"Ars bene honesteque vivendi"

Index of Stanzas

Here you will find an ordered list of the stanzas as they appear chronologically in Cantokentigerni. In many cases, I have included my own thoughts on a particular stanza beneath its name, in hopes that this might enhance the reader’s individual understanding of the poem.

1. Listen.

  • I am appealing to each person’s interiority where the creation of the self occurs. The opening lines paraphrase The Rule of Saint Benedict (“Regula”) which will be referred to later. It is very difficult to learn to listen to oneself and to others.

2. Shakespeare.

  • Click on Shakespeare in the Resonator column for my notes on my walkthrough of his complete works.

3. Reciting Poetry

  • I have attached my own reading of the opening page of “Cantokentigerni” to indicate how I hear this verse resounding in my inner ear, and how you might hear it as you recite the words. All poetry should be read aloud so that the reader can also listen at the same time.

4.  Hamlet 

  • This remains the supreme play by Shakespeare which has influenced so many people over the centuries. Again, this is not an easy piece to approach, and requires serious effort, but is so well worth the effort. I hope my notes encourage you.

5. The Key.

  • Here I express the hope that some people will be able to use this poem as a springboard to my “sources of resonance”.

6. Choice.

  • We each makes choices daily, mostly between two goods, often out of sheer habit. Yet there are times when we come to a crossroad, where the outcomes of the choice are not clearly predictable yet the risks are high. At such times, Hamlet often whispers in our ears, because in so many of his plays, Shakespeare has created a mirror for us of the challenges of such decisions, and how difficult it can be to make them.

7. Heidegger.

  • Click on Heidegger in Resonators column to see my ongoing notes.

8. “Do We Not Bleed?”

  • This poem assumes that all humans are born equal and that the notion of a global confederation of all peoples could be possible; minimally that no form of slavery can ever be tolerated by humanity.

9. The Global Voice.

  • It is my hope that my efforts can become a small element in the growing global voice of consensus around the values presented here.

10. Resonance.

  • So many people agree with much of what is declared in this poem. These resonances are addressed to them.

11. Voices of Eternity.

  • This argument is central to my theme. Voices of people long dead can still be vitally relevant to 21st century people. The challenge is always access, which requires dedication, but above all, a living guide.

12. Havel.

  • One of a handful of extraordinary moral and political leaders of the 20th century (Gandhi, Luther King, Mandela) who lived in Prague most of his life, wrote plays for avant-garde theatre, was active in seeking personal liberties under the Soviet regime, spent time in jail, and then was elected first President of a newly independent state of Czechoslovakia. A remarkable human being.

13. Dasein

  • “Being-in-the-world”. Heidegger’s central concept. Havel was greatly influenced by Heidegger. Equally important has been The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, one of the most extraordinary documents of all human history, when virtually all of the nations on the globe, representing the majority of humans on earth, agreed on a basic code of human rights for all people for all time. No country voted against the Declaration, although the Soviet bloc countries and Saudi Arabia and South Africa abstained (a total of 9 abstentions). Two small countries missed the vote entirely. The US and France had created their own Declarations and have tended to promote these at the expense of the UN, while Saudi Arabia argues that there is some conflict with Sharia law. None of this alters the fact that the UN Declaration is the first time an almost unanimous human voice has argued for basic human rights. Humanity’s inability to move beyond its complex forms of sectarianism have resulted in an almost continuous series of breaches of basic human rights for millions of humans all over the globe.

14. DNA

  • The building blocks of all life as we know it on earth. Every week we discover more about DNA and this should be our headlines news. We have now mapped the human genome, and an infinity of learning lies ahead.

15. Freud and Jung

  • Both remain examples of men of courage and talent who explored areas of knowledge hitherto untouched. Freud’s work on dreams is still relevant, while Jung remains a favourite of artists with his concept of a collective subconscious expressing itself in archetypes vividly portrayed in myths of all humankind.

16. Thomas More.

  • Click on More in the Resonator column for my notes on More. Also click on Shakespeare and scroll to the play Sir Thomas More.

