Grand Central Station is a hub of discordant flurry that miraculously works. Tourists, passersbys, businessmen, commuters and locals. They all fall into this one edifice that creates a momentum, propelling them forward – in body language, in thought, in the day.
This is what I long for when I’m abroad – the diversity. The rich colors of people’s character, the beat of one’s pace against another, and more specifically, the opportunity for norms to be shaken and stereotypes to be deconstructed. The disparate characters juxtaposed to one another illuminate our humanness and the innate qualities we all share but that may be illustrated in different contexts. Sitting at Grand Central in the past week wasn’t the occasion that taught me the meaning behind the phrase, “You don’t judge a book by its cover,” but it did reinforce its value.
The guys with the backpacks, the men with briefcases, the women dressed like Macy’s and 5th Ave mannequins don’t always fill the assumptions we are predisposed to. Sure we may be right 7/10 guesses, but it’s those 3 other times that open our eyes, cause us to question and lead us toward understanding that the guy carrying gold Zelli shoes, wearing a contrasting black custodial uniform is in fact not a part of the sanitation department of Grand Central, but an actor in costume going to a rehearsal. As with many things in life, there is more there than what meets the eye.
A recent walk throughout Brooklyn encouraged a conversation between a friend and myself about how one dresses. He wasn’t sure if his comment was weighed in bias, because let’s face it, Brooklyn has an image. It’s established itself as an immovable presence in the art world in the past 10 years and with art comes creativity → design → a (well-organized) mosaic of shapes/colors/textures that sprawl from the rafters and roofs of the brownstones around town. He commented that it seemed we were in Brooklyn because of the way people dress. It made me think, how do we represent ourselves? Do other people form notions about us and our character based on a+b+c (abilities, behavior & color/class)? What factors cause us to judge someone before any exchange of conversation occurs?
While we don’t all have a Grand Central next door, uptown, downtown or across the bridges, we are all part of a community. It can be small (a faith-based organization), big (a global NGO), it can be virtual (Facebook) – but the common element is that all community’s involve people and all people are part of a culture. It may not be our culture, or it may not be clear as a spectator or in an audience, but it’s someone’s and all those sounds, cuisines, inflections and ways of dressing produce a world of differences and people we need to embrace and get to know.
And it’s beautiful.