The Meaning. The Invitation.

"I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
-Stephen Grellet, 1773-1855 Quaker Minister (William Penn?)


Make no mistake, you will face the wretched anxiety one day. It would behoove you to be ready.

Since 1993, after another prolonged period of forced painful clarity that very year, I have seen life differently. If we are lucky, we get, and survive, our moment(s) of clarity. These moments are often so painful that one must look them in the eye, and ask what our purpose must be during our time.  Hopefully, one's answer is "to make a difference". And the truth is, we all have a chance to make a difference, but it is going to ask something greater of ourselves than we may wish to give. Give it anyways, time is running short, for as I love to say, the problem is we think we have time. 

I lost some good friends far too early in life, one to an over indulgence, another (and his brother) on June 23, 1985 as a bomb tore though their Flight 182 Air India Boeing 747 over Ireland airspace, and another to a ruptured vessel in his brain during a night's rest. The pain just kept coming at me, I did not talk about how these events tore through my soul and spirit, I rarely do. I did not confront death well, I ran, I closed up. I was then, and am now, still too emotional a man. You see, the problem is you think you have time.  But the fact of the matter is, to this point, you are just lucky.

These fellas still stick with me, they haunt me actually, in the best of ways.  The mere fact that their lives were snuffed out far before they were able to give back to this world makes me want to do more every day.  Pain leaves a mark.  It was just a few days after my 18th birthday -- I still remember being in the process of making a salami sandwich in my mom's kitchen when the radio over my shoulder announced the downing of Flight 182 over the Atlantic. Just the night before the amigos had gathered together to wish them bon voyage as they set off to discover their family history in India.  Life changes in a moment -- even during the making of a salami sandwich on a perfect summer day, life can change in a moment and gut you forever.

But, I have learned. I have learned that some pain leaves marks, and that the pain and scars are ones you want to stick around. Having them ache once in awhile reminds you to press on, to make the most of your life and the lives of others, and of course to remember them.  However, one is a fool if one does not look at the end story, and embrace the fact that at some point, our own existence will also end.  Accepting that you will not pass this way again, that you will only pass through this world but once, should encourage you to do any good deeds or show any kindnesses now before it is too late. Leave some good things behind for those that follow.

As Stephen Jenkinson says in this gutting video, do not wait for the end of your life to find meaning. The truth and meaning is all around you every day, trust me. There is nothing to find, it is not hidden, it is made by the will to proceed. "Nothing you hold dear will last. Life does not feed life, life is on the receiving end of life, it is death that feeds life." 

Make peace in your life, and you will not have to find it in your final breaths, it will be gloriously there with you.

Rest in Peace, Deven, Rahul, Blair, Peter . . . my brothers.

- Shawn


Dear Gord: Silence's Ransom.

Late breaking story on the CBC
A nation whispers, "We always knew that he'd go free"
They add, "You can't be fond of living in the past
'Cause if you are then there's no way that you're going to last"

Wheat kings and pretty things
Let's just see what tomorrow brings

- lyrics from "Wheat Kings" by The Tragically Hip


You are not getting out of this alive. This is a very present reality for Gord. 

For about 32 years Gord Downie has been the frontman and primary songwriter of the famous Canadian band, the Tragically Hip. On May 24, 2016 Gord's life slammed head first into a blunt reality check, Gord had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, he had a massive glioblastoma in his head. After near immediate brain surgery, chemo and radiation therapy Gord bravely decided that the show must go, honorably he wanted to continue with his mission and passion.  So, he and his blokes scheduled a final four week cross-Canada farewell tour which ended in a “Canada is closed” tour closing extravaganza which ended on August 20th, 2016 in his hometown of Kingston, Ontario.  Canada was offically closed that night, quite literally.  Gord decided to still share, give back, live, and carry on with his life's gifts.  Gord's life has always been about music from what I can tell, telling great stories and bringing people joy through his gift.  Ever the story teller, the songs hit home and get personal, one such song is about the Toronto Maple Leaf NHL defenseman who scored the 1951 Stanley Cup-winning goal shortly before dying in a plane crash. Another, the mood perfect haunting "Wheat Kings" tells the story of David Milgaard, a Canadian wrongfully accused of murder. Gord's song writing means something, it says something, and I suspect this gave his music deep meaning, his days greater meaning, and his life a clearer purpose.

