And every day life is amazing.
In Islamorada (a few days ago, weeks after Mark flopped down on the Carolina beach pictured above), we pulled over to watch the sunset on the water, and then lingered to gawk at the super-abundance of stars overhead. I spotted a figure trompin’ along the roadside, backpack and all. His name is Daniel.
He just got finished with ten years in the air force, the launch buttons for nukes at his fingertips. Now he’s wandering with a straw hat on his head, a copy of Vagabonding in hand, and a willingness to give in to the tides of chaos – to let the path choose him. At least for a few weeks. And before he goes back to Colorado, he’s apparently gonna travel with us for a bit. Which is awesome.
And the world is awesome. And its people are awesome. Mostly. And we can do better. I find myself saying a lot these days that I think the key is providing the right context. I talk a lot about problems of distribution. That we have enough stuff, but not enough mindfulness. A lot is being said, but there’s not enough time made for listening. Ads bombard us and information eludes us.
We have too many empty homes to accept homelessness, too many resources to accept people dying of curable illness, and way too much food to let a billion go to bed hungry. Look at all this amazing food… from a dumpster!
And no, we haven’t gotten sick, not once.
But the problem of distribution is not just one of stuff. It’s also about ideas, conversations, kindness. Somehow our culture has gotten very, very fucking comfortable being isolated, ignorant, and scared, willing to accept dumb rules (like the idea that beaches can be closed, that police should arrest homeless people for simply sleeping while no one’s prosecuting the Wall Street bankers, blah blah blah). I, for one, am not (we, for four, are not) comfortable with this.
I think a damn good context for conquering this isolation, this problem of distribution – and sure, maybe I’ve got some confirmation bias spilling out of me here – is one where money is removed from the picture. When I walk up to the shop counter and ask for a conversation and there’s no money to cheapen the interaction, now it’s all about me as a human and them as a human. The same goes for the hotels and the houses,
the street corners and the parks,
the mini golf courses and the marinas.
You give someone a chance to have a real conversation or an opportunity to share and blam-o, all that shit we learned from Sesame Street and kindergarten comes pouring out.
So as I sit here outside a Starbucks with yet another free beverage (this time a vanilla latte with extra espresso… hell yeah!) – courtesy of yet another group of employees who yet again are willing to give generously, speak openly, and act kindly – I can’t help but laugh at how much I let bills and money and soul-sucking jobs working for tax-evading corporations neuter my ability to truly live. Now instead of feeling trapped in compromise, I’m simultaneously doing good for the world and having a hell of a good time living in it. Every day.
Maybe this has been the luckiest eight weeks ever. Maybe for us to defy so many conventions day in and day out and still come up with piles of delicious and healthy food, liters of coffee and ever present smiles… maybe I’ve gone off the deep end of naive optimism. But I don’t think so. I think we’re touching a nerve. And I think it’s deeply rooted in the spinal column of humanity.
I fall asleep to the sound of waves lapping the shore and sing to myself, “another has been found, another ocean on the planet, given that our blood is just like the Atlantic.” We are in this together and in this ocean is the capacity to do a world of good. So maybe a cop kicks you awake once in awhile and fumbles through trying to legitimize the irony of a beach where by day it can be lined with cars, but by night no one can sleep on it. And maybe you’re in a city that condemns sleeping on public grass but thrives on the commercialized alcoholism of college kids paying money for simulated sexual acts. And maybe I’ll lose my shit next time I’m playing my ukulele on the sidewalk and I hear a drunken spring breaker holla down from his resort balcony at some young woman, “you better shut your mouth before I fuck it.” Maybe next time after calling him out for being rapey and classless and sounding like an asshole you’ll read about me spending a night in the slammer.
But I doubt it. Because there are too many people serving free hot breakfast for the homeless just a block away. There are too many people who give whatever they’ve got even when they have next to nothing themselves. There are too many Dars giving away farm-fresh food, too many Caitlins giving away phones to use for free, and too many energetic, progressive, inspiring 90-somethings like Esther.
And in a past life, before I realized food and coffee and shelter and kindness were all free, I suspected this type of thing was possible. Because there are also too many people like my friend Jason, whose face lit up when I told him, in the basement of the beautiful Wonder Root, that we were leaving to travel the world indefinitely and he knew what I meant and told me, “you finally made the leap.”
So I’ll leave y’all with this. Jason doing what he does best in another part of Florida, just North of here:
In love with everyone and everything all at once,