Sunday, September 27, 2015

Cultural Commute

home can be made anywhere, but, [H]ome is always where family is.

21, 449 air miles.  Plus the thousands of miles spent crunched into busses, rickshaws, hitched rides, on motorcycles, and the hundreds of miles by foot.  Easily, a complete trip around the globe (~24, 902 miles) over the past three months.  A small commute.

All this to say that my period of extensive physical and emotional movement, dislocation, relocation, nomadic-yet-present-exploration is all about to be channeled into absolute mental movement.  The enrapturing embrace of the movement-lust that has carried my body, spirit, and mind so far around / through / into India and then for a heart-pounding two weeks across the States, has stirred inside me a "cultural commute" that eludes immediate explanation and seduces an all too-easy and superficial "It was great."  Far from ineffable, but by all means indelible.

Plenty of days have passed since leaving India, but the "feel" of the land has hardly left me.  Time and Place have been more than generous to allow me to continue travel since arriving back to States:  seeing essential pieces of my life in TN, DC, NC, and CO.

One day I'll figure out how not to leave this place.  Ever energized, yet calmed, by these JC roots.

Upon arriving back to Chi, I immediately landed into the thickness and height of helping Orientation events for the incoming students of the Divinity School -- what a beautiful crew:  welcome!  Not really until now, three days later, has there been a still and awake moment to sit, reflect, question, and absorb the past life lived en toto since June.        

The apt and rich words of my colleague, NZ, which title this post, could not be more in-line with my state of being.  Between the many conversations and shares about my experiences, her inspiring, motivational, and accounting delivery on collegiality from which these words have been taken, I find myself finally understanding in a short phrase the concept that so drives my passions and describes my time in India and then the past weeks here in the States.  Maybe one could replace cultural with emotional to capture the investment and attachment I have felt, but for now cultural is right.  Cultural Commuting:  a welcome internal movement for me; one I hope to actively be on and always invite others to share.

As someone who studies South Asia and the religions there, it is easy to recognize my distance from that place reading and writing 9, 000 air-miles away.  Easy to not make that commute.  Easy to stay in my own personal, cultural milieu.  But, the truth is, every time I read about, think on / with, write, or talk about the region, I must accept and proactively engage a cultural commute into different systems of being and believing.  Many scholars would argue otherwise in order to guard against uncritical writing -- fair, and I do agree for most work -- but for my interests, questions, and projects in conflict, I want to see, hear, taste, feel from within in order to engage issues and items of need.  NZ's words of commute reveal a struggle -- a forced difficulty laid onto one entering an environment different from one's own.  Maybe the environment is hostile, hesitant, hardened to outsiders.  But as she rightfully quoted Gandhi and MLK Jr., it is paramount for one to make that effort, urgent to take that commute and even to encourage co-commuters, in order to open up the insights, experiences, contributions, understanding, questions, shared-life -- the human-ness -- of others.

My hope is that these posts have facilitated that for you over the past three months.  With this post I end my writing and thoughts that grew while in India, but please check in here periodically as I will continue to write as I reflect back and learn anew my thoughts and questions on service, development, religions, people, ideas, languages, and life in India (and S. Asia).  

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