Thanks to Jennifer Allen for sending me this excerpt from George Saunders's essay, The Braindead Megaphone, written while he was in a plane over Dubai watching Meet the Fockers.
It's a big world and I really like it.
In all things we are victims of The Misconception from Afar. There is the idea of a city, and the city itself, too great to be held in the mind. And it is in this gap (between the conceptual and the real) that aggression begins.
No place works any different than any other place, really, beyond mere details. The universal human laws - need, love for the beloved, fear, hunger, periodic exaltation, the kindness that rises up naturally in the absence of hunger/ fear /pain are constant, predictable, reliable, universal and are merely ornamented with the details of local culture. What a powerful thing to know: that one's own desires are mappable onto strangers; that what one finds in oneself will most certainly be found in The Other - perhaps muted, exaggerated or distorted, yes, but there nonetheless, and thus a source of comfort.
Just before I doze off, I council myself grandiosely: fuck concepts. Don't be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.