I’m still in the mountains of Montana as I write this. Even back when I was planning this trip, people would ask me, “Won’t it be kind of lonely up there in the mountains all by yourself?” Being lonely is not something I’ve ever experienced so I would reassure my friends that I would be fine. Others came from a slightly different angle, “Are you running away from something?” Uh, well not that I know of! I like being in the mountains, in the summer anyway, and I still intended to keep up, as much as possible, with my regular commitments to myself, and others. I like group work and so I am an active member of several teams working on different projects. By installing a modem, bringing the Internet to the cabin, I reckoned everyone would hardly notice I was away from home.
What I hadn’t factored in was the particular time zone issue that would arise from being in Mountain Standard Time. Most of my projects are based in Australia. However, many of them are international projects with participants from Australia, New Zealand and Europe.
New Zealand technically receives the first light of each day, with Australia following a couple of hours later, meaning Europe is still getting each day seven or eight hours ahead of Montana. So on occasions when meetings are held in the Australian morning, I can join in, it being mid day in Montana, although the previous day. But when meetings were planned for late afternoon or evening in Australia, well it is the middle of the night for me – but works for the Europeans who are just getting the first light of that same Australian day. It’s not that complicated once you get used to it but it does require that you be attentive when scheduling meetings or attendance at one.
One meeting I was in recently had about thirty-five people in the group. It was primarily a European group that I had joined. We were part of a much larger group presentation that was taking place in Australia. As part of the presentation, we were given tasks to work on, as a group. Because even thirty-five people is too many to effectively have discussion, we broke into smaller Zoom rooms. I was in a working group with 5 others who were located in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland and . . . me in the Rocky Mountains of the United States. No matter where you were located, it was not a problem in terms of participating in an Australian event.
Amazingly, all the participants not only spoke English, they spoke it beautifully. Some of it was obviously ‘English as a second language’, but this only added to the charm. They clearly had the grasp of a large English vocabulary and they expressed deep and complex issues as they related to the condition of our planet and its inhabitants. I have the greatest respect and appreciation for bilingual people because I only speak English. English has become the language of unification. So something I’ve discovered these last few months is that language is rarely a barrier in communication because so many countries teach English even as early as in primary school.
Another group that I attend on the first weekend of the month is a Global 60’s Group. The only eligibility requirement for this group is that you are aged 60-something AND you are willing to live in such a way that you are breaking down long held beliefs of what being in the 60’s looks and feels like. Remember when you were a child? Someone in their 60’s was really, really old. Nowadays, the 60’s are the new 40’s (and 9pm is the new midnight, as the saying goes around on social media). We are not retiring, even if we have quit working in paid employment as much as we used to. We are not sitting around in rocking chairs. We are not getting set in our ways. We are leading and leading with vitality. We are living experiments in what it means to embrace the joy of ageing. What surprises me about this group is that we are united by the era that we were born in and the world we grew up in. What country that took place in is relatively insignificant when we talk about what we see as common held beliefs about being in our 60’s. This group has fascinating discussions that are perhaps a subject for a separate blog. The Global 60’s Group made me aware that country borders are irrelevant when discussing matters such as humanity, evolution, self-care, caring for the world we live in, ageing and taking responsibility up until our last breath.
Even though I have the technology to attend meetings anywhere, the ‘anytime’ wasn’t always working for me. This means that I sometimes have to attend via a recording of the actual meeting. I usually plan to attend recorded meetings as soon as I wake up so that I have all the meeting information before I start receiving emails regarding what was discussed at that meeting. These are audio and video recordings so I am still able to see and hear all the other participants. It feels so real and I feel so much a part of the discussion that I sometimes reach to un-mute my microphone and start talking before I remember I am attending via a recorded meeting!
What I’ve learned from international group work is that even technology and delayed participation is not a border that excludes. The group knows that I am an active member and not attending in real time due to the inconvenient time zone issue at the moment, but the group holds me as part of it and I can feel that when I’m listening to the recording. So even though I can’t contribute at the actual meeting, I still feel very much a part of that group. Virtual connection is only a slight difference to a face-to-face connection. No borders between face-to-face or virtual participation. No borders between real-time and delayed playback.
We are living in a new era. The old ways of living bound by imaginary borders and false categories of separation no longer apply. The world is becoming smaller every day. What happens in one country is not contained in that country, be it environmental or political. What happens on land is not contained there, the ocean is full of man-made plastic and space is full of man-made junk. There are no borders. We are All One in the Here and Now.
Gayle Cue loves writing about life, reflecting on every day miracles and pondering on the big picture.
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