What Cancer – or the Canucks – Has (Have) Taught Me, Part 357: Be the Change You Wish In Others
I know what you’re thinking (aren’t I always so perceptive?). Right now you either want to 1)not read this, or 2)run to the comments section – or my facebook profile – to tell me how evil the Canucks – or their city – are, and how dare I even suggest that this tragedy actually taught me something immensely positive this week…. but hear me out first, please. I don’t want to get my tear gas out. Word on the street is that the entire province is out of stock.
Ok, that was gong-worthy. But I had to try to lighten up one of the darkest days I’ve remembered in this part of the world. Sigh.
For those of you who have always hated – or have begun to hate – hockey, or those of you who are just tired of it, and to those of you not from the Vancouver area, or who really don’t understand anything about sports or this one in particular, please know that what I’m about to say is not really about hockey at all, except, unfortunately, for the very vivid, painful, and heart-breaking sights, sounds, and smells of the city I love on one of its blackest nights.
A bit of hockey background is necessary first, though, so I hope you can indulge me.
Those of you who know me well know I’m pretty vocal about my backing of the Canucks. Yes, I’ll be in your face about it, even, if you count in-your-face as spouting blue-and-green, and occasionally the retro orange-yellow-red-black-white of this team who has surrounded so many of my best, and not-so-happy, childhood – and I suppose, now adult, memories. I’ll challenge anything I consider even remotely untrue, unfair, or overly negative, about a team who taught me to love our national past-time, and taught me to care just as much about what happens to our city off the ice as happens on it.
Especially now, when what happens off the ice is more destructive than what happens on it.
One of the first rules of being a Canucks fan – or any fan, really: you have a choice. You can be a bandwagoner, ready to celebrate a great win and act like you were with them all along, turning on a dime and criticizing every single move the players make as soon as they lose, spraining your ankle repeatedly every year as you leap off that proverbial bandwagon. Or, you can be a Canuck faithful. One of those people who’s spirits rise and fall with wins and losses, who knows they’re in for a rollercoaster from the start of October through the end of (if we’re lucky) May or June, who realizes there will be some tears involved at some point – no joke… I was surrounded by hundreds of grown men, “men’s men,” at that, on that amazing night of December 17, 2008, when Linden’s jersey was raised to the rafters at Rogers Arena, all of whom had tears in their eyes. And, who can forget the images of Ryan Kesler or Chris Higgins desperately trying to stay together after last night’s heartbreaking – no matter what should have been, or could have been done – Game 7 loss?
Yes, sometimes we care about things and get hurt because we care. Sometimes – okay, most of the time we don’t get what we want. Some things aren’t fair, or at least don’t feel that way. But choosing to care is still worth it.
Aside from these above-stated obvious lessons I can pass on to my kids, there’s something else that’s been lurking there. Something right or wrong I could feel floating around me, the last couple of months. Something that was getting me frustrated. Something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
Again, indulge me with some more hockey background.
Second rule of being a Canucks fan: you’re going to be mocked.
The moment people find out you’re a Canucks fan, you’ll most likely hear all about every single thing that team has done wrong. Flames and Oilers fans will love to do this to you especially. I’m accepting of it since we have a long-standing rivalry with those two teams and its part of who we are, BC and Alberta, to face off with our verbal sniper rifles from either side of one of Canada’s greatest treasures, the magnificent Rocky Mountains. And, I do have a couple of university degrees and everything, so I’m not completely stupid here. I’m aware of the mistakes, the fails – both minor and epic – the tragedies, the things we Canucks wished never happened. So if you’re going to be a real Canuck fan, be prepared for anyone who’s not a Canucks fan, and even some of those who say they are, will be very quick to remind you of every heartache, you as a Canuck faithful, have ever had.
The last two months I’ve heard from so many who, their team being out of the playoffs, chose to spend their energies cheering against the Canucks. I get that – believe me, I’m not going to be very quick to congratulate Boston or Chicago fans on their successes, and I don’t expect that many of their fans would be too surprised by that either. But with each passing series, the Canuck-hate seemed to get worse. Yesterday someone happily ‘liked’ a status that said Mason Raymond won’t be able to play until Christmas, if he gets to return at all. ‘Liked’ seeing one of our players fairly seriously hurt. Seriously! For all the Patrick-Kane-finger-waving grannies of the Chicago series that made me – and Kane himself – laugh, deep down I don’t think any real Canucks fan would ever want to see, say, Nathan Horton, for example, injured. Though apparently he was remarkably better by yesterday.
