San Francisco, California, USA.
I feel exhilarated. I am in down town San Francisco. I just checked into some pretty shady hotel and – for the first time in my life – took a dorm room. This means that I will share the room with 3 strangers. I never did it before because.. well because it didn’t appeal to me. But through the stories of a Dutch acquaintance I met in Byron Bay, Australia I realized that it is also a really easy way to make friends. So I thought I should give it a shot. Life happened outside of our comfort zone, right?
As I ring the doorbell there is this man standing there. At first sight he looks pretty average. On second sight the guy reeked of alcohol and the friend who he was waiting for until she came down the stairs looked like a drunk version of Zsa Zsa Gabor. I smiled internally. I realized that the chances that my expectations or hopes were met were pretty slim. Only unexpected things could happen from now on.
I put my backpack in a dark dorm room: a guy was sleeping there. I walked outside and found an organic coffee place around the corner. But don’t let the term ‘organic’ fool you. No hot yoga babes lingering absent-mindedly over their hemp seed and aloe vera fueled smoothies here. Gay men, a transvestite, a cute little terrier with a red sweater, men in suits and a black prostitute (I think) are surrounding me. The black lady just winked at me explicitly.
I realize that for the first time since I left Amsterdam I find myself in a cultural and racial melting pot. And I also realize that I missed that. I have seen exactly 3 aboriginals when I was in Australia and for the rest it was pretty much white people. In Asia there were hardly any black people, let alone the Middle East (no women, no black people and no gay people (according to the officials)). India is very crowded and to say that the Indians are in the majority is the understatement of the year (although they come in different shapes, colors and sizes themselves). I feel comfortable with the wide variety of weird people here. As I am watching the exotic characters that are passing by I feel like being in a zoo, and I mean that in a nice way. I like diversity more than conformity.
Being here, in the heart of urban life, brings back memories. When I was around 27 (I think) I toured for 3 weeks through the USA with a friend that I used to work with in the days that I still labeled myself as a creative strategist. He had just published a book and invited me on this trip to ‘find new inspiration’. Looking back it was of course an incredibly cool reason to go travel. As we left we found out that our tickets allowed us to stay in a hotel but the nights in the hotel could be swapped for a rental car. And when we were at the car rental place we found out that we could get the red convertible. So we took the red convertible. And we drove from L.A. to Las Vegas, from Las Vegas to San Francisco and from San Francisco back to L.A. In a red convertible. Seeking for inspiration.
This guy was my creative and intellectual soul mate and we were opposites at the same time. I feel that I understood his mind and he understood mine. We had a similar sense of humor too; we pulled of a lot of crazy stunts. I think a lot about him because I am revisiting places we visited together. The very first street sign I saw from when I entered San Francisco was ‘Folsom st’. That was exactly the same street where we surfaced 15 years ago. That was also the street where the famous annual gay fetish party was held at the moment we arrived. And coming from open-minded Amsterdam we thought ‘a party is a party’ and we got drunk and I was saving girls with high heels and pig tails and he got picked up by a big hairy sailor and only found out what his intentions were when he was at the guy’s house and had to run for his life. By the time he got back to the hotel I was vomiting so loudly that the hotel owner wanted to kick us out. Sweet memories. I am laughing out loud as I type this.
I miss him. Yesterday I met a guy, Pausha’s husband, who also has a bright mind, a good heart and understands marketing, technology and media. And for the first time in years I found myself talking about concepts, strategies and ‘the creative spark’: subjects that I used to love. I enjoy it immensely to help people open their hearts and I love the path of discovery and realization that I am walking. Also I am patiently waiting till the moment comes that I have attained the ripeness that will make all my talents come together and I can confidently and with authority speak about leadership and consciousness. But what I have observed along the way is that some aspects of our identity are understood and recognized by very few. Like-minded souls are rare and synergy between people happens only very seldom (at least in my experience), maybe once or twice in a life time.
At the time I took it for granted. Also we were unconsciously contaminating the relationship with our subconscious fears. Most friendships are based on mutual appreciation and a certain recognition but there are a lot of ego dynamics at play too. Primarily we have friendships to serve our self, our ego; hanging out with so-and-so nurtures aspects of myself that I like to have nurtured. Both parties control the relationship in such a way that a compromise is found between ‘safe’ and ‘pleasurable’ for their individual egos. When somebody whose projected self image I like, likes my projected self image we can be friends. Nothing strange about that; ego is boss in our human society. I see competition, judgment, jealousy, fear, dishonesty, gossiping, admiration, cowardice, selfishness and denial not just in my own friendships but in pretty much all human relationships. But there is something lacking; the relationship doesn’t really want to transcend the ego and therefore has a capacity to become stale and repetitive at best or even (subtly) painful or destructive at worst. Do I want this? Preferably not. I realize that I need relationships that make me a better man. Wouldn’t it be nice if all our relationships would be based on a conscious mutual commitment to elevate each other? Not just with our spiritual teachers (if we are so blessed to have found one ore more) but also with our friends.
Here, in the middle of down town San Francisco, I am surrounded by what they call ‘characters’. But I guess we are all characters meeting other characters on our path. It is already a lot of work to accept and love ourselves and get along and appreciate others, I know. But still, the idea of friends creating a clear intention to help each other become more complete human beings inspires me. If we are lucky we receive help when we are down but when do we receive an extra push when we are coasting already? As usual it comes down to the development of our courage to be honest, giving, receiving, listening and serving. It is all about heart first.
Now, as you ponder on this, let me conclude with something entirely out of of context. Let me give you.. sea elephants:
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