Friday, March 27, 2009

The wisdom of coffee...

I’m drinking a cappuccino from Starbucks, and once again my coffee cup is trying to teach me a life lesson. Today it says, “people need to see that, far from being an obstacle, the world’s diversity of languages, religions and traditions is a great treasure, affording us precious opportunities to recognize ourselves in others.” That’s a quote from someone named Youssou N’Dour (someone I’ve never heard of – but a quick Google search reveals that he is, according to some, “the most famous African musician in the world.” Apparently I don’t know much about African musicians… :)).

It’s funny when your Starbucks cup makes you think – usually it’s nothing more than a cardboard receptacle to hold the necessity of daily coffee. But today I’ve been thinking about the quote my cup relayed to me, and I have to say I quite definitely agree with it. Sometimes I DISagree with my Starbucks cup (which, to be honest, is a rather strange reaction to have to a cup) – although so far, not so vehemently that I am forced to fling my offensive cup across the room and waste the delicious caffeine-laden nectar within. I should hope that my cup never becomes so controversial…

But like I said, I agree with today’s quote (lucky for my cup…). I DO believe the differences in the world are a “great treasure” to its inhabitants, but too often seen as reason for ridicule or misunderstanding or hatred. Traveling has been such a source of happiness in my life – and even more than that, it’s been an education. I thrive off the differences in the many corners of the world – the myriad languages, the colorful foods, the revered traditions, the unusual architecture, the natural and man-made wonders – it’s all part of a giant, intricate tapestry. You know those big pictures that are actually made up of scores of smaller pictures? That’s what the world is like – it’s just one planet from afar, but when you get closer to it and start to explore, you discover all the little parts that make up the whole. And if you lose one of those little pictures, or change it in some way, then the BIG picture no longer makes as much sense…

But the second part of the quote is what was really making me think today – if there are so many differences in the world, how do they “afford us precious opportunities to recognize ourselves in others”? It made me think of one of the cruises we went on in the Baltic Sea, when we stopped in Gdansk, Poland. I’m sure I’ve told this story before, but just in case someone hasn’t heard it yet, I’ll tell it again. :) We decided to grab a taxi out on the dock to take us into town so we could explore a little bit. But once we were in the taxi, we realized our driver spoke no English. And none of us spoke any Polish. The driver did, however, speak German, which happened to be my best subject in high school. (Of course, high school German and “real world” German are two different things…) So between me and my dad (who knows a bit of German because my grandmother used to speak it), we were not only able to get a ride into town, but we were also able to have entire (albeit stilted) conversations with our driver.

And the thing that really struck me after we returned to our cruise ship later that day was just HOW MUCH we were able to understand each other. Even when neither my dad nor I could figure out the German words for a certain question, or when the driver had no English words for an answer – we somehow managed to UNDERSTAND each other. And even when we got stuck with our communication, we were all able to laugh about it. So really, even though we were from totally different parts of the world, weren’t we all pretty much the same?

Of course, I find it a little funny that this quote was on a Starbucks cup – Starbucks, a bastion of consistency and sameness and mass production, using a quote about diversity and differences. One quick perusal of the Starbucks website and you can find dozens of stores in Paris – the French Paris, not Paris, Texas (which, interestingly, has ZERO Starbucks). Some of the best coffee I’ve ever had in my life was in Paris – local, Parisian-made coffee… and yet Starbucks has opened stores to serve “Starbucks” coffee, which is the same as all the other “Starbucks” coffee out there. What happened to diversity? If I’m ever in Paris again, you’d better believe I’ll be out looking for coffee – but at some random café somewhere… NOT Starbucks.

But Paris, Texas – now THEY could use a Starbucks…

Hey, I was trying to embrace the Dutch culture, okay?

3 comments:

G said...

Profound.

I find it amazing that we can come up with the most lucid and downright erudite thoughts under the most mundane circumstances.

Lisa said...

Yes, it's funny how a small, silly thing can be a catalyst for all kinds of thoughts, isn't it? In fact, sometimes when I feel like writing but don't know what to write about, I'll just choose a random object in my house and start writing about it -- more often than not, I'll be struck with some sort of idea that has nothing to do with the original object. I'll start out writing about a picture frame, and end up with a few paragraphs about something entirely different. The writing process can be so interesting at times... :)

Jannie Funster said...

Gives a whole new perspective on the "dutch cap," tee hee. :)

Yes, some of the greatest conversations I've ever had were with loving souls who spoke not a word of English, or ot the slightly limited French I know.

Coffee is almost as wise to me as my guitar, perhaps equally so. Both NEEDS in my life.