Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On Being Jack Layton

I cannot believe how deeply affected I am by the death of Jack Layton yesterday though I've never even met the man.

This is the time to take solace in philosophy, but it's hard.  There's Epictetus' "death is nothing dreadful" path, but this isn't about my own fear of death, or death itself being a worry.  It's about the death of this one specific man.  It's not really about coping with death at all, but coping with loss, and not just of a person but the loss of hope that we've got riding on him.


I'm fearful of the way we're moving politically in Canada.  Layton's win of a whopping 102 seats last election kept me going through a conservative majority win. On a CBC site reporting on his party's next move today, many commenters slammed Layton and socialism and the like.  I think it disrespectful so soon.  But one comment really got to me:  "Without Layton, the NDP will fall like a house of cards."  I gave it a thumbs down, but can't help the thought:  What if the commenter's right?  What if it all falls apart?  We're so close.  We finally had someone that could make it happen.

Is Layton irreplaceable?  Can another rise up with the same energy, charisma, smarts, and sheer, authentic goodness that Layton possessed?  How do keep up the fight without him?

I don't mean to belabour Montaigne, but geesh, he talked about everything.  And death may have been his specialty having come so close to death once himself, then watching his best friend die.

He said of La Boetie, "...he is still lodged in me so entire and so alive that I cannot believe that he is so irrevocably buried or so totally removed from our communication." Often with loss we take a stoic path of acceptance and letting go, but this line suggests perhaps it's a better route to keep our departed nearby, perhaps informing our thoughts and actions for a time.

Layton's last business was to prepare the NDP to go on without him, to continue along his path.  Maybe his death can be a good thing if it spurs us on, if people realize this incredible leader is no longer there for us, so we all have to step it up a notch and get to work together.  Because we can no longer  rely on him, we must emulate him in spades.

In Layton's words,
"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world."
Hear, hear.

ETA a link to a great post about a great Canadian myth created by Layton.

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