I loved my time in Kingston, Ontario. I totally enjoyed the experience of my first foray into graduate school in the Classics Department at Queen’s University. The intellectual heights of hearing through the ears of languages now faded and gone was both exhilarating and humbling. I was often filled with the excitement that comes with learning, of being immersed in the rich thoughts of those upon whose shoulders we all stand.
I also found Kingston, Ontario difficult during my first steps into the graduate studies journey. I find myself now – well into writing my PhD – not necessarily cynical, but aware that in every place in which humans gather, we bring our longings and hopes, our hurts and brokenness. And – sometimes – we get in the way of others as they too try to figure out this journey called Life.
In this time of learning and fermenting, of discerning who I might be, there was music. Glorious music that rode crests that only Canadians can create. Of course – being one of the denizens of north of the 49th – I am not objective. Regardless, during these years, the Tragically Hip set the stage amidst friends and work. As my steps into my new marriage unfolded and new packs members arrived, the Hip played. And man, could they play!
I even had friends who played in a cover band. When we couldn’t hear the Hip themselves, they played on and filled the silence. The tempo of base and electric helped integrate theory and the practicality of life. And in this time, youth’s impenetrable shield was my companion.
A lot has happened since then – that I find myself in this vocation called ministry is … fascinating, life-giving and challenging. And, as this week has unfolded, Gord Downie has announced that he has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. I’m sure there’s never a good time, but I suspect that for all of us who walk with or have themselves endured such a prognosis it likely “couldn’t come at a worse time.”
There’s no platitude that makes it easier, there’s no way to pastorally and compassionately explain such realities that occur in the finitude that is this mortal coil. But man, there is choice. Whether you operate from a place of faith, embrace a secular or humanist philosophy, we do indeed have choice about when someone we love or we ourselves look into the linear walk we all make.
I have no idea what Gord Downie’s going through and it would be less than caring to presume. But what is clear to me, as a person who operates from a vantage of faith, is that he has been both embraced by this collective we call Canada and has chosen to respond in a way that sure seems like courage.
I can’t imagine it is or will be easy. But the muse that has coursed through the Hip, for now more than 30 years, has led them to embark upon a summer tour in the face of a diagnosis that would likely leave most of us scrambling, numb, perhaps even raging! There is irony in the band’s very name: The Tragically Hip have, in their music, embraced the fragile and tenacious, frivolous and inspiring paradox that is the nature of life.
- Sometimes, when answers will be wanting and explanations desired, even demanded, from the Universe, all you can do is dance, celebrate, and embrace and be embraced by the harmony that is the Universe.
- Sometimes, when there are no right words, no simple explanations, it is how we live in the tragedy that points to a courage that binds us all. And – when those tears come, for they shall and will – before that curtain comes down, in our belting out life’s song, we are reminded we are not alone …