My nephew Bert left early this morning on a plane back to the midwest. It was nice having him here for the last few days, I feel like we got to know each other and feel a little closer as family members. We went to the MoMa yesterday and saw a few cool exhibits, and I think we connected well over some of the work and ideas presented. We talked a fair amount about his education (he is an art student) and what he wants to do next, and I tried to encourage him to think big, and challenging. I know everyone is different and feel at home in the world in a variety of ways, but I hope he takes on some things that scare him and stretch his boundaries. Being that his father is English, he could have a European passport with very little trouble and I tried to explain what a huge advantage that could be to him. When I was living and working in Europe, I was always a bit marginalized by my on-again off-again legal status, and having a passport would have made working and living there a breeze by comparison. I told Bert that the challenge of figuring out another culture, especially one with a different language, can be extremely empowering. Because once you have, you never look at other places with as much trepidation, and you realize that you really can go anywhere and make it work. You realize that the main thing stopping us from launching ourselves into the foreign, the other, the unknown is our fear of it. Getting over this fear and reveling in the interesting differences between cultures and individuals is something I hope he can access if he wants to. In talking about his art and graffiti, Bert mentioned a couple of times the desire to show pride in where he is from, and not let New York and LA define his work and style, but be more authentically Indiana, or midwestern. I think this is potentially admirable, but I also know from experience that if you only have one type of contact with the world and don’t live outside of it, you have nothing really to compare it to, and that “choice” doesn’t really end up looking like a choice at all, it is simply the default. Experiencing the “other”, brings us back to what is good (and just as importantly, bad) about our own culture. And it brings us in connection with the common humanity in all of us.