carefully cut stones
commanded to be
forced and thrust
and ten hundred thousand times
All I can see across the Western world is the honoring of men who have the blood of man and beast on their hands. It fills my sight perpetually. These “discoverers,” “unifiers,” and “brave leaders” of the noble, wise nations and their self-serving ideas of God and country are the heroes in the stories we have chosen to tell ourselves through our classrooms, national monuments, and historical sites. This is how we have chosen to shape our collective becoming, often resulting in the unbecoming of those more simple and peaceful sons and daughters of the Earth. Yet, these are my people. This is my history. Their blood runs through my veins. What am I to do with this truth that lives just as strong today as it has for hundreds of years? I do not know. At best I am uncertain. Yet, it cannot be ignored.
Perhaps it’s time for new stories. New monuments. Beginning with, I think, the momentary monuments we wear.
A smile. A gaze through which we peer intently and an open ear in which we listen carefully.
A gift. A vulnerable, non-transactional sharing of self through word and deed.
A moment’s pause.
One that considers before speaking and a soft heart which shares in our collective Spirit’s suffering.
of intentional hands
lifting up themselves
alongside their neighbor
to gently sway
in our Mother’s
sweet, cool breezes
so that one another
might find each other
This week has been filled with highs and lows. We’ve been in a variety of places with varieties of people, and we’ve discovered a few things about ourselves as humans.
Earlier in the week, as we were exploring Vienna and seeing the sights one is supposed to see (giant churches, old government buildings, palaces, statues, etc…) we were both struck deeply with a similar dissonance. These monuments, while historically significant in the rising, falling, and shifting of nations, peoples, and ideas represent only one possibility of our self-creation through our stories. This one narrative that the Western world seems to tell itself – which honors the acts of the wealthy warriors, the proud, nationalist, white men – rings a bit hollow. We can’t enjoy those monuments without feeling a healthy dose of nausea. There are too many people that have lived and died that these statues and museums don’t seem to recognize. It’s especially hard to reconcile when we get news of sad events back home. We are waiting on the day when we stumble across a statue built to honor widowed mothers or average white men that did not conquer anything but, instead, lived peaceful lives within their means and were attentive to the needs of their developing children!
The day after our foray into downtown Vienna, Ben planned a hike into the hills. We took off in the early morning toward the northern reaches of Vienna’s urban sprawl. This is the start of the historical trail known as Beethovengang. The stream-side hike is supposedly where Beethoven walked during the later years of his life when his hearing was slipping away along with his calm. We weren’t visited by Ludwig’s specter, but we found solace just the way he did.
It only took a few minutes in a natural setting for our spirits to brighten. We played music under Viennese trees and ate lunch at a tiny “bistro” that was really more of a cottage. The menu was “soup” and stroganoff. There were no options, just “one meatball or two?” It seemed to us like the kind of lunch your Austrian grandmother would make if you came to visit. Good! but not inventive, haha.
Later we stumbled upon three Chinese-German men sitting on park benches playing erhu (a traditional Chinese instrument) and singing. After a moment’s hesitation, we approached and gave attentive audience. They greeted us cheerfully when they saw our instruments. As a group, we exchanged music and smiles, but they spoke no English, so the only practical languages were non-verbal and musical. It was wonderful! Ben got a short lesson on erhu, and we gave them a spin on our instruments in turn. Two parties of strangers bid farewell as friends.
After that we made it to a vista looking out over Vienna and the Danube. The distance made the sprawling city seem so much more peaceful. We played music for fellow sight-seers and were well-received. One gentleman from Brazil said something along the lines of, “This was perfect. I’ll never forget.” Two young people, one from Vienna, the other from Turkey, thanked us with a box of chocolate dipped wafers. They were delicious!
It’s those kind of sentiments and moments that clarify our intent when we are a bit drained. Wormwood is an intimate performance. We don’t do well in giant plazas or busy streets. We don’t do well as people in those places either! As great as it is to see the landmarks of famous places, crowds and noise leave us feeling hollow.
What does that mean? It means Wormwood is (and will continue to be) the worst tourists ever. We don’t buy tickets to museums, or exhibits, or tour buses. We don’t buy souvenirs or trinkets. We don’t even use transit most of the time (much to Baylen’s chagrin.) In fact, we sometimes attract tourist’s coin and detract from the economy of tourism in a region! Yikes!
That said – we believe that the moments we’ve shared with fellow travelers and locals have been reason enough for our journey. Whenever we follows our bliss as humans, serendipity lights up our lives. We’ll look for people and trees and leave the bronze-cast heroes to history.