Simple Things, Miles to Understanding.
Six days in New York City is never enough. I cannot wait to get back, perhaps permanently (though that plan will take a few years). For someone who was always afraid of large cities, NYC fits me. I love walking the streets, the smells (even the nasty ones), riding the trains, dealing with all the people. The entire experience is exhilarating. I want the chance to have living there become mundane, normal.
The weather gave me a grab bag of experiences. Down right cold when we arrived Thursday night, perfect 64 on Sunday, rain and wind on Tuesday.
Nature has surely given NYC a beating lately. Many places are still trying to recover from heavy snows and of course, the hurricane. Some places in lower Manhattan were still without power when we were there. A few were still flooded. Yet, like they always seem to do, New Yorkers continue to bounce back, insist on normalcy. The subway system was up and running. Buses were on time and people were living their lives. It was a testament to perseverance, perhaps stubbornness. Either way, it was a great trip.
Our main purpose for a November visit was the wedding reception of Sheryl’s cousin, Meredith. What a wonderful celebration! She and her wife, Jordan were married at city hall on Friday and the party on Saturday night (held at Roberta’s in Brooklyn) was filled with fantastic food folks and fun. Sheryl and I danced our tails off.
New York changes me a little, lets me see the world differently. My visit to Ellis Island on my first trip altered my perspective on my past. Visiting the Site of the World Trade Center connected me to the people of NYC in a profound way. Before that visit, it was easy for me to intellectualize most of the events of September 11, distancing myself from any deep emotion about what happened. Standing there back in 2006 changed that. I lost a great deal of my cynicism; replaced it with a heavy sadness. The people who were murdered there were just going to work, or helping others. Regardless of political ideology, this event still is hard to understand.
On this trip, I visited the Cloisters and the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the first time. I highly recommend this experience. Standing in these two buildings, seeing and experiencing the art gave me a connection to the past, to history that I did not expect. I have been to many art galleries (even a few in NYC) but this particular experience was vastly different. Perhaps it was the buildings themselves (particularly the dark and intimate feel of the Cloisters. The expanse of the Met) that added to my connection to the art. For the first time it made sense to me, mattered that someone had created what I was looking at, someone long gone in many cases. The Met is massive! You could spend ten hours there and not see the entirety of the collection. After entering, we went left towards the Roman and Greek sculpture. From there we wandered upstairs where many of the worlds master painters work is on display. I was again struck by the knowledge that human beings created all of this. It seems so simple but means so much. Like me, they had lives and experiences that, while not unique in nature, were unique to them. Unique and important enough to preserve them.
I have had this thought before, but I really understood it for the first time. It mattered to me.
And that was the essence of my experience the first three days-a connection to history and humanity that I had not previously had. It culminated at the wedding reception. Here I was, nearly 3000 miles from home in a place with people, most of whom I did not know, sharing an experience that offered us a chance to connect, to share in our mutual affection for two people (Meredith and Jordan). Everyone I met or talked to, looked at or watched, was smiling, happy. I can’t speak for everyone at the event, but I felt nothing but love, everywhere. I imagined a world of people doing the same thing. It made my heart happy. I had to travel far from home to have a chance to experience it.
This one emotion that connects almost all of us. We all need, crave, want love. In situations like this wedding reception, for this weekend in NYC, that emotion overcame every other difference.
I am starting to see that personal enlightenment is rarely an understanding of complex ideas or an affirmation following magnificent events. Instead, it is almost always a conformation of the simple. I’m exploring how that feels and taking great comfort in it.