Berlin. For many people who visit this city, it holds the promise of history come to life and the ability to see with ones own eyes the beauty and the scars that it has left behind.
This capital city is also home to countless backdrops fit for any Instagram or Facebook picture. During my visit I came face to face with the stark reality that nowadays people seem so preoccupied with achieving the perfect “Insta Post” that they neglect to be present and involved in the world around them.
I found this to be especially true when I was walking what remains of the Berlin wall. As I walked the 1.3km stretch, I encountered person upon person with selfie stick outstretched vying for the perfect angle. (Now I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with trying to capture a nice picture to help you remember your trip; but when trying to get that picture becomes your only objective, then you have lost the point of travel.) Yet the majority of my fellow wall walkers that day seemed to have little to no interest in the events that created this wall, or the lives that it divided.
Perhaps it is due to my sometimes overly emotional tendencies, but as I walked along the Berlin wall I was almost brought to tears. The thought that there were whole families that were torn apart by the building of this wall, and that there were countless lives lost trying to climb it is heart breaking.
It’s easy to look at the wall and only see it for the art or for the infamy that it holds, and to forget about the humanity of it… to forget that it was erected by humans to separate humans. It’s so easy these days to see the world through the lens of the now, and to ignore the history and the stories of the past.
As I walked I was confronted with the many lives that had become entwined with the wall. Of the newly weds who suddenly found themselves on opposite sides, of the grandparents who watched their grandchildren grow up through barbed wire, and of those who worked tirelessly to smuggle people across to the other side. These are the stories of the past, and through them the future was shaped.
If we only see in the here and now, or are only on the look out for the next picture that will make us Insta-famous, then we will miss out on the depth and breadth of the world around us. We’ll miss out on the humanity around us. And we’ll miss out on a whole new way to connect with the people around us.
Let’s not forget the stories of others,