We need bridges...
Finding the rhythm of the sway
Kusma-Gyadi suspension bridge, Nepal. Credit Sulavz Photagraphy
If you have 27 minutes, I highly recommend a recent episode of the Far Flung podcast with Saleem Rashamwala titled ‘The Poetry of Nepal’s Bridges’. You can listen to it here. While the content is focused on bridge culture in Nepal and the influence that bridges have on Nepalese economic, political and social life, it left me thinking about the ways we humans build bridges across physical and social divides. The entire piece is a masterclass in vivid audio storytelling, but I found the following excerpts particularly thought provoking.
The first metal wire suspension bridges which replaced the wooden and bamboo crossings were extremely shaky. You needed to catch the rhythm of the bridge’s sway to be able to walk on it. The bridge sways on its own rhythm, but that rhythm is created by the impact of our feet on it. It almost creates a musicality. It is obviously scary at first, but eventually you get used to the rhythm of the sway.
How do we overcome the fear of crossing shaky bridges and find the rhythm of the sway?
Crossing these bridges creates connection. People aren’t the only things that cross. With them comes information, ideas, traditions, new ways of thinking and doing. People do business on the other side of that bridge. Children can now go to school to learn on the other side of that bridge. I mean, people will fall in love and have babies with folks they meet on the other side of the bridge. With the creation of a bridge in a place with so much isolation, all concepts of identity and geography—even the limits of what’s possible—they suddenly shift.
Can social bridges open new possibilities where there appear to be none?
We need bridges not only to facilitate our physical needs and services for better survival, but also to join different communities. For facilitating that process of greater mobility of all citizens and greater interactions and exchanges, we need bridges.
What sorts of bridges can we create to facilitate interactions and exchanges between people who rarely encounter one another?
But what about places that can’t build a strong bridge? In many places where people can’t build proper bridges, they need to depend on basic wire crossings or tuins…Unlike proper bridges, tuins are much more fragile and riskier. You have to actually hang on a wire to get across. Your chances of making it across are equal to the chances of you falling down into the river. It is an immensely risky journey.
Are we willing to build and cross fragile bridges where “proper” bridges are impossible to build? How much risk are we willing to bear to connect with others across seemingly perilous divides?
Every step is a glimpse of possibility.
Every pull and inspiration to reach the other side.
But while you are here in the process of crossing, just remember you are attached to nothing yet connected to everything.
(A poem from Garub Sugba)
How do we navigate the process of crossing—when we are attached to nothing yet connected to everything?
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