“No dress rehearsal…This is our life”
– Gord Downie
Whether or not you are a devoted Tragically Hip fan, it would be difficult not to be moved by the recent death and resounding outpouring of love for frontman Gord Downie. So much has been said and written about this gifted and generous human being, a man of poetry and music, a lover of dance, and someone who showed a deep commitment to this country and ALL the peoples who inhabit it.
I first encountered the Hip in the early ‘90s at a Canada Day concert in Barrie, Ontario. I was in my early twenties, finishing up a law degree that had left me feeling cold and so unsure of myself, and I had no idea about my career path or purpose. The music of the Hip and other Canadian bands that I listened to at that time gave me a great sense of freedom – a taste of what it was like to let my spirit soar and move with abandon. But once the concert was over and it was time to go home, I still had to figure out what to do with my life: to be responsible, find a way to support myself, do something productive.
I didn’t really make the connection between the music, the dancing, the sense of freedom and the possibility that one’s purpose can be found within that creative, exuberant space until much later in life.
Fast forward 25 years and I have rediscovered the brilliance of Gord Downie’s poetry and the Hips’ collective musical spirit. I see more now in the lines and in between the lines. I have found meaning in the music and from how Downie seems to have lived his life. I am inspired to live more fully and authentically. To believe I have something valuable to contribute, to make a difference in the world.
As the leaves change and fall from the tree outside my window, and the days become darker more quickly, there is a constant reminder that time is passing…another year is coming to an end.
I am asking myself these questions and invite you to join me:
What have I done lately to live my life fully and authentically?
What is my unique gift – the thing I do that makes me feel good about myself more than anything else?
How can I bring more of that special thing into the world?
I work with many talented and high achieving individuals who struggle with these questions. They are not easy. Sometimes the reminder that life is short can inspire us to probe further, to try a little harder.
In his last years Gord Downie dedicated his unique gifts to the cause of educating and inspiring Canadians to step up and do something about the horrifying legacy of colonialism on indigenous peoples in our country.
I wonder what would happen if we all strove to capture more of what Gord Downie showed us is possible through the way he sang, danced, lived and died.
Recommended Reading and Watching:
The Secret Path, written by Gord Downie and illustrated by Jeff Lemire. Available as a digital download, CD, vinyl, graphic novel and as animated film http://secretpath.ca/
“Gord Downie began Secret Path as ten poems incited by the story of Chanie Wenjack, a twelve year-old boy who died fifty years ago on October 22, 1966, in flight from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School near Kenora, Ontario, walking home to the family he was taken from over 400 miles away. Gord was introduced to Chanie Wenjack (miscalled “Charlie” by his teachers) by Mike Downie, his brother, who shared with him Ian Adams’ Maclean’s story from February 6, 1967, “The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack.”
Proceeds from the sale of Secret Path will go to The Gord Downie Secret Path Fund for Truth and Reconciliation, via The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at The University of Manitoba.