We were all there to learn just how to cultivate happiness, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama had come to share with us his secret. His words were, of course, wise, beautiful, and seemed to strip all complexity out of the little episodes we cook up in our lives. But for me, the moment of power was before his lecture.
After the performance of Tibetan children who opened with traditional Tibetan song and dance, Master of Ceremonies Kevin Newman invited Sam Sullivan and the Dalai Lama onto the stage to present His Holiness with an honorary Canadian Citizenship. Upon this introduction, all of GM commenced what would be the first of several standing ovations this day.
Thirty seconds passed and no one had come on stage. Newman started uttering stalling comments, rhetorical questions and humorous apologies. “GM Place is a very large facility,” he observed. Twenty thousand of us were still standing with anticipation. After another minute, Newman plainly confessed that he had no idea where they were. We all found it very comical, still unsure whether to sit down or remain standing, because the Lamster may have appeared on stage any second. Newman requested some sort of filler, more Tibetan oms perhaps. No one could believe the Lama was lost. Tension was high. The air was electric. Seconds were passing. Newman decided to go find out where the heck the Dalai Lama and Sam Sullivan had wandered off to. But just then, way out of the blue, some faint voice started singing “O Canada”, and I was motionless with wonder. The voice grew louder and louder and all of GM Place joined in. I felt a tingle run through my skin, realizing that this was the most overwhelming O Canada I had ever been a part of. All the national anthems I’ve sung have been preceded by, “And now let’s rise and sing O Canada”. But here we were, totally unprompted, I felt like a tiny child again, and it was a very beautiful thing.
After the awesome display of patriotism, we sat down, jubilant. Oms filled the gap, Newman still scouring the joint for His Holiness. Within a few minutes, all were found and once again a standing ovation transpired, the Dalai Lama became the third honorary Canadian citizen in history and then we all sang our national anthem once more. It wasn’t as magical as the first time, but our vocal cords very pleasantly warmed up.