Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Homelands- Past, Present, and Future

As I am sitting here watching the tube, trying to think of how to start this blog, the commentator said an incredibly interesting thing that ties into our class very well. I am watching the tribute to the shooting at Columbine High School that happened in 1999. First off, it is crazy to think that ten years have passed since that tragedy. It is amazing how time flies when you are busy with other things. The person that is getting interviewed wrote a book about how he escaped from the school, how he was shot three different times, and how he went on to restart his life after being paralyzed and suffering major brain injuries. Another person being interviewed was an old NFL quarterback who helped the former Columbine student recover, go through rehab, and finally write his book to share the experiences. As they were getting interviewed, the commentator posed a question to the quarterback. The way he phrased the question perked my ear. He said that, 'Everyone has close ties back to their homelands. They tend to define themselves by where they grew up. People are always partial to their hometown teams and we see this on Sportscenter all the time when people pick their hometown teams instead of playing by the numbers and picking who they really should pick.' This question went on to touch on the subject of how this quarterback went back to his hometown and donated some money and did as much as he could to help Columbine High School get over the tragedy.

But by hearing this comment on ESPN of all the channels that I could be watching, especially as I am trying to write a blog on homelands, made me start thinking. How exactly do we define our homelands? We have seen in our readings, especially with Salman Rushdie, that our homelands are oftentimes imaginary. That we have ideas of what our homelands were and we hold on to those perfect ideas and use them to define our homelands. But then we also have heard throughout our class discussions that alot of people define their homelands not by anything physical, but by the connections they have made with other people- namely their families. Their homelands can be constantly changing, but as long as they have that one constant of their family, the person feels at home. Then we have read some books like Potiki where the homeland is a tangible piece of land. The people have physical things that make their homeland, and even though they manage to rebuild their lives after those physical aspects are destroyed- it is certainly centered around physical things defining their homelands.

But looking at all of these different aspects that define one's homeland- there is a constant thread. That thread is a reliance on the past to define who we are today. The people in Potiki are steeped in tradition and are constantly looking into the past to define what they do in the present to respond to otuside forces. People in class have made their imaginary homelands in the connections that they have with their families, but those connections are based on Rushdie's idea of just snapshots of the past that we piece together to create an ideal. Even if we have a physical homeland that we can think of, when we think of that homeland it is always something in the past that we are thinking about. We define our present lives by what has already happened. Does that mean that we are not completely here in the present? I think to a certain degree, yes- it means that we are not fully present in the present. If we are constantly thinking about how we are defined, and what our connections are to other people- then we are stuck in the past.

In Eat, Pray, Love there is a great example of this. When Liz is describing all the different professions and jobs that Richard from Texas has had, she is stuck in the past. She is defining a person by what they have done, not who they are at the current moment. He was an oilman; he was a big-rig driver; he was a junkie; he was a hippie farmer- but she fails to say what he is NOW. True she does explain what he does later, but that is not how she defines him. It is all of the old actions that Richard has done that define who he is at that moment. It is all of the life experiences, all the different things that he has done, and all the places that he has lived that make him what he is today. I feel like many people in our class are exactly like that. They are defined by their past- and the present is so interwoven in that past that it is almost impossible to extricate the two. Now that has some interesting repercussions on our views of the future. I know that a lot of people in this class are trying to figure out what they will be doing after they graduate. They are struggling with the transitions and how they will make it on their own. I believe that a bunch of the anguish that people are feeling for this looking into the future is because they are so used to being defined by their past. They are afraid of the change, the uncertainty, the transition. But that is because up to this point, they have defined themselves only by things that have happened in the past. Now they must look to the future and instead of just intertwining the past with the present, they must use those two and also have some sort of vision of their future and how they WANT to define themselves. Not how they are currently defined, even though that will play an important role in their self-definition later on in life. It is scary because of the amount of leeway that there is in this process and the looking to the future when we are all used to just looking to the past.

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