In the final paragraph of “Physics,” Tama Janowitz writes, “I suddenly wished I could go back to school and take physics again: I knew that this time I would understand it. The notion of random particles, random events, didn’t seem at all difficult to comprehend. The whole business was like understanding traffic patterns, with unplanned crack-ups and hit and run accidents…I saw how emotions caused objects to go whizzing about…”
Because of their density, urban environments produce many chance encounters between different people and different ideas. There are many seemingly random “collisions.” But these chance encounters and random events arguably occur within the context of a larger, ordered systems and patterns.
Ginsberg’s “Mugging,” Janowitz’s “Physics,” and the excerpt from Koyaanisquatsi that you just watched all touch on this theme of chance occurrences within larger urban patterns. Write a reflection on the role of chance and order in these three works. What happens that is improbably at the individual level, but part of a larger pattern? Which works portray the city as being more dominated by chance, and which portray it as more dominated by order? What are the positive and negative aspect of chance and order for individuals who dwell in the city?