Time and Life and Gord

Don’t you wanna see how it ends?
When the door is just starting to open?

– “Depression Suite” by The Tragically Hip

RELAX, I am not dying. Let’s keep that right out in front. But this post is about death. Death creeping around in the corners, haunting the shadows, biding its time. You know the deal. It doesn’t care what you have left to do. No great unfinished work will keep the reaper at bay. Your time will run out before your art does.

It was Bowie’s last video that clued me in to this. Take a look at this still frame from it:

bowie desk


This scene has Bowie scribbling feverishly, as an ornately decorated skull sits on his desk and watches impassively. At the end, Bowie walks backwards into the wardrobe in the background and closes the door. He’s bursting with new ideas and new art, but the time runs out and the door closes.

The conceit of the young (and the foolish) is that ideas are rare. Each must be guarded jealously and hoarded. But they aren’t. Ideas are cheap. Every ‘new’ idea has been thought of a thousand times before. There are only 12 musical notes. There are only 7 story plots. The rareity, the preciousness, is in bringing the idea to life. Effort, willpower, hard work. And the real limiting factor is time.

When Bowie died, I thought about time. Those ideas I had planned for the future had more weight than ever before. Having 6+ books roughly mapped out on my timeline suddenly felt ominously like a race against time.

And then last week, we found out that Gord is dying. (That’s Gord Downie from The Tragically Hip, if somehow you didn’t know. He’s been a part of our shared Canadian experience for so long that I think it’s okay to be on a first name basis with him.) He’s got a terminal brain tumour, and he’s going out for one more tour with the fellas. The door is closing on him, closing quick, but he’s going to squeeze in a little more art before it shuts all the way.

Everybody’s been quoting “Courage” back at him in support, which is a hell of a thing to do, since the song “Courage” is about suicide more or less. I’d prefer to hold up his lyrics to “Depression Suite” as a flag of support and consolation. Depression Suite (live). The words are about making art, to me anyway. The fear that making whatever you make is meaningless:

“And I’m thinking just in passing
What if this song does nothing?”

And then finding the only real answer you can hold to:

Don’t you wanna see how it ends?
When the door is just starting to open?”

Curiosity is the saving grace of every artist. When your creations grow beyond what you originally intended. As your ability awakens and the stories get better and better. That door just started to open for me. I want to see how it ends. So Gord, thanks for that.

“Are you going through something?
Then I am too”

We’re with you, Gord.



Published by Chris

I'm an author, freelance writer, dad, and civic busybody living in London, Ontario

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