Awwww. The “Motherland”. I’ve never had origins to speak of such a place with nostalgia. I’m not sure you could even consider America a “motherland” in any sense. It’s much too young. More like a child, still. While America is yet adolescent, we are already a bit stagnant. Our meteoric rise as a world power has caused American culture to become a bit stunted. Perhaps, like a child forced to face adult responsibility too early, America has acquired that same uncultured maturity. The kind that circles itself. We’ve packed a ton of history into our few short centuries, without the time to process all of our experiences with hind site that nurtures growth.
We are a young country, indeed, and perhaps think too much of ourselves. “Wisdom” beyond our years. It’s created an arrogance that is imbedded in our cultural fibers. Your culture we will take and adapt to our own, stripping it of its antiquity and turning it into an American novelty. We are a bit of a lost people, bound together by our misplacement and common desire for freedom of self. Although we are unified in these ideals, we retain little to no historical commonality. Persecution of faith, persecution of ethnicity, or poverty we come to America to escape our demeaning conditions with our hearts still full of another land. Like a childhood friend or the bond of family, there will always be an inner loyalty for someone’s origins that is diehard. In times of trauma our core ideals of freedom and equality galvanize our unity, but without threat we lack camaraderie. It is a common history that the peoples of America lack, for we are simply a house of orphans.
Now, all of that may sound very pessimistic, but being American, born and raised, I love my country dearly, but I also understand the her and her personality with an intimacy only found in a native. It is from this intimacy that I wish to escape, for a time, to broaden my worldview. And so, to another land I go to be cultured and expanded by the habits of a foreign place and it’s people. After much prayerful debate and contemplation I’ve decided to experience Europe. I know, cliche, right? Everyone does Europe. I’d thought of getting out of the first world and trekking through Peru, living on a mountain top with a host family or even exploring the wily landscape and Merino Wool farms of New Zealand. What really cemented my decision to go to Europe, though, was the opportunity to study at L’Abri, tucked away in the snowy Swiss Alps.
For 9 weeks of my trip I will be at L’Abri studying philosophy, developing relationships with other people within the community, and learning about different worldviews through lectures, reading and conversation. It’s a rather Miltonic environment to say the least, and quite exciting, the point being that I will begin to discover a purposeful mission for my art forms. Perhaps it is un-American of me, but I am most excited to be banned from internet and computers during my time here, save for 1 1/2 days out of the week, and even that is discouraged. All those staying at L’Abri work together to keep the place running smoothly: we cook, clean, garden, etc… call it a commune if you must.
It will be no picnic, and that is refreshing. I want to push myself during this trip, I want to disconnect from frivolity so that I can reconnect with people. All too often I find myself careless in my relationships with others and this is disturbing to me. To find I care more about a concept or social trend than an actual human being, frightens me to the core. To realize that I have become so much a product of my own shallow culture drives me to transform my perspective. To be unselfish, open and genuinely interested in people, and to desire human connection is one of the main agendas for this trip.
After L’Abri my itinerary will take on a necessary expedition to England, where for a couple of days I will explore and conquer the monster known as “London”. There will be great tidbits posted later from this, and the street fashion should be very invigorating. I’m excited to do some picture-to-sketch projects while there. After London, I’ll be somewhere in Holland most likely for the remainder of my trip, but there will be no set-in-stone itinerary. Between the tulips, museums and windmills I’m sure I’ll have time to immerse myself into a bit more of the history and culture of what I’ve heard is a peaceful and congenial place.
I do not expect to be treated the same as I am at home. From what I’ve heard and seen in popular portrayal American’s are not the most favored visitors in any country. Whether this is true I will soon find out, but I do not hope to become a casualty of this national stereotype. I believe in an “Ideal American”, one who embodies the best of classical American ideals, with respect, understanding, and an embrace for all cultures as well as a loyal intimacy with their own. Already I have so much to offer, for I am native of a country globalized at it’s origins, more diverse than Ancient Rome and younger than most of it’s allies. Yes, I already have so much to offer, but I want more….how very American.