Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The things you try to survive.

A man walked into a coffee shop near the river and settle into his favorite corner – between the front window and the yellowed brick wall – to read “Rolling Stone.” He was just part way through an article about the Grateful Dead that had a photograph of the group performing in what had once been a synagogue in New York City.

The building still had much of its original bones…the women’s gallery, the very gothic windows, ornate gates set into the back of the bemah with Hebrew script above them. Over all was a blend of light varying in color from gold to lavender and the man thought the synagogue full of rock music just might be one of the most beautiful things he had ever seen when he looked across the shop and saw that a casual acquaintance was looking his way.

The acquaintance, a young man with dark curls and an ever-concerned forehead, got up and came over to the first man as though he suddenly decided he must.

The second man came to the first, offered his hand and sat down, asking the first man, “Do you ever feel as if you didn’t want to be here anymore?”

“You mean here in the coffee shop, or here in this life?

“Here in this life.”

“Yes,” said the first man.

“Well. What do you do with that? What keeps you together?”

The first man had to stop and think on that for a moment before replying because such feelings are not often voiced, and the dealing with them is more instinctual, more survival driven, than carefully planned and worded. In this moment, words were needed because the second man was not making casual conversation. He was seriously enquiring.

The first man told the second that he had learned he would have such feelings just about every March. March is the month when the world has been frozen long enough that giving up is easy to do.

So, knowing this, the first man told the second that he had to be prepared.

“Prepared how?” asked the second man.

“Well…I know that in those times it is really important I have some kind of outlet to create. I force myself to journal, or to cook or paint more. You can’t create anything out of a funk, so that means you have to look back beyond that funk to find the things that are bright enough to be inspiring to creativity. That way your mind yourself that the thing you are going through is really only a small fragment of your whole story.

Sometimes you have to remind yourself that God just might have a sick sense of humor, but the joke always comes to an end. Sometimes you have to stop what you are doing and remember there is something or someone bigger than you are and that – even though you feel alone and nowhere – you aren’t alone and never really will be.”

“Hmph. That’s interesting, but I don't do those things and it's not much to hang onto when you feel like letting go,” said the second man.

The first man thought for a second and then said, “You attend a synagogue, right?”

“Yep,” said the second man.

“What has your Rebbe told you about creation?”

“What do you mean? Like, the beginning of creation? The creation of the world?”

Said the first man, “I mean the continuation of creation. Has your Rebbe ever told you that creation is not finished? That we were put here to continue the creation of the world?”

“Sure,” said the second man.

“Well,” continued the first man, “we are told we are here to continue that creation. To make more than was here when we arrived. So, logically, leaving a work unfinished could possibly be the worst thing we could do to the world around us. Have you ever been very close to giving up or moving on and some tiny act from another person changed your mind or reminded you what you were about to lose?”

“Sure,” said the second man with a slightly puzzled expression.

“Did you ever stop to think,” asked the first man, “that perhaps this random thing that changed your mind was the result of something random itself? What if somewhere – five, six, or maybe seventy persons removed from you – a word, look or gesture had set in motion a chain of events that led to the moment that changed your mind and perhaps saved your life? But, what if – seventy persons before you – someone had decided they had lived enough, that they would leave this life unfinished regardless of the consequences? That chain of events might never have happened to save your life. So, then, that person seventy people removed from you – by leaving their life unfinished – left holes in countless other lives he or she may have never known of.”

“That’s kind of a big thought,” said the second man, looking at his hands folded on the table.

“I suppose it is,” said the first man, “but it is also an amazingly hopeful thing to think that the world is not out of control, that perhaps it is just unfinished and there is still a great deal to do in it that requires every hand and every tiny gesture if it is ever to be a finished work. So, then, it would be an incalculably selfish thing to deprive the world of one pair of hands, or even one tiny gesture or look that might help finish this world, wouldn’t it?”

The second man thought a moment before saying he agreed with the first and that, somehow, the thought that your life could be such a big deal if you looked at the ripples that came from it made the thing you were trying to survive seem a lot smaller.

They chatted for a few moments longer about all the ways you could impact the universe with all of the tiny things you had to do anyway: You had to live somewhere, so why not choose that place so you could help make it over new? You had to see people, so why not listen a little more and share a little more so life was broader for the meeting? You had to buy your food and somewhere, so where would you buy it so it could help the place in which you live in?

So between getting excited about the things they could do, the things the two men had to try to survive got so small - so very small - that they disappeared entirely when compared with the great business of creating the world they lived in.

(Took place at the Redeye in Old Town)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Steve, I think this piece is really beautiful. I just like this story alot. I think because we can all relate to it at some point in our lives.