FRAGILE [FRAJ-ahyl]: British pronunciation of word meaning delicate or brittle

fragileEvery year we put everything aside to watch the Kennedy Center Awards, in which four or five of the most incredible personalities from the world of entertainment are recognized.  Over the years we have come to appreciate the profound depth and quality of people who were ground-breakers as performers, producers, directors, writers, dancers and others in the field of entertainment.

This year one of the people recognized was Sting, a man whose singing and song-writing has propelled him to the top of his industry.   In the performance which accompanied his recognition, the vocalist Esperanza  Spalding performed one of his songs, FragileI’ve heard it before, but in this context, when its primary performer, Sting, was the focus of the moment, the words rang with a hauntingly unfamiliar and poignant sound.

The song is sung with the word fragile pronounced in the British manner, with the “i” articulated with a long  “I” sound.  It made it all the more meaningful, as opposed to the word that we scrawl on a package being shipped to someone which contains breakable items.  If the contents require the word fragile on the outside it means that the contents could easily be broken in mishandling, and that they are, therefore, probably insured beyond the minimum provided.

Fragile in this case refers to our human package, not only the physical components which are contained within our skin, but the intellectual, emotional and spiritual being that lives within our person.   The package contains a personality, is capable of loving, and to be broken would be something beyond which an insurance policy would be able to replace.

Esperanza Spalding sang with emotion, knowing that the person she was honoring had a specific meaning in mind when the words were put to paper and a tune developed  accordingly.  Watching  Sting during her performance showed me that she had captured his meaning.  He was emotional and tied into her voice and her expression deeply.

The whole episode, which took just over three minutes, brought me to the reality of the moment in which I was hearing her sing.   Images of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, West Africa, Missouri and the streets of New York City flashed before my eyes.   How fragile are the victims of war, Ebola, and crime.  How fragile are the lives of police officers and others in the emergency responder categories.  How fragile are children and those with the minds of children.  How fragile are those who have slipped into dementia.   And how fragile is our world where a mis-spoken word, a critical movie or novel, or an archaic law of earlier centuries  can mean the difference between life and death.  On the news programs which preceded and followed the presentation of the Kennedy Center Awards we hear of tragedies and crises which stagger our imaginations.

To be fragile means more than being capable of being bruised.  It means capable of being broken in ways that are irreparable.

If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one
Drying in the color of the evening sun
Tomorrow’s rain will wash the stains away
But something in our mind will always stay

On and on the rain will fall
On and on the rain will fall

Perhaps this final act was meant to clinch a lifetime’s argument
That nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could
For all those born beneath an angry star
Lest we forget how fragile we are

On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star
(Like tears from a star)

On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are
(How fragile we are)….”


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