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Hugo Wagner

Graduate Student - Mechanical Engineering,

TEDCRED 200+

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Is our destiny to be one world with one language?

Are we heading towards a world with one common language?
If you think so, do you believe that it will happen naturally (because globalization requires it) or because of one country's leading "soft power"?
Would it enhance international cooperation and promote better understanding between countries?

On the other hand, what would it mean for human cultures and civilizations?

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    Aug 3 2011: I don't believe that having one language will "cure" disunity amongst cultures/countries. We need to celebrate our differences, it is what makes us human...through respect and dialogue we can cultivate our compassion and understanding to create a peaceful harmony with one another.
    • Aug 5 2011: Why is it exactly that we should celebrate our differences? I've grown used to taking the phrase "X is what makes us human" as a sign of unfounded confidence in one's own opinion.

      Once you look at it rationally, I think it should be clear to most people that differences in culture and language will gradually diminish. That's not a bad thing. It's just darwinism catching hold on culture - outdated culture, outdated social constructs will get deconstructed when they're useless to the current generation. Trying to promote diversity of culture is a way of trying to stop progress and trying to hold on to the past.
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        Aug 5 2011: My mentor, Daisaku Ikeda, sums it up best: "People can only live fully by helping others to live. Cultures can only realize their further richness by honoring other traditions. And only by respecting natural life can humanity continue to exist. "

        How often do you feel that you aren't good enough? How many times have you felt that because of who you are, you won't be able to succeed or because of your background or lifestyle you won't be accepted? Most people feel this way at one time or another. When we are faced with an obstacle or challenge, our insecurities rise up within us. Some of this fear is of being different, but what is important is how we express our differences and how we accept others' differences.

        Diversity is one of the greatest gifts the world has to offer. What kind of world would this be if we were all the sameā€”if we all thought the same, dressed the same, acted the same? There would be little or no growth in society because no fresh ideas would be expressed. How would we learn and develop? SGI President Daisaku Ikeda says, "Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism deeply respects each person's individuality, situation and character and shows the way to display one's particular abilities to the fullest" (Selected Lectures on the Gosho, vol. 1, p. 154).

        Nichiren Daishonin expresses in his writings that "Cherry, plum, peach or apricot blossoms - all, just as they are, are entities possessing their own unique qualities". (Gosho Zenshu, p. 784.)

        Everyone has a specific role to play in society. Furthermore, each individual human life has a different set of experiences to bring to the table. My faith has taught me that all things have a unique beauty and mission. Every person has a singular mission, his or her individuality and way of life. That is the natural order of things. Our mission as humans is discovering what that role is and challenging ourselves to go beyond our limitations.
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        Aug 5 2011: Accordingly, you must bloom in the way that only you can. Without a doubt you possess your own jewel, your own innate talent inside of you. The question is: How can you discover that talent? The only way is to exert yourself to the very limits of your ability. Your true potential will emerge when you give everything you have to your studies or sports or whatever you are engaged in.

        President Ikeda explains further, "'To become inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim' is to realize that our existence flourished within, and even depends on, the beautiful tapestry of human relationships woven together with the people around us" (Selected Lectures on the Gosho, vol. 1, p. 155).
        • Aug 5 2011: I think we may have had a misunderstanding. When you said "we have to celebrate our differences", I thought you meant that we should hold on to the differences in our cultures (language, traditions), with the reasoning that only these differences truly define who we are. Though I myself don't have the kinds of insecurities you describe anymore (I consider myself to have grown past the opinion that I have to be the best at everything - it's enough if I do all I can possibly do and give my best to make my life a positive sum game and be a net gain for humanity).

          I can only agree with most of the things you said in response to my comment: diversity in character and personality must be allowed to flourish, and today's society has too many restrictions, too many social rules that trap people in roles that don't fit them.

