It has been raining cats and dogs in Sarasota today and so I can’t resist telling you about the quoted history of this well-worn phrase, colorful but wrong (e.g. it comes from mythology or from the French word “catadoupe” meaning waterfall). The most likely origin is from seventeenth century England. During heavy rains dead cats and dogs would get washed into the street. Talk about a wild origin for a phase we use today more than three centuries later, no? If we were in England in the seventeenth century, people might well nod in agreement that heavy rains can bring “Drown’d Puppies, stinking Sprats, all drench’d in Mud, Dead Cats and Turnip-Tops.” (a line from a Jonathan Swift poem acknowledging such events). Glad all we are getting is rain for today.
All this rain has made it unsafe to ride and so here I sit waiting to ride. A close friend road down from New York on his motorcycle to visit. I hope we can ride before he leaves but until then, we are having a blast talking into the night. The conversations are wonderful, full of zaniness and life and all the things you would want good conversations to be. I have been fortunate to have it rain in some ways because I doubt we would be spending time doing so much conversing.
Speaking of conversations reminds me of a recent ride. Last week I stopped to get gas and a drink at a convenience and while there, I noticed a young woman in her 20’s leaning against the wall, an employee there from her jacket, smoking a cigarette. I commented it was a beautiful day and she smiled back. We chatted for a bit and turned out she had moved here recently from California not far from where I had lived before Sarasota. After talking about weather differences between places, I asked, “You are more local than I am, I think. Any suggestions where I might want to ride?” She pointed me in a general direction that turned out to be a beautiful ride. It was great that a stranger during a brief chat gave a suggestion that made the ride. The question for me then was should I go back to the convenience story and tell her thank you? Should I even buy a little silly memento from where she sent me (an option)? Hum, that sounds creepy. Forget about it, I should leave it where she likely left it: a middle age guy chatted with me, I gave him a suggestion where to go, and … memory dump. Clearly this last one is what most people would have done. Let me not keep you in suspense: I did not go back, memento or no memento, because I didn’t want to give the wrong impression. Nevertheless, this issue had now been opened up to me and so for a while I inhabited a space that took me places.
Where does this urge to go back come from anyway? It was not about wanting to make a friend or feeling attracted to her or to get more suggestions. I felt gratitude and wanted to let her know that. Today I learned that in a recent commencement address given at a private college in Silicon Valley, the speaker talked about his generation of Millennials inheriting a world “full of inspiring realities coupled with incredibly daunting. In other words: miserable and magical.” (from Miserable & Magical: A Graduation Speech for Paradoxical Times, Nipun Mehta, May 27, 2013). He goes on to point out that, “at the core of all of today’s most pressing challenges is one fundamental issue: we have become profoundly disconnected … we have forgotten how to rescue each other.” For me these two — my wanting to express gratitude to this young woman and feeling this social disconnection Mehta is acknowledging — are relevant to each other.
Disconnected and unable to rescue each other? So this is what I think relevant to wanting to go back and thank this young woman? I am truly not sure. There is indeed a growing sense that we are experiencing a social ripe tide; while the world gets more connected through all our electronics, we find ourselves feeling more disconnected than before. I certainly have felt this in me over the past five years. Much has changed for me in that time so perhaps it is idiosyncratic to me. But then this commencement address, and this is not the first time I’ve read about a societal disconnection many people have been feeling. While there is so much that indeed is magical at the banquets the Millennials Generation find themselves in, this skull of misery does grin in at the banquet. At least Nipun Mehta thinks so and judging by the reaction at the end of address — a standing ovation — he hit a nerve..
What should be done with all this? I do not know. For myself, I only want to meditate on it at the moment, especially when it may be relevant to something that happened on a ride. If we are experiencing a growing sense of paradoxical disconnection from each other because of the world becoming connected like never before, what would it have meant if I had found a way to let her know about my gratitude for what would have been a typically disposable moment?
Seems like a lot of pedantic navel gazing to focus on this moment with the young woman, but as my visiting friend commented, “it is a small crack that runs very deep.” You could just walk over it and not even see it. When I looked into it, however, I did see the crack run very deep. This crack became a lengthy conversation with my wife and friend that would be worth repeating in detail but for now what is relevant is that it was a conversation, not just talking. I felt much closer to both of them after we were done, something had happened that does not always happen when we talk with others: that felt emotional connection allowing us to be honest with each other, to express what we really think no matter if we agree. The conversation was alive with passionate differences without fear of offense, nor was anything said that was offensive, just an honest differences about how we each saw the situation. Even when we did agree about aspects, we chose to respond differently — who we would choose to be was unique despite seeing the situation identically .
That moment on the ride, keeping it open as I did eventually led to finding a very deep crack. And with the help of my conversational partners, it was raining cats and dogs in the middle of my living room.
May You Always Enjoy The Ride