Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jack Layton: Love Is Better than....

Post 45--:

Wonderful Summer Weather

It’s been and still is a wonderful summer here on Canada’s West Coast, though it was unusually slow in starting. I have loved it and spent a fair amount of time—weeks in fact—away from my desk and, hence, away from this blog. Visiting our kids and families in WA and near SF in CA with days of RV-“camping” in between. Since then, “backyard” RVing in southern BC—with more to come. If you like a moderate climate without extremes of heat and cold, then BC’s south-west coast and much of Vancouver Island is the place to be. So a bit of a lull, but one you can understand, I believe. But, while it’s still great summer stuff in the middle of September, here I am, once again slogging/blogging it out. Welcome to Fall.

The Passing of Jack Layton

While my wife and I were enjoying it out there in the sunshine with children and grandchildren and, not to forget, the 20-foot RV, not everyone was so blessed. In fact, most of my cohabitants in Canada and, indeed, the world, were either working hard, which really is a blessing, or they were suffering in any of a thousand ways. One of these was Jack Layton, the leader of the opposition in the Canadian Parliament. Layton succumbed to cancer at the relatively young age of 61.

Though I am interested in politics, I have not followed Layton very much in his activities or speeches and am hardly enamoured with his party, while my concern for the poor and marginalized is no less than was his. But everyone one liked and respected “Jack” as he now is popularly called, personally, even his political opponents. He was honoured with a state funeral. Maclean’s, Canada’s premier news magazine, published “A Special Tribute” about him.

Jack and Religion

I don’t know whether Jack himself or others would consider him religious. Admittedly, I have read little about him, even during these days of national mourning, but I get the impression that religion was not one of his focal points. I have not read any references to such a phase of his life, except that I did read that he was deeply influenced by Charles Taylor, one of Canada’s premier philosophers and an overt Christian.

Jack's Dictum

Be that as it may, among other things, Jack left behind him a statement that has suddenly become very popular. Not only is it featured on the Maclean’s cover (Sept. 12, 2001), but parts appear on T-shirt and on all kinds of popular trinkets. The entire statement reads:
“Love is better than anger.
Hope is better than fear.
Optimism is better than despair.”

There is, of course, nothing new about these sentiments; the Bible is full of them throughout. Was Jack intentionally summarizing Biblical teachings or was he merely expressing common platitudes that few would disagree with but understand in a secular framework? I don’t know. Probably only his closest associates know.

The Dictum's Popularity

My question is why this has become such a popular quotation in Canadian culture. Why do I see it all around me in Vancouver’s secular downtown? I suspect it is because it strikes a common chord in the minds of my fellow citizens. Many of them are plague by anger, fear and despair. Jack knew his countrymen well and was aware of the negative climate blanketing the nation. Canada has never been cited by the polls that measure degrees of happiness. A country as wretched as Nigeria has made it more than once near to the top of such happiness polls, but Canada has never come close. Vancouver as the best place in the world to live? Polls have often concluded that, but the happiest? Apparently, even living in the best city in the world is no recipe for happiness.

If a Christian preacher were to make such a pronouncement publicly, few Canadians would pay attention. Most would regard it as just so much Christian humbug, but when Jack Layton, a popular politician who just died, says it, it touches a deep chord in the hearts of the people of the status of the Dalai Lama.

Why the Popularity

I believe Jack was aware of the blanket of anger, fear and despair over the nation and wanted to leave a positive message to them, a way to overcome those negative features with love, hope and optimism. I appreciate his words of encouragement. But why are these sentiments not common place among us, when they have been in the Bible all along and are being preached from Christian pulpits for centuries? And why do people listen to it now, from Jack? My answer would be that there is a general anger, fear and despair among the people that is directed towards Christianity and the church. It is the same when the Dalai Lama comes to town and makes pronouncements very similar to what the church has been preaching all along without being heard.

I would urge you, my readers, to think about Jack’s words of encouragement and seek to deepen your understanding. There is no place like the Bible for you to find that. That’s what it is all about.

Thank you, Jack. May your words resonate in our hearts deeper and deeper and lead us from anger, fear and despair to love, hope and optimism, the genuine article, the one found in the Bible.

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