It’s been a dry time here in the mountains of North Carolina—physically for my garden and spiritually for me.
It seems I reach a point in my life where my thoughts—after having been on the mountain top for a while—sort of slide off the side and go into hiibernation.
So, this past week end we took a road-trip to Raleigh where my daughter and son live to touch bases and celebrate my son’s graduation from NC State. It’s almost worth the drive to have dinner with the family at PF Changs and the subsequent stops at Barnes and Nobles and Starbucks for iced coffee.
In the spiritual dimension, we live in a “high place”, where it seems the enemy of our souls roams around looking for people to oppress and disturb. So, when we leave the mountains for even a couple of days, the tension and mental warfare subside and we are not just talking about a change in scenery. Sometimes you are not even aware of the change until you realize that you haven’t had an anxious thought for several hours.
Not that there aren’t other battles to fight in the flatlands—consumerism is like a wild stallion galloping at a break-neck pace across the shopping malls that seem to line every major highway. I wonder what kind of jobs those people have that allow them the “luxury” of being a part of all that spending?
But I digress.
While in a two-story Barnes and Noble bookstore this afternoon, I browsed the poetry section for a Langston Hughes poetry book, and after waiting in line to pay for it, got into another line at the coffee shop to prepare myself for the long drive home. Two people behind me was a mid-sixties woman, coffee mug in hand, talking out loud. At first I thought she must have a cell phone somewhere but I couldn’t locate one after a couple of furtive glances her way. It was almost like she was memorizing something or composing a poetic treatise out loud. The words I caught were kind of conspiracy theory type stuff and part of me wanted to ask her what whe was doing or who she was tuned into or whatever. The other part of me thought that it might just be a thin line between passive and wacky violent and so I kept my distance.
What did I have that she might want—other than a wife and friends to talk to when I feel the need or in the natural course of daily events. I could tell her that Jesus loved her but really didn’t feel a release to enter her world and then quickly leave. After I got my coffee, I sat at a table and watched her for a minute or two and then moved on but not after having thought about all the lonely people in the world and the kinds of things we might be prone to do lacking a normal relationship with someone. People go to public places for a reason—and malls and coffee shops serve as a modern day equivalent to the parks and town squares of times past.
How people get to the point of talking to themselves I don’t know. Maybe for the lady in line it is a defense mechanism—since she feels uncomfortable around people she talks to herself in order to seem crazy and keep the very people she truly needs away from her. But in large public places in big towns, the lonely people are all around—all you have to do is look.
I guess I recognize them because I can imagine being lonely too—but I am not lonely—only quiet and observant on this day before Memorial Day 2007. There are eight million stories in the naked city, the cop show used to proclaim over the credits, and this is one of them. Someboby probably has even written a book about it and the book is on one of the the shelves of this same Barnes and Noble bookstore—only I don’t know where to begin looking for it or am really even sure that I would want to read it if I happened to find it.
On a grand scale I sometimes imagine I have the answer to the world’s problems but it is really the multi-million individual people that need immediate attention that I can’t seem to get past.
In retrospect, I probably should have asked her who she talking with or what she was saying—but being an observer is who I am today.
Maybe next time I will act on the impulse and put my life on the line—if only to say—there is hope and friendship is worth the risk. Maybe next time.