The joy of a bicycle, the triumph over a horror such as Orlando

The World
Candlelight vigil
A candlelight vigil in Japan for victims of the Orlando nightclub attack on Sunday. 

Issei Kato/Reuters

When my father was a boy, living in Nazi-occupied Europe, the one thing he wanted most was a bicycle. He and my grandparents would eventually be rounded up, but not before my father got to ride a bike through the streets of Amsterdam. Yes, he had to wear a star, and yes, hate was a constant in his life. But we all want those moments of joy, of happiness and light, no matter how brief.

There is a tragic sameness to so much of the violence we are witnessing today. We can debate what is considered terrorism and what is not. We can talk about issues of mental health versus a kind of "sane" evil.

What so many of the mass shootings and bombings share is that they are attacks on the human spirit. We express who we are through sports, music, dance, the arts, education and beyond. 

Yes, the places where we gather for these things are soft targets (with often very little or no security), but these are also moments when we, ourselves, are soft. We have let down our guard. We are at the movies, or the theatre, or a concert or a sporting event. We are with family and friends. Around the world it is largely the same story — even when hidden from view. It is the definition of freedom. 

We make sense of these events by turning to that same spirit. There will be countless songs sung in memory of those killed in Orlando, countless ways found to describe the indescribable. There is something incredibly resilient, and powerfully stubborn, about our need to say who we are. It just keeps shining through. At times, the attempt to silence that voice only makes it stronger. 

That doesn’t mean that the fears aren’t real — those fleeting dark thoughts at a movie or a graduation ceremony or just down the street at a barbecue with friends. That’s what it means to be a global citizen these days. 

But we are far from the first to face these moments. We are far from the first to think ours is the age that is descending into madness. And we know all this because of all the books, plays, films and music that have told the story. All to tell us about previous moments in our shared history of madness and terror. All created by the thing that animates and unites us the most — the human spirit. It will always be heard.

Andrew Sussman is the editor-in-chief of PRI News. Follow him on Twitter: @apsuss