TRAITS OF THE KEY PLAYERS
David G. Jensen 1 What exactly is a key player? A "Key Player" is a phrase that I've heard about from employers during just about every search I've conducted. I asked a client - a hiring manager involved in a recent search - to define it for me. "Every company has a handful of staff in a given area of expertise that you can count on to get the job done. On my team of seven process engineer and biologists, I've got two or three whom I just couldn't live without," he said. "Key players are essential to my organization. And when we hire your company to recruit for us, we expect that you'll be going into other companies and finding just that: the staff that another manager will not want to see leave. We recruit only key players."
2 This is part of a pep talk intended to send headhunters into competitor's companies to talk to the most experienced staff about making a change. They want to hire a "key player" from another company. Every company also hires from the ranks of newbies, and what they're looking for is exactly the same. "We hold them up to the standards we see in our top people. If it looks like they have these same traits, we'll place a bet on them." It's just a bit riskier.
3 "It's an educated guess," says my hiring manager client. Your job as a future employee is to help the hiring manager mitigate that risk. You need to help them identify you as a prospective "key player".
4 Trait 1: The selfless collaborator
John Fetzer, career consultant and chemist, first suggested this trait, which has already been written about a great deal. It deserves repeating because it is the single most public difference between academia and industry. "It's teamwork," says Fetzer" The business environment is less lone-wolf and competitive, so signs of being collaborative and selfless stand out. You just can't succeed in an industry environment without this mindset"
5 Many peptides and grad students have a tough time showing that they can make this transition because so much of their life has involved playing the independent- researcher role and outshining other young stars. You can make yourself more attractive to companies by working together with scientists from other laboratories and disciplines in pursuit of a common goal—and documenting the results on your resume. This approach, combined with a liberal use of the pronoun "we" and not just "I" when describing your accomplishments, can change the company's perception of you from a lone wolf to a selfless collaborator. Better still, develop a reputation inside your lab and with people your lab collaborates with as a person who fosters and initiates collaborations—and make sure this quality gets mentioned by those who will take those reference phone calls.
6 Trait 2: A sense of urgency
Don Haut is a frequent contributor to the aas.sciencecareers. org discussion forum. He is a former scientist who transitioned to industry many years ago and then on to a senior management position. Haut heads strategy and business development for a division of 3M with more than $2.4 billion in annual revenues. He is among those who value a sense of urgency.
7 "Business happens 24/7/365 which means that competition happens 24/7/365, as well," says Haut. "One way that companies win is by getting 'there' faster, which means that you not only have to mobilize all of the functions that support a business to move quickly, but you have to know how to decide where 'there' is! This creates a requirement not only for people who can act
quickly, but for those who can think fast and have the courage to act on their convictions. This requirement needs to run throughout an organization and is not exclusive to management."
8 Trait 3: Risk tolerance
Being OK with risk is something that industry demands. "A candidate needs to have demonstrated the ability to make decisions with imperfect or incomplete information. He or she must be able to embrace ambiguity and stick his or her neck out to drive to a conclusion," wrote one of my clients in a job description.
9 Haut agrees. "Business success is often defined by comfort with ambiguity and risk- personal, organizational, and financial. This creates a disconnect for many scientists because success in academia is really more about careful, studied research. Further, great science is often defined by how one gets to the answer as much as by the answer itself, so scientists often fall in love with the process. In a business, you need to understand the process, but you end up falling in love with the answer and then take a risk based on what you think that answer means to your business. Putting your neck on the line like this is a skill set that all employers look for in their best people."
10 Another important piece of risk tolerance is a candidate's degree of comfort with failure. Failure is important because it shows that you were not afraid to take chances. So companies consistently look for candidates who can be wrong and admit it. Everyone knows how to talk about successes—or they should if they're in a job search—but far fewer people are comfortable talking about failures, and fewer still know how to bring lessons and advantages back from the brink. "For my organization, a candidate needs to have comfort discussing his or her failures, and he or she needs to have real failures, not something made up for interview day. If not, that person has not taken enough risk." says Haut.
