A few weekends ago, I took off from work and drove across state borders to visit a long-lost love for what will probably be the last time in a long time, and which will definitely mark the end of our flighty affair — for now.
I am talking about New York City.
Although my State of Mind has not budged an inch since middle school, I find myself looking forward to the realization of something new with the distant and mysterious entity, Los Angeles, — as well as reminiscing on the unfulfilled vows I made for a future with NYC. We were going to spend Christmas together…
The urgency of this final meeting led me to wonder something that I had never before dared to question: what was it that made me fall in love with this city in the first place? Previously, I had pinpointed the place’s allure to an essence or a feeling, which anyone I dared to be friends with undoubtedly could sense as well, which gleaned Godzilla-like strength off of the septic sustenance of holiday spirit and light sprinklings of snow, and which travelled instantaneously and palpably over the radio waves in such songs as Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” (note the earlier bolded reference).
Walking down the streets of Brooklyn, I began to grasp the more real components of that feeling in the people passing by. New York City is a living landscape — a piece of art in almost every sense. From the lofty samples of architecture at every corner, to the more taboo — yet equally intrinsic — graffiti, all the way down to the state of mind itself.
Indeed, compared to the relatively small city I come from, the people walking the streets of NYC appeared to be so unique, and yet simultaneously so profoundly uninterested in the cool madness surrounding them. People wearing all sorts of clothes, doing all sorts of things, and no one stopping to look twice at the other. The feeling NYC gave me was one of carefree individuality. The thousands of people did not drown each other out, conflict, nor meld, but coexist in a marvelously misshapen mosaic masterpiece.
The key to this cultivated mayhem, I concluded, was acceptance: knowing that people would do things, that you deemed crazy, for their own reasons, and resigning yourself to keep doing your own things for your own reasons, without intervening or letting their things unnecessarily affect your things…because if you did, in a place as dense and diverse as NYC, you would undoubtedly go insane.
But why is acceptance any more or less effective than ignorance here? Why is the ‘knowing’ element necessary, so long as everyone is able to coexist? Would not the streets of NYC be equally carefree and individualistic if people strolled around in bubbles of unawareness and simply did not know of the differences surrounding them?
Well, yes. They would.
And so, would not that NYC feeling be just as blissful?
Well, I wouldn’t know… But since I’ve brought up hypothetical, alternate universes, I may as well dive all the way into that black hole of “if”‘s.
I should point out that in this other dimension defined by ignorance, the ‘state of mind’ I loved can no longer really be called as such. So supposing that another me lived in this ‘state of unmindfulness,’ if this Unmindful Me never did experience that NYC bliss while in that state, Unmindful Me would never know what Me was missing. In other words, without ever experiencing bliss, I would never know of my lack thereof.
With this whole other level of hypothetical ignorance unwrapped, way too many hypothetical questions come to mind. Like, would I be any less happy not knowing that I had never reached a certain level of bliss? Would I be any more happy to know what happiness was but never to achieve it? Don’t even get me started on how I would measure the happiness of the separate Me’s in their respective universes. I wouldn’t know whether to begin with a rating on a one-to-ten scale or with a detailed survey…
Sadly, I cannot rely on my Me’s for data, but I believe I can state without a doubt that if I was ignorant of what happiness was, I could never really miss it, and so I would be equally content as if I did know. Conversely, if I knew what happiness was but couldn’t have it, I would not be content.
Yet, I believe that the above paragraphs of rambling self-thought speak for me when I say that I would rather live uncomfortably and know than remain contentedly ignorant. I guess you could say that I’m ‘dying to know,’ and to anyone who says that ‘curiosity killed the cat,’ I say that the cat was already dying all along, but no one told him. I’d like to know what’s killing me.
Flashing back to NYC after that brief digression, I realize that walking through the city, basking in blind, ignorance-induced freedom may be just as blissful as walking through it in acceptance. However, I prefer the experience in knowledge and acceptance because I like to know what I am falling in love with.
Bidding farewell to New York City at last, I knew that I would always love it, but I also knew that it would understand — I have to go to LA, because if there is a possibility of my finding bliss there as well, I want to know…and in this universe.
To read my related poem “Indifference is Bliss,” click here!