Vicarious Familiarity

I create, therefore I am.
I write, therefore I am.

Listen. Read. Watch.

You will know me.

Whoa! Now. Take a step back and let’s examine this a little deeper. Actually, not deeper, earlier.

Rewind to the year 2001.
Broadband was still fresh in our minds. Gasoline was less than $2.00 a gallon. I was 23 and soul searching.

IMG_4835Music was the center of my world. The Red Album by Days of the New released and it blew my mind. It felt like Trevor Meeks was talking directly to me, which meant I thought I knew him.

How wrong I was.

I later discovered more about him that obliterated my constructed image of him, which I obtained solely from liner jacket notes and the music. I knew nothing of his drug addiction or his attitude.

It takes a particularly stubborn person to insist they know someone through their creations. It is a wonderful access point but it only represents one aspect of their personality. Daily life paints a completely different picture.

IMG_5153Knowing what a country is like through the media you consume will also lead to disappointment, or in my case, pleasant surprise. The news, the histories, movies, music, stories, none of it prepared me for the experience I’ve had in this country. Media constructed a fantasy vision warped and colored by wandering, disconnected narrative.

It goes both ways. Since I’ve been in Japan, my limited access to American based media outlets have severely skewed my perception of a country where I spent more than thirty years. Media is a vicious downfall journey that can never supply everything you need, well, at least not for me. These narratives are few and don’t give enough.

The life of a person, the personality of a country, is so much more than the sum of what they do.

IMG_4845Reflecting on the narratives told about Japan, only one has survived scrutiny. Stories of ninjas, samurais, swords, are, of course, unfounded. Even the more realistic ones about tradition and manners hold only slivers of truth. The one truth is vending machines. Everywhere. In the mountains? Haven’t seen a building for a while? Vending machine. They are everywhere. Efficient, convenient, reliable. But even that isn’t completely true. Some stories are exaggerated and misunderstood for the sake of being cool.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we shouldn’t believe everything we see, read, or hear. Yes, there could be a modicum of truth to each scrap of information but it isn’t until a variety of perspectives surface and an open mind focused on staying away from presumptuousness that the disjointed picture becomes clearer. Assuming too much backfires every time.

My own perspectives must be ingested with your preferred spice. All I know is that I’ve only succeeded in branding myself an ignoramus on those all too common occasions when I’ve lost the fight against assumption.

IMG_5161Media neglects the wonderful experience that is day to day life, those moments considered too mundane to discuss in conversation, but it is where true life says hello. That moment on the bus, that minute waiting for the traffic light. The intervening exciting moments fade as fast as they come, while mundane moments are your constant companion.

Learning more about Travis Meeks didn’t shatter my appreciation or destroy my perception of the music. But it did eliminate a small piece of ignorance.

I don’t know you.
You don’t know me.

But we can appreciate each other and respect each other. Sometimes, that’s all we can do.


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.
This entry was posted in Culture Shock, Narrative, Reflection and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Vicarious Familiarity

  1. Pingback: Thursday Thought: November 21st | Nihon i Go

  2. Jessica says:

    Such a good point. Oh the things I heard about Taiwan before I went there; oh the truth I discovered when there… And I know what you mean about vending machines! They’re all over Hong Kong, too! There are even vending machines for umbrellas! (Pretty smart, if you ask me!)

    • Vending machines are all over Hong Kong! I had no idea. They sure are convenient. I do believe they will be one of the things I will miss when I leave. Thanks for stopping by today! I wish you the best!

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