Sitting on the easy side of tragedy

In his book, The Prophet, Khalil Gibran describes sorrows and joys as an exact corollary of each other. We will have joy with the same intensity that we have sadness. For those of us who live our lives experiencing neither great joy nor great tragedy, Gibran’s teachings may seem to be not true. But for those of us who do experience great sadness… this teaching is what takes us through to embrace the next pinnacle of happiness in our life.

Why am I writing about this?

Because next week, people in Barrie have the opportunity to listen to two writers who have made a study of two very different tragedies in the middle part of this century. They’re tragedies which were both motivated by the narrowness of a political mind. They’re tragedies which affected the lives ofr thousands of people. The similarity ends there, except for the fact that these two authors will be reading from their work on the same evening, on the same stage, and for the same benefit.

Crawford Gordon was a Canadian driven by a vision and supported by the brilliance of a score of Canadian engtineers and designers who drew, re-drew and manufactured what’s been touted as the best conceived jet fighter plane the world has never seen. Gordon and “his” AVRO Arrow achieved limited fame last year when a CBC Mini Series gave the public the story that is a true Canadian tragedy. One man’s urgent ego (Gordon’s) pitted against another’s (PM John Diefenbacker) and the political force won.

Who was this man who so infected his staff that they toiled their lives to develop technology that was not repeated and was far ahead of its time?

Greig Stewart has just published his second book on the Avro Arrow, the first having been the inspiration for CBC’s mini series, which aired last September. Greig Stewart knows the Avro Arrow story inside out; he’s talked with the factory workers, designers, engineers and draftspeople whose skill put together the first, then second issues of an aircraft that was to catapult Canada into aviation glory. His most recent book, Arrow Through the Heart, explores the life of Crawford Gordon, one of the key players in this tragedy.

Greig will be discussing his book and its background for the general public Thursday evening (October 22).

Canada’s other tragedy occurred just years before the Arrow, as thousands of Canadians who were born on Canadian soil and lived here most of their lives, were plucked from their everyday existence qand interred in Prisoner of War camps. In Canada.

Ernest Hillen is a writer who explores a similar tragedy during World War Two when he was interred in a similar camp in Indonesia for three and a half years as a young child. In his first book, The Way of a Boy–A Memoir of Java, Ernest describes his life and the struggle of Prisoners of War to endure humiliating conditions of war. In 1996, Mr. Hillen published a second book, Small Mercies. A Voy After War, which has become a best seller. He describes with warmth and humour, his personal voyage to adolescence in a new, unfamiliar country.

Both authors will read from their work, discuss their reasons for writing, and share research anecdotes with their audience. The evening begins at 7 pm at the Army, Navy,Air Force Club on George St with wine and nibblies. First reading begins at 8 pm with the second at 9:15 pm. Coffee and desserts are served during intermission. Tickets to tyhe event are $20 and can be purchased at North County Books on Dunlop St., or by calling 728-7043.

The event is sponsored by the Gryphon Theatre Guild. .