Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"A New Renaissance"

I was sick most of the weekend, but sort of amazed that by NOT taking any cold medication, I healed quite quickly. I was feeling better by Sunday afternoon, and though J told me I should "call out" (I can't "call out." It involves canceling flights, hotel rooms, and rental cars; rescheduling appointments and meetings, etc.), I demured. "I'm fine," I told him. "I'll be fine."

I left the house around 5:50 AM yesterday morning, and then headed to the airport in gusty winds and horizontal torrents of rain. The weather only got worse, and my adrenaline only pumped harder. Half of the flights in the terminal were canceled, EXCEPT for mine. I overheard pilots marveling about the high winds (50 mph gusts!) and gate agents chattering incredulously: "I can't believe they're flying in this!" One bag attendant boomed something about "Hurricane Katrina out there!" Outside, the winds continued to whip around the tiny regional jets on the tarmac;pools of water had formed and small waves crested around baggage carts with every blustery blow.

Never, in all of my years of travel - my nearly 300 or so odd flights in the last five years - have I SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS.

Yep, and then we were boarding.

I slowly and somberly walked towards the mini-plane with winds gusting INSIDE THE MOTHERFUCKING JETWAY.

And I promptly and calmly turned around, and walked back to the gate agent.

"I'm not feeling well. Yeah, I'm not taking this flight."

Never in my life have I done anything like it, but fuck you, US Air. No one had any business flying in that monsoon. And no, I wasn't going into preterm labor to get to Columbus. I still had a cold. I was going the fuck home. The end.

(J: Can you calm down already?)

(HV: Nah.)

And... that was Monday.

But what I really need to talk to you about? What is really important here?

Kwame. Fosu.

So picture if you will a sunny and brisk New York afternoon. Your blogmistress (in all of her glorious pregnant glory, toting two large roller bags and a GIANT Michael Kors bag that is so pretty and yet so heavy) attempts to hail a cab in downtown Manhattan. She is unceremoniously turned down by one driver. (Like, the hell, dude? I am going to Penn Station, not Pelham.)

A second cab stops and quickly agrees to take me to my destination.

The small African driver greets me warmly, and then says, "I have a question for you - oh, you are eating. I'll wait."

(In truth I had just popped a cough drop. But I had been in meetings all day, and I was tired of chatting. I settled in to the backseat and took in the FDR.)

A few minutes later the driver begins again: "So let me ask you this: will there ever be peace on earth?"

I ponder this seriously for a moment.

"No," I decide.

"Good! And why not?"

"Religion. Money. Power."


Ladies and gents, I give you the gift of Kwame Fosu. I lurve him.

Kwame is West African. He tells me this, and then asks me to guess which country. And then I learn that I suck at West African geography. I pound my head for a moment until he finally says: "It begins with a GH."

"Ghana!" Nice one, genius.

Kwame is no ordinary driver. He's also a teacher, and a philosopher. He was once in a documentary on PBS (which - dudes. I just rocked the wiki on him this evening, and I was pleased as PUNCH that he checked out. Legit!)

As we weave through the 20s and make our way across town, Kwame explains that we're doing ourselves a disservice in this world. We're thinking only on the physical, material plane. Technology and possessions are corrupting our minds. We need to elevate our consciousness, and start thinking on the mental and spiritual levels. He gushes about a "new renaissance!" and exclaims emphatically that we are in dire need of a humanistic education.

Kwame believes we are all connected. We have to exist in all planes (physical, mental, and spiritual), because, "if you go too far to the spiritual, then you can't pay your bills."

Word, Kwame. Word.

Then he asks, "What is your purpose in life?"

I think about this for a few seconds, but I got nothing.

"Honestly, Kwame? I don't know that yet. I'm still searching."

(Guys, we are totally in the cab, driving towards Penn Station. God, I effing LOVE New York.)

But Kwame is sure of his own purpose.

"Self-knowledge. Self-education. Service to others. You must fill yourself up with knowledge - anything you can find - then you must serve others. You must spread your joy around!"

"I love that," I say honestly.

"We all have a right to exist," he continues. "Knowledge. Whose natural resources are these? They are not yours; they are not mine. They belong to ALL of us."

And then this gem: "You can win the rat race; but you are still a rat!"

Kwame encourages me to become a child of the universe. Self-educate. Meditate. Religion ends up closing our minds ("my religion is better than yours"), but if we can open our minds, and fill ourselves up with knowledge, we can use our platform in life and enlighten others. Then, that enlightenment reaches critical mass, and what do you get then?

A new renaissance! A humanistic education.

I reluctantly get out of the cab at 31st and 8th, but not before Kwame hands me his contact information. I tip him 30% and thank him most sincerely for the education.

