Now fully engrossed in my WWBD book, “Mindful Politics,” I decided to eat lunch today in Farragut Square. For those who aren’t familiar with downtown Washington, Farragut and McPhearson squares are the two block-sized parks that flank the northern edges of the White House grounds, with the main commercial street in downtown, K Street NW, running along the squares’ north side.
I sat with my book and my lunch to enjoy the sun, but quickly put my book down as I took in everything going on around me. In the center of the square, next to the statue of Adm. David Farragut (perhaps most widely known in America as the military commander who issued the order, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead”), a five-piece brass band from the Salvation Army played soft spiritual tunes. From behind me, the not-so-distant clatter of construction on a new high-rise building. And all around, people from different walks of life milled about, eating lunch, chatting with friends on the phone, cutting through the park on their bikes or just lying under a tree.
For about 20 minutes, I stopped thinking about “me” entirely. I did try picking up my book a few times, but I would read a couple of sentences and then set it back down and just observe the world around me. How many countless millions of people have passed through and around Farragut Square in the last 200 years? And how many people have sat in my same spot, people watching or reading a book or talking to a friend or co-worker?
It was good to sit and observe and recognize all of the things that are right in the world around me. For 20 minutes, there was no war or peace, no hunger in Southeast Asia or AIDS epidemic in Africa or tsunamis wiping away villages in Melanesia – it was just a moment in time and space where the lives of thousands of beings intersected before going on their way.
Most importantly, it was a time that wasn’t about me, but a moment when I tried to see all of the interconnectedness around me. It was as if, for a few minutes, I really didn’t exist after all.