Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark | Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Armored Hearts

On how Gioconda Belli lived her first year in the United States:

I began to understand that one of the more salient aspects of American middle-class culture was privacy, the nuclear family as a tiny, protected haven from the outside world. In big, anonymous cities, many people don't have the reference point of a common history, of a long road of family friendships passed down from generation to generation. Lots of them were as foreign as I was in that city. After the long working day, people in our kind of neighborhood didn't have the time to chat with each other or forge bonds of friendship. This social dispersion, this lack of community and collective living, was another, second exile for me. I realized that in the United States, too often you enter into society as if entering a hostile, highly competitive territory. You leave your home dressed in armor, with your heart shielded, well protected.

This exile - the lack of intimacy with others, the lack of belonging, the absence of a common purpose - was the most difficult one for me.

-Excerpted from the author's autobiography, The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War

I love this passage. I love how, being here, I can see what Belli means. I know that feeling, of leaving the house shielded in armor, of perceiving so acutely that sharp distinction between being inside the home and outside of it. No, I don't know what it's like to be an exile, but I do know how it feels to see that certain lines, in other countries, are much softer. I appreciate what little I can see of the interconnection she speaks of. I miss my family, my friends, and my girlfriend, but I am afraid nevertheless for the day I come home. I do not miss the closed doors, the competition, the coldness you grow to expect in the face of a stranger.

1 comment:

  1. Astute observation. I have more than thirty years traveling experience that verifies it.