Monday, July 02, 2007

Valour steeped in faith: Canada Day

A quick post to wish all of our Canadian readers, and particularly my two fellow bloggers, a belated Canada Day.

We sang both the english and the french version of our national anthem back to back at Mass on Sunday. It had been quite a long, long time since I had occasion to measure one against the other. They are not the same song, in that the french version is its own version, and not a direct translation of the english lyrics.
Despite a combination of innate shyness and no discernable singing skill whatsoever, I found myself in loud voice by the time we got through the french version of our national anthem... those lyrics really got to me, this time.

They reflect the Canada I hold in my mind as I choose the way I live my life here; indeed the very act of living here in Canada being a choice in itself. So many from my generation have been offered a chance to leave, to work and raise a family elsewhere (typically either the US or Europe), and took it, usually in order to make more money. I myself have been tempted with many opportunities to leave, and while I've come close to moving away on several occasions, I've nevertheless stayed Home.

It’s been a choice I’ve wrestled with for years, a crossroads my wife and I discuss annually each Christmas, as we take stock of the year gone by, and look to the year ahead. Despite clear benefits to living and working elsewhere, we’ve decided to stay in Canada. Maybe the reasons for that decision sound silly on any other day but Canada Day: I believe my country needs me here, to help in my own small way, by my own small act, to keep faith in my nation's future, as one keeps faith in the covenant one forms with one's spouse, with one's family... Such commitments are certainly challenging, for nations, like the people who live in them, are not perfect, and are prone to all the regrettable behaviors, errors of judgment and disagreements over direction that, in their own way, also shatter friendships, marriages, and families.

Unlike so many people from so many other countries across our planet, we Canadians are free to leave our Home. We are free to find new financial opportunities wherever we may make them, we are free to make a new family wherever we may find them. Yet some of us choose to stay Home.

Like the love of any deep romance, we are in love with our nation; not so much smitten by a snapshot of the nation as it exists, here and now today, but by a dream of the nation that could be. Just as with any abiding love, it is not mere physical attraction to a present shape, but a perception of the potential inside that outer shell, a glimpse into the unseen soul within, and the long shadow it casts far off into the distance. I suspect it's a similar vision of Canadian potential that brought my grandmother's mother, my mother's father, and my own father, to these timbered shores, in their time, and kept them here, in their new Home, despite their similar opportunities, and many temptations, to move on.

We Canadians may consider ourselves free to do as we wish, yet tend to use such "freedom" as the excuse for doing little, mostly cutting ourselves adrift from each other, forsaking our nation’s potential strength; surely our national anthems, in either language, can teach us that the most nourishing freedom comes from accepting responsibilities, from holding hands rather than waving ours about, unfettered; some commitments can offer us a bottomless source of resilience, granting us leverage from which to derive great strengths, even if it may seem a challenging effort, sometimes, for such benefits to be recognized. It's too easy to feel that the hand holding ours may be a constraint, keeping us from adding to our life; much harder to summon the humility in seeing its potential as a support, as a helping hand up, rather than a weight holding us down.

Too many people excuse themselves from the effort required to see the unseen, to embrace things grander than themselves, for fear of the uncertainty such actions must bring, and resentment of the sacrifices such gestures must demand.

My generation needs the discipline to embrace Canada's potential future, by first humbling itself to fully appreciate its past, a past filled with countless courageous acts of faith, if we are to remain a northern nation True, Strong and Free.

English version of the National Anthem:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

(translated) French Version of the National Anthem:

O Canada!
Land of our forefathers
Thy brow is wreathed with a glorious garland of flowers.
As in thy arm ready to wield the sword,
So also is it ready to carry the cross.
Thy history is an epic of the most brilliant exploits.

Thy valour steeped in faith
Will protect our homes and our rights
Will protect our homes and our rights.


truepeers said...

Thanks for that beautiful post, Charles,

I decided to take Canada Day off blogging - after an ill-fated attempt to post ran into computer problems - and went out to see some of the people, struck as usual at how most of the people attending public events seem to be immigrants looking for a cheap but meaningful day out, while the older Canadian families are often off on some get-out-of-the-city by ourselves sojourn.

I sometimes think that nowhere more than in this country is the Blakean promise of "seeing the universe in a grain of sand" more true. We are often so unsure about what or who we are that we are prone to go off on adventures, at home and abroad, intellectual and otherwise, in search of finding who we are are, or what is particularly Canadian. This often entails taking little signs, turning them over and over, in search of some greater truth. We often find the profounder truths in the little things that seem yet as innocent seeds just coming into form. Even as we are actually one of the older nations on the planet, if we date these things constitutionally, we seem to have a perpetual adolescence about us and a continuous need for adult commitments to give us some greater shape and form. So we try and carry on...

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.

Dag said...

I was blessed with some time with Northrop Frye, author of, among other works, A Fearful Symmetry, a book of literary criticism of William Blake and more. MMM, life is good.

When I think of Canada I could think of that experience. It'd be my choice; and if that's the choice I made I'd like this place in spite of the climate, temperature and and cultural.

I can't do much about changing the climate, regardless of Canada's current hero David Suzuki, but I can choose to deal with Canada as the culture as it is. I don't like it as it is. And like anything I have, if I don't like the way it is I have a need to fix it up till it works and looks right and feels good. None of that passive nonsense for me. Not for those I choose to associate with. Tigers, those.

William Blake. (1757–1827)

489. "The Tiger."

TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Careful, intelligent critics will save from obscurity and defamation the beauties all around us if only they will, the poetry of nations and people.

The etymology of the word "poet" is eventually Maker. Let us make!