"Like the study of science and art, accounts of historical events can be intrinsically fascinating. But they have a wider significance. I believe that people are better able to chart their life course and make life decisions when they know how others have dealt with pressures and dilemmas---historically, contemporaneously, and in works of art. And only equipped with such understanding can we participate knowledgeably in contemporary discussions (and decisions) about the culpability of various individuals and countries in the Second World War. Only with such understanding can we ponder the responsibilty of human beings everywhere to counter current efforts at genocide in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia to bring the perpetrators to justice."
"...we humans are the kinds of animals who learn chiefly by observing others---what they value, what they spurn, how they conduct themselves from day to day, and especially, what they do when they believe that no one is looking."
----Howard Gardner, from The Disciplined Mind, published in 1999

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Green and Black Lace with Lite-brite; or, Metta Unexpected

Although my school district has completed its school year, the district that my sons attend is still in session. I've taken advantage of this today by going to the University early to complete research on a paper that is due before the month is over.
It is a beautiful June day, clear and warm. I decided to save money on parking fees in one of the city parking garages and park about a half a mile or so away in the parking lot of a city park fronted by a river.
I loved walking over the river bridge. It has both a pavement walkway and an iron-work-type of walkway. I chose to walk over the iron-work. The river was glinty-green against the black of the walkway. Lovely.
At the end of the bridge, there is a crosswalk. There is a traffic light there; the street to cross is a one-way street of several lanes.
The crosswalk has a pedestrian signal, indicating when it is safe to cross the road.

The signal is two images. One is an orange hand, depicted in the classic traffic-cop signal that says "stop" (but that for some time now also can be interpreted as "talk to the hand"); the hand glows steadily and cool, as if someone had made it from a Lite-brite toy. The hand is silent. The other image is the stick-figure-type of a single walking figure. The figure is white. It also glows in the same Lite-brite manner as the hand; however, it does not do so steadily. It blinks: on, off, on; and does so until the orange hand reappears. The figure is not silent. As the image flicks off, on, off, one hears the sound of a chirping bird.
As the hand glowed, I stood waiting, happy in the sun with the river glinting and moving behind me. An old man finished crossing the bridge and he took his place on the curbside as well. The bird began to chirp and we moved together across the road. What a simple and beautiful thing.

I've finished printing the necessary scholarly, peer-reviewed articles. I will now wade through the pile, dear reader, and thank you for your help to me, aiding me in this thing that is the practice of writing.


I have lots of neckties said...

A couple of days ago I saw those Lite Brite hands and little stick figure illuminations in abundance on a trip to Philadelphia. I had taken the day off from work to spend some time with my daughter before she heads off to camp next week. Philadelphia is one of our "traditional" trips we make together nearly every summer. Each time we go, we arrive in Center City after traveling first by car and then by train. Once we get off the SEPTA train, we travel on foot.

It's a bit more hectic in Philly than on the path you walked to get to school to do your research. For me, the Lite Brite hands on the Philly streets were a stern warning that a car would soon be barreling through the intersection in my wake almost immediately after I had finished crossing the street. I guess for me, the stick figure said "Make progress--carefully"; the hand said "Hey, look out!"

You describe your experience as simple and beautiful. Despite my opposite emotions about the hand and stick figure, "simple and beautiful" is the way I'd describe my visit to Philadelphia as well, but for completely different reasons. I cherish the simple joy I feel just spending time with my daughter as we walk the pavement, talking, joking, and laughing as we always do. That kid is the most beautiful and wondrous part of my life. She still thinks I'm hilarious and enjoys my company; I feel likewise about her.

In a couple of years my "little girl" will be off to college and the rest of her life, and I'm so afraid that our wonderful trips to Philadelphia will end then.

neroli said...

Lots Of,
Thank you for writing about how your joy finds you. I've been trying to be very aware of actively seeking out the simple, the beautiful, the joyful. I will certainly look to you to help refine my practice, as my own "little boy" will very soon be following the same path as your daughter...