Baristas are assholes. Okay, maybe not all of them, but at Boston’s Commonwealth Ave ERC it’s like there’s a specific seminar before they begin work: “How to simultaneously belittle your customer and reinforce your anti-conformist superiority in an under 60-second encounter (full sleeve tattoos optional but encouraged).”
During Ignatian exercises, a central reflection point is considering where in the text you felt consolation (a feeling of being given comfort) or desolation (a feeling of emptiness). This practice is supposed to help develop your moral center. To make you more aware of when you have these feelings, or the range therein, and then to reflect on your reactions to help you make better, more rooted decisions.
So when my feathered hair, black eyelinered, skinny jeaned barista rolled his eyes as I payed in exact change, I simultaneously wanted to hug and punch him. Because this week I am finding odd consolation in desolation. Its very much a “both/and” type of experience. When I got on the B-line last night, wedged between a stroller and a tourist couple, the discomfort was soothing. It was familiar. Somehow, it felt safe.
That’s not a feeling many people have right now in this city. It’s a feeling that my friends are reaching towards but can’t quite grasp. It’s the disquiet of still not being able to go to their church, seeing Homeland Security Police on the T, knowing that your phone is broken and the downtown AT&T store is still closed.
I’ve been reminded a lot this week, by people I respect and love, that this situation is not unique. In Syria, in Iraq, in Pakistan, in the Central African Republic… And I get that. But something I’ve always struggled with, being social justice-minded, is that I don’t know what to do with that information. I get frustrated, I get mad, but in the end I don’t really have the power, knowledge or understanding to change those situations.
But Boston is my people. This is a place I can put my hands on, where I can act in my community, and I can build, in small ways, a path toward healing. I can be a part of the long, winding and murky road ahead. So when and if you find yourself thinking, “Boston was bad, but…” don’t let that global awareness downplay what Bostonians share with you. Their pain, as all our pain, is real, scary and difficult.
Further, don’t allow yourself to use all the bad that happened last week as an excuse for inaction.I’m not saying you need to be here, acting here, but please act for yourself.
Try, as I am trying, to be within the desolation to create consolation. Try to find, with me, the fertile, loving, compassionate source I know we all share. Hug your mom. Hug your dog. Dance in the park. Buy a stranger’s coffee. Paint a picture. Share a pint. Let’s breathe together into the emptiness, and reach toward comfort.