Cracks in the Sidewalk: Infrastructures and Innerstructures

By Samir Shukla

It was drizzling while I walked to my car, subconsciously matching the rhythmic dance and trance of a soft rainfall. I kept my head down so the water from the rain wouldn't wet my face. But then I gazed up at the playful gray clouds releasing their collectively held moisture to the ground. I stood there for a moment. The drizzle felt cool on my face during this warm summer day.

I didn't worry about my head or face getting wet anymore and walked tall, head held up high, hair getting wet, drops of water sliding down my face.

While I was strolling, a crack in the pavement made me trip. It was a spot where the sidewalk was broken and jutted up due to the roots of a nearby tree reclaiming the land underneath. I tumbled forward a couple of steps but regained my balance and walked on without falling. I cursed under my breath and looked back at the rather large crack. I could swear a slithering critter just skittered away, laughing as if it enjoyed my tumble. Maybe it was one of those long creepy crawlies with a hundred legs, glistening a bit from the moisture. Or maybe it was just my imagination thinking that the crack itself moved a bit, slithered, and then giggled at my expense.

I smiled because if I had kept my face down, staring at the ground to evade the drizzling rain, I would have seen the crack, the broken sidewalk, and stepped over it.

The stumble on the sidewalk made me more alert, at least for a short while. It also got me thinking about this country's crumbling infrastructure. There is much talk of infrastructure upgrading, rebuilding or innovating that's needed in the United States. Vast amounts of money are about to be delegated to the fixer uppers needed for our physical infrastructure.

These cracks, this disjointedness, this disrepair, also reflect larger divisions in our current social and political ethos. The tribes living on either side of the cracks, punching the air and spewing poison about the other, those on the other side of the crack.

Broken sidewalks are bits of the grander needs of infrastructure repair, but there is also an even larger need of repair for our innerstructures. These invisible infrastructures of our being, our wholeness, our sense of community.

The infrastructure of community, society, the whole dang proverbial village, that would in more sociable times come together to collectively fight off an enemy, a biological threat floating in the air, seems like some long-lost philosophical unity of the past. This gives the enemy, or an invisible bug, an upper hand.

Repairing and rebuilding the stability and strength of our innerstructures has become the need of the time, as much as for our physical infrastructures.

These cracks, created by ideologies, distrust, misinformation and disinformation, are affecting the bonds and fabric of the village. These invisible slithering critters hiding in them, are disheveling our peace of mind, laughing at our foibles, our inability to simply work things out.

We can and have put a price on rebuilding our physical infrastructure, come up with bipartisan agreements, and then implement them and get the needed work going.

Repairing and rebuilding our innerstructures is an open book, there's no amount money that will fix this, it requires engagement with the others, the ones different in beliefs and ideologies. It requires swatting away the slithering critters of fringe minorities and bringing together the mass of reasoned folks who work and live in the functional yet delicate middle.

Innerstructure is hard to define or self-realize. It's in our DNA, the good and the bad, the goofy and the seductive, the weak and the strong, the evil and the empathic. These flipsides of the proverbial coins or either side of the cracks if you will, unhinge the daily groove of life. We've all got to work on it.

This will take simple measures, reaching out, giving someone a hand, focusing on the commonalities. There's no way to implement some grand plans for this work, it is the effort of the many sweeping away the divisiveness of the few that will begin to make a difference.

I continued my drizzle stroll and made it to the car parked in the lower end of the parking lot, jumped in and sat there as the rain stopped dancing on the roof and the windshield. A sliver of sunshine peeked through the lazily moving clouds and now a few minutes later it was full blown sunshine.

Driving out of the parking lot I hit a huge pothole on the public road, let out a swear, and drove on. Mark that one for the infrastructure work. Now I've got a pothole or two to fix in my innerstructure today, to smooth out a few bumps in my life circle. I'll meet anyone there, if they are willing to meet me there, in that unseen, yet crucial world. All the cracks be damned.


Samir Shukla is the editor of Saathee magazine. Contact -