Something has happened in my later years I'd have never predicted. Other people have become the most interesting art form and music I've known along the way. Earlier in my life, I cannot say this was so. It took living awhile to notice. In childhood I wanted to know every kind of people there are, different races, nationalities, genders, classes, ages, religions, beliefs and so on. By the time I've reached this time in the life, I have met and known well a tremendous variety of people from all over the world and all the major belief systems. I can't say I learned we were all the same, because I already believed that.
I've had extended conversations with people who don't know my language and I don't know theirs, on trains in Europe. The game charades is good training for inter-language communication. I've always liked meeting people of other cultures as well as languages. Every time, it's just another Joe, just like me. In a pension in Athens where I got 2 meals a day, a bunch of college students from Chile visited a couple days. I was delighted to meet people from Chile at the big table for meals.
I mentioned their Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda, whose face had recently been on the cover of Time. Wrong thing to say. They were from the ruling class. Neruda was a poet who took a Communist stance politically. Nobody talked with me after that. And I didn't care, because I realized these people, like the folks back home, are after money, and concerns about the thick-fingered masses were not their concerns. In fact, they were a threat, there's so many of them. Like when I learned that after emancipation the black people in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia outnumbered the white population, I understood apartheid in the South. Fear.
There came a time when I had met a wide variety of people and was satisfied I'd benefited a great deal from an open mind that received others as they are, and have been rejected by people as they are, enough to get a fair understanding of the world I live in. What it comes to is we're just folks doing the best we can in a world we don't understand. Especially that each one of us is 100% unique in what we believe important, why we believe what we believe, and people of every country are out of tune with their own governments, unless, of course, they're rich.
When I turned myself over to the Master, or the Lord, I like the word Master better, Lord is overused, I chose the path of love, over the path of knowledge or works. For me, in that time, it felt preposterous. I realized I didn't know anything about love. I could love the inanimate, like paintings by Franz Kline or Robert Rauschenberg, movies like La Dolca Vita or A Man and a Woman, a play by Harold Pinter, the design of a car. I don't know that I had ever loved a dog or a cat. Knowledge was what I was pursuing at the time, but reached a place I saw that wasn't it. It only went so far. It went quite a ways, but not all the way. Counting up karma points I found awfully vain and too much of a bother. I said: if you can open up my heart, have at it.
It's a slow process, one not to get anxious about. I came to the mountains, I thought temporarily, to work at hard labor, dwell in semi-solitude in a wonderland of nature not yet entirely overrun, study and see about working off the constant anger that dwelled within. After 7 years the anger in my mind fell away. Or is anger in the heart? Wherever it was, it wasn't any more. That was a great relief I received with a heart full of gratitude. By this time I'd come to see that the mountain people were the people I wanted to live the rest of my life among. I'd actually requested in prayer some years before that I'd like to go to a totally new culture where they speak English. When I turned up in Alleghany I realized that prayer had indeed been heard.
The funny part, by a lot of years later and a great deal of experience in the culture, knowing a few people well, I came to see that I had come home to my true self. In the first months, I recognized everyone talked like my grandmother. She was the comfort and love of my childhood. I did have some love, a great deal of love for her, and then she was ripped out of my life. Arriving in a world where everyone talked like her, it was comforting. It was the same comfort as being held in grandmother's arms.
It turns out this is her culture. After I'd been here 30 years I learned her mother and dad left east Kentucky after the Civil War and went to Kansas. She grew up in a mountain home with mountain values, which she passed to me with her love. She wanted to teach me to play guitar, but the house I lived in wouldn't tolerate the racket. And her husband, my grandpa, was born in east Tennessee. His parents moved to Kansas when he was little. I grew up in a mountain home in a state with a name that is synonymous with flat as a table top. By now, the path of love I see has taken me in a circle to my own beginnings. By now I can see the people around me are souls with unique experiences that help define who they are, every one of them fascinating to know. It's not like I can get along with everybody, which can't be done, but I can accept it as part of being human, and go on, not worry about it.