These days, I worry.
While I was navigating through the streets of Wilkes-Barre tonight, a person wearing dark colored clothing emerged from a dark vehicle and into my lane of travel. Did this person think about the potential outcome of his/her exit from a vehicle and into the path of a moving car? Eh, not so much.
Every week I go to the grocery store, where wide-eyed shoppers stand, mouths agape, in the middle of the 9, which is already cluttered by a giant cereal box display and an occasional “junior shopper” with a tiny cart overflowing with bananas and Gatorade. Some people are swimming in a sea of self, overwhelmed with waffle choices and wondering if they should get one or two Chunky Soups. Their self-awareness is so slight that they could be anywhere in the world at that moment, but to other shoppers, they’re in the way. I know that hurts, but it’s also true.
Have you been to the donut shop recently to grab a quick Double D on the way to somewhere? The person in front of you dwells painstakingly over a dozen donuts while all you want to do is keep moving. It’s a mind-numbing exercise in self restraint.
It doesn’t have to be this way. I recently had the opportunity to see two movies that demonstrated the value of heightened awareness and critical thinking (gasp). “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” was a spellbinding tale of the two-fisted detective and his doctor friend working feverishly to overcome a fiendish professor who engages in war mongering in his spare time. This Sherlock Holmes is much more animated and punchy than the one I remember from “The Hound of the Baskervilles” in junior high. The one thing that’s constant regardless of who’s visioning Holmes is his keen sense of observation and ability to make split second decisions when danger is grave. His analytical skills are always in play and he is always two steps ahead of the jailer. Although the movie seemed too contemporary for the 1890s, I marveled at his problem solving acumen. The film engages the audience, and makes them focus more keenly on their own detective abilities.
The second film, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” is also about problem solving, though the audience is put through a much starker and violent experience before its muted conclusion. In this thriller, a disgraced journalist joins forces with a disturbed young computer savant to solve a 40 year old disappearance case that has played on the mind of one of her relatives. Old methods of discovery, like going through stacks of photos, meld with modern techniques, like hacking. Together, the older writer and young sleuth come to the same conclusion about a suspect. The movie runs almost three hours and the audience believes it’s over about 45 minutes before it actually ends. Once again, there’s a chance for viewers to think about the possible scenarios before the author’s vision is revealed.
It’s time the real people of the world embrace some of the traits of characters like the ones Arthur Conan Doyle and Stieg Larsson’s books embody. Is it too much to ask that we actively pay attention to the world around us, no relying on someone else to swerve out of the way when we enter their path? I say this because I’m floored by the lack of paying attention people do to things that can really impact their lives. Last year, I asked listeners to spend five or ten minutes a day reading before the election in November, where citizens picked Luzerne County’s new council, a slew of judges and commissioners up north in Lackawanna County. Some people said they would make their decisions while standing in front of the ballot on Election Day. Terrific. You’re never going to be able to solve the mystery of what’s best for your future if you operate this way. Put some stuff under the microscope and examine it. That’s my New Year’s resolution for you, navel-gazers.