Argument

To lay down in words what the sky looks like this morning would be almost impossible. I first noticed streaks of pink through my skylight while laying in bed at dawn, and decided that I must get up and go out and have a look at what was causing all of this sensation. Sure enough, a cloud system had moved in some time in the dark and filled the overhead with a million soft pillows. The weather forecasters talk of rainy days ahead, and imply that this is the last of the days of warmth. I had considered a drive down the coast to Big Sur for the day, but then opted not to go. Another day of warmth like the one that we had yesterday is one that I would prefer not to spend in a car, even though the scenery is worth the driving effort.

While driving to the big-box store to buy a few bags of asphalt patch for my driveway before the rain sets in, I passed by the grocery store and saw two police cars parked in front. All the rubberneckers had paused on the street to have a good look at the activity. There was a man about forty, who looked a little rough; maybe not homeless, but just looking as if he had been beat up by life; perhaps a meth addict. Who knows? The police had him in handcuffs and were doing a pat down on him while many shoppers gawked. By the time the rubberneckers let me go through, the man had been hustled into the backseat of one of the waiting police cars. I passed by him only a few feet from his face. I see people all the time that look a little rough on the edges and wonder about them, wonder if they are safe to be around, or whether they have their sanity. I try to not be judgmental, knowing we all have difficulties. He seemed to me to be frustrated with himself. I used to think that I was a very careful observer, and I had it in my mind that I could see the stories of other people’s lives drawn in the lines of their face, much like a palm reader would do. I’m sure that was just my imagination at work, and my judgmentalism skewing my thoughts.

I felt pity for the guy. I tend to think the highest thoughts about people. No matter how bad, I just have a hard time condemning them. Maybe it’s a weakness. Raised by a highly sensitive mother, with strong religious values, who would go out of her way to help people in distress, made me who I am. Life often has no room for a soft heart, especially when a tough, leathery skin is the accepted norm. As I saw this fellow being whisked away in the squad car, I thought to myself how many people all over the world also experience great pain. What can be done?

My sister and I had an e-mail discussion about the difference between Swiss philosopher Henri Amiel and one of his heroes, Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables. I have not read Hugo, though he is queued up on my Kindle. I just need the time to read the 1500 pages of his great novel, before I can further the discussion. Amiel sides with the spiritual and mystical, seeing the transformation of society for the better through personal salvation, where as Hugo’s solution seems to be that of social engineering. French society had experienced a revolution that melted down the order of the universe for the common people, and before that, they Voltaire’s biting satire, which had shamed many from any kind of a belief system. Reading Les Miserables is in my winter plans. Is innocent man plunged into a world of evil and succumbs to it because of forces over which he has no power, thus driving a culture of social engineering controlled by politicians, or can we as individuals look for a divine solution? I think that is how the argument goes…

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