Kleshas and Tanhas

ethics morals faiths ideals

Posts Tagged ‘garbage

When the Cloud Bursts

leave a comment »

I realized there’s no reason for me to live on the East Coast after my Winter Break. If my interests alone could determine where I’d reside, I would be somewhere along the Pacific Ocean. Yet, as I drank in the 70 degree weather on New Year’s Day, I felt a pull back home. Home exists somewhere between Virginia and Pennsylvania. If our personal entities could be categorized into body, heart, soul, and mind, college has easily captured my mind and body. Heart seems like it will always reside with my family. And soul; I could not figure out where my soul was when I looked out over the ocean as the sun set.

I had an unexpected encounter in the West with something I have placed into my mind and heart; the homeless. It’s quite a luxury when you can devote certain energies to different activities in your life. I hadn’t realized that I assumed my vacation would lead me away from any scenarios that seemed to exist in my college life. My college life, as I said, consists of my mind and body. Through community service, heart finds its way into my personhood. Apparently heart has also found a way out of it as well. Via selfishness.

The several-hour plane ride to vacation-land is boring. Why? Well, our minds are not entertained as thoroughly as we please. And in this momentary lapse of our mind’s functioning, we lose any responsibilities we had hoped to rid as we embarked on our self-indulgent vacation. The jetlag -an indicator of how far you’re willing to escape your duties- dulls us to the point where on entering the new airport, we encounter a sense of adventure. Even among all the pavement, architecture, and pre-existing community, we prepare ourselves to conquer our novel surroundings.

 

Immediately after exam week, I found myself in San Diego as if my work had earned me the right to kick back and relax. And kick back and relax I did; even to the point where I found other people making decisions for me –an oddity for the college student!

 

The sun sets on the West Coast with the same color I witness on the East.

As if I knew something about the homeless, I noticed that San Diego’s distinguishing characteristic was that its homeless were pushed to the water. My dream home would exist on the beach, so why not California? And as I jocularly thought where I’d place my million dollar home, I stumbled upon the homeless. I hate to admit it, but my first (internal) reaction was, “What? I thought I left this back home!”

 

Maybe Philadelphia does a better job of keeping its scenic sights (limited in comparison to San Diego’s –the Pacific is a winner take all!) free from the reach of the homeless. But as soon as I saw rag-tagged camouflage and trash bags, my vacation-illusion snapped. As I handed loose change from my pocket to distanced eyes, Philadelphia flooded my soul.

 

Mercy Neighborhood Ministries

To and from Mercy Neighborhood Ministries I encounter some display of economic evolution. Where do the employees of $7.25 and welfare checks live? When I saw an individual pushing a shopping cart, my soul took me back to the West; my mind painted a beautiful image of the beach; my heart felt the familiarity of my family; my body warmed by the omnipresent, perfect sun.

 

When I recognized the familiar faces as I walked through MNM’s doors, I experienced the same inner tumult from having my vacation-cloud burst. No one here had a vacation. The employees of MNM sure as hell worked hard for a well-deserved vacation. Where did they take it? What kept me from falling into a state of complete guilt were the new faces. That’s where my soul is. The potential. The growth. New faces meant new relationships, new stories. I found myself playing the same Rummy card game from San Diego with Mr. Lee. I still lose, whether I am playing on the East or West Coast.

Written by Jack Viere

January 29, 2012 at 2:45 pm

There is something ethically vitalizing while riding trains

leave a comment »

You can’t help but see the underbelly of society; the infrastructure that one can sense, but no one wants to admit exists. Riding the SEPTA in Philadelphia over the Schuylkill River displays you the declining socio-economic classes that are compiled into what is called a city. Starting with middle class homes and their neighboring duplexes, the train passed more barbed wire fences and broken concrete as you enter Center City Philadelphia. Wrecked buildings are still inhabited since the city’s orange conviction notices did not label any doors. Garbage is that factor to gauge the destitution that communities face. You realize that garbage is an expense; you pay for garbage pickups and disposals-something that a college student wouldn’t realize offhand. While people cannot afford a new window to replace shattered glass or fix their deteriorating homes, how will they be able to properly dispose of their trash?

And then suddenly, as if the poverty witnessed was all a dream, the train magically arrives at a transportation hub. Filled with prominent business people that sit across from the untouchables, you begin to smell the pretzel shop at 30th Street Station. The sky is grey, allowing no sunshine to breach the windows as you walk widely around those that invade your path. Your smartphone of choice is your compass that your nose is pressed to in the hope that you don’t trip, fall, and land face first into the lap of one of the beggars.

God forbid you spill that Starbucks you sip as you walk down to the platform. Waiting impatiently, you pull your collar up closer while experiencing the smallest of glimpses of what the homeless must feel. You’re still inside; you’re only catching a slight breeze from the opening on the other side of the platform. And so you continue to sip that coffee as if it’s some barrier keeping you from being no different than the beggar that you avoided up stairs; he’s now sitting directly above you, still looking on with his bleak eyes. Your smartphone happens to be out again, acting as your status shield. It says, “Don’t worry everyone; I am financially sound and stable! I can’t afford to be here now though, I have to check Facebook statuses from the past and Like events in the future.” Is the present too expensive for the well-off? The poor man upstairs was rich enough…“But more importantly, I have that piece of plastic to suggest otherwise, don’t I?”

