Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Corner Theory

By: Adam Humphreys
Here are some things I have thought while in New York, concerning what it’s like to live in New York, what this says about people who move here, and the world at large. These could also be called: failed personal philosophies of urban life.

If you are new to the city I suggest you read ‘The Human Zoo,’ by Desmond Morris. The central argument of the book is that human beings in a city behave in predictable and unhealthy patterns analogous to animals in captivity.

At one time I thought that this book was the key to understanding not only my experience of moving here and reorienting myself, but the people in the city at large. I liked to think that the people around me were ‘animals.’ That I was an ‘animal’ in competition with other ‘animals’ for dominance, rewards, money, whatever.

To thrive in the ‘animal city’ one must reoriented oneself to be maximally competitive. One must take social obligations seriously, and manage their contact list aggressively. I let that go very quickly because I felt it was wrong in my guts and balls.

Now to the Midnight Cowboy narrative/thesis: whereby young, optimistic people move to New York with ideas and lose those ideas and leave. Midnight Cowboy is pitch black jaded. I would get into this one if you’ve been around for a couple of years and don’t see yourself really ‘making it’ as you had previously envisioned. It’s funny to look at yourself and laugh at the notions you may have had once, and it might even allow you to put some distance between your new healing self and your old depressive self.

Now I’m proposing something I call ‘Corner Theory.’ It is very mysterious.

When you Google map Manhattan, you will see it is a grid. The streets run in rectangles, and the apartments buildings within are squares. The apartments themselves are usually little boxy things, and sometimes the bathrooms have no sink. Even on the sidewalk there are squares of pavement. This makes the city pretty efficient to maneuver, but it also means that there are tons of corners, and that any time you are here, when you look around and really take things in, you will always find yourself in or on some form of corner. Cornered, as it is.

With corner theory we can better accept instances wherein people behave like cornered animals.