11 Trait 4: Strength in interpersonal relationships
Rick Leach is in business development for deCODE Genetics. Leach made the transition to industry recently, on the business side of things'". I asked him about this key trait because in his new business role, interpersonal abilities make the difference between success and failure. "Scientists spend their lives accumulating knowledge and developing technical acumen," he says, "but working for a business requires something else entirely—people skills. The scientist who is transitioning into the business world must prioritize his or her relationship assets above their technical assets. To suddenly be valued and measured by your mastery of human relationships can be a very scary proposition for a person who has been valued and measured only by his mastery of things," says Rick.
12 It would be a mistake, however, to assume that strong people skills are required only for business people like Leach. Indeed, the key players I've met who work at the bench in industry have succeeded in great measure because they've been able to work with a broad variety of personalities, up and down the organization.
Leisure without literature is death and burial alive. —Seneca, Roman philosopher
WHY HARRY'S HOT?
1 J. K. Rowling swears she never saw it coming. In her wildest dreams, she didn't think her Harry Potter books would appeal to more than a handful of readers. "I never expected a lot of people to like them," she insisted in a recent interview. "Well, it turned out I was very wrong, obviously. It strikes a chord with an enormous number of people." That's putting it mildly. With
35 million copies in print, in 35 languages, the first three Harry Potter books have earned a conservatively estimated $480 million in three years. And that was just the warm-up. With a first printing of 5.3 million copies and advance orders topping 1.8 million, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth installment of the series, promises to break every bookselling record. Jack Morrissey, 12, plainly speaks for a generation of readers when he says, "The Harry Potter books are like life, but better."
2 Amazingly, Rowling keeps her several plotlines clear of each other until the end, when he deftly brings everything together in a cataclysmic conclusion. For pure narrative power, this is the best Potter book yet.
3 When the book finally went on sale at 12:01 am. Saturday, thousands of children in Britain and North America rushed to claim their copies. Bookstores hosted pajama parties, hired magicians and served cookies and punch, but nobody needed to lift the spirits of these crowds. In one case, customers made such a big, happy noise that neighbors called the cops. At a Borders in Charlotte, N.C., Erin Rankin, 12, quickly thumbed to the back as soon as she got her copy. “I heard that a_ major character dies, and I really want to find out who," she said. But minutes later she gave up. “I just can't do it. I can't read the end first."
4 The only sour note in all the songs of joy over this phenomenon has come from some parents and conservative religious leaders who say Rowling advocates witchcraft. reading of the books has been challenged in 2
5 school districts in at least 17 states, and the books have been banned in schools in Kansas and Colorado. But that's nothing new, says Michael Patrick Hearn, a children's book scholar and editor of The Annotated Wizard, of Oz. "Any kind of magic is considered evil by some people," he says. "The Wizard of Oz was attacked by fundamentalists in the mid-1980s."
5 But perhaps the most curious thing about the Potter phenomenon, especially given that it is all about books, is that almost no one has taken the time to say how good— or bad—these books are. The other day my 11-year-old daughter asked me if I thought Harry Potter was a classic. I gave her, I'm afraid, one of those adult-sounding answers when I said, "Time will tell." This was not an outright lie. There's no telling which books will survive from one generation to the next. But the fact is, I was hedging. What my daughter really wanted to know was how well J. K. Rowling stacks up against the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson or Madeleine L'Engle.
6 I could have told her that I thought they were beautifully crafted works of entertainment, the literary equivalent of Steven Spielberg. I could also have told her I thought the Potter books were derivative. They share so many elements with so many children's classics that sometimes it seems as though Rowling had assembled her novels from a kit. However, these novels amount to, much more than just the sum of their parts. The crucial aspect of their appeal is that they can be read by children and adults with equal pleasure. Only the best authors—and they can be as different as Dr. Seuss and Philip Pullman" and, yes, J.|K. Rowling—can pull that off.
7 P. L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books, put it best when she wrote, "You do not chop off a section of your imaginative substance and make a book specifically for children, for—if you are honest— you have, in fact, no idea where childhood ends and maturity begins. It is all endless and all one. There is plenty for children and adults to enjoy in Rowling's books, starting with their language. Her prose may be unadorned, but her way with naming people and things reveals a quirky and original talent.
