Saturday, 24 January 2009

Positive Versus Negative Thinking and Acting

I'm sure male readers will groan (my American male ex-friend did anyway) but I like to watch American Topmodel sometimes in order to study human behaviour. I also like the professional team and as an artist and the daughter of two professional photographers I like to follow their work. Anyway, last time all the American girls were picking on a girl whose parents were from France. They thought she was being negative because she was struck with fear and lost sight of her self-confidence for a moment. This was very typical of the kind of bickering that I have been involved with regarding the difference between Americans and Europeans. The French girl said in her defense that she thought she was merely expressing a mild form of realism. It made me smile, since that is how I'd describe my own attitude towards life. There are differences in between the European countries as well, for instance I have perceived the French as quite harsh and negative compared to the British. The Finnish attitude is more of a resigned depressive kind of attitude - a Senecan variety, perhaps. It's not always very healthy and often ends in suicide. However I do feel that if I have a bad day, no one will expect me to put on a forced smile. Discussing the difficult things in life has in general been easier here in Europe than it seems to be in America or online with American people.

Anyway, let me say this: picking on someone in the name of positivity because they are being perceived of as "negative" or something to that effect is not positive! There is also no evidence whatsoever that a society that holds onto what they think is a positive attitude is doing any better than one that has a more cautious approach to reality. In fact I saw a documentary which stated that people who are ever so slightly prone to depression are more diligent and observant workers than those who are overly optimistic. Last winter in the USA I was being indoctrinated about the wonderful ideals that American society rests upon by my ex-friend, and all I could say was that yes, it's all very nice but look at the country now. Right now we can only hope that America will find its way back to those beautiful ideals and overcome the strong dichotomies that seem to rule at the time being. Europe is in any case not doing worse whether we be more "negative" or not.
When I broke up from a relationship at Christmas 2006 I had a need to get back in touch with my spiritual self. During the relationship, I experienced some good things that had been lacking previously. I actually got to do things. Someone was there who took me places, and I had someone with whom to joke and be silly. I've been alone most of my life so this was a very welcome change. Unfortunately it didn't last and so I went looking for the one thing that had been set aside when I was preoccupied with living life out there in the real world. I joined a spiritual site online. It was exciting to dig into my reservoir of spiritual thoughts and exchange with others. It was no longer quite the same though. My thoughts felt a bit stale and rhetorical. The time I had spent living life on a very practical level had left its mark and it was hard for me to feel quite so confident about giving out spiritual advice or whatever it was I was doing. Another thing that happened was that as I stumbled upon other people's beliefs, I became more oppositional. A lot of American style positivity came into my living room and I didn't agree with it. I felt that people who were leaning in that direction were in denial of the shadow side of life. I felt that this was pretty much proven once I became the target of bullies who wanted to convert me to their beliefs and did not respect my right to think and be what I wanted. I had over 80 "friends" who I hardly knew. To me that was pointless. So when the site started to shift and become less intimate and friendly, I packed up and left. Similar things happened on the next site I joined. I stayed for a while, learned a lot about people, and finally left because of bullies and a nagging feeling that I didn't really belong there. After this, a third site called me and I at that particular moment it provided me with some form of comfort. I was a little worried though when no one but the administrator replied to my posts. I suspected that posting was not safe for me. I should have followed my gut feeling because in the end I became the target of a very forceful attack. I had really enjoyed some private conversations with the administrator so I was reluctant to leave, but there was one thing about all this that made me withdraw for good.

The woman who had attacked me was quite the drama queen who said several times she would leave but never did. After a while she posted a lavish, public apology. It was not directed towards me and another person who had been her target, but was more general. She also did say that she had been mislead by other people's egos. Not until the administrator wrote that she forgave this woman did I realize that the administrator acted as some kind of saviour who absolved this woman from her sins. I tried to let it go but I was really disturbed by this incident. Shoot me if I'm wrong but it seemed to me that these people stuck together because they were Americans, and the one who wasn't was not considered a part of the club. A club of mutual admiration, I can't help wondering. Bullies seem to get the upper hand everywhere, don't they? Sometimes you just don't feel like sticking around to see how it goes.

