I suppose the blog title is E.B. White’s fault. White wrote an essay in the late 1940s about life in the city and said there were “roughly three New York’s.” He wrote of the city of the native, who gave it stability. He wrote of the city of the commuter, who gave it economy. And he wrote of the city of the transplant, who gave New York its dreams. Its imagination.
Each of these is accurate, and together they form a cohesive whole. A whole, perhaps, of the mid-20th century. There is, however, a fourth New York, a fourth city. One that has emerged more recently.
There are those who have come here in recent years under different flags to make the city into something new. Some are of my ilk, Christians. Some are not. Whatever their flag, they come to make the city better — more reflective of what it could be, so that it is now what it has long promised to be, dating to and before the Statue of Liberty made its declaration to those arriving on boats with nary the shirt on their back.
In September 2007 I returned to the city for the third time. It was only during this return that I came as part of the fourth New York. I soon adopted a Margaret Mead quote as my life calling: “A city must be a place where groups of women and men are seeking and developing the highest things they know.”
The fact is, whether carrying the flag of Christianity or another religion with the same posture toward the city, or whether coming with a worldview that is aligned with those carrying the flags, all of us in the fourth New York are guided by something greater than ourselves. And since we are guided by something greater than ourselves, and since we submit to this Greater Being, our city is the one that will last.
The imagination we operate from is not our own.