I asked twenty four of my friends of different seventeen countries to answer a list of questions about different aspects of life, death, maturity, trust, different cultures, fairness, philosophy of life, happiness ….etc. My participant friends come from Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, Nigeria, Japan, China, South Korea, USA, Turkey, Albania, Argentina, Lithuania, Italy, France, Portugal, Belgium and Germany. The variety and the efficiency of the answers are so much colorful, so alive and informative; not only because of the amount of information we get from the answers but also the knowledge we excerpt out of different backgrounds and different youthful life experiences. My goal was not really about the questions’ answers though, but to see if there is that gap between our minds/feelings that virtual borders between our countries have tried to convince us they exist. I tried to get different backgrounds and nationalities of about the same average age to know if there is anything that affects our lives and the way we grew up with different believes and experiences that will make us really different human beings. I believe that what make us unique are our differences; the curious thing about us -individuals- is our singularity that always goes beyond any category or generalization. However, we are still the same human beings who live under the same sky and breathe the same air. So, are we -citizens of earth- really different when it comes to searching for the meaning of life?
I found the answer! we are puzzle cuts! As our reader will notice from this series of answers, we –human beings- actually complete each other in one big puzzle. Maybe our answers would look different but if we give them a second thought, we will notice that answers are parts that just come together in one piece to put the final touch of a complete piece of work called life.
When asking them “what do you love about life?” The answers were outstandingly special; like a beautiful breeze on my heart. Actually, I deliberately didn’t ask them what they don’t love about life because I’ve learnt that it is beautiful to give people the chance from time to time to concentrate only on things that make them feel positive about being alive and breathing. Amazingly, some of the answers included things that may seem to some as negative but my friends here considered them positive and this is what life is. Elan (U.S) says it here “What is there not to love about life? I can list all the things I cherish in my life, but what truly matters is that I’m here to live it! I’m still fortunate enough to be alive”. Natalie (South Africa) confirms what Elan said, saying “I’m able to live is enough”. Samuel (Belgium) just doesn’t focus on negative things as he says “I love everything about life; life is such a wonderful present. We should probably learn how to see the best in it instead of focus on the bad aspects” Audrius (Lithuania) describes this beautifully saying “I love its colorfulness, its dynamic, paradox and its general unpredictability”. Lea (Germany), Alvaro (Argentina) and Ziqi (China) add their voices to Audrius saying “I love life diversity and challenges it offers everyday; everyday you have to learn new things and meet new people” “Life is like a roller coaster when you can only be certain of what’s going on right now but you can’t predict what happens in the future, you just got to enjoy the ride”. Elena (Italy) says “she is just grateful that she has people
to share life with”. Natsumi (Japan) agrees with Elena adding the flavor of nature to her answer “I love having my family, living on the mountains; I love my boyfriend and friends who lifts me up when I face difficulty”. Anas (Nigeria) and Kaitlin (U.S) stress on the idea of nature beauty in life saying “I love all about life but nature is its best quality; terrifying yet so beautiful”. Rio (Japan) and Yousra (Morocco/France) adds two new qualities to life also. Rio thinks “it is the right to think freely. If someone or something deprives me of this invaluable right, there will be no meaning to life”. But can we really think completely freely without any kind of outside influences? Yousra thinks that “being proud of what we become and overcome, help others and see their special smiles on their faces and a lot of other things are beautiful about life”. John (Egypt) adds something special here “Chances and miracles are what I love about life”. Pauline (France) explains more unexpected events in life “Life is beautiful because nothing is given, nothing is guaranteed, it is this difficulty and the fact that destiny is not written, which makes life more beautiful and makes you want to hang more to it”. Seline (Germany) and N. (Japan) think that it is about “experiencing new things and
confronting difficult situations; this is exciting”. Luis (Portugal) offers a song in his answer for Frank Sinatra saying “life beauty lies in the fact that it’s me who shall decide how I live and what I hall do with it. As Frank Sinatra said *I did it my way*”. Abdelmoula (Morocco) just being certain about his answer said “It’s God who I love about life”. Ahmed (Egypt) confirms with Abdelmoula saying “I love how Allah (God) created us to wander around and worship HIS beauty reflection on everything creating life. I love LOVE, I love that we can love people around unconditionally, I love seeing kids that are so ambitious, the continuous learning of things around us, every single situation we experience; success; failure and you being able to accept stuff and seeking solutions for them”.
