I was walking to work today on the paved shoulders of a busy highway (since Florida does not believe in sidewalks). As speedy cars flew by reminding me of the fact that I was in their territory, I came across a very soft and beautiful smell. Ever so lightly sweet, yet once you smell it, you can’t think of anything else but that hint of extravagance. I was walking in the midst of a dream and caution (due to the cars near me). Something was blooming nearby yet as to what It was, I could not see. I scanned to find the flowers but found none, just the sweet constant yet none abrasive or overwhelming scent. It was a scent not like a cheap perfume that tries so hard to smell good, yet is so strong that it actually assaults your senses and fails to delight. Or even like an expensive cologne that, in spite of its price, fails to eliminate the sense that the scent is somehow manufactured. No, this scent was pure, innocent, translucent and tender.
As I turned the corner from the busy highway to the industrial road, the thought hit me; do people know how to smell flowers anymore? A green van sped on by, apparently in a dire rush to reach work at 7:30 in the morning as I continued to contemplate this question. However, the realization hit me that people really don’t know how to smell flowers anymore. We’re all too comfortable in our little metallic bubbles to bother with the futility of flower smelling. We speed through life in an effort to attain everything and yet gain nothing. And why was I any different? The fact is that the reason why I had the pleasure of this olfactory encounter was by force since I presently don’t own a car. I am therefore predisposed to walking sometimes for miles to reach my destination. These walks have enabled me to experience things that are rare for our culture. I walk on a slow lane designed to experience beauty in the subtlety of life. But I would have never had the opportunity to do so unless circumstances had taken away the hindrance to such beauty experiences. A 10 minute encounter with a minimalistic pleasure has so far tainted my day with positivism and delight which begs the question; would someone else have the same experience as I in this circumstance?
Maybe if people walked more they’d be happier. Not only because they’d be healthier, but because they would be given the opportunity to experience life. And trust me, metal bubbles are not life. Speed is not life. Success in the American culture is equated with money, power, and leisure. And I would say 99% of all us want success. But as life has enabled me to be in a position of satisfied needs and yet un-lavished means, I see that the dependency on money, power, and leisure truly makes for very unhappy people. I have lived in places where people with far less than anyone could readily imagine here in America, have been obviously happier than most people here in America. If money, power, and fame truly bring happiness, fulfillment and joy, then why are artists who already have millions of dollars singing songs about how they wished they were a billionaires? Is not a million enough? And if not, how much is enough? Most of us however, won’t have a million dollars as readily as some, but we’ll spend our whole lives trying to have a million dollars as readily as some and in the process miss the treasure that is readily to all. I’m not on a high horse here, I’m just musing over the seemingly obvious.
If you read this, and find yourself seeking for all and yet finding nothing, then let me encourage you to take of your shoes, go to a park, and practice smelling the flowers. Oh and watch out for the bees while you’re at it.
Juan Castillo Jr.