America in the eyes of the world

Some classmates have been carrying on a very interesting discussion about America in the eyes of the world. Anne wrote a post in Fusose Talks  with the interesting title “Internationally savvy Americans?” In it she references some of Rosie’s remarks. Rosie was talking about what Greg said about what Garrett said. (If markets are conversations, we are becoming a mall!).

Anyway I’d like to chime in. What Rosie said about her friend was: “I have a friend from the Czech Republic who was here for a few years living in Chicago, a city I thought was filled with internationally savvy Americans. She told me that she found many Americans myopic and that people in European and Middle Eastern countries tend to have much more informed world views.

What Rosie said Gregg said (bear with me here) was: “Gregg explored an interesting thought on his blog about the way Americans consume information and news (word used loosely to mean anything that’s current)”.

If memory serves me right it was also partly a response to his comment to Garrett to the effect of “…what do we learn from this?” or something similar. (I am ready to be corrected). What Garrett said – I forgot. I think it had to do with the sharing of the war experiences by those who were there.

Point is – we Americans are a knowledge-consuming people. That is obvious. But the question is – are we a people of wisdom?

Hmmm – wisdom. Wisdom?  Wisdom is not about what you know, but about who you ARE because of what you know. Seems to me lots of times we are in too big a hurry learning the ‘next great thing’ to build upon what we have just learned.

Having lived overseas for a decade or so, I picked up a few things that have stayed with me throughout life. I also got an altered worldview.

Some of these things seem sort of ‘Anti-American.’ Like ‘ GO SLOW.  Let things sink in. Get it figured out well and then see what it means.  The Germans have a phrase I love: ‘Schein und Sein.’ In German, ‘Schein’ means appearance – Think our word ‘shine.’ Think wax, face-lift, facade, superficial.

Sein means – well – it is hard to translate. Literally it is the infinitive of ‘to be.’ Closest thing we have is ‘essence.’  The real stuff. The honest-to-goodness truth of what something is.  Schein und sein. Appearance vs. essence. (An American version of this is what my brother-in-law who lives in Marietta loves to say about Atlanta – “All flash – no cash”).

I remember well that when I came back home from Europe I spent over a year dealing with my reactions for the American penchant for ‘appearances.’ And I was not even in Hollywood (or DC). I was back home in good-ole Tennessee, home of the folks who love to sandbag and turn the appearance-culture on its head and laugh. I hate to think what would have happened to me somewhere else.

But back to wisdom. Let me say that I do not think Americans are an unwise people. The wisest folks I have ever known grew up on these shores. Bar-none. But to a person, they eschewed the culture that surrounds them like a foggy mist. They rose higher. And those people were good when they went overseas. They made friends and got respect wherever they went, from every culture and language.

I feel for Americans who have no rock to climb on to rise above the fog. However, the rocks are there. The mountains that lift people’s souls are all around us. But as a nation and a culture we have to take the TIME, slow down, and let it all sink in.

It is amazing then how much sense one can make of what is going on in the world. And what Anne says makes good sense. And what Rosie said. And what Gregg said. And Garrett – well – I forgot what Garrett said. 🙂




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