I have been cooked up in the house all day, I’m feeling flat, one of my usual ‘states’, I’ve been trying to rev myself up, crank the engine but there’s no spark so I’ll go out, get some air, wake up, connect with the living and have a coffee.
iPod, headphones on, music….Billy Joel…off I go….I shouldn’t bother with the music as it cuts me off, keeps me apart, mentally, from the environment. I’m walking up Ahuza (Raanana’s ‘High Street’), meandering between shoppers, pedestrians going about their lives, I am, physically, in the throng but, mentally, I feel invisible…but I like it that way.
I arrive at my coffee shop. I saunter up to the counter, order an Americano ‘bli chalav’ (without milk….fluent, or what??!!), and sit in one of my usual spots, next to the window. It’s extremely difficult to put into words how I feel, to verbalise it so that it truly reflects, 100%, how I feel. The feeling is so all-consuming, so personal, it comes from so deep within me, in my heart, my mind, my essence, that I can’t translate it into words but suffice to say that I feel low, desperately low, hopeless, stranded, alone, lost….out of touch, disconnected from the world’s, from life’s, big fairground rides, the crashing dodgems cars, the merry-go-round, the rollercoasters…as if it’s all going on around me but I’m not part of it….I’m a ghost, floating through life, watching it but not part of it.
Shakespeare: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players;”
…thing is, I’m not on the stage and I’m not a player…I’m the only one sitting in the theatre, sometimes in the stalls, sometimes way up in the gods, and I’m watching the play.
Enter stage right, a Philippino care worker is pushing a wheel chair in which is sitting a middle-aged guy with what appears to be (and I’m no doctor) some sort of advanced neurological degenerative condition, perhaps multiple sclerosis. He’s clearly not in a good way. His care worker pushes the wheel chair to the table and another guy walks up to them, clearly a friend of this guy in a whhelchair, he sits down, as does the carer, and he starts to engage the guy in conversation. The language is English. The guy in the wheelchair can’t talk much, his facial muscles have clearly been ravaged by whatever horrible illness has invades the guy’s body. However, inspiringly, the guy does what he can to interact, to communicate, to join in the conversation, he obviously hasn’t let go of life! He is, or appears to be, genuinely interested in what his pal is saying to him, he is still very much on the stage of life, he is still very much one of Shakespeare’s ‘players’. He is finding it hard to get his words out, to express himself clearly but there is real fight in this man, he is full of determination, he’s a fighter. I keep trying to glance at him, I don’t want to make him feel uncomfortable, conscious of my watching him, I’m not staring at him as a child stares at someone who is ‘different’, I’m simply overawed by the fight, the life, in this man in the face of such horrible and cruel adversity, I have been slapped across the chops by the juxtaposition of our two situations, two men, me and him, sitting so close to each other and yet worlds – universes – apart. I’ve got so much of what he wants but I barely know it.
I guess a financial parallel would be this:
I’m sitting in this coffee shop with mountains of hundred dollar bills on a table in front of me, a long banqueting table covered not with a table cloth but with piles of hundred dollar bills, millions and millions of dollars.
Next to me, at the next table, is a homeless, penniless man… bedraggled…torn, dirty clothes hanging off a wretched, dirty, unshaven, unwashed, rancid, germ-infested body.
We’re, what, 2 metres/6 feet from each other, two guys, worlds – universes – apart.
Just as is the case with the poor guy in the wheelchair, I’ve got so much of what this penniless guy wants but I never really come face to face with that clash. I’ve got SO much of what this penniless guy wants that, in fact, he would be cock-a-hoop to just have a fraction of it, just a few bucks to buy a hot, square meal, a cup of coffee, a roof over his head, a shower, some clean clothes and a bed in which to have a good night’s sleep. That would make him feel like a king. I don’t suppose he would look at the piles of cash and think “I want all of that”…just “I’d love a few bucks to alleviate my current situation.
…and back to the guy who really is sitting a couple of metres from me…I keep catching his eye…for fractions of a second, we are looking at each other, we momentarily connect and I think he knows what I’m thinking and feeling. I’d give the penniless guy some money, of course, but I can’t give this guy some good health….he’s in a prison cell and no one has a key to even let him out to taste 5 minutes of freedom. I can’t help him and that floors me!
So, let’s look at what we have here:
a guy who would love, love beyond anything that words can express, who’d love to get out of that wheel chair, which is just a couple of metres from me, and to walk out of the coffee shop onto Ahuza, a guy who would love to be able to move his limbs like the majority us can, a man who would love to be able to talk and express himself clearly, a man who would consider himself rich beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, a man who would float on a cloud of euphoria, if he could do the things that I, sitting just 2 metres from him, can do so easily.
….and there’s me, a man who has the things that this guy would love to have but I am – and thankfully he doesn’t know this – I am wasting what he would maximize. I’m wasting that wealth, all in the currency of good health, ability and relative youth. If he had what I have, if he had it for just one week, my guess is that he’d do more with it than I’ll do with it over the course of the rest of my life, even if I’m fortunate enough to have good health for many, many more years (that’s a big ‘IF’ for all of us!!).
I have all of this ‘currency’ and I don’t know what to spend it on or, probably more precisely, I have a few good ideas as to what I should spend it on but I’m too frightened to spend it. Why? In case I lose it?? I can’t take good health and the advantages of youth with me when I die, I won’t be able to leave it to anyone, when I take my last breath, the last of it will go…and that’s if I’m so-called lucky….the guy next to me is alive but his has already run out.
I have a responsibility to this guy next to me, a responsibility to myself, a moral responsibility, I have all sorts of responsibilities and duties to live my life as this guy would do…I don’t mean doing the specific things that he wishes he could do…I mean that I have responsibilities and duties to actually do the things I want to do, not just to dream about them….I mean that I have responsibilities and duties to plan the course and to start moving, full steam ahead. To do otherwise is an insult and an outrage on so many levels. It would be like ripping up hundred dollar bills when sitting next to a penniless, homeless guy.
The guy next to me, if only he could walk….well, I can!
The guy next to me, if only he didn’t have this horrible condition…well, as far as I am aware, I don’t have it!
The things I see as hurdles, he wouldn’t see them as hurdles, he’d see them as my excuses.
The grim reaper will cut me down sooner or later, that is a fact, he’ll fell me with old age or bad health, or both, and it’ll happen regardless of what I do, whether I sit at home and just wait for him to get me or live life to the max until he turns up.
I visualise my autobiography as having lots of pages, some with words on them, some of them blank. It’s high time I started putting some words on those blank pages….