Small Worlds

In the category of it’s-a-small-world-after-all, today’s lecture on Jane Austen’s Emma and the screening of the Israeli film “Fill the Void” I attended yesterday are completely related.  Both the novel and the film used “economy of means” — just a word or gesture is full of  significance.  Not much is needed to get a whole world across.

Emma paints a social canvas of a small community in the radius of greater London, which had surpassed a million residents in the early 1800s.  “Fill the Void” follows one Hasidic household in the teeming city of contemporary Tel Aviv.  Both accentuate the vulnerability of unmarried women in restrictive, rule-bound communities.  Neither suggest the possibilities of a wider world, in which characters have greater choice.

Given how relevant these issues are even in non-cloistered communities today, I needed some fresh air.  I decided to walk the 20 blocks to my crosstown bus.  And what a day for a walk through another set of small worlds.  The lecture took place at the Columbia University Faculty House, and the campus was breathtaking.

2013-05-04 13.32.56






2013-05-04 13.34.19




I followed this bride for awhile before passing her.  She was marrying in a traditional Korean ceremony.

2013-05-04 13.33.25









Yes, there are temporary, tiny petting zoos in New York City.

2013-05-04 13.36.02









And enormous cathedrals for the ages.

2013-05-04 15.15.08

Cathedral of St. John the Divine










The Children’s Sculpture Garden across the street from the cathedral has small works and giant monuments.

2013-05-04 15.17.52





2013-05-04 15.18.07










2013-05-04 15.20.50


Spanish Harlem is a small world of its own, full of taquerias, beauty shops, and barber shops.  I liked how the orange shirts of the barbers and the capes on their patrons were reflected in the mirror.  I was too self-conscious to go for a better shot, to show the diversity of young and older men getting their hair cut and heads shaved.



2013-05-04 15.27.11



And street fair season has started up again.  On Amsterdam above 96th Street, it’s quieter than those further downtown.  But all the usual suspects were there, including the booths with stuff that fell off the back of a truck, the jewelry stalls, food trucks, and this place which had attracted a crowd:

2013-05-04 15.40.04









What interested me was how many small worlds I walked through in just 20 blocks.  We all live in a small world of our own making.  What a difference stepping outside can make.