Today is my birthday.
What is more important though is that my Mom did all the work.
But also that I am here. Here in this land, 6 927 miles from the place I first called home. Here. Far, far away from the savannah grasslands and the unfathomable blue, blue Zambian skies.
There are blue skies here, too. In this city.
Melbourne. She is elegant beyond belief. Yet, she is also shrouded in aloofness…a denial of the mess that lives at the core of her. She doesn’t want you to see so she pushes back so you can behold her from a distance. Always at a distance. Those who blend into her being fall into step with her here. Walking in oblivion and bliss. She rewards those who do not go looking for her mess; who concentrate on her beautiful elegance.
So another birthday reminds me that I am here. In this city, and this country I have called home for the last six years.
In the last ten years I have lived in three different countries. Their boundaries invisible yet so clearly marked. The textures of each unique as they weave in and out of every corner of the defined edges, the demarcations. A history imprinted and collected in a body of people who breathe in the same air, eat the same food and share the same stories that the only way left to be is to form a common identity, a national characteristic.
Each country claims pre-eminence and significance. This is the thing of countries. The shovelling and jostling – it is the thing as it is. Each claims to be special; to hold a people, different and unique.
The truth is, people are pretty much the same everywhere. At the core of us is a beauty and a mess that is universal, which no geographical boundary can hide or erase. This is the point where countries become illusions and delusions. And the fact that I can live in 3 different countries and still be me, with the same old issues proves this point to me.
Here is where the delusion begins: the unconscious belief that somehow we choose where we are born, that somehow we put in an order and God is this big people-making and country-shaping Being who scampers to work at our very specific request of birth country.
No. We are not that brilliant.
Our national heritage is given. It is not earned. It is not chosen. It is not a right nor is it an indication of where you stand in the human devised chain of hierarchy. Contrary to how we express our nationalities, they do not confer any special human abilities on us. As much as we would like to think so, it is anything but.
This fact alone should pump out the dross and bring us to our knees in humility. Yet, humility is the one thing that every country on the face of the earth lacks greatly. I can’t change that. I’m just one small girl who turns a year older today.
I can remind you though that the thing that makes you human in your country is the very thing that makes me human, here, in Australia. And that child in Syria you see on TV, huddling itself in the cold.
And that humanity comes before you are handed paper documents with your name and country on it.
Being human is the number one problem every country in this world is facing. It is the mother of all problems. Not doing it right and well is what has led us to this historically catastrophic point.
I don’t know how you live in your country. But I hope it is with humility; with that acute awareness that your country does not make you any more special than that guy down the road in another country. I hope this awareness fills you with gratitude for things you have. The things given: life, God and home. I hope you don’t shy away from the mess that lives at the core of you and the country that houses you. But that you face it, head on, with grace and compassion. I hope you will offer the same to others. And I hope you teach your children to do the same.
I hope you pay attention to yourself. To your humanity and everyone else’s.
As Socrates reminds us, our humanity is not given to us by virtue of belonging to a biological species; it is something we rise to. And this is how you live in a country.
May we all rise to the occasion.