Building a new life
Adjusting to life in a new country or a new city can be a big challenge. Parachuting so to speak into a new place as an anonymous outsider isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Finding an inviting place to live, physically moving, and then finding your way around are a few initial tasks that require substantial effort. For some, a new language must be quickly acquired. Basic survival conversation skills must be learned. This is huge. For others, a new culture or lifestyle takes some time getting used to. Finding and building healthy relationships in a new place takes even more time. People are similar and yet somehow different, and not always open to outsiders.
Picking up and moving from one place to another may sound exciting, but it is also usually stressful, time consuming, and very expensive. And moving often has a lingering psychological effect. Some days, everything will still feel strange even when somewhat established.
Being the center of attention isn’t advisable long-term but neither is becoming invisible overnight
Some places and situations are nonetheless clearly much more difficult than others. But realistically, there will be numerous struggles and obstacles to face throughout 2016 – wherever you happen to live. And so, it would be best for everyone to just plan on that.
Moving to a large urban center, particularly at this time in world history, continues to involve significant challenges. Sitting at our kitchen table, the conversation recently turned towards this timely topic; the consensus being that it was evidently much easier to feel significant or valuable in a smaller and more familiar setting. Whereas in a large city, or a new and culturally distant setting, there is a greater chance of getting lost in all of the activity and feeling insignificant as busy people all around go about their daily lives. There are dangers or extremes on every side. Being the center of attention isn’t advisable long-term but neither is becoming invisible overnight.
In a bustling metropolis there is often a loss of community and a lack of meaningful connection with other people, especially for newcomers. It would be odd not to be noticed or acknowledged in a small village or established community setting. But the situation is often just the opposite in a big city. People pass each other by on the street all the time. This common observation and contrast suggests that transitioning from a healthy, small community to a large and anonymous metropolitan center puts people at risk of being potentially exposed to a type of emotional propaganda. This can happen at the best of times.
The problem, while on the cheerful topic of endless problems, is that we are not living in the best of times. At the risk of sounding dire and grandiose, here is my take on the present situation in the somewhat civilized Western world: As a block or a global group, it is getting to the point where we could soon collectively lack a compelling intellectual framework to build and sustain a healthy society as well as individual lives. Colin Gunton’s old book The One, the Three and the Many comes to mind. Whether or not you agree with this assessment, feeling like your life is insignificant and suspecting that this internal sense is also accurate makes trying to live and relate in a positive way anywhere 10,000 times worse.
So there you have it. Modern mobility, ever-expanding cities, and a confused intelligentsia allegedly represents three parts of a global movement that can quickly drain a core sense of meaning, significance, purpose and personal dignity from our lives. That is, if we let it.
Cities have been around for a long time. This mid-morning discussion wasn’t focused so much on any particular city but rather on modern cities in general – that is, gatherings of large groups of assorted people packed together in close proximity. Whether it’s Frankfurt or Tokyo, Montreal or L.A., people have a mysterious habit of congregating in the same place and on the same relatively small plot of land. This practice may not change any time soon.
Of course instability and less-than-ideal philosophies are nothing new either. How people choose to respond when faced with all three mixed together is what remains to be seen.
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