Tribute to Wednesday Night Website

1500 Wednesday Nights – An Irreplaceable Piece of Social History
A Canadian Treasure – a weekly gathering of ‘some of the best and not so best minds at home and abroad’

For 28 years it has been my good fortune to be an invited guest at the weekly Wednesday Night sessions held at the home of Diana and David Nicholson. No, unlike the host and hostess I have not participated in practically all the sessions. In fact, during some of the middle years I was an infrequent visitor as life, predominantly my career and the demands of single motherhood conspired to prevent that from happening. But if I wasn’t there in person I was there in spirit, especially during the last half when I was able to ‘follow the goings-on’ by the simply logging on to the Wednesday Night website whose earliest entries almost mirror the explosive development of the World Wide Web, once it entered the public domain after the military let it go to grow into the ubiquitous and indispensable behemoth of information it now is.

History in the making
If ever a website deserves to be preserved in a Canadian Social History museum (Musée McCord are you paying attention?) or other public record archive this is it. Not for the gimmicks and technical whiz-bang-gadgetry it contains because frankly, due to its great age, in Internet terms, it is pretty ‘old-fashioned’ in design terms (sorry David, not a criticism, merely a statement of fact). Nevertheless, therein lies its attraction and value as a piece of social history and for research purposes since David has maintained literally thousands of web pages that are valuable for cataloguing and containing the sheer wealth of information imparted at the weekly sessions. Initially, they were carefully documented, screened and edited by Diana (in later years assisted by WN’s faithful latter day scribe Herb Bercovitz) and posted by David for transmission to the world the week following via the web. But the proceedings that appear on the web are only ‘partially documented’ memories of each evening. And why is that?

What’s said at Wednesday Night stays at Wednesday Night
The medical profession has as its core ethic the stricture: Do no harm; most religions promote the Golden Rule: Do as you would be done by; while WN’s credo is: What’s said at Wednesday Night stays at Wednesday Night. This is so the myriad of guests – local, national, international, professional, political, philosophical, financial, industrial, legal, academic, medical, cultural, artistic, the journalists and other media moguls and misfits, as well as the wacky, weird and ‘way out there’, are at liberty to express their personal insights about the topic under discussion – all without fear of it being taken out of context, leaking out and/or being mis-used or mis-represented by those who either weren’t there, or have their own agenda in play.

This means the website cannot be used as a substitute for attendance at WN. It’s more a soupçon or indication of what was shared. There are countless times I groaned in exasperation as I read up on some of what went on and knew it was only a tiny portion of the insights, exchanges and tidbits I had missed learning about, being intrigued by or disagreeing with. The participatory groans, puns, fun, laughter and exasperated signs and general bonhomie that accompany one’s physical presence there rarely transmit well to the web reports.

Multi-generational magic
I admit I am one of the lucky ones. I have shared a gift for almost 30 years that has no price. No Continuing Education class at any university could have given me the wide range and depth of perspective and knowledge on such a wide range of subjects as that I have gained from participating in this treasure trove of knowledge and insight that is Wednesday Night. My son now attends. Currently enrolled in philosophy and political science studies at McGill, he first came to WN as an infant, put to bed upstairs to sleep, while I enjoyed an hour or two of ‘freedom’ from motherhood and the chance to ‘stretch my grey matter’ and delve into topics outside of my comfort zone. As one of the younger attendees he now mingles and is exposed to different people, professions and ideas at this free-swinging ad hoc table of laughter and learning. I have been truly blessed and bettered by the experience. Thank you Diana and David from me, my son and all the ‘backbenchers’ you have included in your unforgettable Wednesday Nights. It has been an honour and a privilege. My son Misha and I both thank you for welcoming us at your table of knowledge and good cheer.

Wanda Potrykus OWN and Misha Potrykus

Footnote: There is an accompanying website: www.dianaswednesday.com that is also well worth exploring. Of a much more recent vintage and with far more concise entries it serves as an interesting counterpoint to David’s site. Check them both out.

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