Tag Archives: time

The Art of Walking

  • I was going to write a post about

    this book

    but then I got lazy.

  • So now I’m going to write about walking. Because that’s what I did this morning to get to work. And it was a fantastic sunny morning.
  • I just did a Google search of this post’s title and I found

    this book

    which apparently is only okay (according to the Amazon ratings).

  • But since I’d been mulling over the idea of writing about the former subject for today and had only switched topics about ten minutes before sitting down at my desk, I kind don’t really have much planned. So here we go.

Manhattanites, both residing and working, have a reputation for being some of the fastest walkers on the planet.  It’s so bad (or good, depending on who you are) that there’s a section of sidewalk somewhere dedicated to the idea.

I quickly raise the guilty hand on this issue.  When I’m at college and walking with my friends, I find myself having to slow down every five steps so that I can stay in pace with them.  Manhattan walking is best done alone, and with a scowl on your face.

But I kind of want to change that. First of all, this is a walk truly found only on people who want to look busy/important, and all self-humbling attempts aside, all the truly busy/important people probably aren’t walking down a busy street anyway. I’m not saying slow it down (we’ll never get anywhere), but maybe we should ease up on the hostile front.

Take today.  It was a bloody fantastic morning.  The sun was filtering through the trees in Bryant Park where white people were “doing” tai chi, specks of light bouncing off the layers of humid atmosphere (baahh I usually don’t romanticize humidity like this. I’ve always hated it.  But it can make a pretty picture.) and hitting the sides of million-story buildings like….like….like [heartbreaking simile].

I know people have places to go. But we kind of need to look around and realize how amazing the morning grind can look sometimes.


The Benefits of Smiling

You’re in your late teens and home for the summer. In a brand new day and you’re expected to be at work in about an hour.  No big deal, you just gotta climb out of bed and make yourself look decent and get on the bus — wait, nope, that’s your mom who hasn’t been called into work that morning and wants you to take the time to eat a good balanced breakfast.  Mom is excellent and loving and wants the best for you, who are in your late teens but still kind of immature and had this been any other era of history, you’d already be married with three kids, who are also working. At a steel factory.

You oblige to her motherly wishes and eat your Kix, which kind of taste different from how your remember them as a child and bear some sort of corny aftertaste that hadn’t been there before.  You declare it kinda nasty but finish it up. A quick glance at the microwave clock proclaims that unless you start moving, you’re going to miss the bus.


After gathering your things and running barefoot to the car to get your shoes, you run down the block and stare down the boulevard for the 125 bus.  It doesn’t come. You missed the bus.

The morning was okay until that very moment.  But by all important accounts, your morning had just turned “bad”.  The problem lies in the idea of grouping together subsequent moments of consciousness by where those moments find themselves during the day. We dictate the quality of the whole morning by the present we’re presently experiencing. It also works the other way.  We dictate the quality of the present moment by the whole morning.

Now I’m generally gestalt about things.  The bigger picture in politics, culture, music, etc., is much more significant for us as a people than the minute details of things.  That said, the minute details sometimes tend to have huge ramifications on the gestalt.  And if Mrs. Wakefield never ran out of chocolate for her chocolate cookies, the chocolate chip cookie would never have been born and I’d have five fewer cavity-related dentist appointment stories to tell today.

The hard part is defining “a moment”.  I’m not going to worry about that now, though.  My title is “the Benefits of Smiling”, so I’m going to have to figure out how to tie that in to what I’m saying. Ummm.

Oh! So yeah, I’m feeling cruddy – I mean, you’re feeling cruddy because your mom’s like “You should have gotten up earlier!” and you’re (very immaturely) like “I didn’t want to eat breakfast in the first place!” and your mom’s like “Worst excuse ever!” and you’re like “Yeah I know”.  The fact that your mom’s upset only makes you yourself upset and then anxieties that have nothing to do with anything creep up and you suddenly find yourself frowning and it sucks.

What’s a physical remedy for this?

  1. Pull the corners of your mouth up.
  2. That’s it.

Smiling makes you feel better. Thoughts are fleeting.  I’m not even sure the pinpointing of thoughts can be done on a time scale like tangible events. I’m not even sure time scales are a valid way to look at time.  I don’t even really understand time, but I’m not an astrophysics major, so it’s not my problem </lame excuse to not know something>. But smiling is physical.  Whatever the true nature of time is (Literature plug! Read From Eternity to Here: the Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time by Sean Carroll), if you’re smiling now, you’re consciously breaking off this very moment from the infinitely crappy moments you’re tempted to bunch together to classify a crappy morning.

Yes, it doesn’t get rid of your problems (unless, like, there’s someone giving you a problem because you’re not smiling.  In that case, please leave North Korea). But you are choosing to be an outward testimony to someone who just might need that smile more than you.

I know it’s kind of “in” right now to complain.  In fact, that’s a pretty sure way to make friends with those who are frustrated by the same stuff.  And for me, personally, it’s hard to smile knowing those around me are feeling anxiety over something (read: my slowness in the morning getting ready). But it’s worth a shot.  It doesn’t find you the right path in life, and it doesn’t automatically usher in a wave of ecstatic fun no matter what you’re doing, but we need it.


Communicating with the Future

Last night I was sitting in Bryant Park reading some books I picked up at the library for the weekend. It was around 7:30, and at one point I looked up and realized how freaking beautiful everything was.  Sometimes I knock on modern and contemporary office architecture for being kind of boringly all glass siding and predictability (except for the Bank of America tower by Cook+Fox, ever since I made the connection between its Discovery Channel special and the hunk of construction I used to walk by as a teenager. In any case, it’s completed now and very, very beautiful.

Anyway, the view from my chair was almost exactly the same as the view of the above picture I stole from the innernet. Looking around and taking in the way reflections off this tower and its surrounded glass-faced rectangular towers played with each other, it all felt kind of movie-like to me. Within a greater diameter of the few adjacent blocks were buildings from other eras of the past century, some made out of combinations of concrete, some concrete white and others stark grey and some almost brown.  Of course, then you have the Schwarzman Building directly behind, and then there’s…gaaah this park can’t not be beautiful.

So the sun hadn’t set yet and I’m looking at these buildings and this park and the people (workers/tourists/lovers/crazy people) around me. See, whenever I see something, be it a work of contemporary engineering like the future PATH station at the World Trade Center, or the iPad, that reminds me of how it’s like, the future, I tend to imagine people from the past marveling at our technological and aesthetic advancements. Then I realize they can’t do that because they’re either still alive and not as impressed or already dead.

Along with that slight dip in my sense of hope came a resolution to speak with my future self.  There are many interpretations of the idea of “Communication”, and all of them are culturally subjective. Uggh, there’s this one word I’m looking for, but I can’t remember it. It’s like…”the specific act of declaring something intangible but culturally significant into existence through verbal action”. Like when you say “I promise”, the very act of saying “I promise” wills the promise into existence.

Whatever the fancy word for that idea is, it’s what I did in Bryant Park last night.  It probably sounds completely nerdy, but I “declared communication” with my 50-year-old self at this time of the year 30 years from now.  I made a mental note that at that moment, I was in direct dialogue with myself, but 30 years apart. Now all I have to do is acknowledge that communication when I’m 50 and trans-time communication will have been established!

I dunno, I guess I was feeling a little “romantic”. The buildings moved me. Here they are, in an almost permanent dialogue with each other, each from different eras. But in essence, they’re part of the same “space”.  Maybe that’s what I was going for. We’ll just have to wait and see if I turn 50 and remember I ever sent myself such a message.