Welcome back! After a month of praying, eating, relaxing, and recouping from the first month of school, it is time to hit the ground running in high gear (literally—the something weird is going on with the elevators in Sy Syms!). Midterms are coming up, not to mention great events and the presidential election.
To this I say whatever is mukhtab, destined to happen, will. I learned that from a Palestinian diplomat at the United Nations General Assembly on September 27th last month. Another student and I approached him to ask him for directions, not knowing that he was an honorable member of the Palestinian diplomatic delegation.
Listening is key. Every people has a narrative. Every narrative has validity. It is up to each and every person listen, and then to extract or derive their own opinion.
After thanking said Palestinian delegate (whose name is being withheld upon his request) for his universal work, the three of us then engaged in a stimulating discussion about Mahmoud Abbas’ speech. What was interesting was that the honorable delegate said he was there to listen to Prime Minister Netanyahu who he “respects greatly.”
A similar shift in perception happened later that day in the media tent. I befriended Iranian journalist, Kaveh. We exchanged email addressed and only then did he explain to me that Kaveh is “Kevin” in Farsi. “I guess we are not so different as you thought,” he said in an email dated September 28th. The fact that he said that to me significantly took me aback. We were obviously both thinking it, but the fact that he verbalized it reinforced what I had learned a day earlier—respectfully listening to other can be life-changing and open a whole new world of dialogue.
What became infinitely clearer to me throughout my experience at the UNGA is, again, that everyone has their own narrative , but also that every narrative is valid and has something from which to learn. For instance, speaking to a Lebanese journalist in the hour leading up to Abbas’ second bid for Palestinian statehood, I realized how difficult life really is for the Lebanese people and the Palestinian refugees in their midst.It gave me a new perspective on a field that I’ve been studying all throughout university.
I’m not saying listening to other narratives change my opinion—but they might, and the definitely do affect how I think. That’s not a bad thing. Listening to these narratives is crucial. Without it, we remain guided by prejudice and blinded by misinformation, and moreover, our minds remain unchallenged and effectively un-enriched. Who would want that?
While you’re studying for midterms, the MCATs, and all sorts of tests, remember Mr. “Mukhtab” and Kaveh. Remember that striking up a conversation with literally anyone with a slightly different weltenshauung than yourself will actually expand your horizons and help your mind.
Welcome back and good luck.