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It's All About The Details

Samantha Plate's picture

Samantha Plate

Play In The City


It’s All About The Details

            “I can feel the history of the building as I observe the architecture, as I run my fingers along the spines of books that have been read countless times, as I breathe in the smell of ink and paper.” This is what I wrote in my journal just minutes before attending a performance of The Quiet Volume. I also wrote that my goal for this trip was to experience the city in small but meaningful ways. To notice the details.

            It started with the library. I did my best to take in everything. From the detailed patterns on the fabric covered shoe, to the different posters taped to the bookshelves. Little did I know, a large part of the experience I was about to have was going to be observing the same room I had just been in. One of the directions we were given before the performance was to think about why the seats we were in were specifically chosen. Once the performance started it all made sense. We were at a table in the middle of the room. The help desk in front of us, more tables on either side. Computers were over to the right and shelves upon shelves of books were to the left. We also had a direct view of the upper level of the room, where more books were stored. As we sat in the same spot for an hour having an experience that seemed to be a secret between my partner and I, the library revolved around us. It was as if we weren’t even there, flipping manically through pages and reading books upside down. The library continued on as if we were in our own bubble, looking out with no one able to look in. Flies on the wall.


            The Quiet Volume is an experience that is impossible to describe. It was amazing, and confusing, and intriguing, and strange, and calm, and nerve-racking, and hundreds of other adjectives. Taking the headphones off was the part I remember the clearest. Everything was just so LOUD. I noticed everything. The sound of the air conditioning was deafening. Every page turning and chair scraping grabbed at my attention. This experience set the tone for the rest of the day and helped to put a new perspective on the city for me.

My experience with the city before was always big picture- with the goal of hitting every important tourist spot. This time I roamed the city with my group and let the experiences come to me. Cass Sunstein, author of “So Much for Serendipity in Personalized News”, would praise my serendipitous attitude. I am usually the kind of person with lots of goals and plans- I know what I want and I make sure to get it. Yesterday, however, I allowed serendipity into my life, and it resulted in “surprising, delightful, alarming, important, and even life-changing” experiences, just like Sunstein said it would. We discussed in class that in today’s society one needs to make an effort to have serendipity in their life. So that is exactly what I did. Giving up choice for chance was a great decision, and I think Sunstein is right for trying to impart the importance of this idea.

 The first such instance of serendipity I experienced was as we made our way to Reading Terminal Market. As we passed a hotel nearby we noticed quite a commotion was going on outside. Letting spontaneity take over, we crossed the street to investigate what everyone was stopped for. What we found was some sort of cultural celebration that involved lots of music, dancing, beautiful garb, and a man on a horse. We joined in on the celebration for a few minutes, and from that small experience I knew the day was going to be filled small moments that would help me experience the city.

As we entered Reading Terminal market I decided to continue my serendipitous attitude. Instead of seeking one type of food, as one might do with news, I wandered around the building, knowing that I would know what to get when I came across it. After lunch, where we indulged in delicious cookies, we decided to make our way up the Parkway. However we allowed ourselves to stop wherever and whenever we felt the need to. This resulted in an amazing time playing on sculptures of large game pieces from childhood games. We even got to see a man do a handstand on top of a “Sorry” piece. He and his friend then attempted to climb a slanted domino by running at it and jumping up as high as they could. While not quite as adventurous, we did attempt to climb a “Sorry” piece (with limited success) and we played in the wheelbarrow from “Monopoly”. It was exhilarating to let go of all the stress in my life and just play.

We continued up the Parkway and had fun imitating statues and taking funny pictures. Having twenty or so minutes left, we found a sunny bench and just sat for a little while. It was nice to have a chance to take in the beautiful weather and the feel of the city. I felt content- a feeling I often do not feel in cities. There is usually too much to do and no time to take in the little things. The details are what really make the experience. I would never have considered Philadelphia peaceful before, but yesterday, as we sat in a circle on the grass and later walked along that water, that is exactly what I felt- peaceful.


The details truly do matter. Without details life would be pretty bland. Sure it is important to see the big picture, but the details are what make up the picture. Every painting started with one stroke of a brush. And so the city isn’t all about the big buildings and important monuments. It’s the smell in the air, the people you pass, the steps you take, and the laughter you share with those around you. This I have come to learn in just a day in the city, and I am so excited to continue visiting the city with this new perspective.

Sunstein, Cass R. "So Much for Serendipity in Personalized News." Bloomberg, 12 Aug. 2013. Web. 15 Sept. 2013.


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