The crowd retire with an oath
The dust in streets goes down,
And clerks in counting-rooms observe,
“‘T was only a balloon.”
While introduced to the works of Emily Dickinson at an early age, I never solidified any appreciation for her words when given the chance to. It was not until very recently, when asked what the meaning of confidence was, did I abruptly recollect a mental image of a red balloon gravitating towards the sky. The gilded creature tripping, getting torn, tumbling in the sea [ “You’ve Seen Balloons Set, Haven’t You?”] . . . we admire the gilded creature because we flounder at his valor; we scorn the gilded creature because we can’t recreate that valor.
When asked to point to what exemplifies confidence, it is only natural to glance towards the one who is willing to hold the balloon in a room amongst hundreds of clerks. To learn to be comfortable with floating is a skill we envy simply because we lack it.
Observing balloons fly away is much easier, of course. You’re not the one experiencing the change in altitude, or the one in risk for a tree branch to end your existence, or the one constantly grasping for stability. But you’re also the one remaining on concrete, putting your feet parallel to heights limited by man-made creations. We like walls and doors and other forms of structural closure. It gives us a sign of safety.
But we forget that those are closed walls and locked doors. And maybe, in order to be the balloon we all envy, we have to learn to step outside. And when you do, and when I do, we can finally view the world with ease and confidence.