There is a man in Portland's Old Port who whistles.
He does not whistle any particular tune, nor does he seem to do it for any particular reason.
Instead, he sets up shop in the small park off of Exchange Street, or across the way near the coffee shop, and lets loose a tuneless, penny-whistle tone for hours on end.
This can last, literally, for the predominance of a day.
The hours do not appear to have the same significance for this man as they might for those who stream past him on the sidewalks, hurrying to get to their downtown jobs.
Though I can't say whether he is truly homeless, the possibility certainly exists.
As does the possibility that he is not in complete sync with the world around him.
What he does seem to be in sync with is the music coming from his headphones--the music that he may be attempting to replicate with his toneless whistle.
Many people have grown annoyed with "The Whistler," as he has been labelled, in the months since he began sharing his talent with the citizens and visitors of greater Portland.
But he has for so long been at his task as to almost be a part of the landscape now.
I wonder at this--that I, like so many, have so easily grown accustomed to a man who spends hours whistling loudly in the midst of a city bustle.
I wonder at my ability to begin to look past, similarly, other disconnected, downtrodden souls whose shoulders nearly brush mine while walking along busy urban avenues.
No small amount of shame do I carry on this account.
So I suppose I owe some small debt of gratitude to "The Whistler." Though I find him as annoying as many others do, I find him equally and strangely compelling.
He is, in his own way, a placeholder.
He prompts me to remember that not all hear the same music I hear; or respond the same way.
He prompts me to remember that we are not all equally placed in this world.
He prompts me to silently offer compassion to those in our midst whose only means of connection is a tuneless whistle, tormenting the ears of those who stride quickly by.
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