17. Engagement.

  • The resonators I propose are all individuals who were actively involved in the economies and events of their times; practical people, earning a living, pursuing a career, loving others, constantly trying to balance the demands of the times with their own beliefs. Most, but not all, demonstrate a level of engagement which is exemplary.

18. Reaching Out.

  • The essence of being human, the choices we make, the freedom we create, the compromises we fall into, the risks we take rather than yield to compromise, and the fine balance we need to find every day in the choices we make, the habits we form. The poem is about that fundamental choice to be, to find authenticity, to create a life in the face of the inevitability of death, of the nothing of Macbeth and Hamlet.

19. Benedict of Nursia.

  • Founder of the Benedictine Order, author of “The Rule” (Regula), organizational genius of the highest order who lived in the 6th century and established a way of having men live together in a balance of work and reflection (prayer) where everything is held in common, and whose dynamic energy still drives abbeys today throughout the world. I will attach a note on Benedict.

20. Encounters.

  • The encounter of two humans can mean so much, or so little, depending on time and place. This poem  invokes persons of the past to resonate in encounter with those of the present.

21. Radical Change.

  • I explore here the radical change Benedict demanded of those who wished to follow his way. All choice entails its own rejection of the alternative possiblities, and an act of self-creation through “a turning about of my own life” (conversio morum).

22. Music.

  • Music remains the one depository of human value which has most influenced my own life, and the lives of countless others. Volumes have been written on the effects of music. I simply invoke some composers here, and hope others can join in my joy. Music remains for me the primary example of what Thomists described as “gratia gratis data” – goodness freely given. I personally have done nothing to deserve to hear the music of Beethoven, but it is here at my finger-tips, with all of its richness and beauty.

23. Music and Action.

  • The 20th century demonstrated that love of music has little moral value, when we consider the slaughter the so-called civilized (and musical) nations inflicted upon one another. And yet, individuals make their own choices, and music plays a major part in the formation of the integrated self. I still appeal to voice and opera, realizing how difficult access to this world can be, yet personally overwhelmed by the beauty of its effects upon me. I spend time on Verdi, with copious notes. Opera remains a treasure-trove of the experience of beauty for all humans.

24. Beethoven.

  • I refer to Beethoven because, for me, he continues to tower above other composers. The Ode to Joy from his Ninth Symphony has now become a globally known piece of music. In his personal life, he shows a level of courage which is extraordinary, confronting deafness in a world where he heard music without sound within the synapses of his own brain. His is a vast world waiting to be explored anew by each generation. I will provide some supporting notes later.

25. Shostakovich.

  • Another composer who lived through Stalin’s Russia and survived despite so many obstacles. I find ambiguity everywhere in his music, and this must resonate with everyone who lives in an oppressive regime and renew their sense of hope for ultimate freedom. I will provide some supporting notes later.

26. Song.   

  •  Popular music is not a strong point for me personally, perhaps because I was a jazz fan as a teenager, and a Benedictine in early youth. So I argue for trained voice and the song of opera where the human voice can explore the heights and depths of the vocal range while expressing the heights and depths of human emotions.

27. Mozart.

  • I could never say enough about Mozart, whose genius astounds me every time I hear his music. He is now part of the global musical framework, but does require some serious listening if his richness is to be heard. I will provide some supporting notes later.

28. Verdi I.

  • I came late in life to Verdi, as to opera. He re-appears throughout this poem as a dominant force, linked in my mind with Shakespeare as a dramatic genius of extraordinary breadth and depth whose musical context pulls out emotions in a way the spoken word cannot. Click on Verdi in the Resonator column where I have attached a note on the complete works of Verdi.

29. Wagner.

  • Wagner’s Ring remains a monument of huge significance for me. He has been written about extensively, so the notes I will add may not be as extensive as those on Verdi. But the Ring remains a world into which everyone should venture, suitably prepared.

30. Access

  • The digital revolution has placed so much at our finger-tips globally. I envisage the day when every human being can access the internet, and some few can encounter this poem.

