Writer, Editor, & Interculturalist
Interculturals. The greatest challenge in designing a personal website—is to answer the question: Who am I? In other words, what is your identity or identities? How do you define yourself? The writing & editing parts are easy. The word interculturalist takes a lot more work; especially as it permeates your life. I came to realize that most of that life has been spent — learning about other cultures: studying them, living in them, and writing about them.
That passion probably began when I was asleep one night, and a little bird flew in thru my window & whispered in my ear: “You must go to India and write a book about the Ganges River” (tweet, tweet). “You’re mad. Get out of here,” I shouted at it. I had never been out of the Bronx before.
I guess I was a child of the 60s — at a time when “On the Road” translated for many, as “The Journey to the East.”
My first overseas assignment was — teaching in Kabul, Afghanistan, in the early 60s — before anyone had ever heard of Afghanistan. Long before the Russian invasion, and before the loonies came to lunch. It was a peaceful place then; you could drive from one end of the country to the other in a Volkswagen bug, with no qualms...and no fear of death.
But I couldn’t get the birdsong out of my head. The result: I enrolled at the U. of Penn, and spent 2 years there studying Indian history, philosophy, & religion. Then finally, a few years later, off to India, to follow the river, from its source in the high Himalayas, down to the Bay of Bengal. And finally, the book, that I called A Ganges of the Mind: A Journey on the River of Dreams, with its sadhus and swinging swamis.
My novel The Illuminator came later, and was set in Samarkand at the time of Tamerlane (in the late 14th century). As preparation for that one, I spent the previous two years studying the whole Islamic tradition. And thence, a year teaching in Tashkent — just a hop, skip, & a jump from the fabled city, that I prowled around whenever I could.
What Really Is...Interculturalism? When people hear the word, they usually think of it in space. IE, things that exist today; perhaps with a short tail of tradition. But to be an interculturalist (apologies for the long tail) also means to explore and assimilate—in whatever ways we can—things that exist in time. That time can be a century ago...or a hundred centuries (Whew!).
Traveling thru time means entering those worlds & cultures of centuries past; worlds that we’ve been drawn to, and have learned things about; perhaps even made part of ourselves. It can come from our travels, but that takes a different kind of traveling; a kind that demands different understandings and perceptions, and...imaginings. It takes a different kind of ticket.
Here are three things that are worth spending some time really thinking about. The first is from French Novelist Stéphane Mallarmé: “Everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book.” The second, from Nobel laureate Toni Morrison: “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” And the last, by writer Joseph Cirignano. “Each of us is a book waiting to be written.”
So come, let’s make the journey...together