          The point I was trying to make was that we should not hold on to old traditions and cultural legacy because it will only hinder cooperation and communication between humans in the future. Humanity has always been a species that has considered itself divided by some arbitrary quality (be that race, nationality, language or cultural heritage), and nowadays, with the dawn of a truly free and anonymous global communications system we can see the walls between different groups vanishing, crumbling away as we read the blogs and comments from people all over the world. We're finally starting to realize that geographic separation doesn't mean inherent incompatibility on a personal level.
        • Aug 5 2011: You could go out there right now and find as many people who agree or disagree with you on a certain issue in your neighborhood as you could find on any Persian or Chinese blog, and the internet and the English language are giving us the tools to finally realize that we're all interconnected. Having a universal language will inevitably lead to us having a universal tool of communication and a universal culture, which will be the true beginning of a global community of Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

          What I don't understand is why certain cultures desperately try to hold on to their current ideas of identity. To give an example: the Welsh language is desperately trying to keep itself alive. The older generation is trying to preserve the dying language by encouraging youths to use the language in everyday life. Tell me: what do you think would be the point of preserving a language, or a dance, or a traditional dress, or a social convention, when it is at the brink of natural extinction? Traditions are anachronisms, they get forgotten or replaced by practices that fit the times better. That's how it has always been. It's my humble opinion that holding on to and not questioning traditions is the best way of stopping progress - in fact, it's the only way of stopping progress that's ever been used and, on a global scale, has never been of any use.

          I'd also like to mention that I do not believe that any person has a destiny he or she is supposed to fulfill, or a mission. I believe that the only one there is to give life a meaning is the person itself. Everyone must define his or her own mission, forge his/her own destiny, and not accept that there is such a thing as fate. There is no one "out there" to guide us, and it's our own job to decide what we do with the precious short time we have in this universe.
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        Aug 5 2011: I think this conversation is a really great example of how two people who are speaking the same language are still having having a lack of understanding of what the other person means by what they say.

        I think the bigger issue for the time that we currently live in is how the internet/digitized communications has depersonalized human interaction and the effects that has on life and society.

        Some thoughts in response to your most recent post:

        Do you know for sure that we have a short time in this Universe? Yes, to live for 80-100 years in a given time on Earth seems short in the greater scheme of the "timeline" of the Universe, but do you have any solid proof that our "existence" stops when our Earthly bodies die?

        Furthermore, when someone declares a mission for their life, does that not supply a mission to be fulfilled?

        If someone attaches meaning of importance of a Welsh dance in their life, is that unacceptable? If a group of people who have a list of reasons for why they enjoy their Welsh dance, choose to continue practicing it, and share that happiness it brings them with their family and friends get together to promote it - who has the right to judge them for that?

        Just because you don't have the same fears and insecurities that you did in the past, you still at one time had them. And, there are probably millions of people in the world who have not evolved from the same fears and insecurities.

        Holding on to something that has a defined importance in one's life will only hinder growth if they allow it to.
        • Aug 5 2011: You think the internet and digital communities have dehumanized communication and interaction? Then why are you here? Do you not think that it's human to want to connect to as many people as possible? Do you not think it's human to try to exchange ideas and opinions? How exactly has the technology that has connected the whole globe, from where ever you are to where ever I am, allowing near-instantaneous interaction between anyone in the world, dehumanized us? If anything, it's told us that we're all of the same breed, that these things we like to point out as differences aren't actually important differences at all, and that no matter where we grow up, what religion, culture or language we get taught, we're all humans and are capable of caring for and loving each other.

          I beg of you - let's not turn this into a religious debate. They never end well with me. Usually it ends up with both conversation partners getting angry at each other and stomping off in opposing directions. This conversation was created with another topic in mind, and derailing the thread would be disrespectful to the original poster. Let me just state my opinion: I'm an extremely militant atheist. I don't believe in gods or any supernatural things, (or free will to be honest on an abstract level). In my opinion, the only thing that has ever guided the universe is the laws of physics (and maybe the identity of P and NP). I don't believe in afterlife, heaven or hell. I do however believe in the beauty of the cosmos and the grandness of the scheme that is humanity, and that humanity is capable of so much more than what's happening on the earth right now.
          If you want to talk about spirituality or religion, you're of course free to take it up with me and email me about the topic, as long as we agree to remain civil and rational.

          Yes, a self-defined mission is a mission just fine. I was merely trying to comment on the concept of predetermined roles that we either fulfill or rot in sadness.
        • Aug 5 2011: Finding happiness and joy in the simplest of things is a wonderful thing that one should cherish as much as possible. Everyone has these little things he enjoys to a disproportionate amount. I'm not bashing that. What I'm bashing however is when someone takes an opinion of his own and distills it into the mind of a child and tells this child that this opinion should never be questioned, or this tradition never forgotten. In short, I'm disgusted by the idea of sanctity, of restricting people from doing with their lives, bodies and minds what they wish to do with them in any way.

