I met an amazing man last week. We share a name (albeit with different spelling), and we share a vision of what the present should be. I say “the present” and not the future, because there is no such thing as the future. There are a limitless number of futures stretching out above us like infinite bifurcations in an endless forest. It is our choice as to which present we will exist in today, tomorrow, and every day from now until the last of our lives.
What is it to live a good life? Does it take comfort? Wealth? The man I met, Sean, has lived off and on the streets for the past 17 years. He is 52 years old, although you wouldn’t know it to see him. Although I’m not sure of his nation of origin, his accent is eastern African, and still thick enough to lend his words a patina of wisdom, regardless of what he is talking about.
At one point, Sean had comfort; he had wealth. He drove a beamer and got good with the ladies. At some point, he started looking up from where his feet were taking him blindly. He talks about it like he was crossing a dangerous street, and a child touched his hand to warn him of some danger. As he shook the child off, the bus that was destined for him continued on to strike another instead. Helpless to stop it, he watched in horror as the sleeper next to him was dragged under the wheels. The moment of his awakening had come, and he could no longer, in good conscience, live the life he had.
I don’t know many details of Sean’s life. I don’t know all the jobs he’s held (car salesman, security guard, shoe salesman…) or the women he has loved. But he has something.
Peace of Mind.
I asked him how he could be 52 and an itinerant hobo-traveler, and he said, “Yoga, Bro”
We shared a stressful move-out of shared friends, a beautiful Rutan celebration where my family adopted him as their own, an amazing sunset over Vallejo from the peak of a motorized playground for gas-fueled toys, and many hours of conversation. More than anything, we shared wisdom. We shared in the wisdom we both have already, and imparted that which we hadn’t had until meeting.
Half an hour ago, I walked him to the bus stop and watched as he started the journey back to San Francisco in search of long-term (90 days) housing. He stepped on to a bus filled with other homeless trying to stay warm in the cold Bay night and rode away — he may be the only one who gets off the bus at its final destination.
I don’t know that I will ever see him again. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. The time we had together was limitless itself, and could stand alone without a future.