In considering tragedy, we submit to anxiety so as to grasp and mourn the loss of human life, thereby confronting and defeating the accompanying fears.
We defeat anxiety amid tragedy by direct confrontation and with clear thought; intentions are tuned to empathy, and we begin inward, then spring forth toward the phenomenal world.
You face the suffering; you turn toward it and remain composed. You mourn but remain composed. You breathe. You tend to everyday activities: rituals, duties, the mundane and the usual. You express your true nature through kindness and in support of the endeavor, life itself. You live moment by moment, and with mindfulness you remain unperturbed yet aware, engaged, and active in the world.
I know nothing but I nonetheless give these words to you: Look inward and see the world.
Solange Knowles performed on Monday at Radio City Music Hall; there, we sat near the orchestra and gazed at the people who entered and were ushered by attendants to their seats. The outfits were outlandish; the hair, natural and glistening under the lights. I did not eat before the show, and I desired the boxes of popcorn sold for outrageous prices; to combat hunger I ate mints she handed to me and focused on the moment.
Everybody is a star at a music concert, including the audience. Strange men in dingy T-shirts passed us as though strutting down catwalks, while women stepped carefully in high heels as they clutched evening bags. We aspired to positivity.
We braved the night first clouded by anxiety but acquiesced to time and movement; in doing so, the anxiety passed. What has not happened has not happened and until it does the moment does not yet exist, and therefore has not earned our regard. The moment in front of us is the moment of most concern, of highest priority. We attend concerts while one with tragedy’s trace because the moment demands that we live. Our original state is to live, to breathe.
The curtain drawn up, the stage engulfed in red light, Solange stood before us and sang. We all paid for the pleasure in receiving live a human’s art. She sang from A Seat at the Table. Through her throat she gave to us messages of self care and pride and rage. The red light turned blue then white. We stood from our seats before the sphere and pyramids and raised up our phones in prayer like church fans. We recorded the moment as one jots notes on thin bible paper during a sermon.
What did Solange sing to us? Solange serenaded the hall with her truths, which are universal-truths confirmed by our experiences. The table is ours, you see; our seats have been reserved. Hours earlier at a lunch meeting I listened to the speakers. I responded with presence of mind; we ate hot Japanese food and drank glasses of water then departed to the streets. Walking from Flatiron to Union Square I realized that literature should save lives.
Art should save lives. With our art we save lives through true expression, and through reaffirmation of life. Sometimes one needs a fictional story, or a memoir, to see a way through; sometimes, a poem is encoded with solutions; occasionally, the marginalia on the back of a drug store receipt reminds us of a truth forgotten about our time.
If you can save a life through art, then you should save a life, just as art saves you, saves us all. Solange ended the show with “Don’t Touch My Hair,” punctuated by flashes of light and thunderous applause.