Over the past few weeks, I have been sharing my Transcendentalist leanings. One of the greatest Transcendentalist writers was Henry David Thoreau. His classic work Walden Pond is the story of his musings upon escaping the city for solitude. In modern terms, the man became a survivalist. This past week, I too have escaped the city for quieter reflection. And like Thoreau, it has brought new resolve and revelations.
The greatest revelation is…people do not belong in cities.
Technically, that is not a new revelation for me, but this week has not definitely confirmed that belief. While even the place that we have taken refuge is a ‘city’, it is not a large one…certainly not London, Los Angeles or Houston. But even then, the difference is remarkable.
Do you know the biggest difference?
People smile and say hello on the street!
And they don’t look at you like you are crazy when you do.It may seem silly or inconsequential but it makes a huge difference in your mental health and stress.
As a little girl growing up in Drayton, South Carolina, I remember summer nights spent sitting on the porch for hours. After all there was only three channels on the television set and those were showing re-runs. So those long hours of dusk were spent waving at passing cars and talking with neighbors who walked past.
I have lived in the same apartment for five years next month and I do not know a single neighbor that I would carry on a REAL conversation with. All of them think I am nuts for saying ‘hi’ in the hall or on the street. And when I push it to actually discussing the British weather…well, then I have most definitely gone too far.
And heaven forbid having a conversation on the bus or train with a stranger. That was one of the first hurdles with PanKwake’s autism. She wanted to TALK to people every time wee got on the bus. At first, I tried to ‘shhsh’ her. But then I noticed something…by the time we got off all the people around us were smiling…except for that one curmudgeon who had forgotten how a quarter of a century ago (assuming he or she ever had known of course). I decided then…she had a gift that they all needed…even old curmudgeon.
But here…it is not just the air that is clearer. The mind as well…and especially the human spirit. Not that it should be surprising.
Cities have always been the centers of plague and pestilence. From the time that man began to congregate and migrate to them, they have spread disease, been the source of filth and strife. It is just that now in this age of anti-biotics and vaccines that plague has become one of the soul…extinguishing the human spirit while the body remains active. Zombies of a different kind.
This morning we return to London. It is not something which I am looking forward to. Even knowing that we shall return to this place soon is not solace enough for recompense.
But it shall simply have to do for now…until once more we return to our Walden Pond.