This Place Is Empty

The day was hazy as many before have been, and many beyond this I’m sure will be. I’m in a different place, and even here my life, this moment, feels the same; hazy.

The air is hot, no wind to cool the skin, not fresh enough to enjoy, nor to be active in, for its contents are as unnatural as the loneliness I find myself clutched by.

This place is empty. Not that others aren’t, just this one seems to fit the feeling. This day the same.

In the back seat of a taxi, driven by a man I only know a little of his language to communicate with, the conversation over before it had begun, we head North East towards something I want to see since I find myself close by.

I plan to spend the afternoon, most the day even, to explore this area, to witness its history first hand. I’m excited, sure, but I am also alone on this trip and I can’t seem to shake that awareness, much less the feeling I am attempting to describe.

Maybe it would be different if this had been my first extended time alone, but for reasons I am unaware of I have become quite familiar with this kind of loneliness. Again, I don’t know why. That’s just how it has worked out up to now.

Whether here or somewhere else I have traveled, somewhere else I have lived, I have often experienced deep feelings of isolation, deeper moments the same.

I have found I am able to go many places, be many places, live many places, alone, and yeah there’s some good in that, but there are moments when I battle with anxiety of being there by myself, with no one to help if needed, no one to experience it with.

These feelings have haunted the journey as well.

As irrational as this sounds, this can be felt deep within the explorations of a foreign country, or even down the street at a familiar coffee shop within my own hometown. It’s limits know no bounds. It’s creativity either.

It’s not that I am scared. It’s more that I am aware, overly aware maybe, of this feeling of empty, of alone. Aware to the point where it is sometimes hard to notice anything else. This isn’t always the case, but it still hurts at moments.

I’ve felt this in some of the worlds largest cities surrounded by a thriving populous.

I’ve felt this in the middle of a starry high-desert evening sitting alone reclined in the front seat of a rented truck.

I’ve felt this crosslegged on many coasts, staring out into the blue abyss of both ocean and sky.

I’ve felt this intwined within a shared embrace.

I’ve felt this almost everywhere.

Not all the time, but almost everywhere.

And I feel this now as I write about it, or else I wouldn’t be able to. This isn’t something you can conceive out of nothing. It’s describe very much so depends upon a well to pull from, no matter how empty it feels.

However, I hope none of you take my writing as a cry, but rather an attempt to add to our species collective desire and strive for a relatable human condition.

Notice, I didn’t say for an understanding of our human condition. I believe many people do not necessarily care for the answers to our questioning of why, nor do I believe they would benefit from them either.

Why us? Why here? Why now? Why all of this?

Forget that.

We fool ourselves with such romantic questioning at times, thinking that their answering will provide comfort. Well, we’d still be here even after their finding.

No, I believe many would benefit more from the understanding of our shared and relatable existence. Not why we are here, but rather a collective effort to help and to understand while we are here.

It doesn’t make sense to worry about things which we cannot control, things we cannot see. It makes much more sense to care for those that we can, those we are able to touch; each other, our world, ourselves.

This place is empty though, and at moments its able to make you feel the same. Again, as irrational as this sounds, I can be anywhere and this feeling of empty can overcome me, in many ways even.

Empty of mind, of conversation.

Empty of feeling, of sensation.

Sometimes of the very breath which by nature fills.

Sometimes I can’t feel it and it scares me.

I sometimes feel as though there is nothing there at all. Nothing but an empty container we find ourselves roaming about within the confines of its elaborate ruse.

I’ll stop there with the existentialism. That’s too easy. Too shallow. Too predictable. I don’t want this piece to run off the rails. I want it to lead somewhere. I want it to mean something.

I read a book recently.

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging‘ by Sebastian Junger.

It talks openly and bluntly about these feelings of empty, of lonely, of isolation. I’m glad I finally decided to pick up and to give it a read. It helped me understand these feelings deeper. It made me realize I’m at least not alone with them.

Read it if you’ve ever felt this way.

Read it even if you haven’t.

It might help you understand the struggles of another in this light.

It made me understand more of my own. It made me understand better those of other’s. I’ll read it again one day because I’m sure I’ll have to. I’m sure I’ll want to the same.

Anyways, there is a story shared amongst countless others within its pages that resonated with me at the time of my writing of this piece. It could have easily been another, but at that moment it was this one which really filled the gap. I won’t go into too much detail about it because I feel its words alone are enough. However, its setting is war, but its meaning translates to any degree of life you may be experiencing, at this time or at any other:

“I missed being that close to people, I missed being loved in that way,” she told me.

