Although we are forever seeking answers, the world and its ways remain impenetrable to mere man. Thanks to huge telescopes we know we are on a planet in a solar system in a universe. But mostly we know we still don’t know much. At the other end of our quest, under a microscope, we have broken matter down into components, bits and pieces, molecules, particles and atoms. Still no end in sight. Clueless, we stoically walk from crib to coffin, without ever knowing who we are, where we are, what we are.
Then this woman cuts in front of me in the grocery line. Suddenly I know absolutely everything.
I collect the lady’s data and send it to my brain for analysis. A witchy looking woman. Her flat hair, dyed black, hangs limply on either side of her gaunt face. It is parted down the middle with a gray stripe. She is pushing a grocery cart. A screaming toddler is in it with runny nose and sticky hands. He is demanding a chocolate bar from the deadly display. (The one we all have to pass like a mine field.) She tears open a Snickers and shoves it down his throat to stop the sickening, whiny sound from coming out. Now a brownish liquid drools down his chin. He whimpers, finally (momentarily) satisfied. I send these facts to my brain as she puts the disgusting empty wrapper on top of her grocery pile. Observation post to brain, ‘Did you see that’? ‘Yeah, it answers, Gotcha, got your info and got the answer. I know this kind (knew her at first glance). Just a bitch and her brat. Alas, parents today…’
When I told her she was taking my place she snapped, ‘First come, first serve’. She spit the words out so fast that each one came sprinkled with drops of saliva. I wiped my face just in case and decided not to press the matter. The fact that she is now in front means I have all the time in the world to study this specimen of the human being. My body stands obediently in line as my thoughts sink their teeth deep into her. ‘Look at all that junk food. Her kid’s gonna get so fat. Obviously never learned about proper nutrition. Wouldn’t you know, now her credit card isn’t working. Probably overdrawn. You can just tell those people, incapable of balancing a budget. Ouf, finally, off she goes with her cart full of soda and greasy chips, her sticky kid and her icky self.’
The automatic doors open and then close behind her. Good riddance.
Gone. No where to be seen and yet I feel oddly contaminated. Out of sight but not out of mind. I look at the empty space where she once stood and realize with horror that every cell of my body has been invaded by invisible, immaterial, nonexistent things called thoughts. They continue to chew over what is no longer there, gnashing their teeth, like a dog mesmerized with an old bone.
Her physical form has disappeared into the horizon. I’m left wading through a polluted wake. In a moment of clarity I try to send an update to my brain. ‘She is gone. Over and out.’ But brain doesn’t answer. Its thoughts are clamped down on the illusion of the bitch and her brat. And like a dog going for the kill, shakes it violently this way and that, in a hypnotic frenzy.
I am the king of my kingdom. Nothing can come in unless I open the door and say, ‘Enter.’ A sound, sight, smell, a something (or a somebody) out there catches our attention. The senses go to work sending their data to the brain for acknowledgment. Brain gives a neutral answer. Woman with child. But sometimes (well, usually) we are sleepwalking when we answer to the door. And in a blurry eyed trance we open it wide and leave it gaping.
Outside knocks. A woman cuts in front of me. My first reaction, ruffled feathers. That is okay. It is just an automatic physical reaction to the unexpected jolt. The question is am I going to let my mind react too.
Inside I’m crystal clear. I see a woman but I don’t need to let her in. What do I see ? A person like me. A living being in a dying body. She seems pleased with her quip answer. But I decide to give her the benefit of the doubt and let her be as she is. Life is mysterious. My fellow man too.
I feel the eyes of the man behind me boring into my back and all my groceries now on display. I’m wearing ugly, old, lazy Sunday, jogging pants. I realize in horror (as my hands automatically reach up to confirm) that I still have the red plastic barrettes I stuck hastily in my hedgehog hair this morning. No make up, no socks. Suddenly I wish I could put a neon sign around my neck : Had to leave the house in a hurry. But it is too late. I stand helplessly as this stranger’s thoughts peck away at my body and being.
Consciousness means awake enough to realize circumstances have knocked at the door, alert enough to realize a decision has to be made. Open the door or keep it closed. The thing, whatever it is, has been acknowledged. I can put ‘woman and child’ in the facts file, close the door and walk away. Or I can lazily swing the door way open and let my thoughts have a heyday shooting out opinions, proving that what-is is wrong and explaining why what-is shouldn’t be.
I’m in line in a store. A woman with a groceries cart quickly steps in front of me. Her child is crying. She seems overwhelmed. Exhausted. I can feel compassion or I can just move on. I am all powerful.
Keep it simple. Keep it clean. Keep it out.