imaginary outfit: a day on the water

Learning to cope with the heat here is turning out to be a type of emotional endurance test. I've known hot before, but I've never experienced the collective hot of millions of people pressed into a small space. The concrete heats up, the buildings bounce back the flat light, and every apartment window opens and exhales staleness into the street. And then you add the bodies. The trick seems to be moving slowly, eating and drinking multitudinous icy things, dreaming of water and trying to stay calm.

I've found New York to be a generous place. When you live with eight million other people, there has to be flex. Waiting in lines, giving up space, giving more than you'd like, constantly dealing with people - it is what it is. Thanks to constant little individual sacrifices to civility, made as a matter of course, life buzzes on pleasantly enough. But the heat shows the seams. The constant minor stresses sit there, waiting to bloom into powerful aggravations. There is a limit to the load anyone can be expected to bear.

Too much is hard to deal with. 

I was thinking about that as I was reading Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself a couple of weeks ago. There's a passage where DFW talks (back in 1996) about how as the internet evolves, we'll beg for gatekeepers, because the crush of information will be too much to process and we'll be grateful to have people sort through it all and tell us what's worthwhile. Of course, he was completely right. Here we are, bobbing in a saturated, ever-churning sea of objects and images, with so much of a muchness on every spectrum of consumption, interaction and choice that triviality and significance level to nothing.

My life is in the thick of the much. I'm one of many set of hands building channels and gates, directing what gets through and what's left behind, picking through and sorting, setting the chosen thing on the shelf for others to see and choose in turn.

What endures from this is anyone's guess. In my material life, I find myself retreating to the consolation of classic things. I am not alone in this - we are hungry for the barest scraps of authenticity and integrity (ahem). There is a relief to engaging with the lasting object, whether it is a house or a hatchet or a shoe design from 1975. It's a stepping out of time, an anchor against the torrent.  It's an illusion of permanence. After all, the muchness is there, no matter how we select and choose against it. It looms and won't recede, and it will swell and cover everything eventually. Figuring out how to deal with it is the given condition.

Living here is good practice for that.