A story for a winter’s night

“Biology gives you a Brain. Life turns it into a mind.” – Jeffrey Eugenides

That quote appears in the latest edition of “Lapham’s Quarterly,” a magazine published four times per year. Each issue is edited by my favourite thinker, Lewis H. Lapham. The latest volume is a compendium of essays and stories having to do with States of Mind.

Among the contributors:

• Diane Ackerman, who teaches: “Among the bad jokes evolution has played on us are these: we have brains that can conceive of states of perfection they can’t achieve; we have brains that compare our insides to other people’s outsides; we have brains desperate to stay alive, yet we are finite beings who perish.”

• Mary Ruefle who, feeling old and detached, receives advice from a friend: “Mary, it’s that other people have never been interested in the things that interest you, and you understand that now, but when you were younger, you didn’t understand that at all, so you didn’t feel isolated, but now that you understand it, you feel isolated, and you are.”

My wish for you this Christmas, knowing full well you may not presently have control, either because of external or internal factors, is that you soon pursue one of the best medicines for the mind… variety. Variety equals choice. And choice is the blood of life.

Florence Nightingale, an Italian nurse whose work during the Crimean War earned her the sobriquet, “The Lady with the Lamp,” was someone who identified that for all that had been written about the effect of the mind on the body, it was actually the body which could help the mind. We pretty much all know this and yet there is occasionally tucked in the back of our minds the feeling that ‘with a little more self control,’ the sick might ‘dismiss painful thoughts and heal themselves.’

Nightingale saw the prison of hospital beds. The walls of the patient’s room hung with their cares, the ghosts of their troubles swirling. So she rolled the bed out of the room and into the fresh air and through the gardens.

Rick Hansen is the greatest example of motion and it’s power. His visit to our Rogers Hometown Hockey stop in Surrey, B.C. was such an inspiration. Rick continues to do amazing work with his foundation (rickhansen.com). His primary focus is to generate spinal cord injury research funding and promote accessibility, but his mandate goes beyond this. Rick is about having a “why” to life, and the peace stemming from having a purpose. It starts with motion, if not borne of ones own ability, then offered up by friends or supporters. It is okay to receive help.

Movement. It can be playing a sport, it can be needlepoint or singing. You can be very isolated in your choice. You may go solo in its pursuit, but a change of scenery is vital to wellbeing.

The imagination, like the moon, relies on the light of another.

The Rogers Hometown Hockey tour takes us all across Canada. Rick Lynch drives our mobile studio from city to city. Rick has been to all 85 stops over three-and-a-half years. When I sit with Rick Lynch over a coffee or a beer, I think of Rick Hansen; men in motion teaching me the wisdom of the road.

They have each shared the polarity of the journey; nourished by the travel, but aching to be home.

Christmas Eve. Your little house is warm and through a frosted window, the cold sliver of moon paints the endless smoke-coloured snow, and you hear laughter and music rising up the falling night. Part of you is happy to turn off the light and go to bed, thankful for the day, and part of you wishes to step out into whatever is happening. You have that choice. You are free. If not, to you I bow and pray.

I promise to be part of the movement to make it so.

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