Reading Globish by Robert McCrum, who wrote The Story of English. He points out how being islanders makes one psychically different. And, yes, that was what I found so strange on emigration to North America: the vast space. I didn’t feel a comfortable edge to my life, defined boundaries. It all stretched away huge and undefended. I also found it unsettling to holiday on a lake. We were used to going to the edge, to the sea, where England ended and there was a moat between us and strangeness. Yet now when I go back there, I feel enclosed and claustrophobic.
Is part of the difference between the English and North Americans that England is defined by its shores, to be defended and also a safe haven from which to sally forth and dip a toe in the wider world? Whereas North America is built on expansion, always pushing the boundaries.
I was also very struck on arrival by the importance of neighbours and neighborhoods. In England, particularly the south, the emphasis is much more on privacy and minding one’s own business. One friend, returning from a holiday in the UK, described the English all gardening with their backs to each other. And one of the War Brides I interviewed for a story said coming to Canada was “like taking off your corsets”.
Monday, 6 February 2012
Have been reading a lot more from Brother Lawrence and am noticing a difference in myself. I now find whenever I feel irritated or negative that I am making a conscious choice to try to remain connected to God’s peace rather than feel right, vindicated or self-righteous. A huge debt to Brother Lawrence.