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This is for the Night People

July 15, 2007

This is for the Night People

What’s sad, I think, is that I waited for hours after I was home to write this. I was expecting to find something I could pin this onto, but no. It wasn’t until I downloaded all the photos off my 2 digitals that I found the clouds. I was coming out of Sonic Boom at Bathurst and Bloor on the weekend. Grindhouse was playing at the Bloor. I had been selling some cd’s. Nothing special, till I looked up crossing the street. Crossing a 4-lane takes about 15 seconds, barring traffic.

Let’s do some TTC math. How long does it take to get from one station to the next on the Bloor-Danforth line? Roughly 60 seconds, on average. From the point the doors open till they close is another 30 seconds. Halve that 30 for the time it takes you to get on and off, and you have one and a half minutes for each stop on the line you’re in the train.

So, how long does it take to get from Bloor\Yonge to Donlands? That’s 6 stops, plus Bloor\Yonge. How long?

Today, it felt longer than 9 minutes.

Eastbound to Woodbine, I board the last car on the train. Usually there are less folk at the end.

As I was getting on, a girl came down the stairs. White army cap, pink low-cut sleeveless summer shirt, white pants, and white sandals. She was carrying a black knapsack and a green shoulder bag. No makeup or jewelry. Blonde, short hair. Almost an explosion of gold. Very cool. Then I saw the look on her face.

She was bawling her eyes out. This wasn’t weepy, half-hearted crying. This was agony so bad she couldn’t compose herself. Every second of those 9 minutes between Bloor and Donlands she weeped. Weep is the right word here. Head in her hands. Heart in her throat. Eye-burning pain.

I don’t know what happened to her. Any number of things. Fill in the blank with the one time you thought your world was ending. Multiply by sorrow, divide by heartache, and carry the difference.

This was one of the few times I didn’t have tissues or a handkerchief. And what do you say to someone you don’t know? I could offer nothing.

All I could do was sit there. And watch.

Just like you’re watching me now. We are all alike in that.

Which leads me to Peter Kropotkin.

I bet you didn’t see that one coming.

Kropotkin was a first-generation anarchist. We’re not talking Sex Pistols anarchy here; we’re talking anarchism the political movement which says that, unlike Communism and socialism, people are inherently capable of self-organizing and sharing resources without recourse to an actual government, property of any kind, or police. It’s a nice theory, but a theory that has never seen implementation. Nobody knows if it will really work. I like to think it could. It would be an interesting world to live in.

One of the more interesting fictional interpretations of anarchism is Ursula LeGuin’s science-fiction masterpiece The Dispossessed. It’s set on a world with a habitable moon, and the anarchists have left to colonize it. Shevek, an anarchist scientist, discovers a new type of math that could lead to real-time interstellar communication. But to finish the equations, he needs to return to the capitalist planet. The rest of the book is a meditation on how political systems work. And how they effect the people that are governed by them.

At one point in the book, Shevek is arguing with his friends over the nature of anarchism, and they can’t understand his point of view. He finally tells them a story of how he witnessed a plane crash, and the pilot survived, horrifically burned. Nothing could be done to save him, and he lived for hours in constant, intense pain. All Shevek could do was sit beside him. And watch. His friends protest, saying, “But Shevek, you’re denying brotherhood!” He responds, “No. No, I’m not denying it. I’m telling you where I think it starts. It starts in shared pain.”

Of course, the start is not the finish.

I’m not sure if I could have done anything for this woman. But I can say this: it was shared. I’ve been there. Most of us have been there. Maybe all of us. We are, all of us, just passing through. And we all bleed.

“It’s not a question but a lesson learned in time,
For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while,
It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.”
~Green Day

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