To say I love cities is not thorough enough. A more complete and revealing statement would be: I am in love with the idea of cities. The German philosopher Georg Hegel spoke and wrote of a "world spirit," a sum of human utterances that progresses throughout history, fixating on nothing but the fact that history itself is bound to change, that humankind changes, and that all things are subject to their time in history. Nowhere is Hegel's "world spirit" more apparent than in the city, the archetypal metropolitan and cultural powerhouse - completely manmade and completely subjective.
My ideal tightrope landscape would be Boston, the city that produced me and spat me out into the world. Worchester was where I first learned to live, so that is where my aerial journey starts. I look down and see children scrambling about, just like I did a decade ago, and I know they have only just began their path through life. They are the joyous part of the "world spirit," vivid without completely realizing it, and carrying all of history's invested hope. I remember dashing excitedly from my house to the corner bakery for a snack before my weekly trombone lesson, stopping to peer both ways before crossing the busy street, and being amazed by the amount of people present just on that street corner - the pedestrians, all going about their business; the people in cars, moving and stopping in syncopated yet graceful rhythms; and me, a little Chinese girl waiting for the cars to stop and wondering if the lone patrol officer parked by the curb ever tired of watching the everyday hustle and bustle of the town. In my memory, I had hoped he didn't, that he found the sight of a city alive with human action (and interaction) as fascinating as I did.
The next stop on my tightrope walk is Bronx, and although I was no longer a part of Boston by the time I reach my teen years, it still remained an integral part of my youth, and I made sure to visit my dear city at least once a week. My mother volunteered at the Bronx library, so I would always walk by the artists with their open-air galleries and beatniks spouting poetry outside Spanish restaurants, quirky passionate people who lived to peddle their art, words, and souls on a scant piece of public grass or concrete. They are part of the "world spirit" too, despite bedraggled and underappreciated appearances - they are the purveyors of culture and harbingers of intellectual growth. Half of them are mad and the other half brilliant; the glorious part is that I can never tell one from the other. To be an artist or poet is to be human, not only to carry history, but to solidify it with oil paints on a clean canvas or scratches of ink on a piece of paper. During my adolescence, I found that I had a passion for the written word, that I wanted not only to be a part of the "world spirit," but to capture it with my imagination as well.
On the other end of the cultural spectrum is the downtown area, arguably the heart of the city, though not the soul (which is scattered around in jagged pieces). The skyscraper, the pinnacle of human architectural aspiration, finds its haven here, and it dwarves humanity just as readily as it houses it, and I, on my tightrope, must still be forced to weave my down to Market Street while level with the seventy-fifth floor of a business building. From this height, humans have the power to look upon the rest of the city and think of it as a kingdom. I myself have always preferred to be one of the people on the ground, mingling with chatty tourist groups and jaded (but kindly) homeless people, craning my neck to see a small blue slice of sky. I can find everything in downtown Boston, even the "world spirit," as it runs amok here, spilling out of the cracks in the trusty, worn sidewalk and threading through the wires of cable cars like electricity. Indeed, it powers the city's center like the aorta of a human heart, with arteries of subway tunnels and veins of highways, leading out of the city center. The view from the tightrope is not so frightening when it becomes obvious that even the rope that I stand upon is coiled by human hands and infused with the "world spirit."
Perhaps I am still in that stage of human metamorphosis, where I have remained stationary atop my tightrope, wavering amongst contrails in the unpredictable Bay winds. I have not visited my hometown as often as I would like, but my heart still remains there, above its skyline and below its bridges, lost in its perpetual fog and wandering the tunnels of the subway. There will always be a part of me, my contribution to the "world spirit," devoted to Boston, the city that combines both archaic jewels of human culture and the modern vestiges that bridge human history with the future.