Monday, August 06, 2007

Unfamiliarity breeds contempt?

I've been told on a number of occasions of famous writers who left their homeland and came to understand and appreciate it better though doing so. From such cases it is often understood that distancing yourself from a place is a necessary part of understanding and appreciating it.

Such claims just don't square with my own observations. In a couple of weeks time, I will have finished my first two years of living mostly away from home. It hasn't done good things for my view of my hometown. Every time I go home, I'm leave thinking, "Wow, that place is going down hill, glad I'm not living there anymore." When I think about it though, I'm not sure it actually is down hill, it's just that whenever I make it back there, the first things people tell me about are always the bad things. I'm not spreading the details of the gossip all over the internet, but there's been an amazing range of stuff, from drugs to lawsuits to petty power trips. (Yes, mom, I do have your tendency to unload on me in mind, but you're not the only one.) Something in human nature makes us want to talk about these things first, and it makes home visits real downers. Has anyone else experienced this problem?

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1 comment:

Eric said...

Even if you have generally gained a negative perspective upon leaving your hometown, it doesn't mean that it isn't necessary to leave a place to fully understand it. I don't know that I would use the word "appreciate" because often that's interpreted using the definition corresponding to "thankful" rather than the definition corresponding to "recognizing the significance."

I think the concept applies more to ideological terms than physical places. For me personally, I didn't really understand what it was that I believed about Christianity or political conservatism until I stopped believing them, and I still wonder if I really understand what I believe now or if I'll have a similar revelation at a later time if my beliefs change again.

But as far as places... it might be true. I can't say I've paid too much attention to my hometown since I left, but I have tended to hear more bad things than good.