I had a dream this morning that was rather vivid. In the dream, I had written a book entitled On Being a Nation which was meant to inspire people by reminding them what it means to be a nation. In the book I outlined the responsibilities and privileges that come with nationality and surprisingly enough, it turned out to be quite popular.
Dreams are strange things. I used to dream a lot and was convinced that many of them were revelatory in some way. Perhaps they were. At least a few of them translated into actual experiences, and others provided wisdom and encouragement for people that I dreamt about. At the very least, they motivated me to pray about the situations and people I encountered while I slept. I kept journals for many years of my dreams, even wrote a novel based on a set of dreams about a specific person (you can read chapter one here), but for the most part, dreams remain a mystery to me.
Nevertheless, they do sometimes set my mind in a direction that I never would have gone during my waking hours, so I try to give a bit of thought to the tangents I go on in my dreams, just in case there is something worth mining there. And so today, I am thinking about what it means to be part of a nation. If I were to write a book by that title, these might be the synopses for the first three chapters.
Chapter One: Nation as United Aggregate
Yep, being part of a nation means that in some sense, we are one. We are many (aggregate), but we effectively act as one (united). Not in the sense of the mind-controlling, dehumanising Borg from Star Trek, but like a family unit, or an Olympic rowing team. All the parts (people) come together to become something greater than they are by themselves. On occasion we are witness to this unique collective, synergetic way of thinking. When team Canada plays hockey against team USA, we all become hot-blooded Canadians bonding over the event. Should a disaster befall some part of the country or a beloved public figure, we rally around to offer support. However, when no one is threatening our hockey prowess or there is no looming disaster to heighten our sense of responsibility to each other, we all too quickly invent our own disasters and tensions by turning on each other. We have forgotten what it is to be a nation.
Chapter Two: United
Unity continues to be a hot topic in Canada. I live in Quebec where separation is never far from the political agenda; this takes the form of provincial and federal parties who have both written separation into their mandate. Our governmental and judicial systems are founded on adversarial models which, to no one's surprise, result in people working against each other instead of with each other in the pursuit of a just, strong, and healthy nation. We tend to spend so much energy on trying to ensure our own well-being by taking it from another that we have forgotten that we are in effect, taking from the whole to which we belong. We are united, whether we like it or not, and how we treat each other affects our nation. If you have ever been witness to or part of a bickering family, you understand how extremely toxic and destructive an adversarial mindset can be. It is not the Liberals against the Conservatives. It is not Quebec against the rest of Canada. It is not the prosecution against the defense. It is not even the Canadiens against the Maple Leafs. Until we realise that we are not against each other, we will not truly be a nation.
Chapter Three: Aggregate
One of the reasons that I love living in Montreal is because of its multicultural, multilingual dynamic. Here, I am always in the minority in some shape or form, and that is good for me. It reminds me that I am a significant, though small part of this vibrant city. I am not superior to or more powerful than my neighbour. Even though she is better at French and accounting than I am, and I am probably better at theology and English than she is, we are not in competition. We have much to offer each other. At this point you might think that I sound like a champion of communism, and that would be true to the extent that we are talking about healthy community life. However, I take strong issue with the kind of commonality that sacrifices valuable differences in the name of manageable uniformity.
As an example: if you are an audiophile, you will know that much of today's music makes use of two recording tools (compression and pitch correction) that are useful in producing a very polished product, but alter the natural characteristics of the voice so that it sounds somewhat synthetic. In my experience, after a steady of diet of this artificial sound it is refreshing to hear the raw, true quality of a real, live, unadulterated voice. The natural voice showcases an artist much better than some snazzy studio production, because the little nuances are intact. Have we forgotten how to celebrate and highlight the nuances of our nation? Have we have forgotten how to sing with our real voices, in harmony with each other, in a song that is uniquely our own as a nation?
And that's as far as my ideas go on the book. Perhaps you have your own to offer.
This is a photo of the Canadian flag I own.