Switching from Two Wheels to Two Feet; Venice Beach

Switching from Two Wheels to Two Feet; Venice Beach

A few days ago I went with my son and daughter to Venice Beach.

The boardwalk was filled with people walking, riding bikes, skateboarding, roller skating and using Segways. There were street musicians playing guitars and pianos, singing, folks selling art, henna tattoos, massages, t shirts, cds, Harley merchandise, and every kind of food or drink you could imagine.  Sweating people were playing basketball, paddle tennis, handball and lifting weights. The sand was the color of oyster shells and the sea so blue it must have borrowed some from the sky. The sun beat down but a cooling zephyr of a breeze blew across the boardwalk. The air was fresh and heartwarming.

Judging by the accents there were people from all over the world traversing the wide path. So much beauty, eccentricity and energy! When we were having lunch at an open café, I watched the stream of consciousness pass by, sipped my Firestone 805 beer, glanced at my kids and was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude.

But it was bittersweet, because we also passed folks searching through trash cans and plenty of people who were homeless and/or had mental health problems. A woman sitting on a bench arguing with an imaginary person, a man coming over and speaking a string of sentences that didn’t make sense to me and then abruptly turning and walking off. When you meet one person at a time like this sometimes you can do something about it, even if it’s only a kind word, a few bucks to ease today’s pain. When you see so many people in this condition it’s overwhelming. It doesn’t really matter what religion you are or aren’t, which politician you support, whether you’re a Harley or a BMW rider I figure we all want to see suffering reduced. For them and for us. Yes, it’s not only for the good of the person needing help – we have to get past that narrow notion – it is for ourselves, our own sanity, our own sanctity. I know I need it. The Dalai Lama nailed it:

Experience has shown me that the greatest inner tranquility comes from developing love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove our fears and insecurities and gives us strength to face obstacles – it is the ultimate source of success in life.

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