“In Bosnia—as it is now—we don’t trust each other anymore; we became really bad people. We didn’t learn the lesson of the war, which is how important it is to share everything you have with human beings close to you. The best way to explain it is that the war makes you an animal. We were animals. It’s insane—but that’s the basic human instinct, to help another human being who is sitting or standing or lying close to you.”

I asked Ahmetašević if people had ultimately been happier during the war. “We were the happiest,” Ahmetašević said. Then she added: “And we laughed more.”

And that’s what I am trying to get at. I’m not blaming my feelings of alone, of empty, of isolation on anyone other than myself, ourselves; your’s too. Collectively we all can do better. Collectively we all are designed to do better.

To help one another.

To talk to one another.

To listen to one another.

To acknowledge one another.

Simply, to be there for one another during our time within this labyrinth named life, because it’s really the only thing that makes any damn sense anyways. The only thing that really leads anywhere. The only thing that really means something.

What else are you going to do?

Sit and ponder the heavens, and waste every second we’re allotted, instead of embracing and engaging with the place, the moment, the people of which also we ourselves are embedded? Of which we ourselves come from? Of which we ourselves will one day soon leave?

Yeah, this place feels empty sometimes, and I do too, and I’m sure you reading this can relate, but that emptiness, it falls on myself, ourselves.

The day was hazy, but I chose to ignore that. I had felt empty, but I decided to fill that with life, which was all around. I met a stranger, who shortly thereafter became a friend, even if only for the day. We experienced the place together, and we both felt better for having done so.

That’s Life

It’s been about a year, a little over a year now, since I moved away from the city I have always been pulled to, even as a little kid. The one I learned to love for what it is, not for what I attempted to make it to be, for the attempt to do so would prove useless. It did and I learned and I loved it more for it.

Remaining the romantic I tend to be, for the attempt to be otherwise would prove useless as well, a classical array of Frank Sinatra numbers have always, and I believe will continue to, keep me current with the city’s lasting allure, even in my current absence. For me, no other artists have truly captured this. No other songs have ever embodied it, though I will admit there are a few honorable mentions, but who really wants to be caught on that list? This piece is about more than music though.

Though at the moment I am away from the city, I never fully left, as is true for any great romantic relationship. Much like the loving and romancing of a great woman, you’ve spent time exploring her, only to find as your knowledge of her grows so does your appreciation of her, and fortunately so does your awareness of your ignorance of her vastness which still remains. There’s still more to find.

And, not only that, but you’ve experienced with her. This life, her emotions and yours. This life, its highs and its lows and everything in between. Apart from her or entangled with, you can’t remove what has already happened, and nor should you try.

In many ways I am still there, and for the enduring and strengthening few with time, I will always remain.

But over this time many things have changed. It’s remarkable when you do take the time to reflect on the passing of another year how many things do. Some we have been aware of, but for many we only realize upon looking back.

Many say looking back is wrong. I’ve never believed this, but I have realized how heavy it can be.

That heaviness though I have always enjoyed.

I’ve never been one to believe life needs to be happy all the time. I’ve never been one to want that for myself either, though I have caught myself deep in the trap trying to make it that way. I don’t think I’d like it if it always was. I don’t believe many do trying to make it that way.

Sometimes I want the unhappy, the sad, the crazy and the impossible, the yearning, the past, the pain. It reminds me of what has happened, and it makes me appreciate every part of it more; the happy and the sad, and everything in between.

Sometimes isn’t right. Usually I find I want it more. It makes sense if you think about it. Maybe I’m wrong. But, it tends to make me feel everything more and I don’t want to be numb all the time attempting to ignore that.

Anyways, I sit here now, thousands of miles away from that city, in another one, another big one even, but its not quite the same.

Things feel different. I feel different. Not that this is wrong or bad, just different. Like anywhere else, somedays are good and somedays are bad, and some are somewhere in between.

I watched a video earlier today, one I had made the day I left a little over a year ago now, and it made me feel that way again. I know I’m not the only one that city uses. Countless eyes had seen it before me, and countless others will after me. Countless lives have enjoyed her before me, and countless others have and will after me.

But, nonetheless, I felt captured, and there, though only for a moment in the grand scheme of it all, captured felt right. Everybody wants freedom. I’d take, even if only a little, that kind of captured again. This piece is about more than just a city though.