8 The best writers remember what it is like to be a child with astonishing intensity. Time and again, Rowling articulates just how defenseless even the bravest children often feel. Near the end of the second book Dumbledore, the wise and protective headmaster, is banished from Hogwarts. This terrifies Harry and his schoolmates—"With Dumbledore gone, fear had spread as never before"—and it terrified me. And in all of Rowling's books there runs an undercurrent of sadness and loss. In the first book the orphaned Harry stares into the Mirror of Erised, which shows the viewer his or her utmost desires. Harry sees his dead parents. "Not until I'd reread what I'd written did I realize that that had been taken entirely- entirely- from how I felt about my mother's death," Rowling said. "In fact, death and bereavement and what death means, I would say, is one of the central themes in all seven books." Do young readers pick up on all this deep intellectualism? Consciously, perhaps not. But I don't think the books would have their broad appeal if they were only exciting tales of magical adventure, and I know adults would not find them so enticing.
9 The Harry Potter books aren't perfect. What I miss most in these novels is the presence of a great villain. And by great villain I mean an interesting villain. Long. John Silver is doubly frightening because he is both evil and charming. If he were all Bad, he wouldn't frighten us half as much. Voldemort is resistible precisely because he is just bad to the bone. That said, I should add that in the new book Rowling outdoes herself with a bad guy so seductive you'll never see him coming. And he is scary.
10 That quibble aside, Rowling’s novels are probably the best books children have ever encountered that haven't been thrust upon them by an adult. I envy kids reading these
books, because there was nothing this good when I was a boy-nothing this good, I mean,
that we found on our own, the way kids are finding Harry. We affectionately remember The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, but try rereading them and their charm fades away pretty quickly. Rowling may not be as magisterial as Tolkien or as quirky as Dahl, but her books introduce fledgling readers to a very high standard of entertainment. With three books left to go in the series, it's too early to pass final judgment. But considering what we've seen so far, especially in the latest volume, Harry Potter has all the earmarks of a classic.
The following text is extracted from Marriages and Families by Nijole V. Benokraitis.
The book has been used as a textbook for sociology courses and women's studies in a number of universities in the United States. It highlights important contemporary changes in society and the family and explores the choices that are available to family members, as well as the constraints that many of us do not recognize. It examines the diversity of American families today, using cross-cultural and multicultural comparisons to encourage creative thinking about the many critical issues that confront the family of the twenty-first century.
LOVE AND LOVING RELATIONSHIPS
Nijole V. Benokraitis 1 Love- as both an emotion and a behavior- is essential for human survival- The family is usually our earliest and most important source of love and emotional support. Babies and children deprived of love have been known to develop a wide variety of problems- for example, depression, headaches, physiological impairments, and neurotic and psychosomatic difficulties- that sometimes last a lifetime. In contrast, infants who are loved and cuddled typically gain more weight, cry less, and smile more. By five years of age, they have been found to have significantly higher IQs and to score higher on language tests.
2 Much research shows that the quality of care infants receive affects how they later get along with friends, how well they do in school, how they react to new and possibly stressful situations, and how they form and maintain loving relationships as adults. It is for these reasons that people's early intimate relationships within their family of origin1 are so critical. Children who are raised in impersonal environments (orphanage, some foster homes, or unloving families) show emotional and social underdevelopment, language and motor skills retardation, and mental health problems
3 Love for oneself, or self-love, is also essential for our social and emotional development. Actress Mae West once said, "I never loved another person the way I loved myself." Although such a statement may seem self-centered, it's actually quite insightful Social scientists describe self-love as an important oasis for self- esteem. Among other things, people who like themselves are more open to criticism and less demanding of others. Fromm (1956) saw self-love as a necessary prerequisite for loving others. People who don't like themselves may not be able to return love but may constancy seek love relationships to bolster their own poor self-images. But just what is love? What brings people together?
4 Love is an elusive concept. We have all experienced love and feel we know what it is; however, when asked what love is, people give a variety of answers. According to a nine-
year-old boy, for example, "Love is like an avalanche where you have to run for your life." What we mean by love depends on whether we are talking about love for family members, friends, or lovers. Love has been a source of inspiration, wry witticisms, and even political action for many centuries.
5 Love has many dimensions. It can be romantic, exciting, obsessive, and irrational- It can also be platonic, calming, altruistic, and sensible? Many researchers feel that love defies a single definition because it varies in degree and intensity and across social contexts. At the very least, three elements are necessary for a loving
relationship: (1) a willingness to please and accommodate the other person, even if this involves compromise and sacrifice; (2) an acceptance of the other person's faults and shortcomings; and
(3) as much concern about the loved one's welfare as one's own. And, people who say they are "in love" emphasize caring, intimacy, and commitment.
6 In any type of love, caring about the other person is essential. Although love may,
involve passionate yearning, respect is a more important quality. Respect is inherent in
all love: "I want the loved person to grow and unfold for his own sake, and in his own
ways, and not for the purpose of serving me." If respect and caring are missing, the relationship is not based on love. Instead, it is an unhealthy or possessive dependency
that limits the lovers' social, emotional, and intellectual growth.
7 Love, especially long-term love, has nothing in common with the images of love or .frenzied sex that we get from Hollywood, television, and romance novels. Because of these images, many people believe a variety of myths about love. These misconceptions often lead to unrealistic expectations, stereotypes, and disillusionment. In fact, "real" love is closer to what one author called "stirring-the-oatmeal love" (Johnson 1985). This type of love is neither exciting nor thrilling but is relatively mundane and unromantic. It means paying bills, putting out the garbage, scrubbing toilet bowls, being up all night with a sick baby, and performing myriad other ' oatmeal" tasks that are not very sexy.
8 Some partners take turns stirring the oatmeal. Other people seek relationships that offer candlelit gourmet meals in a romantic setting. Whether we decide to enter a serious relationship or not, what type of love brings people together?
9 What attracts individuals to each other in the first place? Many people believe that "there's one person out there that one is meant for" and that destiny will bring them together. Such beliefs are romantic but unrealistic. Empirical studies show that cultural norms and values, not fate, bring people together We will never meet millions of potential lovers because they are "filtered out" by formal or informal rules on partner
eligibility due ton factors such as age, race, distance, Social class, religion, sexual orientation, health, or physical appearance.
10 Beginning in childhood, parents encourage or limit future romantic liaisons by selecting certain neighborhoods and schools. In early adolescence, pear norms influence the adolescent's decisions about acceptable romantic involvements ("You want to date who?!"). Even during the preteen years, romantic experiences are cultured in the sense that societal and group practices and expectations shape romantic experience. Although romance may cross cultural or ethnic borders, criticism and approval teach us what is acceptable romantic behavior and with whom. One might "lust" for someone, but these yearnings will not lead most of us to "fall in love" if there are strong cultural or group bans.
11 Regan and Berscheid (1999) differentiate between lust, desire, and romantic love.
They describe lust as primarily physical rather than emotional, a condition that may
be conscious or unconscious. Desire, in contrast, is a psychological in which one
wants a relationship that one doesn't now have, or to engage in an activity in which
one is not presently engaged. Desire may or may not lead to romantic love (which
the authors equate with passionate or erotic low). Regan and Berscheid suggest that
desire is an essential ingredient for initiating and maintaining romantic love. If desire disappears, a person is no longer said to be in a state of romantic love. Once desire diminishes, disappointed lovers may wonder where the "spark" in their relationship has gone and may reminisce regretfully (and longingly) about "the good old days".
12 One should not conclude, however, that desire always culminates in physical intimacy
or that desire is the same as romantic love. Married partners may love each other even though they rarely, or never, engage in physical intimacy. In addition, there are some notable differences between love- especially long-term love- and romantic love. Healthy loving relationships, whether physical or not (such as love for family members), reflect a balance of caring, intimacy, and commitment.
The term yoga comes from a Sanskrit word which means yoke or union. Traditionally,
yoga is a method joining the individual self with the Divine, Universal Spirit, or Cosmic Consciousness. Physical and mental exercises are designed to help achieve this goal, also called self-transcendence or enlightenment. On the physical level yoga postures, called asanas, are designed to tone, strengthen, ana align me body. These postures are performed to make the spine supple and healthy and to promote blood flow to all the organs, glands, and tissues, keeping all the bodily systems healthy. On the mental level, yoga uses breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation (dydna) to quiet, clarify, and discipline the mind. However, experts are quick to point out that yoga is not a religion, but away of living with health and peace of mind as its aims.
