Work has been a little tough lately, and, as is usually the case with these things, I’ve come to realize that the problem has more to do with me than work. (In a nutshell, if I want things done my way, I should start my own firm. Otherwise, I just gotta deal. Pretty standard stuff, huh?)
At the same time, I haven’t really been a happy person for the last six weeks or so. After doing some soul searching, I feel like the underlying cause is that I’m frustrated with the world around me. And it wasn’t until my Metro ride home last night that it all made sense.
I boarded the Green Line toward home in Chinatown last night. The train was unusually crowded, but since it was about 5:30 p.m. (nearly 100-percent commuters), everyone just packed themselves in. Just as the doors got ready to close, three rowdy teenagers (probably 14 to 16 years old) crashed their way through the doorway.
“Damn, I’d f–k that bi–h’s fat black p-ssy,” one of the boys said in a loud voice, gesturing toward a woman who was seated a few rows away from the door. The other two immediately responded, raucously elbowing and bumping into the people standing around them as they literally high-fived in very close quarters, oblivious to the necks, arms, chests and backs of the people pressed against them. When the man next to me grimaced and made a sound, one of the boys slid his backpack off his shoulder and down his arm and then hit the man in the chest with it, using some profanity to tell the man to shut up and back off.
No one, including myself, dared intervene. No one made eye contact. It was tense, and everyone felt powerless. Fear.
When the train reached Shaw, one of the boys left as his two friends fired off a stream of profanities to say goodbye, including a couple uses of the “N word.” Just as the doors were closing, the guy ran back to the train doors and swung pretty hard at one of his friends, hitting the boy in the head and elbowing another man standing near the door of the train.
I got off the train at U Street and I felt like I had just come down with the flu. I felt like shit. I got home, and of course, the first thing I did was snap at Shawn, who promptly got out of my way and let me chill out.
The whole situation is like a carbon copy of what goes on in my neighborhood – unruly, disrespectful and sometimes dangerously violent groups of middle school students, roving the streets like they own them. Kids without fear of authority who are, basically, bullies who aren’t afraid to take on adults.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I can’t walk out my front door without being attacked. But they’re out there, and it just a matter of time until their path crosses yours. Go back and read this blog about my encounters with “The Kids.”
So why does all of this even matter then? Because it all leaves me feeling pretty hopeless, especially since I am supposed to respond with what His Holiness the Dalai Lama calls “unbiased compassion.” Well, I tried “unbiased compassion” one morning in June while walking my dog to the vet, and it got us (me and Gaia) jumped by a drugged-up homeless man on a busy sidewalk. And no one did so much as call 911, despite me screaming for help. Compassion is the universal prescription? [I will add that I have thought about the role of karma in this particular situation.]
And I don’t consider ignoring a problem, or walking to the other side of the street, or turning the other cheek as unbiased compassion. At least in this particular urban environment, we have a systemic breakdown of the basic tenants of family. Parents aren’t instilling basic values in their kids, who in turn act out against the rest of society. It’s gone on for several generations, and it just sees to get worse.
This all ties into what I see as the bigger-picture issue. The world is a screwed up place where we have a systemic breakdown of the basic tenants of society. People can’t even follow simple rules like anti-littering laws because they have no respect for the people around them or the planet. It’s “Me First,” or “My Corporation First,” or “My Nation First,” or “My God First.” There are wars and senseless killing and people using rare radioactive elements to poison and kill political dissidents and music that glorifies cop killing and self-centeredness and comedians going on racial rants and genocide and corruption. And let’s not even talk about the American Family Association and their ranting “Action Alerts.”
All this, and I haven’t even been able to SEE the television for the last three days. So I can’t blame Brian Williams for this.
Truth is, it all builds up, which pisses me off sometimes because I don’t want all this to build up. But all these things matter to me. I can see the potential of the human spirit to make this world a better place, and I see how miserably we, as mankind, fail at it, and I end up feeling totally and utterly powerless.
When I was talking to Shawn last night, he said, “You need to meditate.” Isn’t that the truth, and yet, I resist it because I feel powerless. I haven’t even tried to meditate – or study, for that fact – in at least six weeks.
The answer, of course, does indeed lie on that cushion. There are lessons here: global interconnectedness and interdependency. Even a local interdependency, if I can ever figure that one out. And clinging. By letting these things get to me, I am exercising my own attachment to life instead of focusing my thoughts and actions on things that benefit all of the beings around me.
But dang, what can one person do? Especially in this town, this nation and this world?