SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 364: “Reducing Our Cluttered Minds”

I can’t really say it is writers block, bit in writing today my mind is a little slowed, so I am just sitting here letting my typing fingers grab whatever they want. And for a guy who claims to not be a writer, it seems that over the last year, somehow my ten digit extremities have often taken over my mind, tapping into my subconscious. Today is one of those days.

There have been far too many experiences shared during 365; stories, advice and words from a huge list of new friends. People who have met us face on with their insight, their trusts and their life examples. The lists of circumstances, outlooks and personalities has been greatly varied, and now at one day away from the wrap of our first year of 365, it is a little difficult to articulate the depth of lessons learned, and of life perspectives changed. (Although, I am planning of giving you a full report of what I have found out about myself over the course of 365. Come back on day 366 if you are curious).

So as I say, my typing hands are driving today’s entry, perhaps they are transmitters of the warm handshakes felt from today’s strangers now friends, loving couple, Ethel and Victor. And as my fingertips rip away at the keyboard, I will not pledge that my typing has gotten any more accurate or my words-to-digit speed has increased. Although, what I will say is that they are a free flow of heart to text.

You’ve been with me several times when I have borrowed time away from game night with my daughter and friends. This evening marks one more of these outings. Ventura Boulevard, just North of Laurel Canyon. Lot’s of people – Lot’s of activity.

I walk with the usual grin to the world in nodding my head, accepting all that I pass. Some freak out, some ignore, others engage. I give myself the usual affirmation in promising myself to not profile and listen for any internal prompting to whom I should approach. But holding me back tonight is this nagging self–inflicted burden to be genius on this second to last day of Project 365. Yet, the more I try to find 365 nirvana; the more I realize that I cannot measure up to my expectation.

Outside the art gallery I pause, looking into the window, in it a room full of eclectic and edgy people. “Go in there,” I rationalize… anticipating finding an enlightening point-of-view. “They are all hip, modern and opinionated. That’s where you need to be.”

I walk in, and I won’t say that the air is not filled with articulating ambiance, but in it what I do feel is the cold fact that I am forcing myself too much in trying to seek.

My intent is pure, but my method is far from inspired. This tremendous want for a powerful wrap to our year of meeting strangers is robbing me of spontaneity.

And after speaking with, I think now, over six hundred formal interviewees and over one thousand candid conversations. I’ve heard and talked about a lot of stuff with a lot of different people. So is it a paralyzing head-trip in asking myself to find genius?

I think so!

So here I am, the conservative white middle class dude, standing, wearing camera backpack, smack dab in the middle of a forest of artistic people and admirers of modern art. Bottom line, who is the nerd in the middle of the room… the guy with the blank stare of self-realization. I grab a glimpse in my self-mirror and what I see just does not feel right. Out I go in submitting to the vibe of the sidewalk outside.

Here is where Ethel and Victor come in. Yeah, they are young, and yes they are hip, but there is no edge to them. For a second, I let my mind fool me once again, “No, Richard, pass on them, look for someone who is not part of the gallery scene.” But the further I pull from them, the louder the brain waves, “There are your friends, speak to them! NOW!”

Ethel says in her council to us, “Stay open.”

Not a paragraph of advice, not a list of to do’s or do not’s, and surely not a disclosure of deep secrets… just two common words,“ stay open…”

…Two words, however, that when combined have the power to ignite the grandest of discovery in any one of us… That is if we have the courage, and will power, to do so.

I think in a way, my being directed to Ethel and Victor is inspired. Neither speaks paragraphs of advice, but both get directly to topic in advising us.

Victor contributes, “Fight for your rights… fight with love… with respect. Love for the animals… and love for nature. And, try to have a more simple life.

But the most important thing is love.”

Love has been a universal want for almost every person I have spoken to, crazy, but true. It has been constant for all of 365. No matter who: Alcoholic, homeless, criminal, mother, daughter, father, businessman, teen, child, senior citizen, Jew, Christian, Muslim, Black, White, Yellow, Red. I could spend thousands of words and profiled demographical labels to list the diversity of those I have met. But that would just be wasting the energy that my typing fingers are giving to us. Plus, I’m sure you get the message… It is what we all desire.

But what is interesting in Victor’s call to “love one another” is his added comment, “And, try to have a more simple life.”

I inquire, “What do you mean a more simple life?”

He briefly answers, “’We are living in a culture where to consume is the most important thing. And that is really wrong… and it is really stupid. We live in a world with limited resources. And, we are living like we have infinite resources. That’s not true… we are destroying the world.

It’s like we are blind. Like Ethel is saying, ‘Open your eyes.’

We need to focus more on loving our neighbors, and reducing our cluttered minds.’”

Makes me even think about the way I was feeling only moments before, you know, when I was working my intellect in choosing to ignore the inspirations that my brain waves were throwing in directing me to Ethel and Victor.

Simplify… a really empowering concept if we adapt it to our very core in dropping as many preconceptions as we can. The world is full of amazing human beings; all individual, all with something unique to contribute and all carrying affirmations that we need to hear. People just like Ethel and Victor.

I ask about the future.

Victor’s outlook is a little dark, but there is a sense of irony as he makes his claim. Quite possibly he is using a bit of reverse psychology to get us to think. “In one year… same as now, but maybe worse; five years… very close to collapse; one hundred years… maybe we will not be here, and that will be so good for the planet.”

He smile as Ethel expands, “I don’t have the most positive vision about where we are going…” she chimes in, “…but I do think the one thing that will make a difference in the now, and in wherever we are going, is this idea of people coming together for community. Because when we are having trouble… that’s really the only thing that makes sense… working together.”

Back to Victor, “The idea is to think and to care. No individual… think like a group. Worry about… like I said before… respect of the nature; respect of the animals; respect of each other… Move forward… Open your mind and your eyes… and be informed.”

Ethel gives us a method, “Do not to be scared… I think people are so scared that they don’t want to know anything about what’s going on.”

“The ignorance…?” Victor searches for the right words. “…No not ignorance…” he pauses in thought, “…It’s that people don’t want to see… that’s the word… informed… That’s all…

One last note about Victor and Ethel. They have seen the world. Absolutely, they do live in Los Angeles… the United States. But what they bring to the table reaches far beyond American boarders, you see, both are new to County: Victor – Born in Chili, Raised in Spain; Ethel – Born and Raised in Japan.

Here we are… three people… five cultures represented.

“Richard, How do you get five cultures?”

I did not include myself, British/American. Five cultures… all together summing up one global message; a message of mutual respect, of desired unity and of dreams for a more of tolerant worldwide community (the love thy neighbor stuff).

Yep, it is second to last day of Project 365, and you know what…? I think I found the genius I was looking for in speaking with my new friend Ethel and Victor.

Talk tomorrow friends.