Life is an interesting thing –
I guess that’s true in a lot of ways, but I often think about how many people there are on this planet that don’t know me. I mean, really! They have no clue who I am – and my guess is – don’t even care. Ouch. That hurts a little to finally see it in black and white.
I sit in commuter traffic and look around at the people in the other cars. We all have to be on the freeway at about the same time every day. But not one of them looks familiar to me. As far as I know, our paths through life may only bring us together for that one moment – me in my steel cage, she’s in hers, rolling, slowly rolling toward our respective homes.
And I wonder about their stories…
Seriously, I wonder if they have any joy in their life at all! But have you ever seen your own face while you’re driving? When you look you might wonder if you have any joy in your life!
I think the same things about people who walk past my sidewalk table as I eat lunch out in the mall every day – wonder about their lives, what things they know that I don’t, what joy or sorrow they have in their lives.
Last Monday I sat across the way from a man that was so interesting to me. He sat there in the shade, with his worn boots kicked off, his feet with white socks crossed over each other under the table. He had iPod earbuds in his ears, and each of his forearms and palms rested on the table, palms flat against the warm steel surface. Between his arms was a large book. The only other thing on the table was a cup of coffee, but it was largely untouched as I watched.
The book was made of very thin paper, the kind you might see in the family bible, and the text was laid out in the most interesting way. (leave it to a designer to be drawn to a book’s layout). There was a big block of text in the middle of every page, with 2 inch margins all the way around the edge. The book was obviously worn, ragged bookmarks stuck out of the top in many places, and the corners were dog-eared and crumpled.
The demeanor of this man was so studious. Loud kids and people surrounded him, yet he read undisturbed. Occasionally he would look up, his gaze far far away, obviously pondering what he was reading, and I was impressed. Here in the middle of shopping and commerce and socializing was this man who was clearly reading and pondering – learning.
His name is Jim. And all those questions of his life, who he is and how our paths came to cross were swallowed up in the discussion of his book, and the many others he has read.
Here’s the book he was reading –
He told me he had read the Neo-Tech Discovery once already. The author kept referring to Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism. Sometimes the author would agree with her, other times he would strongly disagree. Jim had never heard of Ayn Rand, so he started working on getting to know her and her philosophy. He read each book that she has written, and has done extensive research on her on the web.
A lot of that research from the web had been printed out and folded into the pages of The Neo-Tech Discovery. I can imagine Jim reading one, then reading the other to make sure he can compare the thoughts accurately.
Jim told me now that he has a better idea of what Ayn was thinking, he’s re-reading The Neo-Tech Discovery because he can decide whether he agrees with the author or not on his observations on Objectivism. He told me that in his mind, they both reached the same conclusion, but they took different paths to get there.
Jim and I talked for about an hour. Well, to be more honest, Jim taught me some of what he has learned for about an hour. I would ask questions and he would teach. He showed me areas of the world I didn’t even know existed, schools of thought I had never even heard of, and gave me titles to books to go read if I was interested in knowing more about a particular philosophy.
Jim’s a good guy. He has a passion and a hunger for knowledge. I could feel how excited he was by the larger picture of the world – the way that the pieces fit together. I couldn’t help but wonder how many hours he had spent sitting in the shade considering the things he had read and how they related to the world around us. It was a great hour spent getting to know a good guy. I wish him well in his search for further enlightenment.