Saturday, May 15, 2010

Culture Mashups...

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

...Make Life More Special

Culture mashups can be so powerful, I'm reminded by the rock band, Toto's, and R&B star, Cheryl Lynn,'s Georgy Porgy." And by the biracial son of a friend who has his choice of Yale or Harvard for college next year; both of his parents could have been brilliant and of the same race, but they were brilliant and not, and I think that contributed to my friend's son, being a special and extraordinarily brilliant person. And by a heterosexual wakeboarding enthusiast, who is among my colleagues and who is close to his two gay brothers -- and a visible ally of the gay, lesbian, bi and trans community, just by his active love for his brothers. For all I know, my colleague's gay brothers could be wakeboarding enthusiasts as well, but the sexual orientation aspect of my colleague's and his brothers' cultural backgrounds will always be divergent, and yet they love one another in all their humanity.

I've said this before, probably here, too: As amazing a city as I found Shanghai to be during my relatively brief visit in 2005, I was less compelled by it than by New York City, since the streets were filled with people who appeared to be mostly of a common cultural background; NYC is filled with so many people from so many different cultures and I think that's the secret to its vibrancy.

When I get together with my mother and her friend Harriet, it's another sort of culture mashup: a cross-generational one. I'm amazed by our different experiences, and how interesting it seems for all of us to be together -- more interesting than it is, often, for me to be with contemporaries.

Same goes for talking with my 17-year-old nephew, in the other direction; I'm always the beneficiary of his native wisdom. The other day, we were discussing small-group dynamics for school-projects. We agreed that we're always among the ones who do most of the work in the group. I said, "Usually, instead of confronting the shirkers, I just go ahead and do the work."

"Well, since I'm doing so much of the project already," Zach said, "I figure I have the right to do some delegating, and so usually, I'll say, 'I'll do this and this.' And then I'll turn to the other person and say, 'And what will you do?'"

Probably among the biggest culture-mashups from which I've learned the most has been our adopting and co-parenting two tabby-cat sisters. We will never learn each other's spoken language, and yet we can communicate with one another, and I love them deeply, and feel affection from them sometimes, too....

My human nature, though, leads me -- initially -- to seek people and places that seem familiar. The paradox is that often, the people/creatures and places that are most remote from my experience end up feeling most comforting to me; for example, our home is finally a fully-sweet home, since we invited the cats into it two years ago. Fortunately, while I naturally seek sameness, God puts difference in my path continually.

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