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Xenophilia – The Pull To Strangers and Strange Places

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Isla Majures, April 2013

Isla Majures – Island of the Women, Mexico, April 2013

Xenophilia. This is a word I have had very rare contact with. Its opposite, xenophobia is solidly entrenched in our collective vocabulary, a term to describe an irrational fear of strangers, foreigners, strange or foreign culture. For anyone who has followed my blog over the past several years, it is obvious that I thrive with foreignness, with strangeness. As I have traveled and spent time in Asia and Latin America, I found myself drawn to people, to connecting with them. Living and working in China opened the doors to all sorts of opportunities and homes in China and neighboring countries. And when we took time off from China, we spent our winters in Latin America living in the communities rather than at resorts or in gated communities. I am lucky to have a wife who is as passionate about experiencing all that is exotic. The future, if life permits, will continue to be an exploration of culture and the earth.

I chose the word “xenophilia” for today’s post after finding it in Thomas Moore’s book, Original Self. Moore holds xenophilia in high regard as it serves as an attitude that allows us to deepen our lives, enlarging it beyond the limited scope that ego allows and knows.

All that is not ego is by nature exotic, outside the familiar and usually protected and defended precinct of the self, as so, as we awaken to a life beyond egotistic narcissism, we might feel and attraction to the unfamiliar.” [p. 24]

As I read these words of protection and of defensiveness of the ego, I thought of how people and communities sometimes close the doors of their communities to strangers. When things go wrong, there is an assumption that a stranger is at fault, is the cause. Of course, they are telling the truth, but that truth is blind as the stranger to blame is usually the personal and community shadow, not some outsider who has recently put in an appearance into their community. That attitude changes with more exposure through face-to-face interactions due to communication needs of the workplace or through involvement in children’s school life and extra-curricular activities. When the attitude changes, it is due to a person and a community taking back unconscious projections, something that opens another door, the door of soul.

When we are living only a portion of what a human being is capable of, our lives are incomplete. . . .  Defending ourselves against the stranger is a way of keeping out our own potentiality. The diminishment of our acquaintances is a diminishment of ourselves.”

At my stage of life, xenophilia is as much about following an inner impulse than it is about discovering the outer world and its inhabitants. I have lived most of my life as a quiet, dependable, old soul. I didn’t do many things that would have been considered foolish or juvenile. But somehow, in this later stage of my life I find the foolish jester making his appearance as if, in spite of my gray hair, I am a youth out to experience all that life has to offer before I have to grow up. This emerging fool is known as the puer in Jungian-speak. Perhaps it is the emergence of this holy fool, this eternal figure of youth that has led me to traipsing around the world, eating all sorts of exotic (and sometimes too exotic) foods and trying to learn enough phrases in the language of each country to be polite and friendly, letting all know that I don’t presume that my language is the only important language. So, instead of sitting at home in our quiet rural community through the seasons of the years remaining to me, I find myself journeying with a youth’s curiosity.



Written by Robert G. Longpré

September 18, 2013 at 6:36 am

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