Monday, September 21, 2009

Someone else's cultural comfort zone . . .

When my daughter, Lizzie, was around eight, she saved up her tiny allowance to present me with a subscription to Cosmopolitan. Absolutely touched and pleased, I was also a bit baffled.

"Why Cosmopolitan," I asked, having always thought of myself as a Harpers/New Yorker type.

"Because," Lizzie said, "You're always reading it in the grocery store."

Mordre, as Chaucer said, wol out. Especially if an 8-year old daughter's got her eye on you.

Anyway, that is the reason why I read (and enjoyed) every issue of Cosmopolitan magazine for one year. Including an article that changed the way I understand such feelings as love, stability and security.

It was an article, I'm sure, about relationships. And it made the point that whatever emotional construct you grow up around is what feels comfortable when you grow up. So, if you grow up around stability and peace, the adult you feels culturally comfortable with that. But, if you grow up in chaos, the adult you gets nervous when things are too quiet, too peaceful, too stable.

On the morning of Nobel Peace Laureate Jimmy Carter's visit to speak to us about peace in the Middle East, I've been thinking again about that article in Cosmopolitan. I think we Americans (and I'm certainly talking about myself when I say this) assume way too often that other cultures are as comfortable with stability and peace as we are. And we forget that it takes at least a generation of people living with the absence of war and chaos to turn peace and stability into that culture's comfort zone.

Mr. Carter, being Mr. Carter, I'm certain never loses sight of this. He's never struck me as arrogant, or macho, or self-righteous in his approach to cultural differences. But he also seems pretty clear that to be at peace is a better way for anyone and everyone to be than what the Arabs and Israelis have going on at the moment.

I'm looking forward very much to hearing him speak. Even though it means I shall be up most of the night, reporting on it for WMRA's Morning Edition.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for this insight, martha. i'm thinking of it more on a marriage level. maybe i'll start picking up cosmo in the store, too....