But I apologize. I’ve just given you a prime example of how many justify their ill-will towards the Canucks. It’s what has become the third “rule” of being a Canucks fan: We’re all whiners. We complain too much about the apparent injustices we see done to us or around us. And when we lose, we act out.
See last night, for example.
So, because of these three Canuck “rules,” this morning I woke up to, not only the painful reminder that we came so close again, and missed, what we’d been after, not only the horrifying, literally physically disturbing images of the city I love being trashed to pieces by people who probably couldn’t even remember their own names or why they bought the Canucks paraphernalia they just happened to be sporting, but a zillion negative, critical comments from every portion of the media telling me just how awful Canuck fans, Vancouverites, and the players themselves, must be in order for something like this to happen. Not to mention all Canuck forums/facebook pages loaded with fans of opposing teams wishing us nothing but trash and telling us how we’ve never been good enough and never will be.
No wonder the antibiotics I got yesterday don’t really feel like they’re working today. All of this garbage has only upped the ante; not only am I drippy-nosed, sore-throated, and hoarse-voiced, but I feel personally, heart-crushingly, ill.
The media is skewed, of course. I mean, they cover what’s sensational, controversial. And the internet is a haven for all of the disturbed people in the world to camp out and get more messed up together. So, its not entirely accurate.
But I realized what was bothering me. Why it felt like something so much more, and nothing to do with hockey, all at the same time.
Because if we had won last night, I’d be far too busy being happy about winning to take time out of my schedule and trash the opposing team on their own fan pages, or tell my Bruin-loving friends (ok, there aren’t too many of those) that I was thrilled that they lost.
And that’s when it all made sense.
The most common word people use to describe me is passionate. Whatever I do, I do thoroughly, they say. This is true. I used to feel guilty for this. I still kind of feel sheepish. But I’ve tried not caring and apparently its not in my genetics. I don’t know how to do that. So I care. Not about everything, of course. We’d be bleeding heart puddles of insanity if we put every ounce of energy into every tiny cause we see. As my brother says, “you gotta pick your battles, kiddo…. decide what you’re willing to die on the mountain for.” He’s right. And, as passionate as I am about hockey, its not really what’s bothering me right now.
Its actually passion itself that is bothering me. Or, rather, misdirected passion.
See, I refuse to believe there is a section of the world that just doesn’t care about anything. I think those who say so are lying, or wounded, and have stuffed their own pain so deep they don’t recognize it anymore. I know we all have varying degrees of passion, but I believe that for all of us, in some way shape or form, about some thing or another, its there. Think about it. There are things you care about. You might not be able to articulate it. You might not be able to even recognize it. But we all have values, assumptions, and a worldview. We like or dislike things based on said values, assumptions, and worldviews.
The trouble is when we dislike things more than we like others.
University aged groups, especially, tend to be intensely critical. I figured out by the end of my university tenure that they do that to test out value systems for themselves. They try on an attitude to figure out what they really feel about something. And the easiest way to care about something, the thing that will trigger us, is likely something we don’t like. Its easier to criticize than promote something. Its harder to be for something than it is to be against.
That’s what’s been bothering me so much lately. Its not hockey. Its that so many of us – myself included – fall into that trap of throwing our passionate energies, our caring – into being against things, rather than for them.
There’s no more vivid an example of this contrast than the vision of Vancouver last night at 9 pm and the sight of it this morning at 9 am. Last night was an angry mob, or maybe only an angry few and an unfortunate mob, leaving a path of destruction, of hate. Of being against something. This morning, however, while the first mob were nursing hangovers, thousands of a different one slowly moved among the streets they loved, quietly cleaning up the sobering, disgusting mess. Many left signs: “I am sorry on behalf of my team, and my city.” This morning’s group? They left a path, albeit, a largely unnoticed one, especially to the rest of the world – for what media will cover this? – of love, or perhaps an attempt at redemption, somehow. A strike out into the darkness, daring to be for something. For beauty, healing, or maybe even a stab at goodness in the middle of evil, a trickle of light in the sea of dark. A quiet statement that the inequities and destruction are not okay with us. Like the women who mopped up Jesus’ blood following his scourging in the Passion of the Christ, tearfully contributing what their heart was for, while an angry mob raged on.
And then it hit me. I’ve wasted so much of my energy being against things. Sometimes its necessary, of course. I’m sure you can think of obvious examples. But too often, its not. And if we took a step back to realize, we would see that it might be harder to turn that hate into love, but choosing to be for something is so much better than investing in things that bring other people, or organizations, or things down.
