Sunday, July 17, 2011

L'amour est inévitable

Westwood Village, in the heart of UCLA's campus, has a large population of homeless folk.  I'm not sure why, but my theory is the ease of picking up recyclables to cash in.  A morning walk on any given weekend reveals red plastic cups, the quintessential college vessel for cheap beer, and post-party cans and bottles that they leave strewn upon lawns, sidewalks and passed out frat-guys.

Walking past one of the Village boutiques that I can't afford, a small shop that imports their wares from Italy and likely thinks it acceptable to charge 50 dollars for a tee-shirt simply because the price is marked in euros, I saw one of the regular homeless women staring into the shop window.  She leaned in, her tattered grey dress hanging down over her dirty bare feet, seemingly transfixed by the words on a tank-top: L'amour est inévitable.

I wish I could wear that tee-shirt without irony.  I wish I could afford that tee-shirt.  Though I'm a hopeless optimist at heart, and believe love is the outcome of all that's happening, I'm disheartened daily by the increasing number of people struggling in this world and the role we all play in that.  As our own governments, local and federal, cut programs to save money, more people are left on the street, many in need of medication, unable to grasp reality, let alone land a job in an economy where college grads are unemployed.  At the same time, "US spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has already cost at least $3.2 trillion, and could reach as high as $4.4 trillion, far higher than previous estimates, according to a new study released by Brown University.

I'm heartened by lovely connections I see daily, especially to and from work on the bus, where I see punk kids give up their seats, shuffling their skateboards to the back as they help the elderly sit down.  I recognize there are days when it's hard for me to practice consciousness awareness, to be open to others around me when I'm consumed by my own worries, large and small.  But, as Desmond Tutu wrote about the concept of Ubuntu: "My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.  We belong in a bundle of life. We say, 'A person is a person through other persons.' It is not 'I think, therefore I am.' It says rather: 'I am human because I belong, I participate, I share.' ... A person with ubuntu ... has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are. ... It is the best form of self-interest.  What dehumanizes you inexorably dehumanizes me." (No Future Without Forgiveness)

Since I can't afford that shirt, I guess I'll just have to make it clear in other ways that l'amour est inévitable.  I'd love to hear your love stories and random acts of kindness.  Meanwhile, I'll wait for some rich person to buy the tank-top, grow bored by it, and sell it to Crossroads Trading Co., where I'll pick it up for a cool 8 bucks.

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