Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Who's Vulnerable

As I disembarked from the Staten Island Ferry the other day, I walked alongside an elderly man who moved with a pronounced limp and was bent over like a partially opened jackknife. He had red bruises all over his face, and his chin and jaw were grizzled and weather beaten. He didn't smile or reveal any delight in his eyes or face at all and his movements suggested that every step brought at least a little bit of pain, and perhaps even a lot. He didn't say anything and kept his head steady and straight, looking neither right nor left. He clearly was going someplace, but it was hard to tell if he was heading off for work or to see a sick relative or to take the ride back to Manhattan on the ferry. He looked unhappy, ill, unsatisfied, and vulnerable. But at the same time he also looked tough, resilient, and game. Are all these qualities possible at the same time? Can someone be vulnerable and yet resilient? Unhappy yet game. Unsatisfied yet determined?

Of course. We're human. We're frustratingly mysterious and made up of hundreds of contradictions and tensions. But we're also unencompassable. We contain multitudes.

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