Resilience is the word of the decade. That little spark ignited in our souls bears witness to the indestructibility of the human heart. Even in the face of destruction and desperation, I am still standing here today; breathing, thinking, living. I oftentimes surprise my 16 year-old self, being a person who has endured multiple losses, and could have well chosen to stay ‘broken.’ For the longest time, I stayed this way, tainted by the notion that focusing on my own healing or happiness was selfish and unnecessary. In a never-ending process of refinement and discovery, humanity can develop a moral imagination that only expands, and a willingness to work hard, even when we feel so overwhelmed.
How can we account for the resilience of the human spirit? We come into the world confronted by chaos, and we must somehow organize this confusion into a stable and meaningful personal world that includes a sense of a continuous, yet dynamic self. In order for us to embrace our personal power in life, we must first embark upon a journey of self discovery. And while the journey may lead us away from what’s been familiar in the past, and may take our entire lifetime to complete, the distance of our trip is worthwhile. I never fully felt this truth until encountering Rocky Balboa, from the film Rocky, and understanding the personal drive that he’s always had, but has never learned to use. Struggling to conjure up the courage and conviction to better himself, Rocky realizes that if he doesn’t rebuild his povertous, aging self, he’ll be a disappointment forever. Humanity must deal with external challenges as well as ones catalyzing from our inner selves, demanding expression in our individual lives. At the end of the movie, Rocky is still a man with fists of steel, but he’s become a man who went the distance and finally learns to believe in himself. Like Rocky, this art is an ode to the human spirit, and through this we are exposed to the strides and accomplishments of the everlasting heart.
The search for resilience within each and every one of us embodies new ways of framing the problems affecting the world today and then configuring solutions for these. It seemed clear from the moment that Bruce Springsteen released The Rising in 2002 that the album would become a musical symbol for 9/11 because of its authenticity and honesty to the event that had transpired. Amidst the disarray, humanity collectively grappled with the weight of shock and grief, and through Springsteen’s musical call to action, discovered a reservoir of strength and indestructibility that had gone largely unnoticed before the attacks. Resiliency is an intrinsic component of character that one truly connects to through experience in the physical and spiritual realms of life. In the midst of constant isolation and destruction, art opens up the door to emerging feelings of power and strength that had been unattainable before.
In this age, disaster is inevitable and can strike overnight or creep in time. Therefore, humanity needs to acquire a means of empowerment and strength through issues of meaning and expression. These are highly influential as they shape and transform experience, behaviors, and institutions. Using the visual arts to aid healing is a therapy for all people, especially those with critical illness, and truly plays a vital role in providing a sense of purpose and value for those suffering from disease. The beautiful works of Kristofer Dan Bergman remind us of how resilient the human spirit is. His portraits from East Africa create portrayals that are genuine yet unobtrusive and provide a sense of empathy to those that encounter his work. Bergman captures the quaint smiles of the people from Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. These countries are all suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of wars and genocide. The photographer’s mission is to help villagers in these regions improve their lives so they can believe in the future again. Art is cathartic, and the making of it can keep the human spirit from crumbling.
Man has never made any material as resilient as the human spirit, as it is stronger than anything that can happen to it. It was not until I found my inner strength remaining dormant within me, that I could gain a sense of life that was bigger than the circumstances I saw in front of me. The creation of courage urged me to face my challenges head-on, accept my vulnerabilities, and grow. Our hearts are warriors, and art pushes us to consider a whole different picture of life than we might be accustomed in order to find ways to satisfy our pleading human spirit. Violence and loss circles around and touches many lives every day and every week. The only way to return back to the resiliency of the human spirit is realizing we need to. Our own happiness and healing are what remind us of change and possibility, and form our resiliency, our sustained ability to flourish ourselves and to give to others.


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