Canada a country to cherish

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The Article

Some days ago sitting beneath trees under the summer sky a phrase from the book I was reading, Sir Alec Guinness’s A Positively Final Appearance, jumped out at me.

The phrase was “the joy of life is just looking at it.” With those few words Guinness (1914- 2000)—one of England’s great actors—summed up his philosophy in the journal he kept towards the end of his life.

I imagine Guinness was alluding by his choice of words to the memorable lines of John Keats, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

The words in Guinness’s phrase as in Keats’s line are transparent and simple, and it is this limpidness that makes them so movingly evocative.

In the rush of our daily routine and in the disquiet that surrounds us, we need to be reminded about the ceaseless wonder unnoticed all around us and to celebrate life without waiting for an occasion.

While spending time with family on Canada’s birthday, Guinness’s phrase returned to me. It gently suggested there is something pleasant if not joyful, and certainly not boring, in what gets taken for granted, as is July 1.

There is much wonder and joy, if we pause to recollect, in how we celebrate Canada Day. We spend it quite appropriately doing whatever pleases us. Then the evening fades away with fireworks into the night and repose for another day.

There is no grand marching parade of soldiers down our main streets, no display of weapons of war and cheering public demonstration of patriotism, no rousing speeches from demagogic leaders telling Canadians how great or powerful is their country.

I have, however, found myself on several occasions in other countries on the day of their national holidays. There is always a frantic pace in organized national day celebrations and cheerleading full of bombast as the leader indulges in propaganda and proclaims his country for some reason is better, more cultured or more grand than any other.

But once the party is over, I have heard words full of doubt and despair pour out in private.

The most distressed are the young, sensing their lives ahead will be as empty as the lives of their elders, spent cheering those who have nothing but bombast to offer.

The measure of the serene greatness of our country lies in the very ordinariness of Canada Day. That we take for granted the abundance and security our country provides us with is another measure of how those coming before us sturdily, and without boasting, contributed to building Canada.

Without fanfare

We are suspicious of those among us who publicly declaim their true patriot’s love, for our finest without fanfare have done their duty when called and served when needed.

We are irritated with those among us who readily fault Canada for failing them, despite her limitless generosity. We part with them in peace that would be unlikely in countries where freedom is a stranger and democracy is a charade.

Our strength comes from the nobility and vastness of Canada and the sacrifice of men and women who loved her selflessly.

Hence, alone or in company, there is endless joy in simply watching the sheer wonder of the spectacle Canada gifts us daily, while demanding little in return.

Salim Mansur
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