I put one foot slowly forward until it found a safe place to land, a place solid enough to move my weight to, then I slid my weight forward until my other foot was free to repeat the motion.
I had been intentionally forcing slowness in my forward motion, it is easier to go fast but I had been thinking about strength the day. I was thinking that nearly everything is harder to do slowly, not everything but if you ask someone to do ten pull ups slowly its going to be harder than ten fast. There is another layer too, its easier to force determination the shorter the distance. Anyone can be determined for ten seconds.
I walked through the steep and slippery jungle paths with an ear to the small noises around me and whenever I didn’t need my eyes to plot my steps I used them to scan for anything that might be moving around me. I spotted many lizards darting off into the beds of leaves that were thick just off the trail. It went on like this for a couple kilometers until I heard a sound up ahead.
This is how it played out in my head:
A sound in front of me. I see black, green and brown in a pattern. Its camouflage, Its a man, I see shiny and black in his hands. Its a gun, not a shotgun. Its usually a shotgun when I’ve seen guns here. Its a rifle, that’s a big gun for a man in camo to carry in the jungle in Thailand. He hasn’t seen me, is this why I train to walk like this? Is there danger? How do I not get shot if he shoots? Left is a steep hill and right is nearly a cliff with a river somewhere below, I would have to throw myself down the cliff to have a chance at not getting shot. Jump, no, he is probably a park ranger. Wait, wait to see if he raises his gun then jump. He sees me. One second. “Sa-wat-dee-khap” I say “Khap” he replies seemingly totally unaware that he could have scared me by walking down a jungle path with a rifle.
I didn’t feel anything that I was aware of during that few seconds. Afterward it made me think about my own thought process, maybe it was because of how relaxed my mind was when it happened but I remembered how I thought very clearly. I don’t know how other people think but I’d like to know how I think.
Despite being a benign situation, for five seconds I wasn’t sure of that. I noticed that during that time I was able to plan a lot of things and ask a lot of questions, words cant tell all the micro decisions made in those few seconds. I’m sure most people think at least that well, most people are equipped with a pretty powerful brain I think. Despite how we all function differently I think most people learn to use what they have on hand.
It also made me think about judgement and how traveling is a constant practice of judging everything. I judge everyone I see for safety, friendliness, helpfulness, intrigue, what they could think of me, if they have any particular interest in me, and what sort of life that person might live. I look at how long and at what of me they look at. Some people rest their eyes on my camera, some people look me in the eye and smile and some people try not to look at me.
Places are the same, some situations are dangerous for me to be in so I need to be aware of where I am and where I’m moving towards. It is surprisingly easy for me to walk into a secluded area where I would have much less ability to escape before realizing that’s where I’m about to be. It is constant. Sometimes I need a break so I go sit down somewhere with my back to the wall so I can take a breather.
Every person I meet will either help me, hurt me, teach me, or confuse me. I try to avoid the hurting kind but its all a balance because it is too easy to avoid people on a first look. I give people chances but I hold to my safety net.
There are some negative feelings associated with judging people, I’ve heard “Don’t judge people” or “Don’t make assumptions” many times in my life but I have to say that I think that is a ridiculous thing to tell someone. As people judging and seeing patterns is one of our best and strongest talents. If I didn’t Judge the world around me I would be completely lost, seeing the world around me and than making judgments about what is good for me and what is not happens to be one of the most important skills to have. What people should say is “Keep Judging” and “Don’t hold to your first assumptions”.
I am a very critical person and sometimes that gets to be too much, sometimes I don’t give people a chance. I’m not the best example of someone who holds an open mind, but I will say that one of my biggest goals while I travel is to practice compassion so when I do meet you on the street someday I will see whatever look you give me and try to imagine what made the person that is looking at me instead of just judging the outcome of what made you. I want to give everyone the chance to choose who they want to be.