I move between being completely engrossed by the aptitude, cleverness, and creative resilience of people, to being completely disgusted by their obliviousness to each other. It is hard to know which is the truest of human-ness. And maybe the answer is yes. My son hears me when I observe what seems to be meanness: “I hate people.” I tell him I am not being literal, but that I do expect his awareness, followed by kindness and generosity in all things human – relationship and communication especially.
My husband and I often ponder over why it seems (at least to us) that Millennials talk louder in public than other generations we observe as we wait in line at the movies, on the dock, in the airport or grocery store; at the deli or pharmacy. Are they deafer earlier from listening to music too loudly in their ear buds? Did they grow up on cell phones so had to raise the volume? Today I learned of a podcast called the “Millennial Hour” where two Millennials talk to each other (for an hour) because they feel their voices are not getting out there. Really? I hear them everywhere, all around me, all the time: confident and foolproof. Maybe it’s developmental, and I have just never been on this side of age before? Maybe that is what two generations up from me said about my volume when I was twenty-something: my presence unbearably palpable in the most intangible of ways.
I learned about that podcast while attending a panel discussion. It was a “one-of-these-things-does-not-belong” situation where two of the panelists “grooved” in the same way as the moderator, and one startlingly honest panelist did not. The “this-is-not-my-gig” presenter had a story-to-tell so vibrant it seeped out of her even when the moderator, the very person intended to host her, ignored her. The best I could come up with to understand this public dissing was: Our brains seem so reptilian so often. How much softer it could be if we just agreed: I will look out for you. You look out for me. Okay? Okay.
Yesterday, I drove over a rock. My husband says I “marooned” myself (and the rental car) on what the store keeper tells us is his “meditation rock.” This only further cemented my belief that I am not energetically, spatially, or even literally, made for Island life. The absence of evacuation routes plus the dependence for escape on boats-with-a-set-schedule makes me nervous. I feel cooped up – too many people, too little space. To boot, this is an island with hidden poverty lying beneath the convertibles and fancy restaurants and cheeky island garb. The cab driver speaks with an accent and pays a thousand dollars a month for a room with a shared bath and no kitchen. Most of the bussers in the restaurants do not speak English as a first language while the wait staff does; and the cashiers in the grocery store seem to all be Russian. In the local paper there is a half-page ad that says “Who will cook your food year-round if there is no affordable housing?” At the farm stand there is a collection jar to feed the Island’s homeless. The jar is greyed and gritty, looks almost moldy if plastic could mold, and it is empty. I stuff in a dollar wishing it was a thousand.
I am confused by this place of such physical glory – dramatic cliffs; adorable homes; endless, rugged land that Thoreau and Emerson would crave to be surrounded by, existential as it is. The land seems to grope for meaning despite the constant jingle of merchandise and money. I am stumped as I find myself able to help in only very small bits when I look out and see the wrongs being done from one person to another.