What is Culture?
It Just Keeps On Going
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
Does it sometimes seem like your life is a series of interruptions? I feel that way sometimes. Once after returning to Kenya from a period back in my home country of the United States, I was trying to run some wiring from a large transformer to several rooms in our apartment. This and some other tasks were still undone from the time we had moved in.
Interruptions kept interrupting this somewhat detailed and tedious task! It was time for a ball game at school. Another box had to be unpacked to get something critically needed. I had to stop to get some tool I had not realized I would need. Even the job itself became an interruption to the job! Has this happened to you?
Every time you try to do something, something else interrupts. As my frustration kept growing during this simple, but seemingly interminable job, I suddenly had a flash of perspective.
If you keep doing something long enough, you'll always be interrupted! Wasn't that profound? How simple. But my feelings had overlooked this rational fact!
That's the problem with real life. There is no beginning and ending. It just keeps on going. Life never ends. All needs press in. I have heard it said that Life is what happens while you are making your plans!
Interruptions are more of problem in the European task orientation. We get frustrated when we are hindered from getting the task accomplished, when we can't meet our goal.
The African perspective helps here. What happens happens. What has to be done has to be done. People who need attention need attention.
Wait – I see a lot of repetition in these last sentences. Yes, life is repetitive, often uncontrollable.
There is some validity to the “Third-world” life-cycle perspective. Maybe that's why they are so patient and we Europeans are so busy.
Life just keeps on happening. Refocus! Happen with it!
Originally published as the lead article in Focus on Communication Effectiveness, a cross-cultural communication newsletter, Nairobi, Kenya, July 1994
Rewritten and posted on Thoughts and Resources 17 December 2008
Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2008 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use. Other rights reserved.