From: The Old Man and the Sea - Hemingway
John Yeung '53

The novel deals with man verses nature, heroism, manhood, self-pride, success, and many other themes. Many critics have reviewed the novel over the last fifty years.

My view is, the novel dealt with a man named Santiago, an innocent admirer of nature at the beginning, who gradually revealed his latent beastly nature. His admiration of nature became his struggle to defeat nature, as evident in his beastly death wish for the fish he had caught.

The society we now live in is supposedly a more informed society, yet because of our greed and ego, we can just as easily become victims of our own doing.

In the sixties, I joined an outing group. On weekends during the summer, we went to many quiet cottage countries in central Ontario. There were more secluded places in those days for people to enjoy than now. We left the city early on Friday nights. Upon arriving, some of us would grab a bite, while others gathered around a bonfire to sing and dance. The weather was usually nice in the summer, and there were not many mosquitoes, which only appeared at dusk. Later at night, they seemed to disappear altogether.

One morning, I woke up unusually early and strolled to the lakefront. All of a sudden, a panorama of a tranquil lake unfolded in front of my eyes. With no wind or birds singing, the view of the lake and its surroundings was like an epoch of nature out of this world (see attached photo).

In later years, I took up fishing as a hobby. The catch, unfortunately, depended on luck and natural elements, such as lake bottom contours, temperature, and the time of the day. Needless to say, there were more fruitless outings than otherwise. Regardless of the outcome, the evil nature of fishing was that it always lured the fishermen back for another trip, yet another trip, for the unfulfilled greed of catching a bigger fish.

I once caught a four-and-half pound bass, a trophy size even in those days.

I spent many hours stuffing and preparing the fish for taxidermy, but never had the heart for the messy work. So, for the last thirty years, that stuffed fish was still staring at me un-forgivingly. I wish I had not caught that poor fish. (See photo of that fish).

On one of our trips, my fishing partner and I were driving along the Trans-Canada Highway 17. Just before the town of Marathon, I experienced an intensely frightful moment. A police cruiser with its siren on was leading a convoy, followed by Terry Fox, followed by another police cruiser and a medical supply car. As they were approaching us, I quickly pulled my car over and stopped on the shoulder of the road to reach for my camera to capture this unusual event. There I was, frightened by the presence of the police cars, there to interrupt Terry's heroic walk. I felt blessed because I was able to witness this heroic event, yet I also felt guilty because taking pictures of him in his desperate struggle on the road might be interpreted as sinister enjoyment of this encounter. There he was, right in the middle of nowhere, with no reporters or crowds to block my view, Terry Fox, the hero of this marathon walk.

As I was having my camera ready, my hands trembling with fear, I sensed Terry Fox's state of mind . He was completely choked up, so to speak, about his ill fate and the good fortune of his fellow men. There he was, struggling, one step-and-a-hop, one step-and-a-hop, along the seemingly endless Trans-Canada Highway, on a warm summer day.

He shouted at me, "Don't bother" (to take any picture), as if he were venting his anger at me for his misfortune.

Right after, he changed his mind and shouted again, "Take it now."

A few days later, while Terry was approaching Thunder Bay, his pain became more acute, and he was diagnosed with recurring cancer in his upper body. His marathon walk was immediately suspended, and he died shortly afterward (see attached photo and pay respect to Terry Fox).

Terry was a true hero. He set his goal to walk from coast to coast, to raise awareness and funds for cancer research and cure. In his complex state of mind, while suffering from despair due to his illness, and pain in his stub from pounding on the pavement , he still kept his smile at every civic reception to honour him. But after the reception, he was on the road again to face the agony and pain. The people at the civic receptions loved to have him in the photo-ops, but how many knew this aspect of Terry Fox?

Hemingway's hero, Santiago, was not a hero. He caught a big fish. The fish was so big he had to moor her beside his boat. On the journey back to shore, this big fish was completely carved up by a number of small fish. He did not feel any remorse at the loss of this fish. He became so eager to capture the big fish, he did not care what happened to her in the end, so long as he fulfilled his death wish.

He connected himself with nature, the cruel sea and the fish. But in the end, he became callous, and thus became a victim of nature.