After a portion of positive energy, asking a contradicting question would make a balance. “Do you think life is unfair? Why?” that what I asked. Twelve people voted “life is absolutely fair”. Eight voted “Yes, life is absolutely unfair”, and three voted “Life is a little bit unfair”. Starting with people who said it is a little bit unfair, Luis (Portugal) and Pauline (France) say “the fact that the birthplace or the country you were born remains an important factor to provide a good childhood to children and people across the world. The fact that some people live their life comfortably and others who struggle to earn their living is unfair in itself”. Natalie (South Africa) confirms the point saying “Unfair to some extent, not everyone has the same opportunities in life”. Samuel (Belgium) thinks it’s absolutely unfair giving the same reasons as Luis, Pauline and Natalie with more explanation; “We aren’t born equal, we don’t have the same chances of success, we don’t get old the same way, we don’t die in the same conditions. Unfortunately I don’t believe in karma. Life isn’t fair and everyone has to cope with it as good as he can. However, this doesn’t mean that each injustice has to be accepted as part of life. How many injustice events were solved by human willingness?” Natsumi (Japan) and Elena (Italy) pointed out
the inability of people to change their own destiny. They said “Life doesn’t provide us means to change our destiny, sometimes you’re born in the wrong place and the wrong moment” “Even before we are, the path of life is approximately fixed and we can’t change it easily”, but they both mentioned that “how to make our life better is up to us, a common effort would compensate what life gives or takes”. This reminded me of the movie *The Last Samurai* when the Samurai warlord (Ken Watanabi) asked Captain Algren (Tom Cruise) if he believes a man can change his own destiny and Captain Algren said “I believe a man does what he can until his destiny is revealed”. Whether or not things are prearranged by a higher power, if we press on and refuse to stay down, eventually our own destiny will be revealed to us. Kaitlin (U.S) and N. (Japan) say “life is unfair but that is what it is supposed to be” “it is not a bad thing because people work hard to get good results”. Audrius excessively adds “We can hide from its unfairness by having transcendental expectations, but even the most complex religious-philosophical explanations cannot find proper justifications for the unfairness. Why some people are born gifted, are lucky and lead a happy life, but others have no luck and are
underprivileged by their capabilities? Why the evil exists if there is a loving Creator. But I think asking questions like that in one manner or another makes us more human”.
On the other hand, Sarah (Egypt) says “I don’t think life is unfair. I think people make it unfair. Diseases, natural disasters, crimes, corruption, back stabbing, and anything horrible that comes to mind was caused because of humans actions. Indeed, there are innocent people that are affected by these tragedies and don’t deserve any harm towards them but think about whom should you really blame; life or the people?” Lea (Germany) says “life is what you make out of it; it gives many different choices and options and it’s up to you to choose”. Dayae (South Korea) thinks “It only depends on how you see things, life is fair”. Rio adds an important point here “Life is fair, I believe it depends on how you give your life a meaning. If you think your life is better or worse than others, which means you think life is a competition. I think of people as my fellows”. Following the idea of life meaning that
Rio offered, Anas (Nigeria) gives us an example of a person who lives like this, Anas says “Life is very fair, I’m a person that accepts whatever befalls me good or bad, I have no reason to say life is unfair”. Ahmed (Egypt) gives a more detailed explanation of that logic saying “everything in life is balanced. We –humans- want everything in our own ( WANTS ) that we seek, we want our loved ones to live forever, we want to have much money, we want to travel, we want to.. we want to ….. lots of things but let’s talk about things that are taken away from us, when life takes away something from you it gives you other thing in return ( even if it’s small something in our point of view ) then it’s up to you to think of the value of this thing, have you learned that it’s not about money? Did you think you can live forever? Do you still think that younger people can’t know better than you? , lots of things people don’t pay attention to because of their EGO. Abdelmoula (Morocco) adds that “life is fair but people make it unfair, by people I mean those who are in
charge and those who work in the governments”. Elan(U.S) adds “Everyone experiences ups and downs in life. While people may see this unfair to them, it’s that way for all of us, it’s fair to me”. Ziqi (China) explains more Elan’s point saying “at the end, all efforts are paid off in some way or another, if someone thinks life is unfair, maybe because the right time hasn’t come yet”. Finally, Alvaro (Argentina) says “Life is not fair or unfair, because only people and their actions can be just or unjust”.
