A few degrees of freedom

I am befuddled by the size of the world sometimes. I gaze outside at the rows and columns of people and cars and buildings, and I imagine the enormity of the number of people these boxes hold, the number that I do not know, would not recognize, and would perhaps never meet. And then, I think about the rows and columns of these same structures that exist outside of my plane of vision, in this district, in this city, and in the thousands of other cities which exist throughout this country and the rest of the world. That number is such an exaggeration; my eyes can barely tell what one thousand people look like, much less ten thousand, one million, one billion. Yet, even within this structure, this world that seems so big and boundless and unknowable, I find that it’s easier to bring people together rather than push them apart. In Beijing, in a city with more than 22 million people, I find that coincidences happen. I run into people I know at every corner, on every subway ride, every time I visit the places I call my own. In some ways, my life here in Beijing is fast becoming my life in Boston, no longer anonymous, instead filled with familiar and unavoidable meetings with familiar and unavoidable beings. It’s good, I suppose, living in this global community, a web of travelers, traipsing, never stopping, blanketing the surface of this planet with our inability to settle down.

The multiple occasions during which my friends have traveled to a different city and encountered another friend of mine are now more than fluke coincidences. The messages of, guess who I met in , they say they’re a friend of yours, interrupt my daily rhythm with a wry smile and a sincere appreciation for chance. The world is at once huge and unbridgeable and tiny and familiar. Sometimes, I fear that it’s no bigger than the address book in my blackberry, but then I throw open the shades for some perspective.

Location: Beijing, China