So I’ve been away for a while. Doing what, I’m not really sure. It wasn’t terribly important, but it wasn’t a total waste of time either. I imagine. Anyway, it’s unclear how often I’ll be updating this site because there are other matters to attend to most of the time, and posting to my personal blog is usually rather low on the to do list. If you’re feeling bored or lonely, though, there are still a couple other places to look for solace.
The Red Team Tumblr is more than So Much This could ever hope to be, because it’s group genius instead of just my ideas.
Also, I’m co-hosting a radio show now with my friend and colleague Bronwyn. It’s called Thunk Tank and you can listen live on 91.1 WFMU every Tuesday from 6-7 pm, or get the podcast here.
Oh, this one makes my heart hurt, not because it’s so shocking, but because it’s so easily believable. The truth is, I (and I think many other people) have trained myself to ignore. Since moving to New York I’ve taught myself here to say, “Not my problem,” as a coping mechanism. It’s not hard to imagine people seeing a homeless man lying in the sidewalk and simply assuming he was passed out or sleeping. A little moral judgment could have popped up to bolster their inaction. “Probably drunk. Junkie. That’s pathetic. Might be crazy, or dangerous.” or even the libertine “Guy wants to lay in the sidewalk it’s his business.”
There’s simply so much suffering in this city I feel like I’d die if I tried to engage with every destitute mother and child, every sad story, hard luck case, and stray cat. When I first moved here, I gave money to every homeless person asking. I stopped and engaged, sat down and talked, and generally tried to be as generous as my meager resources allowed. Over the years, though, I got busier, and less patient, and in time I was saying, “Sorry brother,” instead of handing over a dollar, or just avoiding eye contact altogether.
Twice, I have been walking down the street and encountered homeless men lying on the sidewalk. Both times, I stopped and engaged with them, and they were both just sleeping. Those instances were years ago though, who knows, now, if I were late for work or running to meet a friend, if I would muster as much compassion. I’d like to think so, but it would be arrogant to declare with certainty that I’d do the right thing. This change in myself troubles me. I do “good” work at my job. I’m helping, in a tiny way, to improve the educational system, but I often think I’m slipping into complacency these days. I’m paid better than ever before in my life, I have more free time, and yet I feel I’m at a nadir of selfless action. I worry I’m degrading into an armchair radical. “I read the New Yorker and wring my hands over the state of the world. In discussions with friends, I advocate for anarchism with loose unsophisticated arguments. I try to include the work of women and minorities into my powerpoint presentations. I look poor folks in the eyes, sometimes, when I shake my head in response to their outstretched hands.”
I don’t mean to make this some public self-flagellation though. I’m really just trying to communicate that while the NY Post may take an indignant, morally outraged tone about New Yorkers ignoring a dying man, I’m pretty sure the callous folks in that security video could have been any of us. I mean, I actually give a shit about social justice issues, I volunteered at a homeless shelter and I have friends who are or were homeless, and I could have been one of those people making a bad snap decision in a crucial moment. The scale of suffering we’re blasted with every day is just so immense that I think it’s impossible not to block out some of it. I bet some of the people in that video gave money to Haiti, have chaperoned middle school field trips, and help with canned food drives. We’re just doing the damn best we can every instant of every day. We’re also constantly fucking up, making the wrong choices, and unfortunately when that happens people suffer. We’re all spiked armor and soft underbellies and sometimes children get to nestle in our laps and sometimes we’re careless with the swing of an arm and someone loses an eye. Life, it’s messy. It’s a mess.
I’m sorry as hell for Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax. I’m sure he was a good guy, he did a good thing, and in the end he died for no good reason. I wish I had some deep ancient wisdom that could make sense of such tragedies, but I don’t. In this world, shit just happens over and and over. The best we can do is be present in every moment. Actually see the man on the sidewalk instead of merely seeing an archetypical drunk or a memory of another scene encountered once before. That’s all I’m trying to do.
It’s been raining all day and my ceiling’s been leaking for hours. First one spot, then two, and now three. There’s a long gash in the paint slowly bleeding out, and a pair of swollen breasts lactating drop drop dop into the waiting mouth of a red plastic basin. I’m finding the phenomenon at once beautiful and annoying, which I think speaks to my zen practice. I’m far enough down the road that I can hear the music of the drops randomly splattering and appreciate the artful stretch and bulge of the ceiling paint, but not so open that I can take pleasure in constantly wiping water from the floor. I’m not so charitable that I don’t find myself thinking ill thoughts about my neglectful landlord. So it goes.