Friday, August 1, 2008

Please Loiter

Earlier this week, I found myself sitting in a public park area on the way back from a walk to the bookstore. The day was beautiful, clouds scudded by overhead, and it was quite pleasant to simply sit and meditate for a short while, doing nothing whatsoever.

When I opened my eyes, my gaze fell upon a sign posted on a lamp post. "No loitering," it said. "Please limit your visit to 60 minutes."

I was saddened, amused, and a little outraged, all at the same time. Here was a place landscaped in a manner to encourage people to sit and relax and reflect, and yet the "authorities" had posted a sign asking people not to use the park in this manner. Logically, such a space should have a sign that says "Please Loiter." If my meditation had lasted 61 minutes, though, I technically might have been in violation of public policy.

I find this indicative of a primary human foible, this sense that we're not exactly welcome in the world, that we must always be striving for goals and accomplishment——headed for somewhere——to be legitimate. To simply exist——to sit and just BE—— is not an acceptable condition. The human condition seems to be primarily one of restlessness. We get angry, in fact, when people aren't restless.

Of course I understand that the intent of this policy was to protect the park patrons from beggars and vagrants, and it wouldn't be very likely a solid middle-aged citizen would be ousted for dawdling for, say, 90 minutes. Still, it's telling that our society frowns upon non-accomplishment and aimlessness of any kind. Whenever a person is seen to be simply sitting without a clear destination, we view it with suspicion and even fear.

I'm going to the same park some night next week, and I plan to sit and do nothing whatsoever for at least two hours. My experience, you see, is that the more aimless I become, the more I genuinely accomplish.

1 comment:

G said...

I agree with your sentiments here, Mercurious. Time spent just sitting and admiring the view is time well spent. The anxious mind tries to drive us on to new goals continuously, doesn't it? This is prevalent on both the individual and collective levels. And it is driven by desire.

Learning to just watch the outside world as the witness to events and not as a part of them is closely related to doing the same internally, on the solely psychological level. It is a kind of meditation. It's nice to visualize you as the still witness in that park.

Enjoy the park next week, Mercurious, but don't get your self arrested!

G at 'Buddha Space'.