When people sometimes tend to answer questions according to their own experiences in life, asking them “What makes you feel a normal person?” may make them take more time to think about it and compare themselves to others. However, Rio (Japan) disagrees with my thoughts saying “If I’m normal, not only I don’t have to compare myself to others, but I will start thinking people as my fellows and try to contribute to them”. Yousra (Morocco/France) surprised me
saying “I believe normality exists only in mathematics”. Samuel (Belgium) exactly agrees with Yousra by explaining it beautifully; he says “I have always rejected the concept of normality when it comes about people. Why? Because it implies that there are rules defining it and infringing these rules makes you abnormal. But I don’t see any authority able to impose such rules which don’t come from the nature. Through a quick look at the past you can easily see where the idea of norm leaded to. The only actual rule is « abnormality ». But Ziqi (China) sees it as more of being interactive with others saying “I share similar state of mind and interests with people around me. I do have interests that make me feel abnormal sometimes but mostly when I can fit with others”. Dayae (South Korea) agrees to the idea of comparison but she adds a lovely flavor to the idea saying “It is when I’m listening to a song and I can totally understand and sympathize with the lyrics. The fact that the lyrics were written by a total stranger but I can fully agree and understand what the lyrics are saying makes me feel like I am no different than others”. I agree! Normality is such a hard word to understand because it differs in meaning and understanding from a region to another and from an age to other. Elena (Italy)
pointed out this saying “I always ask myself what normal truly means. But when I experience an excess of pessimism I tend to ask what normal people always do passing through such situations or even bigger problems? Why should I not be able to do the same?”. That’s why Alvaro (Argentina) just hit it to the point saying “During my 22 years I’ve met a lot of interesting people and I wouldn’t dare to say that they’re normal, they are too good for that”. Cihad (Turkey/Albania) looks at the meaning of the word differently though. He thinks normality exists between people when “I’m respected, loved from people no matter what kind of culture, religion or race I belong to”; a kind of peaceful tolerant interaction what he is looking for. Elan (U.S) agrees with Cihad saying “It’s when I’m comfortable with my identity, knowing who I am and accepting that. This allows me to feel comfortable in interacting with others”. On the other hand, Audrius (Lithuania) looks at the other face of the coin saying “I don’t know if I am a normal person. I’m only normal in my own world, but maybe it is because I tried to judge myself from the viewpoint of others. Even if I’m normal, I’m not the common one”. I think Audrius tries to say what Sarah (Egypt) said here “feeling normal for me means to feel alive myself; laughing, giggling and
surrounded by the loved ones”. Actually, a lot of friends hit the point of being surrounded by the loved ones as being normal. Lea (Germany), Luis (Portugal) and Natalie (South Africa) says “Being able to do routine things and being surrounded by my family and friends, THEN I’m who I am”. However, Ahmed (Egypt) tells me he rejects normality from the first place. He says “I never wanted to be a normal person; I always seek to be unique. I don’t always do what people do in their daily routine. I have my own self and mind, deciding what I wear and I don’t care what other people think”. N. (Japan) doesn’t agree with Ahmed though. N. says “I feel normal among my people when I behave in a way that is acceptable in my society”. This is not new news from a Japanese guy. Actually, a lot of people admire the Japanese society for its sense of unity and respect towards each other. Pauline (France) agrees with Naka but she adds an important clause; she says “Actually for me to be normal is being accepted by the society, with differences.
