The coolest plus of really good sleep is that, when you’re awake again, life feels so fresh and new that you might not remember something significant, something like “I live in New York now.”This morning it’s a bright sunny day in the Big Apple, an f/11 @ 1/500 day in photographer’s parlance. I have remembered a few things that happened during the last few days. Even before breakfast I got excited about writing, so the words might feel a little bit like hot buttered toast or raisins or walnuts. Please bear with me. Everything’s organic. Nothing will poison you or make you fat.
Every day in the big city you see so much, so many fine people, all making their way through life. Some of them smile at you, like the handsome young cop who gave me his smile, reacting, I think, to the Alfa Romeo badge on my denim jacket. He certainly looked Italian. Moments before, another man noticed that badge as I walked nearby, and, in perfect Italian, he aimed the words “Alfa Romeo” directly at me along with his smile. It do help to have a gimmick. And I have to scold myself a bit for not stopping to talk a bit, for not making more out of these chance encounters, which are the glory of this behemoth of a city.
Yes, people, at least some of them, sleep on the subway trains,while others stand guard, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. Sleeping on a train must be an acquired skill. I am far too green to know how. But I do know how to give up my seat to a lady. Trust me: the ladies love it—and you will, too. Unless you’re dog tired, giving your seat up feels far better than just sitting in it. Giving your seat up makes you feel just plain rich.
I know that there’s a ton of shit hitting the world’s fan. My Facebook sags under the weight of Doom and Gloom. Everybody seems to be madder than a wet hen about something, fearful that Donald Trump’s going to obliterate the entire universe or pull off something even worse. It’s the fear of the uncertain. There was a time when I was caught in that game. There was a time when I wouldn’t have considered the idea of moving to a place like New York: too many uncertainties. I’d heard all manner of terrifying stories about the city, that it was dirty and expensive and devils emerged from nowhere to steal your clothes and cut your head off, and you’d get maybe one ride on the subway before you met your maker there. I’d heard that it was impossible to find an apartment in the city, and if you did, you couldn’t make the rent.
Of course nasty stuff happens here. Yes, you’ll see a few people who could use a total makeover. They need a lot of help. Yes, NY is raw in certain ways. The entire range of humanity is on display here. But overall, these are just about the nicest, friendliest, most helpful people I have known. They seem happy. They look alert. In my brief experience, the NYPD contains a lot of gentle men and gentle women. I see it in their faces. I’d bet real bucks they have the toughest cop-jobs on Earth. The variety of people in the city is endless, and everyone has a point of view.
I like to think that Mother Nature—by which I mean to include our planet and all of us and cats and dogs and everybody else, without exception—has an uncanny ability to stay on course, to head in the right direction whatever that may be. And, as I mentioned earlier, there is so much going on and so much to worry about that only someone with Mother Nature’s bandwidth could handle it all, The Donald and global warming and misplaced pipelines and the Home Shopping Network, too, without so much as blinking an eye.
Science can reveal and understand only so much, because science is man’s invention. The white lab coats never convinced me; they appear too often on nerds hawking laundry soap on television. Scientists disagree as often as less scientific people who wear leather jackets and jeans. I have doubts about scientists and their veracity. Science isn’t very old, at least not the modern science with the lab coats and test tubes. I don’t know what to make of global warming, which has many people all bent out of shape. All the heat-producing engines in daily use worldwide must be changing something. What can we do without disrupting everyone? The world can’t just stop, and every day science finds something new. The environment is a very complicated business. I doubt mere humans will ever fully grasp it. Scientists or not, we’re all just subjects Mother Nature’s kingdom.
The world has been through quite a lot, and, according to the way the scholars in India think about time, the world has been here a very long time. Did you know that in the Indian system of knowledge, there are discrete, proper names for intervals of time all the way from a few microseconds to trillions of years? Have a look, please, and then consider that we might be a bit short-sighted in our view of world history and our concept of time. My point: the world will go through a lot more. It’s far from finished. We aren’t going anywhere just yet.
Today there exist forces for good which, to my knowledge, have never before existed on Earth. And today there are powerful forces of evil that have risen to challenge the good ones, just like in the movies. Think Star Wars. Think, “one coin, two sides.” You can’t have one without the other, at least not in the world as it is so constructed. Polarity drives the thing. Remember how astonished you were when you learned the truth about Darth Vader? Polarity can render your own father light-years away from you. But the distance is not the truth.
The way the world is is just one of innumerable possibilities. We could, for example, be flying through the air instead of driving rubber-tired cars on broken pavement. The world is always changing, moving, moving, we all hope, toward something better, fueled by the emergence of new technologies and re-discoveries of ancient knowledge and everything in between. The state of the world is the result of perhaps trillions of years of the application of energy to matter, of the engagement of the forces of life here and elsewhere in the universe.
Our incredible communications technology means that millions of words and pictures get around the world so quickly that, by the time anything has happened and everybody knows about it, it’s almost ancient history, because now we can come face-to-face with about a hundred earth-shattering events almost simultaneously. And while you’re wringing your hands over one dastardly deed, another one just happened (and ten good things happened for each bad thing, but good news doesn’t sell, so you won’t often see the good stuff). The pipeline never empties. It never will. We have to pick and choose among this vast information overload—especially if we plan to take some action. And what good is information if you don’t put it to some constructive use? Give me actionable information, please. It gives me purpose. It focuses my energies.
It can be difficult to know what’s true. Unless you were there to witness the event—and unless you know the many sides of it—you might be hard pressed to know who fired that first shot. And that first shot was fired eons ago, really and truly. At least in these money-driven days we have that “follow the money” dictum, which is useful to help you determine whose side you’re on. It might be better to avoid wasting your emotions on something about which you know little. You can control only so much. The rest is up to God.
It’s smart and wise and useful to raise your voice against wrong. The French seem to know how do it. It’s in their blood. They take to the streets and scream bloody murder when their government wants to pull a stunt they don’t like. Their government listens to them. It backs off when they yell. The French approach doesn’t seem to go over very well in the US. We—meaning law enforcement and government officials in general—don’t like protests, especially protest that disrupt critical operations like automobile traffic and shopping, which is just a reflection of the substance of our culture. So we go online and register our discontent there, which has, I think, a limited effect. To me it’s a peanut gallery. But if it has the effect of defusing tensions, that’s fine. Everyone needs self-expression. Self-expression is good stuff, and too many people are deprived of it.
The main thrust of these words and one reason I write them, is to stretch my own boundaries and to stretch yours, too, so that none of us feels quite so caught up in the dire predictions which have resulted from the election of Mr. Trump. I think he’s found himself in ‘way over his head since the campaign ended and the reality of taking office has crept in. He seems to want to stay close to New York. He says he feels more comfortable there. I can’t say that I blame him, not one bit. I wouldn’t want to live in DC either.
I do love NY. I really do get that bumper sticker—and without a car, of course.
And now, it’s time for some sleep.