Subway Buddha, or Contemplating 9/11

At the end of a long day of work, the last thing you need is theatrics. But in New York City, you’ll get nothing but theatrics. And like bed bugs, filth, and yuppies below Canal, you need to get used to it. He wasn’t anything special – this bald, jovial dark-skinned man, easily in his early fifties. As I stepped onto my train back home to Queens, his voice lit up the car like a children’s choir, speaking in a sweet, slightly lewd tone that narrated the sights and sounds of each subway stop, “57th and 7th Avenue – Carnegie Hall! You could take a lady there, and then take her home later.” Like something of an asexual Buddha (whose hands I later noticed looked like a child’s folded in his lap), this man continued his commentary. He added puns and G-rated dirty jokes the whole way home; everything harmless. He wasn’t bothering anyone. Except, of course, the angry older gent who grew tried of Buddha rather quickly, and like Mara himself, (look up the Eastern reference, dear readers, I’m too lazy) began raining down insults, “You should be on the radio. Next time you take a bath, take one with you!” It’s worth mentioning that both of these men were on the same page – not quite there, but looking for a justified existence. One exuded calm and love, the other anger and hate. Though Buddha felt no need to go on the defensive against Mara, he did halt his quips after Mara dissipated at 59th and Lexington. In a calm tone, Buddha announced, “That man is unhappy and wants everyone to feel the same. We must never hate! We should always be happy.”

I’ve lived in New York City for almost 5 ½ years, and this city has been a part of my life for almost 13 years. In my time as a citizen, I’ve learned two things: always be moving; be open to evolution. Second, not everything is going to work out the way you want it, and that makes it so easy to be bitter and cynical. Somewhere here, you can find a middle ground. Ideally, that could be the best way to live in New York City: always evolving and always open to whatever. It’s not easy to achieve that state of mind, but it’s possible. Like all things, it takes work and it takes a willingness to want to work. I’ve found myself thinking about personal growth recently as the anniversary of 9/11 approaches. For me, it’s not just about the day, but everything that that day and that year meant to me. I’ve only recently realized how deep it really hit; it was the single event that seemed to influence everything I’ve done so far as an adult. And that both bothers me and gets me wondering about the future. It makes me wonder about some of the anger I’ve carried for the past decade. It bothers me that it’s been a decade, and I’m nowhere near where I thought my life would end up.

Can’t we all hope to evolve? Despite whatever obstacle that emerges, I think we all want to just be able to be happy. But what it all begins with is a desire to find happiness, and then be willing to accept things for what they are, not what you want or need them to be. Perhaps that was Buddha’s story: why fight against what you know could change you? If you just let it be, you never know what could happen.

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