And the differences are significant, there are no standards to normality, but differences that allow us to construct several normalities; to build a society”. Natsumi (Japan) shares with us here her unique story about being normal. She says “When I was in junior high, I used to dream of being normal. My height is shorter than any other girls in my school, and I really care about it. It’s like a complex. In that period, I sometimes stand on tiptoe and try to be looked like normal height. But now, I no longer care about my short height. I feel like being ‘unique’ is much fun and attractive. I don’t know what makes me feel a normal person, cuz I no longer try how to be normal”.
Being normal in our own ways and different from our ancestors has
been the words we hear recently on social media between youth. So, I asked my friends whether they believe in this quote by Haruki Murakami or not “Young people these days don’t trust anything at all. They want to be free”, the variety of answers included three main words in the equation: “Freedom”, “trust”, “believe” and “elders”. Rio (Japan) says “It depends on the meaning of “free” the writer refers to. If he means it as the way that young people don’t have to care about anything surrounding them and just spend their times as fun as possible, it’s wrong. If he meant free as younger generation has to take much time to make their own time, I think he is correct as they will find new things and ideas that are worth of believing”. Kaitlin (U.S) approves the quote saying “People my age nowadays are always searching for the truth”. But she adds “I feel like growing up I was always fed lies by my parents, pastor, teachers and government”. Anas (Nigeria) agrees saying “freedom basically is a struggle for young people to be able to decide on what’s good for their life without their parents’ interference”. Audrius (Lithuania) confirms the concept “adults have some moral or motivational authorities that they could follow blindly. Critical thinking is the sign of maturity. I
think it is the most appropriate for everyone to find his/her own way in a balanced manner”. Elan (U.S) and John (Egypt) approve the quote saying “This resembles the reality of our generation; younger people tend to form their own opinion. Not necessarily meaning they make an informed one that is worthy of following but at least there is a tendency to follow one’s voice as a kind of freedom not following footsteps of others”. Ziqi (China) found a reason for this, she says “one of the reasons young people nowadays have become more and more suspicions is the information era that has brought great complications to the world that some young people might just be lazy; they simply don’t want to choose which and what to believe in”.
However, Alvaro (Argentina) disagrees with the statement saying “I don’t think it is true that we don’t trust anything at all. For me, even to be free you have to trust that such a thing as freedom exists”. Cihad (Turkey/Albenian) agrees to some extent with Alvaro as he thinks that “if you don’t trust anything, you’re the one that shouldn’t be trusted”. Or on the contrary, as Samuel (Belgium) says “being free is
not a matter of trust or not”. Yousra (Morroco/France) confirms saying “young people want to be free, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t trust anything”. Dayae (South Korea), Abdelmoula (Morocco) and Selina (Germany) assure the idea of trust saying “I believe having no trust on each other makes the society unstable and collapse, you can’t make anything happen if there is no trust, otherwise life would be nearly impossible”. Sarah (Egypt) directs the same point about the society saying “enjoying freedom to its extreme has created distances and problems between families, friends and even among countries. I’m not saying people shouldn’t enjoy their freedom but for me everything in life has its own limits”. Luis (Portugal) tends to believe more in the “elders” than the young people saying “freedom young people seek is something we could call the liberty to do whatever I want, which means having no limits and not trusting in the ones we should, like the elders for example a fountain of knowledge and experience”. Samuel (Belgium) disagrees with Luis;
