Friday week, I was lost amidst the cheering crowd at Dundas Square, hypnotised in awe of St. Vincent's polysemous musical performance. There I bumped into a lanky 24 year old German with blonde tousled locks, a faded leather jacket, and wooden harry-potter-esque glasses about 2 shades too dark for his complexion. His left-wing didactic ramblings reminded me of a friend I used to have, so I made the effort to facilitate his deep-and-meaningful conversation that he seemed to deem appropriate for an eclectic rock concert.
Here he began telling me about a documentary he was in the process of filming, exploring our individual pursuit of light-heartedness. It is a process we each embark on independently, searching to fulfil our personal criteria, and yet, (as he sees it) our attempts are coloured by our environment, and the expectations it has embedded in us. How much of the things that make you feel light-hearted, happy, and fulfilled actually have integrity? Here, each of us were in Canada, looking to help find ourselves; how did I come to think that visiting museums and staring at artwork for hours on end would be fulfilling? Meaning from art is a construction of the observer (for good art at least). How did I think that projecting my own thoughts and ideas onto paintings would help me? How did parties with strangers, or joining in on street festivals help to construct any kind of meaning within myself? Did it actually help, or did it only help because I wanted, and expected it to?
He called it 'unbeschwert', and dove into the semantics of the word to try to convey precisely how much it is coloured by our environment. Previously, the term most widely used in German was 'leichtherzig', which is a literal translation of the term 'light-hearted'. Now, in modern society, 'unbeschwert' is more commonly used, and actually means 'not-heavy-hearted'. The skew towards double-negatives is reflective of the lifestyle most of us fall into living, and accept unquestioningly. To aim to be not-unhappy, rather than to be happy. How much of what we think takes to live a fulfilling life have we picked up implicitly through our existence in our present society?
My German friend seemed to believe that we each need to take a step back and find our call for 'light-heartedness' with true integrity to ourselves, rather than what is expected of us. Because of this, he echoed that our paths to happiness and self-fulfillment vary greatly from individual to individual. One of the subjects of his documentary was a gay Syrian man who immigrated to Canada to try to live a free lifestyle without having to hide his sexuality, and be able to find his 'light heartedness'. 10 years later, he found out he was infected with HIV, and his boyfriend of 6 years unable to cope with the guilt of infecting his partner, committed suicide. Struggling with the disease alone, this same man's perception of his pathway to having a free heart involved migrating back to his homeland to be surrounded by his family, even though it was in the middle of a warzone. What this man initially perceived as limiting his self-fulfilment later ended up being where he derived it from. I still haven't figured out whether this is meant to symbolise our ever-changing perspective, or the idea that we should organically follow our paths instead of trying to fit a mould and act out how we think we should lead our lives, based on where we see ourselves fitting in the spectrum of people in society. I'll leave that up to you to decide.
It did however prompt me to think about what my source of 'leichtherzig' is. For my unbeschwert, I had my art, and social circles, new places, and new experiences. But was that my source of leichtherzig? After some introspection I've decided that for me personally, my light-heartedness comes from dropping the cup.
There is an anecdote a friend of mine posted about the redundancy of the volume of a cup of water; whether it is 100ml or a litre, holding the cup day in day out will cause an ache in your hand regardless of the absolute value of the volume. The ache can radiate up your arm and progress to a strain, which can later become debilitating. This is just like stressors in life. No matter their role in the scope of your life, holding onto them can blow out their magnitude, and throw you off with everything else; causing a strain in your mind.
Through a story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, this concept haunts me. By never resting her mind and sleeping, an old lady doesn't let go of the cup, progressively dissolving in her solitude and losing the presence behind her physical form. Starting from hearing, she begins losing herself, sense by sense, until she dies, leaning against a wall, 'as if she had fallen asleep, for the first time in her life'.
Letting go of my cup, and refinding my perspective, is my personal concept of light-heartedness. From home to far away, I've known 3 people who have helped me let go of the cup, and recalibrate myself. It is my gravitation towards these people who run parallel to me, that help remind me of who I am in essence, and help me achieve that sense of being 'leichtherzig'.
There is no moral to this piece, but sometimes taking a step back and looking at things from the outside can help you de-identify yourself from expectations and norms placed upon you, and help you see what you really want to pursue. It's interesting to see how we really do differ from one another in this sense, but simultaneously echo each other's primal ambitions. It's also funny to realise that we end up more similar in the manifest of our lifestyle, but more disparate in the fulfilment of our ambitions instead.
Just random thoughts running through my head in the middle of a rock concert..