Art: “States of Mind: Those Who Stay” by Umberto Boccioni
The other day we’d gone to Mother’s – the organic healthy food store nearby and one of the things that makes Orange County, CA so much more tolerable. Orange County is something of a conservative bubble within the general liberality of Southern California. If you look at voting maps, you’ll see blue almost everywhere but for the red bubble of Orange County. We live here because my wife teaches and is getting her PhD in philosophy here.
On that day, Southern California happened to be in the midst of a rainy deluge (thankfully, since it’s been a worrisomely dry winter) and, though we had walked there while the skies were clear, the sky was now down pouring. So we waited it out and, sitting at the counter along the large windows at the front of the store, ate a chocolate bar.
A woman – maybe in her late 40s or early 50s – sat down next to us, remarking about the rain. I agreed: it was quite a sudden downpour.
“I just think about those people whose homes will be caught in mudslides!” she exclaimed, conjuring up images of large homes on hillsides and deluges of mud.
I agreed. Mudslides are intense but also… “I think about homeless people. It’s got to suck. Everything you own is soaked… I imagine that, for them, this drought we’ve been having is sort of a blessing, all things considered.”
She looked at me, with her pursed lips, her dyed silver blond hair, and her thin eyes. Uncomfortable. Silenced. Awkward.
“Mudslides are rough, too.” I shrugged.
And the conversation, what little of it there was, resumed.
So many people seem to only be able to empathize with those they feel are just as or more fortunate than themselves but when it comes to those they feel are less fortunate, they feel uncomfortable.
These blinders that humans have up, blocking each other out, living in bubbles based on imagined ideas of social standings… Our culture – with it’s hypnotized upward gaze – continues to exacerbate and perpetuate it. From birth we are presented with humanity as a spectrum of those who have less than us and those who have more. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to join those who have more and move up the social ladder. If we’re unlucky, we’ll slip down the social ladder.
And our lives, our cars, our homes, our social circles – all build on the bubble of our identities.
Yet, it’s so easy and so painless to step out of that bubble – and to include others. Look around. Do what you can on the very small person-to-person level. If you are walking into a grocery store and there is a person outside of that store asking for money, pick up an apple, a sandwich, something – and give it to them. Most often, people are just tired, hungry. Everyone wants just a bit of care. Every person just wants to love and be loved. If you can show that – through a smile, a gift, a handshake – then it helps to break down those boundaries a bit, it allows for basic humanity to shine through.
It is small things. It is compassion in the moment. It’s awareness… It’s life.
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