I received a newsletter from that last site today and in my emotionally vulnerable state of mind I found it menacing. It said that God's light is growing stronger with each day but so are the darker oppositional forces. Vulnerable people will succumb to this if they are not careful and will turn away from their deeper soul purpose. This happens either because dark forces are willingly interfering with someone's light work or because someone is susceptible and confused. Why did I feel that these words were directed towards me? Because I feel guilty.

I feel guilty because all this time spent online, I have been indoctrinated about the importance of positive thinking. So many people are rejoicing about the evolutionary shift and stating that you must be the change and so if you join the positive thinkers you will do your duty and help make the shift happen. The more I felt peer pressure to smile and be happy, the more defensive I became. I realized in another context the other day that feeling the acceptance from other people is a prerequisite to feeling positive about life. Or let's just say that it's way harder to remain positive when the support is not there. Here in my confinement these things become painfully obvious. Perhaps I really don't love myself enough or whatever. But putting a knife on my throat is obviously not going to make it happen.

I was told earlier by someone who claims to be a spiritual authority (the one who posted the newsletter today) that my life is a test of spiritual strength. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe my desire to be apologized to is ridiculous and a sign of weakness. Maybe I have lost touch with my higher self. Maybe I have joined the dark forces and am contributing to the sordid state of the world. Maybe I'm a white lamb turned black. Maybe my insomnia is preventing me from evolving spiritually speaking. Maybe, maybe, maybe. What I do know is that I am tired of religions that pretend to be "only" spiritual but still behave just like religious people always have. It's as if some people are scared that if i don't join them, the world will not change for the better. Seems as if they don't have much trust in life and the Universe. Someone bullied me about my need to be self-reliant the other day. I've thought about it a lot, because I always felt very strongly about having my own answers. Being in touch with other people's ideas has nothing to do with that. You read or listen, you reflect, you draw your own conclusions. There is nothing wrong with that. But there is certainly a line somewhere where things you read or hear become sermons on a mission to direct your mind in one way or another. Lectures must be agreed upon by all parties involved. You can even lecture a friend if there is the trust that nobody is trying to be manipulative, only stressing some viewpoints that seem relevant in the context.
I'm a little depressed because I gave my everything last year when I fled to the USA a year ago, and I knew that if I'd have to return, I'd probably have a hard time getting over it. I was right. Yes I am disappointed; I'm living such an anti-climax right now. The person that I put my trust in betrayed it. Of course my life situation is even worse now. I look at the photos from last winter and it hurts. It hurts to know that I was actually getting to do something. It wasn't much, but it was something. It was more than I have now. That's how it feels right now. Can anyone honestly expect me to just snap out of it and be happy? Maybe if I had been able to cut the cords in my own way I would have felt more empowered. The way things went was very detrimental to me and it will be much harder to repair the damage and stop the self-blame that started to nag at me. All I can do is try and stay out of the constellation of positive versus negative. Which is which has become so blurred and confused. And who knows, maybe that's precisely a sign to get people to realize that they are but constructions of the mind.

Human interaction is incredibly complicated. The internet provides with lessons that you may never get out in the real world where people are often more careful about what they say and express. In the real world, the context and the reactions of the other person are more obvious. I'm not saying this pertains to everybody, of course. I do have a longing for more real and substantial things. At the moment I'm confined to the virtual world for impulses and ideas. However, to be confined to that for the rest of my life seems like the cruelest destiny imaginable. But maybe if I am an outcast from the realms of light, then maybe that's all I deserve.

Artwork: "Wintermood", digital photograph by author, all rights reserved 2008


  1. I know exactly how you feel.
    I was born in Eastern Europe and I defected to USA 25 years ago.
    Can yo imagine coming to America from a communist country?
    I am all about positive attitudes, what I don't like about the American attitudes is the hypocrisy the BS.
    I like a positive realism not the Hollywood fantasy.
    I can go on forever about this.
    Any way, fantastic post, blog.
    I hope we will become friends :)
    I saw your Flicker page, another fantastic job.
    Boy you have so much talent you make me jealous!
    Since I lack any visual talent I've been using Derick's photos to make my posts more appealing.
    I was wondering if I could use some of your pictures as well.
    I am a poor guy I couldn't pay you for your wonderful work but I will give you foll credit and a link to your web or blog.
    See how I did it with Derick.
    This is just asking, don't feel obliged in any way, but if you like some free exposure to your art we can work together.
    And last but not list: congratulation on your expo!

