…There were hundreds of them. Men and women of different races, clothing, profession, or personality. Each a character (cop, bank teller, biker, Latino gang banger, pant-suited business woman, etc.)
It began as a view of my neighborhood from the corner of Woodland and Griggs looking West toward Ryan Place and Syndicate Ave, and Southwest toward N. Highway Drive. There was one man walking peacefully down the road. Then another and another. I saw interactions between them and conflict as they disagreed or argued with each other. It quickly became chaotic as more and more character representations flooded the streets and “collided” with one another. I saw a redneck meth head fighting with a Mexican, a black guy in a polo shirt arguing with a bearded biker in leather and chains. Soon the streets were a riot with cops swinging clubs, gun toting citizens firing at anyone they didn’t agree with on any level, and I stood there at the intersection watching it all go down.
This played on and on with various combinations of characters fighting and killing each other…then it would start over with a peaceful street and somebody minding their own business and taking a walk. Over and over I witnessed these fights and I could feel myself getting angry and subconsciously placing blame on each stereotype. Of course it couldn’t be MY fault, I was only an observer in this clashing chaos. I watched it unfold time and time again trying to figure out a pattern.
“Why was this intricate and character-specific scene being played out while I narrowly and miraculously avoided being killed myself in the middle of it all?”
The images were coming from my memory. That was IT! The people were from all walks of life and some were pretty, some were ugly, old, young, black, white and seemingly innocent when walking alone, but when mixed into the cacophony and discord of the crowd of differences, all hell broke loose!
Then I found my answer. Each and every person I encountered or saw on the street represented a specific judgement that I had made at one point in my life. Maybe it was just the way they walked, or the clothes they wore, or a biased generalization ingrained in my mind from the time I was a kid. Individually, they weren’t doing anything wrong and I could hardly see a reason for fighting, but I had to stand there and witness my own misinformed and assumed judgement manifest into something I wanted to stop. I realized that every time I judge or label someone, I’m comparing them to some “ideal” of how I think the world should be. From my point of view at the time, I didn’t have a problem with 90% of them, but I’ve been alive for 3 decades and have seen, and judged hundreds of thousands of people whom I’d never even met or talked to.
I was also seeing people with attributes that I didn’t like about myself…things I couldn’t forgive myself for. Could I forgive them? Was my own perfectionist self-image being projected on these innocent strangers? Almost as soon as I deciphered the situation and figured out that I was seeing it all as an example of the chaos in my own mind, it stopped. Everything calmed down and people simply walked away to go on with their lives. The fighting ended. Not only did I have to forgive myself, but I had to learn to forgive anyone and everyone who is a product of the same reality that I am a part of. I had to love them and surrender or they would all kill each other while I had to watch. Alone.