It used to sadden me how impersonal everyone is in public. When we go out we put on this solemn facade, wear sunglasses, and pop in our headphones. I suppose the alternative is ridiculous, but it can be quite lonely spending this much time commuting amongst so many people yet without another soul in sight.
But, as I ride the subway to work everyday, I’ve gotten better at seeing, and I have come to this firm opinion: if you pay attention, you’ll see humanity oozing out everywhere. Deception experts call it “leakage.” I like the idea of our emotional, psychological, humorous, cruel, and kind personalities oozing mucous-like through the cracks in our cool exteriors. After all, indefinable humanity is metaphorically viscous isn’t it? Its more like sweat and blood and mud than water or rock. Undoubtedly poets everywhere agree.
The other day on the subway I was attacked by this humanity and it made me quite happy. It started with a woman listening to her ipod as she stood next to me as we waited on the platform. I noticed that she kept subtly starting to dance to her music, and then stopping herself, as if to say “oh yeah, I’m in public.” I was enjoying it, and then I realized that I was doing the same thing as I listened to JT. A palpable sense of commonality rushed over me as I experienced a deep feeling of connection to this stranger. I sensed that we were dancing to the same music, even if it was a different tune. Sound is incidental. It’s what the sound evokes that matters.
We got on the train. I sat facing a man standing up, reading a book, with an untied bow tie hanging from his neck. As we trundled away, he unexpectedly rocked forward with a vigorously subdued belly laugh. It only lasted a moment before he stood back up and smoothed his features.
As the train left the downtown area and emerged into the daylight, I saw a storm was coming from the west and chasing us east, engulfing the Atlanta skyline behind us. As rain drops caught up to our subway car, I was in the middle of listening to “Lily’s Eyes” from the Secret Garden and contemplating how incredibly human we all are–totally messed up, totally beautiful, and totally inept at hiding it.
So pay attention! See the humanity oozing! If you look closely (I look from underneath sunglasses to avoid detection), strangers betray that they are not the unfamiliar automatons they seem. Please take part in my joy!
(Lately I have realized I don’t understand macroeconomics as well as I should and I have gone on a learning binge. More on that later. Also, Alicia is in Rwanda now. She is doing well.)