Anthills, NYC, on individuality and the collective whole

You are a kid who just discovered the biggest anthill in North America. You peer at it, in amazement, wandering around it while trying to avoid stepping on the interstates of ants quickly streaming to-and-from the mound and into the forest. Metaphorically at this point, you are able to break it open, not fully sure what to expect until it fissures.

An example of an ant hill.
Photo credit: Guido Gerding, Wikimedia Commons (click the photo to access source & further information)

It’s teeming full of ants, they climb over each other, there are paths intersecting more and more paths, cavities like buildings, and thousands of them diligently marching. Like blood cells in your veins or the cells comprising your skin, they morph to something greater and larger than any single cell can. You, as a kid, are astounded and exhilarated.

And now you step off the train at New York’s Penn Station and find yourself at the center and bottom of that ant hill. Only it isn’t teeming with chitinous exoskeletons blindly searching for crumbs of food, it is humanistic. It is we, we are all people, you and him and her, them, don’t overlook the others, all of us – we are everyone, with every nation and belief and morphology, searching for real crumbs as well as metaphorical. For most of us there is more to it than one seek-and-find quest. Hundreds of thousands of people in Manhattan’s anthill, and that vibrancy, that energy, that electricity hits you as you step into it. There is not one queen ant here, however, actually many of us little beings hold the coins, though fewer as they accumulate, and these are the crumbs that all of us use to create, distribute, buy, sell, share and trade.

You are allowed complete freedom and individuality in NYC, that’s the greatness of the city, but at the same time how can you not see the hill mounded by sky scrapers and understand your life might not matter as a one, but rather as a collective whole in society?

(based on impressions of NYC upon a first visit; 29juli2019)