Mr. Chancellor, each of you who I am now, for the first time, privileged to address as fellow members of Queen's University, ladies and gentlemen:
For a scientist and engineer to speak at a Convocation assembled to recognize the many disciplines of Graduate Studies, of Education and of Theology presents a formidable challenge. Yet there is much unity in their diversity, for each is forward looking and we are now in and of a time which Paul Valery has described as one in which even the future is not what it used to be.
One of the best known examples in which our several disciplines got entangled began, over 500 years ago, when Copernicus proposed that the earth revolved around the sun rather than vice-versa. Conclusive evidence that this was so was published in 1632 by Galileo in his celebrated "Dialogue between the two systems." The rest of the story you know. The real error which the Inquisition made was its failure to arrange for an independent check on Galileo's observations before it undertook to settle the issue. The tragedy of the story flows from the establishment, in a time of change, of a restriction of freedom which was extremely damaging. Looked at as of today, the culture shock caused by Galileo is minuscule to that of our presently increasing . and expanding knowledge of the Cosmos. How incredibly little we are! How incredibly little is Spaceship Earth! Yet it is not only fair, but essential, to ask, who got the idea of making astronomical and astrophysical measurements? Who tried to formulate their meaning as best they could? Whose thoughts ranged to the farthest galaxies? Whose thoughts to possibly universes numberless? Earth creatures of a genus we choose to call "Homo sapiens". Let us never forget, in wonder and in awe, that we are in the presence of Infinity. But let our realization of this permit us, in each of our disciplines, while never claiming an unjustified self-importance, to unashamedly deny our nothingness.
What are the tools available as we strive in a world of change to increase our awareness of and our participation in things-as-they-are and our hopes for things-as-we-think-they-should-be? I would hold that the whole never ending educative process is essentially an establishment of communications by individual human beings between themselves and no less, with the living and vibrant total Cosmos, both immediate and remote, of which we are a part. What point is there in studying History, except as a means of communication with the civilizations and the people of Earth's past? What point is there in studying French, except as a means of communication with those who have used, who now use, and who in the future will use French as a. primary idiom of their communications. What point is there in studying science, except to communicate with our surroundings, both near at hand and at the unreachable star? What point is there in studying medicine except to communicate with life as we know it? What point is there in studying theology except as an exploration into God, which, in human terms, is a communication with God? And all this must be infused with a living doctrine, related to life. I have been told that in the book of Genesis, the name of God is Elohim, - "the strong one" . That is a good name, but, in due time, the Gospels speak of "Our Father". The values remain but there is change in our relationship with the Ultimate. It appears to be the nature of the Divine Architect to create. Certainly this seems to be part of the world-process, and that is a process of change. .
I am not being old-fashioned, I am being both modern and realistic when I say that the tools for all this are the old "three Rs", - readin', ritin' and 'rithmatik. How I wish that we were as proud and as particular of the English tongue, as the French are of theirs. Our English language is a magnificent heritage, not just to those of us whose mother tongue is English, but for all Canadians. How could Shakespeare's sonnets and plays have survived if they had not been beautifully written, if- 3 - they were not capable of being beautifully read? I remind you that reading is an aural art, not just looking at a printed page or a computer print-out. Art and music are extensions in the same milieu. Mathematics is, to me, a universal language, capable of expressing concepts and limitations as well as information. It has its own special and abiding beauty. Of all the universal languages, I probably love music the best. Nor have I forgotten the ultimate of communication. Pythagoras has been credited with two co-ordinated definitions. The Word, he said, is Number manifested in Form. God, he said, is the Supreme Music, the nature of which is Harmony.
Perhaps I am being too academically abstract. Permit me to simplify things with a poem, which, although written for children, is not out of place in considering order and harmony. It concerns something Canadian. It concerns the musk ox. Now:- "The musk ox is, to say the least & rather hairy looking beast. His hair is long and thick and rough But, actually, he's not so tough. Despite that awesome looking coat You'd find a chap more like a goat Than like a buffalo inside, The large fierce look is in the hide. Because the creature's habitat Is far from here,, and north of that, Where temperatures are scarcely hot The musk ox needs each hair he's got. So never, never scorn a creature Because of some peculiar feature Such as the musk ox and his hair. It has good reason to be there."
