Remember that one time when you put on your sweater right out of the dryer and walked around all morning with your sock stuck to your sleeve? Ha! Wait. Don't tell me that has only ever happened to me? Just clacking away on your laptop keyboard when you happen to look to the right, and there it is, grafted to the sleeve of your garment. Lol. Silly, I know. And your first thought is, "How did this get here, and how long has it been here?" You know that it's yours. The stripes are memorable. It's just that it looks so out of sorts hanging from your arm. It is to accompany a foot, after all. It's supposed to have a partner to make it a pair. And while it is yours, its location and the way that it has shown up is a bit disorienting, to be clear. Such is the way that newly acquired knowledge or culture works.
I was speaking with a couple of colleagues the other day, one of whom had just returned from Kenya. I asked about her trip and she sputtered a bit in how to talk about it. She had gone there to visit dear friends, familiar ones, indeed. She talked about how great it had been to see them and how inspiring it had been to witness their work there. She gave us a wider glimpse into what it was like to be a part of a walking community culture. Everybody walked everywhere--to school, to work. She discussed how much more communally connected everyone seemed to be as a result. She went on to talk about how when she returned home to the states, though she had not noticed it before, seeing everyone driving, and even being in the car herself, felt different than it had before. She had been driving everywhere she had gone prior to her trip to Kenya--it was just the way it was--it was simply what she knew. But now, having been acculturated, if only for a brief spell, to this new knowing--a different way of being--she was differently impacted by her old way of being. She articulated a greater sense of aloneness associated with the driving culture of her world, one that she had not experienced in quite the same way in the past. She now yearned for the community associated with the walking culture in a way that she had not before in her own place. There was this new knowing, sort of dangling there from her larger body of knowledge, and while it was familiar, it seemed out of place. She was not quite sure where to put it or how it would now belong, but there it was. How did it graft itself on? Where was it to fit, now that it was there, belonging to her in some new and unfamiliar way?
As we discover new and unfamiliar ways of being, as we encounter new culture(s), how much do we notice about it/them and ourselves? Do we embrace the new acquisition? How much time do we take to consider how the encounter will impact who we are becoming? How present are we to our own morphing? Are we willing (even conscious) participants? Or are (sub) cultures clinging on, grafting themselves, unbeknownst to us? Do we resist the process altogether, for fear of wanting more (or less) of the new thing? Or, like wearing a sock on our sleeve all morning, do we inadvertently and suddenly become aware of how absolutely obliviously we have allowed evolving and devolving ways of being to permeate our identities?
And we know that in the case of the sock and the sweater, the sock remains, primarily due to static cling: a kinetic energy that remains trapped between the sock and the sleeve, and that it is only by way of realization and an intentional decision to move it, that the sock becomes detached, to be placed somewhere more appropriate, in a way that makes sense. Such is the case with new learning and new acculturation. As we do the work of raising our awareness around new ways of being and who and how we are becoming, we must be intentional about the energy we exert toward understanding this becoming, and we must be thoughtful about how or where we graft the new to the old, expanding our being and the being happening all around us, lest we find ourselves sporting socks on our sleeves, oblivious to the statement we are making in how we intend to fashion ourselves and our world.