I was on the bus this morning, minding my own business, listening to my MP3 thinking about the morning devotion I had just read in the Gospel of Matthew. There was a young couple sitting in the row in front of me who'd probably been out dancing all night. They were obviously tired and reeked of sweat, beer and stale cigarettes. I noticed, actually smelled them when they walked past me to get to the row in front of me but hadn't paid a great deal of attention to them before that moment. Indeed, I try not to take to keen an interest in the people around me on the bus. I think that is true of most people here. It is so crowded in Hong Kong that you get used to not seeing the people around you. It is almost like everybody walks around in their own personal bubble; kind of an unspoken agreement between strangers to be polite and let each other live our lives as we can. We make a decision to not notice other people. Most of the time this is a good thing. But it has a dark side. It means that we can become cold and calloused to the needs of those around us. In some ways we have to be this way. You can't help or even be concerned about every hurting or needy person you see here; you'd either go crazy yourself, get arrested or go broke. Maybe all three.
More than that, and worse than not seeing the needs of people around us. Our personal bubbles also keep us from seeing the good in others and the beauty of everyday events that make life worth living for those around us. We can spend the whole day hurrying from place to place seeing nothing but our feet and our cell phone. What a terrible thing.
Up until the last year or so Hong Kong billed itself as the "City of Life" Then the government adopted the "Asia's World City" slogan. I'm glad they changed the slogan. I'd always found Hong Kong to be something of a city of darkness. Oh sure, everywhere you go here the streets are filled with neon-tubes advertising everything from air conditioners to Zen meditation schools. But because we are so used to living in our own bubble we end up ignoring the quiet desperation of the person next to us and cannot see the beauty in the lives of others or the world around us. If you've never lived here it is probably difficult to understand how someone can be lonely in a crowd but you are never more alone than when surrounded by 25000 strangers. Hong Kong can be an incredibly lonely place because nobody notices you and nobody cares. Despite the neon, if you really look into people's eyes you often times see a great and terrible darkness, a deep and frightening loneliness. I believe that we often avoid eye contact because we are afraid that others will see in us what we see in them.
This morning, in a moment, without trying I saw the couple in front of me with a new vision.
There is a certain, somewhat nebulous goodness that can sometimes be seen in the way people who care for each other interact with each other. I saw it in them. The gentle touch, the familiar shoulder to rest your head on and the warm hand on the back of your neck; simple acts that have a significance far beyond the obvious pleasure derived. Good things at a deep emotional level, what Martin Heidegger would have called a "Primeval" level. This is a uniquely human thing for it is in loving and caring for each other that we know that we are human. It isn't necessarily a sexual thing because you sometimes see it between people who are just friends and parents and children. It is a loving thing. This morning I saw a tired couple, caring for each other; familiar enough with each other that they didn't care who saw or knew that they were together. There they were, arm in arm, nearly asleep, comfortable in each others embrace. They were relaxed and unconcerned, in a casual display of their love and affection for each other. Beneath the exhaustion, the sweat, the beer and cigarettes were two people, made in the image of God, who cared for each other despite each others flaws and imperfections.
For those with eyes to see it could be seen that they loved each other and it was good.
It was a good thing I saw. I'm glad I saw it.
Until Next Time
The Blogger whose morning devotions don't always come from a book