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Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 23: Finding Culture

18 Mar

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 23: Finding Culture.


Three Urns: I recently wrote my will. Within it, I leave my ashes in three urns to three special people in my life (and they know who they are). I ask them (with some support from my estate) to find a place in the world where they feel that the culture is enlightened, loving and supportive of them. I ask them to then spread my ashes in these places so that I can share in the experience. I do this as a way to encourage my loved ones to carry on the travelling tradition that I have started. As well, I have not yet found the type of culture, despite my considerable travel to date, that considers each other very carefully. What I find instead is that people are people wherever I go, and few places have people looking and thinking beyond themselves.

It Must Be Possible: However, I have to believe that there are places where the following happens:

-People welcome you into their homes with generosity and hospitality with no strings attached
-Acceptance for who we are, despite our differences, occurs openly
-There is a general goodwill towards others and the Golden Rule of “do unto others…” actually applies
-Communication is open, and there is a willingness to share, learn and grow
-No one person is more important than anyone else in the group. The group is seen for its strength as a whole
-When people are down or unwell, they are cared for by the stronger people in the community
-Everyone celebrates life…a lot
-There is a gentleness of spirit, and hard feelings are put to rest easily
-People do not benefit from gossiping or putting each other down. Instead, they build each other up

There are many more positive attributes of an enlightened culture, but these, in my mind, are the essential ones. I find that where there is a strong community, everything else seems easier. We are all intended to be in relationship, despite the autonomous values we hold dear in our North American culture.

I Remember: When I was young, I used to keep a journal. I remember in one entry, in a naive and expressive voice, I wrote that I would be happy on the moon as long as there were good people around me. I suppose that this still stands. I have not travelled to the moon, but I have travelled to many places; encountered good individuals, but I have yet to feel the strength of what I describe above as an enlightened culture. I have known fleeting moments in time where I worked, lived or travelled with a group that felt like a strong family, such as my trip to Andalusia, Spain four years ago. For a brief week, we became an important interconnection of people supporting one another as we explored Southern Spain. For some reason, we found magic together. We drank, danced, laughed and celebrated our cultural similarities and differences. This type of group dynamic is rare, and this is why I find it special to consider where to find more of these types of community connections that are authentic and longstanding.

Florence, Italy: I am visiting the fine city of Firenze. Immediately I notice how people interact with myself and each other. There is a general hospitality here. However, in my first night sleeping (staying awake), I overheard a heated fight between a man and woman. It was a two-hour tirade that kept everyone awake. Ironically, just when that stopped, the fire alarm went off, and the entire hotel needed to be evacuated. I saw all of the sleepy residents make their disgruntled way to the lobby. Everyone kept their eyes averted, and made comments about the inconvenience. No one seemed remotely concerned about what might be happening, and if everyone was well. The hotel clerk was alarmed by the situation and handled it graciously, and we all returned to our rooms without much connection. Now, granted, it was four in the morning, but I find that people are people wherever I go. For the next few days in Italy, I will keep my eyes and ears open for that friendly moment where I am invited into it.

Calgary, Alberta, Canada: In 2013, Calgary and the surrounding areas had a big flood. Within a few days, the entire city started helping each other with financial support, food, and clean-up. It was a massive community effort that afforded the city to continue with the Calgary Stampede, a summer event that brings in considerable revenue to the city. Of course it was successful in its efforts to put the city back together again, and made world headlines because it exhibited what we do not always see as a culture: efficacy.

Calgary is starting to look differently to me. I made a considerable effort to leave its cold climate it to move to a warmer ocean setting, but here is what I miss about it. People work hard, and don’t complain about doing so. They tend to look out for each other, and are demonstrating this with better community initiatives for the disenfranchised and marginalized members of its community. Calgary has money, but some of this money is being spent to better itself as a whole through funding for its underprivileged, and with a focus on raising educational awareness through corporate and educational partnerships. Calgary is, in my mind, starting to stand out as a place where I now see its supportive culture in retrospect and in comparison to other places that I stay.

Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have until we leave it behind.