Saturday, February 13, 2010

I'm a Closet Canadian

I discovered something while watching the Olympic Opening Ceremonies this weekend. Something more than the fact that the jazz phenom who sang "O Canada," Nikki Yanofsky, is Jewish.

I'm a closet Canadian.

Give me a country that is all scenery and almost no people, but the people that are there are gentle, courteous and almost apologetic for wanting to win. A place where the prime genre of the music is the music of the earth, where KD Lang' version of Hallelujah gently squeezes every drop of spirituality that was left after Justin Timberlake's version for Haiti; where Joni Mitchell is not yesterday's news as she pays tribute to the Prairies and Sarah McLachlan's "Ordinary Miracle" could just as easily have been taken from this morning's Amidah.

Give me a place where, rather than wasting their time simulating epic bloody battles on grand canvases, they simulate spouting whales. Come to think of it, there are hardly any bloody battles to remember (aside from the ones on the ice at Maple Leaf Gardens and the Montreal Forum, that is).

I like this place.

OK there were glitches. Yeah, the flaming cauldron thing got screwed up, and maybe the national anthem. Yes, it was amusing to see the tribal dancers have to keep on going and going while every athlete walked in. But the glitches only made these ceremonies seem quaint and vulnerable in comparison to the Chinese juggernaut of two years ago. These are the Olympics of the Human, not celebrating the human form, as they did in ancient times, or the human potential, as they may have in more optimistic centuries. These Ceremonies celebrated the human spirit, warts and all, as best seen through the prism of an unparalleled natural beauty: people not just living with nature, not just tolerating it, but truly flourishing in the Garden. Their songs were in fact prayers of gratitude, uttered by a people capable of genuine smiles and real tears, mature people who have looked at things from Both Sides Now, people who choose to be Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik's Adam 2 in his essay, "The Lonely Man of Faith."

As Soloveitchik describes it, Adam 1, the one described in Genesis chapter 1, is "Majestic Man," driven to subdue the earth and dominate. Adam 2, from the second Creation account, is "Covenental Man," the one who names the animals, is nurtured by nature and seeks only one thing: companionship. He is the Lonely Man of Faith. The US and China are Adam 1. Canada is Adam 2.

I've always preferred Adam 2 (though I think Woman 1, of the first creation account deserves more due). Songs like McLaughlan's bring me tears. (I'm not ashamed to admit that I liked John Denver too.) But let's not forget that Adam 2 still fought alongside us at Normandy and in Afghanastan. Adam 2 still packs a punch - but the quest is never to dominate and subdue the earth.

If Canada weren't our neighbor to the north, we'd have to invent a country like it, just to remind us from time to time of the priorities we so often neglect. A little less majesty and a little more covenant wouldn't hurt us, even if our health care system can't be like theirs.

If I can't live in Canada, I'm very glad I don't live too far away. And for the next two weeks, I'll see visions of that grand, vast, yet so intimate country, every time I turn on my TV... or open my prayerbook.

Life is like a gift they say,
Wrapped up for you every day
Open up and find a way
To give some of your own
Sun comes up and shines so bright so bright
And disappears again at night
It's just another ordinary miracle today.

No comments: