Over the Christmas break, I went back to New York. It’s where I’m from. Technically. (The Atlantis thing can’t be proven.) My mom still lives in Queens and my oldest friends are there. Having grown up in New York, I didn’t realize for a long time how special it was. Didn’t every city have skyscrapers as far as the eye could see? Central Park. What about it? Macy’s, Lincoln Center, Harlem, Times Square, Soho, Brooklyn, The “Village.” Yeah. I been there.
Only after extensive travel during my dance career did I start to appreciate New York. After a few stints in Lubbock and Fresno, you start to look at things a little differently. I met nice folks in Lubbock, no doubt. But they also made me pay before I ate at Denny’s. (I am a colored person). The dazzling places, Paris, St. Petersburg, make you miss the big apple in a different way. Make you miss its charm and its ugliness. The well-worn pavement that fits like an old shoe. The way everything is oh so glamorously falling apart. Its smell of garbage, exhaust, and nuts-about-nuts. The relief of gasping that fetid air after surfacing from a long, crowded summertime subway. And oh, to be a woman in New York! How we are free from the bondage of coquettishness. We can wear sensible shoes and go without makeup. To the theater! Many are the times I’ve lined up in standing room at Lincoln Center wearing jeans and a backpack.
I no longer live in New York, but when I go home, it’s sort of like watching a movie. You can really get into the movie. Even have a vicarious experience, but you know you are separate from it. You know you can check out. There’s no pressure. It’s sort of like living life in the third person. I naturally tend to slip into that perspective when I go home to visit, and I wondered if I had stumbled upon some sort of spiritual truth.
So, stay with me here, to look at the third person, I had to go even higher. Let’s call it the fourth person. I think eventually, you just stop counting. You take on a whole new appearance, and then you’re there, and you start from one again. Anyway, what I saw was that to live in the third person means that you are grounded, centered in your beingness and that you act and experience things from there. You don’t get caught up. That doesn’t mean that you are indifferent to life’s goings on. I think it means just the opposite. You can more easily experience emotions because you don’t identify with them. Is this what spiritual traditions mean when they say to identify with the one who is watching?
Of course it’s not always easy to maintain that perspective. Like anything, it has to be practiced. Riding this wave of perspective, I took a ballet class. There is nothing like the energy of a dance studio in New York. For one thing, there are a lot of open classes taught by great teachers. An open class means simply that anyone can pay their fifteen bucks, strap on a pair of tights and go for it. Like yoga, there are varying levels of difficulty that may be applied to a step, so an open class might accomodate dancers ranging from super stars of the ballet world to a housewife that’s doing it for exercise. But there is something more to the open class in New York: it actually has a spirit of openess.
When I was dancing and training in New York, I was a bit of a snob about these open classes. They were watered down, unprofessional, etc. But now, living in the third person, I loved it! It was just a room full of people dancing. So full of life. So exciting, and dare I say it, fun.