This was going to be a Ms-Soapbox-is-stampeding-see-you-next-week-blog…then she remembered something.

Ms Soapbox’s sister and brother-in-law popped into town just in time for the Calgary Stampede.  We did the fair grounds, the Dog Bowl, the Clydesdales and the llamas, we ate raindrop cake and teriyaki perogies and ducked into the casino to escape the heat.

The highlight of our day was the Stampede Grandstand Show; a tribute to Canada’s 150th birthday combined with a simple message, our future is better together.

As Ms Soapbox watched the hoop dancers, the Inuit throat singers, and the acrobats, singers and dancers she wondered whether Canadians would be able to carry the spirit of unity unfolding on stage into their everyday lives.

Then the stage darkened.

A strong voice sang the first few words of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. 

“Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord…”    

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen was a thoughtful, inquisitive, and unassuming artist.  Hallelujah is a complex, confusing and hauntingly beautiful song.

No one really knows what it means but Alan Light provides this thoughtful interpretation:

“Like our forefathers, and the Bible heroes who formed the foundation of Western ethics and principles, we will be hurt, tested, and challenged. Love will break our hearts, music will offer solace that we may or may not hear, we will be faced with joy and with pain. But Cohen is telling us, without resorting to sentimentality, not to surrender to despair or nihilism.  Critics may have fixated on the gloom and doom of his lyrics, but this is his offering of hope and perseverance in the face of a cruel world. Holy or broken, there is still hallelujah”.*

Can Canadians achieve a future that is better together?

If we see beyond despair, if we offer hope and persevere, we will get there.


*excerpt from The Holy or the Broken http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/exclusive-book-excerpt-leonard-cohen-writes-hallelujah-in-the-holy-or-the-broken-20121203

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33 Responses to Hallelujah

  1. Todd Russell says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write this

  2. Ruben Nelson says:

    Good on you. We, as persons, families, communities, societies and a species, need to deepen our grasp on life enough to face the darkness and not be broken by the experience. To paraphrase Oliver Wendell Holmes, we need the hope that lies the other side of despair. To date, we in Alberta have not had the quality of leadership we need to grow up enough to make this journey. Given the emerging conditions of the 21st Century, best we grow up soon,

    • Well said Ruben. A few years ago when the PCs were still in government I asked my friend Liberal MLA David Swann whether he ever lost hope. He said no, we do this day in and day out for our children. A few weeks later David and I had coffee with a prominent Calgarian. David hoped to get this fellow involved in progressive politics and suggested he become involved if not for himself then for his children. The fellow, a wealthy man, brushed us off with the comment “My children will be just fine”.
      People need to wake up, if we’re going to survive this journey we need to jettison the “every man for himself” mentality and work together.

  3. That is truly a beautiful song. It brings tears to my eyes all the time. And yes, I believe that we can come “together” as was the message of the Grandstand show and Hallelujah, as the wonderful Mr. Cohen sang. (PS We had a wonderful time. Thank you!)

  4. jvandervlugt says:

    Very lovely post Susan. I have recently grown an appreciation for Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. The lyrics of their songs are poetry. I agree. We can be a formidable country if we worked with each other instead of against each other.

    Happy stampeding (I don’t know if that’s an actual verb). 😊

    • Joanna, I believe it’s the artists and poets, not the politicians, who stir our hearts. John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields is 102 years old, and yet of all the things written about the First World War, it’s the only one I remember.

  5. Ed Henderson says:

    Thank you Susan…have a really good stampede.

  6. Jim Lees says:

    Susan, best song ever…Vancouver Olympics she was incredible singing this.

    • Jim, I’ve heard k.d. lang sing Hallelujah twice, once in person and once on TV for the Vancouver Olympics. She brought me to tears both times. It’s a beautiful song and she and Leonard Cohen are the only two musicians who do it justice IMHO.

  7. ronmac says:

    They should have brought back this -Canada’s centennial song from 1967. IMHO

    • Yep, ronmac, Gimby’s Canada Song is a classic. Another classic is the Hockey Song by Stompin’ Tom Connors. The Young Canadians performed it at the Grandstand show. They were tiny and wore hockey uniforms and what looked like bobble heads. Very entertaining.

