A while back, not too long distant, a lady reader of my Blog informed me in writing that she wanted her name deleted from my email list. She said it was because she felt I had lost my moral way in San Francisco, where I have lived for almost three decades. She suggested I return to Oklahoma in my maturing years and reestablish contact with the basics of life. I thought about this today as I roamed about the city I have over time come to embrace as my adult hometown.
If I were seeking money, I might try to write about San Francisco to entice you to visit and help enrich our already rich economy. As it is, it is a joy to be able to comment on it without need of payment. The city is unique for its endless diversity. On any one day, if a survey were taken, you would likely find someone from almost every major city of the planet. Every skin color, spoken accent, belief, political opinion, philosophy, and religion is represented 24/7/365. Wherever you visit, the city vibrates with excitement. If there is a single word to capture the spirit of San Franciscans it is tolerance for all viewpoints.
Nothing that happens here surprises me anymore. The other day about noon in the midst of thousands of visitors, I saw thirty-five grown men riding bicycles on Embarcadero Street along the Bay front. Except for tennis shoes, they were all stark naked. The reaction of San Francisco’s political leaders was to vote in a law that such an exhibition was prohibited within so many feet of schools. Otherwise, no further restriction was expressed. No one reported anyone harmed by the event. No children or animals were harmed. No tourists were corrupted. We saw no one die and move to Hades. [Which was the lady’s concern for me.]
I suppose the lady would be aghast at the tone of this law. But, from my perspective, that typifies the strength of the city. City fathers and mothers here know that the thirty-five men will not be taken by locals as a disastrous event. Rather, that they simply exhibited a basic chunk of raw truth. No children will grow up traumatized by the incident because the citizens of San Francisco have open minds to the many foibles of human beings. We know diversity is the human norm, not the exception. Everything works its way-out in the wash eventually.
It is noteworthy that in our intensely diverse atmosphere, our city and our entire state are documented as repeatedly introducing bold ideas and concepts that are eventually assumed by the entire country. San Francisco is a boiler room of constantly bubbling ideas. Locals love to see new and dangerous ideas expressed. They thrive on creative wondering. It is rare one finds an ostrich with his head in the sand. Curiosity keeps us all looking around for the next thing to appear we’ve never seen before.
Where does this openness and curiosity come from? It must come from the vast diversity of people who by the hundreds of thousands visit us from every place else on earth. It must come from the mixture of Hispanics, Asians, Germans, Russians, Spaniards, French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Brazilians, Brits, Scandinavians, Argentinians – and all the other nationalities who have taken up permanent residence here. In this diversity that I am warned of by the lady, I personally have found a resiliency of thinking that makes my sense of aging fade.
In a city with a tolerance so resilient one cannot begin to quantify it, after a lifetime in its midst, I find I balk at the reactionary responses I often receive from people who live in more restrictive atmospheres. I used to feel abandoned and rejected by people who requested deletion from my Blogs. Now, I feel they have lightened my mental baggage. They too have helped me discover a richer and more varied meaning of life. To accept a broader definition of human existence.
If I could have two wishes: I would wish that the lady who wishes me to return to live out the rest of my life in Oklahoma could see her way through to move to San Francisco. I know that won’t happen. But, if you’ve never seen it, I invite you to attend the celebration of life that is the backbone of this city. It is particularly noteworthy, I believe, that this city so noted for being a radical place, is experiencing an economic growth that amazes.
Our skyline is bursting with new apartment and office buildings. New scientific and technical companies are expanding us both vertically and horizontally. Alongside elegant offices housing risqué movie companies, are rising incredible Internet firms, bristling with energy and undeterred by what many from other places would deem dangers to the common good. To those of us who live here, this untrammeled diversity is the common good. For us, it’s all just so many more diverse building blocks to tingle our nerves and keep us alert.
Not that we don’t argue about it. Our local media buzz about it like a bunch of busy bees on a honey rampage. However, its variety and freedom are encouraged by all but the mustiest thinkers. It is the musty thinkers who finally leave us for safer territory. But the thinkers, who with their fertile imagination are building an even more spectacular place to live for others with fertile imaginations, refuse to stop testing the limits of their and our curiosity.
In medicine, music, education, as well as the high tech world, in a broad variety of disciplines [or lack of discipline my critical lady might suggest] San Franciscans invite dangerous thinking in order to test the limits of their gray matter. If you’re feeling slightly old these days, I suggest you tap your savings and pay us a visit. If you want a guide to your investigation of our diversity, I’ll gladly write you a rough itinerary with map to launch you on your way.
If you permit San Francisco the opportunity, I am confident you will return home, yearning to share what you found and plant a radical seed or two in your home town’s thinking. Reactionaries build their cases by tearing down creative thinking. The beauty of acceptance of creative diversity is that it fuels proactive thinking. Rather than tearing down, one builds. And that keeps a fellow or a gal young at heart; and ever moving on to new heights.
But: if you come visit us, don’t expect to see the thirty-five naked bicycle riders. They seem to have disappeared. Obviously planning some other new alarming disarming escapade.
End of Uninvited Commercial . . .