North American Contrarian

Telling it like it is… in North America

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Remembering Leonard Cohen

It’s been one year since Leonard Cohen died.  There are tributes all over Canada and the world.  In Montreal, the city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a massive mural to pay tribute.

a53a54f769746a6189ab470952113d69.1000x1000x1Is it just me, or is this just totally contrary to this Leonard Cohen’s life?  The humble man who claimed to still let his neighbours use his washing machine  when they so obliged.   The man who spent years living in a Californian monastery so he could be engulfed in quiet and thought.

In any case, if people want to celebrate his life with parties and murals, I have no problem with that.  In fact, I totally understand the urge to make your sadness or your affection public.  Like all geniuses, everyone had a different relationship with his art, and I’m sure, for many like myself it is deeply personal.

Here is Leonard Cohen for me.

Leonard Cohen is what you listen to when things fall apart and you need context.  The below lyric- if you really spend time contemplating it,  should give you solace for whatever miserable situation you may be going through:

“There is a crack, there is a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in”.

Leonard Cohen means Montreal.  An extremely charming and elegant city precisely because it’s not trying to be so.  A city that is dark and cold but still has a warmth bubbling just under the surface.   It’s a city that, though not oblivious to the latest trends, seems to harbour some sort of secret that the rest of us can aspire to but never have for ourselves.

“I bite my lip
I buy what I’m told
From the latest hit
To the wisdom of old
But I’m always alone
And my heart is like ice
And it’s crowded and cold
In my secret life”

Leonard Cohen means Jewishness.  I can hear in his melodies the same one that I did when I went to synagogue with my parents as a kid.   For those who have never been, a synagogue is very different from a church.  No one claps their hands or shouts.  There is no band or choir.  Instead, it’s lead by a man with a baritone voice and the congregation chants behind him.  The man at the front is contemplating god and the deepest mysteries that confront us all:

“And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry merry month of may,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling?”

There is obviously no ‘right’ way to remember Leonard Cohen.  But for me, it will be with headphones on, solitary, letting the words and music evolve with meaning for my life today, like it has done so many times in the past.


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Why Gen Y and Gen X Will Do Better Than our Parents

Technically, I’m a generational hybrid between Gen X and Gen Y.  I recall Grunge, though I was too young to really be a part of the scene (though I did cry when Kurt Cobain died).  And I was also young during the advent of the internet, though I can’t say I was a digital native. So I think I can comfortably speak for both generations.  And, in my humble opinion, these two generations will do a much better job at the helm than our parents.  Here is why:

We know the world is in a precarious state:  The cost of gas just went through the roof here in Canada and it’s a struggle for many to fill up their vehicles.  The gas, product of the middle-east, fuels wars and feeds instability. We know this, and we know that, like a tumour, it is spreading and killing us.  I’m not Imagesaying that the younger generations have real solutions to the epic problems that face humanity. In fact, I think there is a general malaise, a sense of helplessness and doom amongst many.  But, I also think that the first step is understating of the problem.  My hope is that, as the gen Y’s move in and Gen X’s move up, they will begin to use this knowledge to make real changes to the way the world works.


We get technology: It’s obvious and some say it’s overstated.  I mean, does it really matter that I know how to send a tweet or keep a blog?  Who cares if I know how to tether my computer and edit movies?  It may seem trivial, but I think that these skills mean more than seem.  The workplace of the future is in technology.  You may be doing a traditional job, but the platform is all-new.  A salesperson will not be communicating by phone and a teacher will not be standing at a blackboard.  This is reality and the younger generations are many steps ahead of their parents.

We want more from life than work:  The executives at my work are in their fifties and sixties.  They get in Imageat 7 am and often don’t leave until 8 pm.  They fret about that company as if it were a child- it’s their priority and there is a sense that it’s the overarching purpose of their lives.  Then there are colleagues my age and younger.  We stay do stay late if a project needs to be done, and we check emails incessantly.  But, I perceive a real difference in our approach.  While we still do care, we also know that our employment is tenuous.  We won’t get a pension and expect to be moving through or out of the company in the next few years.  When work is done, we leave and take yoga, dance class or simply hang out.  If someone asks me what I do on a daily basis, I am just as likely to say windsurf or read as I am manage Polar product.  This is healthy and I think it will lead to a more motivated workforce that finds creative solutions and lives more fulfilling lives.

There are no more illusions: This is not meant to be esoteric or deep.  What I mean is that the childhood with mom and dad and pie and swing sets is a phantom that was created for public consumption in the 50’s.  I’m not even sure if that ever existed.  But if it did, it’s gone.  The world is more transparent now, and information- whatever kind you want, is there for all to see.    Porn- I recall seeing every variety of gender doing incredible contortions with bizarre apparatus before I could even reach the gas pedal of the car. And I had been overseas before I could even navigate my home city.  What does this mean?  I think youth today are on the whole less naive.  They have a better perspective on reality and it will lead to better decision making down the road.