Sunday, July 27, 2014

Here I stand.

I think I’ve made some people uncomfortable, or at least a little disoriented, with my recent Facebook posts and thoughts around the current actions of Hamas.  For that, I am profoundly pleased.
Many of you know I’m a pretty big Pico Iyer fan.  Years and years ago (back when offices were as close as “the nearest fax machine or modem”) I read his piece about Living in the Transit Lounge and it has been a touchstone for me at various points since then.  Each time I have returned to it I have learned something new.  His writings, along with those of David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken have helped me place myself in a seemingly placeless existence.  As a Third Culture Kid I also saw through their writings that my particular generation of transit loungers were probably the last because, as “prototypes of the 21st century citizen” we were simply slightly ahead of schedule on a path that the planetary population was traveling together.  A path toward a global mindset.

Today, 14 years into the 21st century I am only beginning to realize how accurate they were in their thinking and writings. 

Iyer described those of us who grew up living among worlds like this:
“I am simply a fairly typical produce of a movable sensibility, living and working in a world that is itself increasingly small and increasingly mongrel. I am a multinational soul on a multicultural globe where more and more countries are as polyglot and restless as airports. Taking planes seems as natural to me as picking up the phone, or going to school; I fold up myself and carry it round with me as if I were an overnight case.”
Several researchers and thinkers have written about the benefits of such an existence and the perspective it delivers.  And I agree with all of them.  But few have written as eloquently as Iyer when it comes to the flip side of the coin, the dangerous other edge of a very sharp sword.
“For us in the Transit Lounge, disorientation is as alien as affiliation. We become professional observers, able to see the merits and deficiencies of anywhere, to balance our parents' viewpoints with their enemies' position. Yes, we say, of course it's terrible, but look at the situation from Saddam's point of view. I understand how you feel, but the Chinese had their own cultural reasons for Tiananmen Square. Fervour comes to seem to us the most foreign place of all.”
“Seasoned experts at dispassion, we are less good at involvement, or suspensions of disbelief; at, in fact, the abolition of distance. We are masters of the aerial perspective, but touching down becomes more difficult. Unable to get stirred by the raising of a flag, we are sometimes unable to see how anyone could be stirred.” 
“We become, in fact, strangers to belief itself, unable to comprehend many of the rages and dogmas that animate (and unite) people. Conflict itself seems inexplicable to us sometimes, simply because partisanship is; we have the agnostic's inability to retrace the steps of faith.”
“We end up, then, a little like non-aligned nations, confirming our reservations at every step. We tell ourselves, self-servingly, that nationalism breeds monsters and choose to ignore the fact that internationalism breeds them too. Ours is the culpability not of the assassin, but of the bystander who takes a snapshot of the murder. Or, when the revolution catches fire, hops on the next plane out.”
I think many people who are connected to me on FB know me better from a time when I lived life from an the safety of an aerial perspective, never touching down long enough to align myself with much of anything and certainly not for much time.  Like a traveler killing time in the transit lounge, I cherry picked my way through duty free shops of ideas and beliefs, never paying the taxes on anything.  Some may even think that my evolution into a placed person with convictions and passion is a step backwards and shake their heads over my loss of perspective or simply be disoriented because I’m not hopping the next plane out.  I can only offer this by way of explanation for the passions and convictions of my placed self … “home isn’t just the place where you sleep, it’s the place where you stand.”

Recommended reading / viewing:
Growing Up Among Worlds – book, Pollock and Van Reken
Where is Home? – TED talk, Iyer