I bet millions of prayers were said Saturday night for Gord Downie as the lead singer of the Tragically Hip and his band presented their farewell concert in a show that was broadcast by the CBC live (without a single commercial) to the nation — and well beyond Canada thanks to the Internet.
As everyone in Canada — and many beyond our borders — surely knows, Gord is suffering from terminal brain cancer, and Saturday night’s almost three-hour concert was the last in a cross-country farewell tour launched early this summer.
Yes, the show in the band’s home town of Kingston, Ont., was touching on Saturday night, because it was a national event (even the prime minister was there) and we all knew it would be the last time we would see the Tragically Hip — “Canada’s band,” as some called them — perform together live. It was the end of an era, ended not because the band members wanted to retire, but because cancer is stealing Gord away from us.
Hence the prayers asking God to cure Gord, to make the brain cancer go away, to extend his life and to let him and the Hip continue playing music. Yes, I said one of those prayers myself . . . but I am a little more careful now with how I go about addressing such things with the Underlying Universal Energy that so many of us call God for lack of a better name. It’s a short name, perfect for headline writers and prayer writers, no doubt.
I do believe in the power of prayer, to a point. I believe we can manipulate the underlying energy of the universe to a degree or two. But I have learned that when it comes to a dying person, our prayers have little influence with said Underlying Universal Energy.
Rewind to 2011, when my partner Rick died: I was mighty displeased with God, and I let It know over and over and over again. I blamed God, I cursed God. It’s a wonder I didn’t get struck by lightning. Instead, nothing. Not a word from the Underlying Universal Energy.
Fast-forward to the the spring of this year, when I thought there was reason to fear for the life of someone else I love (I alluded to this in a post here back then, and said I would write about it later). I prayed again, pleading, begging — and threatening the Underlying Universal Energy: “You better not take her away from me, because it will be war!”
Of course, I didn’t expect any sort of response, because God never seems to reply, does It?
Wrong. This time I got a reply, something H.P. Blavatsky and other Theosophists would call the Voice of the Silence.
“How dare you tell me when a person should or should not die,” It said, and not so gently. It was chastising me. “It is not your place to say when a spirit can or cannot be liberated from the mortal coil.”
There was more, but essentially, it launched me into a period of metaphysical introspection. It reminded me of my transcendental Theosophical beliefs, and that death in the material realm is seen as a great liberation in the journey of the immortal spirit.
So, I felt a little guilty that I might be pressuring God to deny anyone their release from this world for my personal benefit. I felt I was being somewhat selfish.
As it turned out, my loved one was OK; tests revealed the health issue was not life-threatening. And, yup, I thanked God, even though It had nothing to do with it all — did It?
As for Gord, well, I did put in a word with the Underlying Universal Energy on his behalf, knowing full well that if said Energy deems it time to liberate Gord from his mortal coil, there’s nothing anyone here can do about it.
Still, I’ll say it one more time: “Please, God, it would be really nice if you would let Gord stay on Earth for another decade or three . . .”