Sunday, November 29, 2009
Oh, oh, what I want to know is are you kind?
More to the point, though, this picture, which was taken in Indonesia, is everything I wish I could stop in the world. The sheer unkindness and lack of compassion in the human species overwhelms me sometimes, and it's why, I think, what Mark Twain called "the damned human race" has caused suffering to itself and other living things since, well, forever.
In St. Augustine once, I stopped a bunch of boys from throwing rocks at a cormorant in a lake. In Daegu, I tried to stop a boy and girl from throwing rocks at a birds' nest. Under a bridge on my running path here, there's a graffiti of somebody giving the finger to the world. Boys beat homeless people to death and men use rape as a weapon of war. At this moment, billions of animals are living gruesome, horrible lives so that people can eat their bodies. Down the street from me, people chop up live baby octopi for dinner. It's all the same thing. We, the damned human race, have to stop inflicting pain, death, and sheer meanness on the world.
I recently taught The Catcher in the Rye to my American Lit Honors class, and in doing so I found that for the first time I really like Holden Caulfield. Like me, he is enormously self-centered and builds walls around himself as he longs for companionship. Holden seems so jaded, but gets tremendously upset when he finds "FUCK YOU" scratched into the wall at his little sister's school, and he worries about the ducks in Central Park when the winter comes.
All this may seem condescending, and I apologize. But it's what I think about a lot. People I respect highly think that I'm being immature or simplistic. Maybe they're right (they usually are) but I think that, deep down, it really does come down to whether we are compassionate or not. Buddha said it. Jesus said it. They were right.
Here's an image to close with: 8 a.m. on a November Sunday morning, 30 degrees Fahrenheit, windy... a man kneels on the stone landing on the steps going down into Yangjae subway station, head touching the stone platform. He's barefoot. A little box rests by his head. There is 300 Won (about a quarter) in the box. People go by without acknowledging him.
I drop all my change (a dollar's worth) in the box and go down into the subway and feel a little better about myself.
Is it enough? No. Nothing will ever be enough. All we can do is something.