I remember the first time that I stepped into the Arcade in downtown Cleveland when I was young. Going to downtown was such a thrilling experience for me at that young age – it was like there was this fascinating, exciting world of marvels awaiting me. I remember a certain grittiness to it combined with a grandeur – an old, dusty grandeur that was so magnificent it managed to shine through. I remember the illumination of the building through the wondrous glass ceiling, and the bustle and energy inside the building.
When I first saw the animation film Metropolis it evoked memories in me of the Arcade. In fact my whole impression of most of the steampunk genre animation I have seen was heavily influenced by not just the Arcade but much of the old part of downtown Cleveland and its dusty, gritty, majesty. The Arcade was where I saw my first hookah shop – an Indian store which had hookahs, bells, incense, and all sorts of exotic things which were new to me. I still remember the perfumy, exotic scent as though I had entered some other, mystical world.
I always wondered what happened to that majestic building, if it was still standing, and decided to do some searching. Yaay! Its still there. In recent photos it looks a lot cleaner (a lot!) than when I remember it. I hope that hookah shop is still there…
It turns out that this building is rare indeed and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and listed as a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
This also brings back memories of the time when I was young and I used to go to see the Cleveland Orchestra in the grand Severance Hall nearly every week without fail. I used to be captivated watching the players of the orchestra as they performed the various great symphonic works. Their faces often showed a deep solemnity as though they were ministers in some sacred rite or, when the music was joyous, you could feel the exuberance coming through them.
The world to me at this time, growing up near Cleveland, was so mystical, serene, and vast. It was around this time that I also started practicing meditation, became a vegetarian, and started long-distance running. Balanced against my adventures through downtown were hours spent wandering through Metroparks or going on long, solitary runs along semi-rural roads near the outskirts of the metropolitan area where we lived.
Even though I know its not possible to go back in time, and even though I have the fondest memories of that time and will always cherish it deeply, I also embrace fully the present moment, filled with dissonances though it may seem. I believe that all that grandeur and glory that I felt at that time can still manifest within the hearts of those of us who are willing to let it happen. I believe that we can create a new world that is even more glorious and the music that will come from our hearts in unity and love will be more splendid than the grandest of symphonies.
There will always be beautiful architecture and wonderful music, yet the glorious forms and vibrations that emanate from our souls are eternal.
I am reminded of a saying an artist friend of mine from Germany a long time ago told me: “Lass dich von den kleinen, tanzenden Sternen befunkeln sein. Und wann sie dich begeistet haben, sei einer von ihnen.” Let yourself be amazed by the tiny, dancing stars. And when they have inspired you, become one of them.
Perhaps I will never write a beautiful symphony or architect some grand structure, yet I believe that I can still repay my deep gratitude for the inspiration that has been given me by manifesting brilliance and splendour within my soul.