Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Bird in a Jar

Sometimes I feel like an ambassador, or maybe an anthropologist. I feel like a foreigner moving into another culture where he may eventually be accepted, but will never really belong. I have “my people” and I love them dearly, but something about the others calls to me. Maybe it is just curiosity, pure and simple, that drives me. I don’t know what causes me to desire to understand different people, but the fact of the matter is that “why?” is irrelevant. I will continue to meet new people and experience new cultures, because it is impossible for me to do otherwise.

Tonight, as I drove home from a friend’s party, I began to think about the details of the experience. Who was there? How was the event staged? What did people drink? How did people interact with each other? What kind of music do these people listen to? Where do these people live? How educated are these people? What do these people do for a living? What expectations do these people place on each other? Etc.

I realized that this event was unusual. The people that I was with are part of a social microcosm that is remarkably different, but at the same time, remarkably consistent with other groups that I have observed over my short 22 years. This group, like every other group that I have encountered, is like a complex and unique organism that is worth understanding.

What was this group like? It would take me years to be able to answer that question. To understand someone’s world, you have to be a part of someone’s world. All that I can do at this time is make observations.

The scene is set in a historic house in a very nice part of town. The scent of burned cocoa emanates from spoiled organic fertilizer that has been spread throughout the garden. In spite of the broken air conditioning, about half of the guests are inside the old house. The people in the garden are mostly quiet, smoking cigarettes and drinking white wine and gourmet beer, while a few individuals carry the majority of the conversation. People talk about crazy art professors that the used to have, or the projects that they are currently working on. Most of the people here are mid to late 20s college graduates, Fine Arts and Liberal Arts majors.

Inside, life has centered on the kitchen where Walter, the owner of the house, has prepared delicious red beans and rice. Laura has just changed from the orange and white vintage floral dress that she probably bought at a thrift store into a casual grey T-shirt and slightly worn, green shorts. She invites me and Tim, a short, friendly looking gentleman with a very slight South African accent, to take a brief tour of the house.

The house is huge, with a central staircase leading to four rooms upstairs, and four downstairs. Laura’s room, A.K.A. the Dommer Suite, is at the top of the stairs. Her room feels like a boat, with blue walls and a slanted sealing. The walls are lined with bottles and jars, some of which contained preserved bugs and animals that she has collected over the years. On her dresser sits an old clock, draped with fake pig tails and enclosed in a glass case.

Laura’s world is the world of young, educated artists. These people feel relaxed and friendly, but they all seem to understand and live up to a certain social etiquette. Individuality is prized within this group, but obnoxious behavior and attention whoring seems to be minimized. These people seem to value education and art, but carry themselves with less pretension than other groups that I have been around.

I really enjoy the people in this group, but I don’t think that I have the social stamina that would be required to be a real part of their community. I think that I am just glad that their community exists. I do not think I could live in a world where everyone was the same.

1 comment:

Phil B said...

Yet, despite our many differences, we have much in common. We share common desires, common temptations, common disappointments.

In fact the commonalities we share not of appearance, or biology, but of spirit, point towards a common hearitage that trascends biology.