I went straight to my friend Kirk’s absurdly beautiful (and expensive!) place in the Lower East Side. I’m not going to write too much about our time together, but suffice it to say that he made me think a lot about how much people can change. Or more specifically, how much small signs early on about political and other proclivities inevitably blossom later on. It’s happened with Kelly, Duo, and now Kirk, too. He and his roommate made me ponder my life track. Here I am, earning a pittance, yet trying to enact idealistic positive change around the world. They earn five times and six times more money than I do. I earn fifteen times more than most people I met in Kyrgyzstan. Why? What are we being paid for? The relativity of wealth and power simultaneously troubles me and fascinates me. Do I have the most impact where I am? Should I worry about these things?
One thing in particular stood out to me in my conversations with Kirk and his roommate. Their perceptions of other places based and their definition of civilization. I started to think about the conundrum of experience. As all human beings, I am an emotional being who responds to spectacle and story. I irrationally put more value in personal anecdotes, things I have seen for myself. So I scoff at those who base their opinions of Kyrgyzstan or Palestine on articles when I have been there. I pat myself on the back for having been there, for seeing it, for talking to the people, for knowing more than a book could ever tell me. But really, that’s because we all like to think we’re doing it right. Logically speaking, the reader knows more, so long as he reads reputable sources. This is the entire thrust of human civilization – the gathering of myriad sources of information that overrides singular experience. So who knows these places better? I read, too, certainly. But perhaps my bias from going to these places makes me know the places worse. By having personal experiences, I can no longer have objective views. Travelers like to say that travel is the best educator. Perhaps it’s simply a mirror stroking the ego.
Enough of the existential mutterings. New York was dominated by meeting friends and looking at art. I saw Gabe, Jojo, Henry, Dan, and Kathleen over meals of varying quality, very happy to chat with these long time friends. As with the theme all summer, I continued to work while on vacation. My art museum visits were centered around seeing pieces of Art from the AP list of 250 works. Luckily, none of the works housed in the Morgan Library and the Brooklyn Museum were on display, and I was free to enjoy the other works. Garry Winnogrand’s color works were particularly astounding, as well as Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party. After visiting the Brooklyn Museum, I met with Mohammad from Qalqilya. By happy accident, we happened to overlap in New York, and I was able to give him Ponz’s art, talk about Qalqilya and Kfar Saba, and conduct an interview with this extraordinary man, one of the founders of SkateQilya
The Met was particularly overwhelming this time. I wonder if the displays have gotten better or if I’m simply appreciating everything more now. I entered near opening at 10am, then went to the Met Cloisters after lunch, then went straight back to the Met until closing at 9pm. Far too much art to look at. So much to learn! I’d hoped to spend the days adjusting and resting for school, but I ended up filling the days completely. I feel the school year hurtling towards me (or me towards it). There is so much to tell my students, so much to share with my school. I only hope they are interested to listen.