he says “I’m still kind of a big child. But I would describe childhood as the time you believe what you’re told to believe. You put all your faith in adults you respect, parents, teachers, people on Tv, whoever looks like having legitimacy because of his function and age. And then you realize they can be wrong, that age isn’t a condition of intelligence or wisdom”. Elena (Italy) sums the whole thing up saying “I always doubt these kinds of statements that try to insert whatever category (young, old, women, men..) in one basket. But one thing is sure: trusting and freedom implies some boundaries and restrictions. Pauline (France); however, puts the final touch of the argument as she says ” There is no need to argue we are free or not; one is free from the moment he/she wants to be or believes s/he is. Young people are desperate of politics, particularly in France; yet they are still eager to know everything and they still have a say in their society. This is the source of their commitment in their society voluntarily, a commitment that continues to grow”
Sometimes we confront that dilemma of feeling something but we don’t find or know the exact words to describe it. It’s just so mesmerizing to find someone else who shares your same feelings; you both don’t know how to phrase it but you both
know how it feels like. I tried to find that kind of connection between people who have never met and from different countries but still share some common indescribable feelings. Asking my friends “What is the thing you wanna describe but you can’t find words?”, four of them gave one answer: true, eternal and unconditional love; Cihad (Turkey/Albania), Dayae (South Korea), Abdelmoula (Morocco) and Ahmed (Egypt). True love is really hard to describe but it’s sometimes just enough to experience it. Ziqi (China) gave a warm answer saying “the comfortable smell of my mom”. Yousra (Morocco/France) said “it’s the existence of God” as some believers like myself feels the sense of God is beyond any description or definition. Anas (Nigeria) is one of those guys who is really concerned about the future of his country answered the thing that always hits his mind “a thing that I wanna describe but I can’t find words because of the degree it has reached: Corruption in Nigeria“. Luis (Portugal) a guy who glorifies the epic efforts of his nation answered “Courge”. Absolutely
yes but the glory of witnessing courage is still amazing and beyond any description. Rio (Japan) who always thinks about life, people, justice and peace said “Death!”, not the negative connotation of the word but “Nowadays, I’m thinking this world is heaven and hell together”.
John (Egypt) that always smiling and “fresh” guy finds it difficult to describe in words “the feeling of having your wish comes perfectly true”. I think it’s the moment when only tears create the answer. What else John? He answered “Not having that someone who can relate to the best of your memories”. It’s painful sometimes that’s why its hard to describe I think. N. (Japan) finds peace and flow of thoughts when he contemplates the sunset, “feelings when you see beautiful scenes like the sunset” are hard to describe. Elena (Italy) and Natsumi (Japan) find it hard to describe out loud their hearts when they are in pain and feeling depressed towards unpleasant things. Actually, It’s really a fortune when you find
that someone who would feel your heart without
you saying a word. Sarah (Egypt) finds it hard “to describe her feelings in either in a good or a bad way”, but it’s mostly the case with people who feel it so deep inside and they just can’t find actual existing phrases to describe those rotting deep feelings. It’s that meaning that beyond saying “I love you” because it is more than love. An unconditional love maybe! Alvaro deviates with his answer philosophically saying “I think I’ll have to follow Wittgenstein on this one, if it can’t be put into words, then it doesn’t exist at all”. Do you agree with Alvaro?
Lea (Germany), Seline (Germany) and Elan (U.S) find it difficult to describe life in more details. Seline says it’s really difficult to describe it in my own eyes. Elan finds it hard because “the fact that there are so many aspects to life makes it impossible for him to escribe”. Lea offered that unanswered question that nobody on Earth –I suppose- hasn’t asked himself/herself “What is life? Why are we here?”. And since we –human beings- are one aspect of life, sometimes we don’t even understand ourselves. Samuel (Belgium) says “Actually I find it hard to describe myself ahahaha. I leave this task to the others. It’s always tough to put words about your own personality. For the rest of things it’s not easy as well but
we can always express what we want with our words in a way or another.
Then, what is a message you wanna share with a large group of people? (You can click on the name of each person to know his/her profile)
Alvaro Benavides (Argentina): I’d love to encourage people to get involved in issues that affect them and their relatives, to encourage them to keep searching and working towards a solution for their problems, since that is the only way to really change anything.
John Yousri Hendi (Egypt): Save up and travel with someone you love, or alone if you can handle it.
