Thursday, September 25, 2008


There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

It’s broken. The world that we cling to so defiantly is tearing itself apart. The institutions that have defined our social and economic framework for the past century are beyond repair. Our systems of government, education and health care are woefully antiquated at best, dangerously irresponsible at worst. Our infrastructure is aging and inadequate. Our natural resources are being consumed at an alarming rate. The global population continues to soar, despite famine and global pandemics such as AIDS and other deadly viruses. The environment on which all life depends is ill with a raging fever.

It is a truly exciting time to be alive.

Everything is at stake. We have the opportunity right now to recreate society, redefine our relationship with our environment and renew hope in the world. We have a chance to leapfrog the current chaos to create a truly sustainable, global society.

The worldwide web has leveled the communications playing field, while new technologies bring the promise of boundless energy, harvested in harmony with the Earth. There is glory in the possibility of tomorrow.

The problem is that we are still way too comfortable to grasp how truly dangerous and exciting things really are. The price of gas may be going up, the weather may be getting a little weird, but there’s nothing to really get excited about – yet. We’d rather bitch and complain about the status quo. It’s much easier and it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort, at least for now.

Consider our upcoming federal election, or the “Battle of the Two Stephens”, as it has been dubbed. It’s bland, uninspiring and predictable.

Now compare that we with the current U.S. presidential race. On one hand, there’s the old guard, riding his one-trick “I am a POW” pony, with his gun-toting side kick, a modern day Annie Oakley at his side, both promising more of the same under the banner of change. On the other hand, there’s the exciting newcomer with the foreign name, rich with ideas, short on experience, full of hope and promise, and his stalwart vice-presidential candidate, a man who brings grace and experience to the ticket. While it’s still too close to call, it is thrilling to see two polarized visions for the country, both desperately trying to salvage the most powerful nation in the world.

It’s not that our American neighbors are more exciting or daring than we are. It’s simply that we aren’t scared enough yet. In relative terms, our economy is stronger; our resources more bountiful, our health care system more inclusive. We’re okay for now, right?

As long as we’re slightly a head of the curve, there’s no need to panic. It’s like checking the obituaries. As long we’re alive to read about the other guy, there’s time enough to worry about our health. It’s an illusion that we cling to, a survival mechanism that keeps us sane as we move ever closer to the brink. The truth is, nobody gets out alive.

On the August 30th broadcast of CBC Radio’s Vinyl Café, host Stuart McLean retold the amazing story of Roger Woodward who in 1960 miraculously survived a tumble over Niagara Falls. When the fishing boat that 7 year-old Roger was traveling in capsized, the boy was thrown into the churning waters of the Niagara River. Clinging to an adult life jacket, he was thrashed on the rocks and carried through the rapids at tremendous speed, unaware of the mighty falls that lay head. Suddenly the waters calmed and everything seemed frozen in time.

Woodward recalled that at the very moment that he realized what was happening he felt no sense of panic, only a quiet resignation. He said he was too young to grasp the idea of death and the concepts of heaven and hell.

Like it not, American or Canadian, or not, we are all moving rapidly toward a precipice. We can panic, flail around, or ignore what’s happening.

Or we can soar about the mist and reach for the horizon. We can recognize that there is a crack in everything we have built. We can get off our comfy Canadian couches and use the light that the crack lets in to see the possibility of a brave new world.


To hear the full account of Roger Woodward’s amazing story, check out


Post a Comment

<< Home