Have you ever met a truly unforgettable person? I don't mean a family member or friend, but someone who passed through your life by chance, only to leave a profound epiphany?
I have, and it changed me forever.
Now I live with the everlasting cognizance that this person was right—and I was wrong.
So believe me when I tell you that ideas are contagious living things.
All it takes is for us to catch a good one, and it’ll grab hold deep down inside, then reproduce. With each thought applied, it multiplies and expands until it becomes a new perspective. That perspective then is passed on by the host to another host, and the cycle starts again.
My new perspective set me on a clear path into philosophy too undeniable to ignore.
I don’t believe in a lot of things anymore I once did. There’s too much control in our society and we don’t need any of it. The government, society, economy, our structured capitalism of big business—it all needs to end.
I will make sure of it. The sheep will have its day again.
But I digress, let's move back a pace and let me tell you about the time I met a truly unique person.
At that time, I was living in a big city, had a good job, making great money, and loved every minute of it. I worked hard and partied even harder, guess you can say it was a dream.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but there was something missing. Something I never looked at in myself, until I was confronted with it.
During one of those days, I was at my peak by the afternoon. My manager had been on my case all day about an accounting error and all I needed was an excuse to let it all out, on somebody -anybody.
The weather outside wasn’t cooperating either, the rain came down like tropical South American forest. That excuse I was looking for unfortunately never came though, so I had to pack up my anger at the end of the workday along with the rest of my things and take it out the door.
As I made my way down the street like a brewing volcano ready to erupt, I battled with myself to attempt to keep it in check until I got home.
Right on cue, a dirty homeless man wearing a dingy peacoat and a holey skull cap bumped into me – and I lost it.
"WHAT THE FUCK?!" I shouted, hands raised in the air waiting for conflict. A cloud of relief exhaled out me at the opportunity to release some steam.
"Take it easy, man, just trying to get out the rain same as you," he said backpedaling, trying to avoid further confrontation.
He dropped his gaze for a second and looked around, seemingly already embarrassed by his next question.
"Um," he hesitated clearly thinking on his next choice of words. "This probably isn't the best situation to ask this, but do you have a dollar I can borrow?"
And just like that—the brewing volcano erupted.
The pure and utter audacity made my vision go dark red. Did he really ask me that?
"No, I don’t have a dollar! And even if I did, your kind will never get a cent from me!"
"My kind?" He asked confused.
"You homeless lowlifes out here ruining the city! You're everywhere I look, walking, sleeping, begging in a meaningless existence. You're parasites, an infection to society. Every day you grow more and more, and it does nothing but shine a mirror to how lazy this country has become. Look at you, does anyone even give a shit about you?"
"I—I don’t know, I..."
"Exactly! Your life is no better than that empty Lays bag on the ground!” I said, stepping on it to further drive home my point.
A slight sense of glee filled me up as I took a step closer to get into his face, still looking for my excuse. I wanted a reaction and he was going to give me one, even if I had to taunt it out.
"You should get a gun, point it under your chin, and pull the trigger. Make the world a better place for all the rest of us. It's the best thing you'll ever do."
Taken back by the harshness of my words he stood fixed on me with a saddened expression. After a few seconds, he looked around at now crowd formed around neither of us noticed.
Humiliated and defeated, he took one last look at me and walked away.
Oblivious to their faces before, I examined the crowd to see nothing but disgusted faces and disapproval for my public outrage. Some even shook their heads at the imagined “cruelty.”
"You’re no better than me, at least I had the balls to say it!" I retorted pulling my umbrella over my head half embarrassed and continued off.
I made my way three city blocks when I felt a grip on my right shoulder and a sharp pain in my lower back. It took me a second to realize what was happening, but when it hit me a voice spoke.
"Don't move, don't speak, and keep walking. I have my pistol pointed right where it needs to be."
I held back the urge to react and scream as the mystery figure guided me in a perceived friendly manner to onlookers into the nearest alley.
The alley was long and sweltering, complete with the signature dumpsters, boxes, and steam columns rising out the sewer vents. As we made our way halfway down, I couldn’t help but think how this happens in movies and snickered to myself at the parallels, and my luck.
"Something amusing?" The stranger asked as the sound of his gun cocking finished his sentence.
"Not at all.”
“Go sit against the wall on your right side and no sudden moves unless you want your brains to decorate this alley." He firmly instructed.
As I walked to the wall and turned around to sit down, he did the same. Upon taking my seat as told, I stole the moment to try to study my captor.
His face was half-covered with a hooded sweat-shirt so I couldn’t tell his ethnicity or race for sure, but he was probably in his mid-twenties. He wore a denim jacket over the unzipped hoodie that matched his ripped jeans. On his feet were combat boots, old and worn from what I imagine, tons of abuse. His jacket and hoodie were just open enough for me to see part of the black t-shirt underneath. There was a symbol on it, but I couldn’t make it out.
"What is this?" I asked impatiently.
"What do you think it is? A stick-up!" He laughed as he pulled out a wallet from his pocket that looked just like mine.
"You son of a…" I began before he cut me off opening my wallet.
"Relax, you can have it back. Not much in here anyway, just an ugly picture of you," he said tossing the wallet at me.
"Of course, your possessions aren’t why you’re here," he said in a tauntingly curious tone.
"Why am I here then?" I asked feeling my volcano begin to rumble again.
"Because you have something to learn, friend… something to take with you."
“Take with me? What are you going to give me?”
