"Now the sweet bells of mercy
Drift through the evening trees
Young men on the corner
Like scattered leaves
The boarded up windows
The empty streets
While my brother's down on his knees
My city of ruins
My city of ruins
Come on, rise up."
My City of Ruins, Bruce Springsteen
This morning I woke up. As I did the day before. And again, before that.
I wake hoping for peace. Calm. Contentedness.
And every morning I wake to find that tranquility eludes me. Instead, the mind chatters away, ceaselessly, neurotically engrossed in a self-narrative centered around pain and loss. Seemingly everlasting. Seemingly inescapable.
And I wonder if this is how the rest of my life will play out.
I wonder if anything will change.
But what I’ve learned over the course of my life, is that change is inevitable. It happens, regardless of whether we want it or not. Regardless of whether we’re ready for it. Regardless of whether we feel we need it.
It just happens.
It’s easy to lose perspective, particularly during times like these. But this morning I woke to a different narrative. I woke to the idea that this world is bigger than me. That there’s more to the world as I see it. That beyond my perception of loneliness, isolation and alienation, there’s another way of witnessing reality.
We walk through life observing things through our own eyes. Through our own lens, distorted by our biases, our attitudes, our habits, and beliefs. But I wonder if this is an accurate way to see the world. I wonder if there’s a way to step outside ourselves, and to witness a different reality. One of togetherness and unity, of oneness despite the current state of global crisis.
There are others. Billions of people walking this earth. So how can there possibly be such a disconnectedness among us? How can we fail to realize that the people we pass walking the street have their own stories? Stories of pain. Stories of loss. Stories of hope. Stories as unique as they are similar.
And that’s what I love about art. Whether it be visual art, music, literature… art is storytelling. Experiencing art is a powerful way to connect not just with the artist, but with humanity in general. Because regardless how individual the artwork may be, there are commonalities. There are themes that recur time and time again. Throughout history, the stories remain recognizable. They remain utterly human.
And maybe that’s the secret to life. To recognize that we exist together. To understand that beneath the surface of what is visible, that there’s something that ties us all together. A common experience.
That’s what will carry us through this time of pandemic and crisis. And in fact, that’s what will carry us through the rest of our lives. The very gold of truth we all seek.
And just when the world appears to succumb to the reality of hardship, and crumble like ruins, we rise.
We rise, together.
And life, as we know it… it goes on.