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Thursday
May172012

New York Cracked Open Mind

I'm writing this from a musty library/book shop/cafe in New York. The decor is Oxford meets industrial warehouse meets trendy arthouse. A tanned fashion savvy woman is sitting next to an elderly couple is sitting next to a young hipster guy is sitting next to a collegiate professor man with glasses and silver hair. One of those ladders on wheels is behind me. People are supposed to use it to reach books on the top shelves. I just want to take it for a ride. Everywhere I turn, I'm surrounded by books. Some are just informational. French cuisine cookbook. Obese, leather-bound encyclopedias. Some of these books are a regurgitation of what someone was taught or heard. Self-help something or other. But plenty of these books are more than that.

Plenty of these books are crammed with ideas and stories and poetry and songs and dreams, the words of people who were willing to crack open their mind so that others might peer inside. These books are a glimpse into what people think about, daydream about, and long for, a glimpse into what people ache for and regret, a glimpse into where people choose to set their mind in the midst of the buzzing chaos, a glimpse into where an individual mind is, and where that same mind longs to be. Whether through fiction or non-fiction or some hybrid of the two, those are my favorite kinds of books. Those books teach me about life. About humanity. Art. Me. Those books allow me to connect to the author in a way that emotionally flat books don't, in a way that many conversations and relationships I have don't.

After all, there's really no better way to get to know someone than to ask them what they daydream about. That's a cutting question, one begging for an unfiltered answer. The good. The bad. Offensive. Whimsical. Innocent. Weird. An honest interaction around that question opens all kinds of doors, doors that other talking points don't touch. I mean, telling people what I do for a living says very little about me. And the same is true of where I'm from or how many siblings I have or where I went to college. But asking someone what they daydream about, or think about, well, that probes deep into the mind. And the mind is the playground for the soul. The mind is the place where our souls explain themselves, slip clothing over their ghostly bodies so that the real world can understand their form just a little bit more. The mind is the clearest picture of the soul we have. In that way, I know some authors I've never met better than people I've spent years around. Sure, I may know where my friends shop and where they go to church, and I may have met their family, but unless I know what goes bump in their mind, we are relative strangers.

So what's the point? I'm not sure. Maybe nothing. But I'm going to peruse the books, ride the rolling ladder, and see what the writers of these works are really like--those who are willing to show me a piece of it, anyway. And maybe I'll share with some New Yorkers what I've been daydreaming about, thinking about, and give them a chance to actually know me.