For about fifteen minutes every day I worry about AIDS or herpes or Pentagon cost overruns. It’s not that they have any great effect on me, it’s just that I am a broad based, categorical worrier. My father taught me this; he was such a worrier that when Nixon was elected President he very suddenly moved the whole family to Montreal because he believed (not without justification) that our new President would give the National Rifle Association legal permission to shoot anybody whose politics they misunderstood.
I may well be wrong in my impression that people exist who have not had to earn their spiritual lives by means of suffering. It is difficult if not impossible to know enough about a person to be able to make such a judgement on such a matter with any certainty. My impression — which is strong — could easily be nothing but the blindness that customarily accompanies suffering and is indeed one sure symptom of the self-centeredness that seems to be both its cause and its effect.
Once I was walking in Inwood Park in northern Manhattan as night fell. As I reached the limit of the park, at Spuyten Duyvil, and began the curve back, I saw an unusual sight. On the bluffs of the North American continent, above the Henry Hudson Bridge, rows of apartment buildings stood filled with tiny lights, and in the still water beneath them other rows of buildings, also lighted, but inverted, could be seen. Heading home, I wondered who lived in this underwater city.