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Lions Roar : July 2014
The more impossible the festival seemed, the more impor- tant it felt. Trying to imagine it would keep me awake—not just the hum of everyone coming together, but also all the ques- tions. Where would the festival be held? The nebraska/Kansas area seemed like a good bet: it was centrally located on the map at school, and not much other than a little husked-corn icon seemed to be there. Maybe Missouri and South Dakota could be used as parking lots. What kind of entertainment would there be? It would have to be music, that way there’d be no problem with people not speaking the language. But whatever the enter- tainment was, we’d have to set up giant screens so everyone, especially the kids, could see. What about bathrooms? Imagine the lines at the port-a -potties. And food? We’d need more than a few ice cream trucks. And what about sick people? We’d have to build hospitals. And babies being born? More hospitals. And how could we make sure that everyone, everyone, everyone got there? The men waving the glowing sticks who helped land the planes would have to be the last ones onto the shuttle buses. And would people bring pets? We couldn’t have dogs and cats abandoned all around the world, howling in empty houses and fields. So there were a few logistical details to work out. But night after night, safe in my bed, with the lights of soon-to-be-unin- habited Boston winking in the distance, I’d plan the buses and bridges and health stations, the giant booths for lost kids to find their parents, maybe even enormous domes of Jiffy Pop popped on heated ponds. This wasn’t just going to be the biggest party e ve r, some kind of birthday party for the world. It was supposed to give everyone something. It was supposed to give a shared feeling, one that made all the logistical problems unimportant, a feeling that would rise up, almost like a scent or a faint hum that everyone could hear. It would give an understanding of what it meant to live on Earth. Because with everything else taken out of the picture, with no school, no schedules, and no piano lessons, and with everybody in the same place more or less doing the same thing, what other feeling could there possibly be? tHIS PaSt FourtH oF July, having not thought about it for years, I was reminded of the World Festival. On a grassy hill just outside Boston, a crowd had gathered to watch the fireworks. Dogs nosed in the cool grass; toddlers wobbled after soccer balls. We were too far away to hear the Boston Pops Orchestra, which was performing the usual Fourth of July brassy fare, but no one seemed to mind. Dusk turned the sky deep blue; couples on their blankets turned into silhouettes. Children ran chasing whatever children chase, paused to nuzzle close to their parents, then resumed chasing. Eventually, with the sky gone almost as dark as the trees, the fireworks began. Great blossoms of light. Starburst after starburst, scintillating showers falling toward the earth, it was otherworldly but not otherworldly. It was friendly, too, because we knew the show was man-made and designed for our enjoyment. But then something strange happened. The big finale ended, and within sixty seconds, there was a kind of stampede. Grass kicked up, blankets trampled, voices louder than they’d been the entire night. Every couple or family its own little army again, retreating. Parents wanted to get kids to bed. no one wanted to be caught in traffic. We were not a group anymore. With the spectacle over, it was as though everyone had instantly forgotten that the evening had been beautiful before the fireworks—that, indeed, perhaps what had made the fireworks so beautiful was the feeling that had grown on the hillside while we were all waiting. Trying to recover some of that feeling, I found myself on the drive home comforted by a strange thought. There were a lot of people on the sidewalks, returning to their cars from one viewing place or another, and it struck me that all of us had seen the same thing. We’d all been watching the sky at the same time. It was our common point of reference. Which is what made me think of the World Festival. not everyone in the world had been there, but hundreds of thousands of Bostonians had been. We’d all enjoyed the same performance, and it had happened on a screen every- one could see, because that screen was the sky. how often did something like that happen?