Oh no, I’ve said too much – I haven’t said enough- Pt 2


Have we not been witnesses to the loss of deep, committed friendships and the practice of hospitality, and are we not seeing wide-scale isolation, boredom, depression, addiction, and a preoccupation with ‘self-help’ merchandise to address our relentless and unmet craving to be more fully human? When ‘comfort is king’ is our inner mantra and self-sufficiency our proof of personal empowerment, there is little impetus for the patience and self-sacrifice needed to be inter-dependent members of a community.

But where are the poets, the culture critics, the prophets, the public intellectuals?

The new Whitman’s and Dylan Thomas’, like Michael Stipe and Gord Downie, combine truths with music – poetry mixed with entertainment – otherwise we would never hear of them. Perhaps a day will come when we have the courage to seek the truth about ourselves without the need to feel good at the same time. But this would take the intentional postponement of self-gratification for the good of ourselves and others. Not sure if we are ready as a society for this level of commitment and involvement. We often only go to a counselor (or doctor or mechanic) after the point of prevention, when things are really busted, when we feel we can’t cope with one more bit of bad news, even if it is the truth. Our cup is full and over-flowing with bad news and it is overwhelming to think that what is wrong with the world is also what’s wrong with our everyday lives.

I’m not sure if I’m prepared for the level of risk and adventure that taking myself, others, and my culture seriously would require. Listening patiently takes so much focused energy, and makes me feel out of control – responding instead of always trying to control others through my words, thoughts and feelings. The distractions in my life, generated by my ego, have often been too great and too easily rationalized and justified. But I know that knowing about my neighbour, without loving my neighbour leaves me feeling empty, and on a big scale is destroying not just my own neighbourhood, but our nation. Living for two years in Belfast showed us how Christianity can get in the way of simply following the teaching and model of Jesus. But I’ve also learned that life, and my life, in the Vancouver area can be just as detached, self-absorbed, oblivious to other’s needs, and unresponsive as anywhere else. In Canada, despite three decades of secular and religious voices begging us to step past superficiality and hyper-independence, and pleading with us to embrace serious issues in our culture and lifestyles, some change has come, but not a resurgence of the esteemed place of the poet in society – not yet. Demanding political reform and accountability without asking the same kinds of reforms from ourselves seems to be only hypocritical finger pointing.

Justice must start in our home if we want it in Ottawa.

So how do we cultivate Canada and see more poets sprout up? Check our own pulse.

It is easy to say, but we have to work hard to make more room in our lives for both the poetic and the prophetic people around us and in our culture. Many of us, myself included, need to let our hearts grow hungry for a fuller depiction and appreciation of the truth, as well as to be seeking real encounters, conversations, and deeper friendships with people. The prophetic and poetic voices in my life are also calling me daily, challenging me to pick a fight-to-the-death slugfest against superficiality and triviality, and to embrace the biggest of life’s issues. When I respond with courage and self-sacrifice, I taste more of the freedom and joy I so crave. Is thus such as mystery? Seems we are hardwired to feel good when we do good to others (even observe others doing good) – so why fight nature? But I often do (a serious subject for another time).

But if more of us would actually live responsively and give time and attention to our neighbours, colleagues at work, and people in our community, perhaps we’ll all get in on the good life together, and Lewis’ words ring true in our hearts: “There is a kind of happiness and wonder that makes you serious.”

Imagine a culture propelled forward by happiness and a sense of wonder – it’s not so easy, even when we try, to see transformation and growth in our own lives. You may say I’m a dreamer, but this is what poetry can nurture in us if we have an appetite for it. Our zero-calorie, low protein diet, cooked up by skeptics, cynics, contrarians, and postmodern sneerers has left us anaemic and weakened. The time is right for us to feast, celebrate life, and grow healthy as we pay attention to our poets, public intellectuals, and our prophets.

Curtis Collins
Something more Vancouver

~ by blueporch on June 15, 2010.

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