Wednesday, August 29, 2007


We had a staff meeting this morning to commemorate the second anniversary of the storm. The director of the agency asked each of us to bring in a reading, or a symbol of hope, or a story--something of personal import. Since my primary symbol of hope is probably at this very moment taking a nap on the floor of her day care classroom, I settled on a song. It's been a personal favorite for many years; I'm a sucker for a slow, haunting piano accompaniment.

I loved this song before The Storm, but hearing it now, it takes on a completely different meaning. I tracked down an interview with Peter Gabriel wherein he explains the meaning behind the song's lyrics; apparently he had a dream in which the psychic barriers seperating people had disintegrated, allowing everyone full access to everyone else's thoughts and feelings--a sort of mental/emotional flood. In the dream, those people who "were used to having their innermost thoughts exposed" survived, while "those inclined to concealment" suffered terribly.

And isn't that what happened after The Storm? Didn't we all feel so connected, so open, like we were mainlining each other's pain? In my field we talk a lot about resilience--why some people survive intact while others fall apart. To me the whole resilience dialogue is a bit off; it assumes that some people just "do better" with tragedy. I tend to think of it in terms of softening and hardening: after a terrible event, some people soften, others harden. My job, as I see it, is about encouraging the softening, and acknowledging the hardening.

This song, this beautiful song, is about softening. Opening to another's pain. It will be those who gave their islands to survive.

Drink up, dreamers, you're running dry.

1 comment:

rcs said...

Beautiful, graceful music; I've never encountered that exposition but (of course) it makes so much sense. Thanks.

The version on Robert Fripp's solo album - piano, vocals, and Fripp's shimmering, effected guitar hanging in the background has joined "Louisiana, 1927" in its unfailing ability to move me to tears.