Editorial - A tale of two lifetimes

Dianne St. Jean

It was announced Wednesday morning that Gord Downie of the rock band The Tragically Hip lost his battle to brain cancer. He was just 53.

His legacy will not only be that his group won the most Junos, but Downie, especially in his last years, used his life experiences, celebrity status and time left on earth to draw attention to social injustices and human suffering. That will be his legacy.

Enter the other man making breaking news recently – Harvey Weinstein. Hollywood mogul and film producer who used his status to sexually exploit and bully almost everyone who came across his path. That has become his legacy.

Though these two men were famous and influential in their own league, they still serve as an example for all of us, famous or not.

It’s not their money or popularity that will ultimately be remembered, it’s what they did with what they had, and how they used it for themselves and others.

There’s not a single human being on the face of this earth that can boast perfection. Against even the best efforts and intentions from the best people, everyone falters. In other words, we all make wrong choices, do stupid things, act on false assumptions, and have moments of complete selfishness.

So, it’s not perfection or even our “goodness” that counts in the end, it’s how we handle and respond to our own imperfections and that of others that eventually rises to the surface.

Downie especially drew attention to the plight of indigenous children who had been taken from their homes and placed in residential schools. He also had to face something every one of us would never choose – to battle incurable brain cancer. Just one of those things has the capacity to make a person bitter and angry. On the other hand, he was a successful musician. His popularity and status could have easily made him arrogant and condescending to others. Instead, he used those factors to raise awareness of injustice, but he also did it with grace, gratitude, and forgiveness, and those are the words that will follow his legacy.

No need to go into the raunchy details of Weinstein’s choices and attitude. The words that will follow him are brash, bully, arrogant, selfish, demeaning, filthy and abusive – a predator, not a helper.

Like a boiling cauldron, the consequences to all things in our life eventually bubble to the surface. The longer we live, the more will show up.

At 53, we can say that Downie died too soon – he still could have had put a couple of decades under his belt; yet it appears that, as he grew older, his path was moving toward betterment.

At 65, Weinstein’s sickening personality finally could no longer hide itself – it was just a matter of time before the truth would surface. His trajectory, obviously, was continuing toward evil – showing no genuine remorse and seemingly “getting help” because that’s the thing that type of person does when caught and called to account. If those things had not surfaced, it is likely he never would have sought counseling or even believed he needed it.

A tale of two lifetimes...