One day a friend and I were walking down University Street In Montreal. As we approached Sherbrooke Avenue we saw about forty people standing on the corner waiting for the light to change. A commotion at the centre of the crowd caught our attention. As we drew closer we recognized a familiar bag lady pushing her face into the face of each individual around her, one at a time, and sticking out her dentures and clacking them at these harried commuters.
These people were moving back away from her, recoiling in horror. The rush hour traffic on the street was very heavy and it was difficult to move away without stepping into an oncoming vehicle or forcing someone else to do so. Soon she found herself standing in a small clearing at the centre of the crowd.
Now I must explain her attire. She had on one of those Swiss alpine-type green felt hats with feathers in them, pixie boots with curled-up pointy toes and about forty ragged skirts that were so holey and shredded it took that many to give adequate coverage. At this point she gathered up the hems of her skirts, hoisted them up over her head and began performing some suggestive pelvic tilts while shouting, “Doesn’t anybody **** anymore?!!”
Several people risked being killed by jumping off the sidewalk into the traffic while a few others were almost trampled into the pavement as others tried to run away down the sidewalk. My friend and I fell into the grass in a fit of hysterical laughter.
Now, here was a lonely old lady, rejected by society and vice versa, who, in an act of desperation and a lapse of social grace, was reaching out to a crowd of strangers for a little attention and social comment. There was a group of commuters, who were probably strangers to themselves, being shocked back to reality in a most bizarre manner. They recoiled from a person who was being completely honest and real. Sure her methods were a little unorthodox, to say the least, but she was reaching out to touch someone and without a telephone at that, only to find there was nobody home.
I often think of this lady and my friend, who is no longer among us, and the implications of that day. Too often we are stuck inside our shells, silently screaming in our isolation. Locked behind our protective walls, we wonder why our spouses ask “Why don’t you talk to me anymore?” Most of us walk a fine line between being lost and alone behind those walls and trying to be ‘normal’, somehow managing to, at least to some degree, function in the outside world. How did we get here and where do we go from here?
The last time I saw that woman was in a laundromat washing two garbage bags full of used Kleenex. She approached my friend and asked him to walk her home because the children on her street taunted her and threw stuff at her. He walked her home.
I shied away. I couldn’t face that part of myself. I have regretted it ever since.
My friend used to say, “Life is but a joke and the joke is on you”. One day he couldn’t take the joke anymore and died of an overdose of cocaine. I ran away from the city and hid in the woods, near Quesnel, for ten years.
It seems most of us live lives of quiet desperation. We become comfortably numb to the suffering around us. The space that separates us from the next person is filled with walls of our own making. There is a very fine line separating us from that bag lady. “But for the grace of God go all of us.”
As a society, we have become soulless, spiritless automatons consuming mountains of material goods trying to fill the emptiness we feel inside. I doubt this was the intention of the Creative Force that caused all this magnificent beauty we call Earth to come into being. Our civilization is destroying that beauty and replacing it with plastic, concrete and pavement. It may be time to become uncivilized. Free the Earth of our civilized bonds. Free ourselves of those same bonds because those ribbons of highway, those fences and walls by which we have bound the Earth are the same as the chains with which we have imprisoned our souls.
Awaken to your freedom and TEAR DOWN THE WALLS.