To the living, I am gone.
To the sorrowful, I will never return.
To the angry, I was cheated,
But to the happy, I am at peace,
And to the faithful, I have never left.
I cannot be seen, but I can be heard.
So as you stand upon a shore, gazing at a beautiful sea – remember me.
As you look in awe at a mighty forest and its grand majesty – remember me.
As you look upon a flower and admire its simplicity – remember me.
Remember me in your heart, your thoughts, your memories of the times we loved,
the times we cried, the times we fought, the times we laughed.
For if you always think of me, I will never be gone.
~ Margaret Mead
The surprising results of an audition have led me here, to Breckenridge, Colorado, where I find myself immersed in world of classical music, surrounded by wonderfully talented musicians. The beauty of the mountains is breathtaking, and sometimes I have to take a moment and stop (yes, partially because of the altitude), but also because I can’t quite believe that I’m here.
I took the gondola up to the base of the ski area with a couple of friends today, and we hiked all around that area and stopped for lunch. It was blissful and tranquil, a gorgeous summer sunny morning, and I was so thankful for all of it – for the chance to be there, for the peace of the moment, for the people I was with. And I thought of the world, the news that I read every-day, and I remembered a short piece I’d written awhile back last semester, shortly after learning of another tragedy, yet another shooting.
Walking back in the gray, rainy overcast sky, dim lighting and dying fall leaves, she breathed the misty air deep into her lungs and hugged her arms tighter around her body. Lost weight. She had lost weight, the thinness of her sides she felt through the light sweater she wore. And as she walked, making that long to-and-from journey campus-side to music school-side, she felt that her days were numbered somehow. That no matter how much time she, and all of the world, felt she had, continuity was no longer a vast future of possibilities, but stopped any moment by humankind. By humankind. We did this to ourselves, she thinks. The human mind, soul, spirit – whatever one might call it, we have somehow, within ourselves, created this. She recalled the Kurt Vonnegut quote she had read so many memories ago: that despite the pain, the violence, the anguish all around, to still somehow believe that the world is a beautiful place – and she looked up at the steel gray, darkening sky, and down again. Tired eyes. She had tired eyes that held a world of exhaustion. How is it possible, she wondered, for the human heart to have the capacity to love in such a strong and visceral way that it can break itself by simply feeling? How then can it turn from that to hiding love, abolishing it completely, leaving it alone to die with no regret and no humanity left even in its darkest corners – so completely and terribly devoid of love?
Fear, she felt, had wrapped its tendrils around the nucleus of the world and squeezed, letting its poison pollute even the beauty of the world where it still would be found. It wasn’t enough, she felt, to simply enjoy life’s moments, to love the ones around you, to take pleasure in good days, happy occasions, small successes. It all seemed diluted now, in the presence of her worries, and she stepped up her pace and side-stepped a slower walker on the sidewalk. The light was leaving the day, sadly and regretfully, leaving no sunset gift, no haze of orange and purple golden hour light. Dawn goes down to day, she thought, nothing gold can stay. But it’s enough for now, she climbed the steps to the building where she lived, it’s enough to love the ones you’re with. For what more can we do? What else is there to hold onto? Turning the key to the apartment, she feels the warmth and the laughter, the blanket of love all around, and the world is alright once more – even if only for a moment. How lucky am I to have this, she thinks, happy enough. I will be happy for this right now. This moment. And she reaches around behind her, closing the door, to keep the warmth in.
While I mourn what seems to be an increasingly volatile state of the world, I think that it is ever important to love the ones around you, to hold these moments of peace and joy in the mind, to live as passionately and fully and well as one can, and to remember those who are gone.
To the friends and families of the victims in the Orlando shooting, my heart and my thoughts are with you.