I'm not religious, but I am a child of the universe (by way of Delaware County). Always have been. And I place the utmost importance on education. Now I tell you, you could do a lot worse than Kwame Fosu as your spiritual sensei.

And to think? I could have hopped in that first cab.

It makes me believe that there is something greater out there, guiding my path.


Anonymous said...

I think if you Wiki, "Jim Jones", his sales pitch went the same way.

You just fell for the adult version of taking candy from a stranger.

At least you were able to get OUT of the car, teach your child not to ever get IN one!

Homevalley said...

Not to ever get in a CAB? In lower Manhattan? At 3 PM in the afternoon?

Oh, Anon. Your cynicism is a pity.

This driver asked me for nothing. He made me think. And the values he touted? Education, service to others, spreading joy? I fail to see the sales pitch here. Be nice to people? Help them a little? Open your mind?

Contrary to what you insinuate, I am not completely naive. I keep my wits about me. I have traveled to many cities on 5 continents of this world, thankyouverymuch. I am an optimist, is all, and I take all inspiration wherever I find it.

So I ask: what's the harm here?

I mean, the least I could do was give him my social, address, and credit card info after a ride like that, right?

Anonymous said...

Your sarcasm at my comment was perfect, however, you missed mine.

Obviously, you either missed mine or took the comment too personally. Either way, I did not literally mean you were in a cab headed to Jonestown, and obviously, when your kids are grown up and on their own, I think they will be fine getting in NYC cabs...for the most part.

I do congratulate you on your travel, it sounds impressive. Despite it all though, a NYC cabbie from Ghana shocked your perspective in a 10 minute conversation. You can travel all over the world, but does it make you worldly?

I guess my most literal point for you is that your cabbie wanted to help people examine themselves and find their own personal purpose in life. His intention was not for everyone to adopt his...if it was, I will circle back to my Jim Jones comment, but cement it to its literal meaning.

The thing out there guiding your path is you, subconsciously absorbing and reacting to stimuli constantly throughout your life. Follow it, follow yourself, and enjoy the ride, otherwise what is the point?

Homevalley said...

Hmm. Sarcasm aside, Anon, methinks you sound a bit less cynical this go-round.

To your point - I do not necessarily think travel makes you worldly. You can travel in a bubble (see: why Americans tend to have a slightly less than stellar rep abroad). I take in all I can when I travel. And then I let it sink in, and try to make sense of it. I think this gives me ample perspective.

Which leads me to this: Kwame didn't shock my perspective... He pretty much reinforced it. It was a wonderful experience meeting a kindred spirit, and having this conversation unexpectedly.

What I take a bit personally, I suppose, is this: why are people so skeptical? So quick to think that I was being ripped off? Have we no trust anymore?

Anonymous said...

I can only speak for myself...but I suppose it comes from not one, but many, nay, SO many, conversations with people all over the world, including cabbies, that ultimately revolve around them trying to find a connection with me. It's really not about being ripped off, it's about people using chance meetings to establish emotional connections with strangers, in order to make themselves feel relevant. Getting ripped off would just be a worse case scenario.

I guess the skepticism in my case comes from experience. I do not assume everyone is out there to get over on someone, but I've been in sales long enough to know that every pitch comes with a catch.

Also, no one likes a know it all, no one likes a bully, everyone guns for the top dog...however you want to phrase it, America is the top of the world's heap. Trust me that I use the word heap specifically, but my point is we live in the greatest country in the world. Not liking Americans and not liking American politics are two different conversations while traveling. No one likes America until they need us, then we can't do enough. I am of the opinion that it's time for us to cut off the world and stop bailing everyone else out. If we are so unwelcome and unwanted, we can just focus on ourselves. That way the world can decide if absence truly makes the heart grow fonder.

I will personally never apologize for America, most public opinion is media formed, even hear. If the world was a better educated society, I think it would change a lot of perspective because rhetoric only serves one master, and rhetoric is the best tool to control the ignorant.

Nicky P. said...

I will leave this conversation to you both - but Homevalley, I did want to say that I do enjoy your writing. The pleasure for me is often in the words, and you got it going on. Thanks for that.

Now get back in that cab.

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Homevalley said...

Thank you, Nicky P. Fan of yours as well!

on My Name is GiGi Wiggins said...

What a great story! How annoying is Anonymous?...seeing Jim Jones in this is so lame. Talk about a drag. I bet he is a "scholar" of something or other and has had his head up his ass for such a long time he wouldn't recognize a good kharma tale if it bit him.

Homevalley said...

HAHA - Gigi, thanks for that. I laughed outloud.