BTS Essay Contest Winner: What a Relief that We Never Walk Alone: A Life Lesson — The BTS Effect (2023)

written by Moon

There’s this invisible sort of pull towards certain things in the universe. Like gravity—on a molecular level, embedded into the DNA of every human wandering Earth, there is an unspoken list of things that we seek out. To experience beautiful moments in life is not a phrase that is commonly instilled in young people as a goal to work towards or even to notice when they do pass by, and yet it is what we yearn for the most. There’s a fundamental sense of loneliness that comes with living within a polarized society—expected, still, to go through school and work and solidify a well-paying job even through a pandemic. Life comes slow and fast in the same instant as the seconds tick by on the clock so quickly, and yet it feels as though the same day is lived over and over again until all that signifies the difference in time is the way the trees morph outside the window. What a relief it is, then, that BTS is there with their hands extended, showing ARMY all over the world through their actions, music, and words that you never walk alone. If it’s possible to narrow down what BTS has been able to portray as a life lesson, it’s that as long as we have each other, we will never walk through this life alone.

Humanity as a whole has lost a lot recently. Grief morphs hearts, and the world yearns for hope to manifest. Just as leaves fall in autumn, the search for hope and affirmation flutters to the icy ground, slowly covered in frost and then snow, waiting outside of time’s reach for spring to come. A life lesson is “a lesson (or in later use an experience, situation, etc.) which conveys something instructive or valuable about life or principles for living one’s life,” but in the eternal isolating winter, the act of even reaching out—grasping for threads to which can be woven into one of these lessons—is nearly impossible. Bedsheets shift, time ticks by, and the moon steadily moves across the sky. These are the constants, the patterns that surround ideas of such an uncertain future. Finding BTS and sinking into their solace in this time feels like the slow thawing of winter, when the sun shines through the clouds for the first time in so long. Pain and isolation do not simply disappear, but there is a presence of hope that can encompass even the deepest sorrow. During BTS’s Tiny Desk concert last September, RM said “It’s been the roughest summer ever, but we know that spring will come, so let’s go together,” stating clearly with so much conviction that spring will come. Perhaps it may not come tomorrow, or even the next day, or the next week, but as long as we walk on forwards together it will come. This message is said in “WAB: The Eternal,” too, with “we were only seven / but we have you all now / after seven winters and springs [...] yeah we got to heaven,” for hope is not found alone; it is found when hands intertwine and hearts embrace each other.

Everyone has lost a lot. Even the sea seems to weep—muted waves pulling at rocks, grasping the sand and crumbling shale. “Wherever there’s hope, there’s a trial.” This is repeated over and over again in “Sea,” a hidden track on LOVE YOURSELF: Her. It sounds like a plea, a mantra to repeat over and over again as if they are beads on a rosary. It’s a reminder to tuck away into the corner of your heart, so that when your entire body aches, you may be reminded once again that though the desert sand is thick, it is not endless. It’s possible to craft a sea here too, as long as our hands remain held by each other. We won’t be alone again, anymore. Even the sight of thorns surrounding street lamps can ignite a sense of hope, home, and light within someone’s tired frame (it’s like saying “yeah, we’re hurting, too. But that’s okay, let’s rest on each other. I’ll offer you my shoulder to lie on if you offer me yours, and in the morning this will all feel better”). The knowledge of a life lesson—of a sliver of hope—being born through these never-ending, repetitive days feels like sitting with your forehead pressed against a plane window above a cityscape on a clear night. Above and below, lights call—tiny human artificial constellations dancing through the city and the stars above. It’s all one in the same in the end: life, hope. Life, like the sun shining after the roughest storm. This sense of falling in together with BTS during a time so drenched in uncertainty is akin to the feeling of awe when the clouds part during the night to show the beauty of the Milky Way.

This ongoing message of connection is showcased in CONNECT, BTS, which is a “global project to connect five cities and twenty-two artists [which] aims to redefine the relationships between art and music, the material and immaterial, artists and their audiences, artists and artists, theory and practice.” There is a notion in the realm of poetic reasoning which discusses how, at the core, the only thing able to communicate with art is art itself. It is possible, of course, to peel back art layer by layer, to digest the lyrics and production and themes until one is left with only the skeleton of it all, stripped bare. If you’re not careful, this can pull some of the magic away from the art itself, and thus it is typically accepted as being closer to a morally correct way to consume art by feeling it; by allowing it to enter your bloodstream until you are wholly consumed by it, until its beauty settles deep within your core and blooms there. CONNECT, BTS discusses communication and connection in this way. There is Catharsis by J. Steensen, which connects audiences with a re-imagined old-growth forest in London, and in New York, there is New York Clearing, which sweeps through an open space in grand loops with no apparent beginning or ending—like fate, like all these red strings hanging between BTS and ARMY. Connection to others truly cannot be found as being bound to a finite existence. We are pulled together by this connection because society seems so polarized, and when you can find something that feels like home, you hold on to it as tightly as possible.

Music truly transcends language. When the artists behind the music are filled with enough warmth and passion, even the expanse of miles between the artist and the audience can shrink down to nothing. In “2!3!”, there is a line that goes “erase all the sad memories, hold each other’s hands and smile,” because with our hands intertwined, this moment can be one of our most beautiful moments in life. By pressing close despite distance, there can be spaces found which encompass an un-lonely existence. With BTS’s recent release of BE, they affirm this once again with “Telepathy” and delicate, comforting lyrics saying, “although we’re apart now / our hearts are the same / even when you’re not next to me / even when I’m not next to you / we all know we’re together.” These words offer strength and a beacon through the storm, for even if the night seems too dark to bear, we will always be each other's Polaris. Spring is on the horizon now, and hand in hand we walk through the desert towards the sun, ignited by the light of the moon and the stars and the cosmos that we all hold within our own eyes and hearts, which capture our dreams. You Never Walk Alone is the title to BTS’s second special album as an epilogue and closure to the WINGS era, and was intended as an “additional chapter [as] a message of warm consolation and hope,” where the final lyric that closes out the entire era says “because you and I, if we’re together, we can smile.” BTS pour their souls out into this music, and this is reflected in the way that ARMY cling to it, hold it close, and cherish the way in which comfort comes easily when you’re no longer alone. Hope flows like a river breaking free from ice when BTS’s words, lyrics, and art touch their audience.

There’s this invisible sort of pull towards certain things in the universe—like the night sky, like seven voices, like all of the artificial and real constellations surrounding existence. Society isn’t gentle to youth, and isolation claws at even the strongest waves. What a relief then, that we have BTS. What a relief that we never walk the path alone.

This essay was chosen as one of the winners of the first BTS Essay contest hosted by The BTS Effect. Find out more here.

References

“BTS: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert.” NPR Music. 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFYAXsa7pe8.

HYBE. “A Supplementary Story: You Never Walk Alone.” 2017. https://ibighit.com/bts/eng/discography/detail/you_never_walk_alone.php.

Doolset Lyrics. “BTS Lyrics in English.” https://doolsetbangtan.wordpress.com/.

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