SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 357: “It’s OK To Hug Strangers”

Pictured, left to right, Filia, Dianne and Travis.

Main Street, Venice, California, 8:00pm – the area is buzzing with foot traffic and constantly changing activity, and in the middle of it all, three people are talking enthusiastically as they sit in front of a little art gallery. There is something about them that will not let me ignore approaching them, but how? They are really pumped up in conversation. I so don’t want to become a pest by any means.

And for whatever reason, I’ve been Mr. Vicarious this week in somehow getting myself into the heart of others conversations. Boy, can I be annoying. But again, when my subconscious grabs my attention, I have to listen.

I walk up, having zero idea of the topics they are engaged in, and in standing close, I smile with that ‘hello my name is’ look written all over my face.

They halt their discussion and redirect their engagement towards me, that in itself leaves me feeling a little exposed in knowing that I am solely responsible for taking them off topic in breaking into their chat.

Well, chat might be the wrong description of the two hours we embark on, yeah, they allow me entrance, for in asking the first 365 question I set off a spark in the mind of Travis, who quickly I nickname, “The Spokesman.”

Travis is young, full of vigor, and backed with data from politics, to economics, to world events he fires up in commencing what I am calling “The Venice Sidewalk Debates.” And holding gavel to the event are Travis’ business associates, and friends, Dianne and Filia.

I can’t even write of all we discuss, even my digital recorder runs out of space, and to review the one hour I do record would be an exercise that I just don’t want to do, that would be a waste of time, for the real story is one of unity, not of words.

You see, Travis, Dianne and Filia all reside in different parts of the country, have way different backgrounds and own contrasting outlooks to the many hot subjects that we share, but through it all, they are loving and respectful of one another.

Dianne even comments are the end of our chat, “What a wonderful evening.”

And she is right, for two hours we take no break in a charged set of debates… all the while taking time to think in challenging each other to look beyond the barriers of external perception, and agreement to no blindly follow the media, the pull of consumerism and the segregation that so many political initiatives have caused.

We play with ideas in dreaming for a modern society that allows for differences and agrees to disagree without guile, hatred or contempt. I know, a grand dream indeed, one that will most likely never happen on a full global scale. And perhaps that would be a hell in itself.

For it really is our difference that makes us unique… human; and, it is our conflicts that quite possibly are the glue that keeps up moving forward in want of a better world.

But here is the key question we discuss: “Can we exist in differing opinions while maintaining mutual respect?”

That’s a big question… one that I am not qualified to fully answer. No one person really is. And as per history, sadly it has proven that to us that for every great leader of peace who has walked Planet Earth, there is an equally aggressive opposite fighting to quench that good.

I’ve said often that I am an optimist, so why do I make the above statement… I’m not sure, just part of my stream of consciousness as I write. And as I pause to reflect as to where these thoughts are coming from, I flash back to my time with spokesperson Travis and his contributing associates Dianne and Filia… They are the benchmark.

Three radically different people, three wholly individual life stories, three powerfully owned opinions on the many topics we talk of… and all hailing from completely opposite parts of the country.

I call them magnificent, for in the heat of our debates, and some are very aggressive, not once did a heart flinch or a hurtful word fly.

Travis, Dianne, Filia, if only the world could model in your footsteps? I’d like to see that.

Four strangers (including myself)… one sidewalk… talk of countless issues, all worthy of a fist fight. But in the end, an evening that concludes in sincerely shared hugs.

Its nights like this that prove to me, “We really are in the thing together.”