          I'm aware that many people have such thoughts, and I wasn't trying to sound condescending in any way. If that was the impression I gave you, then please accept my apologies.
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        Aug 5 2011: It looks like you have misunderstood what I said, again. I said "depersonalized", not dehumanized. Those are two very different concepts. By not interacting face to face, heart to heart, how can we truly grasp the meaning of what another human being is discussing with us? Listening is a skill that many humans have difficulty with, no matter what culture, religion, nationality, etc they identify with - even if they are face to face. What someone says, and what we say they said are two very different things. The internet and digitized communications are a relatively new adaptation in human history - for the vast majority of recorded human history, we have communicated face to face. Yes, I agree that there are countless positive benefits of this technology - however, it does add another element of confusion, as things can easily get "lost in translation" ... plus, when someone is not right there in front of you, face to face, the timeframe of which clarification can be given is undefined. If I replied to you in 30 days instead of 30 minutes from when I posted, you would go that entire time thinking that I believe the internet has dehumanized us? Enter judgements, frustrations, etc...

        I have no problem entering into a dialogue of philosophy, I believe that fostering respectful dialogue is what promotes world peace. Just because you have had those experiences in the past, with talks of "religious debates" not ending well, do you believe that your future has nothing more to offer you than the same?

        I agree about physics being the guiding physical force of the Universe, but if you are purely science-based in your philosophy, then I'd like to open up and hear your thoughts on the developments in the field of quantum science/physics. Do you believe that in the future, we will see a coalescence of science and religion in it's findings?
        • Aug 5 2011: I'm sorry to have misread that.
          My opinion is that the anonymity of the internet is a double-edged sword when it comes to this. It's really quite interesting: first off, the ability to converse instantaneously in text-form, without tone of voice, face, skin color, mood or gender to get in the way is a great thing in my opinion. There's no way one can have a prejudice against a genderless, faceless being one knows only as a disembodied opinion. As a visual species, we make a lot of our judgment based on looks - we can't help it, it's the way we evolved. Eliminating the concept of nationality and background enables two people from completely different places in society to talk on the same level, with opinion and intelligence being the only two things that really matter - just the way it should be when exchanging opinions and ideas. Of course, there's also the "youtube comment effect". While this removal of face from argument greatly fosters intellectual discussion, it also makes it easy to see the other as some anonymous voice, with one's own actions not having any consequences. This has the effect that places where many people comment on the same things (in this example, youtube) are places filled with hateful comments filled with bigotry and bile.

          However, I think that this is just a temporary cultural phenomenon. Technology will improve, and the internet is still new and shiny. We still have a lot to learn about how to properly use it. The fact that it can take you hours to communicate with me is just an implementation detail - an instant messenger provides just that: instant messaging, if need be even through video.

          Make no mistake - usually I take every excuse I get to talk with people about religion (I think it's one of the next big issues our society will tackle. In fact, it *is* tackling it right now), and I'm not the kind of person who ever runs away from a debate. I just think we should keep it out of this thread, as it has nothing to do with the topic.
        • Aug 5 2011: I've heard pretty much every argument in favor of religion/god/faith people usually come up with at least twice. Like I said, I'm rather passionate about that topic, so I welcome you to open up that discussion via email.

          I'll answer most recent question of yours with a definite "no". Of course, religion will find its way there - religion is very good with hiding in holes - but ultimately, religion is based on lack of knowledge, and science is the very act of destroying the holes in our knowledge where religion can take shelter. New approaches in quantum mechanics and its intricacies are welcoming to many spiritual pseudoscientific interpretations, but in the end I think that religion will die out.
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        Aug 5 2011: I do agree with you on the notion that to just blindly accept and follow what your elders have told you based purely on tradition is certainly a growth inhibitor.

        In the words of Shakyamuni, "Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."
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        Aug 5 2011: Yes, humans easily pass judgement based by what they see, those distinctions that you mentioned. But, do you agree that when you thought I said "dehumanized" vs depersonalized, there was a judgement made on me then? Words/language/concepts/ideas are not immune from judgement.

