Meandering in Portland at night

October 26, 2008 | By | 2 Replies More

I’m still attending a consumer law conference in Portland Oregon. After today’s sessions, I took a walk in the dark. As I often do, I brought my small consumer grade camera with me(SD1100IS). Here are some of the things I noticed while walking through downtown Portland tonight.

Who would have thought that you might run across Abraham Lincoln way out here in Oregon, but there he was, looking like he’s still carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.

It feels like it’s so far from Washington DC out here, and it is. But Lewis and Clark made it this far in their journey in 1805, many decades before Lincoln was elected president (in 1860). By the way, Oregon became a state in 1859. I didn’t realize it was that soon.

Moving on from Lincoln, I spotted a large bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt on a horse. As I walked up to the statue, a man sitting at a nearby bench yelled out in a British accent: “Well… have you lost your sense of security? Eh?” I turned toward him and noticed that he wasn’t looking at me. He looked like a homeless man. He was wearing a stocking cap and ruffled clothing. He started making strange loud noises and he started chuckling. Suddenly, he looked straight at me and made extremely loud grunting noises. I wondered whether I was (unintentionally) antagonizing him by being in his space.

I asked him, “How are you tonight?” And he replied “How are you tonight?” He snorted, this time looking at the ground. You can get a glimpse of this man in the lower left-hand corner of this photo. I moved on, wondering what the world looked like to him.

I’ve often thought that if there were a God, He would inhabit a body like the body of this homeless man, and He would watch people scoff at Him and shake their heads in disgust as they walked on.

Often, when I see someone mentally out of touch, I am reminded that fools will occasionally say intelligent things, while intelligent people will often say foolish things. We forget these basic truths so incredibly often.

I continued my walk through the city. I was once again noticing how intense it can be to not talk, especially after spending the day at a conference where talking was constant.

Actually, on most days my head is so often so full of words, no matter where I am. I’m finding that when I take the time to arrange for such wordless moments, I feel energized and at peace. This is my belated and half-hearted introduction to meditation, it would seem.

Tonight’s silence reminds me of the great amount of chatter to which we constantly expose each other. I’m not denying the critical importance of the chatter, including our unceasing gossip. Even when we try to get “serious” with words,though, those words mislead us often as they help us to communicate. In fact, the careless use of words have enormous potential to mislead. It is the opposite side of the same coin: careful and disciplined uses of words can constitute an intellectual scaffold to allow us access to new ideas that we could otherwise never experience.

And yet here I am tonight, trusting that my words at this blog will be worthwhile and meaningful to me and perhaps to others. As I walk down the street, I even find myself hoping to to capture thoughts that have never been captured before, as though anything I’ve ever written was original in any significant way.

My stream of chatter is interrupted by a beautiful bronze door on a building that used to be occupied by a bank.

A few more minutes of walking and I arrived at Powell’s Bookstore at 1005 W. Burnside, one of the largest remaining independent bookstores in the country. Walking through Powell’s was such a treat.

At Powell’s you can explore any of dozens of the wings of the store, all of them clearly marked. You can physically pick up books on any of thousands of topics, flip through them and feel an immediate connection with the author, an author who was communicating with you with mere words. An author who might have been dead for hundreds of years. And yet you are communicating with him or her using squiggly lines.

Those squiggly lines form fragile, manipulable, and sometimes miraculous words that always seem so familiar, even when they mislead us, but also when they constitute a carefully-constructed intricate scaffolding for our thoughts, a vast linguistic web that invisibly seems to interconnect us. Those words, including all the chatter, allow us to take halting steps as a superorganism, it sometimes seems. And as they say, the perception is the reality.


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Category: Communication, Language, Meaning of Life, Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

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  1. You should get Moo cards with your pictures:

    I am. I just don't know what text I want on them.

  2. The ones I'm getting are MiniCards (half the size of a regular business card). They are very popular with knitters.

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