We often stoop to fight evil with evil. We think we’re going to take out hate with stronger hate of our own, and we’ll win, we think, because we’re right. It doesn’t work, though. It just gets bigger. But this little band of cleaners, this morning…. they tried, at least, to fight evil with good. They ignored the temptation to stay inside and stepped out and said, we will be for something. No matter what is being said about us, right now, we won’t hide or point the fingers to others. We’ll do something.
As the over-played-but-engaging-theme for last year’s Olympics said, “we’ll be the change we wish in others.”
And that’s the challenge ahead. The world is watching, pointing, laughing, ridiculing, scourging, the inhabitants of this place I love so much. They are white-washing us with out and out lies, spreading rumors of what might have happened as truth. And we apologize, saying we’re against the destruction – which is good – but how much more effective would we be if we’d go out and actually DO something to replace these images in people’s heads?
I confess, I’m not exactly sure what that will look like – yet. But we’ll know it when we see it.
This battle between passion and anti-passion is actually something happening in my physical body every day. For what else is cancer but the body turning against itself? What else is leukemia but the spleen and bloodstream over-reacting to its normal processes by destroying the cells that will help it, instead of forging ahead with sustaining nutrients to bring about health, feeding oxygen so we can breathe properly? And though I take drugs every day that are against the cancer gene, they work differently than the average bazooka-and-tear-gas-toting-onslaught of mainstream IV chemotherapy. They fit in the building blocks of this anti-enzyme, this cancer gene, that still has a chunk of residence in my body, and stop it from working, so that maybe, eventually, it will all die off, one chromosome at a time.
That’s not too different from the men and women who forged their way out into their Vancouver neighborhoods last night, begging the rioters to stop, and pleading with them to see reason. They may not have stopped the masses, but they stood up and said, no, we are for a safe city, a good neighborhood. And kids saw them do that. For every child that witnessed horrible hate last night, there may be another somewhere who saw their mom or dad or uncle or neighbor, say, no, we’ll be different than this. And if only a handful more of those kids grow up learning to handle their anger more effectively, then those individuals accomplished something.
Perhaps this is why God allows my cancer gene levels to decline as slowly as they have. For those of you who follow my progress, the counts have gone from -2.94 to -3.04 in the last few months. Not as big a drop as before, but still a drop. One cancer chromosome at a time. We keep praying that Sprycel keeps doing its job of course, and even if its slow, that’s okay with me.
Just as it is in the aftermath of such senseless hate. Even if its slow, our progress in this madness, that’s better than no progress at all.
So, yes, we are horrified by the mismanaged anger demonstrated in our beautiful city, in the unbelievable senselessness. But can I implore you all, instead of merely apologizing for those we have no control over, to start concentrating on what we do have control over – ourselves? Can we fight idiocy by choosing daily to be different than the insanity? Start by being who we wish those around us were? Start loving those who give us the most ‘indigestion’ as much as we can? And instead of just being against the rioters, can we model what it means to be for our city, for our kids, and for the beautiful earth we’ve been given? Whatever that means?
And to those of you fellow bleeding heart Canuck fans, can we please be for our team, even now, perhaps especially now? Tell the players you’re proud of them. Share with other fans your favorite memories of an incredible season. Tell your children how happy you are that we got to all experience an emotional and, at times, extremely fun run to the cup. Those 15 wins we did get can certainly outweigh the 16th we didn’t, if indeed we have as good memories as we’re supposed to have.
Choose those memories. Look for the beauty around you, and celebrate it. And if you can see something right, something good, maybe those can be our topics of conversation. Our facebook statuses, our moments of reflection. If we could focus so strongly on what is best around us, rather than worst, we might see the worst and the wrong die off a little, inch by inch.
Be the change you wish in others. Stand tall for what’s right. God help me, I hope I can. It won’t be easy. It won’t be popular. It won’t always be fun. But it will be good. And, so, so, worth it.
I believe in the power that comes
From a world brought together as one
I believe together we’ll fly
I believe in the power of you and I
I believe the time is right now
To stand tall and make the world proud
I believe together we’ll fly
I believe in the power of you and I
I believe we can be different than this. Better. Do you? Its a choice. Please let us choose what brings life. I don’t think we’ll be completely alone. And with each one who chooses, who joins, we form our own, passionate, mob.
That mob, I think we’ll all be proud of.