….and so it is….
Perhaps one of the hardest lessons in life to learn is that in a time when we preach freedom of choice, freedom of decision and that the world holds limitless possibilities for each of us - the reality nonetheless is that sometimes we don’t get to chose. Sometimes circumstances decide for you, and no matter how much you might have worked for something, how much you have struggled, or how valiantly you strive onward there are no options.
Even in the 21st century with all of our science, statistics and innovations….sometimes our fate is still in the hands of the gods, the stars are out of alignment, and events that are beyond the control of any single individual determine our course.
Sometimes you can seek to avoid the foreseeable by choosing the route over the other – but such options often only delay the inevitable. I have frequently found that struggling against the predictable outcome is often a tough and unproductive path.
There is no making sense of it, no figuring it out, and no logic behind it. Sometimes, it just is…
To struggle against the tides of such moments and try to keep pushing on would be to ensure ruin. The only realistic answer then is to chart a course through the storm – no matter how rough the seas or how fierce the winds – and to help one another get through it as best as we can.
This is why after our time in quarantine we decided not to take a single step on The Great Trail until the situation with Covid has been brought under control. And yet for a few fanatical individuals, even this was not enough as since “merely contemplating going outdoors means that you deserve to be punished and die for that alone”.
Given the strains of thought, types of comments, and graphic details that were being posted with our last blog entry we have temporarily unpublished it – as its sole message, that we did not hike and that we were not presently hiking was missed by so many.
Those who follow our trek have now seen the types of daily
emails and threats we have gotten and continue to receive since setting out on
this amazing hike across Canada. Unfortunately the comments left on our
previous blog entries pale in comparison to the graphic messages, delusions,
and detailed threats we have recently now received by email. Sadly there is little that can be done to stop
such comments as most are anonymous and laws lag far behind the modes of
communication found in the digital world.
While the loss of this moment and time on the trail is heartbreaking it is, as always, the online commentary that worries me the most. Not for myself, sadly I have now become used to the name calling, the harassment, the intimation that I should be attacked, the hope that we die on the trail, the references to people ‘hunting us down on the trail’, 'humbling us', and threats against us. I worry because there are so many young people who are growing up watching this type of discourse and who now must think that these types of attacks and this type of commentary are normal – or worse virtuous. That such messages that ‘hit and run’ with no thought to anything beyond making the author feel superior for a moment should be thought of as acceptable. However, the critiques of the online world are not witty, well thought or Socratic – they are spiteful, frustrated and the rantings of the insecure. Yet this is the tone we have chosen for youth to experience and learn from. In that we should make no mistake as a society - what we reap we will sow.
In the past 14 months, the tensions of Covid have revealed the faults in our society and the cracks in our public presumptions about our institutions and ourselves. During this crisis we have all moved closer to that horrifying moment when we are one paycheck away from eviction, and one meal away from hunger. If we are fortunate that this is not our personal experience then we certainly are related to or know someone who faces these challenges. That we can be so close to ruin is understandably terrifying for everyone.
Perhaps more challenging than these harsh realities is that we have all been handed the time to reflect on everything from who we are as individuals, to what do as a society, to who we want to be once this situation passes. Unfortunately rather than being a time of introspection, a time spent with family and a time of planning we have transformed the potential for reflection into a crisis of self identity…..and so we have begun to attack one another. We no longer wish to discuss the merits of a policy or undertakings of our society in a productive way. We are terrified and want to reduce everyone around us to that same state that so many are in – one of insecurity, one of fear, and one of person against person. We feel as though the world has turned against us and, sadly, we want everyone else to feel the same. These days it seems no commentary online is beyond the pale anymore.
The comments regularly left and messages posted online now go beyond mere nay saying and critique. Our society’s glee at posting the most vitriolic, sexist, racist, homophobic and backward thinking ideas are no longer merely the comments of self proclaimed experts and armchair warriors. Instead, we have seemingly entered a realm where we have collectively begun to delight in the failings of others, as a society we seem certain that all that ails us is the fault of others, and because of this we set out to cast about to attack everyone blindly. We do this regularly online, in front of the world, and for all – including the youth in our communities and across the nation – to watch and see.
