Sunday, July 24, 2011

I can't hear you, you can't hear me, we're in different worlds.

Today has been an extremely hot day. The weather network had said that yesterday was supposed to be the hottest day of the week, but I think yesterday was relatively cool compared to today's weather. Of course, I can only talk about this like it's a mere observation when I'm back at home and enjoying the wonders of air conditioning, whereas my mind was muddled like the air in Hong Kong when I was outside just an hour ago. I got up this morning intending to go to church, but on my way there, incidentally I stepped off of the subway on a whim and eventually ended up at a Starbucks reading Murakami Haruki's After Dark. I stayed there reading for about two hours before I decided to do some shopping and head home.

As I was heading home a few hours later in the afternoon, it occurred to me that I walk extremely fast for someone who doesn't actually have any plans for the day. I think this is a habit of mine: I get up and I pick out a nice outfit for the day despite there not being any special occasion. I then wear the pair of shoes that most matches the outfit I picked, whether it is a comfortable pair of flats or a pair of four inch heels. Then I put a book in my bag "just in case I feel like taking a break", and head out the door like I have business to attend to. I walk very straight and very fast, looking ahead and rarely at other people that I pass by. If I was someone else passing by myself, I would probably think that this fast-paced person (me) had an appointment waiting, when in reality, I might be just heading out to a cafe by myself to read a book or write a letter. Nothing that is especially pressing for time. I just enjoy this sense of "point A to point B" that I make for myself; the exact process of getting to point B is not the subject, I just need to get there and enjoy myself along the way as I walk to the allegrissimo tempo of a good song.

I guess this can apply to almost all aspects for me, that I'm more interested in showing people the result rather than the process. That is not to say that I think the process is insignificant; rather, I think that the process is so complicated and personal that I'm reluctant for other people to see how exactly I manage to get myself from one place to another, literally and figuratively speaking. I want other people to admire the result after I am done crafting it into something I'm satisfied with, but anything that has yet to reach my personal standards must not be seen by anyone else (this is also true for my writing). I prefer not to interact with anyone during this process… maybe because it's embarrassing for me to show any signs of struggle. And 'process' is basically synonymous to 'struggle'.

But I was also thinking yesterday that I should smile more at other people on the streets, give them some form of acknowledgment as co-existences on this planet. I do try to at least look a little friendly despite my feigned busyness. Especially in cities and crowded places, I find that the urban solitude is so apparent in the subway and on the streets that it's almost oppressive to the individual, like you can't be anything but busy and within your own space. It's very discouraging and unnecessary. But a smile costs nothing to give, not even time. You can pass by someone and give them a smile on your way, it doesn't interrupt anything for you or for them. So I thought to myself yesterday, well, if I can't even afford to smile at someone then I'd really be conceitedly worthless as a human being!

In any case, breaking down the invisible wall of urban solitude is going to be a hard task, but I'll make it a personal goal to do my part in taking down my own wall.

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