Monday, August 22, 2011

Standing with the Dreamers

I was planting my fall crops today in my garden - arugula, peas and lettuce. The sun beat down warmly on my back and I was making rows between lush tomato plants, full with ripening fruit. Believe me, I did not want to think about the fact that fall approaches, that if I don't plant now, I won't have a fall harvest.

I was also thinking about the sorrowful news of Jack Layton's early death and all the comments I've read from people who deeply admired Layton and yet disagreed with his politics. Today is a day for grieving, I told myself, not politics. But the lessons of the garden - the need to acknowledge that the end will come - intruded into my political thoughts too.

Jack Layton was a bright man. Elizabeth May is similarly admired and has a keen intelligence. Both of them are or were aware of other political possibilities -- and yet chose to focus their political careers and work in what many would dismiss as idealism. And yet, as we watch dictatorship after dictatorship fall from a deep desire for human rights and equality, and as we see clear evidence for climate change mount, why is it that we continue to smile pleasantly at the good intentions of leaders like May and Layton, and cast our votes elsewhere, shoring up our own resources and leaving the climate and the poor to fend for themselves?

The end comes, whether sooner or later. In a world where multimillion dollar celebrity weddings dominate the news, there are still true heroes, good men and women who strive to affect profound change in the world. I guess the question I would raise today is whether your political party, your place of worship, your family, your life -- and mine -- are making a positive difference in the world, particularly for those who can't help themselves? Is what you choose something that is ultimately admirable when the end comes, or something merely expedient, prudent, and reasonable?

One of my favourite book series is CS Lewis' Narnia books. In one - The Silver Chair - a dismal and aptly named character Puddleglum responds to a cynical challenge about the existence of hope and a saviour, with this: "One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things.... Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's a small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say."

So, I cast my lot with the dreamers and I hope you do too. I hope if you admire Jack Layton (or Elizabeth May or Aslan or Jesus) that you try on their dreams, even just a little bit. See how they fit.

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