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Isn't it pretty?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Life Orientation

Thanks to everyone for all the suggestions about prayer. Just so everyone knows, I am not depressed. I think it's more like what e-Kvetcher said - I don't understand why some prayers seem to be answered and some don't, so it's sometimes difficult to believe that it works. But I now have lots of material to help me try to understand it, so hopefully I will gain new perspective. Now on to other topics... In an effort to actually be prepared for class tonight, I opened my textbook on the way to work this morning and began to read the chapter that we are covering. It was talking about how different cultures have completely different life orientations, and how it is important to understanding these in order to be an effective counselor. It spoke about how, in general, the white Euro-centric orientation is very independent, self-understanding focused. It said that the Afro-centric culture is interdependent, emotionally focused. And that Asian cultures tend to be family-oriented with a emphasis on strength and suppression of emotion. In my own experience, with myself and others I have known, I have found these orientations to be generally true. I know for myself, the Euro-centric focus certainly describes the orientation that I know. All of that made me wonder how it happens that different cultures do relate and orient so differently. And whether when you bring together different cultures in a place like America, whether those cultures will eventually merge together to make a hybrid of what they began with or whether, in one place, they will become more polarized in order to protect their unique qualities. To use a simpler model, I have always wondered about different accents. I understand that today different accents are because we parrot what we hear, and of course if what we hear growing up is one way of speaking, that is the way we speak. But I wonder about how particular accents came to be to begin with - why Bostoners began to draw out their "r"s and why Southerners ever said "y'all" to begin with. What it was about certain locations that inspired the differences in pronunciation. Living in New Jersey, this has become even more pronouced, as my roommate keeps pointing out words that I say "funny" that I never had any idea I said differently from anyone else. But I know that the longer I have been away from the South, the more my accent has gone away, and the longer my family has lived there, the stronger theirs has gotten. We meld with those that we are around. So I wonder if orientation to life is the same way. If I were to move to Japan, if my orientation, or my children's, would mirror those that they were growing up around, by osmosis. As my book said, understanding these differences is important because to effectively understand and help a client, you must know what their worldview is. You have to orient yourself to them, so you don't miss out on important details and underlying issues that might really make a difference to someone else, even if it wouldn't necessarily have an impact on you. As the world becomes more internationally connected, I wonder if these differences will eventually fade. Part of me hopes that it doesn't, because I love the diversity of people and the fact that you can learn from everyone because everyone is so different. But part of me hopes that the differences do fade, so that we can understand one another more easily. But if that happened, would we still be who we are? Would we still be our unique selves, if the vibrant colors of our different cultures blend?

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