  8. Liane Sharkey says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write such a lovely evocation of both the Stampede and the poetic memory of Leonard Cohen. Both have their distinct charms. I remember being in Calgary during Stampede time back in the 1970’s, while visiting dear friends (ahem), but only have very vague memories of any actual Stampede-related activity….the memory lapse might have been due to having slept the night before with my head on a rock, I don’t know….but at any rate, your beautiful descriptions have whetted my appetite to go Stampeding (yes, JV, I believe it is a verb). I had to Google “raindrop cake” and still cannot quite figure it out but sure do want to try it after seeing the photos!

    • Rock? That wasn’t a rock, it was Roy’s Mom’s couch cushion. An antique as I recall. If you come back I promise we’ll give you a REAL pillow this time. 🙂
      So with respect to the “raindrop cake”, the Calgary Herald food critic said it tastes like nothing unless you mix it with roasted soy bean powder or raw sugar syrup. We did that, it still tasted like nothing. Very pretty though.

  9. Carlos Beca says:

    ‘To date, we in Alberta have not had the quality of leadership we need to grow up enough to make this journey. Given the emerging conditions of the 21st Century, best we grow up soon’

    Great post Susan.
    I liked the post by Ruben Nelson above. I agree with him. In the Alberta Views for July/August 2017 there is an article written by David Schindler titled ‘Facts Don’t Matter’ and in it he is talking about the Harper government and the muzzling of scientist. Then he asks if the change of governments has made much difference and if governments are actually listening to scientist. Here is his answer – ‘Hardly. Our environmental regulations remain a laughingstock, and science libraries appear gone for good. Too much science is still controlled by bureaucrats; in Alberta political control is tightening. …’ (this by NDP government) Amazing really how unprogressive we have become.

    For those of us readers that have had direct experience with wars or other catastrophes hope is not something that we find in poetry or music. Hope is the unified force we can all create together. Hope is an evolving force rather than an intangible thought. This brings me back to Nelson’s phrase above.

    We better grow up and create our hope for the future.

    It would also be wonderful if we start including some hope for those animals that are being abused for the sake of human entertainment. There is a lot of discussion as to why the bulls and horse jump when in the Stampede. I can guarantee that is not because they are ticklish.

    • Carlos, thanks for bringing David Schindler’s article to our attention. I hoped, actually expected, Trudeau to reverse the bad decisions made by the Harper government but that doesn’t seem to be happening, or at least not fast enough.
      John England has been doing research in the Canadian Arctic for over 50 years. He says over the last 20 to 30 years it’s become more difficult. It costs about $100,000 for each trip North but the federal government grants are limited to $25,000 to $35,000/year. Given the importance of the Arctic and the impact of climate change you’d think this type of research would be a priority for the feds.
      England says the issue of climate change is very polarizing and that both sides are quick to categorize the other and “shut our ears”. He says we need to “disarm that sense of opposition” and recognize we’re all in this together.
      It’s a huge challenge, but as we’ve all been saying in this post we can’t lose hope.
      Here’s the link to the England interview on CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-june-28-2017-1.4179769/june-28-2017-full-episode-transcript-1.4182061

  10. Anonymous, thanks for the clip. You have the most extensive and eclectic music collection of anyone I know.

  11. Carlos Beca says:

    We have discussed this here before and I thought this to be something important to read.
    For those that are expecting oil at 100 dollars a barrel to solve our budget deficit. It is not going to happen and the US being in or not is irrelevant. It only means the US is going to be third world sooner than expected.


    Rachel Notley, the pipeline is 20 years late. Move on and change our tax system to include a sales tax that resolves the boom and bust. Increase investment in Solar and Wind Power. Time to move on. If there is no private investment, as a social democrat, let us invest in it. Why not? Are you not told to run the government like a business? Then do it.

