Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday Sermon [Stopping the War]

Hola mi gente,
First, I want to give a big shout and loud ¡WEPA! to fellow Puerto Rican and tennis slayer, MonicaPuig, for winning our beloved (and besieged) Island its first Olympic gold medal. If you’re wondering why Puerto Rico has its own team, consider that Puerto Rico is a colony (not “commonwealth” or “freely associated state”) of the United States. Basically, Puerto Rico has its own Olympic team because the International Olympic Committee has recognized the island's National Olympic Committee. The Olympic Charter explains that “the expression 'country' means an independent State recognized by the international community,” and the IOC recognized Puerto Rico as such an entity in 1948. And I’ll add that if you are ignorant of Puerto Rico and its history, there’s a (not so noble) reason for that.

On another, wholly unrelated, point, we unearth the following gem from our Only in New York files:

Most NYC subway riders are pretty nonchalant when panhandlers hit them up for cash between stations. Man, sometimes it’s like a show where contestant after contestant makes a plea for money. Some are weird, some are hilarious, many are bothersome, and some are tragic. Like the pregnant woman I saw the other day who pleaded, “I’m hungry and I have no place to go. Please, please, pleeeease help me!” And she was high.

So, when I was riding the train and I hear a panhandler announce he was collecting funds to build a time machine, I, along with some of my fellow riders, laughed. But then at the next stop a man who looked just like the first man, boarded the train and announced he was the inventor’s future self. He implored us not to give any money because “time travel will ruin everything.” Hilarious! Here’s a video:

And speaking of subways… 

Stopping the War

You can’t win a war anymore than you can win an earthquake.
 -- Jeanette Rankin

It’s been brutally hot here in the Center of the Known universe. The heat index outside yesterday felt like 115 degrees! The temperature in the bowels of New York -- the subway -- is probably more than 10 to 15 degrees hotter. So imagine that? Imagine then, that you board a train and its air conditioning is not working. Such was the situation for me this past Friday as I boarded the downtown no. 6 train. Needless to say, life in the Big City can be very challenging and stressful.

No sooner that I enter the subway when a man pushes up behind me and practically tramples me. Not only that, he’s yelling in my ear for those he’s with to “Come on! Here!” Then he pushes me again as three women, two with baby carriages, pile on into the car. To make matters worse, the women with the baby carriages decide to congregate by the doors and that adds to the increasing tension in my body. I see this as inconsiderate and unruly -- “ghetto.” Needless to say, I’m becoming pissed, so I turn around and this guy and I lock eyes. I see that he’s preparing himself for me to get confrontational, to say something, perhaps yell at him, “What the fuck is wrong with you,” or something like that. His eyes are wide in anticipation and he’s getting ready to respond with perhaps a “Fuck you, motherfucker,” or some such New Yorkism. 

And that’s exactly what I was going to do. I’ve had a really bad week. Yesterday I was informed that I would be suspended without pay from my job and will most likely be fired, I still need to find a place to stay as my welcome at my sister’s has (rightfully) worn out and it’s hot and… well, you get my drift -- the shit has gotten hectic. So yeah, I was ready to get into it, let him have a piece of my mind and I didn’t really give a fuck about the possible consequences. But something strange happens when I lock eyes with this man. I become conscious of the tension and contraction in my body and make an effort to relax and breathe, and instead of yelling at him, I say:

 - “Disculpame” (excuse me).

At that point, taken completely by surprise, the guy checks himself and after a pause he says:

 - “Naw man, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to push you.”

I say:

 - “It’s Okay brother, no problem.”

We look at each other and nod our heads.

This gives me the time to assess his situation. He’s with several women, two of which have strollers with kids wailing in the heat, and there at least three other children in tow. He looks exasperated, having to guide the whole contingent while trying to maintain his own sanity in this sweltering heat. I take all this in and I get a different picture of this fellow human being. He’s going through his own tribulations and perhaps he’s not just an asshole -- he’s having a difficult moment. Perhaps he’s at the end of tether. As I take in this insight, I feel gratitude for not escalating the situation. I probably will never see this man again, but for the short moment we made contact, we were able to create serenity instead of insanity. The reverberations of our interaction were skillful.

The next stop is mine and the guy looks at me and asks:

“Is this your stop?”

I nod my head yes and he starts barking comically at his contingent to get out of the way and make room for me. As I step off we nod at each other again, perhaps in recognition of what just happened. 

And just like that we create the world we want to live in. Sure, I was in the right. He was being inconsiderate (in my estimation) for stepping on me and pushing me. But what good is being right if I use that to create self-righteous indignation? What do I win? What good is right if it leads to so much wrong? Sometimes we have to let go. Sometimes we have to choose to stop the war -- this interminable argument with life.

My name is Eddie and I'm in recovery from civilization...

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