TEN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NOTES
(first posted on 'Facebook',
1. Someone once said that, given an absolute choice of two things, I almost always manage to find a third. I've long considered this one of the truest observations ever made about me.
2. I detest being called 'Mister Waters' -- by anyone of any age for any reason. It does not communicate respect. Respect is calling me what I wish to be called. My name is Edward.
[Note: A few old friends do still call me 'Ed', but this is only because they met me when I was trying to shake off the 'Eddie' of my childhood. 'Ed' was a transitional compromise.]
3. Apart from necessarily formal occasions (weddings, funerals, etc) or costume events (Hallowe'en, Twelfth Night, Renaissance Festivals), I wear essentially the same outfit every day: Blue or black jeans, sturdy walking shoes, and a long-sleeve shirt of dark grey, black, or navy. It's a deliberate gesture of simplicity in a life where simplicity is all too rare, and it suggests my respect for some of the ideals of monasticism.
4. I am neither liberal, nor conservative, nor moderate, nor generally indifferent. My sympathies on specific issues fall all along the spectrum. As this has the potential for needlessly antagonizing almost everyone at some point, I avoid discussing politics.
5. I first saw Cindy sitting in the back of a room where I was singing during my freshman year of college. Drawing on the vast experience of having gone out on one date in my entire life, I thought, 'She's cute, but she's not my type.' -- I'm an idiot.
6. I have always found competitive sports mind-numbingly boring and don't really enjoy competition in any context. I also don't like weapons. I regard the automobile as the most disastrous invention in human history, potentially even more destructive to the world at large than nuclear arms. I have never defined myself by my day-job and have had otherwise close friends for years without knowing what they did for a living. I 'saved myself for marriage', and anyway never clearly understood how sex took place until a biology course in my second year of college. I did most of the housekeeping (and some cooking) for nine of the first dozen years of our marriage, and it was my suggestion that I continue to manage at least half the chores once we were both working outside the home. I still commemorate not just Cindy's and my wedding anniversary, but the day we met, the day of our first date, and the day we became engaged. I am sentimental to the brink of neurosis. I find nothing so cathartic as a good cry (though generally in private). 'Beauty and the Beast' is my favourite classic faerie tale, Disney film, and American television serial (CBS 1987-90).
... So I rather resent people presupposing anything about me based on male stereotypes.
7. I had my first three cups of coffee over the course of a week in my early teens. They were also my last. I didn't enjoy them and saw no reason thereafter to take up the habit. I discovered tea, however, around my last year of college, about the same time that I began to realize how many of my long-time favourite books, films, legends, musical works, foods, and even furniture were British in origin (albeit more representative of an earlier era). It would still be another decade, however, before a couple from South Africa (yes, Ian; I mean you and Quirien) finally taught us how to prepare tea properly. The rest is history.
8. What George MacDonald's Phantastes was to C.S. Lewis, The Lord of the Rings has been to me. My parents tried heroically to make a reader out of me, but it was not until my fifth-grade English teacher began reading aloud from The Hobbit at the end of her classes that a book genuinely ignited something inside me. I persuaded my mother to buy me a copy which I devoured almost overnight. Then, discovering it to be a 'prequel' to a larger work, I ploughed through J.R.R. Tolkien's three-volume masterpiece with more enthusiasm than true comprehension. Since those days I have read it at least a dozen times, on my own or aloud to Cindy; I own cassette and CD copies of the BBC radio serial (not to be confused with the appalling 'Mind's Eye' version); I have read much of Tolkien's other work, both fiction and scholarship; and, despite the eventual blossoming of my interests in many subjects and a personal library of over 2000 books, the great epic of the End of the Third Age of Middle-earth remains at the core of my literary world, and has permanently and profoundly shaped my perspective on life and my understanding of joy, sorrow, hope, sacrifice, humility, courage, beauty, loyalty, devotion, and the simple, homely pleasures and gifts the modern world too easily throws away or ploughs under.
Like many, I felt betrayed by Peter Jackson's cinematic version, not because he inevitably adapted the story to perceived film requirements, but because he completely changed the fundamental spirit and motivation of every major character save one. Patience was reinterpreted as lack of confidence, loyal friendship as accidental encounter, bold resolution as the product of trickery and manipulation, and selfless wisdom and virtue as low self-esteem. These were not the people I knew. In Tolkien's hands, however, their great hearts had 'baptized my imagination', nurtured my soul for nearly half a century, and set me on the path to becoming a devotee of books and of the English language.
9. I love Cindy. More than anything in this world. Folk far worthier than I will ever be rarely find such happiness, and I count it as nothing short of a miracle that I did. My marriage has taught me the deepest gratitude -- to Cindy and for Cindy. In a song I wrote for and sang at our wedding, I said, 'Because you're joining me, I know I never really was alone.'
10. I am a Christian, but I was not really raised as such. My highly intellectual parents were becoming sceptics at that time, and what experience I did have of church up till my early teens was sheer boredom. Nor was I persuaded to faith by any sermon, religious literature, or 'personal evangelism'. I can only say that, for as far back as I remember, throughout a very melancholy and lonely childhood, there had always been a Presence on the edge of my consciousness. Eventually (and somewhat abruptly) that Presence drew closer and, through a series of circumstances, pointed me toward the Church and gently affirmed the foundations of traditional Christianity: The trustworthiness of Scripture, the unique divinity of Jesus, and the truths of Atonement and the Resurrection.
Thus, I am not a Christian because of blind faith in archaic texts and improbable testimonials, nor because I ignore the complex and often painful realities of Church history. I trust the Scriptures, with all their difficulties; I follow Christ, with all the outrageousness of His claims; and I embrace the Church, with all its human failings -- because God, the Creator of the cosmos, made Himself real to me first.
(Copyright © 2009 by Edward Waters)