Humans are an interesting breed. On the adventure thus far, from Belize City, to Caye Caulker, Flores, Rio Dulce, Livingston, and now Poptun, I’ve come across much diversity, yet so much similarity.
Each area I travel into unfailingly reveals new bits of insight, not only into the nature of a world that is becoming more closely connected every waking second through technological advancement, but also into my own egoic fears and prejudices.
Here in Guatemala, I’ve encountered people who greet me warmly, and people who look at me like Hitler walking into a synagogue. There are those who are empathetic of my minimal communication skillset, and others who ignore my attempts at discourse like fungus under their toenails. Some who make eye-contact, but many more who stare vacuously into space, fixated upon whatever important agenda might currently be guiding their actions.
Back in Ontario, I noted a strange quirk when it came to interacting with passing strangers. In my youth, old people used to look upon me like I was the spawn of Satan — a long-haired, waste-of-skin who wouldn’t amount to much more than a welfare parasite smoking “the pot,” incapable of contributing anything worthwhile to the ideals they held dear.
But in this day and age, the elderly have become my near exclusive demographic willful of engagement in eye-contact, smiles, or hellos during chance encounters trekking the sidewalks of life. Kids are too busy staring at phones, and the mess in between the young and old seem to believe acknowledgement of a stranger without alcohol in their system to be an unnatural act — more likely provocation for a stabbing, beating, robbery, or other unwanted drama. Apathetic blinders have become the popular head-gear to facilitate navigation of public forums.
This is a bizarre concept when you consider all the time and energy people have invested over millennia to band together in ever expanding urban complexes — only to find comfort within the mega-hives by pretending the person next to them is non-existent. Yeah, not too fucking weird.
Some people choose hats to wear, some grow moustaches, but I find a smile is the most worthwhile accessory I can decorate myself with before going outdoors to interact with the collective. Sure, I’ve had many, “stay the fuck out of my way” kinda days, but the older I get, the more value I find in acknowledgement of my brethren, even if it’s non-verbal connection — a simple quick nod, conveying a heartfelt “I see you dude. Yeah, we’re in this shit together.”
Many humans I encounter seem devoid of consciousness. That’s a tough statement to make without sounding like an arrogant, judgmental asshole, but I guess I lack the insight to categorize them otherwise. Although I find that definition appropriate for far too many creatures I encounter on my travels, there are others beings out there I perceive quite differently. Whether they’re on a cell-phone, driving a car, chasing rabbits, or peddling fresh-caught fish from a a dirty container under a blazing sun that would make most North Americans squirm with fear over elevated counts of deadly bacteria, there’s a tangible characteristic attached to their personas which elevates them beyond the business-as-usual demeanour we’re far too familiar with. There’s a perceptible “spark” in their eyes — a gleam within their very souls decrying awareness of a grander picture happening amidst the madness they willingly engage in.
Those are the people I want to meet more of — the “je ne sais quoi” characters we all have the ability to become once we step outside our numbing routines, willful to broaden our horizons of awareness. I’m sure Jesus wasn’t born with “Son-of-God” discipline. I’ll bet he did a shitload of me-me-me whining for more milk, hummus, and new hammers before ultimately becoming enlightened to the selfless, sacrificial qualities that’ve kept his name a household word 2000 years later. Even the greats had to start somewhere…
Downtown Poptun is a frenzied hive of commerce. Manic, musical, and mesmerizing. Colourful, clanking, and clamorous. The people here are doing what people do best — trying to make a buck, trying to survive, and forever wandering in search of items or ideals that carry promise to satisfy the ineffable longings of the soul. I’m far from being a gifted philosopher, but I think once we start seeing our world more holistically, recognizing we’re all small cogs of a grander machine that can’t function harmoniously if each part is hellbent on spinning unnatural directions, perhaps we may make some headway to shift the only home we know into something more akin to a Garden of Eden, rather than the Mexican dog-fighting circle we currently occupy.
The rain is falling, but I’m donning my explorer hat to see what the day will bring. That wasn’t metaphor, I’m actually putting on my Tilly hat to go outside. I may come back wet and frustrated, or I may uncover a lost piece from the Game of Life. That wasn’t metaphor either, I lost one of the plastic cars from a board game I’m bringing home as a gift. Perhaps I’ve been too cryptic of late. That’s what you get when you wander cemeteries at night.
Okay, okay, enough of the “non-metaphor” jokes. I’ll tell you straight up — something within my gut screams out tomorrow will be full of surprises…
I’ve decided to buy a piñata.
Ba Dum Tss!!
Finishing this post, perched over the town doing a little people watching, in my “swank” hotel room that’s setting me back a whopping 12 bucks a night, feeling like a spoiled brat for having been born into a country with a stronger economic dollar, an old woman below looked up and gave me “the nod,” before breaking into a full smile as my face beamed with recognition. The day is far from over, but she just made it complete.