Someone asked me today what was my impression of Americans. Half a dozen possible answers flashed through my mind, but what I said, more or less, was:
“The Americans I have met have been very open and friendly. They are hard-working, sociable, and kind. They like things like parades and ball games that are loud, exciting, entertaining, and that have absolutely no consequence. They live very much in the present moment.”
Now that I have been able to consider my answer for a while, I don’t think I would change it much. I was influenced to a great extent by the fact that this week my niece took me to my first professional baseball game. She even bought me peanuts and Cracker Jacks! It was a wonderful day. The weather was good, the crowd was light-hearted, and the home team won.
It took me a little while to get my bearings, because there is so much going on at a ball game. The score board reminded me of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs; very informative if you know the code. The screen showed pictures of the crowd, texts from the crowds, photos from the crowd’s phones, and sometimes the game. Even without knowing exactly what was going on, I cheered, I clapped, I yelled, and I sang along with everyone else.
As I watched some of the people walking up and down the stairs and finding their seats, I was impressed by how happy and sociable everyone was. They were even agreeable when they were told they were in the wrong seats. They were brilliant at balancing drinks and nachos, and patient with people who were slow. At one point, a man stumbled on the stairs and three people, without a moment’s hesitation, jumped up to stop him falling. The place was packed with people who didn’t know each other, and yet the atmosphere was upbeat and celebratory.
About eighty school children opened the game by singing the national anthem, and they were all still there cheering heartily at the end, four hours later. As the huge crowd left the ball park, there was no pushing and shoving. No anger or frustration. We all shuffled down the stairs and the ramps together, and found our pleasantly tired way to cars, buses, and trains.
So, my impression of the Americans I have met is that they are like these ball park people. I’m sure they know their politicians are flawed and that the economy is a mess, but they don’t let any of that get in the way of being content in the moment. It’s really very Zen.