After the most profound heartbreak of my life several years ago, I decided to go on the most bizarre rebound I could conceive in this electronic age of ours. I went into the virtual world of Second Life, found the one person who was as unlike me (and as unlike the person who had broken my heart) as humanly possible, and threw myself headlong into an unexplainable cyber affair that lasted a couple of months.
Even at the time I knew it was a Kafkaesque venture along the lines of a bad LSD trip, but I can only plead temporary insanity to explain it. I was hurting with no healing in sight, and so I wanted something to distract me from completely losing the few marbles I had left.
So I found myself a Maori from New Zealand. He was a good guy, don’t get me wrong, and devastatingly handsome at that, but sometimes I felt like we were not only from different sides of the world, but also from different planets.
We looked at life in completely different ways. I would be sitting here in Florida on my drawbridge doing my best to be left alone by the world, and he’d be off gathering sea urchins with his family. We would be chatting on Skype and he’d have to hop up and usher a large bird and her chicks out of the house as the doors were left wide open. No air conditioning. Never crossed his mind to have it.
More often than not, large groups of his family members would show up unannounced and stay for, oh, weeks at a time. This bothered him not at all. I once explained to him that in my stiff Anglo-Saxon family, we even get pissed off if people call us on the phone after 9 pm, let alone show up unexpectedly at the door. And by the third day of a visit we are practically gnawing our arms off to get out of the social bear trap we feel we’ve been stuck in. He found that exceedingly strange and said he’d feel quite lonely living like that.
That’s the difference between a communal mindset and a ruggedly individualist one. The lack of understanding between the two groups, and the historically stubborn desire to keep it that way, is why the colonial occupations of natives never succeeded. (And in retrospect explains why I did not thrive living in a dorm in college.)
It’s all in your upbringing, I suppose. Try as you might, if you’re brought up in one system you’ll never truly feel at home in the other. In a perfect world I’d love to be surrounded by a large, noisy, supportive family, constantly caught up in a bustle of activity, but in reality I know it would drive me absolutely nuts and I’d constantly be seeking an empty room where I could read a book.
I was faced with this situation on a smaller scale during my study abroad in Mexico. My desire to have alone time now and then in a community where people spent all their free time in the public square interacting with their neighbors was viewed as a cause for concern.
The upshot is I knew I couldn’t live my gorgeous Maori man’s life, and he knew he couldn’t live mine. As expected, the relationship died a natural death and I’m not sure which of us was more relieved. No hard feelings on either side. Regardless, I’m glad I experienced it. For a time it allowed me to look into a completely different world, one which is every bit as valid as my own. I came away with a greater appreciation of what I have, but a broader concept of the many ways one can walk through this world.
Oh, and he taught me how to do the Maori Haka, which always comes in handy.
Maori women performing the Haka
[Image credit: flickrhivemind.net]