When friends visited me in New York, where I lived for decades, I would take them on walking tours through the city.
We would cross the Westside Highway and stroll the pedestrian walk along the Hudson River, or cross the East River by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. The effect of these sojourns on people was often profound… the combined elements of the natural beauty of the rivers and vastness of the city’s architecture as well as the scope, clamour, and the interweaving of traditional ethnic customs and ad hoc social codes of New Yorkers often would heighten the visitors’ senses and open them to larger, more intricate awareness of themselves and extant reality. The freeways of the contemporary mind (conditioned to be constantly engaged in hurling motion, either frenzied by an obsession with performing (ultimately futile) manoeuvres directed at saving time – or stalled in a frustrating standstill) were replaced by the exigencies of life at street level, i.e., novel situations that had to be apprehended and negotiated.
The possibilities of life seemed more proliferate. The crimped eros of insular suburban thought loosened before the city’s intricacies and expansiveness.
Although: Not all, or even a scant few, New Yorkers can maintain the state of being. Few of us can live by Rilke’s resolve to “make every moment holy.” Life in the city becomes grotesquely distorted. High rents, inflicted by hyper-gentrification, in combination with the deification of success and its cult of careerism overwhelms one’s psyche. There is so far to fall. Angst (the word can originally be traced to the ancient Greek deity Ananke, the immovable-by-prayer-or-offering bitch Goddess of Necessity) clamps down one’s sense of awareness.
Ananke dominates the lives of the unprivileged citizenry while Narcissus, Trumps, the Clintons et.al. and their financial and cultural elitists’ patron God rules the day. The pantheon of possibility has been scoured away, a cultural cleansing has been perpetrated by the egoist. soul-defying caprice of those few beneficiaries of the the late capitalist dictatorship of money.
Capitalism devours all it touches: the resonances of city and country life, by means of the scouring away of participation mystique are devoured, as it also devours forest and field, ocean, sea and the soulscape of all who live under its rapacious dominion.
It comes down to this: We either struggle and strive, by and any and all means, to end the system – or it will end us.
Image by Dan Booth. Not to be reproduced without express prior permission.