  2. Thank you! I'd sure be interested to hear a bit more about how you have adapted to life in L.A of all places?? I wonder if I could ever have adapted to life over there. Maybe if the circumstances had been really great. People seemed more normal (not counting my odd friend) when I was there than they seem when I encounter them on the net. Perhaps that's because you meet people here that you wouldn't normally meet and people also are less reticent about their opinions. We all know that religion and politics are two topics one should never discuss with a stranger :-/ funny how people like to do it in the virtual space. We are also inundated with so much of American idealism through the TV. Over here, we get everything and in the original language at that. How much hypocritical positive thinking do YOU see, from your perspective?

    Thanks for enjoying my artwork! Talent? I don't know! If I believed all they say about the law of attraction etc blabla I'd have many reasons to jump in the sea.

    I think I'd like for you to ask beforehand if you wish to use an image, and also to add that they are copyrighted. In general I'm not against sharing my art - I don't expect to make money on it, am only pleasantly surprised if it generates anything good. We'll talk more about it! :-) Vivi-Mari

  3. "Anyway, last time all the American girls were picking on a girl whose parents were from France. They thought she was being negative because she was struck with fear and lost sight of her self-confidence for a moment."

    As an American, I find our society's constant insistence on positivism rather annoying. I don't see it so much as real optimism, but a "security blanket" one covers themselves to hide their humanity--their fears, weaknesses, doubts and failings. It's a very child-like response to reality, and I find I cannot have a single optimistic thought without first admitting I have pessimistic thoughts too.

    And I probably live in one of the most inanely optimistic places in the US--Silicon Valley, where hype and self-promotion are constantly expected. Once part of a clique of "technology entrepreneurs", I've lost count of the times I was told to "smile more", "think positively", or "don't be so cautious". At the time, I thought that was good advice, but by trying so hard to appear "positive and happy", I actually pushed myself to the verge of an emotional collapse. I understand the "forced smile", which I avoid with relish since I now know better.

    What I learned from these years of experience is that I had to de-program myself from the peer pressure to think and act with such exaggerated optimism. It simply cannot view life that way with any sense of honesty, and ultimately it disrespects some of my best qualities: honesty, pragmatism, and a healthy sense of caution. I also think it's impossible for me to get in touch with my "spiritual self" without accepting all of me--both dark and light. And, I no longer care if anyone says that's a weakness, because I have accepted these "hidden strengths" for myself.

    "Last winter in the USA I was being indoctrinated about the wonderful ideals that American society rests upon by my ex-friend, and all I could say was that yes, it's all very nice but look at the country now."

    I love your sarcasm. Yes, America could take a brief pause from their "optimism" to consider what happens when everyone simply tells each other nice, blindly reassuring things while ignoring the obvious. (rolls eyes).

    To be fair, America is not quite the homogenous culture that is portrayed on television. There are quite a few cultural enclaves in the US who feel more connected to their roots in Europe, Asia, or Central America, than the pervasively phony feel-good, endlessly upbeat and materialistic culture fashioned by TV. A lot of people here take TV too seriously. And these people have starkly different feelings and values than are assumed to be "American". I know I do, and as I mentioned above this can feel like walking upstream in a river.

    After enduring the hardest (and best) year of my life in 2008, I finally realized that my inner strengths did not result from society's pressures, but come from somewhere else. While a lot of people here see only a "gloomy, pessimistic person" who "won't take risks", I actually consider these my strengths, and it's just too bad my sense of humor is lost on them. Oh well, if they keep smiling, so will I--on the inside.

    "I feel guilty because all this time spent online, I have been indoctrinated about the importance of positive thinking…stating that you must be the change and so if you join the positive thinkers you will do your duty."

