Updated: Oct 14, 2020
Story is an ancient spring from which we draw our ability to empathise, hope and make sense of the traumas of life.
„Literary forms of art have always been a source of inspiration for me. Ever since I can remember, I would habitually resort to finding uplifting words from literary sources whenever life’s burdens crushed me. ”
Some months ago, I explored a series of written stories portraying the not so numerous Somali communities in Germany, featuring both latecomers and long-time residents. Those were some truly enlivening accounts that I enjoyed reading - about young professionals, poetry slammers, university students and regular workers hustling in the nine to five grind - by and large illustrative snapshots of people like you and I. In that moment I realised that there’s something therapeutic about seeing resilience in people who’re just like you, as it helps to put one’s own internal pain into perspective, reducing stress levels in the process.
My eyes had caught up with momentary puzzle pieces of authenticity, despite knowing full well that soe circles would dismiss them as typical clichés. Every story imparted its own gems of wisdom, some of which were elucidating unique survivor approaches to dealing with longing, and making the most out of what life throws at you. While alienation and racist othering may have been their dominant theme, they were ordinary, human stories about pain, hope, and dreams of a better tomorrow. They resonated with me profoundly, for one could see not only with the mind’s eye, but also with the soulful heart how reminiscently familiar the imagery in their tales was. From the very first moment on I knew I wanted to dig deeper because my sensory perceptrons caught something intriguing.
So after immersing myself in the lyrical atmosphere, I sat down to take note of what those individuals mentioned of circumstances: (1) struggles relating to the navigating of fractured identities, (2) defying prejudiced teachers that unceasingly demoralise one, (3) hateful racism often culminating in violence, (4) social injustice, and (5) the desire to use art as an outlet for one’s inner states. Every single point seemed eerily close to home, turning the whole encounter into a deja vu like experience.
Yet for all that, I still picked up other, more positive signals. Foremost among them was a lively courage that emanated from their message. It was a powerful one that transcended the sentimentalism which presumably crept up whilst they were relaying their stories. One could almost feel with multiple senses how those young men and women were in peaceful agreement with their own vulnerability. As it turned out, not one of them allowed the toll of misfortunes define their existential truths on how they felt about themselves and their aspirations.
You see, many a time we get to choose which side of the narrative we want to present. And while the embracing of negative emotive states and past exposures isn’t inherently bad, one’s verdicts are for the most part internally cemented as choices. Whereas one pair of eyes chooses to see a nearly filled cup, another might bemoan it as half empty. Ultimately, this is a choice everyone makes for themselves: a choice between stagnation and growth — internalising either resentment or positivity.
But by all means, I'm not saying it is easy. When trying times start to hurl rocks on our path, we all tend to succumb to lamenting the hurt of resulting wounds before trying to get back up. It’s the visceral dwelling place of sorrow that nurses our souls along the rugged road towards victory. And as one of our many natural features besides the red hue of blood, sorrow does not distinguish between skin colours, creeds and continental habitats. This brokenness of personage is what we share as human beings: our common denominator that transcends every type of qualifier - reflecting an inextricable part of our humanity.
Still, regardless of what is and what will eventually be, we have to internalise that the entire experience of earthly living is akin to the stings of a thread knitting needle. Every so often, permeative pinches have to precede the creation of artful fabrics that delight its onlookers. They are made of the yarns that in a sense embody our will to arise - our innate spirit of resistance - melting together colourful palettes, woven from tearfulness as much as from joyous vibes and smiles of exuberance. Yet the crucial difference between cloth and our souls, beyond metaphorical parables, is that the former merely exists in the transient station that is this world, whereas the beauty of the latter was meant to shine forever in another realm.
Lending my kinsfolk an inner ear of empathy was no doubt therapeutic for me, and I came to the conviction that only a minority of fortunate ones arise out of trials with a healthy perception of the self. They are the ones who tend to be courageous enough to share their story — intently choosing to pass on an otherworldly torch of inspirational energy. Those who seek will often find, in between pages of prose, in the mystical world of the printed word, healing.