YOGA IN AMERICA
1 Yoga originated in ancient India and is one of the longest surviving philosophical systems in the world. Some scholars have estimated that yoga is as old as 5,000 years; artifacts detailing yoga postures have been found in India from over 3,000 B.C. Yogis claim that it is a highly developed science of healthy living that has been tested and perfected for all these years. Yoga was first brought to America in the late 1800s when Swami Vivekananda. an Indian teacher and yogi, presented a lecture on .meditation in Chicago. Yoga slowly began gaining followers, and flourished during the 1960s when there was a surge of interest in Eastern philosophy. There has since been a vast exchange of yoga knowledge in America, with many students going to India to study and many Indian experts coming here to teach, resulting in the establishment of a wide variety of schools. Today, yoga is thriving, and it has become easy to find teachers and practitioners throughout America. A recent Roper poll, commissioned by Yoga Journal, found that 11 million Americans do yoga at least occasionally" and six million perform it regularly. Yoga stretches are used by physical therapists and professional sports teams, and the benefits of yoga are being touted by movie stars and Fortune 500 executives. Many prestigious schools of medicine have studied and introduced yoga techniques as proven therapies for illness and stress. Some medical schools, like UCLA, even offer yoga classes as part of their physician training program.
2 There are several different schools of hatha yoga in America; the two most prevalent ones are Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga8. Iyengar yoga was founded by B.K.S. Iyengar, who is widely considered as one of the great living innovators of yoga. Iyengar yoga puts strict emphasis on form and alignment, and uses traditional hatha yoga techniques in new manners and sequences. Iyengar yoga can be good for physical therapy because it allows the use of props like straps and blocks to make it easier for some people to get into the yoga postures. Ashtanga yoga can be a more vigorous routine, using a flowing and dance-like sequence of hatha postures to generate body heat, which purifies the body through sweating and deep breathing.
3 Yoga routines can take anywhere from 20 minutes to two or more hours, with one hour being
a good time investment to perform a sequence of postures and a meditation. Some yoga routines, depending on the teacher and school, can be as strenuous as the most difficult workout, and some routines merely stretch and align the body while the breath and heart rate are kept slow and steady. Yoga achieves its best results when it is practiced as a daily discipline, and yoga can be a life-long exercise routine, offering deeper and more challenging positions as a practitioner becomes more adept. The basic positions can increase a person's strength, flexibility and sense of well being almost immediately. but it can take years to perfect and deepen them, which is an appealing and stimulating aspect of yoga for many.
4 Yoga is usually best learned from a yoga teacher or physical therapist, but yoga is simple enough that one can learn the basics from good books on the subject, which are plentiful. Yoga classes are generally inexpensive, averaging around 10 dollars per class, and students can learn basic postures in just a few classes. Many YMCAs, colleges, and community health organizations offer beginning yoga classes as well, often for nominal fees. If yoga is part of a physical therapy program,' it can be .reimbursed by insurance.
5 Yoga can also provide the same benefits as any well-designed exercise program, increasing general health and stamina reducing stress. and improving those conditions brought about by sedentary lifestyles. Yoga has the added advantage of being a low- impact activity that uses only gravity as resistance, which makes it an excellent physical therapy routine: certain yoga postures can be safely used to strengthen and balance all
parts of the body.
6 Meditation has been much studied and approved for its benefits in reducing stresses- related conditions. The landmark book, The Relaxation Response, by Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson, showed that meditation and breathing techniques for relaxation could have the opposite effect of stress, reducing blood pressure and other indicators, Since then, much research has reiterated the benefits of meditation for stress reduction and general health. Currently, the American Medical Association recommends meditation techniques as a first step before medication for borderline hypertension cases.
7 Modern psychological Studies have shown that even slight facial expressions can cause changes in the involuntary nervous system; yoga utilizes the mind/body connection, that is, yoga practice contains the central ideas that physical posture and alignment can influence a person's mood and self-esteem, and also that the mind can be used to shape and heal the body. Yoga practitioners claim that the strengthening of mind/body awareness can bring eventual improvements in all facets of a person's life.
