I recently returned from a three day sojourn off the rock. I realize, much as I love to travel, that I’m not very adept at it anymore. I like the comfort of home, dogs and family; the sanctity of the familiar – the patter of predictability as it arises from the simplicity of routine. And though this won’t prevent me from wandering afield in the future, it reinforces my sentiment that cities are alien territories for those of us bonded to wild places, creatures and the creative, contemplative life. Understandably there are those who cannot live in silence; it is as discomforting as my own skittishness in chaos. And though a child’s perplexed eyebrows furrow at my unfamiliarity with the latest vampire television drama broadcast at the breakfast table – I was as out of time in her world as a kitchen t.v. in mine – a yearning to greet the day in sacred stillness will ever beg precedence over any need for the desultory din of a hypnotic box.
I feel most vulnerable when I talk. Spoken language has never been a strength – better when I can contemplate first, in writing or alone in a radio sound booth. The world demands words, and it seems to want them quickly – though if it knew better, it wouldn’t. Rather we would wish that a person consider all permutations of an inquiry before responding. For in answers, wouldn’t we rather have someone who respects our questions enough to contemplate them? I don’t know if blurting is a nervous habit or that some are so far removed from their essence that it wouldn’t matter if they ruminated all day – they are that distanced from an authentic center. Consider: If we slowed down enough to truly listen, what would happen? If we paused before responding, how would it alter our interactions? If we treated others with the dignity and respect of which we ourselves feel deserving, might it one day land right back on our own doorstep?
Don’t you love it when passing someone on the street as they smile and offer a “How are you?” Then keep on walking without missing a beat? After many attempts at a sincere response, after years of frustrating breaks in communication, at some point I realized that the question required no answer outside a cursory, “Fine!” One is then expected to continue on likewise without breaking stride. Anything less ingenuous will doubtless be met with an air of suspicion or downright distaste. Heaven forbid we should instead initiate dialogue with a humorous “Oh, I’ve seen better days!” Or an honest “Thanks for asking – I could use a friend, my dog just died.” What does it say about us that we cannot grant a few minutes to a fellow human being in need, perhaps sparking a genuine, if brief, encounter?