“Later for that. I’d rather talk right now. Tell me why you treated that homeless man back there like you did.”
He saw what happened. I didn't show it but the realization he witnessed made me feel bad for some reason.
"I don't have to explain anything to you, and we aren't doing this."
I found some nerve and attempted a rush while he was sitting. He stopped me midway raising the gun as a reminder, faintly shaking his head.
"I'm the one with the gun on you, so yes I believe we are. What’s the big deal anyway? It’s not like you're ashamed,” he smirked trying to get under my skin. "If you believe everything you said, why run from it now?"
"I'm not ashamed, I said it, and I meant it."
"Sounds convincing. But is that conviction for me, or you?"
"What are you a psychologist?"
"Hardly, but do you want to hear what I think, Raymond?" he said smugly displaying the fact that he now knows my name, "I think you envy that man.”
"You must be crazy."
"Listen, deep down there is something in you that wants his freedom. He has no job to report to, no bills that need paying, no responsibilities and best of all no restrictions in life. I think you envy that. I think you’re one of the few people that can see the truth, but rather live the lie.”
"What truth?” I snapped.
"Society is a joke. What we’re told to do is a joke, and all the things we’re told to believe are the biggest jokes. Whether you realize it or not that man will live a life well beyond the oppressions of yours. Do you get that? He isn’t a slave to social expectations, like you working to die."
"I’m not a slave, you hippie moron. I chose this life and worked hard for it. Sure, I have bad days like everyone else but there’s no way I’d rather be that bum on the street."
"I don’t believe that when I look at you, Raymond,” he began. “That outrage back there came from a different place, not a frustrating day. This isn’t the life you wanted, that’s why you look for little ‘excuses’ to vent your anger.”
I caught his gaze for a moment, then mockingly burst into laughter.
“Is this what you do? Pull people into alleys and have therapy sessions? This your thing? You’re going to change the world one alley at a time, huh?”
“I never did this before, and probably won’t again. I simply saw a teaching moment and needed to kill some time.”
"Keep it and spend your time doing something more productive," I scoffed.
"The issue here is you're just like everyone else, but you can be so much more. Give your life meaning, stand for something. Don’t be the herd of sheep you see walking around every day. Be the rogue sheep, dressed as a wolf to awaken the masses.”
"Have you ever considered some sheep don’t want to be bothered? Some of us are comfortable just the way we are.”
"That’s my point, comfort kills. We have become a society of comfortable people with no real concerns or cares, so we whine about privileged inconveniences. It’s made us weaker as a species and blinds us to what we really should be upset about. In other countries around the world, fear of execution, fear of attack, fear of invasion, fear of crime humbles. It knocks people down a peg or two, and it gives a perspective on the ideals of right and wrong. We need to eliminate the grey of comfort here, so people can go back to being people.”
"So, what are you saying? We need misery and suffering? Those are the necessary tools to free us?"
"No, they're necessary to establish a clear understanding between right and wrong, and good versus evil. If there is no real enemy, it’s human nature to make one. See where I’m going with this?"
"I don't believe that at all! Humans are mostly good, we don’t need conflict. Sure, we have our moments, and a select few who veer off the path, but we’re no worse than people of the past.”
"Let me ask you something, Raymond, how many people do you think saw me bring you in this alley?" he questioned curiously.
"I don't know, you concealed your weapon and I didn't make a scene, so probably no one."
"I counted five,” He said with a dark convicting tone. “There were five people I surely made eye contact with on our way to this alley. Five people saw what was going on, or even at the very least how unusual we looked getting here. None of them spoke up, none of them interjected, and judging by how long we been here, I can say not one of them made a call to the cops."
He stared at me viciously with conviction in his eyes hoping that terrible point hit its mark—and it did.
"Tell me, what happens when the ‘unbothered’ can’t be bothered? Who gets our attention when we are too far gone to wake up ourselves? What’s to be done?"
“I don’t have an answer for that,” I admitted.
“The answer is to make noise, my friend. Make a loud enough noise it disrupts the bothered and unbothered alike, where they are forced to take action, an action that will lead back to reuniting us as people. Make order from the chaos.”
"And what would that look like? Who’s going to make this noise? I’m not," I said firmly standing my ground.
“I think you’ve made that perfectly clear, it’s actually quite disappointing. You could have been the one to change my mind.”
“Sorry to let you down,” I jabbed, trying some form of a win in the situation.
“Yeah, me too,” He said as he threw the gun aside and stood up from his wall of the alley. He then fixed his clothes and started walking away down to the street.
Now suddenly curious at the change of mood, I shot up and went to pursue him, "Hey, so what the hell was all this supposed to accomplish? I think you owe me an explanation!"
I grabbed his arm as he was walking away and turned him around. He snatched away and pulled a sheer black mask over his already hidden face in the shadow.
"Bear witness today, my friend!" He said exclaimed. “When deeds speak, words are nothing!”
Suddenly there was a huge boom in the distance. I looked up to see black smoke fill the sky above the tall buildings before me. Several more deafening booms followed as my overwhelmed senses caused me to shield my eyes and ears. I huddled on the ground to protect my hearing and equilibrium until my bearings came back. After a few more moments, it finally stopped and I was able to up.
As the sounds of sirens and screams replaced the explosions, I came to the horrifying and terrible realization of what was happening. My heart sunk into my chest.
This was a terrorist attack.
I turned my head to confront the man I already knew responsible—but he was gone.