Stephen Horenstein
Music, Arts and Society

Summer’s courage

I don’t know how others feel, but the sudden change in our weather has lifted my spirits.  The revolving atmospheric change has left me not only smiling, but also thinking of the reasons as to why I immigrated.  For those of us with back troubles, it is now possible to lighten our load (literally) and discard the infinite layers of clothes protecting us from all weather eventualities.  I have noticed that Jerusalemites are smiling again and treating each other with the same warmth as the temperatures of their bodies.  This is certainly not a true reflection of our problems and what must be bubbling up in people’s deepest psyches.  Unfortunately, the machinations of politics still grind.  Our Prime Minister insists on governing even out of weakness from pending indictments.   The poorer still struggle to survive, while the top crust 2% are vacationing in some exotic land. Tragedies, here and abroad, abound.

I recall many scenes from Charles’ Kuralt’s famous TV program “On the Road”, premiered on CBS in 1967 and extending into the 70’s and early 80’s.  Kuralt traveled the back roads of the USA finding stories of ordinary people, usually stories that revealed hidden qualities, beauty and human dignity.  His awesome shows were designed to show the “other” America, one that brought us hope.

One episode stands out in my mind. Kuralt was shown standing in a sparse desert landscape.  He spoke quietly,  while he talked about our current “situation”. He spoke of the stock market, the wars, the general state of world.  Yes, we were plagued with problems.  They seemed insolvable.  He painted a dismal scene, somewhat like the landscape on which he was standing: dry and seemingly lifeless.

But then he said to us all, “But, perhaps there is hope.”  As he spoke, the camera slowly moved from his face, downward…and wound up at his feet.  He was standing on a slab of concrete.  “So where am I standing?”  The camera continued panning downward. “I am actually at ground Zero, at the Nevada test site, where the first atomic bomb was detonated….” As he spoke the camera zoomed to his feet. You could see the crossed lines marking ground zero. As the camera zoomed in further, you could see something strange, a blurb of an object.  He continued, “Yes, perhaps after all, there is reason to hope. Why?” The camera then zoomed further, and that blob of mass became clearer: a tiny fragile flower, bursting through the concrete.  “Yes,  because as I am standing here, at my feet, this tiny flower has burst through the concrete. If THIS can happen, then there must hope for us all.”

Yes, precisely at ground zero, where the two black lines met each other, against all odds, a small fragile plant had courageously busted through. I will never forgot this image.

So when I meditate on our ills (collective or individual), I also think of the first rays of summer, their warm embrace, much like that tiny flower bursting through the hard cold barrier, against all odds.  Perhaps we could learn a thing or two.  Perhaps we should pause and give thanks. Perhaps we can, like the flower,  find a way to burst through all the darkness and doubt that surrounds us. Can we possibly learn from Kuralt’s story and repossess summer’s courage (and our own) with newfound hope for the future?

About the Author
Stephen Horenstein is a composer, researcher and educator. His repertoire of musical works has been performed and recorded worldwide. He has been a recipient of the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for Composers and the National Endowment of the Arts (USA). His teaching has included Bennington College, Brandeis University, Tel Aviv University, Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance; residencies at Stanford University, York University, California Institute of the Arts, and others. He is Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, established in 1988 to bring the music of our time to a wider audience.
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