Breakfast with a side of philosophy

“Do you know what the Chinese symbol is for ‘human’?”

I shook my head ‘no’ to his question, so he turned over the order pad sitting on the counter and drew this:


“It is very important that it is drawn like this,” he explained, “not like this.”  He drew a more upright version of the lines.

“The two parts of the lines – one supports the other – like humans need to support each other.  No one is alone – no one is inherently against other people.  The Chinese symbol demonstrates this – this is how we treat people – support.”

He counted my money and opened the register to put it inside, then continued.

“The shooting that happened yesterday – that man who chose the moment they were live on the air to shoot those people – he did not understand no human is alone.  Sure we may feel alone in here,” he points to his chest, “or when we are physically alone in our house, but we are never truly alone.  The Chinese symbol reminds us of this.  Society keeps thinking everyone stands alone – but we don’t  – humans don’t stand alone,” he points to the pad of paper again, “see – right here – it’s two lines not one – they are not next to each other but leaning on each other.”

He puts down the paper and pen, stands up straight before finishing his thought, “People need to study the wisdom in the Chinese characters – because they would understand  – and maybe this stuff would stop.”

Then he smiles, “Have a wonderful day.”

I left his little deli that occupies the corner of his main floor of our office building, his words echoing in my head.

And realizing how many times I go in and out of that place – simply transacting money for food, and wow much more does this little Chinese man have to offer beyond just a breakfast burrito to clear my foggy head.

Today – he offered a unique look at a horrible act.  One that did not center around gun control – did not center around mental illness – did not center around the fucked up use of social media.  Nope.  He offered a view into his culture which has taught him that humans do not stand alone – and when we feel alone, we need to remember we are not.  And we need to treat people as though they are not alone.  To him, that was the lesson in the violence going on – that is what humans need to take away from it.

And all I thought I’d get going in there this morning was a breakfast burrito.

What do you think?

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