High above the streets
from the Sixteenth Floor window
the human city looks different.
People look like busy ants.
Some going this way; some going that way.
Moving along established, well-worn paths
marked out by concrete canyon walls:
heading for work
out for a day of shopping
on their way to an appointment
From the 16th floor window
it looks like a flowing river.
A tide of people pushed along by an invisible force.
Some disappearing into doorways.
Others spilling out of building fronts
merging into the moving traffic
like cars merging onto a busy freeway.
High above the streets…from the 16th floor window
faces are lost
but some differences catch your eye.
White dots pour out of the inner-city hospital.
Doctors, nurses, orderlies.
Some have dedicated their lives to helping others.
Readily hold the hand of a dying patient with compassion and concern.
Others selfishly motivated.
Working for lavish lifestyles.
Taking advantage of Medicare loopholes for personal gain.
Here and there, uniformed soldiers parade along crowded sidewalks.
The celebration of victory a momentary distraction
from horrid memories and disturbing flashbacks;
could anyone imagine the price that has been paid…..
the lingering effects of tragedy and trauma.
Taking the life of another human being
no matter what the reason
remains forever burned
into the soul.
From the 16th floor window
it’s easy to distinguish the young from the old.
The young have a spring in their step.
Not rushed but energetic.
Their marriages still honeymoons.
Driven by long held dreams and new ideas.
Eager to get to work and explore the world.
Anxious to make a contribution or offer an insight.
The old, the seasoned, are slowed by the inertia of time.
Not in any hurry. Some dragging their feet;
demoralized by memories of shot-down suggestions and passed over promotions.
The grind of routine holding them to a drawn-out pace.
Tired of wearing their three piece suits like armor.
Tired of being company mercenaries
dressed for battles where only the ruthless survive.
Charging from meeting to meeting
with "conquest" as their battle cry.
The casualties winding up with pink slips and unemployment checks.
From the 16th floor window a contrast becomes obvious.
On the edge of the stream of moving people
laying along the shores of this river of life
there are those who scratch for survival.
No more than a thread
connects them to the world,
keeps their body and soul connected, stitched together.
These are easy to spot from high above the street.
They move very little.
Their broken lives have frozen them to a street corner:
the panhandlers who live only to find a bit of food
and a bottle of booze. Empty cups before empty lives.
The streetwalkers too, hookers, prostitutes.
Driven by self-hatred, rejection.
Forced by inner and outer demons
to shed every ounce of dignity.
The addicts, fishing the passing crowd
for the means to get another fix.
Suffocated by the agony of looking death in the face
as their high fades.
Possessed by the drug, their own identity long lost.
Nameless they wander no more than a few feet,
from cardboard alley bedrooms
to sidewalk charity.
From the 16th floor window,
as the sea of people stretches out before you,
as the multitude blends together,
only forms are apparent.
Some people move like the shadows they've become.
Stone faces lost within the background of concrete sidewalks.
Masks hiding the heartache of family failures and shallow love;
covering the pain of rejection.
False smiles shrouding the fear of dying into eternal emptiness.
Some people lost in their own ego,
the god of the self is fed
by eating the dignity of others;
satisfying the hunger for self-importance
by shaming, defiling, and antagonizing the rival.
From the 16th floor window the truth of humanity shows itself:
rhythms and patterns, impulses and motivations, submission and revolt;
the big picture is reflected skyward, into space, out into the endless universe.
Is there anyone who can see from the distance:
the joy and sorrows, the ugliness and beauty,
the wounded and the healed
the lost and the well-established?
Can anyone see the love and the hatred,
the clarity and the confusion,
the empty discontent and the satisfying pleasure?
The gospels tell us
Jesus came to the big city,
the great city of Jerusalem….
a king riding on a lowly donkey.
"And when he drew near
and saw the city
saying, "Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace."
Not long after his triumphant entry,
he carried a cross to the hilltop outside the city walls.
Enthroned by nails in hands and feet,
lifted up above the earth,
from this vantage point of sacrifice and love,
Jesus had a good view of the city.