Some years ago I was in Bejiing and, as people do whose life and mind are largely unguided by a sense of direction, I found myself on my own and in some back street and away from all tourist routes and sights.
The Great Wall, the Forbidden City and other places are amazing and engrossing, of course, but as always and everywhere it is people I love and who fascinate me: eyes across cultures and languages which meet mine and seek for reasons and understanding. After a time, as I wandered around looking at the street markets I walked into some arcade for no reason at all.
Suddenly a group of younger adults surrounded me and started prodding gently at my cheeks and pulling on my luckily short moustache. There was no aggression in it but merely curiosity and wonder at a being, I presume, in their midst and so alien in appearance and experience: I was surprised but did not feel threatened.
I am aware that our time on this earth is finite, and during my time here I am apparently divided by matters of sex, culture, race, age, income and many other factors from most people around me, but I don’t care so much about that. What I care about is emotional state and welfare ,regardless of your sex age or circumstances, and those who experience fear and joy, feel in the same state as anyone else who shares those feelings. It is emotions which connect us as powerfully as any common circumstance, and when I hear of people in distress, or see silencing and spirit crushing crowds of men and women on some street in Syria hoping for food, or the sheer bewilderment of those caught up in some tragedy, they are as I would be in their place.
The gods above must laugh at how we separate ourselves from each other, given how much we share in this life and on this earth, but still we do,: seek to separate ourselves. I am a man of no position at all, and as ordinary as they come, and that is a matter of some satisfaction to me. Those people in Syria are just ordinary people as well, but the situation they find themselves, by some accident of geography and political instability, is not ordinary. How they endure it, I cannot begin to understand, but it is a lasting testament to the bewildering contradictions of our species, that a man or government can look with wonder at the stars, but remain indifferent to the plight of others caused by his arrogance.