21 July 2006

The First World

For most of my life I have admired the beauty that is there to be found in dirt, in ugliness, in the mundane. I've had a lot of opportunity to appreciate that kind of aesthetic in Beirut, I've seen it in my books about Damascus, and driving from the Jordanian border to Amman led me to believe that Jordan's also got something of a shabby-chic aesthetic. This kind of beaty within the ashes is at times overwhelming, and I find it much more moving than the beauty of cleanness.

I have often wondered why this would be, why I would be so moved by the discovery of visual perfection in the worn out, broken, dirty, grimy patches of life. And now I think I have the answer. Growing up in the US there was a lot of clean. Germany is even worse (better?). When you see something truly falling apart at the seams it is the exception, not the rule. I think my eye was drawn to these hideous exceptions because of their rarity. Beauty of this kind was completely organic, spontaneous, an accident. Clean is never an accident.

As we move west, I'm noticing a lot of clean. Huge, expansive, seemingly unending stretches of super-clean, super-new, super-nice public space. Looking around the Tel Aviv airport I almost feel like I'm watching a movie or having a dream. No garbage. No broken floor tiles. No dirt. Anywhere. Welcome to the First World.

Clean like this, is indeed overwhelming, and to my used-to-the-grime eyes, and even beautiful.


megan said...

well if it becomes to much and you need some grime, you are welcome at my house anytime.

Anonymous said...

I think the US never struck me as extra clean. Maybe it has to do with the areas I visited but it always gave me the impression of being practical rather then beautiful and always a little run down. If things were nice and shiney then for the sole purpose of attracting customers.

Austria and Germany are extra clean because everybody wants to show their neighbour they do a better job. At least thats the way I feel about it.

Russia I guess at least the parts I was in can be on the same level with Beirut. And even if I can'T see the beauty of grime and dirt, I can see that sometimes there is unexpectet beauty in the middle of it. Like flowers growing in the middle of a dirty road, or a dewey cobweb across a doorframe.

I guess it's the "unplanedness" of things like that that make them look beautiful. What do I know.

You know what I appreciated most after coming home from Russia? It wasn't the cleanliness of Austria, it was AC in the car, it wasn'T having a public transportation system that actually went by a schedule it was being able to turn on the water and drink tab water.

Every now and then things in our life happen to put things back into perspective. I hope culture shock won'T hit you to hard when you get to the staates...hope the kids will handle the last leg of the journey as well as the ones before,


Vatti said...

My major experience out of my culture was as a missionary in Germany. What struck me as I returned to the US was that there was all of this seemingly unplanned or under-utilized space--that we had enough room to have something like junk yards--or perpetual vacant lots. The disorder or lack of planning became beautiful, not just because I had not seen it for so long, but because it now stood for something that I equated with an aspect of freedom.

By the time you get this it will be appropriate to say, "Welcome back!"

Jonas said...

Dirt is fun to play in.

Delirious said...

Glad to know you guys are fine.
Take care.
All the best,