There are a number of life scenarios where someone expresses the sentiment that he/she just knows. I have often heard this regarding house hunting - something like: "As soon as we walked in, we knew." Some feel this way about their belief in God. That it is not the result of any cognitive process - they just know that God exists. And many, of course, feel this way about their significant other, even on first meeting - it was love at first sight - they just knew. Of course, there is always the possibility of over exuberance or self delusion. Nonetheless, valid or not, the conviction of a strong, knowing feeling does give a person direction and focus and not squander energy on hapless searching. The middle way can be no way. Take it from someone who, in many ways, has been a perennial fence sitter.
I cannot say that I have often had a strong feeling that I just knew something was right, except when I arrived in New York City for the first time. I will admit, of course, that at that age, in tandem with being starved for culture and stimulation, perhaps I would have had that feeling about any city. That I cannot know.
There is an episode of the Andy Griffith Show where the lead character, Andy, a sheriff in a small town in North Carolina, tries to reconnect with an old high school girlfriend at a class reunion. She, however, has moved to the big city, Chicago, and the episode revolves around their bittersweet attempt at reconnection. It becomes clear why their relationship never was successful - they are just fundamentally different people.
There is a scene in the episode which is particularly poignant to me and really captures the essence of people attracted and repelled by cities. Andy's friend is frustrated by his apparent lack of need to go to the big city to broaden one's horizons and explore beyond the bounds of his small rural hometown. She cannot fathom how he can really and truly be happy with what he has if he has never been to the big city to see what he does not have. To this, he responds that he just knows.
To me, that is an extraordinarily profound statement of the utmost self confidence and awareness. Some may say it is extraordinarily naive. However, I have met many intelligent, educated, sophisticated and worldly people who are content to live their lives in a rural environment, even in the small town they grew up in.
The urbanite often sneers at the country bumpkin, seeing him or her as unsophisticated. But perhaps the differences between people has more to do with different styles. I wrote of this in my story, Quite Refreshing, Really:
I am reminded of the film The Way We Were where the ability of two very different people (Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand) to get along is painfully tested and results in a parting of ways. In the end, Redford explains that his decision to separate is due to their different styles.
I have questioned the value of living in New York City and bearing its hardships, one of the dilemmas most New Yorkers face (see Dwanna). I have toyed with leaving many, many times in the four decades I have lived here. I have entertained the country, other cities and other countries. However, although it has taken some time, I can, at last, peer into my soul and see what lies inside. And lest I need any reminder, I can look up at a vista, like that at 42nd Street and Park Avenue, and I know.