The other day I happened to be looking out the window and I noticed someone in the alley rummaging through our garbage. He wasn’t one of, you know, those people. He was wearing a suit and a tie. And so, thinking he might have lost something and that perhaps I could help, I went out to see what he was looking for. “Oh, nothing in particular,” he answered, in the same way a neighbour would answer to a how-ya-doin’?, as if a man in a suit and tie rummaging through garbage bins was nothing out of the ordinary.
I didn’t know what to say, because, well, I didn’t know what to say. So I went back in the house and watched him through the window for a few more minutes until he moved on to the bins in the alley behind the neighbour’s house. A half an hour later I went out to survey the damage and noticed that he hadn’t strewn anything about. So far as I could tell nothing was missing, not that I keep track – who does? – of what I’ve put in the garbage.
He didn’t seem to have been in some way mentally challenged, though of course I have no idea how being mental challenged manifests itself. Maybe he was, but then again maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he just was looking for nothing in particular. Maybe I just hadn’t noticed before that perfectly sane and normal people sometimes do that.
And then I had a thought I’ve been unable to shrug off since. Maybe there are perfectly sane and normal people noticing me rummaging through whatever I’m rummaging through in these blogs, and wondering what I’m looking for. And if they asked me, what could I answer other than, “Oh, nothing in particular.”?
The idea of someone not having an agenda is utterly foreign to us, isn’t it? But if we were to each ask ourselves what that agenda is, would we have the faintest idea? In fact there’s a kind of exquisite liberty – is there not? – in the realisation that one doesn’t have to have an agenda to make rummaging through the world, be it of back alleys or ideas, the fun that it is.
That’s a privilege. Very few people have that privilege. I’m a misanthrope. But if I weren’t, that’s the privilege I’d be wishing on my fellow man.