Art, Literature, Poetry, and Connectedness


“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”   – James Baldwin

When I read a book, hear a poem, or write — I feel connected to a world where things make sense.  Real life, on the other hand, can sometimes seem the opposite.  In addition to its other gifts of beauty, literature, art, and music help me better understand life.  Like James Baldwin, I don’t feel alone, yet it also puts my one small life into perspective.  Regardless of whether we are one voice among many, it doesn’t mean that the one voice is any less valuable or meaningful to the whole.  Reading or observing any art form is like hearing another human being’s cry in the wilderness as it mingles with our own.  Art connects us — not only to ourselves– but to each other.

I get a similar feeling when I look up and see a starlit sky, painted with an endless stretch of tiny brilliant sparkling lights, thousands of miles away, seemingly unreachable.  But then I find myself focusing only on one tiny speck of light–one unique star amongst a galaxy of trillions. Yet that one star doesn’t seem any less miraculous because it is only one in a billion trillion others.  We are like those tiny individual stars, each of us but one in the eons of other human beings who have lived on this Planet.  Yet each one is individual and unique, suspended in the common sky we call the human condition. If that seems paradoxical, it is; because that is the nature of being human: reconciling all these aspects of ourselves with life and finding our place in it.

While such an awareness only increases my awe, it also keeps me from taking myself too seriously in the vast “Scheme of Things.” I am aware that I am not alone and that I matter, and so does everyone else.  People–past and present–have experienced all that I have or most likely ever will.  The circumstances may be different, but we are equal and one in the larger and continually evolving mosaic of what it means to be human.  When we read, create, play, listen, love — we connect ourselves to all that has ever been and all that will ever be, and find our spot in the ancient constellation of life.