That day I met a homeless dude

BuddhaI promise I am not writing this to pat myself on the back. In fact, I didn’t really do anything. Just an interesting story – to me anyway.

In line at Starbucks this morning, a homeless guy came up and asked if I’d buy him a cup of coffee. He’s in his late 20’s probably. Long dark hair, hands and face grey with dust, bright blue eyes, and relatively well put together. He’s articulate and sort of charming. His eyes are a little wild, shooting glances everywhere. He’s clearly dealing with some mental challenges, but I didn’t get the feeling that his demeanor was a symptom of drug use.

So he walks up and asks if I’d buy him a cup of coffee. “Of course,” I said. But then one of the employees thought he was bothering me so they gently walked him out. They were nice about it and he didn’t mind. As he went out the door, he looked back at me and said “I’ll be right outside.”

After he left, the people around me in line said things like “Wow that was awkward,” and “He sure was bold.” I didn’t quite get it. I said “No it’s cool. He seemed nice.”

I got to the register and ordered two cups of coffee. As the woman at the register started ringing up the order, the guy who escorted the fella out started filling the two cups. He said to me “Is this for who I think it’s for?” and held up one of the cups. “Yeah.” And he told the woman at the register, “Just charge him for one. This one’s on the house.” I was grateful. It was a very nice gesture on his part.

I paid for my coffee and brought the cups outside. The fella greeted me with a huge smile and asked if he could walk with me. (See! I didn’t really do anything. Just handed a homeless dude a free cup of coffee.)

I have to admit, I got a little nervous. People can be unpredictable. So I didn’t get too close and I stayed alert just in case. But yeah, I walked with him. We shook hands and exchanged first names. Over the next couple of blocks, he asked about what I did for a living and I told him. And I asked about him and he told me. He was upbeat and optimistic. Genuinely looking at the positive things in his life. I’ll share his side of the conversation.

“I live in a tent under Chestnut Street at the Schuylkill River. It’s really not bad. The tent keeps the cold wind out and I sleep pretty well. I set up the tent at night and take it down in the morning. I have a whole routine. Oh! And guess what? I had a job interview yesterday! Delivering food on a bike. I looked a lot cleaner than I do right now… I think it went well. I’m feeling optimistic about it. Oh! And guess what else? I have a girlfriend! She lives with me in the tent. She’s at Barnes and Noble now, warming up a little.”

He really was that articulate and energetic. A really nice guy. He reminded me of some of the characters that Sal Paradise stumbles across in On the Road. I wished him luck on his job prospect and we parted ways. Maybe I could have done more? He didn’t ask for anything and he seemed to be on a pretty good path. I’ll let you know if I bump into him again. I have a feeling he might keep an eye out for me.

(Note: That’s not him in the picture. It’s an old shot I took long ago, but it fits the gist of the story.)

How strange could it be?

City Hall Philadelphia

I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

-J. B. S. Haldane

All wars are civil wars because all men are brothers

A man with true insight. Baba Ram Dass.

What if I told you…

Alabama SunsetWhat if I told you that the life you’re leading is merely a projection? A fantasy? A dream? What if I told you that you could break out? Unplug? Disconnect? Are you happy where you are? Is life perfect even with all its imperfections?

Imagine a film projector. Imagine that the movie that’s projecting onto the screen is your life. And you look at it and it seems distorted and flawed. The things you want just aren’t quite coming into focus. “I wish I had more money.” “I wish I had a happy marriage.” “I wish I had a job I loved.” But all of those desires are blurry in the projection on that huge screen of life.

Now imagine that the way you try to make those goals come into focus is by swatting at the movie screen. Imagine you take a huge push broom and swipe at the screen over and over again, to no avail. Imagine the futility and frustration of spending hours, weeks, years fighting for a better life but nothing is improving the way you had hoped.

What if. Just what if. What if you realized that the problem causing the blurred vision – the thing that’s preventing those fantasies from coming into focus isn’t on the screen. What if it’s on the lens itself? Imagine there’s a smudge on the lens. A big one. A dirty gross one.

You would tell me it’s time to clean the lens. It’s not the movie screen’s fault that you are projecting a muddy life. You have to tackle problems at the source. You have to unplug from that projected image and look inside yourself. Find the smudged lens and clean it off. Stop stalling. Go for it. I have faith in you.

With love,

The world you see is just a movie in your mind.

I have lots of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet, concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that Nothing Ever Happened, so don’t worry. It’s all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don’t know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect.

We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It’s a dream already ended. There’s nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born.

The world you see is just a movie in your mind.
Rocks dont see it.
Bless and sit down.
Forgive and forget.
Practice kindness all day to everybody
and you will realize you’re already
in heaven now.
That’s the story.
That’s the message.
Nobody understands it,
nobody listens, they’re
all running around like chickens with heads cut
off. I will try to teach it but it will
be in vain, s’why I’ll
end up in a shack
praying and being
cool and singing
by my woodstove
making pancakes.

-Jack Kerouac
(HT: Brain Pickings)