In the course of my life, I have come to suspect that the place where one lives contributes a great deal to shaping the individual. I think it is plausible to think that the smaller and more isolated a place is, the more closed and limited the thinking of its inhabitants will be from a social point of view.
I think it might be reasonable to consider the hypothesis that someone might be led to think that the world begins and ends with their own experiences. I was taught that this way of being makes a human a petty, shallow, and obtuse entity. The narrower and more limited the mentality of the interlocutor, the more difficult it will be to convince him of things that seem unlikely because he knows nothing about life and the world. Contrary to what you might think, a person who is capable, prepared and successful, has less difficulty in considering reliable the notions of his interlocutor because for him, excelling in something is completely normal.
It is well known that those who often lie, tend to reflect on the interlocutor their own way of being assuming that he is lying. Similarly, the closed person also tends to believe that others are as limited as him. Exploring everything around us has always been the basis of progress in every field. Curiosity, the desire to compare and learn have always been the lifeblood of humanity.
Although my status as a human being (actually not even that intelligent), leads me to have big limitations, I have always wanted to pursue knowledge. I couldn’t believe that the world was limited to the things I was familiar with, and I never wanted to accept that knowledge was the child of my own ignorant assumptions.
I guess that’s why I decided to start an email correspondence with distant people in a language other than my own. At times I had some disappointments but it was abundantly repaid by the charm of the stories and the different perspectives on life that I was offered. Just to give an example, today I received an email from one of these people who asked me an unusual question for me.
In spite of the pandemic, like every December 31, my pen pals and I (even those who greet the new year on different days) exchange New Year’s greetings. In many countries including my own, there is a tradition of having a good resolution or goal to achieve for the coming year. For that reason, I usually receive along with the wishes questions such as:
What do you wish for the coming year?
What do you propose to do for the coming year?
What would you like to accomplish in the coming year?
What are your plans for next year?
Punctually I answer that I hope to have enough perseverance and moral strength to lose weight and as is to be expected, every year I betray this intention. Among other things, this time I also have the excuse that for many days we have been forced to stay home for the lockdown and therefore we have eaten in an unhealthy way leading a sedentary life incompatible with a good physical shape and a healthy active lifestyle. At this point, some of you may be led to think that the question at the origin of this article was about the pandemic or a hope for the future since all peoples are suffering in some way in this period. But no! The question this Indonesian person asked me is the following:
What are you most grateful for this year?
Yes, even I changed my expression in my face when I read this question. This person who doesn’t know me, who doesn’t know what I look like, who knows very little about my private life (because I’m a closed and reserved person), with one simple sentence reminded me that life, regardless of whether it is accompanied by small or big problems, is always a gift for which we should be grateful.
A stranger, a little more than half my age, on the other side of the world brought me to see things in perspective. She made me realize that I was so caught up in my life, my dreams, my woes and mishaps that I lost sight of the greatest gift.
We are still here! We have the opportunity to live, smile, learn, teach and lavishly do what we can for ourselves and others. For this I am grateful.
My friends, it is certainly not wealth or success that determines who we are or what we are worth. Most of the time, to understand the meaning of life (or part of it) we should go beyond the square in front of our house because we can learn from everyone, especially from people who live a different reality from ours.
Happy New Year.