I left social media for a while to escape the relentless barrage of public complaint regarding society’s offense du jour. I have not watched television in years. I very rarely attend public gatherings, especially those featuring alcohol. I live in a town with a very obvious homeless population and this population is rather visible where I work (a bike shop).

During almost every day of my work week, someone’s need crosses into my line of sight. My resources are few, but my compassion overflows – I work in a notoriously low-paying industry in an upside-down local economy. I have very little to spare, but I do what I can.

A customer entered the shop yesterday, a kind man whose bike I had taken in and repaired. He had just returned from a trip to the east coast and I asked simply if he was happy to be back despite all the rain. This was taken as in invitation to inform me of his politics (he was apparently there to meet with John Lewis, whom I know only in mention from Selma). I listened and did not respond, because I am not good at small talk (big issues, but about two minutes to discuss anything aside from what I had done with his bike). He took his bike and left with a smile, understanding I am not the sort of person willing to participate in spontaneous political debate.

The next morning I met my manager at Starbucks for some coffee and conversation. Arriving a little early, I caught up on some hockey boxes and sipped my coffee regular. The only available table was one of the community benches, so I laid claim. Within five minutes, all seats had been filled; one guy with big blue headphones and a laptop, a left-handed gentleman with a large spiral notebook who smelled of Aqua Net and cigarettes, and a grey-haired woman sat at the end, poised like a queen. Snapping her newspaper to attention she immediately addressed quite loudly in no particular direction the current political climate. Not by any means a rant, but she may as well have tossed chum into shark-infested waters. Overt. Intentional.

All of this stimulus, all of this activity is difficult for me to cope with because I am an empath, but the irony is that my personality type cannot overlook struggle and hardship even when I am tapped out. I have always been like this, but did not know what to call it when I was younger. I recall as a boy seeing an episode of Star Trek titled “The Empath,” about a woman who was able to take away pain and injury with a touch, and that felt familiar to me.

News, legitimate or not, affects me. The crossfire of current events, shared without regard for audience or situation, affects me. I remember flame wars on political blogs and being unable to make any ground with kindness. I remember my imperfections and asking forgiveness when my kindness failed me. I remember the moment I discovered immediate surroundings weren’t all that affect me, but that it’s all related on a larger scale. It’s all connected.

I rise early each morning to enjoy complete peace and quiet; not structured meditation, but plain old quiet time. The day will soon spin up into a cyclone and I will make it through to evening, when my only desire is to return home and enjoy some time in a place where the world’s ills cannot reach me. This explains much about why I spend so much time alone on bicycles, and why I am so selective when it comes to who I spend time with.

These are not exceptions, they are my reality. Very little of it has to do with philosophical difference, but rather with everything in the world being turned up to eleven, 24×7.


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