December 4th – “A complete stranger may offer random words of wisdom. Listen with care but don’t feel like you’re beholden to respond — or decide whether you’re going to act on it.”

It has taken me 4 years to speak to the old timer who lives on the streets of my small town. Sometimes I see him in in the early morning when I’m jogging. Other times he’s hanging out in front of the grocery store. Everyone in town knows who he is and I’m sure he knows everyone in town.

I wasn’t intentionally avoiding him. I was intentionally avoiding everyone. I liked not knowing people in town and keeping to myself for a change.

Today, I went to the farmer’s market to buy some crystals. On my stroll back, I saw old timer reading a book and interrupted him. It wasn’t something I planned or thought about. I saw him reading and was curious what his book was about.

I guess the old me who lives life in the moment and by intuition is slowly coming back!

I can’t remember the name of the book he was reading. He showed me two more books. I don’t remember the names of those either. What I did remember was our conversation.

One of his books was a 1930s science book, which got him talking about subjectivity. He said matter of factly, “Science is subjective.” I agreed, “Of course!” It was truly refreshing to meet someone who thought like me.

I’ve tried to explain my position to science-oriented folks before, but have yet to successfully get them understand that when people are involved, everything is subjective. This includes sciences. Perhaps it’s due to my lack of patience or simply lack of trying. Who am I to say that someone else’s reality is less real than my own?

red-heart-shaped-leaf

He went on to talk about love and responsibility as he sat on the sidewalk filled with red heart shaped leaves. How fitting this setting was for our afternoon conversation.

For those who are fans of RuPaul, you’ll recognize her famous tagline, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love someone else?” Those are wise words indeed which have been echoed by many others throughout different times and spaces.

Old timer took this idea a little further. Again, he said matter of factly, “It’s a responsibility to love yourself.”

And again, I agreed. There was no misunderstanding between us. We both knew he was not talking about selfish egotistical kind of self-love. He meant the kind of self-love where one accepts and respects oneself. I hadn’t really put self-love in those exact words before and it stuck with me.

Responsibility is an important word for me and is something that I live by. It places more importance on an action that I might consider as optional. In my world, responsibility is not choice. Loving myself and being the best person that I can be is certainly my own responsibility. That’s the sign of a healthy individual.

The idea is simple, but it can be hard to grasp the idea of older timer’s meaning. At this point, I have to say that RuPaul’s quote is a bit limiting. While the subject is self-love, the result of self-love has nothing to do with the individual. The benefit of self-love is the ability to love someone else. That’s where it falls short.

In our conversation, old timer removed the other party, and focused back on the individual. Shouldn’t one love oneself for the sake of being happy? Should we not be responsible for ourselves and our own happiness?

At the end of our brief exchange, I walked back home thinking about the heart shaped leaves. I looked for them on every street. There were star shaped leaves, spear shaped leaves, but no heart shaped ones. I suppose I will need to return to old timer’s reading spot to see those leaves again.

 

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