Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Time and Sleep

A. lives in the apartment above us with her possibly older brother. "Possibly" because both brother and sister have reached that indeterminate age where time has done most all it can to you for the moment, and the ravages of the years pause or plateau, leaving the body, damaged certainly, and much the worse for wear, but still somewhat serviceable, to go on for a little while unmolested. In looking at them, it is impossible to distinguish their ages. He may be older than she, or vice versa.

We often hear them come and go, walking around their apartment, and Katie and I speculate, both on the layout of their apartment (a constant source of speculation in New York City), and on what they might be doing. Walking - yes, certainly - but why are they walking to and fro at eleven at night, or four in the morning, or even the middle of the afternoon? Why do they tread above us, causing the ceiling - our ceiling, their floor - to creak and groan in protest? Why do they pace the length of the house, and which one of them is it doing the pacing? 

What keeps them awake on their constant rounds, pursued by what unknown hauntings at all hours? Is it regret for their mutual spinster- and bachelor-hood? She seems happy enough when we greet her on the occasions we meet. Are they lonely, with only the stale bread of their long companionship to comfort them? Or are they merely walking off the tiresome wakings of the aged, when sleep slips from beneath their eyelids and leaves them bereft and abandoned in the silent darkness, and they must walk the halls and bedrooms, searching, hoping to coax sleep back into their beds before the sun rises to begin another day. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Follow Up to a Dust Up

After being harassed by a small group of kids (late-late teens) doing the usual raising-money-for-our-school-team scam, I was surprised at how potentially violent it almost got - one of the kids actually smacked me. Well, really, it was more a little slap on the back. Which is no big deal on the face of it: people get touched involuntarily all the time in this city.

I have to fight against my tendency to catastrophize incidents. It may be just how I'm wired, but my brain tends to want to connect my experience to larger trends in the world. I had a small epiphany when I realized that my (very small) dustup occurred on the same day that presidential candidate and professional clownshoes Trump cancelled one of his rallies due to his "fear of violence" from protestors. We'll leave aside for the moment that the people most of us are afraid of attend his rally as supporters. Is there a change in the zeitgeist? Is a long suppressed violence rising up to once again pervade our culture? Are the black kids in New York City finally losing their cool over gentrification, inequality and racism, and taking matters into their own hands?

Nonsense. Honestly, that's crazy talk. The world is not becoming inherently more violent. Some days are tough for some people, they might have been going through stuff I don't know about, and if that's the worst thing that happens to me this week, I'm having a great life.

That being said, I was furiously angry, albeit about 5 minutes afterwards. It takes me a minute to realize exactly how I feel about a thing. Regardless, I spent most of the night forgiving them, which is an easy way of saying something very hard to do. The one thing I did think of that made me feel somewhat sympathetic towards them was, "God, kid. Don't touch a white man in public without his permission! What if somebody sees and calls the police? Suddenly you're on the ground in a chokehold and both our nights are ruined, mine because I've got to go down to the station and fill out a report, and yours because you might be dead. Get smart, man!"

I was still mad, but at something entirely different. They were a little hasty, a little stupid, but nobody deserved to go to jail, and for damn sure nobody deserved to end up dead. And yet, that had been a very real possibility for them if things had gone too far south.

It just put some things in perspective, is all.