Thursday, August 11, 2005

Subcultural Immersion

I'm amazed by the number of subcultures saturating our society today. They're everywhere -- centered around anything and everything -- hiding in caves, in cafés, and in all the hard-to-reach corners of our culture. It's fascinating to discover these groups of people throughout the world who know practically everything regarding a particular aspect of life about which I know absolutely nothing.

Eva tells me about her and Mandy's obsession with electronic music -- the stuff that's "kind of experimental, but still understandable" -- like Death Cab for Cuties or Postal Service (who has to give some kind of free concert every year for the US Postal Service, in order to maintain the rights to their band's name). They flock to concerts featuring all the right bands in all the right clubs -- along with everyone else from that world of wonder... And yet, I don't know if I would really even be able to pick out "electronic music" if I heard it out of a line-up.

While I'm talking with Eva, she nods in greeting to a large Dutch man in a Billabong t-shirt, on his way out of the café and back across the street to his surf shop (in central Amsterdam, mind you). And in this casual encounter, I stumble across another secret society. It turns out that there's an appreciable number of Dutchmen who enjoy to surf in the relatively calm cold waters of the North Sea -- a subculture of a the general surfing subculture, if you will... And I shake my head with a sense of confusion and curiosity.

Later, I read the story of my brother's initiation to the world of comic books and fantasmical graphic art, and I'm reminded of another corner of society that knows virtually everything about the X-Men, the Justice League of America -- the various interpretations and representations of the Superman icon. It's a complex culture with its own values and mores... and yet even in trying to choose the appropriate words to write this paragraph, I flop like a fish out of water in the boat of that subculture.

Truth be told, I belong to my own set of subcultures... People of Swedish/Norweigian ancestry (otherwise known as people who can correctly identify what lutefisk is and instinctively comprehend the meaning of the exclamation "Uff-da"), Americans living in the Netherlands (those who can't help but inappropriately grin at the mention of the word vaart), People who live in the Transvaalbuurt of Amsterdam Oost (who mark their relation to one another based on proximity to the neighborhood Dekamarkt, Vomar, or Albert Heijn), Alumni of Bowling Green State University (those who can sing the words to "Ay Ziggy Zoomba"), Basketballers (the extreme minority of people -- particularly in Europe -- who do what they're supposed to when you say "Give and Go")...

And then of course, my faith places me within a subculture of Western Christianity -- though I desperately hope I can avoid its swings into absurdity (with Jesus-brand music, Jesus-endorsed literature, Jesus-approved clothing, Jesus-flavored breath mints)... Writing this blog is participating in another subculture... Reading the comments to my posting from August 2, 2005 -- written by other families affected by vascular birthmarks -- is evidence of another subculture... And if I can't escape it, then I believe that no one can escape it. This proliferation of miscrocosmoses is incredible, but inevitable. Our culture is a culture of subcultures...

But why do we divide ourselves this way? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Is this an imprint of divinity or fallability? Does this create a world of security or volatililty? I don't know... I don't know... I don't know... I don't know...

3 Comments:

At 3:52 AM, Blogger Jason Slack said...

I think your forgetting your involvement in a subculture - the secret society known only as "The Imposters." Your secret is safe with me.

 
At 1:57 PM, Blogger Todd said...

Brilliant, Eric, brilliant...

 
At 1:28 PM, Blogger Eric Asp said...

Jason, does a group of four people really qualify as a "subculture"? Secret society, definitely. But subculture... I don't know.

At any rate, I'm not sure how safe my secret is with you, considering that this dialogue is now officially "public" in cyberspace. Oh well...

 

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