A reader passes on this quote from Michael Tilson Thomas, music director of the San Francisco Symphony and one of the artists I admire most:
For seventeen years, I lived in New York. It was a wonderful adventure, a great part of my life. But, after a while, it began to bother me that the whole purpose of living in those concrete canyons–the world of right angles–was all the cultural events that you could take in. That somehow seemed to put a lot of pressure on the cultural events. Unless you have attended three operas and five ballets and six new restaurants this week, you’re not keeping up. I found that people taking in these events weren’t thinking about them, but they were sure listing them. There was a lot of “have you seen this,” but not enough of “what was this like for you?” As I reach this advanced age [sixty], the luxury of having time to think, to savor it, has become important to me.
The quote was new to me, but the sentiment wasn’t. It’s something I think about often. (Well, fairly often.) New York is a cultural echo chamber, and it’s noisy inside. Especially if you do what I do for a living, you’re always aware that there’s exciting stuff going on every day, and you feel compelled to try to see and hear as much of it as you possibly can, since that’s the whole point of living here. Of course New York is full of wonderful people, too–I’ve never had so many good friends as I do right now–but we’re all here for the same reason, which is to be as close to the center of things as we can get. No doubt there are also plenty of hermits in Manhattan, but I tend not to run into them at intermission.
I don’t claim to be the most spiritual person in the world, but I’m very much aware of the dangers of living in a place that puts so many obstacles in the path of contemplation. Last year I posted an almanac entry by Santiago Ramon y Caj