An Anecdotal Memoir
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"Which of your various jobs have you enjoyed most?" It's an inevitable question whenever I'm interviewed - and impossible to answer. I've enjoyed them all. (I feel about them somewhat as the mother did who was asked which of her children she loved most. She replied, “The one who's away until he's home. The one who's sick until she well.”) I have enjoyed whatever I was doing when I was doing it.
I stated in the foreword that this book would not occupy itself with a plumbing of my motives or a rummaging about in my psyche. None the less, it is almost mandatory that I speak briefly to what is perceived to be in me a lack of constancy, a tendency to be a vocational butterfly. As will be evident from the preceding pages, I changed jobs, not because I lost interest in what I was doing and needed another challenge; the changes resulted from my being presented with a larger opportunity. I do not, as it may appear, suffer from a vocational itch that requires frequent scratching. After all, I was in the ministry almost twenty years, appeared on Dialogue five days a week for eighteen years and have worked as a performer of producer in television for thirty years - longer, I think, than any other Canadian. As well, I have written eight books and am at work on another.
Preparing a response to the frequent question, I have settled on an analogy. My various “careers" are not like beads on a table, each separate and solitary; rather, they are like beads on a string, the common thread being that I am essentially a communicator. Whether at the drawing board or on a platform, whether in the electronic or print media, whether before the cameras or behind them, I have continually sought to communicate ideas and view-points that have seemed important to me. If I have a compulsion, it is the need, being caught up in an idea, to communicate it to others by such means as are available.
There have been two principal wellsprings from which my convictions have flowed: a religious philosophy informed by, among others, Jesus of Nazareth, Albert Schweitzer and Mohandas Gandhi; and a political disposition toward traditional liberalism, a philosophy that sees society as in need of reform and seeks to effect the necessary changes through law - as few laws as possible but as many as necessary.
Do I sometimes, in retrospect, wish I had stayed with one of my interests, has persevered, say, in politics or as a print journalist? Yes, sometimes. But were I to do it again, I would probably follow the paths by which I have gone. I recognize the value of an unswerving commitment; some goals are achieved only by a long-term dedication to them. But single-mindedness has its disadvantages, too. Its very intensity makes forfeit other options.
Rightly or wrongly, I am convinced that, had I remained active in politics, I would have become premier of Ontario. But would that have been better that what did happen? Do I prefer Bill Davis' life to the one I live? The answer is an unhesitant no. (Put the question to Bill Davis and I have no doubt that his answer would be the same as mine.) I don't argue that one way or the other is better, I contend merely that the path I have chosen has yielded a rich, full and happy life, a life that has been eventful and rewarding, and most of the time, exciting. It has kept my eyes on tomorrow and has made retirement, not a goal to be looked forward to, but a time to be postponed indefinitely.
I admire the man or woman who perseveres, but it has been my observation that many continue in what they do mostly because they are afraid or don't know how to change direction. They feel trapped. They are captives of their fear, and intimidated by a concern for security; so they spend their lives at jobs that bore and diminish them. It is folly to spend your working life toiling at something you dislike or resent. Men and women who dislike what they do should quiet their fears and seek out a vocation that will satisfy as well as reward them. I don’t say this glibly. Having changed directions many times, and having suffered trepidation in the doing of it, I can assert from experience that the difficulties are never so great as imagined.
Do I have regrets? Of course. Many. Most of them are in the realm of personal relationships, but they are not what this book is about. I have often been so immersed in what I am doing that I have neglected friendships, sometimes even my family. If I have been successful in what I have done it has usually been because all my energies have gone into the work at hand. I know nothing about “hours of business" - for me they have been all my waking hours. As does everyone in the news media, I receive dozens of invitations to what may loosely be described as social functions; I rarely accept. Madeleine and I seldom go to parties and, other than for our children, seldom give them. Undoubtedly we miss much in so doing, but we prefer it the way it is. Indeed, we rejoice in it.
I have sometimes wondered why I work with such single-mindedness. It is not for the financial rewards - I have never been much interested in the accumulation of money - nor is it primarily for notoriety. There is a paradox here: I have lived much of my life in the limelight but I am uncomfortable in public and almost reclusive in daily life. I have never sought power, except in politics, where power is the name of the game. In business I have not set my sights on the top job and then manoeuvred to get it. I have given myself to the task at hand and the rest has fallen into place. If there has been one dominant drive it has been a deep need for approval. For a while I considered calling this book Hey Dad, look at me!
What will I do next? I am by no means sure. I will certainly continue to broadcast. I will maintain an active interest in politics. It is, I think, the most interesting activity in which people engage, and probably, despite the trivializing of it by small men and the exploiting of it by the strong, the most important. I will continue to work as an amateur inventor. It is more than a hobby with me - it is akin to exploring. It is the seeking out of places where no other mind has been and it yields all the excitement of a discovery. I will continue to draw, and intend to return to sculpting, some-thing I have neglected for twenty years. The only activity I will not return to is the Christian ministry; I remain a reverent agnostic.
I will surely continue to write. It is the most rewarding and the most difficult of the tasks I have put my hand to. The writer never achieves the summit, never lacks for a challenge and is surrounded by opportunity. The condition of the writer is one of discontented contentment; the personal satisfactions are profound; the discouragements are abyssal. With seven books behind me (eight, including a novel, Mr. Nobody, that no one wished to publish), I am beginning to learn to write. I may yet write a good novel; I shall certainly try.
-- Charles Templeton, 1983
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