The Late N Train

homeless_platform

The N train into Brooklyn was running late. I wasn’t rushing anywhere important, only running errands.  Nothing notably spectacular was going on.

I had just come from yoga and my head was clear. My mood was a very perceptive one and I was ready to share the good feelings. The train pulled up and I stood in front of the closed doors. I felt a slight breeze as they parted and I walked in. I gazed to my left and saw a homeless man sprawled out with his belongings; a few large rocks, torn magazine pages, and a couple half-smoked cigarettes. He took up the entire side of the cab. No one dared sit near.

I took a seat across the aisle, between two very doubtful subway riders. They gave up their positions as soon as the subway approached the next stop. I watched this man organize his belongings over and over. His eyes drooped with fatigued and his pupils dilated with inebriation. Every few moments he’d fumble his feet and slur some words, grabbing random railings to steady himself. He was contained in his solitude, not looking to escape. He was of no harm, nor meant any ill will. He was in pain. He was hurt.

The rest of the train scowled. As we approached new stops, passengers entered only to exit, leaving this car for the next. Some held their nose, others held back their stomachs. The man was filthy, but he was still a man. I kept my gaze on him, trying to see myself in his eyes, but the only thing I could see was the separation between myself and the crowd.

This man was on trial, for crimes he’d already commit and the verdict was guilty. He had no home, no job, no money. He smelled like trash and urine, looked like he rolled around in garbage all morning, and sounded like a madman. His actions were unfamiliar and made others uncomfortable. He was homeless. Less than human.

I started to feel bad. My sympathy was overwhelming, so much so that a deep valley of compassion was carved in me. I hoped there would be help to uplift the despair on this train. I sent love to the depths of the ignorant. I asked how I could help change the reality of it all. How could I be a beacon, an example of kindness, love, and empathy? And amidst the glares, judgements, and beckons of the other passengers, I sat firmly in my seat, smiling at this gentle, homeless man.

The people on the 2:34 N Train into Atlantic Avenue made my heart sink. Their disdain and utter disregard for another human being was so cold, so unyielding, that this man never had a chance to change. His position in this world was sealed by the reactions of his peers. His peers—yes, because we are all living on this Earth together—who were going about their days running from work to home, home to work, store to store, place to place, could not afford to give him a simple gesture of kindness. Not even a smile.

Not even an empathetic thought.

I felt bad for that people on that train. For each and every one of them. The only soul that escaped that late N train without an ounce of my worry, was that homeless man clutching his bag of half-smoked cigarettes and absurdly large rocks. He was safe in depths of his solitude from the follies of mankind.

But then again I wondered, how could I love the others? They were me, too.

Don’t Save the World, Save Yourself

If it is one thing I hate, and rarely do I hate anything, it is the phrase, “Save the world.”

When I hear these words, it’s as if I’ve stumbled into a thick fog of putrid, self-righteous denial.  Not only is it’s logic is wrong on so many levels, but it manifests gigantic layers of ignorance.  Don’t get me wrong, I am as much of a fan of gas guzzling SUVs, ridiculous food miles, and the high number of coal burning factories as you are. I think the unsustainable practices of man are testament to the young age of our species.  However, I believe more than anything what exemplifies our immaturity as a species is the widespread idea that we need to save the world.

The world does not need saving. In fact, it is probably the being that worries the least about its future. It has been through an untold amount of uncertainties, many of which I am positive were more cataclysmic than the affects of mankind.  Of course, we would love to believe that we were the world’s biggest problem. Much in the same way we thought we were at the center of the universe, as well as the center of our galaxy, we have placed ourselves in the center of the existence of Earth.  Do you see a pattern?

I wonder which center she’s in.

There is a degree of egotism, which stems from the individual, but amasses in the collective.  This form of social egotism is most deadly.  In the group, it is an evolutionary suppressant reminiscent of the comet (or whatever it was) that killed off the dinosaurs.  The only difference is we are aiming to kill ourselves.

I mean, cmon, don’t we owe it to them?

And I don’t mean death by global warming, but by the suppression of our own consciousness.  You can see it in our media, in the public school systems, in our food system and certainly in our political system.  The suicide we are all contemplating isn’t a physical one, but a mental one.  And with sayings like “We need to save the world”, we draw attention away from ourselves—the one area we can control—and project it onto things that are ultimately out of our hands.

I was reading one of my favorite books by Paul Ferrini, Love Without Conditions, and I came across this quote that was talking about the need to not save the world: “Some people think that such advice is selfish and irresponsible.  They believe that they must save the world to find happiness.  That is an error in perception.  Unless they find happiness first, the world is doomed.”  Now, besides being an extremely relevant quote, this passage is effortlessly simple.  It’s logic is stated in such clarity that it is almost impossible to misunderstand.  How can we, as fragmented, discontented, and unhappy individuals expect to heal something as complex as the planet we live on without first conquering our own minds?  It is complete absurdity to think we can save the world without mastering ourselves.  And it is also complete denial.

The scapegoat was one of my favorite terms as child.  I always picture a scruffy billy goat perched atop rock ledge chewing a rusty tin can.  I thought it was hilarious that this little caricature of mine was always getting blamed.  I knew he didn’t do anything wrong.  In fact, that was humor of it.  The poor little goat just wanted to chew his tin, but instead all these angry people were yelling at him. What a horrible life.

It’s all his fault!

Well it turns out the earth doesn’t give a sh%t if you blame her.  She just keeps on spinning.  Maybe she’ll lose some greenery and gain some ice, but in the end she’ll figure it out.  She’s a resilient one.  We on the other hand, are the ones who need to worry.  Between all are yelling and crying, and pointing and blaming, we are missing the forrest for the trees.  We need to wake up and start admitting all the things we avoid.  That means all those little dark secrets you stuff down inside your soul need to come out.  All those wrongs you haven’t righted and all those emotional debts that need to be repaid need to start being fixed.

Even if nothing happens to the world and we live on for thousands of years, wouldn’t it be better if we freed our minds?  I know I have my skeletons, but everyday I figure ways to dance with them, letting them go and moving on.  Sometimes I feel like I’m on the wrong side of a cancan line and other times it feels like a lonely tango, but every time the proverbial music stops, I am a better person, lighter on my feet and ready to take on the next partner.

It doesn’t matter to me how you do it.  You can dance, shout, scream or run around naked wearing only an oversized bow-tie and striped galoshes.  You can do whatever your soul desires, but please, please, please, do not say you’re doing it to save the world.  She doesn’t need our help.