We are all going to die. If you are not starting to get comfortable with that reality, things are going to get pretty painful as your time winds down. Avoidance of acceptance of your final guaranteed demise will not make it escapable. If you wait and avoid you are going to possibly feel pretty frantic in those last days trying to meet your goals, dreams, wishes, hopes and tell those you love how much they meant to you being in your life. You are going to likely wish for more time. You are going to want some "do overs". Again, let me be clear, if you are reading this in the evening, you are one more day closer to that moment.  It is coming, trust me. So, get busy. The problem is, we think we have time.

I spent the better part of three decades enjoying Gord and the rest of "The Hip’s” stories and music. Music touches something deep in us, and unlike many other forms of entertainment in this world, we can return to music over and over again and it only gets better. The memories stay and sometimes get richer. Repeatedly, an album can grow on us and take deeper meaning and a comforting place, marking moments in our life, time-stamping memories and events that usually live on forever while others merely fade away. This is what Gord and the boys did for me, and much of Canada. 

The fact of the matter now is that Gord might not have many years left, none of us may to be honest, but I sure hope that he is the exception and not the rule for this type of cancer, I think there is so much more music in that man's soul. The truth of the matter is that he would love the time we are all wasting doing frivolous nonsensical things like watching Youtube videos of foolish teenagers skateboard down handrails often snagging their dangling parts on the rails, or climbing on the edges of rooftop edges doing handstands while snapping selfies. Make no mistake, Gord is not wasting his time doing these kinds of foolish things causally risking what is preciously left his life.   He knows how short an hourglass can be on sand. He is likely packing it all in, loading the boat, loving hard and living openly and freely. He is likely sampling life slowly, richly, buying the good chocolates, and having deep meaningful experiences with friends. We, on the other hand, think we have time and that is our mistake.  We waste so much time in this short life. The fact of the matter is any day now we could get the same call from our doctor with the same gut wrenching news. We are all wasting time. We all think we have enough time, that we can "get to it tomorrow".  Do we have time ? Can we "get to it tomorrow” ? There is still plenty of time right? 

In your last breaths on this spinning rock on which we dwell, there will likely be silence. If you are lucky to be surrounded by your loved ones, it will be a silence of crushing sadness for them. Complete silence will undoubtedly mark the exact moment of your transcendence.  And in that silence those observers, if you are lucky to have a few, will once again be reminded as they have many times before of the brevity of this trip we call life. In the silence, during that nauseating punch in the gut moment, there will be a reminder to get busy doing more and loving more grandly. Sadly, in the noise of our lives, as the days and weeks march on, how soon we will forget this lesson in the silence. In Gord's words from the song A Beautiful Thing, there is brilliant stark wisdom to what that silence is screaming. Lets all try to better hear and remember these words, spoken from the silence. 

"In the ulcerating silence perspective comes,

the way it always does for it’s ransom."     -Gord Downie

Here is a final punch in the face.  Within the hour of reading this you will soon forget what I have written here. Snapchat, Youtube, Netflix, HBO, they all suck us into an oblivion of wasted time, distraction from the vein of life, a lull of immediate gratification.  How soon we will all forget how short this trip is, the weeks and months will march onward, until we are again faced with something more grave and agonizing that forces us to sit in the silence again. Hopefully that silence is not our own. 

In the mean time, I give thanks. Thank you Gord, thank you deeply for leaving beautiful scars on my life that are still vivid. You have been part of the soundtrack of my life, adding color and depth to the memories and locking them in, deep and permanent.  Keep the good stuff coming brother. Like a wedding or movie, memories are not the same when not time-stamped by music. My life has been enriched and imprinted by the bands that have drawn me in to their muse. Thank you again Gord, for finding your passion and for continuing to shout it out loud, in your own unique way, with flare and passion and  heart. Thank you for your time, it is one of the greatest most unselfish gifts in life, giving someone your time.

The problem is, we all think we have time.  From Gord's lips to your ears, in a haunting yet deeply loving whisper,  "you might not my friend, so get busy". 

Again,  . . . 

"In the ulcerating silence perspective comes, 

The way it always does for it’s ransom."  -Gord Downie,

Much love Gord, over the miles, . . . . .  always. Thank you.

- Shawn Allen

Tragically Hip: Canada says farewell to a National Treasure.  Rolling Stone Magazine