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Eleanor Rigby

October 3, 2010

My favourite Beatles song is and always has been, Eleanor Rigby. I think I particularly like the strings but I love the story. I wonder what the lyrics might be if McCartney wrote it today? Would he be as concerned as I am of the increasing disconnect of face-to-face relations? I am concerned. I don’t own an mp3 player, or an iPhone and maybe I would behave differently if I did but have you noticed how many people are constantly engaged with their electronics instead of the world around them? It’s like a magic shield protecting them from accidental human interaction. Those little devices that make them seem important, busy, and way too cool for school, is it possible they are just hiding that they are lonely or so afraid of being alone that they have to hide behind a microchip and a pair of ear buds? It takes courage to go out alone.  It takes courage to talk to a stranger. It takes courage to engage with the world.
The other night I was at the book store. Finally, the book I was waiting for had come in. As I picked up the book I noticed the man standing next to me had a book from the same series. He was in his late 50’s early 60’s and carrying about five other books. As I was reading the cover to make sure I had the right book, he said to me quietly, ‘It’s a good series.’ His expression was tentative, and his voice was quiet enough that if I ignored him he could justify to himself that perhaps I didn’t hear him. I replied, ‘Yes, I’ve read the first four.’ We smiled as I turned to leave but there was something in his eye that stopped me. I’d already taken three steps but I’m making a concentrated effort in my life to be a better listener, to treat people with more kindness. Now what I did next isn’t amazing or particularly kind and I kind of felt like an idiot because by this point I was already at the end of the aisle. I stopped, walked back to him and said, ‘If you like this, you may like this author as well’. The expression on his face seemed to say so much but to me it said ‘You see me’.
You see me. We chatted about what we liked about the series and he recommended two other authors (which I quickly wrote down). Later I saw him across the coffee shop and we acknowledged each other or at least I hope we did.  I hope he realized that I had smiled and nodded at him and not just some accidentally vague smile at the room in general. I would feel bad if he thought I had slighted him in some way.  He seemed, lonely. Or maybe my overactive imagination is reading way too much into a chance encounter.
But where do the lonely people come from? Hundreds of reasons and explanations of victimhood, shyness or circumstances I’m sure, but what about our responsibility? Isn’t some of that loneliness caused by our disengagement with the world? Our passive way of excluding someone from human contact?  What does it cost us to share a smile and look someone in the eye? Nothing. Not a cent.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Trinity :) permalink
    October 3, 2010 2:05 pm

    Beautifully expreseed. “overactive imagination” in your case is called a ‘deeper level of perception’ with heart, I might add. Your invitation to the reader is timely.

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