Saturday, September 4, 2010


Let's say I’m a member of a tribe, the Sharks. We Sharks enjoy a shared history, language, and rituals—in other words, an entire world outlook and its consequent modus operandi. Another tribe, the Jets, with its own world outlook, lives next door. 

Sharks and Jets inevitably contact one another. Imagine I’m picking blackberries one morning. I never look forward to this, since the thorns stick and slash me. Nearby, a Jet is also picking. Her hands dart quickly, deeply into the the tangle of thorns and emerge without scratches. Watching her closely, I notice she doesn’t just thrust into the bush, but snakes her arm through it as though she sees a spatial channel I can’t perceive.

Indeed, that’s exactly the case. I’ve been taught since infancy to see things, like the moon and trees and blackberry branches. She’s been taught to see things, too, but taught also to see the space that defines them, so when it comes to blackberries, she’s as familiar with no-thorn as I am with thorn.

Turning, she notices me and says, “Jeet?” That’s a standard Jet dialect greeting. A contraction of “Did you eat?”, it expresses Jets’ preoccupation with food. I answer, “How you doing?” I realize she’s staring at my shoes. I’m proud of my shoes, comfort being of paramount value to us Sharks. Jets, though, think shoes are for wimps. Barefootedness is sacred to them, even though they complain constantly of stubbed toes and twisted ankles. 

This Jet seems to want to ask me something about my shoes, but then thinks the better of it and departs. I want to know about her picking technique, but I’m not sure how to ask.

Two tribes, two ways seeing, and consequently two ways of navigating the world. How can they better understand one another? 

Now imagine there are two other tribes…called the Patients and the Doctors…

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