Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Friday, November 14, 2003

One of the courses I'm taking this semester is Local Government Law. Basically the laws governing cities, and suburbs, and counties, and how they relate to each other, and to the states, and to the federal government, and how people are affected by local government and how they affect it. Urban sprawl, local school funding, things like that. A theme we've returned to a bunch of times has to do with our sense of place identity -- where do we come from? Do we come from, for example, "America," or "Nebraska," "Pine Bluffs," (I'm imagining there's got to be a city in Nebraska called Pine Bluffs. I don't know why. It just sounds right. Pine Bluffs, Nebraska. Even though probably no pine trees there) "The Pine Bluffs Condo Subdivision," etc. People from suburban Chicago often say they're from "Chicago" even though they're not. People here in Cambridge say they live in Boston when we don't. Are you from where you were born, where you lived when you were growing up, where you went to college, where you live now, or somewhere else entirely? I was born in New York -- well, Brooklyn, actually, but I say New York -- and I grew up there. Over the past 7 years, I've been in New York for probably no more than 18 months of calendar time, including vacations and summers and the 8 months I was home in between leaving the job I had in Texas after college and starting law school. I've lived in Princeton and Austin, Texas for longer than that, in Cambridge almost as long, and have spent about 3 months total in Washington, DC and 4 months as a summer camp counselor in the Poconos. That pretty much covers where I've lived. But in my head, it's a no-brainer that "home" is New York. I'm sure for other people, home is where they are now. For people whose parents might have moved since "growing up" in a certain place, home might be a place where they don't know anyone, or home might be a new place, or there might be no "home."

All of this is a long-winded introduction to some thoughts I've been having tonight -- as I do my reading on urban sprawl for Monday's local government law class (no e-mails asking me why I'm doing Monday's reading on Thursday night, please), I'm thinking about how transient our society really is today. People don't stay in one place, people don't always have roots, people pack up and move, leave friends and family behind, sometimes not just once but over and over and again. We become part of people's lives, and then it all just sort of dissipates. My grandmother has a friend that she's had for 80 years. They live in different cities now, but for the longest time they didn't, and a bond was able to form over many decades. We have fewer of these bonds now. We spend a few years with a set of people at school -- and they're our friends, sure -- maybe even friends for life, if we're lucky. But lots of people -- outside of a spouse and an immediate family -- for the most part don't have these lifetime connections, these years and years of shared experiences and the strengthening of bonds that happens over time. Our bonds are more easily shattered when we move from place to place. Even with phones, even with e-mail, even with a daily-updated weblog.... It's kind of sad to think about it. In a lot of ways, a lot of time we're the only souls we really know. It's hard to get deep enough to really know what someone else is thinking, to know them well enough that you understand them -- because two years ago you didn't know them, and two years from now you'll be across the world and -- still peripherally in their lives, perhaps, but not in the same way, not in a deeper sense than "just got a new job, family's good, how about you?" It's a sacrifice we make for a global society I guess, for the chance to chase education and dreams and passions and career opportunities. In a way, I think it makes us less happy than people might have been before all this transience and impermanence. It saddens me a little bit when I think about it. I understand it, and I accept it as what life is about in today's world, but it makes me feel a little empty inside.

These four walls all look the same
My neighbors may not know my name
'Cause one day soon I will be gone

Another year, another place
As I move forward in the race
And alone I walk along

It's a transient world and there's no time to lay down roots
From behind the wheel to a pair of walking boots
Who you get to know will just be part of memory
It's a transient life for you, and for me

And even if you're in the lead
There's a part of you that needs
To plant your seeds and watch them grow

It's superficial in some ways
To see new faces every day
To be the only soul you know

And when the road comes to an end
When there's finally nothing lying around the bend
You want a place to go back home to
Not a place to walk alone to

It's a transient world and there's no time to make wounds heal
To know what others think, and to know what others feel
Harder now to make the road mean something worth the trip
Gotta hang on tight and watch your grip

(There's a melody in there too -- it's a song lyric, in case that wasn't obvious. MP3 on request? Maybe. I dunno. Sure.)

See, not every post ends with a top ten list. :)