While traveling on the Athens’ metro I was busy doing nothing: just observing human behaviour.
And in so doing, I was feeling my own resistance to connect with people I don’t know yet rising and playfully stepping into my mind.
As per usual, there were people stuck at their phone screens, people looking into space, down at the floor. Occasionally there will be someone who is also looking around and when I catch their eye they abruptly look away. Standard cases of people not wanting to connect either with their self or with others. Some would say that looking at people can be politically incorrect, culturally, religiously, gender wise etc. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about disconnecting out of choice. Out of fear.
It’s human nature to want to connect, human to human. Usually I’m looking for the ones I feel are open to at least a smile. But how can that be felt? It certainly requires me to be open, feeling, breathing, unafraid of my personal space. Self-aware, self-assured, self-assessed.
Yes, I’m safe sitting on the train, there is no present danger. Just the hint of anxiety of what could happen if others “see into me”. Connection needs exposure. How safe am I to be exposed in a metro wagon, amongst all these strangers? Is that even sane from my part? Why would I even want that? What don’t I want exposed? What is it that I don’t want people to see that I don’t like about myself?
It is always nice to remind myself that the anxiety or fear is never about the present moment: it is just an accumulation of past experiences wrapped around a thought and a feeling about a past danger. It’s the job of the mind to keep the primal human animal safe. Unfortunately the primal mind doesn’t know that the structure of the modern world is safe anyway.
The metro, really, is a metaphor for how we move through life, very often afraid in our own unrealistic safety shell, which leaves us in a state of disconnection from ourselves and everyone else.
There are down sides to this, of course. First of all, when we are shut off from the world, in this way, we cannot feel what is going on around us. We lose our gut instinct, leaving ourselves open to predators in sheeps clothing i.e. pickpockets. We miss the scent of the wolves as they blend in with everyone else. So we disconnect from others and ourselves out of fear, thinking that this is safety, when in reality it ends up having the opposite effect. We get bitten and hence reinforce the original long forgotten thought and emotion of fear.
So look up from the phone, from the floor, from the book and breathe.
Participate in the world.
All is good.