These days, given the hardships of the moment so many seem to have no problem looking around and saying ‘oh that person doesn’t look like me’, or ‘that person doesn’t believe in the same gods I believe in’, or ‘that person doesn’t dress the way I do’, or ‘that person makes different choices than I do’ and we use these simplistic and deeply imperfect observations to leap to the unreasonable conclusion that it is ‘them’ who are at fault for the circumstances of the moment. ‘They’ are the ones to blame and they are the ones who should be punished. The people who write these types of postings have no interest in resolving the challenges of our society or helping others, they merely want to blame so that they can distract from their own situation feel better about themselves – if only for a moment. Despite all of our advances and achievements we are still all too willing to build the pyres in the town square and pile all of our misgivings and uncertainties onto others whom we can blame. For no other reason than because we cannot understand the moment and we cannot comprehend how all that we worked so hard for has seemingly been lost. So we criticize others, we blame others, and we mock others because we are scared.
It seems that closer we get to absolute crisis as individuals and as a society the more polarized, radicalized and the more terrified we all seem to become. Our rhetoric gets more volatile, our comments get more self righteous and so many become more judgmental. Yet none of this addresses the actual problems at hand, it only reflects our own personal fears, speeds up the current social crisis and distracts from what is essential.
While it might be vogue, exciting, and temporarily empowering to spend our days online searching out the faults of others, mocking the failings of those we don’t know, and drafting snarky commentary to every news announcement and blog posting. The fact is that it does nothing to reassure any of us that we can get through this terrible moment intact and together. In fact, I think it does the opposite. After all, once the comments and judgment against others begin we inherently know that someone will do the same to us eventually – and that we too will eventually be cornered and ridiculed. And so we attack more and more and more, in the hope that we are the last one standing. In this process we conflate rumor with knowledge, critique with wisdom, presumption and assumptions with moral authority, and group hysteria with rightful judgment. We attack with everything, and as a result our society is left filled with only more hate and more rage making it a lonelier and scarier place to be – especially for our youth, those who dream, and those who strive to progress forward.
At the moment, as a society, we are temporarily lost, because we have forgotten to stay connected to our communities and the world around us. The world (not just because of Covid) has for many been slowly reduced to TV screens, computer screens, phone screens, and windows. Because of this we have forgotten that we each need to stay connected in a meaningful way such that we know things for ourselves, we assess for ourselves, we explore for ourselves, and that we are each willing and able to empathize and view the world from the perspective of someone else before passing judgment. Covid has exacerbated the belief that with the internet all is known so there is no need for discover and explore for ourselves. We have forgotten that life is about how you connect and not about how many likes, responses, and reposts you get. In the process we have forgotten all that we have in common. We have forgotten that the things that unite us and make us a diverse and amazing nation far outnumber the things that divide us. We are allowing rumour to direct us, our fears to rule us and in so doing we are deepening the crisis we all find ourselves in.
Life and our goals in it have no guarantees, but endless vitriol adds nothing to the situation nor does it lighten the load of others in our communities.
It is in the trying and striving that we thrive
The venture which I have sold my house, donated my possessions, and set aside my career for has been abruptly, unexpectedly, and temporarily brought to a halt owning to the shifting regulations in our fight against Covid19.
Striving to lead by example as an advocate that everyone needs to recreate responsibly I announced that for the foreseeable future we were suspending our expedition the Great Trail. While the vast number of followers voiced and messaged their immediate support for this decision (and for us) there was also no denying that many people took great delight in what they proclaimed to be an ‘epic failure’. Nasty postings on our blog, graphic emails, and hasty demands were also immediately sent by individuals excited at the supposed ‘downfall of a liberal environmentalist’, a ‘hippy girl’, and ‘losers’.
Others have made it clear that we have ‘no right to feel sad’ because we ‘deserved what we got’ because we ‘made the choice’. We were informed that because we made the choice to trek that we ‘are a making a mockery of Real Canadians’, that we ‘owe real people who are actually struggling an apology’, that 'we need to get back to paying property taxes and supporting businesses not hiking and dreaming', and that we are to ‘walk door to door on our hands and knees begging and apologizing to Real Canadians everywhere for making the country look so bad with our comments, your libtard complaints and horrible pictures.”
One individual, who has emailed his hate almost 50 times now, has bluntly informed us that ‘this trek was UR dream, and it is a selfish dream that is a horrible influence on kids in this country and U have no right forcing it on others!!!! Stop your hike and stop UR stupid posts! It is UR dream and not anyone elses!!! So shut up & QUIT!’. He has also disturbingly continually messaged that “it is people like you who stop Real Canadians from Making Canada Great Again.”
In short, there have been a lot of disheartening and disillusioning comments.
Thankfully, one gracious and smart friend emailed reassuring us that we should not take these types of comments to heart because ‘Covid is making people go crazy’. Their words of wisdom were a wonderful balm to receive and I do hope that things get better as the pandemic passes.
