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“This is our life” – how Gord Downie inspired my minimalism journey

No dress rehearsal

This is our life

-Tragically Hip “Ahead By A Century

I always liked the Tragically Hip, but I never called myself a fan.

But in the past year, Gord Downie profoundly affected me with his actions in a way that his music affected others.

All of Canada mourns the passing of Gord Downie today. A remarkable Canadian who, when he learned of his illness, chose to spend every day entertaining, inspiring, educating, and working to make this country better.


Wifey was at the early days of struggling with her still-mysterious health problems when the final Tragically Hip concert was broadcast on CBC, across Canada and commercial free.

At the time, she was unable to watch TV for more than a few minutes, something I talked about in my post on Intentional Television, so she sat with her back turned and I watching the show. Sharing the night and the live experience with a third of Canadians. 

Many of the songs moved me to tears, but it was the simple lines “No dress rehearsal / This is our life” that have stuck with me every day since.

A reminder that time is precious, and all of us have numbered days.


Gord Downie might have had more days if he had retired and lived a quiet life in his last year. Instead, he chose to create new art, collaborate with other artists, and work tirelessly to raise awareness for the historical treatment of Canada’s indigenous peoples.

We all trade our days.

Gord traded his few to try to help others.


As Wifey and I pulled into the parking lot this morning, listening to a Gord Downie song on the radio that I hadn’t heard before, the announcer came on to say that Gord had passed away.

As sad as we were, it felt right that the moment also held the promise that all the songs he sang, and those we have not heard, will live forever.

Goodbye, Gord. Thank you for singing Canada’s songs. Thank you for inspiring me to be a better person.

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The opportunity cost of a so-so show

television thrown in a junk pile

For decades, we’ve worked under the assumption that mass culture follows a path declining steadily toward lowest-common-denominator standards … the exact opposite is happening: the culture is getting more cognitively demanding, not less.
-Steven Johnson (author of Everything Bad is Good For You)

Business has a concept called Opportunity Cost. This is the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.

It is simple enough to apply this to content.

I can only read one book at a particular moment. So what books am I not reading while I’m trudging through volume 8 of a series I’ve lost interest in?

Rather than let this paralyse you with too much choice, embrace it as a free pass to walk away. You don’t have to finish every movie you start, or watch every super hero show, or follow every Star Trek series.

Our limits are time, attention, and money.

Money is an imaginary limitation, to be honest. The library is a short walk from my house and has books, comic book collections, and movies for free. Setting aside the cost of internet and a device, the internet has a bottomless well of free content.

This leaves time and attention.

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