As you all know, last week I was in New York City, traveling about and seeing the sights with my parents. We were kept pretty busy, and what down time we did get I ended up spending editing the hundreds of photos I’d taken, so that’s my excuse for not posting last Thursday. You’ll have to forgive that one. I did give you a picture!

One of the things that strikes me the most about New York–and, indeed, one of the most remarkable things about the world in general–is the sheer number of people packed into such a small space. Even on the Upper Westside, where we were staying–even at 1 o’clock in the morning–people are everywhere. Walking their dogs, walking their drunken friends, buying food, shopping, talking on phones, trying to hail cabs, yelling at cars, tripping over themselves to get across the walkway before the light turns red. Eight million people, all packed into only three hundred square miles, each carving out a unique life against the massive people-scape.

This is something that has always intrigued me about the world: every body has a story. Every single person that you pass on the street, catch a glance of out the window, sit next to on the bus–all of them have fully realized, intricate and unique lives. They all have parents and family members, friends, jobs, dreams, futures. They are all living out their own stories. Every single one of them.

Have you ever driven down the freeway and counted the number of cars you pass? Every car has at least one person in it, going about their own day, headed for somewhere just like you are. They have a whole history you will never know, but for that instant your lives intersect–and then they are gone. Just a blip on the radar. And this happens thousands of times every time you get into a car or walk to the store or even just sit on the front porch and watch the world spin.

There are more stories in the world than it is possible to fully conceive. Most of the time, we treat the people who own them like background music–just extras in our own stories–and don’t stop to think about what it really takes for that person to exist. But occasionally, if you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse into what that other person’s movie is about. And that’s why there will always be more stories to tell, and to write down. You can never record them all, but you can sure try.

Just something that’s been on my mind.

Extrospectively yours,
M.M. Jordahl

“We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.” -Fydor Dostoevsky

3 thoughts on “NYC, USA”

  1. Yes! That very thought has occupied so many of mine as I see or meet people. I’ll drive by somebody dressed in something unusual or catch a few seconds of a conversation as I walk past someone on the street and begin to daydream of their lives.

    The most interesting instances, though, are the people you just meet for a moment. The couple you strike up a conversation with at the movie theater. The person you talk to on a plane. The group you do a single project with for class. Afterward, you can’t help but wonder: what impact did I have on their lives? You’ll never hear from them again, but your words and actions live on.

    I like to think that every tiny personal interaction affects the other person in some way. I wonder what forking paths these tiny instances where our lives intersect. Do your words somehow inspire a story? Are they something they think about the next day? Or, perhaps, they steal one a joke you made offhand and, at just the right moment, use it on their future spouse months later. Who knows? Life is crazy.

    An appropriate quote from a wise, scholarly and well respected sage of humanity comes to mind:

    “Nobody important? Blimey, that’s amazing. You know that in nine hundred years of time and space and I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t important before.”

  2. Wouldn’t you know it? I LITERALLY just watched that episode of Who last night. So good.

    I most like to think about how I appear to all of those people who will never see me again. It’s so easy to get distracted worrying about all of the little things in your life, but to an outsider, none of those things are important. You’re just a person, and there isn’t much else to be said. Kind of puts things into perspective, eh?

    1. Definitely! Maybe you were just promoted, had a loved one die, or were released from surgery. They don’t know. It’s all a blank slate for them to only sketch an image but frame a permanent picture. Of course, it’s that very mystery that makes meeting new people so exciting! (And frightening, in some cases.)

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