Friday, August 21, 2009
It all kind of started when I pulled up to a red light and stopped. It seems red lights have been used a lot in my life lately to provoke thought. So there is this older man who stands and begs at that red light every day. I mean, e v e r y, s i n g l e, d a y!
Though he is a little bit kooky, he does not seem to be an alcoholic or drug addict; the fear many people have of beggars. Nope, this man just seems to be your average, semi deranged, but usually friendly old man.
He strolled up to my window and held his funny looking, clear-yellow-tinted-plastic cup, looking something like a cup one would be given for a urine sample, in my face.
“Nothing for the cock?!”
“Cock” being an old British word, used as a “term of informal address to a man”.
I smiled at him and did the awkward, sideways-nod-and-wink maneuver, to say “No, I have nothing for the cock today, apart from this smile and wink”. Though I know the Cock is familiar with the response-to-beggars protocol and sign language, his request did not stop there.
“Young man, no small change to get me in the night shelter tonight?”
I said, “No, sorry sir. Not today.”
“Nothing? Ok, young man.” He then looked up to the bus driver, sitting next to me at traffic and pointed at me, “What you didn’t know is he is the piano man!”, playing an invisible piano located on top of my car as he walked to the next vehicle.
Though I am getting a bit sidetracked in the minor details of the story, it was at that moment, pulling away from the intersection, that the self proclaimed Cock got my mind a working. I mean, he is there every day. Some days he seems a little irritable, but for the most part, he is pretty friendly, and carries on conversation, even if it doesn’t always make sense. He is not one of those hostile beggars that shouts and raves and goes on if you do not want to give something.
But he is out there every day, in the same place, trying to get money just to live in the night shelter. He stands all day and tries to get money just for basic needs, basic survival. It made me wonder if the Cock enjoys being out there at that intersection every day, or if it is a task he finds no joy in. If standing out there is just a means to an end, and nothing more.
Like a miserable man, in an uncomfortable suite, sitting from nine to five in a small office cubical, hating every second that goes by.
Then my mind just went.
Some people work, and hard, their whole lives, at jobs they do not really enjoy, just for basic survival. Their lives become one big means to an end, until THE end. I started to wonder how many people in the world are so busy working hard to survive that they don’t really ever get a chance just to “live”. I think about where I come from, where the emphasis on success is based on how hard you work, how much education you get, how much “stuff” you acquire, and so on.
People spend the first 18 years of their lives getting educations they might not really enjoy, just to continue on and do 2 to 12 more years of education they may or may not enjoy, just to continue on to work a job they may not enjoy, the rest of their lives, for stuff; and some not even for “stuff”, but only for basic survival.
Some people seem to live to work. Others work to live. But I wonder how much “living” actually goes on.
On any given day…
What is the ratio of moments enjoyed to moments not enjoyed?
How often do we laugh?
Do we take time to really taste the food we eat? I mean, really TASTE it; not just swallow it.
Do we take pleasure in the sights that surround us each and every day?
Do we enjoy each others’ company?
Are we here to merely survive? Or are we here for a much greater purpose?
Some may say, “We can’t all go off and have fun everyday! Someone has to do the work around here!” And though that may be true in some way, I guess I just wish that every “someone” would find that “something” that really makes them feel alive. And that “something” would be connected to their livelihood, and therefore they are allowed to truly LIVE and not just “get by”, in a way that the means is just as fun and important as the end.
I don’t know about the Cock. I don’t know about you. I am evaluating my own life.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I just thought of something today. I am most definitely sure it is not the first time this has been thought of by someone, in the every same way I thought of it. I am also sure it has been expressed many more eloquent ways than I am capable of. But it struck me all the same, and I want to share it. I realized something.
Fear is like a pet monster.
We all have different levels of fear, about different things in life. Some fear rejection, others fear acceptance. Some fear public speaking, others fear solitude. Some fear “the other”, others fear self. Some fear the exposure of things in the light, others fear the darkness.
Some of our fears are valid, and experience based, others are irrational uncertainties we have allowed to spiral out of control.
But no matter what the fear is, as long as we entertain it, we are giving it a place of residence. That fear becomes our very own pet fear monster. And like any pet, the fear monster thrives, or dies based on our maintenance of it. And this maintenance of that pet fear monster, its means of survival or extinction, comes out of how we engage with the object of our fear.
Surely denial of fear, along with avoidance of the object of the fear, only gives nourishment to the fear monster. It eats it up, grows, becomes more powerful, acts more rabidly, and becomes less and less easy to contain. Our fear monster becomes like a raging Rottweiler, foaming at the mouth, barking behind the fence, scaring those who pass by. After a while, even us as the pet owners lose control, and that fear monster literally eats us up alive!
But maybe that fear monster should not be seen as a pet at all. Maybe more of a pest; like a disgusting rat that managed to burrow its way into the walls of our house, only taking from us, spreading disease, and giving nothing positive in return. But depending on the size of the fear monster, mere once off poison will most likely not do the trick to rid our lives of this vermin. We have to work more long term.
We have to stop feeding it, and cease giving it the nutrition it needs to survive. We have to starve it.
Without doubt, this is a process of challenging it, engaging the object of fear, putting our self in a place to confront it and even be beaten by it at times, to stand back up to it again and again, over and over again, and then a bit more.
The fear monster will starve, be malnourished, a bony being with no meat, weak, feeble, delicate and tired. The fear monster will have no strength to stand and absolutely be powerless over us.
But we have to determine whether our fear monster is a pet, or an unwanted visitor. And depending on the answer to that, we need to treat it accordingly.