02 September 2010

Where I've Been, and Where I'm Going

Grüner Man
Grüner Man
When I visited Germany two years ago, I spent a few days in the city of Bremen with the great Dad Horse, a one-man band and individual of incredible character.  It was late at night, around 10 o'clock, when a group of us were crossing the street - Dad Horse, me, and a few of friends from the United States.  Like many Americans, even though the light was not giving us permission to cross the intersection (in Germany they have a much more logical, and charming visual of the green man and red man), we thought, "Well, if the street is clear of traffic, it's safe to cross anyway."

But Dad Horse patiently waited at the curb, on the quiet and peaceful street, for Grüner (Green) Man to appear on the signal.  When we curiously asked him why he waited, even though it was safe to cross, he explained, "I like to use this time to think about where I've been, and where I'm going."

Tinka's Neighborhood
See the trashcans and recycling bins?
Of course you don't. They're neatly hiding.

One thing that struck me about Germany was the orderliness and logic of things.  Trashcans and recycling bins for all kinds of materials were neatly lined up along the streets; cars, bicycles, and pedestrians minded all the traffic signals; people listened to the music or watched the show rather than chatting amongst themselves and fussing over being part of a "scene."

I recently attended a presentation where I could not hear the people speaking on stage because everyone was hobnobbing and running amok in their fabulous outfits and hairdos. I ended up leaving early, disappointed, because I had envisioned chairs lined up in neat rows. I had expected to arrive, find my seat, listen, and learn something interesting.  Why does it seem, in America, people are hesitant to slow down, be silent, and stop for awhile to absorb? Might we learn something that challenges us? Might we learn something about ourselves that we are afraid of? Why don't we take the time to think and do what is rational and logical?

So if you see me waiting at the curb somewhere in downtown Austin, Texas, at a quiet intersection, I am simply pondering and waiting for the go-ahead. You're welcome to cross the street in front me, and you probably will get there faster than I do. But I'll be more relaxed when I get there. And who knows. I might have come up with the million-dollar idea during the time I took to wait.

This blog post is dedicated to my friends in Germany. It is also dedicated to Joyce Carol Oates and her short story Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

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