The only continuous sound in the plaza at Lincoln Center comes from the center fountain. Water bubbles and splashes in a Zen-like rhythmic cadence in stark contrast to the rumbling trains and sharp car horns of the city just beyond. It’s 8am and suits with briefcases are hurrying to get to important things. They pass by the fountain looking down at their watches. It happens to be fashion week and assistants in tight pencil skirts hurriedly weave amongst the crowds with towers of cappuccinos and double skim lattes, willing the threatening brown drops to stay in their paper cups until they reach their destination.
Fifteen minutes pass and the outskirts of Lincoln Center are abuzz with life. Without ceremony, suddenly a drum beat echoes through the courtyard. One is not enough to draw any New Yorkers attention, but the beat continues, growing louder, a low thump like the earth’s heartbeat vibrates underfoot, travels up stilettoed feet and hums through curious spines.
A trickle of white fabric draws eyes to the far right corner of the plaza where young men and women walk ceremoniously toward the fountain. Now the suits have stopped to watch. One hundred dancers step as one to the drum beat and circle the fountain. The air has become solemn and a hush comes over the crowd. The dancers continue their journey with downcast eyes, unaware and unaffected by the goings-on around them. At 8:45 the drum beat stops and the dancers stretch out their arms and raise their chests and faces to the sky. All is still.
One by one people remember. They remember the one thing that we all have in common. Life is a finite thing. As busy as we make it and how many grievances we have about it, one day it will end. For all of us. Some of us go too quickly, leaving the rest of us to lament our loss and wonder why.
Look at life through the lens of death. That is the best advice I can give you. What if your day was tomorrow? What would you do differently? Who would you spend more time with? Would you hold off on your dreams?
Honor those who are gone by cherishing the life you have. Go for your dreams. Your lost ones won’t be at peace if you stop your life where theirs stopped. Be grateful every day and bask in the knowledge that you are loved. Be patient with others and practice loving kindness, especially toward those who don’t seem to want it. They need it most. Reach hearts and remember to smile. Smiling goes a long way. Learn to love and be loved. Be busy, sure. But be busy with friends and dreams and laughter.
When we were standing there, one hundred dancers with outstretched arms, in the stillness I could hear my heart beating. It beat in time with the dancers beside me. It beat to the drum as we walked out of the plaza. And it beat for those whose hearts no longer can.
Here is what I know: Death is sure, but so is love. Love continues long after hearts have stopped and when ours decide to stop beating, those who have gone before us will be there to embrace us with outstretched arms and even more love than we knew in life.