It’s 5 a.m., so what are all these people doing here? On the highway. It’s still dark and I’m on my way to the choice of public transit that will take me to New York City. You see, telecommuting is never 100% city-free. Somehow I’d been thinking that once we’d gotten away from New York things would be quieter. Then I remembered that in two decades, if current trends and models continue, nearly half of the US population will live in just eight states. New York and Pennsylvania are two of them. Those of us who’ve moved here to get out of the rat race have made our own little mouse race, I guess.
Being in the city after an absence of almost three weeks was a shock to the system. The first things I noticed were how loud and crowded it was. In the summer Manhattan has, I was forcefully reminded, lots more tourists than the winter months when it feels like, as one comrade says, Leningrad. As always when I’m in the masses on the streets, I think about how religious New York City is. And how secular. It is, I suspect, a cross-section of American (and international) beliefs. People come here looking for something transcendent. Otherwise, why leave home? Tourism can be a sacred industry. It brings people from different places together and, in the best of circumstances, forces them to get along with one another.
There are plenty who seek to convert those who are different. On my way to Penn Station last night, as the light was beginning to fade in Herald Square, I woman had set up a portable mic and speakers. She was preaching, ignored, to the evening crowds. Among the strangers are those who believe differently. Those who are ripe for conversion. It’s all part of New York’s background hymn. Then on the sidewalk I spied, scrawled in chalk, “Repent and obey Jesus — Heb 5:9;” the writing on the walk. “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” the selected verse reads. We can overlook that it says nothing about repenting. This is, after all, the melting pot where religions encounter, mingle, and blend. Even the Fundamentalists must feel it from time to time. The traffic home at 10:30 p.m. is quieter. The day, I will learn, is not over yet. Such is religion in the city.