    I say, if they want to be so "positive", they can try. For myself, I found all that trying to be "positive" just made me so sad. So I've decided to be realistic—oh mean "negative", and see if anything good comes from it.

    "…to be confined to that for the rest of my life seems like the cruelest destiny imaginable."

    I do appreciate the virtual world because I can hear stories of people from everywhere. It gives me a much-needed perspective on my own world, life and feelings. I see more like reading letters in an electronic medium, not as an end-all to friendships. It lets me "try out" ideas with other friends in relative safety before I explore these in the "real world". But, I think the "cruelest destiny" would be to go through life without every exploring the topics on which you write so honestly and eloquently. :-)

    Well, I just wrote a big letter…again! Oops.

  4. Hi there marin_explorer,
    as always I enjoy your comments! It would be a bit fake to say like the artists of the 20th C that so long as one person gets what you're trying to express, that's enough. However it is a joy to see that my ramblings have helped express some of your own processes, that by the look of it go pretty deep. I really think that as always, you're being very articulate, and also saying things that I'd probably agree with wholeheartedly if I too did live in Silicon Valley! (I don't think I'd last long in a place like that... :-P)

    TV is interesting, because if you really pay attention you can get quite a wide view of what is going on in the States. I think this is why most of my countrymen would probably agree with a lot of my opinions, though I can't guarantee that we are 100% correct in our assumptions. We are aware of the different groupings and etnicities, maybe even more so than the regular Joe who's never been anywhere outside of his own state. Perhaps the vastness of it all is a problem, since any effort to homogenity will be a forced one. It's like making the EU culturally homogenous. Luckily no one wants that!

    I don't really like how I feel this need to dig out all these things right now; I seem to have reached some kind of point of annoyance where I feel my skin crawl and I wish I could run away from it all. But this issue seems to trigger questions about my own sense of self too, and also - these issues are right in our faces every single day even if TV and the internet are the only mediums for us. I find that I feel more negative and defensive the more I have to face the forced optimisim. Sad would perhaps be a better option... I know that some of my irritation stems from the stuff I had to witness while I stayed in Kansas last year, since I was trying to get close to someone who repelled me by their desire to please everyone in sight. It left its scars and is unfortunately bugging me still.

    I tried to look at it as though I'm really witnessing a shadow side of myself; the part of me that is defensive and negative and could use a little more of that American zeal. But despite my introspection it's not really going anywhere so I have started to think that it's more about observing and learning about people and how peer pressure works to deprive people of their authenticity. We'll see what comes out of all this...

    don't worry about being lengthy, I don't mind at all. Your last comment is stringent, lol... Of course the virtual world is great and I'm learning so much... but it's painful and at the moment I find little in it that actually brings me real joy. That could partly be due to a feeling of not fitting in anywhere and being ignored a lot. Gotta work on that one... See you! :-) Vivi-Mari

  5. The truth comes down to the simple fact that you are going through the emotions that you are going through right now.

    Just underneath the surface, Americans are likely the most mentally ill people on the planet. We are taught from an early age to keep the negative emotions to ourselves. Depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, the list is endless, are the result of our pathological denial of negative emotion.

    I'm sorry you have to suffer at the words of the religious bullies. I find it helps me to realize that they have been so brainwashed as to the ultimate truth of their arguments, they stop at nothing in their attempt to "save" you from your individual thoughts. Forcing you to believe as they do reinforces the superiority of their argument. More people have been killed in the name of God than in the name of goodness. It makes it hard to disagree with their views if you are dead!

    The way I feel today I am not sure if I could tie two thoughts together if I tried but keep up the fight. Our feelings are what they are. Try to love both the negative and the positive feelings you have as they are your feelings, they are you.

    Don't fall into the trap of thinking you should not have bad feelings since this is a denial of the human condition, we suffer.

    May you find the peace that comes from embracing your feelings, good or bad.


  6. Hi Roger, very well said! I do totally agree and embrace the simple truth of accepting what is. It's tough though, when you hear so many smart arguments about the dangers of becoming EVIL! Thank you for your comments, dear!

