We used to call it “Dominion Day”, which in my opinion is a much cooler name than “Canada Day,” but either way it’s July 1 today and I thought I’d share a few thoughts about my country. I’ve lived in Canada all my life, and one of my goals is to have inscribed on my gravestone something along the lines of “Here lies Rick Rauser, who lived his entire life in Canada, a fact of which he was unapologetically proud.” Which, if you think about it, kind of rules out the possibility of me ever living in another country.
I remember talking to a friend of mine once who went to university in the United States and described the move from Canada to the U.S. as a “total culture shock.” Total culture shock? Seriously? It’s probably just as well that he didn’t move from Canada to, say, Mongolia or Uzbekistan–he would have probably suffered a complete psychotic breakdown. Canada and the United States are different, no doubt, but it’s a pretty mild difference, probably comparable to the difference between Sweden and Norway–in fact, even less different than that, since Canada and the United States share a common language, aside from the annoying tendency for Americans to say “soda” instead of the universally correct “pop”.
Speaking of Sweden, one thing I remember from high school is my Geography 12 teacher informing us that Sweden was ranked higher than Canada on the Economist’s Quality of Life Index. Since that was twenty-five years ago, I decided to check out the 2013 results to see if things have changed. Maybe we’ve passed the Swedes since I left high school! Nope–in the 2013 listing Sweden (#4) still outranks us (Canada is a lowly #9). Since Sweden has proven to be a better place to live than Canada since at least my grade 12 year, I would happily move there in an instant if only the people there didn’t all speak Swedish.
The truth is that I love Canada and I am glad I won the lottery by being born here 43 years ago. Because, if you think about it, it really *is* a giant lottery. There are no guarantees in life, but you can exponentially increase your odds of future happiness, health, and prosperity by being born in the right country. And the only reason I’m sitting at a computer in an air-conditioned townhouse right now instead of sweltering in the heat of a filthy tin shack in a Brazilian shantytown is luck. Pure, random, chaotic, luck. Of all the countries in the world I was born in this one. I had nothing to do with that, but it doesn’t mean I can’t be grateful. Who says you can’t be grateful for good luck?
Of course, there are other things you can do to increase your chances of a good life. Amongst the two most important are good genetics and loving parents. Genetics are implicated in just about everything to do with health and happiness, including longevity, attractiveness, intelligence, creativity, athleticism, charisma, personality, and even one’s likelihood of belief in a higher power. The difference between having loving parents and distant or abusive parents is the difference between a life of gratitude and a life of anguish.
So there it is. If you want a good life, be conceived with good genes, be born to loving parents, and be born in a country like Canada. You have absolutely nothing to do with your genes, your parents, or the country of your birth, which should probably make you incredibly grateful if you won even one of those things in the lottery of human existence.
Speaking of gratitude, it seems that every July 1 my thoughts turn to one of the greatest children’s books ever written, the profound meditation on chance, gratitude, and good fortune by Dr. Seuss, titled Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? I always tell my students that an intelligent children’s book has just as much to teach us as an intelligent book for adults, and this is one of the best. It’s great reading for Canada Day, or any day, for that matter. Find a copy, and read it.
Happy Canada Day.