I was feeling sorrow in a Barnes & Noble the other day, just sitting there and feeling it, when I happened to look over at one of the trash bins in the café. “THANK YOU,” it said, the white words carved into the brown particleboard cover. What would the trash bin be thanking me for, right now, if it somehow had the capacity to express gratitude? I hadn’t fed it any trash yet, but there it was, thanking me nonetheless. I looked across the café and there was another one. “THANK YOU,” it said. Perhaps it was for the sorrow. No one else could see it, although they would have if they really looked. But the trash bins. Maybe they saw it somehow. Maybe they saw everything.
“You’re welcome,” I whispered.
It made sense at the time, that a trash bin would thank me for feeling sorrow. Because a trash bin cannot feel sorrow, can’t feel anything at all. By its very nature, it does not care. Can you imagine if trash bins cared? Cared about everything that got dumped into them? Cared about the people who dumped it? Cared about their own existence and were subject to the deluge of feelings created by that caring? If trash bins could feel, civilization as we know it would end, because it’s a crazy fucking deal to be able to feel. It hurts. It’s work. It requires discipline and courage and faith – the discipline to keep showing up instead of avoiding and anaesthetizing; the courage to enter a sensation that might shatter you; and the faith that it won’t, or that it will, but in just the right way, the way the shattering of a dam allows the water to flow again. I mean, shit, that’s a big job right there, and only humans can do it. And we’re always doing it, feeling something, in every waking second, even in sleep sometimes. No wonder we’re tired at the end of the day.
So, I was sitting in Barnes & Noble, doing my job, and the trash bins thanked me for it. And why shouldn’t we be thanked for it? It’s intense, to be the conscious feelers of the universe, to feel it for ourselves and for that which can’t feel it at all. It must be one of the hardest jobs there is, and too often it’s thankless. To make it a little more thank-full, I’m passing on a message from the trash bins:
“Magnificent work, my dear. Keep it up, for those of us who can’t feel like you can. We need you just as much as you need us. So feel it, sweet human, feel it big and wide and full-on. Know that your work is not going unseen. We watch your sensational heart like you watch the sunset, flabbergasted at all the colors. Thank you. And thank you for the trash, too. We wouldn’t be here without it.”
*While writing this I was reminded of a drawing my friend Sam Dakota made after a good conversation a few years ago. Check it out here, and his other work, too.