Spirit of the West is one of my favourite bands. I danced my heart out to them in my university years both at the Pit Pub at UBC and live at various venues around Vancouver; when we visited Italy when my daughter was almost 4, she and I had “When Venice Is Sinking” on repeat the days before we visited that city (and I just hoped she wouldn’t ask me what the line “with an erection on a horse” meant); they are the only band my husband and I have been to see since we’ve had kids.
I was heartbroken, along with so many, when I learned of John Mann’s early onset Alzheimer’s. Something as tragic and as unfair as being diagnosed with such an illness, anyone being diagnosed with such an illness, makes many of us question all we know to be safe and stable in the world.
Today I saw the video Spirit of Canada – Home For A Rest (you can watch it above as well). And it struck me to my core with it’s joyfulness and sense of community and celebration. It is almost tangible people’s fierce love and respect for John Mann. You can see and hear in the music how much everyone in that room and on that stage cares deeply for both John and the community that they have created. It is not the first time and it most definitely will not be the last that sadness and pain have brought out the care and compassion of a community. One of the biggest musicals on Broadway currently is Come From Away, the true story of how a community came together and deep friendships were formed when 38 diverted planes landed in Gander, Newfoundland on September 11, 2001 after the Twin Towers were struck.
In How The Stress of Disaster Brings People Together, Dr. Emma Seppala, Science Director at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, reviews the research behind why we pull together in times of stress and tragedy. Research shows that instead of the classic “every man for himself” mindset when hard times hit, we actually build connections and work together. We are, after all, social creatures. Our survival has always depended on us working together to get through stressful and challenging circumstances. Our physiological and psychological health improves in numerous ways when we feel connected to others.
While none of us would ever wish sorrow or pain on anyone or any community, we know that it is inevitable. Natural disasters, illness, human-caused tragedies both accidental and intentional, will continue to happen. In despairing times, healing and hope will come from our biological social need to connect, to come together as community to help and support each other. It is how we are strong. The Spirit of Canada – Home For A Rest video is moving example of beautiful things happening in the face of grief and pain.