  7. "TV is interesting, because if you really pay attention you can get quite a wide view of what is going on in the States."

    I'm sure that's true because US TV is simply designed to appeal to mainstream US cultural values. However, TV has become so "polished" that it tends to take whatever our society thinks is "good" and exaggerate to a degree that's almost comical. As an example, I still recall one program my ex forced me to watch, as she said it would help me "understand how women think". But is this TV show "Sex in the City" reality in any shape or form? Am I to believe that grown women should behave like spoiled, narcissistic teenage girls? I think not, and that gave first evidence to a dramatically different outlook on life between me and her.

    She was also someone who felt the need to please everybody--yet taking far less time to understand and appreciate herself. One reason I feel that Americans have become so obsessed with self-promotion is because we suffer from a ruthless form of capitalism, and everyone knows we have little protection when things go wrong. Therefore, people get in the habit of endlessly promoting the current fad, money-making scheme--or simply "networking," ie talking up oneself ad nauseum. The net result of this is many people never find the time to look inside and make some adjustments which might after all solve their neurotic habit of self-promotion. That's just a few personal notes as an American observing people around me, and constantly making wry comments to myself, lol.

    My reaction to having all these things forced upon me—predatory capitalism and promotion, a self-indulgent TV-based culture, as well as a girlfriend who turned out to be shallow and self-indulgent--was to finally say "enough!" and look for a way of living that is more in-tune to my true self. The (temporary) result is that I too often feel very lonely, misunderstood, and neither effective nor "fitting in" to America. Well, so be it, because I will no longer conform to this culture. I feel pain too, but sometimes there are special moments where a small truth has surfaced and puts my current situation in a proper perspective. These moments are too subtle to put into words; I would do it an injustice to say more. It would also be an injustice to assume I know what you're experiencing, but you put very eloquently some of my struggles too.

    I often resist sharing my views or feelings on these matters because either people just don't understand or they take them too personally. Well, some people are right to think I may be poking fun at them, but as a rule I don't say anything which I have not felt and experienced myself. Certainly, anyone I meet who seems honest and genuine about life I regard as a "fellow traveler" in life and admire their courage to stand up for themselves.

    Thank you for inviting me to continue posting on your blog. At the same time, I hope I don't come across as overly "sure of myself" or preachy, because I'm far from that—and will probably never have that attitude towards myself. I suppose I've made enough a point about America, lol, so when I comment again, it will be in simple appreciation for your honest approach to life. Thank you for making these discussions so interesting. :-)

  8. Marin_explorer, oh no I welcome your comments as they are anything but preachy; to me it sounds more like you're just sorting out your own thoughts, and it's something that often works much better when one has something to comment on. I really see you as "fellow traveller" and also appreciate your American side of the story - even though you're basically confirming my own gutfeelings. Some have contempt for people wanting to share with like minded people, but I think that's bull, we DO need to feel that we are not alone with our experiences and view points. Sharing is really beautiful when it happens in an atmosphere of respect and in a place that feels secure. I've certainly made the mistake of opening up in places that weren't secure at all, and got knocked around. I learned a lot about humans but it was heavy. Now I am hoping that my blog will not be abused but at least there's more of a chance that it be left alone by world-betters than on public forums.

    Well, as it happens I suspect that TV over here actually does provide with a greater variety of viewpoints than in many of your states. One American guy I was talking to for a period of time over the internet was very surprised to hear exactly what kind of shows (documentaries) we get. He said many of them would be censored. This guy was someone who did watch TV a lot. Your system with license free cabel TV is different than here. Just now there was for instance a British documentary about a cult leader in the States. We sure also get the American documentaries that are very hard on the ears because the speaker talks loudly and frantically as to seek sensationalism (very odd to us). I had to listen to those all the time while I was in the States, it was extremely tiring. We get the movies (all genres) and all of the series (reality to fiction). 'Sex and City' shows over and over. It proves that it's popular over here too. I've seen quite a few episodes over the years since they keep sending them, but there's only been a couple of "useful" ideas there. It really is hopelessly shallow no matter how hard you try to find any point of view that would make it interesting (mostly I enjoy seeing New York!). Topmodel is something they are showing a lot right now, and I certainly look at it differently than a guy would, however I get a kind of "metainformation" from a lot of what I see. You know, a kind of second hand information on the stuff they are showing, like a peek behind the actual scenes. You also understand what people actually want and buy into and in which ways they are being brainwashed. Anyway, that's why I made that statement about TV. TV can be many things depending on the viewer, however I am concerned that each State provides with a different selection and obviously it also depends what you're willing to pay and how diligent you are in choosing among all the hundreds of channels. Some people never get to see anything foreign while over here it's a natural part of our day.

