In each country we’ve been to, graffiti has been splashed across cement walls, spray-painted on brick buildings, and flamboyantly colored on the sides of other trains that sped past our window. All the graffiti was one thing I hadn’t expected from sophisticated, cultured Europe, but just like in America and everywhere else, artists just want to make their mark on the world. In Greece, we walked down market alleys after closing time, and when every tin gate shut down over its store, the alley was alive with art in the form of graffiti. Each tin gate had a spray-painted mural of something beautiful or funky, and the whole alley screamed of these colorful creations.
Ryan told us that, in Greece, graffiti is a respected art when done right; it’s a horrible form of disrespect to graffiti on top of someone else’s excellent graffiti.
I remember visiting the Tower of London a couple months ago and seeing the preserved graffiti that the captives had carved into the stone walls of one of the prisoner chambers. There were crosses, symbols, words in different languages, and even paragraphs of a story or a prayer or a message. I tried to imagine myself in their position—I imagined being trapped in this stone cage with other men who’d committed crimes, needing an outlet for my emotion, and finally seeing one when I found a jagged rock in the corner. I imagined carving into those stone walls, sweating with the work of every letter, feeling alive for the first time in months, finally expressing a feeling in a permanent way. They were making their mark on the world, and a hundred years later, I stood before those same words and reveled at their stone-carved sentiments.
Today when I see graffiti on wooden doors, on building sides, on tin gates, on trains and windows and walls, I wonder if any of these spray-painted sentiments will one day be preserved as a piece of history for future people to stand before and revel at? For that matter… will any of our written sentiments—our inked thoughts, our electronic diaries, our own personal graffiti—be cared about at all when we’re not alive anymore?