8 Yoga can be performed by those of any age and condition, although not all poses should be attempted by everyone. Yoga is also a very accessible form of exercise; all that is needed is a flat floor surface large enough to stretch out on, a mat or towel, and enough overhead space to full raise the arms. It is a good activity for those who can't go to gyms, who don' t like other forms of exercise, or have, very busy schedules. Yoga should be done on an empty stomach, and teachers recommend waiting three or more hours after meals. Loose and comfortable clothing should he worn.
9 Beginners should exercise care and concentration when performing yoga postures, and not try to stretch too much too quickly, as injury could result. Some advanced yoga postures, like the headstand and full lotus position, can be difficult and require strength, flexibility, and gradual preparation, so beginners should get the help of a teacher before attempting them.
10 Yoga is not a competitive sport; it does not matter how a person does in comparison with others, but how aware and disciplined one becomes with one's own body and limitations. Proper form and alignment should always be maintained during a stretch or posture, and the stretch or posture should be stopped when there is pain, dizziness, or fatigue. The mental component of yoga is just as important as the physical postures. Concentration and awareness breath should not be neglected. Yoga should be done with an open, gentle, and non-critical mind: when one stretches into a position, it can be thought of as accepting and working on one's limits. Impatience, self-criticism and comparing oneself to others will not help in this process of
self-knowledge. While performing the yoga of breathing (pranayama) and meditation (dyana), it is best to have an experienced teacher, as these powerful techniques can cause dizziness and discomfort when done improperly.
11 Although yoga originated in a culture very different from modern America, it has been accepted and its practice has spread relatively quickly. Many yogis are amazed at how rapidly yoga's popularity has spread in America, considering the legend that it was passed down secretly by handfuls or adherents tor many centuries.
12 There can still be found some resistance to yoga, for active and busy Americans sometimes find it hard to believe that an exercise program that requires them to slow down, concentrate, and breathe deeply can be more effective than lifting weights or running, However, ongoing research in top medical schools is showing yoga's effectiveness for overall health and for specific problems, making it an increasingly acceptable health practice.
HERE IS NEW YORK
1 On any person who desires such queer prices. New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gut of privacy. It is this largess that accounts for the presence within the city's walls of a considerable section of the population; for me residents of Manhattan are to a large extent strangers who have pulled up stakes somewhere and come to town seeking sanctuary or fulfillment or some greater or lesser grail. The capacity to make such dubious gifts is a mysterious quality of New York. It can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill him, depending a good deal on luck. No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.
2 New York is the concentrate of art and commerce and sport and religion and entertainment and finance, bringing to a single compact arena the gladiator, The evangelist, the promoter, the actor, the trader, and the merchant. It carries on its lapel the inexpugnable odor of the long past, so that no matter where you sit in New York you feel the vibrations of great times and tall deeds, of queer people and events and undertakings, I am sitting at the moment in a stifling hotel room in 90- degree heat, halfway down an air shaft, in midtown. No air moves in or out of the room, yet I am curiously affected by emanations from the immediate surroundings. I am 22 blocks from where Rudolph Valentino lay in state, eight blocks from where Nathan Hale was executed, five blocks from the publisher's office where Ernest Hemingway hit Max Eastman on the nose, four miles from where Walt Whitman sat sweating out editorials for the Brooklyn Eagle,34 blocks from the street Willa Cather lived in where she came to New York to write books about Nebraska, one block from where Marceline used to clown on the boards of the Hippodrome, 36 blocks from the spot where the historian Joe Gould kicked a radio to pieces in full view of the public, 1
3 blocks from where Harry Thaw shot Stanford White, five blocks from where I used to usher at the Metropolitan Opera and only 112 blocks from the spot where Clarence Day the elder was washed of his sins in the Church of the Epiphany (I could continue this list
indefinitely); and for that matter I am probably occupying the very room that any number of exalted and somewise memorable characters sat in, some of them on hot, breathless afternoons, lonely and private and full of their own sense of emanations from without.
