I wonder why I am drawn to crowded cities– to places where people saturate the streets, to town squares, escalators, stairways, buses, footpaths and every place imaginable in a metropolis. To spaces where unrelated people throng in a crowd, random people sit together, eat beside one another and loiter for little reason.
Yet, paradoxically, I love a lot of space in public spaces. Perhaps mostly mental, not physical. I think this is why I am drawn to crowded cafes in preference to more elegant haunts where the presence of other people is downplayed as much as possible through dim lighting.
On my most trying days, I prefer refuge in a small room in a crowded space where noise from the streets drift up through the windows and voices of people come into my private world mostly indecipherable but occasionally clearly heard such as a name called out or a song hummed tunelessly. I wonder why the tumultuous music of humanity is always a far more homey comfort than the cozy nook of a quiet retreat far away from people.
I don’t know. I guess each according to their own.
I find myself at my best amongst fellow humans. The knowledge that life is gushing by in all its un-finessed, sinewy wonder all around me keeps me far more connected to civilization than the narrative of it through the media or books.
I have discovered that in such crowded spaces, sometimes the best way to be is to be silent. The best friend to talk to is to talk to yourself. The most that you can say is to say nothing at all when someone sits beside you.
In a world of humdrum noise you can find silence amongst people.
I have discovered that when a random stranger from a completely different world opens up to you in a cafe, the best way to do good is to show human compassion. Often, the best way to show compassion in a crowded city space is to listen to a stranger without judgement. For opinions are plentiful in a place full of humanity but compassion is not.
Often, the most compassionate strangers to receive human kindness from in city spaces are the loiterers, the wasters of time, the directionless hanging out in the background of life’s directed flow who leave their own plans behind to listen.
Sometimes, an encounter with one such stranger could remind you of one of life’s fundamental truths that should not come as an epiphany– that the essence of being human is not intelligence or hard work or skill.
It’s the ability to sense another’s desire to communicate and show compassion in return.
Sometimes, you can save someone in a crowded city space by just lending a sympathetic ear.