    I have to admit I had a similar experience as you - it was of the guy that I visited in Kansas. Though intelligent and well read (he knew his Shakespear) his strategy of survival was to please anybody in sight. It was fake smiles, doing what other asked for and self-promoting as much as possible, or he'd perish (i.e. that's what he thought). It was very hard to watch. Along with this came many odd characteristics that I would never have been able to accept. Stubborn as I am, I tried very hard to adapt, to the point that I left stuff over there. Somehow this guy managed to persuade me to do this, it was quite mysterious. So I guess that would be a good example of the force of peer pressure in that country, coupled of course with my own fear at the time of going back home for good because of what was expecting me here.

    I write this blog with the risk of being ridiculed, but I cannot help being ruthlessly honest about what I feel and experience. There's a difference between critcizing things that seem wrong and picking on people for the heck of it.

    You have stood your ground and lonely as it must be, there are others whom I've talked to that are able to go against the stream. Here in Europe we fear that there are not enough people like yourself there to really make a difference. Double standards abound and even Obama is "guilty" of "fitting in". You're doing good, you're awake and aware of your choices, and you believe in your right to be you. I think that's wonderful!! You can vent as much as you like here, my ear is always open.

  9. Vivi-Mari,
    I would agree…it sometimes helps to put into words which may otherwise be a simply a vague feeling; writing can be a process of understanding and thank you for listening.

    Regarding access to media, I observe that Europe is at an advantage for several reasons. I know that many younger Europeans learn several languages, including English to aid in correspondence for business. There is often a close proximity to disparate languages and cultures that requires some kind of linguistic bridge. I imagine that Finland must find a linguistic bridge other than Finnish, which I gather is a very difficult language to master and reach Finland from the outside. Perhaps Swedish or English is more useful in this case? It seems you have mastered the subtleties of the English language very well—and better than many "native speakers" here, lol.

    Conversely, Americans are at a disadvantage by their isolation from disparate languages and culture. Naturally, it's common for large countries with cultural dominance to assume a role of "teaching" over actual learning, but here they shouldn't expect thanks for being heavy-handed or ignorant. :-) It seems you understand that "brainwashing" aspect of American TV, whose message has become so polished and seductive that people believe it and derive false assurances about themselves. Of course, cultural bullying is not just an American trait. From my time in Europe, I seem to recall several nations with a similar record, as well as a marked ignorance of neighboring folk outside of popular stereotypes or insistence on using their language above the rest.

    Personally, I don't understand limiting one's experience to a single language or cultural influence. English is just another language to me, and a personal handicap if that's all one knows. That's probably due to my family background, for we have never been represented by the "dominant culture" of American urbanism/materialism. But on a positive note, I simply enjoy keeping myself exposed to different cultural experiences and languages. If one makes an effort at it, they can easily find TV, film, documentaries and music from other countries because I always learn something about myself in the process. Of course, one needs to see a benefit in making the effort, and many people do not when they're being told/brainwashed by those "loud, sensationalist voices" that their life is the best imaginable. I will never be that cynical towards other cultures. :-)

    I think you're very perceptive and eloquent in your observation of this guy and his manipulative habits. While one might argue this is just "one person's problem," I would say as an American this is a pervasive and disagreeable behavior I see constantly and thereby is "everyone's problem". It is very destructive because it involves a pretense of "good will" by one person to essentiallytake something from another person, whether that is their money, their time, or even their love. Despite your best intentions, you will realize such people do not listen, nor do they care to understand you outside of their own core needs. Like you, I tried to "adapt" to a person whose apparent generosity masked a long list of underlying demands. Once you get past their "sales pitch", there is a sad realization that you either give them what they want—or you better leave. Sometimes leaving is the best option.

