Back in University, I had adopted the slogan “carpe nocht”. Thinking I was being relatively clever with Horace’s quote “carpe diem” and the approach to life the phrase espouses, the idea of seizing the night became more than what I ever thought it would be. You see, it was really just a way of justifying my desire to party all night long.
Little did I know that I would take it up as a mantra, and have it end up being a metaphor for my life.
You see, to me, December 21 is not the longest night of 2013. Sure, scientists will talk to you about the winter solstice, and they’d be right. But other nights in 2013 have been far longer.
The night following my wife’s diagnosis with pericarditis. That was a bloody long night.
The night after we discovered the piano component of the High River and District Lions Music Festival had a significant scheduling flaw, and I had to review and reschedule 250 entries. That was a very long night.
The night I discovered that I was no longer part of a profession that the Alberta Government was willing to negotiate with. That was a very long night.
One of the longest nights of the year was June 20, a night I spent until 2 AM in the Blackie evacuation centre following one of the most significant events in Canadian history, the 2013 flood. What made it longer was the hour and a half drive to my parents’ place in the dark, wondering what Waterworld looked like. And the thing that made it even longer yet … the dreams I finally had once I did get to a safe and warm bed.
The first night sleeping in my bed in my home in dank- and dead-smelling High River thinking about the thousands who still had no idea when they’d be returning home. That was an incredibly long night.
The night after a massive hailstorm that almost wrote off my car trying to convince my boys they were safe in our home. That was a long night.
The night I learned I had no classroom, and realized I wouldn’t for weeks, maybe months. That was a long night.
The night after a meeting with business people in High River where I learned that one of our more prominent businesses was struggling to make even a tenth of their regular income, 5 months after the flood. That was a long night.
No, December 21 is not a long night. Not even after an intense day of Christmas shopping is December 21 a long night. It does not compare to the Dylan Thomas kind of nights that we avoided going gently into this year.
But through my “carpe nocht” philosophy comes one realization; after each one of these nights came a day. Each day brought new rays of sunshine, new hope.
These days came because we wouldn’t go gently into that good night. My wife was very diligent in her recovery from her heart condition. I rescheduled the piano classes and made everything work for the festival. Teachers kept teaching. I helped wherever I could after the flood. My family, and many other families, worked tirelessly to clean up homes so people could return, and others who haven’t yet are still working hard to do the same. I found a hall to teach in while I waited for a classroom. Business people of High River are not hoping for handouts, they are working to return to success. Even our boys got involved in High River's recovery. In each case, we are all working to see a brighter day.
Then, perhaps after we’ve seized the opportunity that night has given us, we can then seize the day.
So, in this season of hope, I look back at 2013 as a very long night. And 2014 is going to be a very bright day. I know this, because it starts with my brother marrying a wonderful young lady, and the beginning of a new life together brings with it hope for the future.
I wish all of you for whom 2013 was a long night to seize the night and the opportunities it presents. Don’t go quietly into it. Then, having seized the opportunities, may the future days be yours to take.
Carpe nocht et carpe diem.
Last night I was disappointed to see a post on my Facebook feed complaining about how a Christmas concert had 50% Christian content. It was obviously posted and shared by people who believe that public schools should be completely devoid of religious teachings. Of course it bothered me as a Christian that someone would complain that a celebration based on my faith should have content based on my faith in it. But it occurred to me that wasn’t the big thing that bothered me.
What bothered me was the insinuation that a music teacher, such as myself, would think of any other reason for choosing content than for teaching music.
What has happened here is that someone with an agenda, an antitheological agenda, has bastardized my curricular decisions to fuel their own argument. A music teacher does not choose Christmas Concert content based on some religious motivation. A music teacher chooses music based on what will help the students learn to perform music.
That could be “Away in a Manger”, “Santa Baby”, or “Maoz Tzur”, so long as they help the teacher teach a particular objective that students need to learn.
Is there a theme? Of course. A piece of music my students played this year was called “A Song for Peace”. It is not a Christmas tune, in fact it is a tune used for Remembrance or Veteran’s Day. But it fit a theme I was working with. So I used it.
I also used “O Come All Ye Faithful”, not because it was a Christian carol, but because it taught my students how to play in a small ensemble format. And it worked.
I, being a music teacher at a Catholic school, have even had audience members complain to me about how few Christmas carols I include in my concerts. The answer to them is the same; I choose music to teach music.
None of the music chosen for our “Christmas” concert was for Christ. It was to teach music. And this is the case in every music program. If a theme is available, we use it to make the music more relevant, and therefore deepen the learning process, not to ram a religion down our audience’s throats.
But just to be clear, Christmas is a shortened form of “Christ’s Mass”, or a mass celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Before you start refuting the existence, or even the accuracy of the birthdate of Jesus, let me tell you I don’t care. I’m celebrating his birth as one of the greatest teachers of all time. It would be ridiculous to suggest that such a celebration should not have content related to the guy we’re celebrating.
How would you like to celebrate your birthday, but never be allowed to mention you exist? Or perhaps, what if we try to celebrate the birth of Nelson Mandela, but never be allowed to mention what he did? It’s a ridiculous notion.
Please stop taking my profession and twisting it to meet your own agenda. Get off your soapbox, shut up, and listen to the music.
Oh, and Merry Christmas.