"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed." - Carl Jung
The other morning during my walk to work, I noted an elderly man across the street wobbling at a painful pace and what looked like a necessary attentiveness to each foot that fell. However, in the next moment he stepped off the cement sidewalk toward the dandelion-riddled grass. He plunged his bare feet out from his dusty loafers and glided along the dewy green grass with ease. It was like watching a boot take off a shoe. The tough complexion of his feet pulled more light in than they reflected, however, it didn’t seem to affect his flow. He began to pick up his pace to a frolic. What made it a frolic wasn’t just the pace through the dandelions, but the devilish smile that possessed his face as he moonwalked through the thick of it. He immediately looked far younger than first perceived. As you can imagine, this completely broke my random morning thoughts and sporadic observations, even more than the typical shiny object, or fluttering insect. I wasn’t set on speaking to him, but I decided to get a closer look at the man who had seemed to have lost his marbles. I crossed the street parallel to him, as to not spook the uncertainty that was already prevailing.
While the gap closed between us he stepped off the grass and continued on with his turtle trek. When he saw me, I was still smiling at what I had just witnessed. A smile closer to a smirk streaked across his face, and he gingerly said, “Hello young man.” “Hi”, I said, with an inquisitive tone that almost made it into a question. “What brings you into view this morning?”, he asked. “Well, distance I suppose”, I replied smugly. A clever rebuttal summoned by the coconut oil in my coffee and delivered by caffeine. “Is that all?”, he replied with a patient repose. “Well, no,” I said, with a stupid smile slowly elevating. “I saw you dancing in the dandelions, and came to curiosity at the sight.” “Ah yes, my daily longevity routine,” he said with obviousness. I laughed to his confidence and quick wit. “Is that all?”, I poised back. He straightened up and said, “Well, no.” We strolled slowly together in silence down the sidewalk.
We walked together as if we had a thousand times, exchanging chuckles and sideways glances. He read me like a book, but was wise enough as to not assert it as fact. As we strolled he joked with a nonchalant intelligence that reminded me of the Dalai Lama. I asked him how he came to be so positive, and he replied simply, "Practice, young man. We are innately creators. What do you think that limits us to?" My head hung low in consideration of his words. I was in the process of creating many things in my life out of uncomfortable transitions. However, I suppose life is one big uncomfortable transition. Happiness, as he was suggesting, was not exclusive from that creation. His presence was beginning to feel like synchronicity. A word coined by Carl Jung, but spoken of by many, if only in different terms. In her book, Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert explains Synchronicity as "quest physics". In his book A Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell describes it as, "A thousand unseen hands." Even a study conducted by the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab (PEAR Lab) reported that there is a small but statistically measurable link between human thought and patterns that occur in random data sets. Needless to say, my attention became transfixed to our encounter.
I explained with a verbiage salad to the calm reposed stranger, which by now became a meandering mentor; my losses, hopes and failures. He listened actively, and stopped in his tracks upon my pause. With a kind smile and foggy grey eyes that dulled his vision, but not his outlook, he said, “Young man never give up." As his words struck me, goosebumps scattered across my body like rippling water. I’m not sure if it was the definitive tone in his voice, or the timing of the message, but it had an impact. He noticed my eyes tense, struggling to keep a stoic disposition. A shield I've strengthened from weathering the storms of life. "At times you will be lonely. People will laugh at you, talk trash of you, and try to dissuade you, but you must continue on. No one knows you better than yourself. Patience is a virtue, but the time is upon you." His 78 years had made his heart strong with an emotional fortitude I can only hope to achieve one day. I had so many questions. We sauntered slowly for awhile before he patted me on the shoulder and said, "Life is an incredible gift, how are you going to receive it?"
After we parted ways, I had felt a transfer of tranquil vivaciousness all around me. His words echoed through my mind, oscillating into depths of wonder and pause. Just words, I thought. A simple conversation with a stranger. Stories shared, and bound into the equation of life. Transitions can be tough, but what we are to become, we can choose to create. Happiness is not exclusive from our divinity, it's essential to it.
Transitions, like strangers, can prove to be valuable teachers.