I boarded the Ottawa LRT. Damn the day went by quick. I’m only at the office once a week now. Some work gets done, but it’s mostly an opportunity to be present in an old-fashioned sort of way. You know, frivolous conversations interjected with business, power plays, career moves, re-acquainting with all those lower extremities that had been concealed these past two years.
The mid-afternoon sun was already escaping over the horizon. Its golden light flattened like a pancake across the width of the Ottawa River. I was also feeling flattened. The atmosphere was pressing down on me like the palm of a bread-maker’s hand. A thought buzzes in-and-out of my periphery, zizzing dissonant claims that my mind struggles to process. Lots happened today, this past week. It’s hard to describe, but there’s an underlying theme, I think.
It’s something about diversity and celebrating differences, but then something about unity and getting along. The former, taken to the extreme, builds impenetrable walls around collective identities. We are essentially different, so they say, and wish to forever remain as we were. Culture is not only celebrated, but reified – no longer subject to change. The latter, taken to the extreme, forces the flesh of diversity through a grinder, churning out a homogenous mass of pale uniformity. Our differences are suppressed in service of a greater “Good” – a Good that demands our allegiance and condemns deviation.
The train arrived at Tunny’s Station, the final stop. Me and the band of misfits from our car disembarked, each maneuvering between the bustle of incoming traffic. I checked the transit app on my phone: bus 57 at gate B, departing in one minute. I boarded the double-decker and bee-lined for the rear corner seat. This was my Feng Shui. From this vantage point, I can passively observe the world before me without fretting about being spit-balled from behind. If you know, you know.
Somewhere between these extremes of tribalism and homogeneity, people disperse and intermingle, cherished customs are honoured, ceremonies are shared, and the biodiversity of social identity is given space to rewild and thrive. Life occurs without suppression or coercion. Ways of knowing and being converge into an inharmonious confluence of noise. A noise whose musicality can only be appreciated by hearts fully dilated and resonant on all frequencies.
Last stop. Before stepping off the bus, I make a point of thanking my driver. I hear it’s unrewarding work and something tells me he needed that. I take my time walking home. Trying to bring closure to the thoughts racing through my mind and creating room for the responsibilities of fatherhood that await me.
There’s enough time to think about familiarity. Closing distances between hearts. The conversations I’ve had with people from seemingly disparate backgrounds, and how we’re always able to cut through the chaotic babble of discourse to find the transcendent song of our shared humanity. It’s a climb to find ourselves in unfamiliar others, but it’s also the best of all possible worlds. The apex of true civilization.
I’m home now. This will have to wait for my next commute.