From E.F. Schumacher's A Guide for the Perplexed:
"All through school and university I had been given maps of life and knowledge on which there was hardly a trace of many of the things that I most cared about and that seemed to me to be of the greatest possible importance to the conduct of my life.
I remembered that for many years my perplexity had been complete; and no interpreter had come along to help me. It remained complete until I ceased to suspect the sanity of my perceptions and began, instead, to suspect the soundness of the maps.”
Every few days, I come across an old man in Tompkins Square Park. One of these days, I'll actually talk to him, because I wonder what he would have to tell me. (Hopefully he knows English).
This man -- I'm not sure if he's Japanese or Chinese or Korean -- comes to the park to practice tai chi. His movements are so slow, so deliberate, and so in control; he blends into the natural arrangement of the park. The man exudes a stillness that is pretty hard to ignore when surrounded at 7pm by scurrying rats/humans.
What's odd is that there's usually a little kid somewhere nearby, too, who's just standing there staring at bird shit. I know the comparison is a little ridiculous, but I've witnessed these two things in tandem so often that I can't help myself.
The child is mesmerized by the bird shit. I wonder what he's pondering, or whether that even matters. In his own meditative way (at an age where everything is a form of meditation), this kid's found the same kind of stillness that the old man has.
Their maps of the world grow large in their respective moments of stillness. Maybe the old man as a child also stared at bird shit. And then maybe over time the world told him that it, along with all other "silly" things, wasn't worth noticing. And maybe his tai chi is a way of reclaiming the map that he once had.
Maybe I should stop staring at old men in the park.