Leaving the office for lunch today, I ran back inside to grab my sunglasses. Last time I was at the optometrist, as I explained, I was roundly scolded for not wearing them. Light blue eyes plus a family history of eye disease means I'm at risk. Since I've been in the city, I wear my sunglasses almost every day.
At Tassajara, I didn't wear them. I wore a hat often, but never sunglasses. Nobody wore sunglasses; with very few exceptions, you could tell who was a guest by who had sunglasses on. I think it was because they create a barrier between you and the world: if I am wearing sunglasses, you cannot meet my eyes. You cannot follow my gaze. At Tassajara, there was so much focus on and support of emotional honesty and intimacy that wearing sunglasses seemed vaguely rude. Like wearing shoes in the zendo, it was a sign of disrespect.
In the city, I wear my sunglasses almost every day. If I am wearing sunglasses, you cannot meet my eyes. You cannot follow my gaze. I wear my headphones almost every day. If I am wearing headphones, I cannot hear you calling, begging, screaming. They are a barrier between me and the world. A deliberate, and false, barrier.
I overtly do not want to create barriers between me and the world. And yet I am afraid of the world these days, unsure of my place in it, unsure of how to function in a place where people sleep on the street and ask me for change and scream obscenities to the empty air. It is naive, I know it: of course this is the world. But I have been shelterred from it for so long, have sheltered myself deliberately. What would it be like to walk down the street without fear, without anomie, without throwing up barriers and closing myself in? I can do it at Tassajara. I do not know how to do it in the city, where feeling sexy means feeling vulnerable and being dressed for the office feels like becoming a walking representation of privilege. This is the peace I have not made with the city; it it a peace within myself.
Time to sit.