at first, this was going to be a discussion of the pandemic, how it has shifted our attention and forced us to reckon with forces beyond our control. then, the collective attention shifted toward injustices of race and violence in our society, and excluding that would be unthinkable. i’m writing from the bay area which has like vast swaths of the western united states been set ablaze by hellfire from above. so, i wondered, how could any conscientious observer ignore the realities of climate change burning brightly in our faces, the smoke filling lungs already vulnerable to infectious disease, and rogue law enforcement. and so, i figured, i’m not alone.
the amount of hard truth this generation, young and aging, has been forced to swallow lately is nothing short of unfathomable, and looking back i am reminded that it was already bad. the level of injustice and and cruelty toward each other and the planet is nothing new. what is most troubling, however, is that now no one seems to have the panacea. it seems the ‘up’ we were used to looking to for guidance and help—scientific, bureaucratic, divine or otherwise—is on lockdown itself, or perhaps doesn’t exist at all. even the question “where do we begin?” is fraught when ‘we’ seems to be as debatable a concept to begin with. i don’t have an answer.
at first, this was going to be a discussion of answers, a call to arms to those of sound mind and conscience to get up and do something no matter how small or large the barriers. at first, this was going to be a battle cry from the innermost part of me outward, a reprimand to powers- that-be, another stanza added to the manifesto by those of us who have had enough of this and those before us who had enough of this a long time ago. at first, this was going to be a lullaby of compassion for ourselves, a first aid kit of woo-woo-self-help jargon and numbing agents to distract from the ever ticking doomsday clock beyond our door (if we have one).
then, i wondered if the question should be, “where to begin?” at all. then, i wondered if instead it should be something more like, “where to go from here?” my heart breaks. it breaks for the world right now, it breaks for myself and for other young selfs, it breaks for whoever is reading this or not. it breaks for our collective soul, for black lives, new lives, queer lives, for lives of little to great consequence facing the greatest consequences this society never could have imagined. sometimes it feels like this is all some bad dream we have stepped into overnight, the kind where you scream but nothing comes out, sometimes i have to admit it feels hopeless.
i think about Maya Angelou’s words, “i come as one, but i stand as ten thousand,” a lot these days. i consider how this rearranged world which we are out here inhabiting is not asking us to be happy or to be comfortable but to be strong, to be conscious. a good friend reminded me of something that sounds more intuitive than it is, that what’s needed sometimes is “to gather yourself into a place where you feel responsible for being kind, for being just, for meeting needs appropriately.” if ‘from here’ is in fact where one wishes to go, then i think this is a start. and all of ‘this’ being all that we have or that realization can be the greatest thing, if we wish.
at first, this was going to be a discussion of what the hell is going on and whose fault it is anyway. at first, i held my violin closer than i ever have in my twenty first century life. at first, i forgot what it feels like to hold the hand of a beloved person. finally, i realized neither the many questions nor the answers matter much anymore. that in order to move on or onward we must at first determine for ourselves what matters, what we need, and in doing so understand that everyone else needs that, too, that lofty ideals like compassion and empathy will never cease to be lofty but are accessible within and to everyone with grey matter between their ears...
where to go from here ?
This post was written by Point Alum Gabriel Anker.
Gabriel Anker earned a Master of Music in Violin Performance from the Thornton School at USC in spring 2020. He graduated with a Bachelor of Music with Distinction in Research and Creative Works in 2018 from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.