Oh my!!! What was that?

One fine spring day, a not quite middle aged man of average build (six feet tall, 185 lbs) decided to explore the new city he was living in.  He found the architecture rising above him intriguing as he wove his silver bike comfortably through wandering pedestrians and red sidewalks.  Tinkling music wafted to his ears along the peaceful road and a sense of quietude enveloped his being.

But it was all a ruse…

The sky darkened.  A hulking mass cast a menacing shadow over the city.  Storm clouds plastered the western sky.  The not quite middle aged man of average build escaped into the inviting glow of a grocery store.  It was a store he had never been to before and thought that a quick browse was called for.  He grabbed a green basket and began exploring the aisles and his investigation carried his feet to the meat case.  He was standing a little off to the side so other people could see the product.  A tiny elderly lady turned around from her inspection of a cut of salmon and gasped in shock at the sight of him.  The not quite middle aged man of average build bowed, said sumimasen, and escaped to a less occupied inner aisle so he could die a little inside.

The woman’s reaction wasn’t intended to cause pain but it did.  And the existence of the man caused unintended shock.  Intended meaning isn’t always communicated and interpreted as planned; it all comes down to theories of interpretation.  Daily interactions supply an abundance of actions that can lead to infinite responses that range from positive to negative and predicting all possible responses to any action would freeze us in place.  We would die of stagnancy.  Our guard cannot be that resolute and shouldn’t have to be.  As illustrated, existing in the same place as another is all it takes to encourage a reaction for good or ill.

I’ve been coming across a new term: microaggression.  Debito Arudou makes an interesting discussion of it in the article, “Yes, I can use chopsticks: the everyday ‘microaggressions’ that grind us down,” featured in The Japan Times.  The article was kairotic for me.  Living as an obvious minority leaves one hyper aware of reactions.  It is neither good nor bad.  It is the way it is.  But, it can “grind us down.”  Alienation comes in many forms and I would argue that nobody is a stranger to it.  It was certainly not foreign to me before I found myself in another country but it is a bit more acute now that I am.  In our native land we find ourselves alienated by microcultures but still find contact with the larger, national identity (to some extent, at least).  Living abroad turns that around.  The microcultures become stronger as the national identity is driven further and further away, not just the identity of the host culture, but the native identity as well.  Step two and four of culture shock.  Ah, the cycle continues…

Anger isn’t the answer, nor is making excuses.  Get out there and explore, live life, take the good and the bad.  And smile!


About Matthew J. Durocher

Matthew Durocher is a graduate of Michigan Tech University. He acquired his BA in English along with a minor in Music Composition and a certificate in Writing in Spring 2012. His style is one of passion and musicality. One foot is firmly rooted in tradition while the other slides dangerously close to the clouds.
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One Response to Oh my!!! What was that?

  1. Pingback: Sorry, that was me | Nihon i Go

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