When someone tells you they lived someplace where you also have been, it’s hard to resist that dumbass question; “Hey do you know so and so” It usually goes like this.
“Hey, I’m from Germany.”
“Oh, Nice! I love Germany. Do you know a guy named David?”
“Um… Your specific David? Yeah probably not”
However, ask a Georgian this and you will probably get,
“Oh yeah, David’s my cousin!”
I’m sure it’s largely due to the small population, but the Georgian network never ceases to amaze me.
Recently I took a trip to Bali Indonesia. A Georgian friend of mine had essentially moved there and I and an eclectic group of friends had all flown out to visit. One member of the group was from Georgia originally but had been living in China. He knew someone else who had moved to Bali a few years back. Before the first day after arriving was over, we had 3 Georgians gathered around the swimming pool, none of whom still resided there.
A lot has happened over the last couple of years in Georgia so there were a lot of questions about the current state of the country. When I started talking about the protests that happened last year, I described one individual I had gone to the protests with. Based on the description alone, all three Georgians perked up and knew both the dude's first and last names.
“Oh yeah Georgie, Loves Oasis and good guitar player. Yeah, he’s a fun dude.”
I think to me, there is something more than just a small population holding these people together. If I had to wager a guess, it probably has a lot more to do with the relentless struggles and power conflicts in the region. You have to be a really strong group to survive your country being overtaken by three different empires and still have your own alphabet, language and sense of identity. Keeping your friends close and knowing your enemy has always been paramount for the survival of this community. There is a saying in Georgia that translates to “No one knows friendship like the Georgians know friendship.” It sounds like a good postcard line, scrolled across a picturesque image of beautiful mountains in a romantic font, but it's more than that. This term, also like true Georgian friendship, isn’t thrown around lightly. You are in or you are out and while hospitality and pleasantries are shared among all, there is a hard and distinct line. Once inside that circle, there is a bond that cannot be broken. A deeper understanding of the meaning of love is there. This is something that being so very close to my friends here has taught me. I would never have believed the feeling had it been explained to me. Best explained would be that this type of love could even bridge the gap between the separated groups in my home of America; a love that dismisses politics and differences of opinions. It's about something and someone to love to a higher cause, something beyond the artificial problems tearing us apart. It is a belief that I should love my neighbor and inhabitants of my country more than any government, party or passing ideology. All we have is each other. The people who live next door to you, those are your allies. Your family and dearest of friends are your life. And if you have to fight, it is for them that you bleed. This concept is what has (probably by design) been removed from Americans. The Georgians are still Georgians because they are their homeland. They are a nation where ever they walk in the world. You see it when you’re in the middle of Bali, Indonesia and there is a celebration when they see each other; smiling and embracing with an inner knowing of what really matters. It doesn’t matter that the USSR conquered their country. They were still Georgia. It didn’t matter that the Ottomans or the Czars conquered them either. What mattered was friendship, true pure uncontested love for your brothers and sisters.
Though even in this community, we are starting to see the signs that the modern age has begun to separate the people ideologically. Ask any old Georgian. They will be very eager to tell you how cold the people have become and how obsessed they are with this dirty money and dirty politics. However, while sitting in this paradise, this didn’t seem like any concern to us at all, as we cordially agreed and disagreed on politics while lying in the sun; minds calm and peaceful. We had been discussing the beauty of the world and people. My friend turned to me and said.
“God can only see himself through our eyes.”
“Damn, that’s a good quote. Who said that?” I asked
“Spinoza… I think.”
“Where was he from?”
“Spain.” The was a moments pause. “Oh no. I think he was Dutch.”
I look at my phone lying on the table and think about googling it. And then realize it doesn’t matter at all.
“Man, that’s a beautiful way to look at things.”
“I think so.” He said.