Think about the sound a slab of marble makes when it slaps a stone floor. The thud of a granite rock falling onto concrete. The boom a second after lightning strikes a mile away. Now think not of the sound, but of the feeling it gives you: the jolt under the breastbone; the tingling in your fingers and toes; the shaking under your ribs, your body resonating to the deep thrum of an impact. The flat crash of marble against marble, the dry crack of granite on concrete, and the slamming of close thunder are not sounds, but vibrations. When they pass away, my molecules will never align in quite the same way again because of their passage. I feel internally changed by them.
This is the feel of culture shock.
The feeling of culture shock is not related to the shock I feel when I jerk back upon touching a live wire. Culture shock is not my disorienting realization that I haven’t been threatened by a cloud in a week, and I am the one who needs to learn the language and dress differently. It is my internal experience of massive change: I am changing in how I see the world. To me, culture shock is the sneaking suspicion that I will never be the same because of what I now know. The sound of thunder is not it rolling around me, but rolling through me.
“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
This sounds – and feels like how I describe “art” to my students!
This space before you – the piece of paper, the canvas, the hunk of marble . . is yours. Within this area you are God, within this arena you can do – act as you like. This line is red and not green because you say it is: you make it so. You make the rules. But . . you must abide by the rules you make because you also exist within them. You are responsible for what you have created: love or hate: red or green: despair, joy or emptiness are your creation, your act, your godliness. So therefore is your need of care, your precision, your desire for perfection in all that you do, and so also is your despair when you fail. And possibly your empathy with the larger Creator of all who must also suffer with the unlooked for failures, and feel anger with her and a passionate determination for perfection.