Last night I went out with a friend to a dive bar. A place with cheap drinks located smack dab in the middle of Past Your Prime and Not Going Anywhere. The place the Beautiful People eschew unless they stumble upon it on their way to Someplace Better or when they feel like slumming it. The place where the doughy young and middle aged regulars glance around hopefully for the Next Best Thing to a cheap buzz in a familiar environment.
I like these kind of places. The lack of pretention and the ease on my wallet. The beauty of these venues is that they attract The Freaks. And they are inevitably drawn to my friend like psychotic moths to a flame. One in particular – shabbily dressed, seven o'clock shadow, highly intoxicated– zeroed in at the end of the evening. He had the passionate conviction of a person that has intuitively arrived at The Truth and is compelled to share it with everyone. Not your garden variety, born again sycophant. Not your bicycle pedaling, pamphlet peddling proselytizer or raging, high-on-the-lord-and-pissed-at-the-sinners, fire and brimstone Falwellian. He is not handsome, charming, or glib. He stumbles over his words and repeats himself.
You can treat these people with bemusement or derision because their message isn't backed up a string of degrees, or because the messenger chooses to ignore social conventions that would keep him quiet and distance. He is thisclose when he speaks to you. Even the most inebriated American doesn't invade this zone unless they're about to hit or kiss you. He is not about to do either. He has lived in Spain and adopted their proximity.
"One love, man. I don't care if you call it Jah, Allah, God. I don't give a fuck. Its all in here and it is beautiful. You, me, everybody."
He unintentionally espouses Adler, Jung and Campbell. Because he was so close to my heroes, I had to ask. After all, I love them not because I read their work and had an epiphany, but because they articulated my existing philosophy in well formatted, empirically derived theories.
"There is nothing to be found out there that you won't find in here," I tell him. Thumping my chest for emphasis.
He grins."Yeah, man. I've worked with the Ethiopians, the Mexicans. It don't matter. One love, man. We're all the same."
I discovered a faith in humanity. Because he has gleaned this gem of insight from experience, not Philosophy 101, he won't be moving on to nihilism next semester. I am delighted that he accosts people on the corner of East Bay and Market. I work up the street, near the corner of Self-Important and Pretentious. The fact is, we need these people and their unpolished snippets of raw reality. They remind us that life isn't always well-suited and nicely packaged for easy consumption. That the institutions we create to guide us to acceptable modes of thinking can become barriers to self-actualization.
Stop for just a moment and listen to the raving street corner freak. You may learn something.