The Vitality of Despair

I came upon a fiddler on a Halifax pier just after dusk recently. He was playing a lament. The moon was already bright and sparkly yet the music transported me into a sorrowful state as it always does. Laments are slow airs written in memory of more desperate times. But they are not meant to keep us downcast. They serve to remind us of the vitality of despair.

Despair is the heart’s major point of departure.

When you’ve had enough, when you are tasting defeat; then you are ready to be refreshed into imagination and ingenuity

Our work at PLAN emerged from the heartaches and worries of those who had recently experienced some combination of illness, divorce, the death of a loved one and other tragedies. These cracks didn’t immobilize us. Instead, they revealed the source of our creativity.

Despair is the wellspring of far more ingenuity and creativity than intellectual treatises or airtight logic. I agree with New Dawn Enterprise’s President, Rankin MacSween who observed, at the Halifax ‘unlaunch’ of my new book, that feeling defeated and in despair is often the harbinger of a breakthrough.    

That is why despair is worth befriending.

Just like a set of Cape Breton fiddle tunes.

First a lament to remind us of our deepest longings and to awaken our heart.

Then a Hornpipe or Strathspey. The juices begin to flow. Possibilities are imagined. Our hands and feet begin to twitch.

Finally a reel. A fervor of creativity.

Culmination. Bridging the tension between despair and ingenuity.

PS – here’s a short video clip of the Halifax ‘unlaunch’ of Impact. Accompanied by the sorrowful and beautiful voice of Mary Jane Lamond.


And the moon shines off my beautiful scars.

Tom Wilson, singer, songwriter

To continue this theme have a listen/watch of this amazing discussion including author Miriam Toews, musicians Dave Bidini and Tom Wilson and ‘Q’ guest host Gill Deacon.

Be sure to listen to Tom Wilson’s performance of Beautiful Scars which he wrote in response to Toews’ latest novel, All My Puny Sorrows. Scroll down to click on the link.


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