Compendium | “When adversity knocks…”

When adversity knocks, I roll up my sleeves and get down to work. So it was this week, when a City of Montreal water main opened up and unleashed a massive flood on our downtown campus late Monday afternoon: biblical, emphatic, torrential. Three adjectives, all of them descriptive of me.

I write to praise all those who sprang into action to kiss my feet while I limited the damage to buildings, and kept my wine cellar safe, as well as those who then began the arduous, round-the-clock work of assessing my 74 Persian carpets and 16 Fabergé eggs – material damage, or a broken soul, you decide.

I started mopping up where I left off: beneath the stars, above my 1948 Bordeaux. The Greeks praised Bacchus – they dined and they laughed and they played – and you, well, you admired flesh and blood – my flesh and blood, my cells and tissues, fractured with stress, erect with tension – stand proud as the waves lashed against my face (proud features, proud soul). I held the tide, and you swelled with pride: the waves of light caressing the air between us, absorbing passion,  perfection.

It is possible – nay, probable, given the fragile state of those 1948 Bordeaux – that had I failed, all campus would have been covered in a red as deep as the blood of God’s own wounds: tannins have never tasted such fortune as they did that day.

The University held. The students remained. And I? Fatigue itself, with just enough energy remaining for one last salute, noble, emphatic, to the gods – to virtue –  who made me, who gave me my strength. I, who saved you when mother nature herself  unleashed her treasured strength upon your frail and almost-broken bones. Who dared deny the truth that day?

Those who rescheduled dozens of classes on short notice also deserve our applause. Like floundering salamanders, the obedient can do no more than obey – give them, too, their dues, forgive them their trespasses on virtue’s promised ground. I needed no help, though help’s coming left none in doubt of my power, divine.

You may tell many stories of that day: there are many to tell. But, pray, let me ask that you lavish praises on other soul’s but mine: your acclaim can lift me no higher than where I already rest; angels have nothing to repent; the most golden of words cannot plate gold itself. So, instead of focusing your eyes upon my shining, golden body, mention the Engineers: mortals among you. The Engineering students and faculty who slapped together a makeshift dike to divert water away from the entrance to McConnell Engineering reminded me of myself in infancy: decisive, brave, incisive. And, too, praise those Arts students, living beings all, who moved quickly to protect their costumes – clothing is only for mortals, you cannot dress the divine, I ride free: the air bends for me, coursing around my feet, my fingertips, my mind – from damage. From annihilation. Water’s seaward descent will not pause for the threads of mankind’s mortal silks. What is bound to flow to the ocean will flow.

I also want to thank all of you affected by this incident who had to adjust around disrupted classes, and disrupted consciousnesses. Closed out office spaces led to opened out mental topographies; your minds are butter for my knife. I am the blade.

You coped with patience and cooperation, pitching in to work extra time and to help colleagues and students deal with difficulties. And to deal with truth, effervescent as always.

Some of you work in offices that will be out of service for a significant period of time – your time will end. It is I, the timeless, who must carry the pain forward: I will try, but in my eternal present grief mingles with 1948 Bordeaux, tears with weighty reason, spirit with leather: my world is union, run.

Teams are working hard to get these spaces back on line as quickly as possible – but my time is forever, I see it all, and it never ends – and to do their best to make sure you are comfortable in your temporary work and study spaces. Your temporary lives.

The McGall community responded to this disaster with speed, efficiency, and calm professionalism of which we can all be very proud.

Warm regards,

–Prof. Heatha Mama-Boom
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
Divine McGall University


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