Tuesday, October 11, 2005
by Nicholas Allanach
New York has been called an "island at the center of the world"; of course, by demarcating one place "the center" everywhere else, subsequently, becomes peripheral. This apparently insular city has also been called "the crossroads of the world", which paints an entirely different picture of the city as an interactive bustle of races and religions exchanging ideas and goods throughout the teeming streets and boroughs. This is the livelier of the two descriptions, but is no truer than the first. In fact, New York City is a paradox. While it remains a welcoming "crossroads" (i.e. "bring me your weak and huddled masses, yearning to breathe free") it is also a cold and distant "center". Glass towers, concrete, and constantly flowing streams of traffic, position New York as the proverbial financial, cultural, and political "center of the world." Such an identity must be maintained even when it is no longer true.
Much like the rest of the United States, New York is fueled by fantasy and myth. Admittedly, New York's power is for real; however, in this increasingly interconnected global environment, it is almost impossible to demarcate anything as a "center". At the turn of the century, New York was seen as a utopian "New World", where the possibilities and aspirations of those who settled here were wide-open, pragmatic, and opportunistic. New York is still inspired by such an imagination as it continues to defy the boundaries that restrict greater human endeavors. Thus, there are, most certainly, dreams and fantastic imaginings still associated with this mythic place. Many such dreams originate in the minds of those who live here; however, even more come from those who've never even set foot on the island. Despite these dreams, New York is no longer the "New World". In fact, the new "New World" is everywhere, it is interconnected, static, and has no center or crossroads.
What purpose can this city (and a writer living in it) then have in this "New World"?