No photograph can possibly do it justice. No verbal description can
possibly recreate it: this endlessly flowing stream of
men, women, and children, this unstoppable river of people.
To experience it you have to be in it. To know it you have
to stand in it - that is, if you can stand in
it, if you can hold your ground without being swept away by it. But to
get it, you do have to allow yourself to be swept away by
it. To get it fully, to grok it completely (as Robert
Heinlein may have said), you have to go with it.
The sheer force of it, the unbridled energy of it defies even big game
arena crowds and concert stadium audiences.
Big game arena crowds and concert stadium audiences, for the most part
sit or stand still in one place. And when they enter and leave the
venue, they enter and leave via many streams. This isn't that. This
river of people is nothing like that.
I stand in the middle of it - as if I'm standing in the middle of a
swiftly flowing torrent of water, a powerfully swiftly
flowing torrent of water, a very wide powerfully swiftly
flowing torrent of water. And one word comes out of my mouth, the one
word which most fits this occasion, the one word which most fully
expresses my awe, my speechlessness at the wonder of what
I'm seeing. And the word is ... "Wow!" - just ... plain
It stretches as far as I can see. It goes on so long and so far I can't
see its end because it disappears into a vanishing point. It
keeps on flowing. It never depletes itself. The more it flows and
empties people out of its mouth which it invariably must
do even though I can't see that far ahead, the more people come into
this river at its
is so far behind me I can't see it past its vanishing point either.
Just as in front of me and behind me, to the left of me and to the
right of me are people, shoulder to shoulder, so close together I know
if I lift my feet off the ground, I'll be carried along like a leaf on
an eddy ... but my survival instinct, my sense of self
preservation gets the better of me just as I'm about to try it, and I
The river of people is flowing now down a narrow lane between quaint
store fronts and market stalls just like a real river may run bounded
by the walls of a canyon. What strikes me after a while as unusual,
what surprises me is there's no sense of alarm, there's no
feeling of danger. The only sense I can conjure up of what
would promote a feeling of danger is what could happen if
I tried to go against the flow. Now that
would be a problem, so I stop thinking about it. And as I look around,
fascinated by the whole process, I notice there's no sense of danger on
any of the faces around me either. Everyone else, it seems, in this
river of people is also going with the flow. Yet there's
something else at play here, something just beyond my
peripheral vision, something I just can't quite see, and
yet it's very clearly here. It's very clearly all around me. Whatever
it is, it's what I'm exactly in the middle of right now.
And that's why I can't distinguish it - at least, not yet.
It's like air to a bird. It's like water to a fish. It's my
Suddenly it dawns on me what it is. It's humanity. What I'm
right in the middle of, what's all around me, what's sweeping me along
in a river of people is humanity. And what's interesting is given the
possibility of chaos, given the non-zero threat of
danger should, for example, someone slip or stumble and be
trampled underfoot or be crushed against a wall and unable to breathe,
there's no sense of imminent harm, and there's no sense of panic or
even of claustrophobia in me or in anyone else around me -
as far as I can tell. In fact, for the most part there's
nothing going on.
Indeed, I may even be the only one with any sense at all of the
profundity of this experience. For the most part, walking
in this river of people is just
for everyone else.
the possibilities of Life always flowing like this, of Life always
the possibilities of acknowledging Life always
like this, of Life endlessly going on and on and on like this, of Life
always turning out like this with everyone in harmony
(both unknowingly and knowingly) with everyone else, with everyone
watching out for everyone else ... with no one and nothing left out.
It gets me. It
me. Standing here surrounded by, swept up in, swept along by this river
of people, I'm in awe of how easy it is - which is to say I'm in awe of
how easy it all could be.