Thursday, October 23, 2014

Affirmation of Humanity

Three recent articles affirm that we live in one world.
  1. Irishman Benny Lewis, 29, has been on the road for 416 weeks, almost 3,000 days, travelling to dozens of countries with few possessions and fewer funds in his back pocket. He has written 29 Life Lessons I Learned While Traveling The World For Eight Years Straight. I connect with him on most though not all of them; his #1 point is a killer app: “Everyone everywhere basically wants the same thing.” Benny writes that “Vastly different as the world’s cultures are, if you speak to Italian millionaires, homeless Brazilians, Dutch fishermen and Filipino computer programmers, in their own languages, you start to see that we are all incredibly alike where it matters. Everyone just wants validation, love, security, enjoyment and hopes for a better future. The way they verbalise this and work towards it is where things branch off, but we all have the same basic desires. You can relate to everyone in the world if you look past the superficial things that separate you.
  2. Kitchen Confidential’s fourth season has started, and Anthony Bourdain gave a lengthy interview to the Wall St Journal, in which he notes: "I assumed humans were basically bad people and if you stumbled…you would be devoured. I don't believe that anymore." Instead, reports WSJ, he has been heartened by the hospitality that he's encountered while traveling around the world, even in places he thought would be hostile to Americans. "It made me hopeful and made me feel better about the human species," he says. "We like to be good, we aspire to do good things, and we're generally trudging through life trying to do the best we can." Next year, says WSJ, Bourdain plans to open a "world market" in New York. Modeled on a Singaporean hawker center, it will have stalls of food from different cultures and countries, such as a halal stand or a Malay section. It will include some of his favorite purveyors from his travels, with a particular focus on Asian cuisine, which he especially likes. For his last meal, he says, he'd go out for high-end sushi.
  3. Is there a universal word, a rare linguistic token that is found across all languages? A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics reckons so. "We sampled 31 languages from diverse language families around the world in this study, and we found that all of them have a word with a near-identical sound and function as English “Huh?” The grunt-like "huh?" — when one is too confused for words and too caught off guard for "pardon?" — may seem to be a special form of rudeness reserved for English, but has found it is anything but.

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