Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lenses

Can the cities be united?

Throughout this semester, we have seen so many different cities. From the many varying cities of Calvino to the focused view of our own city, Baltimore, we have analyzed, defined and discussed several different characteristics about each city. And when thinking about all of the cities that we have seen thus far, what is something that unites them all? There is only one thing I can think of, and that is us. That we have seen each of these cities through these different authors’ lenses and developed opinions on each city and discussed it to a certain length, questioning and commenting on so many different parts of each city.
And in some ways this is very good. Because we do get to open our eyes, our lenses some might say, to take in all of these different cities. However, the thing that is the most important in this is that there still is a lens. No matter in how many ways one views the city or in how many books one reads about the city, there is always a lens, sometimes a false one, sometimes a stereotypical one. However, there doesn’t seem to be a way to break that lens.
While I was walking down Charles Street, waiting for the Walters Museum to open, it dawned on me that I had driven by these shops and cafes several times previously but had never seen them in this light, expanding the lens that I had about that specific area of Charles Street. However, had I seen all of that area of Charles Street? I later on realized no, because as I was looking for the bus stop that would take me back to Loyola, I passed by the same shops again, not realizing that I was retracing steps that I had made only hours previously. So, again the lens was expanded. And even if I had seen this part of Charles Street in every light imaginable, this was only a narrow block of the entire city of Baltimore, how would I be able to see Baltimore, as the city that it is, not through any lenses, if this one small part of it had taken so long for me to see?
Is it possible to break these lenses that we see our own city through? This is even more true for cities that we haven’t seen with our own eyes. I have never seen Port-au-Prince; but, now, I have a lens to see it through. The only way that I would be able to expand on the lens is by going to Port-au-Prince or hearing someone else’s view on it. But even then, I or the other person I am reading have/has made choices to see certain things in a certain way.
Is there a way to remove the lens in order to see the city as the city? Or must we continuously strive to expand our lenses but never be able to see it as it truly is? Is there even such a thing? Or is everything in our world only seen through our lenses?