Everyone has a voice, and a choice to use it well, use it poorly, or not to use it at all.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Two Years in Nepal, One Week in the U.S.A.

Two years ago I flew from America to Nepal (developing country, biggest  mountains in the world, Hindu worldview). One week ago I flew back to  experience America for the first time since leaving. You know the shock  of stepping out of a sauna, running over the slippery rocks, and jumping  into a freezing lake? Nepal was my sauna (a great experience, but  staying too long is bad for your health), and I expected America to be  my freezing lake (refreshing, but get too comfortable and you will  slowly die). More immediately, I predicted that my first few hours in  America would be shocking. The possible scenarios played through my mind  like a documentary:

  • A chubby teenager shoe-horns himself  out of a McDonald's booth and throws away a half eaten box of fries.  Willis dives into the trashcan after the fries and gobbles them up,  whispering crazily "the inhumanity, the inhumanity." (Alternate ending:  Willis stuffs the chubby teenager into the trashcan).

  • Willis  walks into a Wal-Mart. After 27 minutes of staring around him in a numb  stupor (mouth agape, pupils dilated, cold sweat on the brow), he goes  on a rampage. Sunscreen goes flying, frozen tater tots scatter across  the floor, little children cry for their mothers. Security personell  tazer Willis, who spends the next 50 years in a mental hospital.

In fact, I was surprised by my lack of surprise. Air Conditioning in a car only brought a smile. I ate a  ridiculously delicious burger at 5 Guy's and I laughed aloud. I slept on  a bed with a real mattress and giggled into the pillow for 30 seconds  straight. Hysteria? No, I was just enjoying the many comforts and  conveniences of America. (Side note: America is the most convenient  nation anywhere. Period.)

What did catch my attention were the similarities between Nepal and the US:

  • In Nepal they worship little stone idols, animals, even people.  In America we worship money, power, and people.

  • In  Nepal everyone is very relaxed and laid back while driving, so there  are many traffic jams. In America we are very uptight and stressed while  driving, so there are many traffic jams.

These and many  other similarities spoke a clearer message than any differences in  culture could: we, the human race, are a profoundly stupid group.  Collectively, we focus on the wrong things, do the wrong things because  they are easy, do the right things for the wrong reasons. Some say we  are on a downward trend as a race. Possibly. More certainly, each of us,  individually, is on a downward trend. Each of us has an inherent  inclination to do stupid stuff for stupid reasons. Yes, even Gandhi and  Mother Theresa. That inclination is leading us all to a very bad place.  We need a new Leader - a leader other than emotion and popular thought.

Evaluate yourself, as I am evaluating  myself: What do I devote myself to? What causes me to make the decisions  I make? What am I motivated by?

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