Beyond everything however, one message above all else stunned me. That being an email telling us that one person had waited for us for two years to fail “so they could show their kids and other people why dreaming and trying was stupid and a waste of time”.
In the midst of a cascade of emails and messages mocking and defaming us, it was the shear pathetic bliss that anyone would not only wait for the misstep of another individual but do so simply so that they could tell their children to never try and to never dream that horrified me the most. Who would ever seek to cripple their own kin by stifling any hopes or dreams that they may have before they can strive and try for themselves?
While I do not respond to such messages on principle I truly hope that one day the children of this lost person and others who have been told to never try find this blog – because trying does matter. In fact trying matters a great deal.
Trying means you are attempting something new, which is essential because we all learn from the experience. Even failure advances us. In striving and challenging ourselves we learn about ourselves and the world because of this we thrive as individuals and prosper as a society. Dreaming of new adventures, taking new pathways, and trying for ourselves are perhaps some of the most essential parts of us as individuals and as a people.
No matter how dark the present may seem never doubt that trying is essential, striving forward is essential and exploring is essential.
If we critique every dreamer and crush everyone who tries….how do we learn anything? How do we move forward?
Exploration and Common Ground
I have hesitated to even acknowledge the hateful and violent messages that we have received but I worry what my own silence says to those who are young, daring, and who come next to the world of exploration.
We have now been repeatedly told from countless fronts to quit our hike. There are demands to erase our blog, delete all of our pictures, and to “tour the country apologizing to every Real Canadian, every homeless person, and every person who REALLY struggles in life for our flight of fancy which is only a mockery of the challenges Real & Great Canadians face. Only then, when people like you two are on your knees in front of Real Canadians apologizing for all your stupidity and fairy tales will Real Canadians be able to Make Canada Great Again.” These types of inane rantings and all that they infer that worry me because, on so many levels the views they reflect are a dark cloud on the horizon of our world.
Yet I still believe we need to struggle forward, still
believe that we need to hold onto our common ground, and still believe that
time in nature is essential for everyone in order to remain grounded,
knowledgeable and empathetic. And because - regardless of what is said to us - I still intend to continue on when it is possible and responsible to do so.
Right now it is very hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. A year that was set to be a crowning accomplishment in this trek has disintegrated without ever hiking and without ever taking a single step. Yet, even now, after dozens of messages of hate and emails wishing violence upon us, I nonetheless think there is hope and a way forward.
Trying something new and not reaching the conclusions that you had hoped does not make you an ‘epic failure’ – it makes you a dreamer, an inspiring individual and an epic explorer. Failure is a learning experience (even if it hurts in the moment). If we shift to the point where we are only willing to do what is a guaranteed success then we are truly lost as a species. Risk, change, attempts, and failure are all necessary to advancement and innovation as well as – I believe – essential to our own identities as a peoples.
We used to champion those individuals who were willing to gamble everything on one pitch of the dice, who sought to do what others proclaimed impossible, and who set out to new frontiers but now we await their missteps and delight in their failings.
It is undoubtedly harder to be a dreamer, explorer, and someone who goes against the stream in this day and age. Yet we nonetheless need to keep on the paths that our hopes and ideals take us. If only because, to find our way out of the darkest times we need to push forward, follow our dreams and make plans for what comes next regardless of what the critics say.
As always I am more concerned for those who come next, those who hope to try something new, and whose who have made great and improbable plans to explore our nation and the world. I worry that they will see the challenges we have faced, note the setbacks, witness the critiques, and are terrified at the types of things people are willing to 'say' to us. I worry that because of these things the next generation will come to the conclusion that what they want to do is not possible and that it is too hard – and that because of this will not try.
Because of this I want to send out this message : Yes there are obstacles to be overcome. Yes there are always going to be those who will attack and defame one if you strive to do something different. Despite it all however you can (and need to) keep going. The world might fight and scream and push back, and it might seem impossible to go on. But there are also a lot of amazing people and groups out there ready to help you forward when things are at their darkest. When everything seems to collapse, when the whole world seems to turn on you, and when everyone screams stop – trust that you are not alone and can find a way forward.
Patience, time, and hope can overcome more than we give them credit for. As we are often wonderfully reminded “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” and while “progress isn’t always a straight line or a smooth path” and that the road maybe hard and journey maybe long, we must nonetheless move forward – together.
While it is true that I have temporarily suspended this expedition given the circumstances of the moment and out of public necessity – but I’m still standing and I am going back onto the trail to explore this amazing nation. Follow your dreams and push forward. There is so much in this world that is amazing, beautiful and worthy of exploration.