Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Behind

New York is a pedestrian city (at least for me), which means I spend a lot of time walking behind people - on sidewalks, crosswalks, park paths, subway stairs and platforms. In what will soon be nine years in the city, I have gotten little better at judging who's in front of me. Is it a woman or a man, old or young, black or white? In a surprising number of cases, I'm wrong. You may be surprised I even care - I am, each time. It may of course be that I'm getting better, and only notice (or notice noticing) when my expectations are upset. I do know that each time it happens, I wonder that I had bothered to form an opinion in the first place. Not just that there's no need to know, but what's my mind doing profiling race, gender, age like that? I'm not proud of it.

Buddhists sometimes say that every experience can be a teacher, making you aware of the judgmentalism and busywork of your mind.

On Sunday, New York had a beauty for me. I was walking to meet a friend at her house on 21st Street. I'd been at the Manhattan Fruit Exchange in the Chelsea Market, and noticed a few very pregnant women uncomfortable in the very narrow aisles. (I didn't notice their discomfort, of course, but mine at having to maneuver around them.) Then there was this young woman in front of my on 21st St, waddling slowly in such a way as to fill the whole sidewalk. When I found a way to walk around her I saw she was just carrying a very large round watermelon.

Thank you, great teacher.

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