This article is a submission to the biannual journal of the wind band of the student art troupe of Tsinghua University; June 2023, No. 59.
I am a star — or a painter of the stars, to be exact. I don’t have a name, nor do I need one; but since everyone treats stars as my symbol, I’ll happily accept that.
The work is wondrous, brimming with sparkling fantasies with all the glitters shining around. In the vast expanse of the night sky, orchestrating the dance of constellations, watching their lights reach the ground and turn into warmth, into joy, into loneliness, into pinings, reflecting all corners of the world — there does not seem to be anything happier and more fulfilling than this.
However, this is not all about fluffly candyfloss. As a star, or rather, a maker of stars, I naturally bear the duty of guiding. People gaze upon the stars — upon me — hoping for a pointer of direction illuminating their path. I started out eagerly embracing this duty, aspiring to forge the world’s most reliable compass and cast the brightest starlight the world has ever witnessed, for I delighted in witnessing the wondrous ambiance that emanates from the land, revelling in the vitality and spirituality meticulously crafted by its civilizations. Yet, akin to a distant star, I am dejectedly limited by the boundaries of my sight, unable to fathom the myriad tales unfolding in every corner of the land. Bewilderment gradually enshrouded me, leaving in its wake the infinite emptiness except for what I have painted — which is also myself. No longer was there anyone to keep me company, nor did I have any possible idea of how the night sky I had depicted was perceived by humanity or whether those gleaming dots still warranted reliance.
Until one fateful day when a deluge ravaged the land, and beings found themselves adrift, losing their way in the pandemonium. Gazing from afar, all I could discern was a blurred and chaotic tableau, adding to my despair. I finally realized the extent of my blunder.
I no longer dared to wield the brush again or to face the expanse of stars I once laboured upon and the distant lands beyond. I retreated into the depths of a rocky cave, consumed by relentless self-reproach. The world would still continue its course with any particular person missing and there will be other fellow painters on duty, so I surely could weep, slumber, and escape, unabated until the end of time. I have done poorly, caused harm to countless lives, utterly betrayed the trust bestowed upon me, and now I should be ashamed to face the land, the starry sky, my fellow painters…
— … Wait, other fellow painters?
I gazed towards the faint light seeping through the cave’s entrance. I had blinded myself, only able to see my own work during my shifts; everyone else must still be toiling away. Have I been excessively egocentric in shouldering all the bitterness due to my lack of confidence and my perception of the causes of mistakes? Could it be that everyone is waiting for my return? Or perhaps they will drive me away?
But even being driven away would be preferable to disappearing such irresponsibly. I’d be setting off as soon as possible — clenching the brush tightly and lowering my head, I returned to the starry sky and picked up from where I had left. Seemingly, neither blame nor disappointment was directed towards me, which only intensified my torment. And I still had not picked up the courage to confront the land which I had turned my back on.
I still frequently berated and belittled myself. However, it was undeniably true that each day, countless pairs of eyes looked upon the highlights I had painted, embarking on journeys guided by their brilliance, and countless beams of light set off from my side to immerse in the resplendent hues of humankind.
One day, I gazed at my fellow companions. They were other stars, some brighter than me, others more vibrant. During the days of my evasion, they silently filled in the blanks, yet no one blamed me. I could not puzzle it out. Perhaps they too had traversed the same bewildering hardships? Or maybe my duties and mistakes were not as burdensome as I had imagined?
Then, on another day, I mustered the courage to look once again at the distant land. I beheld the scattered silhouettes there, but remained oblivious to how each flower bloomed or each raindrop fell there. I could only gaze at these faintly visible shadows, relying on them to sketch the tableau around me — isn’t the land “the sky” to me?
My companions are stars. Those who look at me are stars. We all are stars.
A single star cannot guide the way. The sky and the land, they mutually guide each other. I couldn’t help but feel relieved, shaking my head and sighing at how narrow-minded and pretentious I had been in the past. How could any individual bear the weight of all the ever-changing facets of the world?
I am a star — or a painter of the stars, to be exact. I may not give off light or point out the directions, but but as I gaze into the distance of the land — to me, the sky — I seem to gain a bit more determination to hold my brush firmly. And I think that is enough.
I once dreamt of becoming an exceptional player and creator of music, dreamt of myself being a reliable cornerstone amidst the vibrations of the air. I imagined the beats I create during the practices turning into a vast net that holds and uplifts the gorgeous resonance of the winds. I inscribed in my New Year's wishes the desire to possess the competence and confidence befitting the role of a conductor after being entitled as such. I aspired to be a nameless star, bright and heartwarming.
Yet, just as my fantasies of becoming an outstanding engineer in undergraduate years were shattered by a GPA of 3.01, standing before the band and surrounded by my peers, the multitude of mistakes, big and small, keep reminding me that those dreams are too distant. Sometimes, they are like a noisy alarm clock that pulls me up from beneath the layers of floating sweet reveries. I yearn so much to chase every perfect ideal, to spread more brightness onto the night sky, but there are so much that I desire and so little that I can realize.
Maybe I am nothing more than a conceited fool. But does that matter? To journey alongside more stars, I think that is enough.
Being embraced here and allowed to give off my own light, is a euphonious dream that will bring me happiness forever. From “Zzz”, which I performed silently reading “Dreams come true”, the Tanabata night that I soaked myself into on my first stage experience after graduating as an apprentice, until the star-decorated postcard on this year's apprentices' concert and “I Dreamed a Dream” on the band concert, each is enough to overshadow the sweetness and bitterness behind it, shining in the night sky of memories. I wish to become a star among them, quietly accompanying those many that have fantasized about the banks of Babylon, delved into the tales of Laputa, and illustrated the joy of spring — those who went through apprenticeship with me but will be graduating this year.
In times of solitude, look up. Wherever you may be, no matter whether the stars are visible, all creatures of the land will always gaze upon the same sky.