My wish, indeed my continuing passion, would be not to point the finger in judgment but to part a curtain, that invisible shadow that falls between people, the veil of indifference to each other’s presence, each other’s wonder, each other’s human plight. Wallace Stevens, Pulitzer-winning poet, 1879–1955.
What is this invisible shadow that falls between us, that incites indifference and dullness to the wonder of each other’s presence?
How is it that I pass my workday in the heart of a congested city and often go home feeling isolated and alone?
How is it that I can often feel more connected to the glazed image on a TV screen than the thoughtful conversation of another person?
This past week of the typical mix of hit and miss encounters. A few anecdotes come to mind:
I was sitting beside a Colombian woman who spoke no English. I was interested in learning a little about her life situation and with a little effort and my beginner level Spanish could have bridged the communication barrier. But I chickened out or I got lazy or became indifferent. I allowed an invisible shadow to fall between us.
My attendant nurse and I chatted briefly in the hospital lobby while we went through the five minute ritual of registering for a consult. About ½ hour later another attendant found a discrepancy in my documentation and asked me to identify the first nurse I had seen. I didn’t know her name but I gave a description of her nationality, her age, hair colour, eye colour, what she was wearing and added at the end, “she was pretty.” This was certainly more detail than was anticipated. I heard joking about it later, implying that we might have been making plans for a date. No, I bemused, just, two people making connection in the midst of an otherwise busy, routinized day.
And then there is Monday Tango Cafe ...
My go-to place for social connection. Is it the music, the quality of dancing, the comfort of the cozy environs, reconnecting with friends and familiar faces? I am in the midst of a social experiment where men and women can learn how to relate to each other, through dance and conversation, verbally and non-verbally, in a manner that is respectful, generous, genuine, gentle, intimate, vulnerable, safe. Where the curtain of indifference is parted. Where we open ourselves to the wonder of each other’s presence.
How can I part the curtain that separates, distances, isolates?
How do I resist pointing a finger in judgement?
How do I open my heart to the miracle of another’s presence in the comfort of a warm embrace?