Reflections on Colombia

I just returned from a week in Colombia, South America, where I spoke on ideas related to this book. But from the second day, I realized that I was to learn more from the people I met there than I could possibly teach them.

After living the last 13 years in the United States, I am used to the emotional closedness, stiffness, and coldness that we take for granted as normal. The people I met in Colombia — Colombians, Chileans, Peruvians, Brazilians, and others — were different. They were emotionally open, warm, and expressive of love. There was lots of hugging and kissing — and they meant it! People touch each other more and they stand closer together in conversation. Often I felt that for these people, every day is a celebration of life.

There I was, speaking on Separation and its healing to people who are much less “separated” than I am. I think that as our own, American, culture approaches a dead end of loneliness, community breakdown, and alienation, we might need the help of other less broken cultures to help us find our way back. That was certainly the case for me. The love I experienced there from so many people was a kind of medicine. It reminded me, on a somatic and emotional level, of what life is supposed to be: an effortless richness, a celebration of each day, even as sometimes we devote every particle of our energy to our work. I have long believed this on an intellectual level, but actually experiencing it is what, I hope, has changed me permanently. Even as I reacclimate to the United States, a little bit of Colombia is alive inside of me.



About Charles Eisenstein

I am the author of The Ascent of Humanity and Sacred Economics. I am also a public speaker and member of the faculty of Goddard College.
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7 Responses to Reflections on Colombia

  1. Tom Smith says:

    Nice reflection, Charles. The Anglo-American culture is definitely one that cultivates distance and suspicion between people. It’s similarly nice to head into continental Europe and experience some of the last vestiges of physical openness and proximity between friends and acquaintances there.

    We’ll have to figure out a way to get you over this side of the Atlantic soon..!

  2. Martin Luchia Puig says:

    Thanks Charles for sharing that “magic” week in Colombia, honestly as I told you there I strongly believe that you are one of the few in this world that can help us write the new story for the times to come.
    A big Argentinean hug!

  3. says:

    Sometimes I worry that the United States’s journey in to extreme separation must be followed by the rest of civilization: that Europe and China and India must follow the same path, to the same extremes, but a few decades later. I worry that the earth could not stand that much abuse.

    However, now I believe that the US will go to the most distant extreme and return, and that the rest of the world can learn from watching us. They don’t have to go to the same extreme themselves.

    • That’s what I think too, though it will take a lot of work to prevent it. One of the messages I was transmitting in Colombia was not to follow our example.
      It is sad that the free trade pact is being ratified. That will do a lot to open Colombia up to further conversion of its natural and social capital into money, to feed the growth machine.

  4. Paul says:

    Charles, I truly enjoy every single one of your writings.

    This one encouraged me even more to continue plans on living/studying in a different culture which has not yet been so afflicted by the process of separation, particularly South America. My guitar teacher comes from Venezuela and your descriptions so reminded me of his cheerful, loving way of being.

    I am currently learning a lot about the work of Foucault in my philosophy studies and I think it is possible to analyse the whole discourse of separation. In a society with completely different discursive formations, you will not find the power relations (ego-centredness; strive for self-accumulation; time is money mentality a.s.o) and systems of knowledge, which is so prevalent -and still seeming so “natural” to many of us- in ours. But actually this again is just intellectualization. The head cannot feel what the heart knows anyway.

    Still, I was astonished by your statement that you have only “long believed this on an intellectual level” and that this experience has hopefully changed you permanently. Just from the feeling, the “energetic vibe” so to speak (if you want to put it in a non-rational way), that I get from reading your works, such as the “AoH” or the “Yoga of eating”, I have the impression that you are already living in the gift, in the richness live has to offer.

    But what was the point of my comment now? Basically, I just want to thank you, and encourage you to keep up your work! It has transformed my life (and also of some of my friends). Changes are happening so rapidly now. My mind is no longer capable of conceptualising all of that, so I feel relaxed and content to give shape to “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.” Step by step.

    Affectionate greetings from Europe,

    • Geez, I hope people don’t get the impression that I am especially enlightened or anything. I think each of us is living in Separation in some ways, and in connection in other ways, and that we can only become more whole through the help of others. In some ways I do live richly in the gift and in connection to source; in others not. For example, my oh my the way those Colombians can dance!

      As for Foucault, I think a lot of my work is fairly well aligned with it. I do have disagreements with post-modern thought, but much of their insights into the construction of meaning and identity are useful.

  5. Beautifully said. As a bi-cultural person (US American and Colombian myself) I have always been struck by how each society bears their own wisdom and gift, and how this expanded my awareness of the diversity of life. But this particular emotional closeness that you speak of reminds me of the article that you recently wrote in Ode Magazine, “Living in the Gift”- when we “give” generously of ourselves, through closeness, intimacy and physical contact, we begin to strengthen the natural cycle of economics, that of giving and receiving. We receive the gift of truly being touched, we just can’t help giving that in return. Life then gets embedded in a different kind of wealth; life becomes full.

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