I am grateful for those moments in life when time stops. They are few and far between but when they happen, we are recharged, our emptiness filled. Let me explain.
I, along with many others these days, feel the burden of righting this ship we find ourselves on before we are completely blown off course. This time of year, during Advent or wherever our faith lies, we search for hope, we ache for peace, we yearn for joy, and we wait for love. We heap a lot of responsibility on this glorious yet sometimes painful season, missing those who have gone ahead without us, relying on the memory of days when life seemed simpler.
The news headlines are almost always heavy-laden with catastrophe, with extremes, with chaos. To say “always” sounds like hyperbole, but I have checked and can confirm that moderate gentle language has been abandoned and we have become a collective of ambulance chasers, of conspiracists, willing to believe the worst of everyone, ready to shout rather than listen, our hands on our chest without any idea of solution. The detail of disaster is relentless, and if severe enough those details are played over and over, like pushing on a bruise to make sure it still hurts. And we leave our youth with the burden of our mistakes, without a remedy. With a steady diet of bad news where is it then that hope can find oxygen enough to burn and light our way?
We know that all discovery is born of the notion of “I don’t know”. Curiosity may kill the cat, but it leads us to contemplate change. “What is that” we wonder as we point to the sky, until we can climb into our spaceship and find the answer. From curiosity comes creativity and from creativity comes solution. Bob Dylan, you know as an American singer-songwriter, is regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of his time. I’m not sure we need to quantify his sixty plus years of creative work or anyone’s creative work in that way. What strikes me of Dylan was his crediting his own vulnerability, his openness to his shame and failures, that gave rise to his greatest potential. Buffy Sainte-Marie spoke of the coffee house era of music in the 1960s, when young people gathered in search for meaning to their lives. It is of the same ilk as the toddler pointing to everything within her range of sight, asking of her mother – whatzat?
Change can only happen when we ask questions, questions that come from an inner discomfort, a longing for something more, precisely when we throw our hands up in despair. Poets, musicians, visual artists, writers, dancers all use their creative muscle to express the questions that confound them.
But every now and then we need solace, we need rest from the worry, we need to crawl ‘neath the Christmas tree in the dark with only its small twinkling lights to surround us with the warmth of wonder. I recall being in Dawson City, Yukon in 2017, as writer-in-residence at Berton House. I trudged to the school yard late that Christmas night, missing my children, weighed down by loneliness despite this amazing adventure, not a single soul anywhere in sight. The temperature was -45 but the cold was invigorating rather than harsh. I collapsed in the snow and gazed up at the northern lights. The full expanse of the sky was alive with green and violet, the colours moving as though in time to some great masterpiece of music, a symphony so magnificent it could only exist in the imagination. The cold left me, the dark comforted me, and the sky raised me up. I celebrated my wonderful insignificance, my having no power nor responsibility to change a single thing in this crazy wild world and for that moment – my mind was empty of questions. It was like being suspended at the top of the swing, where I was neither rising nor falling. I was purely and absolutely nothing at all.
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