This is my 500th blog post. I’d been saving it for something special : an article about the change in direction this blog will be taking, including the unveiling of my newest project. But that can wait. Right now, I’d rather dedicate this personal landmark to Jack Layton.
In Japan, the term aware (pron. a-wa-ray) speaks to a reverence for the « transient beauty and mortality of all things ». Mono no aware is often translated as « the ‘ahh-ness’ of things », life, and love. Awareness of the transience of all things heightens appreciation of their beauty, and evokes a gentle sadness at their passing.
And so it is for me, with Jack. A time to reflect upon the contribution of a great Canadian. «Ce bon Jack» as we say in Quebec, when talking about Jack Layton. And he carried his name well.
In the hours following news of his passing, my mother compared Jack Layton to my father. That’s the highest of compliments .. to Mr. Layton. But she was right. Both were honest, compassionate men of integrity whose true « religion » was love for their fellow man. The outpouring of affection for Jack from Canadians and the urge felt from coast to coast to mourn collectively is deeply touching. When we mourned my father, we were comforted by words of kindness and shared memories from family, friends and acquaintances about the man we’d loved and had lost. Eleven years later, the passing of a much more public figure shows how far technology and the Internet have brought us in our ability to grieve collectively.
- Facebook allowed me to hear about and participate in a candelight vigil in Montreal
- Facebook told me about a movement to inspire Canadians to light a candle in their windows in his memory
- Facebook was used to organize The People’s Procession
- Twitter told me that the CN Tower and Niagara Falls would be lit up in orange lights to honour him
- Flickr brought me stunning photos of the chalk messages at Nathan Philips Square
- Websites allowed me to sign a book of condolences and donate to the Canadian Cancer Society .. and social networks allowed me to encourage my networks to do the same.
- The online sites of traditional media allowed me to follow live streaming of the vigil on Parliament Hill and of the funeral procession and ceremony at Roy Thompson Hall.
And all these online spaces and social networking sites allowed me and thousands of others to share our thoughts about Jack’s passing and legacy with one another in real time.
My father passed away in September of 2000 and friends and family from across Canada and as far away as Ireland gathered for the interment of his ashes a month later. Not being there to receive the condolences of our community in the days following his death was a difficult thing for those who were far away in those first weeks. It is a key stage in the grieving process. Eleven years later, it is clear that developments in technology in general, and of social networking in particular, make physical distance almost inconsequential. We can come together to comfort one another in our grief, and we can collectively share in those all important rituals that accompany death, as they happen.
The social media space is composed of tribes. Tribes with common interests, overcoming physical distances to come together in sharing. Since Jack Layton left us on Monday, Canadians have been gathering online as a tribe of millions, to pay tribute to one of their own, and to comfort one another in their collective grief.
Who said technology alienates us from one another?
Now if you’ll excuse me, now that Jack’s funeral is over I’m going to turn off my laptop and grab my bike for a ride through the Laurentian woods. Time to reflect and quietly pay tribute to this great Canadian.
RIP Jack. You will be sorely missed.
And give my love to my Dad for me. He’ll be the guy welcoming you to the eternal-club-of-good-guys with a golf bag on his shoulder and a warm smile, hand outstretched.
MAJ: Footage from the various ceremonies, including musical tributes, have been circulating online since Jack Layton’s death. Below, I’ve updated the musical list presented above with footage from the funeral ceremony, hosted on YouTube.