Each individual, you and I, each one of us here lives his own era. He may live backward or forward. If he lives backward he will essentially accept its established ways. He will fit in comfortably, often very usefully, essentially uncreatively. If he lives forward, as you have done, Mr. Chancellor, he will take his place at the point where his era is shaping itself into something new. You sir, managed to do so even under the sometimes artificial restrictions of service as Her Majesty's representative. I recall your saying that in that capacity His Excellency the late Vincent Massey had the reputation of being able to pat__ a platitude until it purred like an epigram. You needed no such finely honed ability. You jogged your way as an independent being into all our hearts. The greatest individual lives at the forward edge of his era where life is throbbing, expanding, changing. Where more so should this be true than in the disciplines with which this Convocation is concerned?
Let no one deny the value and importance of tradition. This Convocation is, from one point of view, almost pure tradition, the costumes, the colours, the formalities, the ceremonies. But, when appreciatively considered, it becomes tradition at its best, because it is creative and because it is concerned with you and with me as individuals and not with a' group en masse. You, Mr. Chancellor, and all our fellow members of this great University, are being inevitably pushed into new integrations of life and thought. Ahead lies doing. That is what our admission to a degree really says. .
May I remind you that, of all the universities in. Canada, this University has a special tradition, a unique reputation, a demonstrated accomplishment in times of change of retaining its alumni in a living continuum of awareness and appreciation of their alma mater. In this communication there is a vital element of joy. I am reminded of one of the meditations of Thomas Traherne written in the mid-17th century:-
I remember once, (Traherne wrote), the first time I came into a magnificent and noble dining-room and was left there alone, I rejoiced to see the gold and state and carved imagery, but when all was dead and there was no motion, I was weary of it and departed dissatisfied. But afterwards when I saw it full of lords and ladies and music and dancing, the place which once had seemed not to differ from a solitary den, had now entertainment and nothing of tediousness in it, By which I perceived (upon a reflection made long after) that men and women are, when well understood, a principal part of our true felicity. By which I also found that nothing which stood still could, by doing so, be a part of happiness; and that affection, though it were invisible, was the best of motions.
You and I know well that, today, country by country, nation by nation, Spaceship Earth itself walks a tightrope between, on the one hand a Brave New World with its imposed psychological paralysis of dictatorship (and whether such dictatorship be fascist, or communist, or any other "-ist" or computer-ist, it would still be hell for me) and, on the other an atomic or ecological holocaust. In addition the potential for genetic engineering now raises its head. Here, in our country, our Canada, we have been aurally and visually fragmented in bitter words, especially over the past few weeks. Some of us are sick at heart at the damage which has been done. Under no . circumstances must these things be swept under the rug. That way lies a certainty of disaster. There are grim times ahead. My mind, my intellect tell me to be deeply pessimistic. My heart, my intuition refuse to accept any such pessimism. .At least we have a chance. Sometimes, thank God, the heart is right and the head wrong. Only rarely so, perhaps, but it has happened. It can happen again.
I submit that not one of us has any business being here today unless we are among those who would observe, who would discover, who would clarify, who would improve, who would build, who would create, who would be, in the words of the poet, a music maker and a dreamer of dreams.
We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams
World-losers and world forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world, forever it seems.
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Ninevah with our sighing
And Babel itself with our mirth
And o'erthrew them by prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying;
Or one that is coming to birth.
In the world that is coming to birth, I am not worrying about the fact that there will be change. After all, I have spent my professional career in research and development and for most of my life have been trying, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully, to change things, although never to change something purely for the sake of change. There was always at least some kind of real objective. My genuine concern, my concern here, is with the quality of the change and the criteria for freedom which it imposes. The years ahead will be highly dangerous and challenging. But who of us wants life without danger and challenge? There will be successes and there will be failures, even failures which may appear to be ultimate at the time. My heart still conceives that, symbolically, Socrates can enter into Adam and produce Marcus Aurelius. I, for one, still believe in the unreachable star.
May we then, each one of us, work to further a quality of change in which there resides hope for criteria for freedom, under which the conceivings of our hearts, the thinkings of our minds, the labour of our hands, may combine to charge each thing we fashion with a breath of our own creative spirit.