February 18, 2019

Food for Thought

Today, I walked around by myself in Queens. This restaurant, and this dish, in particular, was my primary target. @nigelsie recommended it. It reminds me of Japanese yakisoba but it has a lot more depth. I asked for spicy and it was a good choice for a cold day like today. I loved it.

Because New York does not pressure the immigrant communities to assimilate, some of them feel quite foreign, like literally visiting foreign countries. This, I feel, is one of the greatest benefits of living here. I’ve come to love walking around in NYC. “Hell is other people,” Jean-Paul Sartre said. It’s not that other people are assholes and we are saints. “Other people” in his statement refers to other people in our own heads, not the literal, physical people. Because we humans are social creatures, each of us has to be plugged into a community in order to survive. Stress and anxiety are produced as results of this connection. But, objectively speaking, we can never know what the others are thinking and feeling about us. Much of the stress and anxiety comes from this very uncertainty, the fundamentally unknowable nature of the others. Despite the uncertainty, they still judge us, make demands on us, and desire us. We create this “hell” through our perception and conception of others.

For most people, the purpose of a vacation is to unplug from their own communities, to get away from the “hell” of their own creation. Ultimately, it’s not about the beautiful scenery, great food, or luxurious rooms. This is why those who live in those beautiful places have to get away from there for their own vacations too.

But to unplug from the hell, you don’t need to travel so far. Queens works just fine for that purpose, but to be effective, you should walk alone. If you bring someone from your community, you would still be connected to it partially. That person would become a constant reminder of the “hell” you are trying to disconnect from. Also, the presence of your friend would get in the way of connecting with the locals. When you connect with the people outside of your own community, you realize that the “hell” is indeed in your own head.