Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Global musical chairs

Musical chairs: circular. Coincidence or warning?
What makes some people live their whole lives in the same town, most likely working in the same job for decades, while other people start hopping around the globe as soon as they finish school?

My grandfather had this great story: "There was this old man who used to sit every day on his balcony, strumming his banjo. His banjo, however, only had one string, and the old man would always pluck the string in exactly the same place. Oneday his grandson asked him, 'Grandad, why does your banjo have only one string?' His grandad paused, then smiled slowly: 'I've found the note I like.'"

That story sums up for me the reason we should never criticise other people who we feel could do more with their lives than they are. Why criticise somebody who has found happiness in their life, if you are still looking for your own happiness?

When it comes to migrations, there are so many options that we have open these days. Whereas in the past, you'd spend your whole life in one little village, and a visit to a neighbouring village would require a difficult trip via ox-wagon, these days we're practically overwhelmed by choice.

Do you want to move to a different suburb, a different town, a different province, a different country or even a different continent? You can, right now if you want. One day we'll have access to interstellar travel, and we'll have a similar number of choices.

But this isn't right, is it? It's downright frustrating! I've only just figured it out: humans like to be able to trace their lives on a sheet of paper, preferably seeing consistent improvement. How do you manage that with all this choice? How do you decide which is better: moving to a different city in your same country, or moving to a different country altogether?

It's almost enough to send you running for the nearest small village, buying a small house with a small balcony and a banjo with one string.

In life, all we deal with is unknowns, and the more we know the more we realise we don't know. The choice of 'where should I live' is particularly frustrating because if we play our lives out on a stage, then where we live is the choice of which stage we grace. This is going to determine the people we interact with, the opportunities we have, our very core happiness!!!

Or is it? Are people really all the same, facing the same problems? Is a person who will be successful in the United States just as likely to be successful in Australia or France? And how much further is this decision complicated by the 'global village' phenomenon ... I mean, if you like pizzas you no longer have to live in Italy, do you?

If my articles are all full of questions, it's because these are the very questions I'm grappling with at the moment. In my case, would I rather live in the United Kingdom, Romania or simply move from Johannesburg to Cape Town in South Africa? There are more pluses and minuses for any of the options than I'll list here, and besides it's not relevant: these articles are only intended to encourage people who are afraid, and to temper the enthusiasm of the overly-optimistic.

Because that's life, you know. It's not all golden: it's just a series of compromises. If you decide that you want a compromise, then you are in control; if you compromise because you can't get what you want, then you aren't.

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