Monday, December 03, 2007

Verse of the Day

"From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:26-27)

In Turkish we have a saying : "bir lisan, bir insan" which is translated "one language, one person" and means, in effect, that with each new language you learn you become an additional person.

Is this correct ?

I have lived in 4 different countries, worked in 3 of them and as a result know 3 different languages fluently.

When I do re-connect with old friends and acquaintances who have remained roughly in the same place or culture all their lives it does become very striking to me how much they have had only one type of experience whereas I have had more. Yet, I'm not sure I would call these different cultural experiences (which is our present topic) different dimensions of any sort.

On a fundamental level I really don't see myself as having, as a result of my life experiences reached, some higher level of maturity or some higher level of anything, really. And, I wouldn't say that I have wasted those experiences either in that I have been totally immersed in and savoured each and every one of them. I'm only thinkin' that perhaps all this is a bit over-rated.

And, of course, they are not "different dimensions" because, as the verse says, God "from one man he made every nation of men".

What I do find is that my own cross-cultural experiences which are inherently with me 24/7 are at times quite difficult for me because often times I find I have an internalised socialisation which is different from the environment in which I "live. move and have my being".

Is Paul talking about the same kind of thing here ?

One might go down the route of what postmodernists call the "de-centered self". Surely, Paul is not making some sociological statement but speaking of a sociological reality to highlight another reality for the individual which is a theological one.

While one might hope great things for the individual in what Paul describes in the multiplicity of nations "inhabiting the entire earth" it rather comes across here in these verses as an assault or a challenge to the self, the individual.

And, I think Paul does want us to understand there IS an assault to the self built in to the scheme of things since Babel (perhaps) so that man "would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him," with hope since "he is not far from each one of us".

There has to be a denial of self here, definitely, and maybe this is why and how the 'multinational experience' makes one to feel inadequate rather than empowered.

Yet, one can still feel inadequate and still not be de-centered. Are you with me?

Perhaps I should introduce 'love' here at this point. Why ? Because 'love' is a de-centering of self. And for that you don't even need to move to another country, learn another language or learn about Afro-American sub-culture etc. The way love works in de-centering the person is that the person only concerns himself/herself with the welfare of the other person which is the truest and highest definition of love.

So conversely, it is possible to be in a totally familiar environment and still be truly de-centered.

Do you see what I'm getting at ?

I suppose now I have a word for the kind of life I have been led to or into and need to perfect : "de-centered". That's good. It gives me a conceptual hook on which to hang my thinking.

No comments: