Gord Downie. (Tim Fitzgerald photo)

‘It only lacks your presence’: truth, art, words and the legacy of Gord Downie

The Tragically Hip frontman died Tuesday night

The curtain climbs over me every morning I don’t know why I’m so immunized against reforming

I went to bed last night — unthinkingly — in my Tragically Hip T-shirt. Sky blue with a bold “H” and “P” framing a silhouette of Gord Downie in an iconic pose standing in place of the “I.”

I awoke to a Canadian Press report, undoubtedly pre-prepared months ago, expected, but no less hard to read: Downie was gone.

Conventional journalism directs me to backfill here; to recount his brave battle with inoperable brain cancer and the definitive Canadianness that defined his band.

I refuse. You don’t need it. I don’t want it. I want to write about words. About my fascination with them. About my awe at the way Gord could sculpt them into constructions of great and terrible and at times indecipherable beauty. About my ineffectual struggle at this moment to forge them into something that does justice to his gift.

The highest and best use of words is to connect, inspire and understand. As cynical as most are about journalists, that remains the reason why I, and so many of my peers, got into this business. Gord worked that, lived it, on a higher level.

We don’t go anywhere

Just on trips

We haven’t seen a thing

We still don’t know where it is

It’s a safe mistake

A wise man once said “when the sunlight hits the olive oil don’t hesitate.” Gord spoke about art and truth and life and how they intertwine and how their pursuit gives one both perspective and purpose. We’re all given the ability to discern right from wrong; to know what’s important and what is not. We’re all given tools and opportunities with which we can learn, grow, understand — make the world a little bit better. But too often, most of us remain in the car, driving where we are told to go, experiencing what we are told to experience, expecting the expected, seeking out that which reinforces our biases instead of challenging them.

Gord’s work urged us to plunge in deeper than what the tour guide would suggest, to take roads less travelled and listen to voices seldom heard.

All with the too-often lonely goal of creating community.

The surface is green and the dark interweaves

In a lonely iridescence

It’s terribly deep and the cold is complete

And it only lacks your presence and nothing else

One of the most enduring tenets of the Hip gospel is that they are a uniquely Canadian treasure, that other countries simply “don’t get.” I’ve always wondered why. Sure Gord spoke in cultural idioms like Clayoquot Sound and Bobby Orr largely unique to Canada, but the underlying themes of Carpe Diem and empathy were universal.

Life is a privilege. It’s not about getting the T-shirt. It’s about making your life your own iconic pose.

Step out of your world container. Make this world a better place.

My balloons may be filled with rain right now, but the inspiration of this poet need never fade.

Said, ‘ain’t life a grand and I’m in awe of y’all’

I’ve dropped into my haunted bunk

Been to your touchless times out where the water’s drying

Been past the ‘No Attractions Past This Point’ sign

What we have here are all flaws in progress

Where all songs are one song and that song is Don’t Forget


» John McKinley writes for www.vifreedaily.com Reach him at editor@vifreedaily.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rivers could rise rapidly as heavy rains hit Lower Mainland

Larger rivers to reach peak levels on Thursday or into Friday, according to high streamflow advisory

Transgender Surrey brothers debut fantasy novel as author duo Vincent Hunter

‘Transgender people are being misrepresented in popular fiction and media, and we aim to change that’

Two Surrey women win BC Sports Hall of Fame awards for inspired service

Jane Blaine and Wendy Pattenden recognized during virtual summit

Horgan says Surrey mayor opened ‘hornets’ nest’ with Surrey policing transition

Surrey election battle heating up over Doug McCallum’s controversial cop transition

Sullivan Heights, Tamanawis each report second COVID-19 exposures

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

B.C. Green leader says NDP abandoning environmental plan

Horgan’s claim of unstable government false, Furstenau says

Horgan promises more child care at $10 per day during Maple Ridge visit

Liberals say the NDP has failed to deliver on daycare

Mounties impound car of impaired driver celebrating birthday in North Vancouver

RCMP say the person was driving with their headlights off

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

UPDATE: Abbotsford high school killer back in court for ‘not criminally responsible’ hearing

Gabriel Klein was previously convicted of stabbing Letisha Reimer to death

Rainfall warning says significant showers forecast for entire region

Rain moving across Howe Sound, The Fraser Valley and northern parts of Metro Vancouver this morning.

‘Won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving:’ Trudeau says COVID-19 2nd wave underway

In all, COVID-19 has killed about 9,250 people in Canada

Most Read