this is my first mini-essay that was composed entirely from my phone as I wandered the city. Some interesting patterns emerge from the medium these thoughts took form in. I did some light editing on my computer to add links that I wanted to add while writing but is impossible to do from your phone.
So I’m in New York City for the next couple weeks and I’ve been trying to really feel the vibe and texture of the city in my first couple days. Today I’ve been walking around and I wandered into a used bookstore in SOHO. This experience of running my fingers along used bookstore spines and drifting between different visualizations of various authors’ worlds reminds me of when I traveled alone in Prague and had a similar experience. It’s a strangely spiritual experience—exploring a new city on foot and by yourself. It involves being intensely in-tune with your emotions and urges. The freedom to do anything can be overwhelming unless you have the courage to prioritize what matters to you, what feels right in the moment.
I think it’s interesting how your purchases are a reflection of your kids and headspace. It’s like how grocery store clerks can have an intimate understanding of your plans based on what your cart at check out: two handles and a 24-pack and a paper towel roll? You know a rager is going down. Kale, a bag of rolled oats and chia seeds? Someone’s decided to make overnight oats their life.
In the same way that our grocery store purchases show what events or decisions we’ve made, our purchase of ideas and emotions in books and media and art reflect what‘s occupying our heart. What does my purchase of Kafka, Vonnegut, and Kawabata say about my current state of mind and heart? What kinds of conversations do your purchases have without you?
Despite how intimate the exchange of goods and ideas is, our transactions and purchases have for the most part become a lifeless interaction. Transactions are optimized for efficiency for the capitalist machine. Time means money and intimacy doesn’t have the same ring to it as compounding interest.
We need to slow down to take it all in, but the city asks you to do more, to be faster. These pockets of intimacy (like this bookstore) give you a handle to pull yourself out of the flood and take a breath. What else offers an opportunity to pull ourselves away from the constant going and instead observe from the passing in?
This is the 25th installment in my experiment of publishing raw, lightly edited mini-essays every day towards achieving 100 public pieces. Check out the rationale and the full list here or view my evergreen, longer pieces on my website.
Woah! I’m a quarter of the way through my experiment! It’s been a bit slower going than I had ambitiously hoped at the start, but I’m not feeling the pressure to publish and slowly overcoming my fear of just putting raw thoughts that go into my Notes throughout the day and composing them lightly into something meaningful. Thank you for those that have joined me for this journey!