Samuel Moiny (Belgium): Make peace not war, I’m not a hippie but honestly what’s the point of all these violence? Peace is a question of willingness… nobody’s forced by nature to kill and destroy.
Dayae Yang (South Korea): Love others with all your heart, and it will make our lives more beautiful.
Elan Maduro (USA): Always be open to trying new things. From meeting people from around the globe, to even expanding my professional career, none of that would have been possible had I not opened my mind to trying new things.
Abdelmoula Mdiouani (Morocco): Be yourself and appreciate each day God gives you.
N. (Japan): You should not judge only by appearance. What you see in the world makes you misunderstand. However, the truth is inside things. It is important to continue trying to understand things. It keeps you from using stereotypes.
Ahmed Barakat (Egypt): Wake up and SMILE, there’s nothing worth being sad or unhappy. Don’t be greedy, be ambitious and live the moment.
Natalie Noels (South Africa): Live your life for you. Give it your all and do not have any regrets.
Ziqi Wang (China): We should embrace LGBT community and stop discrimination. They are just different, not abnormal.
Audrius Sabunas (Lithuania): A peace message, or an ecological (“green”) message, or both.
Natsumi Kitamura (Japan): I would say ‘I LOVE YOU ALL!!’ (It might be a little bit
embarrassing to say this, though)
Elena Zurli (Italy): It would be that cultivating empathy is the biggest present that we can do to ourselves and to the entire world.
Anas Ibrahim (Nigeria): Life is too short to hate or criticize ones religion. ” lakum dee nukum walyadeen” Quraan (109:6)
Selina Fucker (Germany): “Be the change, you want to see in the world.” Gandhi
Yousra Sth (Morocco/France): Don’t stop believing
Kaitlin Danielle (USA): Love yourself, and love others. Be the person your
dog thinks you are.
Rio Kato (Japan): Please have much time to rethink everything you thought it right before. There are so many sparks.
Luis Carvahelo (Portugal): “Picture your Dream/Goal, now think about what you do on your daily base is that helping you to reach your Dream/Goal? No? Then change what you do and achieve your Dream/Goal, don’t let your life be wasted for other people’s Dream”.
Sarah Bahaa (Egypt): You live your life only once so always ask yourself this question when taking a decision “Is it really worth it?”
Cihad Aliu (Turkey/Albania): I can give many answers here but, one thing is annoying me. My name is Jihad, and I am not a terrorist. This should be very clear to people all over the world. The meaning of my name is PEACE, not literally but eternally.
Pauline Blanc (France): Facing History and while it sometimes seems to be perpetuated again, my message would be that account for errors of its past, the history of our civilization, not to commit past errors again.
Lea Steinert (Germany): There are no wrong choices! In the process of making a choice, either or both options are equal good. If in the future one will be proven to be the better one and you chose the other – whatever, you’ve learned how to act in the worse situation. So you made a good decision!
My friend Kohtaroh (Japan) once taught me that failures would always happen, but without difficulties we cannot havechance to grow up. To help others is important for us. The older we grow, the more I can get the other person’s point of view. Then I come to find happiness in doing something for others. When you think about a reason for improving yourself, you’ll eventually realize that anything that may seem you do it for yourself is also for others. If you can make a new development by your improved ability, it’ll benefit people and make them happy. Kohtaroh likes the wise saying which Brian Tracy left: “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, what’s in it for me?” Improving myself to help others is the key of my life.
The rest of the questions were:
- How is observing “things” different from judging “things”?
- If not now, then when?
- At what age did you become an adult?
- What movie, song, book..etc. would describe people, life, you?
- What do you like about your country, heritage, culture and u wanna share with people?
- If you could witness any event in the past, present, future, what would it be?
- “There are ways of dying that don’t end in funerals. Types of death you can’t smell” What do you think of this quote?
- What do you wanna change about your people?
- What foreign culture attracts your attention? Why?
- What question do you wanna be asked? Or expect(ed) to be asked?
You can click on the name of each person to know the rest of the answers.