extend your hand

October 15, 2008

San Francisco is not my town. Not that I thought it really was, but the first few hours I walked around I kept saying to myself wow, this is great. It rocks here. And then the buzz wore off and I got that old familiar feeling of being out of place.  I marveled a little at how I keep thinking some where besides Indiana is going to sound the bell that I’m home. So far, I’m striking out.

There is something amazing about SF though, the way so many folks can live together so closely. The unconscious and inadvertent collaboration that occurs just to move down the street and get in and out of BART. Cities remind me that people do have the capacity to cooperate with each other. I think part of it is getting people out of their cars. Getting people in each other’s proximities, even if they avoid the face to face contact. I’d like to believe all those folks walking around and chatting into cell phones that seem attached to their ears are at some level aware of the mass of humanity around them. That it seeps in down through their skin or maybe up through the soles of their shoes and unbeknown to them it changes something inside.

I know I’m likely just talking exposure here, but we’ve got to start some place, right. For me it is impossible to be in a city like SF and not be reminded of suffering. Maybe if I saw it every day I’d feel helpless or defensive and that would give rise to the indifference thats stand between me and making meaning of my life. I dunno.  I had a job for thirteen years that was all about suffering and meaning. I’ve tried to carry that forward in my familiar and intimate connections working at being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. It is messy endeavor.  And I imperfect in my practice.

This weekend in SF I was outside the ferry building and checking my messages.  I was sitting on the ground, leaning up against a column. I had my head in my hands and my phone pressed against my ear when a hand reached down. I tried to shake the hand off, but the holder just extended his or her hand closer. I looked up, but because it was sunny I never saw the face. Just heard the voice.  A guy saying, oh, you’re ok. You’re just on the phone. It’s a cheesy analogy, I know, but we can all put a hand out there, like that guy, or this guy John Records who works with the homeless in Petaluma, CA.

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2 responses to “extend your hand”

  1. RU says:

    Whenever I’m away from this sleepy big town I think about that crazy, simultaneous cooperation and isolation that takes place in cities. I’ve felt more connected to the world walking the streets of manhattan, completely energized by the multifarious humans around me…. but also more lonely. It’s hard to tell if exposure is the best way of connecting; both indifference and compassion can be developed sitting alone in a room or surrounded by poverty and suffering. Over the last few months I’ve connected very deeply with the fucked up behavior of the people I see on the streets of old town. In SF I think I was scared; which changed the dynamic dramatically. Maybe fear is the opposite of connection, not loneliness.

  2. proteanme.com » being says:

    […] fear and fear is at my core, not that it’s the only thing there, but it’s in the mix. RU left a comment about fear that was right on target about how it prevents connection. In my experience fear shuts […]

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