Concluding my first week in Seattle. Walking in a light rain. At the end of the street, I stare out over the Sound. Quiet, peaceful, wise and ancient. Greater than me. Teaching through being and letting me be a part of the moment it owns. How is it that 4 years in Philadelphia, I never called it “home”, but 1 week here and I feel like I’ve come full-circle to myself?
Part of my evening ritual, as I turn off the lights in my apartment, is to stand at the floor-to-ceilings facing Center City, and look outward. I see windows: dark and lit. All of them representing lives, and those lit ones are still awake, like me. Some of the light spilling out is yellow; some are white/blue; some perpetually wreathed in Christmas lights. Windows to the souls, like eyes. I stare outward and am become a sojourner in a well of humanity. Where I grew up, I knew each and ever light within a few miles of my house. I knew the colors of light. I knew the people inside. Here, it is all unknown. So many lives, dreams, experiences, hopes and feelings defining the spirit that is “the City”. I wish I could describe to you the immensity of that moment.
But maybe you already know it.
Maybe you walk to work/home/gym/grocery/etc, you feel the expectation to look down at the sidewalk, avoid eye contact, get from A to B? I do. I catch myself when I do it; I know I shouldn’t; I should be always looking. The urban world is another experience, and the City is full of beauty : architecture, history, culture, arts, restaurants, laughter, faces. So much to see that will be lost if not captured in that fleeting moment. I wrote once about [link id=’669′ text = ‘a wish to record experience’]. It can’t /shouldn’t be done. These are things meant for you alone: Faces smiling. Faces frowning. Faces averted. Faces wearing headsets. Faces on the phone. Faces painted by warm restaurant lights like jazz-age scenes. Faces under the glow of lights in the park. Faces dancing to music. Faces singing. Faces sharing laughter over a beer. Faces. Faces. Each with a story. Each with that connection to the others in that well of humanity. Part of me wishes I could know them all.
I was struck this afternoon by the possible consequences of my own inaction. We still have plenty of snow in Philadelphia. I was walking down a busy thoroughfare with snowed-in cars. A man was in one of the vehicles, trying to rock it out onto the street (reverse to drive, back and forth). As I approached, he got out of the car, went to the back and was about to start digging, when I saw something, hesitated, then stopped him. The car’s front right wheel (opposite the driver side where he had been) was turning backwards. It could have been one of those completely inane things you notice and discard, but this meant something: his car was still in reverse.
As I walked away, it struck me what that action might have prevented. Imagine how easily any of us, focused on our destination (the party, the girl, the guy, the game), could have gotten behind that car and begun digging, only to be blind-sided when the car suddenly backed towards us, or over us, or across the street and into the Brazilian restaurant. I thought how easily I could’ve done that. Been behind that car. Then, I actually felt sick when I thought of how many times I might’ve walked by someone else in a similar situation and not registered it. Or, on a lesser level, how many times had I seen someone who could use a hand, maybe to steady them as they walked on ice, and I hadn’t offered because I was too shy… What sort of consequences could those inactions have had that I hadn’t known? What’s the value in risking those consequences with the cost of action being so much less?