    As a person who values honesty/objectivity, this often catches me unaware because it is a foreign way of thinking to me--"mysterious" as you put it. I have tried to improve my communication skills to prevent these situations, but I don't think that will change people who make a habit of deception. However, I'm still stubborn in my honest opinion of things because I consider it a strength to have that clarity of mind and hopefully--find some real purpose to life. Despite my realism, I hold some optimism there.

    This same struggle with honesty is what usually keeps my thoughts on spirituality a private matter. It's not just one of difficulty in describing what is inherently personal, but it's my reluctance those who approach the subject with the intent to convince/manipulate with the "best intentions". I don't see any value in such one-sided discussions. As a refreshing change, I have enjoyed our discussions and appreciate your honesty and inquisitive take on life—that is a real strength. Thanks for lending an ear to my thoughts too. I enjoy coming here to chat with you, and it looks time to read your new posts too! :-)

  10. You are SeaKurt, aren't you? If you are, the photos are really nice! A great eye for detail... but I can't say more in case I'm wrong!

    Well, believe it or not but these talks have helped me enormously, because for some reason I've felt very pushed to understand what America is about, but on the other hand I'm very isolated at the moment. Maybe one day this winter's experiences will make sense. But for now... I'm groping in the dark and at times publíshing blog posts that could be taken as offensive. Which is not what I want but I also realize that strong feelings are motivating me right now.

    You seem to have an amazing ability of looking at your own culture objectively, which is rare if even non-existant. I just had a very interesting talk on Twitter but still had this nagging feeling that these Anericans could not see what I felt I was seeing - there's always the attempt to cover up by refering to the basis of cultural diversities. You mentioned it too but in a way that I haven't heard before. Somehow the way you describe these things make sense to me. Why I'm struggling with all this I have no idea. Normally I would just leave the Kansas incident alone and get on with my life. Perhaps the fact that I'm still waiting for my things that have not been delivered as promised is a reason I'm reminded of the country in an emotional way on a daily basis (if not earlier than when I open the TV). Spiritually speaking, maybe there's something still for me to learn.

    If you've been to Europe, you do have a better starting point for a discussion. It's very true that many countries are quite insular and arrogant, yet since I've been to the US I've still conceived of Europe as more homongenous or "similar to who I am". The Nordic countries are indeed at an advantage because of the pressing need to build a sustainable area that has a reason to feel proud of itself. I personally belong to a minority of Swedish speaking people (Swedish being the 2nd official language) and so I'm a bit of a stranger in the Finnish cultural sphere. That may account for my interest in other cultures and in my attempts to find another place to live that would feel more like a home. If I didn't feel this pressing need I wouldn't write such distressed blogs...:-/. I guess. English is closer to Swedish so I'm at an advantage though Finns speak some English. I happen to love English very much and so I thank you for your kind encouraging words in this regard! I also speak French plus have studied three more languages (Russian, German and Chinese) so yes, one can talk about trying to enter other people's lives in some way anyway! What I've learnt is however that it can be very hard to adapt to a new culture and that there are differencies so small you don't know to expect them (e.g. between us and u).

    Very interesting point about big nations wanting to act as teachers.

