What do you do when you reach for a goal and don’t quite get there?
It was a moment for the history books. At the swearing-in ceremony for Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Nov. 4, 2015, two young Inuit throat singers laughed and the entire country fell in love. The girls, Samantha Kigutaq-Metcalfe and Cailyn Degrandpre, both 11 years old and residents of Ottawa, performed two throat songs and broke into giggles at the end of each. They should be the new Ministers of Cute, said social media.
But what social media missed, at least at first, is that laughter is built into Inuit throat singing. According to the Inuit Culture Online Resource, “Throat singing was traditionally performed between two women. The songs are sung as a friendly competition; played as a game. One person sets the rhythm, the pace, the sound and the other follows. The first person to outlast or not laugh is the winner, as each song tends to end in laughter.”
This isn’t competition as I’ve been taught to understand it. In the world I learned in, competition was (a) essentially male and (b) essentially serious, and losing a competition was (c) essentially shameful. Just think of all those children’s team sports with dads on the sidelines insulting volunteer coaches and humiliating their own kids.
Now think about a different kind of competition. This one is (a) for everyone who plays and (b) essentially joyous, and losing is (c) essentially a reason to laugh and play again.
These girls have been throat singing since they were two years old, at the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre where they became friends. They were interviewed by Canada’s national broadcaster CBC after the performance.
“I lost that first round,” said Samantha.
“But then on the second round, I messed up on the speech I was trying to do in the throat singing and then I started laughing,” said Cailyn. “The game is whoever laughs first loses, and I messed up so I laughed.”
I messed up so I laughed. What if we all thought about “failure” that way? Not as something to hide or hide from, and never risk anything else, but as part of the joy of reaching for a goal, then being able to reach again.
When asked what she liked best about throat singing, Cailyn said, “Laughing.”
May all your goals bring laughter.
* * *
This blog is a series of posts from one artist’s studio. To receive updates, plus a free printable postcard of one of my most recent paintings, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.