“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
In the course of a hurried life, amid unfortunate ignorance and preconceived notions, airports provide a unique vantage point from which to view diversity. Looking around you, knowing that in that moment you’re surrounded by thousands of people with millions of different thoughts, ideas, beliefs, religions and ways of life, you gain a perspective that is unparalleled.
As I sat in the Istanbul airport on Jan 18, 2013 waiting for my connecting flight to Washington DC, my mind was filled with thoughts. I was excited about embarking on a new journey, happy about returning to Turkey after two years (if only for three hours) and drinking my favorite Turkish çay, but most of all, I felt an odd mixture of calm and unease that can only be attributed to a bustling international airport.
A Muslim family of six sat across from me. The mother and daughter wore a hijab. One son cried while another looked bored and another took photos. The daughter, not more than twelve years old, attempted to calm the wailing infant. The father flipped through a magazine, unperturbed. On the next table, an African woman appeared to have given up on her four year old son who was convinced that running at full speed and, as a result, blocking people’s way was in fact the best airport activity.
Aside from our glaring differences, what struck me most as I watched the two families was the choice I had in interpreting these differences. I could compartmentalize them as right or wrong based on my own biased judgement, or I could marvel at the fact that for each thing that set us apart, there was something that we all had in common. We were all going about our lives the way we knew how, and our appearances and beliefs were inconsequential in this regard. It got me thinking about all the people in this world who shun the unfamiliar and propagate animosity; those who resort to violence to bring about uniformity in a world that is meant to be diverse. Those who condemn what they should celebrate.
Over the past month, meeting and learning from fellows from around the globe and serving at an organization* that promotes the indispensable value of citizen involvement in international relations has reaffirmed my belief in the importance of changing perspectives to change the world. And considering that this is the Atlas Corps motto, it appears I’m the right place!