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Friday, March 27, 2015

The Apples and Oranges on Your Hand

There was a man in the library today. A homeless man. He was always at the library every time it was open, probably taking shelter and a brief refuge against the bitter life outside. He would sit for hours, reading French books and Shakespeare plays and other 'intellectual' books. Just last week he manage to get hold of big, thick paper where he wrote: "Tell Judge Moneybag I said Hi". I was guessing that he might be in trouble of some sort, a citation perhaps for God knows why. Today two officers (I'm guessing from the sheriff department) came to him. "You know why we are here, right?" said one of them. "Somebody called again regarding your belongings." The homeless man wrote his answers in a piece of paper, unable or not wanting to speak. Then the two officers went away and said to him, "See you soon." He continue to read on his wheelchair.

For a moment, a flare rise in my heart. Why the injustice? Why the snobbishness? The Library that I am at is indeed located to a nicer part of Los Angeles, an orderly suburb where all the houses are delightfully pretty and the road is impeccably clean. The homeless man's 'belonging' consist of at least twenty plastic bags, if not more. Some of those bags were piled nicely on the edge of big table I am writing on right now, while the rest are piled on the entrance of the library. It is carefully hidden yet apparently still an eyesore for this respectable Stepford neighborhood. I am angry. I am mad. This is unfair. All lives are the same. He can't go anywhere else, and at least he tried to make the best of his time by studying. It is unjust.

But then I calmed down. There are reason, completely valid reason on why people want their neighborhood clean and orderly. We easily called it snobbishness, and although it might even be true to some extent, the real reason is that disorderly invites chaos. Sit down a moment and reflect. Scattered items create a great breeding ground for pests. Anyone who is messy (just like I do) would have a lot of "Oh yuck!!" moment when trying to clean the room or the house every once in a blue moon. When the outside is messy, it invites people to do unnatural things. For instance, you would feel more convenient to urinate outside in a unkempt area with tall grass or abandoned building. You will feel less likely to do so in, say The Rose Garden in Exposition Park or the glitzy Getty Villa in Malibu. Nobody would say a word when you do it in the dirty, chaotic, unkempt area; but you know for a fact you will 'get it' if you try to do it in the nice area because those people do their hardest to keep their building/area clean and beautiful. And that's the key. When you think people won't scold you for doing things you will start to do crazy things. The homeless man got reprimanded because the people don't want crazy people think it is okay to get wild thanks to the homeless man's scattered belongings.

When you look at it that way, you will feel helpless and trapped. It seems there is no way out, right? You sympathized with the homeless man because he is a victim of life, yet you should understand by now why the good people wanted him to stop 'ruining' their neighborhood. Everyone struggles in its own way. There is never, never one truly 'Right' way to do things because everyone has their own agenda, has their own concept of what's right and what's wrong. Feeding the homeless sounds like a noble idea, but then some of them adapt into doing nothing except waiting for the handout. Farm raised fish is considered bad for your health and bad for the fish too, but then a report like this showed up and tell us how some wild caught fish is actually caught by slaves. Real life slaves and not just metaphorically speaking. For every action there will be a reaction, and since the world itself is very complex, you might have more than one reaction and not all of them are favorable to you.

What can we do then? Do we just close our eyes and pretend we do not see anything? Do we let ourselves lost in despair knowing that nothing that we do will ever fix the world? In my honest opinion, yes. At least yes to knowing and acknowledging that we can never fix the world. One part of it is because it is too complex, and it would be impossible to correctly calculate all the variables and factors involved just so we can reach our goal the way we want it to happen. Another part is because the world is not broken, so there is no need to fix it. To say that the current humans of the world is broken is also incorrect. Human has always been human. You would only need to look at old literature like holy books or even mythology and folklore to realize how evil human can be, how deceitful and how determined human is in order to achieve what he wants in life. We just noticed it more thanks to the technology that allowed people to show who they really are i.e. the culture of oversharing. 

But the world do get depressing sometimes, especially when you have a caring heart and want everyone to be happy and joyous. Things that you can't helped (like the homeless man in the library) or things that you can't escape from (like the people who judge you and considered you as lower than them), life is full with disappointment and whys. When it happened and you feel like it drags you down, take a moment to sit down and observed your hands. There was a joke that goes like this: "If John has six apples in his right hand and seven oranges in his left hand what does John have? John has very large hands." Get it? Now look at your hands again and think how many objects you can put in your hand. Not many, huh. You can try to smooth/stretch your palm in order to held more objects, but then the object(s) would easily fall. And of course, the smaller the object is the more you can hold it in your hands, but they too will have a limit. So does your problems and all the wrinkles in the world that you want to smooth out; you can only have so many of them and it is alright if you can't handle them all simultaneously, it's aright to choose on what battle you want to fight for the moment.

Knowing our limit, and acknowledging it, is an important step to find peace in ourselves. There are things that we can't change or fix because of the nature of the things (e.g. a self-destructive friend), and there are things that we can't change or fix because we are unable to take the case. One can only have so many things in his/her hands err plate. Understanding this will also stop us from sharing our burden (both intentionally or unintentionally) with another person that might not be ready to have more things in his/her plate. It's a road to self-sufficiency, with a handrail that prevent us from falling to the murk of despair thoughts. We can't change the world. We can help ourselves and try to help others, but there will be time when we can't help other, and it is alright. Little by little hopefully the things in your hands will get less and less, until finally you can use your one empty hand (or even both hands!) to give the best give ever: caresses and compassion. Until then, the smile on your face will suffice. You can't stop the misery in this world, and it is not your job anyway. Your job is to stop the misery within you and glow like a little sun, making your life and everyone's around you a little brighter, a little nicer, a little more worthwhile. Shine, my friends. Shine. 

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