- Canadian Ideas
- About the consultation
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I was never sure about being an artist. In my family art was not high up on the 'best-thing-to-do' list, but despite that, art is the path I chose. My dad, whom I adored, never said, "Don't be an artist," and he told me he wanted me to be happy. In 1977, I enrolled in Sheridan College's design program and majored in glass blowing. All through the course and my career, doubt haunted me. Did I make the right decision? Why is it so hard to make a living? Why don't I get any respect?
Because of the fact that I could stand on the shoulders of giants like Mordecai Richler, Peter Gzowski, Pierre Trudeau and my dad, Nick Filipovic I persevered. I listened to CBC Radio, talked on the phone, went to the library and read Canadian books and magazines. I heard their words over my shoulder, advising me, encouraging me, pushing me on like the little breeze that nudges the clouds across the sky. Because of them I know the difference between a Québecois, a citizen, and Pure Laine, a political idea of a person. Inukshuk, that which acts in the capacity of a person and Ignoonwuk, an Inuit beacon in the likeness of the person. I learned about Mauriac, French Nobel Laureate and Malraux, freedom-fighter against French colonialism and fascism in Spain and Nazi Germany. I discovered how much a man of honour can love a woman and at the same time, his country, with his whole heart.
I patiently waited, sincerely waited, to hear everything they had to say about life, a very personal Canadian life that appeared from out of all the nooks and crannies of Canada. Their ideals seemed lofty, their lives appeared to be true-to-the-bone and their personalities felt huge. I try but how can I copy that?
At a mid-point in my career, they were all dead. Just because I missed them, wouldn't bring them back. Feeling as though they were all my fathers, fathers that inspired and guided me it was difficult to accept that they were no longer there. Sometimes I felt fear, a cold shiver of reality like when the February freeze gets into the house and lying in bed late at night I hear a loud crack. I felt hollow, how empty three a.m. can seem without the anticipation of tomorrow's thoughtful reflection in a newspaper column, perhaps a good radio or telephone discussion, an excerpt from a new book or even a letter to the editor. Not only doing justice but seen to be doing justice.
Their honesty may seem, to young people today, old-fashioned. But it was the road they kept to. "The trail has its own stern code," Roberts Service. It was in their soul, a Canadian soul. It is in me. How warm and familiar are their faces in my thoughts. It doesn't matter that I did not even meet some of them; it matters because now I have learned to be open-minded and chance my trust in strangers today and tomorrow.
Their voices still whisper in my ear, teaching me philosophy and how to bait a hook. I imagine them nodding their heads over my struggle to differentiate my descriptions between Canadians and Americans but always warning me to not judge someone until I walk a mile in their shoes, cautioning me about intrusive microphones or sensitive feelings. I can almost feel them laughing happily over me when I achieve one of life's goals. The irreverence of reality is cold in my bones. I can't drink that much single malt, smoke that many cigarettes, portage and even canoe rapids at the age of 72 or enthusiastically rake 2 acres of property every spring. No cat can copy that.
The shifting sadness keeps moving like sand dunes to the other side of the beach. I try to shore up but sometimes I am truly jumping from hole to gaping hole. I tell myself not to be unhappy. Lately, although still reluctant to take on the immense responsibility of an even higher plateau of being an older grown-up, I force myself to push on. There is a light but it's down the long road ahead. I strive to be someone that they would be proud of, a person out there who will spark someone else. Perhaps that someone may pick up on the light, and with wisdom at work, accept the teaching. What I attempt to emulate today someone younger may one day admire. Then when I go, they might feel that something is missing in their country, in their life or in themselves and try to copy that. François Mauriac said, "A nation that has confidence in its own civilization has no reason for clinging to the past." Okay, I say, so I will move on. I might even be optimistic.