HOW TO REALLY LIKE PEOPLE
I am not much of a people person. That is to say, I honestly prefer “lower” animals. My favorite is bears. I have had a lot of experience with them, most of it good until they get into the garbage. Fish are okay, but not very interactive, though they are quite tasty. Birds are beautiful and interesting to watch, until they are directly overhead. Ungulates are sleek and graceful, well, except for cows. Rodents are cute and appear rather cuddly until they eat the wires off of your RV engine. The point is that everything, no matter what the species has qualities of good and bad.
I think too much from people. I expect them to have more intelligence and be more civilized and caring than they are. If I kept a list of things I am wrong about, that would be on it. The sad fact is people are exactly what they are supposed to be, confused, unwitting creatures stumbling through a life of uncertainty, chaos and instability. No one is exactly the way we imagine or want them to be. So it ends up being a matter of tolerance. Cute, furry and cuddly creatures simply rate more tolerance.
When a Deer mouse is chewing on something of mine I simply shoo him away. Just yesterday while I was sitting outside on a lounge chair doing Sudoku puzzles a couple honey bees decided I looked like a big, very big, flower. I brushed them away, having little to no emotion about the situation. On the other hand, when I have spent the morning packing my RV and am just ready to pull out I become thoroughly irritated when an old man walks up and announces, “Hey, I want to talk to you about your solar panels. You’ll have to yell in my good ear, I’m ‘deef,’ but first I’m gonna tell you how I won the big war and then about my various operations and a little something about my anal leakage.” By the time he gets to the war my tolerance is totally shot. And if you think that is a gross exaggeration you do not know any old men.
So right now I am at my favorite spot in the whole world, a remote camping area on the Rio Grande where birds, squirrels, rabbits and a bobcat are the only living things I will likely see during my stay. This is a place of absolute peace and solitude. Not once have I encountered a human here. This is my respite; my place to take a deep breath and forget all there is to forget about the modern world.
There is nothing here to attract my fellow creatures. The amenities of the modern campground are completely absent. There is no concrete patio, no cable TV, nor electric, water or sewer connections. There is no clubhouse, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna or golf course and the closest Starbuck’s is a half days drive away. The only thing here, aside from nature, is an old picnic table that sits aslant under a salt cedar by the river bank. When I open my door I do not have to make sure my neighbor is not opening his at the same time lest we collide. There is no neighbor, and that is my secret of learning to tolerate and like people as I truly desire.
Distance is the key. Frequency is the lock. When the key finds its way to the lock everything changes. Time spent away from others makes time spent with them more precious and enjoyable than ever before. Rehashing the same tired old subjects of everyday conversation and hammering them out like spikes to be driven into our brains is purely past-tense. New and sometimes exciting subjects can be entertained.
Not everyone is cut out for a life of total connectivity. Today people walk around with a complete social network attached to their ear. There is rarely a single moment of release from the tether of civilization and the social order of humanity demanding constant attention. A mind never gets to rest, to simply be at peace.
Consider a hamster, running relentlessly to make a wheel spin, yet never going anywhere. I once watched a seagull on the coast of Oregon lift up from a rock and fly into the wind. He flew furiously into an impenetrable headwind for several minutes before landing back on the same rock in almost the same spot he had taken off from, seemingly quite content with his lack of progress. I wondered if he thought he had actually gone somewhere.
Could it be that there are times when going nowhere at all is exactly what we need? Call it a vacation from life itself; a time when time does not matter; a place where nothing is exactly what is going to happen.
If you find that place, your very own Xanadu, you will know because when you return to the world of today there will be a smile on your face and big new room in your heart just waiting to be filled.