Perhaps a pedestrian’s ways are anything but pedestrian. Robert Park conjectures that “The city possesses a moral as well as a physical organization, and those two mutually interact in characteristic ways to mold and modify one another.”
I wondered first upon reading it, can morals really be organized? And can a city – with its distinguished space and habits – express them? I eavesdrop with my ears and eyes to see if the street corners really might give shape to a moral order. A meditation:
“I have the least morals of anyone I know!” exclaimed the girl in the polka-dot dress, with extravagant body gestures. “But that was worse…” she trailed off.
Running up a sidewalk, I see a woman with her arms spread toward heaven, singing a praise – in the middle of afternoon traffic in and out of a grocery store.
There’s a girl in a beautiful dress walking by. But she’s not smiling. I wonder about her beautiful dress, whether she expected it to be worth the price.
At nine o’clock on Sunday morning, two people stand close together in the middle of the sidewalk. A woman holds a man’s checks in her palms. Is she shaving his face, or grooming him? She doesn’t seem to mind doing it, and he doesn’t either.
“Can you spare some change, sister?” asks the young man, requiring an answer from me.
In providing a place for exchange and expression, the city gives definition to the amorphous.