(Originally Written 3/1/2013)
Last winter break, I had dinner with my grandmother. She looked exuberant at the prospect of me attending college overseas. She leaned forward with a great smile stretched across her face.
“So what are you good at?”
What we do matters. It matters, because society is full of people that need things, like a new car, or houses fixed or a relationship. People create society, so we built it to serve our needs. Then the society labels us with what we do: computer programmer, translator, secretary, or a student. This label puts a monetary value on ourselves, and ultimately defines who we are.
But there is more to us than what we do. What about how we feel or think? Depending on our skill, we express ourselves through different media of music, photographs, films, and books. They are all manifestations of our expressions, and therefore forms of communication.
The ways in which we express ourselves can be powerful. These forms of media engage us and connect us. When I watch someone performing a cardiac surgery, I close my eyes and sing my favorite tunes. I can somehow feel the pain when I watch it. Humanitarian organizations often use images of hopelessness and misery to evoke emotions for us to donate. But did you know that poor people donate to the charity the most? Perhaps there is a relativity issue here.
Since our society demands us to be useful, we define ourselves through concrete labels. These labels conjure up certain images of people in our minds instead of the entirety of the human spirit. The level that we relate to each other is limited, as our professions define our status and social expectations. Even though we are biologically programmed to empathize with each other, we are not faithful to our innate human need to connect with others.
We can overcome the barrier of impersonal communication by opening up to the forms of media around us. When you take your life a little bit slower to notice the painting on the wall, or to listen to different kinds of music, you are communicating to the different sector of professions. It allows us to see others by not what they do but who they are. Through medium of cultural exchange, we can see the human spirit behind the labels.
When we participate in other cultures, we can feel how they feel and understand where they are coming from. The diversity of cultures can affect and shape our behaviors and thoughts in infinite ways.