In little more than a day I will be on a plane to China. I have never been overseas.
This departure from the country in which I have hitherto been wrapped like a baby in a blanket fills me with equal amounts of excitement and trepidation. I like to call this intrepidation: the feeling of fear you get before embarking on an adventure.
This will be an adventure for me. Instead of the reassuring semi-familiarity of Europe, I will be going into the complete unknown. I don’t know very much about China. What I have gleaned from the little Western literature I encounter has painted China as a threat, the new world power. The dragon, it seems, is to be feared.
And fear it I do. Excepting things like stories of dangerous tea-house scams, I will be entering a communist country where almost nobody speaks my language. They probably don’t even want to. I will be dealing in a foreign currency, with foreign people with foreign ways. I would be hard pressed to find a culture more alien to mine.
We grow up ensconced in our own culture. This is necessarily so, since we are raised by a few people who define our world. We grow to know good and bad from within this nurturing cocoon. We don the spectacles through which we evaluate everything. I know that this is unfashionable to say, but it might not actually be a bad thing. Yes, it often amounts to indoctrination, but to paraphrase the fathers of hermeneutics: You must know something before you can know anything.
We build our world from a basic frame of reference. All actions and events are measured against what we know and believe and judged accordingly. Without this substrate, we would have nothing to build our experience on. We would coldly collect facts, lacking the necessary architecture to make meaningful observations about them. But with a solid base built from the collection of repeating similarity, we can grasp what it means to oppose what is to us normal, and that is how we grow.
Our first steps into the world allow us to see that everything is not always as we know it. This difference allows us to think about what’s strange and re-evaluate what we have previously accepted as normal. We are given a chance to think, to feel, to grow.
The basis of any experience lies in strangeness or familiarity: The thrill of the new versus the comfort of the old. Without change, we would be unable to experience. We would be stuck inside the white limbo of The Matrix. Experience defines our existences.
It is towards this opposition that I will fly. To be shocked and scared and amazed into a place beyond my own tiny world. I am leaving to experience the otherness of others, to look at different ways of being human. I will go from my nest to be challenged.
I will go, to return more free a man.