Tags: culture

A Balance

She'll blend in - she'll find herself

When asked to list my strengths, flexibility is usually one that comes to mind. Broadly speaking, I consider myself to be a "flexible" person. I've adapted to life in two foreign countries and don't often complain to those around me about unfair, irritating things around the house.

Just this past week, my new roommate said to me, "You don't like change, do you?" The question struck me as surprising. I've always thought of myself as a flexible and peaceful person. But as I think about it, perhaps this "peacefulness" is more a hesitancy to speak up when things are bothering me. Perhaps this "flexibility" is more a desire to "blend in, disappear, you'll never see [her] again," as Indiana Jones said of his friend Marcus.

When I stop and think about it, I really don't like change. I was a nervous wreak the weeks before I left for Japan. (Spring-summer 2004 journal entries are evidence.) I get really flustered when my office inbox starts filling up and the phone starts ringing with sudden requests. It takes me quite a while to get myself geared up for things. I need to plan in advance and take things one at a time. Once I'm there, I'm quick to work, but sometimes I never get myself to a place where I can welcome that change. I remember procrastinating, complaining, even crying over middle school book reports because I simply didn't want to/couldn't bring myself to open that boring book that the teacher picked out for me.

So how was it that I could thrive in such culture-shocking places as Japan or Gettysburg? Hmmm... Even though I have a hard time changing gears, I find it natural to melt into unique cultures. Civil War era Pennsylvania, 10th century Japanese Heian court musicians, ancient Babylonia, early 19th century coastal schooner sailing, 20th century amateur radio, 21st century Judaism - each has it's own defined and colorful culture. When I stumble into one of those realms, I feel as though my colors shift just like an octopus among the coral. I love this place. I fit here. I belong here. And so, I walk deeper and deeper in the woods of that culture. As I get caught up in it, I seem to find myself, even as others might say that I've completely lost myself. As I've quoted before from Heretics of Dune: "Humans live best when each has a place to stand, when each knows where he belongs in the scheme of things and what he may achieve. Destroy the place and you destroy the person." No wonder I've experienced such a melt-down the past few months since I was unable to relocate to Gettysburg and had to give up on the idea of relocating to Virginia to join the Messianic Jewish community.

Why do I feel so "out of place" in this era and place, especially this city? Why do I feel so lost when I'm right here?

Will I ever find my "place"? How can I settle into my own shoes in this "real world"? Will this current "culture" ever feel as clear and comfortable for me as ancient Babylon and Nara, Japan?

Would it be better for me to move back to central PA and start from scratch?

How do I separate my love of culture from my love of God? Not that my love of culture is bad, but just so that I'm clear about the One whom I'm loving. I want to love the Person and not merely the appearance.