Still sitting here now, writing this, it hits me how much truly has changed. People, places, thoughts, wants, truths, and so on.

It’s easy to think everything remains the same. It’s hard to notice the changes. Most aren’t big enough to wake you up at night. No, most are subtle. But, once noticed, their acknowledgment proves to be impactful.

Around this time last year I was leaving somewhere. This somewhere now I am thinking of leaving again. Those I guess you could call examples of the big ones. All the things that have happened in between these two points though, I wouldn’t say they add up. No, when you think about it, things just sort of happen.

Some add. Some take away. Many just happen. Many just slip on by. It’s up to me to notice what I will. It’s up to you the same.

I miss that feeling, but I wonder how many feelings I have missed since then, ones I would have appreciated if I had only noticed them then, if only I had not been caught up with just the one.

Though I can’t live them again, though I cannot go back and really feel them, I notice them now, at least I am trying, and at this now that trying is enough.

But that’s life. You notice what you notice. Who knows exactly why?

Days come and so do nights, and then they go and maybe another one comes around. It’s easy to think another one will, but things change, you never know. And if another does come around, its easy to think it the same as the last.

Again, its hard to notice the changes.

Blame ignorance.

Ignorance towards thinking things will never change, or ignorance blinding you from noticing what has.

I’ve missed many moments thinking things were the same, or at least thinking they hadn’t changed. I don’t want to miss anymore fighting this alone. There’s really nothing to fight anyways. You’re making it up. You think there is, but there isn’t.

There’s only change. Don’t take that on. You’ll lose.

Yeah, sure, I miss that feeling and I miss that city, and I probably always will, but constantly chasing the highs it evoked, or believing the lows it did as well to be only unique to its confines, both of these are wrong. It’s highs were high and its low were damn low, but most of my time there was spent somewhere in between, and most of that time I let slip away, unnoticed.

Again, its up to me for me, and its up to you for you the same, to notice what you will. I’ll still acknowledge the highs and I’ll still endure the lows, but moving on I simply want to notice more of the in between.

Because that’s life. Most of it happens somewhere in between.

We tend to avoid or pursue the highs and the lows.

Invite them, welcome them, sure, of course, but don’t hold on to them. They don’t last. They fade quickly. Feel them when they are around, but let them go.

Again, most of life is found in between. Try to notice the life in that. Don’t become numb to it. Become very much attuned with it.

Life is largely about realizations and we all feel more alive in the moments of our deepest ones.

Or maybe in the moments of our most simple ones.

We’re too blinded during the highs, too emotional during the lows to have these. Most happen after. After some time has passed. After we have gained sight again. After our emotions have leveled off. Most happen somewhere in between.

Most happen in the quiet. Quiet can be good. I’ll try to write on that sometime. That’s enough for now.

Most of all of this happens somewhere in between though. That’s the main idea here.

Right now you’re probably somewhere in there. I know I am.

Don’t let it slip away chasing the next high or avoiding the next low. Those you will meet again. Don’t worry. Don’t be scared. Those will happen again, because that’s life. But, there is so much more in between, and that is usually where we tend to be.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

How did you come across the book?

Well, today I was… I’m going to Italy on Friday, and I was looking for some books to read on the plane, but… I’m already almost half way through this! Anyways… so I saw The Reluctant Fundamentalist and it looked very interesting so I picked it up.

So far, what perspective have you gained from this book?

Umm… well…. do you know anything about the book? (Where as I answered, “I have no idea”) Ok, so… it’s a great book. So it takes place in New York, I think right after 9/11… well, it kind of flip-flops back and forth between him, the main character, and Lahore, speaking to an American and then kind of flashbacks between him coming to university in the United States and then getting a big job at this firm. So right now he’s talking about “it just was 9/11” and he was flying back from Manila when he got stopped and learning about whats going on. So… it’s pretty intense!

Would you recommend it, and if so, to who and why?

I would definitely recommend it! [bctt tweet=”I think I would recommend it to anyone who hasn’t traveled that much..” username=”cityreadsnyc”]. …because I think… well New Yorkers may be a little different… but, I think Americans in general don’t travel very much, so they don’t get a chance to develop a sense of other peoples perspectives and… I mean, I’m only on page 76, but so far you’re gaining a really good perspective on why someone may view the United States, or Americans, in a certain light.