Yesterday there was a man in the dining hall who is not normally there. In fact, it was probably the first and last time he would be there. Picture a stereotypical Buddhist monk. That’s close to what he looked like. I don’t think he was actually a Buddhist monk though. He had a bunch of food in plastic packaging arrayed in front of him, and a white pentagonal wagon covered in red letters. I don’t remember the exact words, but the message was something about peace and love. Also, a brief mission statement. That was a subject that he was happy to talk about when asked.
He told me that he had decided to walk across the entire world, living only off the generosity of others. He would accept gifts of food, water and clothing, but never money. Not a single penny. “But,” said I, “how do you intend to walk the whole world? You would need to cross an ocean eventually to do that.” To that, he said this: “in ten years, I will be in Argentina. There, I will get on a sailboat. No motor, no pollution. I will sail across the ocean once.” I asked him how he could justify his stock of plastic-wrapped food if he were concerned about pollution. He said that it was a necessary evil: he couldn’t get food otherwise. He said that humans were a necessary evil. He told me that, confronted with the evil of his existence, he once tried to kill himself. Now, he seeks to correct a decadent society. He told me that humans were too concerned with their own pleasure – that they had lost sight of their purpose, and that they had lost sight of a simple truth of the universe. He told me this: everything is alive. Every rock, every tree, every molecule, even the empty space between atoms or between worlds. I was a little skeptical of that part, but “life” isn’t as well-defined as I’d like to think. Gesturing wildly, he told me these things.
The last time I saw the man, he was still in the dining hall, talking to a pair of security guards. He was gone this morning.
Earlier this evening, I was running along the shore when a different man cried out to me from the beach. Maybe beach is the wrong word. Beach implies sand, while this was more of a rocky slope down to the ocean. English ought to have a word for that. Anyway, this robust-looking bearded man was showing a thick, wet rope to me. He said this: “this is a basket.” I probably looked a little confused, so he explained further. He was collecting rope that had washed up on the shore. Then, he was going to make it into baskets. I agreed that it was a good idea. He told me this: “any gesture is important, even if it’s just symbolic.” Then he thanked me for attending the Standing Rock protests. That struck me as a little odd, mostly because I never actually did that. So I told him that I’d donated (which was true) but hadn’t been there in person (also true.) He said it didn’t matter that I hadn’t been there in person, and thanked me.
After that, I ran through Point Ruston. It looks like a fairly high end neighborhood, but the construction work makes it difficult to navigate. Then, I went up a hill and turned back toward campus.