Thursday, September 29, 2011

What we bring

I saw the beggar again today. He was in the same place. His hair had been cut, and it seemed he’d aged about fifteen years. This time, he wasn’t strong enough to enter the roadway and converse with people as they waited for the light to change. And so he waited and watched and no one gave him any money.

The rest of the way home, I thought about how much he and I are alike. My begging merely takes a different form. But what I offer is no better or more worthy than what he brings to that street corner each day: namely, his experience, understanding, knowledge, life, and presence. I put mine in books and beg for money. He puts his on his sign and does the best he can in this grotesque society we have made.


erin said...

yes, william. yes. and yet we are all beautiful inside of this grotesque society.

sometimes when i purchase things i see my time going from my hand. i think, this is all so odd, isn't it, i get this avacado, you get fifteen minutes of my life. it makes no sense, and yet i love this avacado.


Old 333 said...

Mm, haircuts. Gotta think that one out.

Thanks, William.

William Michaelian said...

No thinking required, Peter. Not even under consideration. For the two of us, at least. As for his, I think he might have done the cutting himself.

Indeed, Erin. It’s all in the exchange. But we must be aware of it, or we are only takers.

Thank you both.

rahina q.h. said...

beggars? takers? givers? symbiosis perhaps... we all beg in one way or another and society passes judgement on what type of begging is acceptable... and as we sit in our comfortable chairs, the truth is, the chair might break at any time;)

William Michaelian said...

’tis true, Rahina; and we can’t even assume that all our chairs are comfortable; internet connection aside, many of us are living day to day, week to week, one step away from the life of the man I saw. And that society passes judgment is also true — but society is you and me, and ultimately we are the ones passing judgment, one beggar at a time.

Jim Murdoch said...

In my novel Milligan and Murphy the two protagonists are in need of money and consider begging as an option. This is what I wrote about it:

As with everything in this life there is an art to begging. It is not simply a matter of standing on any old street corner with your hand out, as they would soon find out. There are, in fact, four schools of begging: the performer, the storyteller, the hawker and the panhandler. Each has its individual techniques and degrees of success. The performer, often accompanied by an animal the more pathetic-looking the better, will play a tune on a tin-whistle or, perhaps, an accordion or, at the very least, attempt to sing a song even if he cannot carry a tune; the storyteller will insist on telling you the story of his life, embellishing and exaggerating the various disasters and calamites he may or may not have had to face to be reduced to this woeful state; the hawker will attempt to sell you something, heather perhaps, or to tell your fortune, preferably something with a large profit margin; lastly, the panhandler, will make it evident that he is in need of charity often without uttering a single word, generally by simply sitting on the ground in an abject pose with an upturned hat before him or a pan, which is where the expression springs from. This last technique is, without a doubt, the easiest to master, it requires skills that most novices can easily get to grips with and no props save a hat or a container of some kind; strangely enough people do not care to place their charitable donations directly into the hand of the recipients.

You are right though, quite often I’m made to feel like a beggar when I expect people to pay to read what I’ve written but I’m sure you’ve seen Brian Aldiss go on about the fact that writing is a job of work and writers should expect to be paid for their work. That others are willing to give their stuff away for free does not lower the bar, it simply proves the fact that they undervalue their own work. There are beggars who expect to be paid for simply turning up at their corner and holding out their hand; others are service providers and then there are those who offer a product, albeit one of very little value. Perhaps I am a beggar but I much prefer the term gentleman of the road.

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Jim. I see myself in each of your begging schools, and our meeting here every bit as real as that on any street corner. What we offer will be accepted by some and ignored by most — those who do, or who are afraid, to see us in themselves.

Paul L. Martin said...

One, in this time, we are all beggars. At least we know it, unlike those who think they are above it all.

Two, let's not forget where, according to the Bible, all beggars end up.

Three, some of the best stories come from beggars. One collects many stories while standing by the side of the road.

Let's hop a train and see where the day takes us. I propose a toast to beggars everywhere. We are a collective.

More importantly, when you have nothing, you have nothing to fear.

I stand by the road, secure in my poverty. My best begging line is not "Coin to spare?" It's "Let me tell you a story."

William Michaelian said...

Inspired and inspiring, Paul. Thanks for gracing this page, and all of us, with your beautiful words.

Geckostone said...

I think we are all beggars on this planet, begging for the same And the best way to get what we beg for so much is to give it. Or better yet, BE it. This both of you ( and all of us really ) have been doing all along, but we forget... until we go back to " Eye Talk".

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Deb. We do forget. And I think we’re all lucky to receive your heartfelt reminder. Love and silence are everywhere. The words that signify them are like coins in our pocket. For them to have any value, we have to take them out, examine them, and pass them on.