As I was driving down a street this week, I glanced through my driver’s side window and found myself looking through a bus window in the lane besides me. And through my window and the bus window, I saw a set of eyes looking at me. We saw each other through two moving windows — my car, his bus —  right in the eyes, maybe six feet away. He was an older gentleman, Mexican I think, with a serious expression.

We were both moving along the street,  framed in our windows and with that one, short glance we traveled together until I looked back at the road to see where I was going.

As I drove on I wondered, “What was he thinking? Was it, ‘I’m glad I don’t have to drive, that I can just ride home peacefully on the bus.’  or perhaps, ‘I hope someday I have a car again, so I can come and go as I please.'” Was he perhaps thinking about something that has happened to him in a small village in Mexico, where he grew up, thinking so intensely about when he was a child, about that time when his mother …

I don’t know, but it brings up the question for me:  How present am I, in the community of the present, in the collaborative  of the moment, in the social within the now, in the car, watching the man in the bus, in the now of the now within the core of the very now?

I remember Pascal’s observation that we wander around in times that don’t really belong to us. Remembering the past, we miss the present; worrying about the future, we may not even see someone right in front of us.

That happens, but increasingly I am find myself wanting to travel in the present, which means to actually look over and see the man in the bus traveling beside me, to see him in all his obfuscated beauty, to not really understand him but nonetheless to  see him as my companion in the now, and understand that we have a shared, universal human journey, asserted and expressed in the raw, transient and yet extant present.

The bus rider and I share the same street, the same city, the same state, the same country, the same world, the same universe. He is my brother. We share the DNA of the present. We share the current animal, vegetable, mineral, social, political, spiritual now. Am I making too much of this? I am not making enough of this! We have missed, missed, missed and missed this infinitely.

I want to see my world. I want to live fully in it and with it.  To see it, I must look at it. To look at it, I must linger on it, for a moment. I must dawdle in time, fiddle around in the present, goof off in the slip and slide of the near and the immediate. Indeed, after seeing the man on the bus,  I should have pulled over at the next bus stop and gotten on, introduced myself as the man in the car, and asked him about himself. Then I would have discovered a bit of how different from me he is, and how much the same, how perhaps, he is really me, and I am him.

I have lived in the same community for a long time.  I know a lot of people! I talk with people all day long. Do I need another conversation, do I need another friend? Do I need to be getting on busses when I have a car, to be accosting old men on public transportation?

I do! We do! We should! We have not even begun to enter into what is present for us, to bridge, to connect, to converse, to empathize, to understand, to laugh, to grieve, to know each other, to actually see, touch, think with and understand each other.

There are no projects, no work loads, no places to get to, no duties waiting here, no responsibilities lingering there that should keep glass between us.

There are no class or economic or social or racial or religious differences that are so compelling that these should keep us from busing a short while with each other.

There are no memories so strong as to erase the moment of your unique presence here on this street with me; there are no worries so strong as to obscure the immediacy of the precious you-ness of you here with me.

I have a prayer I have been praying, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to live in the uniqueness of the social now.

“God, I beg you, send me my people. Send me Indian people. Send me Chinese people. Send me Brazilian people. Send me Mexican people. Send me anyone you wish, but please send them all. God, I beg you, drive your bus up my street and bring me my people so that I can befriend them and take care of them.”

Why pray this?

I pray this out of the awareness that this is my present-tense reality, and that I want more of it  — the bus, the window, another person, our eyes meeting.

There really is nothing else here, right now except this kind of divine, immediate sociality. The past is gone, the future not yet come, nothing but the present moment and all the beautiful people God sees fit to give me in it.

 

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