Saturday, March 12, 2011

on the berm

We had a chance to walk along the top of the berm that runs along PPW this week, I like to think of it as the neighborhood's closest thing to the Appalachian trail. We found an evergreen weeping sap, a tree with a hidden charcoal-black recess, varieties of pine cones and needles, bottle caps and some rusted batteries. My daughter and I will go back and clean those up, and my son would like to but is worried about being caught in the act and considered a 'dork.' Don't judge him, though, he reminds me of how many young people must think it's cool to litter and uncool to bend over and pick something up. Often it seems that to be read as "good" by another is the last thing person wants, perhaps it even seems vaguely dangerous.

I saw a man on a subway platform suddenly drop a dollar on the ground, and at first he showed great concern, although he didn't bend over to pick it up. As soon as he saw other people had noticed, and when another man bent over to pick up the dollar and hand it back to him, the man acted as if he wouldn't condescend to touch that dollar. Is this pride in action? Is it an atavistic instinct to fear that as soon as one bends over another will see this as a sign of submissiveness and subserviance, just like pack animals read each other's behavior for signs of weakness? People are complicated and there's much to understand about why someone would throw or drop something on the ground and neglect to pick it up, and another would gladly collect it without worrying about how they'll be viewed. We all seem to be wrapped in layers of our values, conditioning, and instincts so thickly that we can't really understand each other's choices and tendencies very well. Seriously, call in the anthropologists, this city is full of diverse tribes.

What makes someone volunteer to pick up other people's garbage in Prospect Park? I would wager it's often LOVE for the park, plain and simple. Thanks to the park volunteers.

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