Last evening, as it gets dark at 5:15 already, I was bicycling back from the neighboring town where I attended a heart-rhythm mediation group session. From this I have two blogs:
This one over my experience cycling by a family in a town I passed through, and the other having to do with a recognition about health.
Health is Circulation | Letting things Flow | Diarrhetic vs Constipative (made up that word !-)
I had just come from riding through darkness and fog, pretty cool. Then as automobiles are the most dangerous things to avoid, I chose to ride down an ally rather than along the main drag filled with traffic.
Turning into the ally I heard voices and saw some kids and several adults standing near a trailer. Out called a boy of 4 or so in his high-pitched voice. “What’s your name”. Delighted, I called back, “Carol, what’s yours?”. I paused instead of continuing on as if not really caring for the answer. I hadn’t heard his name correctly. I turned around. Then the boy came running to show me his miniature toy soldier in his hand. Pretty sure it was a figure with two rifles, automatic weapons, in its hands! Now the urgency in the tenor of his father’s voice was increasing.
I approached the boy deliberately getting closer to the father’s periphery so that he could see me in full view. “What’s wrong with talking?”, I asked. “I’m just trying to teach my kid a lesson.” he countered. He had cut off the contact that his child initiated and the interaction we could have had. Why?
Disappointed, I started riding away and then I decided to ride back to them. I said, “I just have to say this. I grew up as a child of his age in this town when my parent’s lived here. They taught me to be kind, loving and compassionate. I was always approaching people like your son when I was his age.” It’s a genuine curiosity and joy in interacting with strangers, with someone new. Gathering new information and exchanging information is how a child genuinely learns about the world around them.
Education is an exchange of information. It is what babies do as they are learning about the world around them. I expressed to the father, “I don’t know what kind of lesson you’re trying to give to your son, but I don’t think that it’s the right one. I bet you have guns too.” I rode away mildly disgusted and he called behind me, “ride safely”, which may or may not have been genuine.
I understand that kids do not have the same capacity to judge, because they haven’t had too much time on earth to learn through observing other peoples’ behavior to understand rationally or intuitively if there’s something amiss or not quite present in that person. But to block off all communication, especially when the parent is right there, seems inappropriate to me. So he’s protecting his family from the so-called enemy, a female bicycling by on her way home from a meditation group who responds to his child’s call.
People often have the same response when they pick me up hitchhiking. “Aren’t you afraid? It’s very dangerous!” Well, if you count yourself, do you find yourself dangerous? I’ve had rides with couples, straight and gay, coaches, teachers, farmers, students…Dangerous? Then wow, what are you thinking when you’re walking down a street populated with people? Are you scanning for danger? Or are you checking out this person’s shoes, noticing this person’s gait, that person’s dress style, the laughter coming from these kids over here, the snippet of conversation between a couple passing by.
My point, we, at least I, am not anticipating and expecting danger. Naturally, I’m not living under the circumstances of growing up in a war zone of 5 generations, or in an area where there’s a great deal of tension between the have’s and the have not’s, where extreme wealth borders shanty towns. I understand that there, one would learn not to trust and be wary of many more incidences of theft and kidnappings.
But generally, when you’re walking down the street, are you feeling that the world is full of dangerous people? Or are you happy to exchange a smile with someone you pass by or to make a passing comment to share in some kind of exchange? That is, if you’re looking up from your phone to notice someone passing by.
Reading some Einstein quotes the other day, this one impressed me.
Einstein Speak to everyone the same
This may seem completely off track, but behaviorally, it’s completely congruent. Earlier in the day on my way by bicycle, I went to visit a cat at a barn that I’m familiar with, ‘Goldie’. Goldie had always been quite friendly, launching towards me. Yesterday, for the first time I saw a new kitten there. The kitten appeared immediately. It approached me, full of curiosity and affection. Then Goldie appeared. Came towards me, but then sat down just out of reach. To my sadness, I realized that now Goldie, was ‘Grumpy’ or ‘Grouchy’. I had noticed before that he would hiss at ‘Gordo’, the fat friendly cat, but thought that this was out of competition. Now, when the kitten went up to Grumpy to nudge him, Grumpy hissed. Perhaps Grumpy was maintaining his dominance or leveraging his power, but really, he just was isolating himself. The kitten, I’ll call ’Giddy’ didn’t respond to Grumpy’s hiss. He just meandered away back over to me, where she affectionately jumped onto my legs and arms and purred and played.
I certainly think it’s much more fun to meet new people and explore new things, than sticking to the familiar and tried-out route. I’d rather learn and be exposed to new information than remaining insular and isolated.
I told the father that I don’t believe in weapons, nor in assuming that strangers are bad…I mean, get your priorities straight people. Is this anxiety or paranoia an American phenomenon, or is it a modern day one – driven by the news media? Does it reach across the western world, into Asia, Africa? I’m not sure.
I guess for sure there are differences between cities and rural areas. I’d love to hear comments about it. Do families in Russia, Denmark, Finland, England or Italy, freak out if their kids talk to strangers? Are strangers ‘bad’? Geez, it’s just sending a message of fear and distrust. Ouch!
I can remember when I lived in San Francisco and I’d walk to the Marina area – filled with yuppies and wannabes; a wealthier, upwardly mobile part of town. As a young woman I’d greet people walking by, male or female, with a friendly hello. A significant amount would either ignore me or look at me suspiciously. Whereas when I lived in the rural community of Taos, New Mexico, if you’d happen to be walking or bicycling on a dirt road outside of the town, the Spanish, Indian or Caucasian person driving by in their pickup truck (often the case) in the middle of nowhere, would wave. You, a stranger, would be greeted as a friend. I heard that the nomadic people, Ber Ber’s for example, would never ‘not let a stranger into their tent’ as they were passing by. This could be a life or death situation for that person or for oneself, if caught in the same circumstances – of being in a remote area without water or food. By the way, the guy who took the picture of us on Halloween in NYC is Algerian, of Ber Ber descent, he informed me. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berbers Interesting. I’ll have to ask him.
I really want to know if this is an American thing (guns, paranoia), European, Northern European, metropolitan or – in fact – more of a modern thing that is more economically and politically driven? The age of fear? Is it coming more from the media than people’s day to day experiences? Is everyone dangerous? When you’re walking down the street in your town, in a city, are you scanning around for danger? Or are you noticing interactions, laughter, someone’s clothing, what someone is doing, a smile or gentle eyes? I would hope that when you go out to a restaurant, to a game, a concert, an event… you are approaching the people not as ‘strangers’ – the enemy within – but as potential friends.
The image below links to an article about mindfulness 10 Easy Ways You Can Practice Mindfulness Every Day, presented by The Mind Unleashed
the Mind Unleashed – an article on Mindfulness