He said, his eyes tired, “I don’t know if you’re interested but I have some really good weed and I need fifty bucks to pay my rent. I know that place I got will keep me alive this winter but I hate it. I am alone there all day and now I have to come up with this money. I know I’m lucky to finally have a place but I don’t feel lucky. It’s like being in a cage sometimes–you know?”
My friend has been living without a home for more than thirty years. He signed up for housing assistance so long ago he doesn’t remember it but Housing and Urban Development four years later pulled his application and offered him an apartment for fifty dollars per month. Every time I see him he reminds me of the story and he fills in a few more details including that he is still not happy. I expect at some point he’ll pack up and leave again. He says he hates having things because he fears losing them even though he doesn’t really want them.
I know his pain too well- I’m afraid. I am nearly pathological now about not having things. I call it being Zen clean but I have a hunch it’s more than that. I am suspicious of my motives even as I think how can I acquire when so many others are without? Once you see this as real there is no going back to the old ways of sitting on a big pile of stuff. The thought of it makes me queasy and unsettled.
I do not believe anymore in a regular life. I wouldn’t know my way back.
I watch in reverence as the singers sing out their souls on stage with sweat dripping down their backs. I am overwhelmed reading the words of writers who confess so deeply I can feel them next to me and I am frightened of my own heart as it awakens.
How do you really live in the world if you are open to it. The snails make me cry with their homes on their backs and I cannot stop thinking of the worm crossing the busy sidewalk–how could I walk on without picking him up and helping him to the other side?
Then there are the children and their mothers. So many without help. How do you keep your breath in such understanding? There are more drones, more wars, more fear peddlers telling me to worry about Isis and Ebola but I fear neither. I am afraid of those guys who tell me to be afraid and I worry about the self serving and unknowing in the fear selling business because they don’t understand how they make the world contract and hide rather than help.
This is why my homeless friend grabbed a pack, left his town and family to begin a thirty year walk. He didn’t know what else to do but he knew he couldn’t stay for all the insanity around him.
I tell him to take the twenty bucks and keep the pot. He looks relaxed and smiles, “I won’t forget. You’ve got a balance on account.” “I know man. You’re good for it.”
We have the currency of each other. It’s what keeps us from dying when we jump. Our good intentions drive us forward. I wake with a prayer on my lips every day, “Okay-let me be useful today. If I can ease suffering or lend a hand–take me there. Thank you.” Then I throw myself into the streets of my town and see what emerges. I told this to a friend recently who smiled at me and said, “That sounds like paradise.” “Does it? It, too has a price.”