I recently came across a beautiful and haunting digital art project called The Waiting Wall that displays our darkest thoughts on a public board (the type of boards you have in stations and airports).
It’s well explained in this Guardian article, but basically it goes like this: anyone can go on to the project’s website and enter a personal confession, then the system displays it on the board.
It’s currently exposed in the Brighton train station, so commuters can send and view secrets in real time – but because it’s internet based, so can you.
You can go to this site and upload your secrets. You can also keep reading everyone else’s, which is what makes the project so addictive and wonderful. Here are a few that came up in the last 5 minutes:
“I’m not unhappy, but is that enough?”
“Self doubt is a constant plague”
“I’m terrified my daughter’s cancer will come back, and I won’t be able to save her”
“I don’t have a purpose and I don’t know what to do about it”
“I don’t want to live anymore”
“My Dad is dying. All the time I tell people I’m fine, but I’m not”
The confessions are dark but they’re universal. They talk of love, death, our loved ones, finding meaning. Some are weird, most make you want to hug whoever wrote it, and tell them they’re going to be okay. Except you don’t know who it is. It could be someone in a different country, just like it could be the person next to you on the bus.
Liz Gilbert, who used to work as bartender, says that everybody has a story that would stop your heart, and sure enough everybody wants to tell you about it. It certainly sounds true looking at the wall.
But what strikes me most is how many of the personal struggles are so familiar, as though our deepest, darkest fears, are in fact our most common denominator.
I had a go at writing on the wall what seems to be my motto these days: “kindness is underrated”. I wish I’d seen it up on the board but I didn’t, I guess it takes a while to put the thoughts through (there must be some kind of filtering) or perhaps it didn’t get on at all.
Either way, it doesn’t matter. I’ll keep reading.