31. Wisdom.

  • A word largely forgotten, conjuring up ancient, bearded men who appear to be cut off from the daily hurly burly of life. The individuals invoked in this poem are not thus, but fully committed, engaged people who struggled with the daily issues of life and death yet stood by principles which enabled them to break through to a way of living which did embody wisdom in a secular sense, of course.

32. Flow.

  • Csikszentmihalyi achieved some level of fame with his various writings on “Flow”, all of which have value as contemporary, empirical efforts to find wisdom in daily modern life. He is eminently accessible in his writings and merits exploration. I will provide some supporting notes later.

33. Appreciation.

  • Cooperryder wrote about appreciative inquiry which I first encountered with him at Touche Ross when we conducted an appreciative inquiry with all of the partners at the time. It was a remarkable outpouring of positive energy, and one that can be repeated by each individual within the confines of his own set of circumstances. I will provide some supporting notes later.

34. Descartes and Cogito.

  • I still believe that each one us, if we follow Descartes’ Second Meditation can have a unique experience. Not easily, since this requires some serious concentration. But the exercise is essentially secular, so open to everyone. I will provide some supporting notes later.

35. Luck.

  • Luck, Fortuna, Karma, caprice, whatever name is chosen, plays a part in every life and requires to be acknowledged at the outset. Luck, like love, is not earned, but given/happens, and can just as easily be removed/happen. Luck also requires choice, and with it gratitude, appreciation, values we too often ignore in the daily rush of life. I will provide some supporting notes later.

36. Bacon.

  • Francis Bacon grabbed me personally by the throat when he first spoke to me Of Books and Of Adversity. I used to give copies of his Essays to friends and was so disappointed when few, if any, ever read them! Bacon remains a joy to read.

37. Quiet Time.

  • The constant need for some quiet time in an ever more connected world becomes one of our most pressing challenges. Silence is good, is necessary, is a conscious choice. I will provide some supporting notes later.

38. Reflection. 

  • Only in silence can we really reflect on what is, what has been, and what we are to become. Especially on who I am, the Hamlet in us all. Only thus can our own inner voice be heard, quite often resonating to what has been heard in the encounter with another which points a way forward. We have to incline the ear of our heart, to hear our own self, and others.

39. Husserl.

  • Husserl was a major influence on 20th century thinking, and began the series of reflections which created the phenomenological movement. He was a major influence on Heidegger, Sartre and in a quite different way, on the linguistics pioneer Roman Jakobson.

40. Jim Miller.

  • Miller was the Managing Partner of Touche Ross prior to the merger with Deloitte. Miller was a remarkable leader who influenced directly all of the partners in Touche Ross. He believed that everyone had some talent which could be channelled for the well-being of the total group. He also had a remarkable capacity to see opportunities in virtually every situation as well as in every individual he encountered. He and several of his closest advisers deeply influenced me in my early entrance into the partnership. He and Al Dilworth, who was then Chairman of the Firm, espoused and lived out a unique form of “Shared Leadership” which seemed most appropriate for the governance of a Partnership. This did not survive their terms of office. Despite his sudden early death, Miller’s words and example continue to resonate with me.

41. Greed.

  • Greed is fundamental to human life and can only be managed through some form of regulation, be it by self regulation through choice, or some form of public/legal regulation. The film Wall Street captured the allure of greed very well with the central character’s assertion that “there is never enough”. An illuminating example of how market greed works is the computer game called “Sugarscape”. We now live in a post 2008 world where greed in bankers almost destroyed the financial global system. The overwhelming presence of public greed forces individual choice as a top priority.

42. Youth.

  • Our hope lies in our youth, where personal transformation is easier to achieve in the turmoil of growing into maturity. It is the time par excellence where new influences can be encountered and explored. It is my hope that some youth will be attracted to this poem

43. Popper.

  • One of the great thinkers of the twentieth century. I am preparing some notes for inclusion in the Resonator column.

44. Tolstoy.

  • War and Peace remains one of the great efforts to portray the complexities of a life and which tries to integrate the basic moral dilemmas of the individual within the context of the pressures of daily living, especially in times of war. Tolstoy subsequently tried to create a utopian society which partially succeeded and led indirectly to the cultivation of grain on the Canadian prairies.

