In probably one of the greatest poems ever written ‘If’, Rudyard Kipling writes about the value of being able to talk with Kings without losing the common touch. I take this to mean people of all social standings, economic levels, cultures, genders, sexual preferences, classes, intellect, education, preference of beverage, girth, shampoo choice etc. And recently I’ve been made aware of the value in this.
Whilst living overseas I was able to meet people of all types – from people who had a white grand piano in their two story apartment to people who lived meal to meal. My latest move to Melbourne has been an extension of this exploration and I’ve shared valuable time with a range of people. In doing this I try to adapt and forge myself to fit their mould somewhat, which despite sounding soulless is a necessity to a degree. In different social networks people operate under different norms, codes and rules. Doing one thing in one sub-culture can be interpreted completely different in another. For example gently nudging someone towards a pile of horse manure on the footpath could be seen as a cheeky joyful blag in one culture but a bit on the nose in another.
Yet by quoting another awesome chap from history, I’d like to point out to myself if no one else that it is important not to forget who you actually are. Ghandi said something along the lines of ‘I will open my doors and windows to the winds of all cultures but I won’t let any blow me off my feet’. Recently I have been having trouble with some of the social mores of a certain social group and I was trying harder and harder to fit myself right – struggling with the realisation that I wasn’t quite getting it. I then had a skype chat with one of my mates whose now living in France and the differences between him and my pals here was dramatic. It got me realising that it is important to understand the rules and expectations of a cultural group, but you don’t have to let them own you. It is handy to have enough social capital to engage with people from different groups, but you don’t have to emulate it to learn from it.
If social groups, cultures, sub-cultures and societies were a smorgasbord of food it would be a shame to gorge yourself only at the one plate – that’s a Justin special.
One thing that I really don’t like is leaving relationships with people on unpleasent terms. Not just intimate relationships, but all of them. It leaves me with an uncomfortable feeling, even if I know I’m not going to see them again I still imagine what we would say if I did – and I would hate our first words to be unpleasent. Recently I remembered a relationship that I had left on not so unfriendly terms, but just a little awkward. In 2006 I met a girl at a country dancing night held at the Uni bar. Everyone was dancing with everyone, and I ended up dancing with one girl more than others – possibly because she had nice cool hands and it was a hot night. Later that week she contacted me on facebook, we had a morning tea/lunch date where we cooked muffins together then ate some tofu and salad wraps and she later suggested that we go and feed eels together at the bridge near the train station. I was quite keen to check the eels out, but i suggested that we only go as friends – i liked her, but just not in that way. As things go, we stopped talking to each other on facebook, and never went to feed the eels. Well, recently I was thinking about eels and I was reminded of her and our icky parting so contacted her back, almost 18 months from when we first started chatting and asked if she’d be keen to pay a visit to the eels. She turned me down as she’s already moved off campus – but i now know that if i see her again, we could have a good ol’ chat.
In a similar instance last year while studying for exams i borrowed a pencil from an American lass called Kimber, she was away when i left so i asked someone to return the pencil to her but they mustn’t have got around to it. By the time I had found this out after conversing with her through facebook I was already in England so I asked for her address, bought her a special pink pencil from York and posted it to her. When she recieved my parcel, she replied straight away and thanked me greatly, saying that i didn’t really need to do it, but that there was a hole in the parcel and no pencil! I was shattered, there seemed like no possible way that I could return a simple pencil to her, but I didn’t give up. I gave her a pencil of the literary kind by writing her a poem that encapsulated the very essence of a pencil.
The ideas that you have, i’ll cement in history
The blooming flower you see i’ll show for generations
When phoning a friend i’ll keep you company
Designs i’ll lay, out for your machinations
If a mistake is made, don’t hesitate, ’tis no more
I’ll be your trusted servent as long as i’m pointed
To write to a lover, thats what i’m here for
Try ink, blood or tar and you will be dissapointed
That dark void in your life it is my duty to fill
Your woody friend forever, the humble pencil.