As I emerge from a busy intersection, at the edge of the stairs leading down to the crowded supermarket in front of the hotel in Madrid, a flock of pigeons flutter in the square. A drunken woman passes amongst them.
“Help!” is what comes out of her. A weak, lost cry of a little girl displaced from anything resembling home, perhaps without ever having tasted the flavor of such, her entire body shaking from the pigeons. I see her trying to escape their efforts to approach her as if they are plotting to harm her, while all they care about is the scattered breadcrumbs from last night and the hope for one more from her hands. They too are drunk. With desire.
And in the face of all this, the sudden voices of mockery emerge from the other side of the flock. “What ‘Help’, what?! Com’on, wake up, woman!”, they blurt out, shrouded in “knowledge” about her “stupidity,” thinking “how can she not see?!” And again: “Com’on, hombre, what’s the matter with you?!”
I walk over to where they are. (I, too, like them, cannot help but being me …).
Five men, burned by years of sun and wind, and one woman. Having long forgotten where she was born, out of her misery she clung to them. With them, at least, she is clear about the laws of the street.
“Excuse me, can I ask you something?”
“Si, Señora, como no,” (“yes, ma’am, certainly.”)
“Do you like to be laughed at?” I ask.
“No, of course not,” they say.
“So why are you laughing at her?” (And I say this with a soft tone, searching inside of myself how to bring it out without blaming…).
“She??? Oh, she’s just passing by, looking to get coffee and alcohol.”
“I think she’s really scared, she didn’t pretend, couldn’t you see?“
“What scared, what, she’s like that every day…”
“Too bad,” I say with a sigh, and move on.
What happened to us?
How have we internalized the way of judgments so deeply, that even comrades in street-distress follow it religiously? How could we have blocked the gate of Compassion with a lock so tight, that it’s so easy for us to be blind to the other?
Not that I think this is the only thing going on, between these people or overall. I have no doubt that they are ready to help each other with all their might. But they, like us, in every instance of a good gossip, come together against the “other”, sucking a stolen drop of self-importance. “We are better than her,” their external judgment says surreptitiously. “She does not see what we see.”
Yes. This is what we learned: that we can feel “together”, united, valuable, (only?) at the expense of others.
Some days it’s very hard for me to contain this pain; this cruel separation we have created with our own hands, especially in our thoughts: the illusion of “the better” (and, of course, the ones less so, not to mention the ones who are “Really bad”); the “winners” (and the losers); those who deserve a prize (and, the many more who deserve punishment). We so believe in our own stories, that secretly, when we think we are not seen, we absolutely believe that there IS something wrong with us.
So much loneliness in all of this, no matter which side we are on. And to think that this is all a distorted invention of our human society. No tree in the world would ever compare itself to other trees. It is just itself. Only we, in our ongoing blindness, however innocent it is, unknowingly reproduce what hurts us most – the “not-seeing” of the humanness in the other, and even more so in ourselves; the inability to see beyond the words and behaviors with a clean, soft, understanding look.
And the yearning to connect, which exists in all of us underneath it all, even when we are not aware of it, arises in me more and more as I reflect on this. I know, with all my heart, that things can be different. And I want everybody (well, at least some) to know that they, too, can live in connection.
This is my booze.
And in my desire to drink and quench the thirst, I wander away to other countries, in which this yearning, to move towards the compassionate option, pulls people from their homes to group meetings, still rare, with other freedom-aspirers like me. I believe that, while growing together, we can co-create for ourselves (gradually and with persistence), the world we all, really all of us, crave.
Crazy? Yes! Possible? Of course! At least that’s what I believe on my good days…
Will you join me in my upcoming workshop in Oakland, at the end of this month of September, so that we can continue the co-creation of a loving planetary transformation?
If your heart says “yes” – all the details are here.
And whether you do or don’t, drop me a line – what is your ”drug of choice”…?
Drunk with hope
I almost forgot to add the slightly happier-ending of the Madrid story…
As I left the supermarket on my way back to the hotel, I saw the woman sitting on a step on the stairway past the square. Sure enough, a bottle of alcohol is in her hands, but a tender moment happens. Another figure is approaching her: a street-friend, wrinkled, gray-eyed, and with a smile from ear to ear directed at our drunk friend. As she sits by her, she reaches out, and both bodies touch each other in what looks like a quick cuddle.
For a moment, I breathe with relief. Our lost, crazy woman has someone to share moments of sunshine in life. Gracias.