Monthly Archives: August 2009

New Yorkers, this is for you

keithwork01

Recently, i’ve been experiencing NYC in a strangely sentimental way every time i commute into the city for work.  I find myself snapping out of my usual thought-filled daze, looking up from the sidewalk, and just taking everything in, as if i were discovering the city anew.  And i can’t help but assume that i wouldn’t fit in anywhere other than New York.  I have these thoughts regularly, but these days, the conviction is so unshakable.  Sometimes when i ride the subway, i like to stand and hold the pole even if there are empty seats and casually look around and observe the people.  I don’t know what it is about subway trains, but i instantly feel comfortable and content in that sea of strangers who are so absorbed in their own bubbles but also refreshingly friendly, when given a chance to be.  New York friendly is a rare kind of friendly:  not overwhelming, not interfering, and most definitely not forced.  Friendliness in New York is warranted, not expected, but it’s also surprisingly prevalent, if you know how to interact with the people.  It could be in a quick nod or even just a glance.  Wherever you find it, it’s cool, never clingy, and it always brightens up your day, if only for a fleeting moment.  Perhaps “friendliness” is not the right word.  Maybe it’s solidarity.

The bubbles definitely exist, but they’re so clumsy and thin and easily breakable, and not many people realize that everyone needs and wants to break out of them sometimes.  There’s a secret camaraderie among New Yorkers, and i’m not sure how much of that exists—and if it does, what it’s like—in other big cities.  And so this is the question i’m faced with now:  do i leave New York knowing that physically, it’s an unhealthy environment for me, but risking never getting used to a population that behaves differently?  Do i go for the people or the environment?  In a way, i guess they’re one and the same.  What i really wanna know is, what are people in other big cities like?

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*photo is of street artist Keith Haring and was taken by Chantal Regnault.  found here.

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Filed under culture, new york

On creativity

Creativity_504x428

I do not believe that you’re either born creative or not–creativity is just as much a state as it is a trait–nor do i believe it is impossible to enhance creativity.  But a recent article in Scientific American discusses a research on “an easy way to increase creativity,” a research so preposterous that i couldn’t help but assume that its researchers are exactly the type to say something like the above.

The main argument put forth by the researchers is that psychological distance enhances creativity, and one can effect psychological distance by displacing an event into the future or a far-off place or imagining an event to be unlikely. This makes sense (as one commenter put it, “Ask an artist – these are no new ideas to us.   We do this naturally”), but the research seems over-simplified and i am highly skeptical of some its conclusions. For instance, the article ends with the suggestion that modern technology gives us ready access to faraway “people, sights, music, and food,” which might mean that we are getting more creative. I would think the exact opposite:  the web, whose communication transcends space and time, makes these faraway and exotic things seem near and familiar. Is anything even “faraway” anymore?

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Filed under communication, perception, technology