"City life is millions of people being lonesome together.
Henry David Thoreau
Manhattan. Born and raised. I love this place. This city. This life. I love the hustle and bustle, the mosaic of faces, the messy blur of belonging. I cherish the symphony of car horns and human hollers, the speeding of souls and yellow taxis. I'm warmed by the bright lights, the constant color, the tie-dye of time. I celebrate that I am rarely alone. There is always someone else. Someone walking by. Someone hunched over a screen. Someone reading a paper. Someone soaking up life. Someone who also dreams and struggles and curses the traffic.
But I wonder. And I know. Being surrounded does not mean being connected. It is plenty possible to be alone, and to be lonely, in a vast crowd. Maybe it is even easier to grow lonesome in a place packed with people? Maybe as people zig and zag by us, buzzing through the maze of their days, it is harder to reach out, to talk, to say it. Hello.
I think about this now. Because I am a mother. I have little girls who will one day grow up and live in the world. And I wonder what world it will be? Do I want them to live here in this exquisite urban chaos? Or do I wish for them a simpler space, full of green grass and wide smiles and robust relationships? I don't know. I don't know what I want for them because I don't know what I want for me. It is hard to figure these things out, isn't it?
Or maybe it isn't. Maybe city and country are screens just like this one into which I stare. Maybe behind it all, life is life and place is place. Maybe, in truth, we are all destined to be a bit lonesome from time to time. Maybe this is good for us. Maybe distance from others, from self even, is important. Maybe it just doesn't matter whether we float amidst tall buildings or tall trees. Maybe we are who we are no matter where we grow.
I don't know. What I do know is that I am here. Swaddled in this city that raised me alongside Mom and Dad. At this screen, my bright haven, thinking aloud, asking. Asking the big questions that come like rain, pounding down. The big questions that find us when we are good enough to let them. The questions that are bigger than we are, than we will ever be.
Who would I be if I were raised somewhere else?
Is this city part of my soul?
Is loneliness, in patches, good for us?
What do I want for the creatures I created?
Why am I here, opening up, admitting uncertainty?
Does becoming ever cease or are we always evolving into who it is we are?
The big questions alight wherever we are. City. Country. Cyberspace. Everywhere in between. They burrow in and beckon. And in their misty presence, we think and write and wonder. In our loving lonesomeness. In our tangled togetherness.
Do you think it's possible to be both lonesome and surrounded? Do you think you'd be a different person if raised elsewhere? Do you think it's important to ask big questions? Do you think that this life, this cyber life, is millions of people being lonesome together?