Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meeting Travelers

It’s been a while and I won’t get into the nitty gritty of why it took so long for a new entry but let’s just say that the level of crazy busy I have had to deal with has dwindled down for a while and I am taking this opportunity to add another layer of glass to shield!

Not too long ago, I was taking the subway to my work, when I spotted three tall, similarly dressed, bible holding young men. I recognized the dress code and the name tags for what they were, the trademarks of Mormon missionaries. The trio were talking to each other and pointing to certain people or places to be once the subways car arrived, so, I am taking a guess here, they could maximise their interventions.

As I walked toward them I had a fleeting thought:

Do I have my Carl Sagan’s Science as Candle in the Dark or my Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion in my back pack? And if so, maybe I could, book in hand, approach them and try to strike up a conversation along the lines of: Have you ever heard of critical thinking and the scientific method?

But I quickly dismissed the idea, seeing it for what it was a darkly tinted humorous attempt at tit for tat. None the less, I saw that they were casing the people on the subway and once everyone was seated they began to address people and hoping to get them to talk back. The one closest to me hit a wall with his first attempt when the lady he tried to talk, did not even respond to his amicable introduction but just started rocking her head NO vehemently to indicate her total refusal to communicate with the young man.

After this abrupt halt he turned his gaze on the rest of the car, I, politely, smiled at him and *BANG* he was next to me talking in broken yet very clear French: Bonjour, connaissez vous notre Église? Yes, I answered in French, I am aware of your Church. Oh, really? Do you believe in God, he asked? No, I said simply. Don’t you believe in anything, he said? I believe in rational thinking, the scientific method…at that point I used an English term and he started speaking in English.

Oh you speak English, I much better in English, he continued. I corrected myself, I don’t “believe” in anything but I rely on rational thinking and the scientific method, to bring me facts and a better understanding of the world, the universe and everything. That being said, I continued, I think that everyone is allowed their own point of view.

I then told him that what he was doing wasn’t easy sociologically speaking. Really, he said, why? Because you are breaking the social boundaries of public transportation, the: don’t talk to anyone, don’t look at anyone for too long policy. You approach and engage people who from the get go only want to get from point A to point B with little interaction and no problems along the way.

We then started talking about his travels, the language barrier he had had to surmount and then he told me of his homeland Paraguay, and said, “You know in my village you are born a Christian, you don’t have a choice.

My Dad and my brother both when on to do missionary work, I followed in their footsteps…you see ( and he said that with a drop of sadness in his voice) the Church came to our impoverish village and recruited my Father, who then went to Texas, to one of the main Cultural Centers for training and after we was sent all over in central and south America as a missionary, my brother followed suit and when it came to me they said you are being sent to Canada…I was taken aback but it’s my duty, my quest”

After that the conversation turned to his life in Canada and how he enjoyed this city, how he liked meeting so many different people. We talked about the city landmarks, life in general, “public” transport and then I turned to him and said: you asked me what I believe in, I believe in social interaction where I have my point of view and you have yours and yet here we are having a conversation not Mormon and Atheist, south American and North American…just two human being talking about everything and nothing.

We then continued our talk about the city and I said: “One thing you have to admit is that there is a lot of beautiful women in this town!” To which he answered: “ OH YEAH! *Slap on his mouth*…well I’m not suppose to say that you know, he said sheepishly. It’s OK, I said, I didn’t hear anything. We then both started laughing hysterically and we said our goodbyes shortly after.

Since this is taking a bit I’ll conclude here for now, and post my view on this conversation in a short while, in another post, just to make things more palatable and give you, the audience, a chance to comment if you will on it all.