Friday, January 22, 2016

Yellow Tape

I recently had my yearly diagnostic mammogram and everything was fine. This concludes year four after treatment for DCIS. My breast cancer surgeon is retiring, so I will see his replacement six months and a year from now, and then if nothing has gone wrong, that will be the end of the six-month checks. (A diagnostic mammogram is pretty much the same as a screening mammogram, except there might be additional views needed, and you get your results immediately.)

I have returned to my walking-around metta practice, inspired by something Phillip Moffitt said at the December retreat at Spirit Rock: that he used to aspire to be loving and friendly, but he now thinks benign is good enough. So when I’m perambulating about, I try to get a little glimpse of each person I encounter and think, “May you be happy,” and I don’t worry if I don’t feel any friendly feeling at all, particularly after I made the encouraging discovery that consciously sending that little wish at least neutralizes the automatic aversion I would otherwise feel. That is a huge benefit, given how many people I can see on a typical walk. Two units of aversion times 150 people is a lot of aversion.

With that little bit of default disliking eliminated, I don’t have to try to avoid having my gaze fall on other people, which I now realize has undoubtedly been my custom, as I tried to prevent the unpleasant experience of mild animosity. Freely looking at others has also had the entirely unexpected effect of making the world seem to open up around me. Along with seeing those who share the sidewalk, I am seeing all kinds of other stuff I might have missed. Vistas, even interior ones, seem more sweeping and expansive, and rather wondrous and beautiful. Also, when I make a point of seeing the people around me, I invariably see acquaintances of mine, who I must normally walk right by.


When my walking friend and I left Howie’s Tuesday night a week and a half ago, we walked along Mission St., and at 18th St., found the bus stop on the southwest corner sealed off by yellow police tape, along with the entire block of 18th St. from Mission to Valencia. One of the nearby police officers said all he could tell us was that it was a crime scene. I had arranged to meet F. a couple of blocks later, and when we joined him, I asked if he knew what had happened.

He said that after dinner at a Chinese restaurant, he was walking up Mission when a lot of police cars raced past him. When he got to 18th St., he saw a man of about 45 being loaded onto a stretcher for transport, and a younger man, who appeared to him to be a skinhead, sitting on the ground. He was under the impression that the younger man had attacked the older man with some sort of weapon. “Didn’t you see all the blood on the sidewalk?” he asked us.

On sfgate the next day, I learned that both of the people F. saw were the victims of a group of ten young men who approached them at the bus stop, picked a fight, and then stabbed one of them multiple times in the back, nearly killing him—he was in the hospital in critical condition—and also stabbed the other, who was in stable condition. As for the ten young men, not a single one of them was caught.
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