45. DNA Again.

  • We are constantly re-grounded in DNA and cannot escape the genes we inherit from our ancestors. Nor can we escape the memes we are born into. And yet this is the basis of freedom.

46. Pasternak.

  • Poet and novelist who greatly influenced me. He translated Shakespeare, and the first poem in Doctor Zhivago is “Hamlet”. I will include some notes in the future.


47. Le Carre.

  • John Le Carre explores the dilemma of the individual in life situations throughout his work, arguing always for the primacy of the individual in the choices we make. Throughout the years, Le Carre has adapted his theme by exploring current  geopolitical realities, not unlike Shakespeare in the History plays.

48. Betrayal.

  • Le Carre argues that to love is to be capable of being betrayed and betrayal is a central theme in his work. He uses the world of spies as a framework for a dispassionate examination of how individual people make individual choices within a career and family context. He is required reading for anyone who struggles with ethical dilemmas within the workplace.

49. Durrell.

  • He is another poet  who writes a novel in order to explore the ambiguity of individual perception within lived space and time.

50. Kurasawa.

  • The great Japanese film director whose adaptations of Shakespeare fascinated me and forced me into a walk through of his creative output. Click on Kurasawa in the Resonator column.

51. Knowles.

  • He is an outstanding Cambridge historian who was also a Benedictine. His masterpiece is The Monastic Orders of England, but The Historian and Character offers insight into his own personal thinking. My first encounter with him as a young Benedictine was through reading his Monastic Orders where I was struck by his erudition and literary style.

52. The Ear of the Heart.

  •  This is this is one of Benedict’s key notions in his Rule. It is a beautiful poetic image of the inner self of the individual where all personal value and integrity is created.

53. Bronowski.

  • Jacob Bronowski was a well-known British scientist whose BBC production of the Ascent of Man remains one of the best introductions to the world of mathematics and science.  As a youth I was entirely mesmerised by his televised ability to think in front of the camera and involve me personally in his thinking via this medium. One of the great breakthroughs in education occurred with Kenneth Clark’s BBC series called Civilisation, where Clark was able to address his audience directly with his spontaneous script based on his extensive knowledge of the art issues he was addressing. Scharma has made a laudable addition in his series on art, and of course Bill Moyers towers over all other equivalent general commentators on topics of universal interest. Only Bronowski in his Ascent of Man retains an optimistic sense of progress which surely is the hope which the scientific approach creates for us today. Biological evolution remains a central concept requiring continuous reflection. Both Popper and Bronowski were in no doubt that humankind was better off today than ever before.

54. The Brain.

  • The advances in our understanding of the brain have been extraordinary, due largely to the increased sophistication of brain scanning technologies. Click on Damasio in the Resonator column for more commentary on the Brain.

55. Memes.

  • The classic argument between nature versus nurture is now better described as the relationship between meme and gene. The extraordinary advances in scientific understanding of DNA, of how the brain works, all need to be assimilated in an advanced understanding of the nature of the human self. Dawkins coined the term “meme” as the cultural counterpart to genes.

56. Henry Moore.

  •  I have always been struck by Moore’s sculpture and never tire of walking around his work. I have also been struck by the devotion of others like Herbert Read, Neumann and Bronowski all of whom have written insightful commentaries on his work. In his life Moore continued to work on a daily schedule which seldom varied right into old age. I will provide some supporting notes later.

57. Browning/Yeats.

  •  Browning is a poet who deserves better appreciation and whose Rabbi Ben Ezra captured my imagination at a very early stage in my life. Yeats also has never left my creative imagination.  Norman Baird who was my first mentor once left me to read Cuchulain’s Fight with the Sea while he attended to some other matters. This was the first time I had been asked to read a poem outside of a school curriculum and I was surprised at my sense of delight in reading it: Cuchulain stirred,/Stared on the horses of the sea, and heard/The cars of battle and his own name cried;/And fought with the invulnerable tide.

