KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – When Vincentian Earl “Ole George” Daniel told the Inuit people of Inukjuak, in the arctic region of Canada, that he would dance for six days to call attention to the suicide problem there, one woman secretly hoped that he would not die in the process.
And even when the social worker was days into the attempt, the woman still harboured the fears, which she confessed after Daniel completed the attempt about Tuesday morning around 5:40 (Eastern Caribbean time).
But by the time Daniel completed his feat, which was extended because of a penalty imposed by the Guinness Book of Records for an extended break, the people of the indigenous community saw “unconditional love”.
And one youth, speaking in his native language, said between his tears and sobbing, “You let me keep my life. You let me live.”
The young man’s comments, as translated into English by another member of the community during a ceremony after the record-breaking dance, show that the fruits that Daniel planted in the community, have already begun to bare fruit.
“He said that all his youth, he sought help. There was nobody to talk to … but when Earl arrived, he saw right away that this person would be a help,” the translator said of the young man’s statement.
“He wanted to commit suicide and if you were not here, he would be dead right now. And he is telling young generations, if you need help, there are people who can help you. Seek them,” the translator further said.
And at the end of the dance, the woman’s secret fears that Daniel might have died during the event, turned to gratitude.
“With all our hearts, from the bottom of my heart, from the bottom of this community’s heart, we thank you. We humble before you. We are so in gratitude for what you are doing for us. Thank you so much,” the woman said after Daniel had danced for 130 hours and 39 minutes.
Daniel’s feat, if endorsed by the Guinness Book of Records — which had representatives on site to oversee the event — will earn him a place in the internationally-renowned record-keeping journal, a dream that he has been pursuing even after four failed attempts.
He would replace the current record for the longest non-stop solo dance — 123 hours and 15 minutes — set in September 2010 by Kalamandalam Hemaletha of India.
“As I was watching him dance a few days ago, I said, ‘Oh my God! We said yes too fast. … we agreed to have somebody dance and I hope he is not going to die.’ Many, many times, that was going through my mind,” the woman said during a ceremony at the completion of the dance, streamed live on the Internet.
“We have learnt so much and you have planted in us something we will always remember. We will always have something in our hearts,” the woman said, noting that the youth, for many of whom suicide was a default option, had witnessed Daniel dance to bring awareness to their problems.
“As you say, once you put your mind to anything, you can do anything and that’s so important to remember. You walk what you talk and that is also so important in the work we try to do in suicide prevention and we are so humble, Earl; we are so proud,” the woman further added.
But the woman was not the only one who entertained doubts about whether Daniel would succeed.
“… you told me you wanted to dance for six days. I was laughing. I didn’t believe you. Here we are today and you’ve reached your goal,” said the man who acted as master of ceremony, and who translated from the native language to English.
He lauded Daniel’s patience and said the comedian “gave us so much love”.
“We saw unconditional love. There were a lot of elders saying that you have unconditional love,” he further said, adding that many residents of the community “couldn’t even come because they were too emotional.
“Because we have lost a lot of family members to suicide and this event means a lot to a lot of people here in Inukjak and a lot of people around the world. We are not the only people who lost family to suicide,” the man further said.
He said that the event was not just a dance but also a commemoration of the persons who had taken their lives. “We remember our families … and we are hoping that this will stop one day. That this will reduce suicide in our region and in our world…” the translator further said.
Meanwhile, Daniel, speaking after the dance, said: “It’s really an achievement to have done this and I hope it will inspire again someone else to want to achieve something that is great enough to benefit mankind.
“Whatever I do, I try to let it be so that it can benefit someone else, to improve the life of someone; because I am alive only to improve the life of others. That is the only reason I am alive. And my destiny had led me to the north and I know the north will be a different place from this moment,” he said to applause.
Asked how he felt after six days without sleep, Daniel responded:
“I feel motivated right now. God has given me that ability to go for long days without sleeping. So I try to make that useful rather than doing something else. I can’t remember with day I started,” he said to chuckles from the crowd, adding that he would sleep until about 8 or 9 the following morning.
Daniel further told the crowd that the average human being using only 10 per cent of their brainpower.
“And that really shocked me when I found that out. And 10 per cent on any exam is a failure. And the mind is more powerful than the body. And I have been on a quest to try to find out how much more is there.
“And if you learn how to develop that mind power that you have, there is nobody who is going to stop you from doing anything you want. Nobody! You can be as powerful as you want to be. You can achieve anything that you want to achieve once you know how to access that mental power,” Daniel said.
Daniel, who is also a Canadian citizen, told I-Witness News in February that suicide is a problem among the Intuits because people feel that they have no hope, are depressed, and have suppressed their feelings from very young.
He said there are many social problems such as rape, incest and alcoholism and the people do not talk much.
“They are a very closed culture. So they keep things inside for years — from childhood until they get to adulthood and their coping level is very low. So they think that the best way to exit from all the problems is to take their lives,” he said.
This had been a pattern in the community, where people see it as the norm, according to Daniel.
“So I am just trying this strategy to see if I can inject some motivation into the people. Such an event will be wonderful, make them feel proud of themselves, because the north will be showcased on the world stage.”