Things are even better on a Sunday, as it is today. Carrera Siete has been declared a car-free road for most of the day. The broad avenue is free for people who want to walk, run or just amble with their dogs. It is wonderful to see a road usually dominated by cars, buses and trucks, suddenly liberated by fervent joggers and walkers. After a quick sip of robust Colombian espresso, I shake off my ingrained sedentary bent, overcome my incurable serfdom to a laptop screen and step out on the street.
I am in good company. All around me are people, sniffing the brisk morning air. The wonderful thing about Bogotá is that it is seldom very warm or cold; it is obdurately pleasant. Unless it is raining, as it does capriciously at times, even on a bright day without a cloud in sight, you can be out day or night with no more than the lightest parka. I am out with my sleeveless travel cardigan, feeling the fresh morning breeze on my face.
What am I doing here? There are a few things I do here, but none that fully justifies my exile. I felt I wanted a break. A break from the comfortable sameness of my daily round. The Washington suburb I live in is nothing if not comfortable, and my life feels absurdly organized and tranquil. It is easy to go on just as I am, doing what I usually do. So I decided to break the pattern and break away. I have landed in Bogotá without much of a preparation and nothing of a plan. I just wanted to breathe a different air.
When we hear of bees building a hive or ants constructing a large ant-hill, we wonder how those bees and ants can work so assiduously to do the same thing every day. Yet, if we look at our own lives, what most of us do is not much different. If we are not slaves of a company or a business or a profession, we turn and become the slaves of an addiction, an unruly passion or even an immoderate ambition. I meet people who can’t stop talking of their job, their success in securing a deal, their unflinching determination to be somebody important and successful. It is good to be able to dedicate ourselves to a goal or a cause beyond ourselves, for it keeps us from being petty and self-centered. But when it grips our mind and heart like a vise, makes us lose our human touch, we have become, despite all appearances, a self-made slave, little better than the crawling ant or buzzing bee.
That is the time it may be a good idea to crawl out of the ant-hill or fly away from the bee-hive.
There were three friends, in colorful shirts, biking away in tandem on the other side of the street, two young men on either side and a slender woman in the middle, her long hair flowing in the wind behind her. The gentle sun was on their face, the man on the left yelling some joke that made the other man respond with a roar and the woman laugh with her head thrown back. In less than ten seconds they were gone.
Yet that happiness is open to all of us – us who have so many sad tales to tell, so many disappointments to overcome, so many heartaches to conquer. Those are all true, those are all important, and, given half a chance, those would all pounce to break our heart.
But there is also a glorious Sunday morning, a radiant sun, the fresh breeze, the unusually uncluttered street, one or two congenial friends, and the undimmed prospect of a life that can be different and exciting and joyful, a life simply worth living.