Joy in the public realm

Joy in the public realm

The public realm, at its best, generates joy. You can see it in the children jumping up and down, in the embrace and tender kiss of a young couple, in the desire to sway, to dance together, in the smiles between strangers as, with burning eyes, they acknowledge a shared experience. In this mutual acknowledgement the lonely feel united with others. Those in pain forget their suffering and are at one with the world. Elders stand taller and inhale deeply a rejuvenating air of being part of a community. Seeing others filled with delight creates joy in the onlooker.

Joy is what public places, at their best, can generate. It may be in a small private moment, when a child approaches an elderly person to share a flower she found; or in an impromptu generous act or word of kindness from a stranger; or in an unexpected meeting with an old and dear friend; or in the unspoken acknowledgement among strangers of the transcendent song of a blackbird at sundown, or of a square’s architectural beauty. Or it may be generated by a group’s lovingly planned event, offered as a gift to all, as in this orchestra’s and choir’s performance of Ode to Joy.