I admit that Mr Mango Farmer and I have been flirting for a year or two. We bond over The Big Bang Theory, which we both love. He thinks I am a character on that show. He calls me an arrogant scientist. I laugh with him and buy his mangos. that’s the banter. Did you listen to our president last night? I ask. I don’t listen to him, he says. How about our new president? I ask. He answers: Oh yes—he’s a great guy. Totally misrepresented by the media. It’s such a shame. He’s a really great guy. Oh. I say. I try to stay warm. I can see co-mango-farmer looking at my face; I meet his eyes. I don’t know if he is seeking connection because he feels differently about trump than his co-worker, or if he is just curious about how I will react. I pay for the mangos (get my usual big bang discount) and trundle over to the fresh fish booth.
There, the very cute fishmongers say what a wonderful day it is, and isn’t it a wonderful day!? Not sure, I tell them. Fishmonger looks at me and asks if I need a hug? Of course I do. We share a friendly side-hug. Thank you for the kindness. Pass it on, he says. I buy a tub of smoked fish spread. How could I not?
I call my mom to tell her NO MORE MANGOS!! It’s the WRONG response, she says. You must engage. We must all talk with each other. It’s by not engaging that this whole mess is allowed to continue.
I run into the Farmers’ Market Fairy. She is very practical about produce, and knows the political leanings of the vendors. I share about the mangos. She rattles the list of those she discusses politics with, and those she doesn’t discuss politics with. CONNECT—ALWAYS AND ONLY CONNECT!! I say. OUR JOB HERE IS TO ENGAGE (while we’re shopping for produce.) Our conversation has pulled in another farmers’ market denizen. She has given up all news in favor of music. “I just can’t….” she says, while filling her bag with sprouted broccoli. Can you imagine being a journalist? I said. They don’t have the option of taking a break—they have to continually engage and dig in as far as possible. The Fairy thinks maybe I am a good person for believing in engagement, but she might not be such a good fairy in that way. Fairy says the bubbles are fundamentally different—people in different bubbles think differently, and some bubbles—our bubbles—think better. I disagree about the bubbles. If those in other bubbles think the same of me in my bubble, then who am I to claim that my bubble is better? We all share the same raw material of human brains —and some of us might know more, groups of us have been trained in different ways, sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident, but I think that the idea of “us” vs. “them” bubbles is a complete fallacy, and a dangerous one too.
We hug our goodbyes until next week's episode, and I walk away thinking about how even the smallest slice of the farmers’ market is a microcosm that contains the entirety of the world. Communities, friends, families, the two of us, one person and her brain.
And then I find myself wondering: what does statistical mechanics look like from the point of view of the particle?
Every particle must think she is goddamn awesome, oscillating in her multiple degrees of freedom, with an array of interacting forces acting on her, and maybe even contributing her own forcings to the mix. Three dimensions plus time—so much freedom and individuality for each of us particles—mornings to prepare our thermodynamics lectures and evenings eating our mangos.
Together, we several billion humans make up just a single humanity. A tiny, transient, assemblage that has been hungrily eating away at the system that surrounds us. The system is changing, and we the particles are responding.