As you become situated in your own row that is designed for two but Mr. Suitcase fills that extra seat, you look up from your phone. Staring after college girl and her body before she turns; you think no one sees you as you try to mask your act as some sort of thinking posture; “Did I crunch those numbers correctly?”

Your dream turns into a nightmare as your Amtrak starts pulling out of the station. You leave the city’s prominent skyline-buildings and stumble into a rapid decline into the impoverished areas again. This time it’s worse. You see the outskirts of another city: Baltimore. Where did those hours go; the time in between Philly to here? It couldn’t have been the suckers only free Wi-Fi, could it?

 

The portion of Baltimore’s underbelly you’re witnessing is worse than Philadelphia’s. This time, you see white conviction notices that bar individuals from inhabiting eroding structures that you dare to call a home. More grey. More trash. Less people. As you’re about to look back down to some distraction in your lap, a magazine or a laptop-“What’s the difference these days when you can get your news online?”-something catches your eye. The train is slowing for the next station; why is there such an obnoxiously colored turf in one of the traffic medians? Its highlighter quality is in glaring contrast to its surrounding counterparts; broken benches, broken homes, a broken community.

That baby won’t stop crying any time soon will it? Luckily, I have those Bose headphones. One of the best purchases of my life! Or was it a gift from Tina? It doesn’t matter, I’m almost home. I can just see myself waking up from this mess.

Written by Jack Viere

December 16, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Strays, Abandoned Buildings, Garbage

with 4 comments

Sure signs of poverty. I find it frustrating, to say the least, when educated people have a tendency to stress the importance of poverty outside of our country over our destitute neighbors here in America. I must admit that before arriving in Philadelphia, my priorities for where resources such as time, talent, and money were to be spent had not been set. My hometown afforded me that luxury. Yet, here I am. I enter a wormhole on Route 1 that bisects our gated university and somehow find myself transported to another world as I head off to service. A heavily impoverished world, completely separate from the affluent culture of university living. The gates bordering the university are more than just physical boundaries; they exist as the wool pulled over many students eyes, (myself included) prohibiting them from experiencing (noticing) the poverty they actually live among.

I would make it a point that my frustration is not focused on students’ tendencies to choose the pathos-invoking, starving children somewhere halfway across the globe. I actually take great pride in my school’s incredibly proactive, socially aware community. Nor is my frustration to say that there exists no sense of urgency in third world countries that also suffer from poverty’s inflictions.

My frustration derives from a fuller context of our larger society: Americans turn a blind eye to its own poverty. And in doing so, they can sleep easy knowing that they pitied some foreign country that made it on to CNN for thirty seconds. Maybe it’s this sense of sympathy; maybe Americans have enough sense to innately feel that sympathy alone towards another American is un-American. Maybe we really can tell the difference between sympathy and empathy in that our sympathy shown to our neighbors really is ineffective. Sympathy doesn’t help anything. And we know it is because our neighbors will tell us it is so. People get fed up with the pity card. We therefore shift our pity to some distanced country that cannot communicate its frustration with our passive sympathy; we are distanced from the problem.

I had the chance to read Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail last night. And yes, the racial context of his writing may seemingly appear contrasted with my point about poverty. Yet, when you remove the racial tone from his thesis just for a moment, you get a similar frustration with America’s poverty. “…the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society…” (As a side note, I would argue that the racial tone should not be removed because every time I go to service in north Philadelphia, my service partner, a traffic guard, and myself are the only Caucasians to be seen.) Nevertheless, King goes on to depict his disappointment for the white moderate:

“who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advices the Negro [impoverished] to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’”

Could his words be anymore perennial? I would argue that if you cannot see the truth of his words in today’s context, you should take a walk around the “shady side” of your town on a beautiful day. I have had this opportunity for the second time while at service. The hairs on the back of my neck instinctively stood up as I walked passed peoples’ homes with shattered windows and deteriorating wood work. I had Kim, an employee at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries and local/native of the area, point out her grandmother, who I received a beautiful blessing from impromptu, as well as her cousins and friends. We pushed wheelchairs around the detours on the split sidewalks. It was impossible to go 25 yards without hitting some break in the pavement that made it impossible to transverse in a wheelchair.

Cats were in a great host in various abandoned residences. Not the average feline either; more of the stray breed. I saw a pit-bull at one point. No collar and no owner to be found. Garbage piled alongside the curbs, windswept to their permanent homes. As our little caravan ambled through the “sketchy” section of town, I couldn’t help but notice that money was not the only factor that was keeping the community from improving their immediate area. Garbage just simply needs to be picked up and thrown in a bag. And, even if the streets were lined with garbage bags until the garbage truck came by, it would sure cut the similarities between America’s streets and third world countries’. The latter seems to be what people seem are more sympathetic towards anyways…

But back to the point: why don’t people just pick up their garbage? I think the apparent answer is their desolation; their reaction to being overly sympathized by fellow Americans-the ones who still sympathize over Americans instead of distant peoples in foreign lands. They’re tired of being left to fend for themselves. They’re tired of being thrown the most pathetic bone ever: sympathy. The solution: start becoming empathetic and proactive by curing the blind-eye people turn when words like homeless, hungry, and Americans are strung together. Helping our immediate surroundings is an immediate cause-effect scenario. There’s no middleman, no tariffs on shipping foreign aid, and there’s no lack of proximity between the affluent and the destitute. Both of them are right around the corner!

Written by Jack Viere

November 11, 2011 at 9:37 pm