determine it."


            "One's virtue then, is determined by one's character, and not everyone's character is the same. Do you recall the passage in paragraph one when Aristotle writes: ‘Thus, in a word, states of character arise out of like activities.  This is why the activities we exhibit must be of a certain kind; it is because the states of character correspond to the differences between these.  It makes no small difference, then, whether we form habits of one kind or of another from our very youth;'" he lifted his hand, "'it makes a very great difference, or rather all the difference.'"

            Bakhurst sat back looking at him with raised eyebrows. "I think Aristotle would have no disagreement with you; this is what you should try to focus on in your paper."

            "Then why is there only one norm, one moral code for society? Why do people adhere to one way of behaviour dictated by authorities through the media? Why isn't the morality of today to encourage multiplicity of individuality rather than mass conformity?" For a second Reid forgot he was speaking to a professor with a PhD from Oxford rather than Taylor. He was scared that Bakhurst's response might have a tremendous impact on him.

            "It's a good question Reid. And I don't think I can give you a good answer. You may want to bring that question up in your paper. Just remember to be objective and address both sides of the argument. Don't forget in your thesis and conclusion to say exactly what you believe. Keep your argument rational and you'll find your way. I'm confident that you will. I think you're on track. Write a first draft quickly and then re-read it a few times to ensure it expresses what you want it to say."

            "O.K., I can do that."

            "But you don't have much more time. It's due in less than two weeks you know." He looked at his watch when there was a knock at the door. "Come in." An upper-year student opened the door. "I'll be with you shortly Arthur." Reid reached for his knapsack at his feet and felt an immense sense of relief when he stood up.

            "What seat did you row?" he asked.

            "Bow seat," he replied. "My main function was to have good technique and balance the boat."

            "Balance and technique, yes."

            "Did you row?"

            "Once or twice. I played cricket mainly. Great sport, cricket. You know what Thomas Edison once said: Great ideas originate in the muscles, or was it Darwin?" Arthur was waiting but he still wanted to talk to Bakhurst because he still had so many unanswered questions.

            "Have you been there?" He pointed to the watercolour of St. Paul's.

            "Yes. It's quite something. The architecture is brilliant. I believe it was Friedrich von Schelling who said architecture is frozen music. That it is; that it is." Reid felt daring for a moment.

            "I've-" He stuttered. "I would've thought that architecture is frozen time."  Bakhurst looked at the Masonic masterpiece and nodded, a slight grin of mischief forming.

            "So time would be music!" Bakhurst's eyes brightened, showing his tea-stained teeth. "Brilliant."

            "Would that mean...that the facia would be the lyrics?" said Reid, hoping he wasn't pushing it.

            "And the turrets would be the melody!" When he let out his laugh from under the watercolour, Reid was startled at the volume.

            Just as he turned to leave he noticed a portrait of Nietzsche hanging on the wall beside Bakhurst, with his patented moustache hanging off his upper lip like a waterfall.

            "How come we aren't studying Nietzsche?"

            "Nietzsche! Well," Bakhurst's eyes livened. "Nietzsche is still somewhat misunderstood within academic circles, though recently there has been a new wave of scholarship and research of his work."


            "Yes. Professor Nietzsche was misinterpreted during the zeitgeist of the early part of this century, but now scholars are seeing that his philosophy was cohesive and even prophetic.  This movement is producing some wonderful books." Reid thought of Nietzsche's words in Wallace Hall.

            "The aphorism that I keep on hearing over and over is `Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.'"

            "Yes. I like that one, but also `Life without music would be a mistake.' Have you heard that one?"


            "There are plenty of good aphorisms," he said. "Just be careful because Nietzsche can be a bit strong for a freshman. I don't discourage it, but just be careful you don't become caught in a storm of nihilism."


            "Well because Nietzsche writes in a polemic style and can be taken out of context." He rose. "But I'm happy to see you're doing the recommended readings. Teachers are always glad to see that."

            "Thanks Professor Bakhurst."

            "Anytime." He shook his hand. "Good. Bye Reid." As he turned towards the door, he stopped and straightened his posture.

            "Um, what do you do when your dreams start to change?" Reid was instantly relieved that he didn't stutter. He looked at his intelligent eyes.

            "Perhaps it means you are caught in an estuary." He raised his Oxford chin slightly. "Goethe once wrote: only those who change remain akin to me.' Just watch out for the riptide."  Reid was unable to say anything. He could only the laugh.



Table of Contents

1.     The Student Ghetto
2.     The Living Tree Principle 
3.     Overcoming Neophobia 
4.     Socrates' Big Swinging Ice Pick 
5.     Life As An Adjective 
6.     The Timestealer 
7.     Range of Multiplicity 
8.     The Banks 
9.     The Means is the End 
10.  The White Haired Doctor 
11.  Mortally Wounded 
12.  Visigoth Code of Ethics 
13.  Cognitive Dissonance 
14.  The Chinese Laundry Café 
15.  Catching a Crab 
16.  Sheer Recklessness 
17.  Shattered Glass 
18.  In His Father's Voice 
19.  The Dreamstealer 
20.  The Vine of Resentment 
21.  The Golden Mean 
22.  The Altered Eye Alters All 
23.  Missing the Middle Part 
24.  Anima 
25.  Taylor Not Afraid 
26.  Beyond the Monoperspectival Norm 
27.  The Grip 
28.  Visigoths in Tweed 
29.  The Unseen Hand 
30.  Dislocation 
31.  Pouring Heavens of Valhalla
32.  So Then...       



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