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  • Canada Day, Attachment and the Meaning of Home

    July 1, Canada Day, gave us the chance to reflect on the meaning of being Canadian—and on the meaning of home.

    Finding a sense of home is something that is front and center for many people at this present time. If “home” is the place where we feel most secure and safest, many of us have found that sense of security to be challenged by lockdown requirements, and the many changes and demands that coping with the pandemic has brought to us. It’s a time when many of the conventional securities that we have taken for granted, such as the ability to go to our workplaces, the chance to go to a cafe or a restaurant, or the opportunity to send our children to school, have all be brought into question. It’s a time when, for many people, many of the most familiar aspects of their home life and community have felt somewhat, well…broken.

    Forget Your Perfect Offering…

    Against this background, the Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper worked with prominent Canadian musicians, singers and dancers to create a unique Canada Day programming offering: a series of interpretations by seven Canadian dance companies of Canadian poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen’s 1992 song, Anthem.

    Like much of Mr. Cohen’s work, Anthem is an uncommon combination of a sobering realism about the human condition with a form of surprising yet very vibrant hope. The lyrics are well known to many, and seem to have risen to prominence on social media as particularly speaking to our circumstances in the midst of the pandemic:

    Ring the bells that still can ring, /

    Forget your perfect offering. / There is a crack, a crack in everything.

    That’s how the light gets in.

    Leonard Cohen, Anthem

    Cohen urges us to realize that the world we inhabit rarely, if ever, matches up to our perfectionistic ideals—and that, in fact, we don’t measure up to our own standards of perfection. He bids us to realize that there is “a crack in everything”, yet then he follows up with this remarkable statement, that this broken-ness, cracked-ness, is in fact “how the light gets in”. This light that he refers to is presumably both the light of conscious awareness of ourselves, and of the world, and also the light of hope.

    Accepting Our Limitations, and the World’s

    How extraordinary that the artistic guiding lights at the Globe and Mail would conclude that this is the right message to deliver on our nation’s founding day! Usually, we would think of nations’ birthdays as times when a nation’s citizens would engage in a considerable amount of self-congratulation for the wonderful contributions that their nation has made to civilization, or their nation’s stirling character, military and economic strength and all-around wonderfulness. Yet, the words of Cohen’s song give us almost the opposite:

    You can add up the parts: you won’t get the sum /

    You can strike up the march—there is no drum /

    Everyone, everyone to love will come, but as a refugee.

    There is a very sober, dry eyed realism in these lines. Yet, as mentioned above, Cohen also gives us his deeply courageous hope. In the midst of the fallibility and imperfection that constitutes human life as we all experience it, Cohen affirms that “everyone to love will come”. Opinions might differ as to what he means here, but my view is that this is rooted in Cohen’s deep spirituality, and his conviction that what we need is a deep compassion for ourselves, and for others, who, like us, are dealing with their own woundedness and broken-ness. He expresses the same grounded but ultimately optimistic perspective in another of his songs when he declares that,

    Love’s the only engine of survival.

    Feeling at Home

    C.G. Jung held a similar perspective when he stated that,

    The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life. 

    Jung recognized, correctly in my opinion, that being able to accept and love oneself, in the midst of one’s broken-ness, fallibility and strengths is a key requirement for being able to accept and act compassionately toward others, in their flawed and human state. In fact, Jung tells us that this is “the epitome of a whole outlook on life.” In other words, to be able to accept others, and to feel at home in the world, we must first come to terms with who we are, and must be able to accept ourselves in our entirety.

    To be on the journey of self-acceptance, which is the same as the journey toward wholeness is to embark on the work of a lifetime. To come to terms with, and to accept and love who we really are is also to get at the root of many forms of human depression and anxiety.

    The work of self-acceptance, and of finding a true sense of home in the world can be greatly assisted by working in a safe, secure, accepting /a-midlife-transition relationship, whether in-person or online.

    Wishing you the very best on your journey,

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