People walk past my side, sucked into their everyday life, into their everyday tasks. Everything remains the same, everything is automated and people are lost in their routines. They ignore my existence. Not my physical existence, they can see me, they have to avoid bumping on me, but they don’t look at me. All these people, swarms of them, so close to each other, and yet so far away. They are storming each other’s side without paying any attention to the father that is holding the hand of his daughter, the two friends that are arguing, the laughter of the children in the playground. All these seem irrelevant. All these are the beauty of life and yet seem irrelevant. Life seems irrelevant. The illusion of safety of the familiar is more important than life itself. It’s an illusion that we can’t afford to disturb. We have the need to step on the footprints of the ones preceding us; to preserve the path that they have drawn; or else we will have to stand alone. Can we stand alone? Can we be ourselves? Or we are doomed to impersonal relationships that reserve that everything will remain familiar? Are we doomed to express an average behaviour? Try not to depart? Or we can create a path and leave something behind?

People are afraid of anything they don’t comprehend. So they are afraid of people. They are afraid of themselves. They suffer from estrangement and yet think they are socialized. They are hypnotized by their daily routine, by the hope that they will have the chance to live; that somewhere in front of them the path leads to real life; the life of their choice. But is it so? And so the life passes by and we are shut firmly in our bubble which deters any penetration in our true being.

And suddenly, as we are walking down the road of others, few make a stand. They are holding signs that state: “Free Hugs”. We start to feel uncomfortable. We don’t understand; it seems abnormal. We have to process the incident. It exceeds our everyday life; it’s outside the regularity of the familiar. It diverges. A handful of people are forcing us to make a Thought that extends beyond the narrow limits of our routine and we act awkwardly. They are pulling us out of our illusion of safety; they are giving us a wakeup call. They try to subtract the distance between us, not the spatial distance, though the real one. We get a free hug of warmth and we give back a wide smile of satisfaction. Just for a moment we escape to the real world and yet, once that moment is gone, the real world looks like a dream. We hustle to return to our chains. It feels like a wild chance that we could be free of our illusion. We need it. But now, no one can ever take that feeling away. Regardless if it is real or not it is in our hearts. Now we know that there is another way.

A girl approaches puzzled. She poses an honest question: “But why?” and the answer is obvious: “Because we needed so!”

Alexandros Papandreou, Shanghai, China, 2008