A Global Village?

Assuming, of course, that the world actually survives this century:

When historians look back on our century, they may remember it most, not for space travel or the release of nuclear energy, but as the time when the peoples of the world first came to take one another seriously.

- Huston Smith, The World’s Religions (1991), pg. 7.

A little rosy, perhaps – I would put the quote in this century and change the last bit to: “… when some of the peoples of the world were forced to take one another seriously” – but I still like it.

One anthropologist we’ve read considers the “global village” idea, which – you may have noticed – is part of our blog’s tagline, to be misleading and naive.

Societies may appear to be growing similar as politics, products, technologies, Wal-Mart, Coke, Nike, Pokemon, and (please spare us) Hello Kitty spread around the globe. But meanings, worldview assumptions, thought processes… these things don’t change nearly as fast or as easily. Writing in 1996, this author points out that we often speak of Japan as a “Westernized” nation, but the deeper and more important cultural differences remain vast.

We have geographic proximity; international urban centres boast diverse populations, and advances in travel and communication make every corner of the globe easily accessible. But this does not mean we are living together the same world; such an assumption seems, according to him, “the height of naiveness.” In our languages and worldview differences, we in effect participate in separate realities at the deepest levels; the close physical proximity of our homes and products doesn’t change this fact.

Living in Taiwan and listening to our boss talk about underlying causes for differences in everything from rule of law to driving habits has made me consider this critique more than I would have before arriving in Asia. I still think that the spread of technology and products will continue to have a profound effect on the world’s cultures, including our own. But perhaps it’s less potent and slower than I previously assumed.

Regardless of how poorly people of different cultures understand one another, how separate our ‘thought-worlds’ are, or how little of our selves and others meaningfully transcends the cultural differences as we attempt to share our lives, we must at least still deal with one another’s increasing influence on our lives whether we understand it or not.

The way I see it (thanks for asking), we live in a global village that contains many different worlds, and the sooner we learn to understand one another and communicate, the better (in spite of what the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says).

Content vs. Process

Content – the stuff you need to know to effectively do and pursue becoming the things you want to do and become. Content is what you know or understand, but all the knowing and understanding in the world can’t do what process does.

Process – intentionally or unavoidably engaging practices and experiences that grow and shape you over time, changing you and what you’re capable of. Engaging the process is applying what you know, and what that does with you. Process in part depends on the right content.

(I found this in the drafts – it was written during this last semester, probably in November sometime. We turned in our last assignments Dec. 23.)

I’m blowing off some steam here. I can’t wait to get this M.A. degree business out of the way and start some real Mandarin learning. I love the books and the learning, but we’re way overdue to enter the real world of family, jobs, and people.

I’ll always read, always pursue learning, but I’m sick of a life dominated by books and papers. Where are the people? When do we get to focus on our family? (that’s not a James Dobson reference, for anyone concerned ;) ) To earn our own living? To start life?

We are Word doc typing machines. We can’t really ‘read’ the books, let alone think about them, but somehow we’re supposed to produce pages of creative critical interaction. We’ve been through senioritis and burn-out before with school, but this is different. You start to wither after living too long in this artificial environment where reading books and writing about their content dominates your time and energy. It sounds like a luxury to people juggling jobs and marriage and kids, and it is – but it’s not a luxury in which I want to live to the exclusion of more important things.

In the beginning it makes sense to spend time front-loading content at the expense of process – I guess. But (overused metaphor ahead) a sponge will rot if all it ever does is soak. I’ve seen this happen, it’s ugly and sad. Absorbing content should always continue, but there’s a point when acquiring content should take a back seat to engaging process. I can’t wait.

Finished…

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Somehow, Calvin’s expressions seem to capture perfectly my emotions and the way my brain feels right now….beyond exhausted, and feeling more than a little goofy. My last few papers were a little rough…but I don’t really feel bad about it. Given that it feels like every single academic tendency or urge I once had has been sucked out – far past the point of dryness, it was the best I had to give. And, for once in my life…that’s good enough!

But, I’m very happy to report that after months of seemingly endless homework, I’m finally finished. That probably makes all of our friends and family happy, because now we’ll have some more interesting posts and no more than whining complaints about our homework. :D Thanks for bearing with us. Joel is close behind, with one more paper to go.

Now, on to the baking of Christmas goodies!!! :D