Why Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas doesn't get caught up in the search for perfect

The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers

CBC Radio

June 26, 2020

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas is a Haida visual artist, author, and public speaker. Yahgulanaas, whose work has been shown at the British Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Vancouver Art Gallery, blends the aesthetics of Haida art and Japanese manga in comics such as War of the Blink, Red and Carpe Fin.

Yahgulanaas stopped by The Next Chapter to take its version of the Proust Questionnaire.

Tell me about your favourite character in fiction.

My favourite character in fiction would be Nausicaä from Hayao Miyazaki's graphic novel by the same name. She's a very powerful female character who refuses to bite the hook of anger. She is observant and able to love that which is presented as distasteful — and thereby reveal the deeper truth.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Perfect is such a strange concept. We're searching for some elusive, singular state of bliss. In that search for perfect, that we probably deny ourselves the endless moments of happiness: when my daughter embraces me or when my wife smiles. There are just endless streams of happiness that that come through the day.

What is your principal defect?

I think I could learn a bit more compassion and generosity. I'd like to be kinder to bugs. I'm unfriendly to bugs and I need to overcome that.

On what occasions do you lie?

I try to lie about nine hours every 24. Always when I'm sleeping.

What is your favourite journey?

Let me take some refuge in metaphor and say the journey is life. Break it down into three components: one is arrival, one is departure and one is traveling. I had a father who never was really in my life and I didn't learn a thing about living. But I learned a lot about dying on his deathbed.

He persuaded the doctors to disconnect him, which they did. He passed, only to wake about 20 minutes later, sit up abruptly in his hospital bed and say, "Why am I still here? I told you to disconnect. I want my money back." And he flopped back and died.

So I'm looking forward to the departure. It's not a fearful moment for me. There's a sense of mystery.

Who are your favourite characters in history?

I think the question of characters in history sort of suggests a fictional character. I want to probably acknowledge that over time we all become mythic and fictional. It's the characteristic of our short life on this planet, I suppose.

What is your greatest achievement?

I'm not done yet! I feel very young — and that there's still lots to be done.

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Listen to and read the original interview.