sight, Through the Children's Gate by Adam Gopnik, seems a collection of blurred essays. As I read further the more these essays seemed to me to revolve around a certain theme. Existentialism. The fact that we are all unique, each having our own views on life, and ways of livingwe may find it hard to communicate with one another or to understand each other. We each have our own mind maps and that these maps we develop in our mind are constantly changing. Children think differently than adults. They can help adults see the world in a new way. There is not a specific way to see the world. At first sight, it may seem there is. Just as at first sight the streets of New York seem similar. Gopnik's observation in that first essay Through the Children's Gate: Of a Home in New York, the streets of New York are not alike. The cartographer, "every time he was nearly done, he had to start all over"(3) because, "each time everything had been put in place someone or other would come back with the discouraging news that something had altered, invariably a lot"(3). This is to say that any slight change in the elements of the landscape leads to a greater change in the greater area. The streets are constantly changing. Our minds are also. This can be expressed in the words of Rebecca Solnit in her book tiled A Field guide to Getting Lost when she said that "any slight change in water level becomes an extensive change in shoreline" (Solnit 162). These changes are then recorded or noticed differently by different people due to the concept of relativity. At the same time, she noted that;
Not to find one's way in a city may well be uninteresting and banal & #8230; but to lose oneself in a city -- as one loses oneself in a forest -- that calls for quite a different schooling (6).
The book A Field Guide to Getting Lost (2005), the renowned cultural historian Sonit successfully weaves an elaborate contextual tapestry of cultural and literary references derived from Henry David Thoreau's work titled Walden (1845) to the work of Virginia Woolf titled To the Lighthouse (1927) so as to suggest that an individual's desire to lose his or herself is inherently marked by a spirited quest for a for 'voluptuous surrender while also immersing oneself into the present. She noted that to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of "being" in uncertainty and mystery (6). This therefore indicates that the desire for losing oneself is fueled by the discovery of the rather unexpected or being unaccustomed with the basis of reality. The reality therefore is that nothing is certain and our metal maps are constantly changing to match the present scenario.
Psychology is a thread that appears vaguely in almost each of Gopniks essays. One of his most fascinating insights, is the observation that each and everyone's maps are different. Furthermore not only are these all maps different but that they are constantly changing to.
The geography of New York seems pretty simple, a line of clearly cut, particularly marked street thatconnect, and cross-sect in a geometric fashion presenting an uninterrupted dreary, mathematical view of a New York City. One may think that we all see the city in the same way. But the man who was making a map for the city did. He saw it in terms of symbols and to him those symbols changed every day. Therefore the city changed. A child too sees it in a different way than an adult. Things never changed. The city never changed. It was always growing and in a way our minds never stand still, they are never not changing. We are always growing and we are able to change our mind about things.
The kicker was that the manically perfect map was unfinished and even unfinishable, because the city it described was too 'dynamic,' changing every day in ways that superseded each morning's finished drawing… The map of the city we carried five years ago hardly corresponds to the city we know today… We constantly redraw them, whether we realize it or not. (4)
Our minds, as Gopnikstates are forever changing too. We never see the same view even the streets of New York in the same way twice as, "there is always a new York coming into being as the old one disappears" (12). The perspective of our minds are changing. People think differently from us their mind maps are differing from ours. Children also can change our minds making us see scenery and life in a different way.
Not only is each and everyone's mind map different, but these mind maps too are constantly changing and being molded, formed and reformed by flow of experiences. These may be as life-altering as Gopnik's visit to a psychiatrist in "Man Goes to See a Doctor" or as humble as the observations of his children he makes throughout the novel.
Economic differences also have an impact on the way different individuals see the world. As seen in "A Hazard of No Fortune," people have their socioeconomic positions in American society. Some belong in higher positions than others. Each views an apartment different than the other. Ones socio-economic standingmakes the individual view many things differently. In order to see things in a certain wayone must be born or become part of a certain class or lifestyle in order to gainthe perspective another has. The author shows this with the story "A Hazard" the characters who pretend to be millionaires in order to imagine a different reality, "Isabel and Basil pretend to be millionaires simply to see what lies beyond their means (33).
It is not only socio-economic differences that change mindsets and cause people to view the world in alternate ways, age and historical circumstance does too. People who lived during one period when societal differences was more noticeable than it is today were used to viewing others andmonetary related things in a different way than we do to. Today we tend to relateeverything to money. Money as Gopnik notes in "A Hazard" has become the American reference of value. People'smindsets have changed and in turn the way we view things have become different to. Time changes the way we view things. Our minds change. We arrive at alternate interpretations.
"That Sunday" well epitomizes this fact. Jazz was a different sound in the 1960s, the period when the characters of that essay Gopnik discusses lived and practiced their music. Music gained a different connotation then. It reflected of the spirit of the time. Art was young, fresh, moody and unique. Jazz later became more boring and tired, but in the 1960s it had a different sound.
Context also gives a memory or stimuliits own resonanceand since each experiences different things each consequentlyattaches stimuli with different associations. For the characters in "That Sunday" it was, "art that puts a time in place... It gives us back our afternoons"(116). For another person it may be something else. Each experiences stimuli therefore differently.
In a similar way, the department stores ("Under One Roof") also have different evocations for different individuals. Old-timers think of the elegant, staid, well-behaved department stores of the past who were aristocratic and respected less clearly greedy. People of the our day are more likely to compare department stores to Wal-Mart. Wal-mart springs to mind and its obsession on stinginess, low pay, and unrefinedinterior in order to save money, "we've gone from shopping through trust to a culture of discounting and edge" (206). The department store transformed from a store, "each one had a vision and an understanding of the connection between the department store and the shopper" (207) to a place where "trust and belief"(207) is lost and discounting is in play. One person's perception of a department store is very different than that of another. Time has a huge impact.
Philosophy also restructures our thinking. Howells in "A Hazard of No Fortune," "became a Tolstoyan (i.e., mushy) socialist"(34). He sees the world through a workingman's glimpse. The author is a non-practicing Jew who was brought up in a family who honored Christmas more than they did Jewish holidays, "the most entirely Jewish thing about us was the intensity with which we celebrated Christmas"(63).Therefore he saw Judaism and Jewish ritual as different fromthe other as a more observant follower of the same religionwould and they are certainly different than another brought up as a devoted Hindu, Muslim, or Buddhist. Philosophy shapes mindset, childhood shapes mindset as well.
Adults are not the only individuals who see the world in a different way, children do too, usually in a new way. Their perspectives can guide and restructure the thinking or mindset of adults, "[children] compel us to see the world as an usual place again. Sharing a life with them is sharing life with…
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