        Yes instant communication alleviates the time factor, but not all people that use the internet use it for an instant experience. Enter the confusion.

        I think the word "religion" has a severely-loaded connotation that has turned a lot of people off due to the violence and bloodshed it has produced over time. I too was one that shunned it for quite some time. I have personally found more knowledge and stability in my Buddhist faith than anything I have ever researched in this life (I've researched Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Bahai, Islam, Wicca, Strega, Norse, Greek/Roman Mythology, Buddhism, and many other various nuanced philosophies). Another thing about it that brings me great comfort is that no matter what crazy theories get thrown my way, even scientific findings, nothing shakes the teachings of Shakyamuni and Nichiren Daishonin. Pretty cool stuff if you ask me. In a respectful theological dialogue I had with an avid Evangelical Christian a few months ago, he listened to the condensed "elevator speech" of my faith and then concluded that I was an Atheist. I gently corrected his judgement and expressed that while I do not believe in God in a Christian definition of the word, I do not believe in an absence of the definition of what the term "God" represents. I do not agree that there is some unmoved mover controlling what goes on, I feel that the Christian representation of "God" is nothing short of what the Greeks and Romans courted for thousands of years... But do I agree that there is a force, a universal law that governs every particle? Yep, sure do.
        • Aug 6 2011: Yes, I did judge you from that concept I thought you had brought forward, but given the circumstances, would you rather I judge you for your opinions and actions or for the way you look like? The fact that concepts aren't immune to criticism is the one thing that allows us to have meaningful conversations.

          About instant communication: you're still only evaluating what people use the internet for right now. You're forgetting that there's a brand new generation of humans growing up with the internet as a normal thing right now. Just because not everybody uses the internet for instant messaging doesn't mean there's some intrinsic lack of quality in the way people communicate over the internet.

          Whether you call what you believe in a religion or spirituality doesn't matter to me. Most people will tiptoe around that and say "Oh, if it isn't a *religion* I guess it's fine.". There's a lot of people who condemn religion because of the bloodshed you've mentioned, and considering what other faiths have collectively done, Buddhism is a peaceful faith. But what I'm railing against is the very concept of believing in something just because you find it comforting, or because you want it to be true, even if there is no evidence whatsoever in your position. The teachings of your mentors might well stand firm as a mountain, but you must remember that no one is infallible, and that it's your responsibility as an intelligent human being to question your own beliefs as much as you question other's.

          I too believe that there's a force governing every particle in the universe. I believe these are the physical laws we've been refining our knowledge of for the last thousand years or so. I don't see any reason to invite mysticism into my belief system, and see no way how one can do so and still have a completely consistent opinion. As soon as you allow one irrational thing into your mind, the consistency of it as a system is broken. You run into paradoxes.
        • Aug 6 2011: Now, you're probably using the teachings of your mentors mostly as guiding advice. That's a good thing, but why do you believe that there's anything more than what we can detect in the universe? I'd kindly like to point you to the idea of "Russel's teapot" to illustrate how irrational such a belief is.

          Mysticism, in every incarnation I have ever heard of, bears you more questions than answers. The idea that something is "unknowable" or "inexplicable" not only leaves us empty-handed, but opens the mind's gates for any other irrational concept to be allowed in. If living things have a "soul", then do other apes? Dogs? Bacteria? Viruses? Fungi? Is there a bacteria heaven? If we all get reborn from the same pool of souls, how can population grow? What are souls made of, and if they don't interact with the physical world, how to they control bodies? If souls interact with the physical world, why haven't we found them? If fate exists, what is free will? How does free will come about in the first place? We can pretty much calculate what a given neuron does on given input in the brain (it'd take a lot of time to calculate, but the standard model is good enough for that), so who says the brain is anything but a big computer?

          You may laugh well about foolish religious people or people who believe in homeopathy, but every irrational belief is as arbitrary as any other. What is this force guiding the universe? Where does it come from? Does it have a mind? What makes you think it even uses the same kind of logic we do? Does it care about humans or just see them as a by-product of the universe? What is this force made of, and is it measurable? You may think inventing an invisible guiding force answers your question, but in fact it only tacks on another layer of mysteries that Occam's razor is quick to tear to shreds.

          From what you said earlier I can infer that you believe in a version of an afterlife. How does that relate to anything you believe?

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