Today, in the so-called informed and intelligent society, we see similar victims of nature every day, all around us.

The head of an international conglomerate has worked very hard to push up the rating of his company in the investment world. He is a driver. He is articulate as well as a straight shooter. To feed on his hard drive, he is constantly on the lookout for acquisitions and mergers. At board meetings, he usually tosses one or two coined words to show he is in the forefront of the cutting edge of the "technonomic" world. He knows the ploy that it-does-not- matter-how-much-you-know-as-long- as-you-show-how-much-you-know has worked for him, and he certainly knows how to make the system work for him. If the company has no guarantee for him to move up to the upper echelon within a short time, the company does not deserve to have him around, so he thinks.

It is always lonely at the top. The ego, buddy-ism, loneliness, power, peer pressure, and greed become too much to bear in the end. To compensate for all this personal sacrifice, he will position himself for the eventual eventuality, to borrow a jargon from the Buzz-Word Generator. To do this, he is usually capable of manipulating the members of the board to give him a better package in salary, bonus, severance, stock option, and retirement.

This package is no different from an NHLer's salary package. It takes a super computer to layout all the possibilities and probabilities of his financial outcome.

At first, this CEO tries really hard to please the stockholders. After all, the latter are the owners of the company and the CEO merely an employee, working for them.

But, after a while, the CEO cannot fulfill the ever-increasing expectation from the shareholders and the investment community. He becomes hardened. He feels that he is carrying the whole load of the company. As a reward, he deserves even higher pay and better benefits.

Thus the vicious circle has begun . The higher the pay, the greater the pressure, and the more hardened he becomes.

Slowly but surely his loyalty to the shareholders takes an abrupt turn for the worst. He feels that he is the boss of the company and the shareholders merely instrumental to it . To proof his contribution to the company, he blindfolds the shareholders into believing that the company's financial position is rosy. If he cannot deliver, for one reason or another, he is tempted to "cook" the books as a means to an end.

To-day, white-collar crimes are reported in the financial section of the daily newspapers almost daily. We live in a so-called informed society. More information is filtered to the media faster than before. Despite this, investors and shareholders love to get on the bandwagon of mass psychology, or mass deception, and expect to get off in time. Some get out too late and lose everything.

The CEO, in this case, is the victim of his own doing. If he is caught, his penalty is usually light to virtually non-existent. The watchdog and the justice system are created to catch the offenders, but they are not there for the redress of the wrong done to the real victims among the pensioner investors, who might have lost every penny of their life savings.

In the medical field, I personally know many dedicated and conscientious practitioners in both the G.P. and specialist fields. But I also know and have personally encountered medical practitioners who have no calling , whatsoever, for being doctors, looking after people's health.

The husband of one of our St. Mark's alumni had become seriously ill in recent years. His family doctor was grossly negligent. This trustful person had been the doctor's patient for a number of years, and numerous blood tests had been done, yet the doctor failed to warn him about his severe degree of diabetes. Finally, it dawned on the patient that he should switch doctors. But by then it was too late. His illness had affected many other vital organs.

I was personally interested to find out how this malpractice could occur. One of the possible contributing factors was due to the Ontario OHIP funding. A doctor gets paid according to the number of patients he has seen, up to a certain quota. Over that quota, the pay per visit diminishes. Many doctors feel discouraged and disenchanted by this bureaucratic process. Some doctors start to play the number game, by seeing as many patients as they possibly can.

In the end, the patients are the real victims. They become the pawns to these two disputing parties.

Some doctors were coaxed into this profession by their parents. They looked forward to becoming doctors for financial gain and social prestige. Some completed their courses and started to contribute single-mindedly in the medical field. Some completed their courses and realized that it was about time to make money to compensate for the long years of studies. Some dropped out and switched courses, and some realized their interest was in research, and continued on to graduate studies.

Despite the irresponsible doctors, we, in general, are very fortunate to be in the forefront of almost daily new research findings and medical discoveries, thanks to the hardworking teams of ethical medical and research personnel all over the world.

Let us hope that, in the near future, many more options will be available in the university courses, which may lead to many lucrative fields, such as computer, economics and investments. Then people will no longer look to the medical profession as the only alternative with high income potential.