I’m quickly approaching a month back in the States. Culture shock continues, but in a much subtler and more drawn out way than the initial jolt. Mundane activities like grocery shopping, walking to a park, and meeting a friend for coffee have stopped blowing my mind. I’m slowly making less eye contact. But a seed of disorientation persists.
A big part of my confusion is the enormous disconnect between life the States/Vermont/Seattle and life in India. There’s basically nothing in my life here that reminds me of my life over there. The trip is starting to feel like a weird dream that happened a long time ago that I can’t quite describe to anyone. The comfort I acquired in bouncing between extremes has been replaced by wondering why things are so easy and straight-forward here. People make plans? Get places on time? Expect this from others? Days float by.
I continue to be struck by the wealth and assumption of comfort here. We all have relatively so much, but it’s not enough. We allow ourselves to get worked up over little things and problems we’ve created just for the sake of having problems. Traffic, slow service, soup that is too hot. At the same time, we hoard our wealth instead of using it to fix the inequality, injustice, and exploitation all around us. This is the downside of the adaptability of humans: when things are good or great, we get complacent and form expectations.
This is all starting to sound like a major downer. It isn’t meant to be. Life is amazing here. We have green spaces and potable water from the tap and clean bathrooms and time and space to exercise and pretty much do anything we want. The country is fantastic and beautiful. It’s just a lot to process.
I’m sure all this will calm down as I settle back into Seattle, but part of me doesn’t want to let it go. During my travels I developed a healthy sense of urgency to make something of my life and my privilege. If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you’re well-off, well-educated, and empowered. We need to remember and appreciate this, and acknowledge that these are gifts that we can use to help others achieve the same freedoms that we enjoy. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama comes to mind again:
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.