58. Maslow.

  • Abraham Maslow was one of the very few writers on business who actually tried to understand how humans make choices and direct their lives. His style is difficult to read but his courage in tackling his notion of peak human experiences as essential to self-actualization was commendable. I will provide some supporting notes later.

59. Manuel Castells.

  • Castells addresses the impact of the internet on history, and explores several areas of concern in the world of communications today. Click on Castells in the Resonator column.

60. Damasio.

  • He is a neuroscientist specializing in the brain who collaborates with Castells and writes extensively on neuroscience. Click on Damasio in the Resonator column.

61. Freeland.

  •  A Canadian writer whose recent book on Plutocracy explores the alarming growth of wealth inequality in North America and globally. She was recently elected a member of Parliament in the Canadian Federal Government. Many hope that it she will be able to influence fiscal policy in Canada for the greater future good of Society.

62. Eccles and Popper.

  • Eccles was a brain surgeon who cooperated with Popper in discussing the nature of the brain as understood in the mid-20th century. Their videos taken in old age and now posted on YouTube are both stimulating and charming. I provide some supporting notes. Click on Popper in the Resonator column.

63. Verdi II.

  • This stanza refers to La Traviata which is probably Verdi’s most accessible work. The aria referred to is “Un di felice” from Act I, and should be listened to several times.  Click on Verdi in the Resonator column for additional notes.

64. Donne.

  • Donne is a superstar poet whose Ecstasie still remains a gem.

65. Marriage.

  • Marriage is a social institution which is undergoing a radical rethinking, and is an excellent example of how memes evolve as social values change. Obviously same-sex marriage forces everyone to rethink what is involved in the public commitment of two individuals to each other. We have only scratched the surface on this issue. I refer in the poem to the traditional male-female marriage which normally results in children, but these same dynamics haunt all discussion on this topic. I will provide some supporting notes later.

66. Survival.

  • We are now only too well aware of the challenges so many people face in surviving aspects of childhood, of young love, of betrayal, of death of loved ones, etc. I will provide some supporting notes later.

67. Verdi III.

  • At this point in the poem, Verdi invaded my consciousness and would not let go. I felt obliged to encounter Verdi in the entirety of his output. To do so I needed to explore his historical context. This was a significant undertaking most of which is contained in my Verdi Notes. (Click Verdi in the Resonator column).

68. Manzoni, Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini.

  • Verdi was deeply influenced by Manzoni as a youth and throughout his life. In fact he revered Manzoni and created one of his masterpieces, the Manzoni Requiem, in his honour. One of the towering geniuses of Italian opera, Rossini greatly influenced Verdi and all subsequent composers of Opera.. Donizetti and Bellini are the other geniuses of Italian opera who greatly influenced Verdi. It is extraordinary that four such gifted composers could have lived and worked at the same time in the same context. Click on Verdi in the Resonator column.

69. Verdi IV.

  • My walk through of Verdi’s entire output was a labour of love not only in my encounter with his music but with the man and the mentors he had chosen in his life. He is yet another example of a gifted human being who tackles life challenges and continues to develop and grow despite adversity. It does not surprise me that he should have found a kindred spirit in Shakespeare despite the fact that he could not access his work directly. Click on Verdi in the Resonator column.

70. Bach Cantatas.

  • The Bach Cantata’s have haunted me for years. I was very fortunate to have been able to attend the Helmut Rilling Bach Festivals in Toronto and to witness his rehearsals and performances of a handful of Cantatas. Bach invaded my consciousness and insisted on a daily encounter with at least one cantata until all of the Church Cantatas had been heard. Click on Bach in the Resonator column.

71. The Texts.

  • Gardiner in his recent book on Bach refers to the texts Bach had to use for his weekly church cantatas. My approach is purely secular and recognises that some of the texts are really quite poor and that Bach clearly struggled musically as a result.

72. Originality.

  • What is striking about the complete Bach Cantata output is the constant originality of his creative mind. There are so few real duds while everywhere gems are to be discovered and quite often an entire cantata is a masterpiece. Click on Bach in the Resonator column.