Sunday, August 28, 2011

Despair: 1. Optimism: 0.

Sigh. This has not been a good week for me. Jack Layton passed away on Monday, and you'd think I was grieving the death of a close family member. Me and so many other Canadians, it seems. It wasn't until I watched his state funeral yesterday that I realized where part of my sadness was coming from: I feel burdened by the weight of having to pick up where Jack left off.

Put plainly, it would take a hundred people like me to bring about as much change as he did. Not only because I'm not a City Councillor or Member of Parliament, but mostly because I don't have Jack's energy, drive, and can-do attitude. Right now, and often, I lack the hope and optimism which, as he wrote in his open letter to Canadians, he wants us to embrace in order to change the world.

It didn't matter that I was moved to see how many people lined the streets along the route his procession took from City Hall, where he lay in state on Saturday morning, to Roy Thomson Hall, where his funeral was held on Saturday afternoon; I felt despair. It didn't matter how many of us showed up in the square beside the hall to watch his funeral on big outdoor screens; I felt despair. It didn't matter how many standing ovations were given by the guests when various eulogists conveyed Jack's message of hope; I felt despair. There are too few of us. And there is - was - only one of him. Jack, I'm really sorry, but today I don't see a bright future ahead of us.

But tomorrow is Monday, and it's the start of a new week. I can't give in to this feeling, which may be fleeting. What I need right now is to do something that will inspire, motivate, and ground me again. Move me past my grief and back into action. I just don't know what that is right now.

Photo of Sisyphus used under Creative Commons from AJ Cann (AJC1/flickr).
Photos of chalk tributes at City Hall used under Creative Commons from Jackman Chiu (close-up and wide/flickr).


  1. I know what you mean. I feel the same way. I watched everything and my hope is that the momentum continues but I wonder if it's fleeting too.

  2. Yep, that's my worry. We just had a federal election this year. Who will still feel this way four or five years from now? I'm hoping the provincial election will reflect this recent swell of support for the NDP.

  3. The sad thing is that I hadn't even heard of Jack Layton until this week. The US is a weirdly insulated place to live; we don't even seem to care about our closest neighbors. How will we ever start to care about the whole planet?

    I'm sorry for Canada's (and the world's) loss. Hugs.

  4. This is going to sound kinda silly.

    Primarily, the funeral made me feel more dedicated... because, yes, there are too few of us out there, but simultaneously, it showed me just how much one person, committed and motivated and aimed properly, can accomplish.

    Sure, there are hundreds of selfish bastards for every one Jack Layton... but Jack did more for Canada in his one all-too-brief lifetime than the hundreds of selfish bastards did. And while he left his work unfinished (some might say barely started), I still say that it will take years to undo all the good he's done... and only if spontaneously we LET them undo it all.

    To me, it was a very personal message about the fact that I really, honestly and truly, need to get off my ass and start doing something. And if all Jack accomplished by his death was making one person stand up and start fighting... well, that's something at least. And I sincerely hope that it's not just me... but even if it is... I don't mind. Because I am *going* to make a difference.

  5. Jennifer - Thanks for the hugs. I'm not surprised to hear you hadn't heard of Jack before this week. That is part of why I'm so worried for the future. If even someone like him, a great leader and visionary, can go unnoticed outside of our borders, then what's the point of a nobody like me making the teensiest of efforts?

  6. Marc - An inspirational comment, thank you. I sincerely hope you're not the only one feeling motivated to take action. Many people were deeply affected by Jack's passing, but how many of them will turn their grief into positive steps? Into community projects? So many of us are all talk and no action. I want to believe that you and others like you can make up for the rest of us. I want to believe we can keep the momentum going. But right now I can't see it as anything other than a steep uphill battle.

  7. I will too, Marc.

    Lots of friends I know as well.
    Do something with others who are feeling motivated and you can get something started that's achievable.

  8. I watched the funeral on TV, and was in tears. I loved Stephen Lewis' eulogy. I found it made me feel better though, watching it unfold all week, because I saw a huge outpouring from Canadians, all these people coming out of the woodwork, realizing the potential for Canada, realizing the need for a better, more inclusive, more responsible Canada... Living in Alberta, where so many people are conservative, it was great to hear people talk about what a great man he was, how it was a real loss to Canada, even though they have never considered voting NDP. I really think his death was a catalyst for change for a lot of people, on how they think, on how they vote. That gives me hope.

    He might be irreplaceable, but perhaps his death has really changed the hearts and minds of Canadians that otherwise may not have been changed.

    I also think that Stephen Harper's team has taken notice of the reaction of Canadians, and the outpouring of grief and for the hopes for a better Canada... If he is smart, perhaps he will use it as input into his plans and new policies.

    I loved the last line of Stephen Lewis' eulogy, where he quoted Arundhati Roy:

    “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.”

    I know it is hard, but we cannot give up hope.

  9. Darcy - Thanks for the pep talk. Fake it till you make it, heh?

  10. Sherry - Perhaps Jack's death will be a catalyst for change. I'll believe it when I see it, I guess. Having studied psychology at university I can't ignore the fact that intention does not always lead to action. But now I'm sounding like a broken record.

    Thanks, everyone, for your positive thoughts.

  11. Here is one reason to hope - NDP is now tied for first in the polls!

  12. Our provincial election is just around the corner... this is good news. Thanks for sharing the link, Sherry.