Thursday, July 25, 2002

Thought of the day: the need to be outside the box to see the box: I thought of this while paging through a coffee table book on cities of the world last night around the corner at Barnes and Noble on State Street. Each flip of the page transported me to a unique point on the globe--the grandeur of Berlin, the sandy vastness of Cairo, the art of Paris, the concrete timelessness of London, the glitz of Las Vegas (Chicago, to my disgust, was ommitted from the tour).

My family and my wife have been, among them, to London, Paris, and Germany in the past few years. I've lived in New York and Chicago and considered that a big deal for a Grand Rapids native. But as my college courses, and now my job, have taken me into the thick of cultural studies, I've been thinking--do you have to have a sustained international experience to best view American culture? I try to think of myself as a skeptical, creative, and constructive cultural critic. But can you really do it without removing yourself? The problem may be complicated by the fact that I'm living in the heart of Chicago and loving it--I eagerly immerse myself in the city each day. Then I consider my friend Will who's spending the summer in Beijing, and my best friend Nathan, who has been living in the Northwest Territories, and I realize--they have the most sincere skepticism of their native cultural contexts, not to mention the most compelling praise. I promised my wife I'd take her to London within ten years; I wonder how my work and my worldview will change when I follow through on it.

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