The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

To structure, to rebuild, to build

Even now, the ideas come easily to me, spilling in me and into me and through me far more quickly and frequently than I can manage even to speak them aloud. What is difficult is catching, holding, pinning down these shooting stars to translate first into words, and then again into something resembling written structure; and sometimes (as this time) yet again, when the software decides to log me out without warning, erasing everything I have just written. Words either spill through me, tumbling on top of each other, or abandon me entirely to leave me tongue-tied. I talk either too much, or not at all.

At least it feels nothing like pinning down butterflies for a collection. Translating what lances through me does not destroy it. Yet however close I come, anything I can place into words cannot but be a pale conic cross-section of the hyper-structure: yet a true projection nonetheless, leaving me continually to attempts at closer and closer approximation, sometimes immediately, sometimes in later writings. The cost, here, is only time, and work, and a sense that to not attempt at least to share what I see would be to deliberately tear away a part of myself. It has nothing to do with logic -- with what is usually defined as logic. Yet is it not logical, not only to exist but to live?

Measured against the fiscal bottom line, or even against the inevitable future lives lost, there is nothing of logic in rebuilding New Orleans in its current location: yet the costs of abandoning the current city cannot be measured in dollars and to some extent not even in lives lost. There is something here which is irrepressible, which only gleams the brighter against its current context. (I say not "unique", for all things are.) Yet it is possible that what was essential of New Orleans has already been lost, scattered along with its residents: and that, just maybe, there no longer remains anything except buildings to try to resurrect.

There has never been a project of the human spirit that has not measured its enduring resonance against the blood and sweat and tears of those who have been a part of creating it. Those who think we can spread our wings into space without human cost are deluding themselves. We can try to minimise, certainly; and we can certainly ensure that what is foreseeable will be allowed for insofar as is humanly possible: but the essence of growth is that we reach beyond what we know into what cannot be foreseen.

How much of human hope, drive, need, heart, spirit, soul, can be uprooted and translocated, and still remain whole? How much are we willing to pay to preserve -- or grow -- a part of ourselves?


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