I remember a conversation I had with a friend of mine when we were in high school, about the Beatles’ song, The Inner Light.
Now I can forgive anyone who doesn’t know this particular song. It’s not exactly the Fab Four’s best known song. Indeed, I was probably the exception and not the rule of people who were teenagers in the mid-to-late ’80s — upwards of two decades removed from the height of Beatlemania — with regard to this particular song.
In that conversation, I remember citing the refrain: “The farther one travels, the less one knows, the less one really knows.” Dave didn’t appreciate that line very much, and I don’t think I defended it very well.
When he wrote the song, I believe George Harrison tried to instill the message of how the less of the world you see, the easier it is to think you know everything. It takes an active attempt to break out of your small, private bubble, to even realize how much is out there that we don’t know.
If you’ve seen the movie The Matrix, you need to take the red pill to realize the scope of what’s out there, not the blue pill.
But there are ways to take the red pill without traveling great distances. On one hand, you can go to the other places both within and outside of your own country. On the other hand, they can come to you.
It takes a liberal immigration policy to allow other countries to come to you. I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Depending on how I choose to go and my specific destination within the city, I can be there in, at most, an hour. But even without leaving the suburbs, I look at the huge variety of restaurants selling international cuisine and am in awe: the usual suspects of Chinese, Italian, and Mexican, but also Thai, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Russian, Indian, Moroccan, and probably a few others I’m forgetting.
While there certainly is a reality that, depending on where I choose to go, it may or may not be authentic cuisine from those different places, it also bears mentioning that, were it not for immigrants from all of those countries, we wouldn’t be exposed to these foodstuffs. And there are many more in the city proper.
Now I’ve never been the world’s most adventurous eater. Indeed, years ago I wrote about how much of a fussy eater I am. But I am occasionally willing to step outside of my own bubble and try some things from around the world. And anyone could or should be.
All it takes is the ability and desire to put in the effort.
This is why it strikes me as, at best, an act of laziness to restrict immigration. Stay in your house, in your little bubble, and it’s true, you won’t be exposed to different people, different foods, different ideas. You won’t be challenged or made to think or rethink anything you might have previously believed.
A country as rich and diverse as America deserves better. I’m not sure how I got on Donald Trump’s mailing list but in the past couple of weeks, I’ve gotten near daily emails ostensibly from him or from some member of his family. And they often hammer home the same point about how we need to restrict immigration and/or build a completely useless wall on the US-Mexico border, often painting all foreigners as being a danger or a menace to the American way of life.
I wish I could tell him that he’s a greater danger and menace to the American way of life than just about anyone who wants to come here and build a better life for themselves.
Who knows what country’s cuisine — to which I haven’t yet been exposed — might be my next favorite food? If we don’t let people from that country into the US, I might not know…
Now it is a scary prospect, I admit, to take that red pill. Uncertainty can be and often is a frightening thing, a challenge to the things that make you comfortable. But being willing to get a little uncomfortable can lead to great changes.
There are things about our overall lives and personalities that we can’t change, and that can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing. Think about any time you said the wrong thing at the wrong time. However much you might not appreciate the consequences, it was still something in the core of who you are that led you to say it in the first place.
That’s why it’s so important to change what you can. And expanding your horizons is an easy one. For however far you travel, you’ll still be you.
If we switch to a different song, I think that’s what Harry Chapin meant in the song W*O*L*D, when he said “But you can travel on ten thousand miles and still stay where you are.”