Several months ago I stumbled into a group of friends debating political, social and religious issues without the need for anger, bloodshed or ridicule. That alone is a feat worthy of applause. But what is most unusual about this gathered group of diverse of ladies and gents is the absolute respect they demonstrate in every word and effort they debate. And even in disagreeing they maintain their closeness. They call themselves “The Patio Rats.”
Every night they gather, and as I am told, constantly differ in size and in attendance. For eighty-four days (since my last meeting them) I have randomly passed the Starbucks at where they assemble. And for eighty-four days I have wondered where their conversations are going.
Tonight, I get the answer. 9:00pm it is, and as I approach their claimed table, I am quickly greeted by Rats regulars, Vincent and Tasha, who with warm smile of reunion invite me to again convene with them. And gratifyingly, it feels as if I have known them for years.
Vincent and Tasha (Not Pictured) are gracious in introducing me to others member I have not yet met, and as we get to know each other, and as expected a two-hour visit materializes.
Featured today are three stranger now friends Jake, Sarah and her boyfriend (not pictured)
Jake goes first in accepting our questions. And shows a little difficulty in getting going.
“Wow! I’m drawing blanks.” He starts. “These are hard questions. I’m usually the quite one who doesn’t say much… Now I feel like I have to be the brilliant philosopher.”
The Rats cheer him on.
Tasha, “You can do it, man!”
Vincent, “Just say it how it is!”
He struggles… then in the blink of a thought, lightning strikes.
“The best advice I can give someone is to be the best person they can be. And if they do… Life will reward them. That’s the way I’ve always tried to live my life… just being nice.”
But then he stammers… “It doesn’t always pan out… but… uh…! It doesn’t really have it perks… EVER!. He reverses his council.”
Tasha prods, “Then why do you do it!”
Jake rebuttals, “That’s kind of like the way I was raised… slash… programmed. And now I’m a robot… A Cyborg.”
Yet in his change of course, there is a questioning look on all of our faces. I absorb the momentary stillness of topic and offer a finding. “My opinion…” I blurt, “’… and as hard as it is for the world to admit, I think in many instances ‘Good guys do finish first. Just sometimes it take them a little longer. But the rewards are greater and last longer.’”
A fact proven, when Vince, unsolicited by me, gives me his digital recorder. “You can use this more than I need it. I’m only using it to record log stuff, you are using it to record things that are more meaningful.”
I’m flooded with confusing emotions of embarrassment, humility and gratitude in his example of doing good, for in his gesture, he proves the point that it is possible for people to give before they desire to receive. That little voice recorder was valued to him. I knew it in the pride he took in telling me all about it. And for him to so easily depart with it is a message to us all to look away from the material and consider the whole community.
I take the recorder with on pledge, “I’ll do my best to use it to capture real stories of real people and in continuing the works of 365.
We turn back to Jake, who has had a few minutes to consider his council. Elaboration he says, “One of the biggest things I feel like, in general being a good person. It’s not like the rewards and the perks of it are always for you. It’s for the benefit of others.”
Yet there is another side product of Vincent’s gift. In seeing the exchange, Jake was given the opportunity to more deeply consider his initial comment, and in doing so reflects on a moment that touched his life in telling me of a time he saved a life, a life that many would have passed by.
In short, he tells me of passing by an unconscious tweeker at 2:00am. “He didn’t look good, so I stayed by him and called the Paramedics.”
So what one may say. But to look a little deeper at the situation a larger picture is staged. 2:00am, streets deserted, drug addict passed out, alone and a sitting target, would most of us closely examined the situation and stayed by until help arrived.
“They later told me he would have died if it was not for me being there,” Jake closes the account.
As expected, this launches to round two of debates, a discussion of good vs. bad in the world. And how the media always highlights the bad. Joking about the way the news usually reserves the last five minutes of it broadcast for the obligatory “On the lighter side” story.
“The future… that’s tough,” positions Jake. “The way society is going? In one hundred years it will be ridiculously overpopulated. It sounds kind of messed up, but I am hoping for some kind of equalizer. A bubonic plague, a yellow fever, stuff like that needs to happen to societies, otherwise we overpopulate, overgrow. I know… it’s messed up… And if I died, it would suck… but it needs to happen for the human existence to go on.
History repeats itself. It always has and it always will. There is mass death, followed by a rebirth and some sort of renaissance, an art form or whatever it may be. And the future, it’s more or less going to be as it is now… just more high-tech; and, probably just as f…ed up.”
I love the dark projections. And in every scary account, I see challenge for change. Remember I’m an optimistic realist. Absolutely the world can be a dark planet and doom can be realistically placed on the horizon. But does that mean we bury our heads in the sand in accepting desolation thought and actions? And if the end shall come, are we prepared to rebuild? My vote to the floor of the Rat Pack conference and to the constituency of 365; let’s prepare for the best, and ready ourselves to survive the worst. That way we can sleep at night and continue in good deeds.
Back to, “Good guys really do finish first.” It’s all a matter of perspective.
On to Sarah, our second new friend, who with the support of British Boyfriend, gives her advice to the world.
“Wow that’s tough, one shot to tell the world something really important…?”
After a pause Sarah finds her platform, “Iran is not a terrorist country… it’s a beautiful country… it’s history is amazing… it’s not the people… it’s the government.
A lot of people think that Iran is hooked in with the other Islamic countries. Right now in the United States there is a build up of hate treatments towards Iran. And, I want American’s to really understand the facts about the history as to why Iran is really the way it is. A lot of it really has to do with American dabbling and interference.”
Not focusing on only America, Sarah’s boyfriend kicks in with a British view. “Also, the Islamic revolution in the seventies is what plunged it backwards to this Shah law.”
We talk of Sarah’s father, who when stuck in the middle of the revolution, lost all that he had, of the modern and contemporary Iran of the pre seventies and of the current censorship of web and telecommunications that is now happening in the country.
“It’s really difficult right now…” Sarah reflects, “…and I’m afraid that America is going in this direction with so much right-wing influence and via the religions that rule the country.”
Yet one more discussion, that of religion, the question posted, It is the religion or the people who don’t understand the nature of God, loving and patient. I vote for the interpretations of the people and not the religions that are the base of the problems. For the throw out the water because of a few bad fish would be to kill the whole school. And after meeting so many people of different faiths, all who share a similar want for solidarity, it is hard for me to suggest any global assessment of any one faith.
Sarah looks forward, “First off I want to preface, saying this as a person who lives abroad (Sarah resides in Taiwan), and I have this fear that America is dabbling in other countries way too much. That in every single country that they do dabble in… to help the country… they have destroyed it. They build it back up only to a certain place; and, then make that country dependent on the States. So, I feel that if that is the continuation of what is happening, it’s not good.
But if that does not happen, I see so many possibilities of what the world could be like.” Sarah’s face lights up. “Who knows what we can do!”
But in her glow Sarah fades to a more somber expression, advising, “And although I see a world that is completely going to be run by technology, we may lose our humanity. Who knows, maybe Facebook will be an evil thing?”
11:00pm strikes, quitting time… Let the conference take rest… Perhaps we’ll pick it up at Facebook next visit, perhaps not. But whatever the discussion will be, I can say for certain that it will be colorful.
Patio Rats, I love you guys and I’m sure we’ll be talking again soon enough.
Good night all, 12:00am is almost here and I need my beauty sleep.