    Yes, your description of this particular type of person is chilling - it's true that people like that are not at all the generous people they are acting out, in fact they are deeply insecure and unable to look beyond their own needs and behaviour. This guy was exactly like that. Scary thing was, he was very well read but did not take care of himself either. He was patriotic in a sneaky way, very eloquent about the wonderful basis of his country and it's smashing history etc. HE HAD NEVER BEEN ANYWHERE ELSE - well, I think that's crucial. He expected me to take care of him - it was obvious despite what he said. He wouldn't help out in the kitchen or try and make the trip to the supermarket an agreeable experience. So you're right, he made a thousand promises he never kept but took as much as he could from me. Despite what I paid in order to stay there, he's reluctant to pay for my things. I didn't want to believe someone could be as selfish as he turned out to be, so I yielded. Thus I still have things over there that he's not sending me back. And I mean: important things. What an idiot I was. I was taken unawares by that great power of persuasion that stops at nothing. I suspect this is cultural too, from what you're saying anyway? Sometimes it's good not to stop at someone's boundaries and back off... but Americans are certainly good at not paying much heed to them at all. It has a good and a bad side to it.

    Anyway, people like this are bottomless pits because they never had their basic needs met (probably a childhood thing and so on). But what I see is a lot of Americans hiding their true insecurities behind this mask of self-confidence and assertiveness. You know - when someone is too good to be true, they usually are... That's the impression you often get from shows like Topmodel that quickly unveils people's true character because fakeness shows on photographs.

    I thought deception the American way was taking only me unawares because I'm Finnish and we are still fairly true to our reputation as a particularly honest people. It was funny how this guy in Kansas thought I was brutally honest. I'm glad to connect with anyone who has not succumbed to these stereotypes! There's plenty of talent in the States but the question is whether it's a healthy environment or not. What do you think? Will you be ok to go on like this, without much ability to talk on a more honest level with people around you? Do you think it differs very much from state to state or is there homogeneity? I've certainly been particularly bogged down by the whole incident but pray that wasn't my last trip out into the world nonetheless. I just have to stop settling for so little. :-/ Must go, am falling asleep... until next time! :-) Thank you!!!

  11. Dear Vivi-Mari,
    Maybe there is a point to "groping in the dark", and your personal reflections have certainly helped me with my own. In some way, I do know how the darkness of winter has a way of focusing life into a lone singularity where small details often carry exaggerated meaning. My other friends further North feel have told me this too. Of course, what better way to find some light from a place of darkness? I hope the darkness I experience makes me more sensitive to the light.

    You have quite a nice way of helping me appreciate my perceptions which are often viewed (unfairly) as criticism here at home. Your recognition that people everywhere have cultural blind spots is spot-on.. I'm referring here to the materialistic American lifestyle, and the baggage of assumptions that comes with it, and how it may soon vanish from memory. Not to change subjects, but if our wealth here disappears, so will many false assurances—and is it possible that spirituality will find new roots? That is my hope at least for America. Like your "unfinished business" in the US, I'm reminded daily of how my values conflict with the popular habits of society. There is darkness and silence when one feels misunderstood or unvalued and cannot find a fruitful outlet for their ideas. But it's encouraging to be understood by a few friends. Maybe such an understanding can help you find closure for the "situation in Kansas" or am I being simplistic and overly optimistic? I know you have already helped me in closing a few things. :-)

    Regarding the "guy in Kansas", I worry that I may exaggerate describing that behavior, but only to make a point. I certainly don't know him, but I know the tendencies of many Americans, which are to use opportunities to their advantage. As this behavior is often met by some measure of success, it's socially acceptable to laugh off abuses of such behavior even when this causes real pain for other people. As you confided with me, there may well be "past pain" that drives such behavior, but I honestly get fed up when such people play the victim; these "adults" need to get over themselves. I'm feeling a little frustrated with people now because I have strong feelings about responsibility and ethics, and I don't hesitate to tell people. But predictably, a discussion of responsibility is "turned on its head" into a conversation of what people want from people, versus what they should give. I consider this rather self-centered to say the least, and may suggest why people feel so empty--you think? ;-) As you put so well, it's nearly impossible to put something into a "bottomless pit" and expect to get anything in return; such people operate simply from a selfish need, and I think quite incapable of giving to others without a hidden agenda.

    As for myself coping with such behavior here in the US, I simply try to do my best…isn't that all we can do? However, as I'm an introspective and stoic person, I have a large capacity to find inner strength to prevail despite society--at least I hope so! When all else fails, I try to have a sense of humor about it. ;-) And given the choice, I always look for understanding friends versus those are constant challenges to my being.