Fact: I’ve declared myself a Buddhist; yet I’ve also declared myself willing and eager to find a voice and a vision for Canada, which is a worldly attachment if I’ve ever heard one.
Fact: I love hockey, and I’ll be cheering fervently for our hockey teams in Torino, yet I despise patriotism as an ego trip and distrust nationalism as a recent historical invention and a threat to global peace.
Does this pair of facts add up to nothing more than a paradox?
How can I sit in my little house in my little neighbourhood, among the little Buddhas, on a big couch looking at a big TV with a big red maple leaf on my t-shirt and a beer in my hand, yelling “GO CANADA!”?
I think the answer, if there is one, has to do with two aspects of my character, the observing self and the active self. My active self is a warrior. That guy gets involved. He wades in, fists flying, willing to shed blood if necessary, to fight for the cause, to be engaged and alive. He’s a vehicle-driving, hammer-swinging, guitar-playing, canoe-paddling, woman-loving, Canadian human doing, and he is a force to be reckoned with, for a while, anyway.
My observing self, by contrast, simply watches him go. My observing self can see the limits of this so-called man of the so-called world. He knows he’s bound to fall, bound to fail, bound to die. He’s got a tragic flaw: He’s human. He’s going down. But let’s not let that spoil our day.
Buddhism is my acknowledgement of the observing self, the way I honour the dispassionate, equanimous elder growing within. In the end we leave all this stuff behind, and I’d like to diminish the suffering of attachment along the way. That’s shaman talk.
Canada is the skin my warrior lives in. It’s a style, a statement, an involvement, a cultural investment. So long as I am engaged in being an individual in a specific set of circumstances, I choose this one, and I choose it with the passion and energy of a hockey player. That’s warrior talk.
Perhaps all dichotomies are false. The warrior, like the observer, lives by a code. Is the cause more important than the code? No. It is better to lose with honour than to win by cheating. And the enemy is to be respected, and the influence of good fortune to be acknowledged, and the transience of all things to be remembered. Truly, the glory belongs to God. In the struggles we all face in our own mighty and mini quests, what is really golden is the effort, not the prize.
So if you hear me shouting “Go CANADA!”, it’s just both my selves in harmony, hoping fervently (and dispassionately) for gold.