Guy Kettelhack, lives in New York City (1975-present) (answer to a Quora question)
To me that’s like asking what, in all its dimensions, does your own mind teach you? Oddly, with its legendary bounty of distractions (though, pertinently, no more or less bountiful than the distractions in your own mind), New York can, for some people, become the occasion of discovering a greater sense of calm than they’ve known anywhere else.
Anyway it’s done that for me. And I think the reason it has is that it reflects every aspect of thought, feeling or fantasy in my own mind: nothing I’ve ever felt or wondered about hasn’t met with an answering response from some resource in New York (people, concerts, museums, chance absorption of an overheard voice or something scribbled on a wall) that precisely fits it.
The best examples of this may be too private to share. A sexual fantasy you grew up thinking sentenced you to complete aloneness turns out to be the basis of a number of thriving groups in New York. Your fascination with particular edible grasses or types of salami or translating Ancient Greek or barely known Indian sauces or arcane branches of folk music or cutting edge neurological research into schizophrenia will find itself passionately reflected in human company to be found here. New York is like your ‘id’ - Freud’s hypothetical unconscious furnace of drives which feeds everything you are. These drives seek release in whatever forms they are wittingly or unwittingly provided: they’ve no moral interest in the outcome, though the rest of the selective you may. But it is New York’s immoderate capacity to fund you with every imaginable response (often amounting to solution) to every imaginable desire or curiosity you bring to it that is its real glory.
New York has taught me how profoundly ‘place’ can merge with, and therefore suggest to me, ‘who I am.’ That the same can be said of Thoreau and his Walden doesn’t vitiate or erase the impact of this discovery, it enlarges our understanding that the ‘particulars’ of place potentially have meanings to anyone receptive to them. The universe (as infinite in rural New Hampshire as it is in Manhattan) reflects us; we reflect it - if we’re temperamentally aligned with the angles of its transmission. And New York’s got the angles for me.
In short, we’re never lost - or anyway perhaps never need be. The profound calm thismakes possible can be explained simply. You feel heard, corroborated, embraced by a ‘condition’ which tells you you’re where you belong. It’s my experience that this (arguably greatest) human anguish of feeling lost can, in and by New York, be answered and assuaged. Existentially, and with as much crème fraiche on top as you can handle.