    • Carlos, thank you for this excellent article. It says Exxon Mobil expects EV sales “to grow slowly and have little impact” on global oil consumption, but Royal Dutch Shell predicts oil demand “could peak in as little as five years”. Both of these companies are executing strategies consistent with these statements.
      Exxon Mobil continues to invest in the oilsands and Shell sold its assets and is focusing on shale oil and gas and renewables. I’m betting Shell, which is well known for its scenario planning, got it right. Here’s a link that illustrates Shell’s belief that “economic growth coupled with near net-zero emissions is a challenging but achievable vision.” http://www.shell.com/energy-and-innovation/the-energy-future/scenarios/a-better-life-with-a-healthy-planet.html

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Thank you for this article. Interesting but like you said, not surprising as Shell has always been a more progressive company that any of the other ones. I will not be here but within 30 years Shell will probably still exist but companies like Mobil that are managed by people like Jason Kenney, will be only in the Wikipedia as a curiosity. It is no longer just the costs. The public consciousness has finally shifted and it is about health, about our future and above all common sense. We have the technologies and we just need to make them more sophisticated and we can all expect to see a better environment and a mind set that will stop us from producing technologies that are not in our common interest. I can feel that with or without support from the US the wave is now close to cresting and nothing will stop it after years and years of build up. I am glad we are almost there. I am tired of dreaming about building a better cleaner future. We have a long way to go but I will be happy to see the beginning of it. The very hard work of convincing people that creating a better future is not a ‘socialist utopia’ is finally working.

      • Carlos, yesterday’s paper carried a story from Bloomberg which said that for the first time in 100 years capital investment in electricity outpaced investment in oil and natural gas (80% of electricity investment is in renewable energy and networks). Here’s the sentence I liked the best: “…decisions made and money spent today shine a light on what the energy system will look like in the decades to come. The shift of capital…away from fossil fuels and towards electricity, particularly clean sources such as solar and wind, shows that the trend spurred by the Paris climate accord is seeping into the business of energy.”

        Business leaders have figured this out but Jason Kenney and Brian Jean are still back there with Donald Trump trying to revive the coal industry.

        Here’s the link: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-11/electricity-overtook-fossil-fuels-in-push-for-investment-in-2016

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Thank you for the article Susan. It makes a lot of sense to me.
      So much for the Conservative understanding and acceptance of the market as their Oracle. Anything I have read, be it European, from the US or Asia is that IT IS NO LONGER cheaper to use coal. Unfortunately there is a group of dreamers that refuse to accept it and they will be run over soon. Jason Kenney types are dinosaurs and he has not yet realized it. Unfortunately that is the way it works. His mind is in the 80s and he must have suffered concoctions since then.
      This morning I read on the paper that Brian Jean will not fire teachers or nurses. That apparently is not his style. Ok that sounds good – so here is the miracle

      They will cut taxes, they will shut down the carbon tax, they will not fire people or make deep cuts but VOILA the deficit will be gone – 10 billion dollars will disappear. Well the only thing I can think of is that Brian Jean is either on drugs or has one of those accountants that makes corporations move their money abroad or in more common cases never show a profit.

      This is not unbelievable, this is an insult to the citizens of Alberta. Does he actually believe we are that stupid. Let the election start and we will get the real stuff out of him.
      I never thought I would see this level of absurdness but we do not seem to be done yet.
      Soon we will have to hire Mugabe at 93 to come run our province.

      Oh another great story in the continuation of our political class ethics. Julie Payette accepts the money, the benefits and the privilege of being Governor General but she is not sure about the Queen or the monarchy. Seriously people? If you do not believe in it, do not represent them in Canada. It is very simple – you say thank you but I cannot do something I disagree with. Well I guess Julie cannot pass the money and the privilege. I am sure she is rationalizing just like her colleagues in government.
      God Save Julie

  12. GoinFawr says:

    “I heard there was a secret chord, that David played and it pleased the Lord…it goes like this: the fourth, the fifth…” Contrary to Catholic dogma, I’ve always been partial to the ‘Augmented Fourth” myself, but that is a lovely song nonetheless, like many of Mr.Cohen’s; makes me think of this quote:

    “The most terrifying thing about the universe is not that it is hostile, but that it is indifferent…However vast the darkness, we must create our own light.” – Stanley Kubrick

  13. GoinFawr, the Kubrick quote is beautiful…and unexpected given Kubrick’s movies, but then again he made Spartacus, didn’t he.
    I googled the “Augmented Fourth” so I could follow your train of thought and discovered that it’s “one of the most dissonant musical intervals around”. It was named “diabolus in musica” or “the devil in music”. No wonder the Catholics hated it!
    PS. It is jarring. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Xm8qKMiWOQ

  14. Adam James says:

    Thanks for your thoughts and feelings about the Grandstand Show!
    Here’s the version of Hallelujah from the show….enjoy!


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