Saturday, December 10, 2011

Prairie Home

I listen to a lot of NPR podcasts here. I can download them on the wifi network here at the library and listen to them on my stereo in my house and it makes me feel so much at home. I listen to KCRW´s To The Point, which has long been my favorite news show. They focus on 3 issues for the whole hour and get really smart, well-informed and usually quite reasonable people to talk about each issue. Context, context, context.
I listen to This American Life and Selected Shorts in the evening or while I clean or do laundry. The quality of the story telling and even just the good use of language, the quality communication, is a welcome relief after a day of bungled, half-misunderstood attempts to communicate with my friends and neighbors here.

My favorite though is Garrison Keilior`s News from Lake Woebegone, the only part of Prairie Home Companion that you can download. The story telling and use of language is great, but it goes even beyond TAL and Slected Shorts in its beautiful rendition of the mundane of (United States of) American life, which I miss so much. The stories of the characters in the small town, who have known each other thier whole lives, of thier strange behaviors and thier own hesistant interactions with one another, all take place deep within a distinct strain of (United States of) American culture. All these people speak the same language, or often don´t even speak it; they can communicate with a grunt or a back-handed compliment more than I can with all my train-wreck Spanish or Guaranì.

To live in your own culture, to be so deep within it that the entire world is understood through its meanings and connections is a very special, but rarely appreciated thing. You only notice it when you go far away from your native place and you realize that not just the words are different, but that nearly everything else about how people communicate is as well and that you cannot possibly learn it all over again because it has to be hardwired deep down within you to be really natural.

One can learn to fit in, and to an amazing degree communicate with people in a culture so unlike to that in which you were raised (and here I am not even leaving the Americas, speaking a romance language!). I believe there is a limit however, and that even the most brilliant Indian or Paraguayan could come live in rural (United States of) America and be unable to learn the myriad assumptions and unspoken rules of interaction. This is not meant to bash foreigners or immigrants. On the contrary I am in awe of how difficult it must be to permanently leave your native country behind. What I mean to say is that we should all be thankful and proud of our unsurpassed ability to know and speak our own culture, and that even the dullest among us can communicate in a language that can never be completely learned, no matter how supieror the student may be to us in all other subjects or tests of mental ability.

Miss you guys.

Where all the women and strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

No comments:

Post a Comment