In my day job, I save cities. In that life where I use my other name, wear my other wardrobe and use the other half of my brain, that’s what I think and say about my work. Its a good job. It has meaning and value, and I’ve lived in so many different types of cities in my life. But now I sit in an office, pushing paper, hitting computer keys and making phone calls, completely disconnected from the economic and social challenges I claim to be fixing (or at least trying to). In my city savior persona,I often take my walks at lunch. (I’ve blogged about my ongoing frustration about whether or not to give to the homeless, who I pass daily during my walks and if so how.)
During one of my sojourns which are coming to an end as labor day looms ahead, I decided to walk through one of the small urban parks a block from my building. I tend to avoid it because it is an odd space. Square in shape, the size of a city block, one side is fully covered with food trucks and irregular patterns of people waiting to buy lobster rolls, Afghani kabobs, vegetarian burritos or gourmet cupcakes. The benches are always full and represent the city in miniature. Smokers in one place, guys in suits on another, students in shorts and tight tanks, homeless, and those talking to themselves without a phone we tend to avoid. You name it, you can find it in the park on any summer work day in the city. Green grass and trees aside, the park chokes me like only a city, by concentrating and swirling around people, beauty and pathologies in small, dense spaces.
Aren’t I supposed to feel nature, get a jolt of healing green from a city park?
Instead, I cringe at the density of social problems packed between the plants and feel tiny at my sheer inability to address them. While I often go to nature to touch the universal spirit, I struggle to feel that spirit among the maringa sounds of iphones, the scent of those who have no access to soup, and the hustle and bustle of working folks navigating the crowds congregating in the space.
That park really drives home the magnitude of issues we, as a society, do not address. Not really. We just let them fester. Because solving them overwhelms me with what it would take, and how much it would hurt my life, what I’d really have to give up to solve them. I apologize for getting on my soapbox. I don’t like complaining without at least an attempt at thinking through solutions. But sometimes the problems seem so big, that all I can do is keep the door shut on them, brush them under the carpet, avoid walking in block-sized city parks on summer days at lunch time. The bury-my-head-under the carpet feeling doesn’t last. This is my day work (writing is my early morning and night work) and it means something to me, but keeping the fire burning gets harder and harder. But I do it in the office and when I come home, I ignore the changes that it would entail to really fix things.
How do you handle this all. Knowing that at some level, if we looked and really saw, we’d realize that a lot of the world really does not work for most people?