The Canadian Imagination

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

Friday, February 12, 2010

We Are More

- Shane Koyczan, from the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games opening ceremony, first performed on Canada Day (July 1), 2007

When defining Canada,
you might list some statistics.
You might mention our tallest building
or biggest lake,
you might shake a tree in the fall
and call a red leaf, 'Canada.'

You might rattle off some celebrities,
might mention Buffy Sainte-Marie,
might even mention the fact that we've got a few
Barenaked Ladies,
or that we made these crazy things
like zippers,
electric cars,
and washing machines,
when defining Canada.

It seems the world's anthem has been
"Been there, done that,"
and maybe that's where we used to be at.
It's true,
We've done and we've been,
we've seen
all the great themes get swallowed up by the machine
and turned into theme parks;
but when defining Canada
don't forget to mention that we have set sparks.

We are not just fishing stories
about the one that got away.
We do more than sit around and say "eh?"

And yes,
we are the home of the Rocket and the Great One
who inspired little number nines
and little number ninety-nines.

But we're more than just hockey and fishing lines
off of the rocky coast of the Maritimes,
and some say what defines us
is something as simple as please and thank you,
and as for you're welcome,
well, we say that too.

But we are more
than genteel or civilised.
We are an idea in the process
of being realised.

We are young.
We are cultures strung together,
then woven into a tapestry,
and the design
is what makes us more
than the sum total of our history.

We are an experiment going right for a change,
with influences that range from a to zed,
and yes, we say zed instead of zee.
We are the colours of Chinatown and the coffee of Little Italy.

We dream so big that there are those
who would call our ambition an industry,
because we are more than sticky maple syrup and clean snow.
We do more than grow wheat and brew beer.
We are vineyards of good year after good year.

We reforest what we clear
because we believe in generations beyond our own.
Knowing now that so many of us
have grown past what used to be,
we can stand here today
filled with all the hope people have
when they say things like "someday":
someday we'll be great,
someday we'll be this
or that --
Someday we'll be at a point
when someday was yesterday,
and all of our aspirations will pay the way
for those who on that day
look towards tomorrow,
and still they say someday
we will reach the goals we set.

And we will get interest on our inspiration
because we are more than a nation of whale watchers and lumberjacks,
more than backpacks and hiking trails.
We are hammers and nails building bridges
towards those who are willing to walk across.
We are the lost-and-found for all those who might find themselves at a loss.
We are not the see-through gloss or glamour
of those who clamour for the failings of others.

We are fathers brothers sisters and mothers,
uncles and nephews aunts and nieces,
we are cousins,
we are found missing puzzle pieces,
we are families with room at the table for newcomers.

We are more than summers and winters,
more than on and off seasons.
We are the reasons people have for wanting to stay
because we are more than what we say or do.
We live to get past what we go through
and learn who we are.

We are students,
students who study the studiousness of studying
so we know what as well as why.
We don't have all the answers
but we try,
and the effort is what makes us more.

We don't all know what it is in life we're looking for,
so keep exploring,
go far and wide,
or go inside but go deep,
go deep,
as if James Cameron was filming a sequel to The Abyss
and suddenly there was this location scout
trying to figure some way out
to get inside you,
because you've been through hell and high water
and you went deep.

Keep exploring,
because we are more
than a laundry list of things to do and places to see.
We are more than hills to ski
or countryside ponds to skate.
We are the abandoned hesitation of all those who can't wait.
We are first-rate greasy-spoon diners and healthy-living caf├ęs,
a country that is all the ways you choose to live,
a land that can give you variety
because we are choices,
we are millions upon millions of voices shouting
"Keep exploring ... we are more."

We are the surprise the world has in store for you.

It's true.
Canada is the "what" in "what's new?"

So don't say "been there done that"
unless you've sat on the sidewalk
while chalk artists draw still lifes
on the concrete of a kid in the street
beatboxing to Neil Young for fun.
Don't say you've been there done that
unless you've been here doing it.

Let this country be your first-aid kit
for all the times you get sick of the same old same old.
Let us be the story told to your friends
and when that story ends,
leave chapters for the next time you'll come back,
next time pack for all the things
you didn't pack for the first time.

But don't let your luggage define your travels.
Each life unravels differently
and experiences are what make up
the colours of our tapestry.

We are the true north
strong and free,
and what's more
is that we didn't just say it:
we made it be.

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