Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Park bench diatribes and roman candles

“Last time I saw Jesus, I was drinking Bloody Mary’s in the South.”
- Over the Rhine

I’ve been taking the headphones of my ipod off more often, recently. It’s amazing what you hear, and strangely enough, what you see, when you aren’t plugged into that song that is plunging you into some internal reverie.

As in tonight, the man with the shopping cart sitting on the bench outside the library, yelling out for anyone who would listen, that he’s “antI-election, antI-RE-election, antI-Republicans-in-MEXICO!!” I have no idea what that meant, but as he paused to pay me a fairly classy compliment amid his diatribe, I concluded it was rather charming anyways.

Or the older gent who gave me a half-bow outside the theatre and said he liked the armful of white flowers I was hurrying through the night air of South Granville.

Or the young guy with a sherpa hat and massive beard and tunic and electric blue sneakers rambling past me across UBC’s grounds singing “I’m bound for the promised land” at the very top of his rather quavery lungs.

Time would fail me to tell of the slim mother and young daughter arms slung around each other as they peered in shop windows, the silver-haired man with the fedora who sings operas in perfect pitch and in stereo sound as he strolls down our street, the girl in the coffee shop who smiled at everything slightly manically, the young pan-handler who thanks me for refusing him every time I pass the liquor store.

Now, I know there’s a danger of treating people as a collector does – as odd curiosities that one can put on one’s shelf and admire from a distance. And stereotype. But I think that really looking, really listening, couldn’t but do me a world of good, and seems to do a number to stereotypes in the process.

There’s something in these moments when a flame of humanity jumps out at you – something unexpected. Not surprisingly, it’s often the ones who seem in need or at very least – vulnerable. I am coming to agree with Kerouac:

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!'”

I say commonplace things all the time, but I agree with the sentiment. And I think in those who are perhaps a little more on the edge, a little less dogmatic in their days and actions, I see a bit of holiness walking the earth, mixed in with all those other uglier elements of human nature. Incarnation is, after all, a messy thing.