3 When I went down to lunch a few minutes ago I noticed that the man sitting next to me (about eighteen inches away along the wall) was Fred Stone. The 18 inches are both the connection and the separation that New York provides for its inhabitants. My only connection with Fred Stone was that I saw him in The Wizard of Oz around the beginning of the century. But our waiter felt the same stimulus from being close to a man from Oz, and after Mr. Stone left the room the waiter told me that when he (the waiter) was a young man just arrived in this country and before he could understand a word of English, he had taken his girl for their first theater date to The Wizard of Oz. It was a wonderful show, the waiter recalled—a man of straw, a man of tin. Wonderful! (And still only eighteen inches away.) "Mr. Stone is a very hearty eater," said the waiter thoughtfully, content with this fragile participation in destiny, this link with Oz.
4 New York blends the gift of privacy with the excitement of participation; and better than most dense communities it succeeds in insulating the individual (if he wants it, and almost everybody wants or needs it) against all enormous and violent and wonderful events that are taking place every minute. Since I have been sitting in this miasmic air shaft, a good many rather splashy events have occurred in town. A man shot and killed his wife in a fit of jealousy. It caused no stir outside his block and got only small mention in the papers. I did not attend. Since my arrival, the greatest air show ever staged in all the world took place in town. I didn't attend and neither did most of the eight million other inhabitants, although they say there was quite a crowd. I didn't even hear any planes except a couple of westbound commercial airliners that habitually use this air shaft to fly over. The biggest oceangoing ships on the North Atlantic arrived and departed. I didn't notice them and neither did most other New Yorkers. I am told this is the greatest seaport in the world, with 650 miles of waterfront, and ships calling here from many exotic lands, but the only boat I've happened to notice since my arrival was a small sloop tacking out of the East River night before last on the ebb tide when I was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. I heard the Queen Mary blow one midnight, though, and the sound carried the whole history of departure and longing and loss. The Lions have been in convention. I've see not one Lion. A friend of mine saw one and told me about him. (He was lame, and was wearing a bolero.) At the ball grounds and horse parks the greatest sporting spectacles have been enacted.
1 saw no ballplayer, no race horse. The governor came to town. I heard the siren scream, but that was all there was to that- an 18- inch margin again. A man was killed by a falling cornice. I was not a party to the tragedy, and again the inches counted heavily.
5 I mention these events merely to show that New York is peculiarly constructed to absorb almost anything that comes along (whether 1,000-foot liner out of the East or a
20,000-man convention out of the West) without inflicting the event on its inhabitants so that every event is, in a sense, optional, and the inhabitant is in the happy position of being able to choose his spectacle and so conserve his soul. In most metropolises, small and large, the choice is often not with the individual at all. He is thrown to the Lions. The Lions are overwhelming the event is unavoidable. A cornice falls, that it hits every citizen on the head, every last man in town. I sometimes think that the only event that hits every New Yorker on the head is the annual St. Patrick's Day parade, which is fairly penetrating- the Irish are a hard race to tune out, there are 500,000 of them in residence, and they have the police force right in the family.
6 The quality in New York that insulates its inhabitants from life may simply weaken them as individuals. Perhaps it is healthier to live in a community where, when a cornice falls, you feel the blow; where, when the governor passes, you see at any rate his hat.
7 I am not defending New York in this regard. Many of its settlers are probably here merely to escape, not face, reality. But whatever it means, it is a rather rare gift, and I believe it has a positive effect on the creative capacities of New Yorkers- for creation is in part merely the business of forgoing the great and small distractions.
8 Although New York often imparts a feeling of great forlornness or forsakenness it seldom seems dead or unresourceful; and you always feel that either by shifting your location 10 blocks or by reducing your fortune by five dollars you can experience rejuvenation. Many people who have no real independence or spirit depend on the city's tremendous variety and sources of excitement for spiritual sustenance and maintenance of morale. In the country there are a few chances of sudden rejuvenation- a shift in weather, perhaps, or something arriving in the mail. But in New York the chances are endless. I think that although many persons are here from some excess of spirit, (which caused them to break away from their small town), some, too, are here from a deficiency of spirit, who finds in New York a protection, or an easy substitution.