Sic transit gloria mundi

When I joined the Bank of Nova Scotia in Toronto in 1976, my office on the executive floor must have measured 500 sq ft. I had a desk the size of a car, a credenza, several chairs, and some bookcases. Any noise in the area was muffled by thick carpets and heavy curtains. The room where visitors waited for their appointment was called the “slumber room” as if it were part of a funeral home. Men wore suit jackets and ties throughout the day.

Contrast that staid environment with the 200 or so Scotiabankers marching in Sunday’s Pride Parade. The circle in the centre of the bank logo on their t-shirts was in the LGBTQ rainbow colours. Imagine what William Nicks, Scotia’s austere Chairman and CEO in the 1960s, who designed an earlier version of that logo, would think. Most corporations have gone through similar transformations. That’s why the Pride Parade has many corporate sponsors ranging from CN to Nordstrom.

West along Bloor Street, past another bank-sponsored event – the TD Toronto Jazz Festival – is a place that reaches even further back in time than the slumber room, the Royal Ontario Museum. In its just-opened exhibition of 70 Dutch paintings, called In the Age of Rembrandt, there are only three Rembrandts, but there are also two fine works by Frans Hals, Hendrick Avercamp’s magical Winter Landscape replete with dozens of skaters enjoying an outing on a frozen river, and a dazzling painting by Carel Fabritius showing the moment immediately before Mercury turns Aglauros to stone.

One of the themes of the show is the brevity of life or vanitas, as the art historians would say. Various portraits and still lifes show some combination of a skull, an hour glass or a broken flower stem. In one work, two children blow bubbles, another representation that we are only here for a short while. Whether you marched in the parade, played saxophone in a jazz band, or looked at art, the message was the same: enjoy the moment, nothing lasts.

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