Sunday, November 19, 2023

Global Strangers who help out in Paris, France

Interdisciplinarity, we continue to explore the world, learn, grow and influence the world. We need each other, to bridge the difference, close blind spots, to lift up humanity.

It was raining in Paris on Nov 17 last week. I was planning to Visit the biggest library РNational Library of France(Biblioth̬que nationale de France), as well as an interesting place РParadox museum, to satisfy my intellectual curiosity. Both places are not so far away, in the city center of Paris. However, as my phone is out of network, I have to count on global strangers to guide me in the right direction to reach there.

I took the public transportation (train & bus) to the city center, near the Louvre Museum, In the mid-morning, about 10 am, Paris started waking up, but I got lost. Which direction should I go to get to the library? I went to the chain Coffee shop Pret Coffee to have some coffee and dessert to recharge my energy. By the way I asked the staff – the gentleman for directions about the library. As he cannot speak English fluently, he introduced me to the other staff – the young lady who can speak English considerably fluently. I had her read my note – the street address of the library, she took her phone, trying to navigate through the right direction. I asked the questions very seriously, and she tried her best to answer it responsibly. I wear my anthropological lens on, are we like global sisters, standing head-in-head, solving some problems? I am a tourist. She is perhaps a Paris native. I intend to go to the place I desire to go; she tries to satisfy her coffee shop customers, take further steps to help her city build a good reputation as one of the great global cities. So I thanked her, starting moving forward by taking her guiding directions.

Unfortunately, I got lost again, in downtown Paris, there are quite many squares and plazas, very often, when you reach the next traffic light, you don’t know how to make a turn. The street names are often not very obvious in some places. But there are so many good sculptures and antique buildings which also distract tourists. As we would like to explore, learn, walk around, not just go to certain destinations. After I took some pictures of sculptures and architecture, I got lost again. I saw a newspaper/magazine stand, I asked the clerk, she didn’t know where to go, I asked the nearby pedestrian, unfortunately she didn’t know the library either. I felt a bit frustrated, here comes the seemingly Mother-daughter pair who were making some conversation. I say hi to them, and ask them for directions. I guess they are Paris native, but they do not live nearby. So they discussed it in French for a while, and the daughter directed me to go straight then left, passing the Victor plaza, and the library should be somewhere. I thanked them, and moved forward. A couple hundred steps later, I saw a garden gate. There are some beautiful scenes hidden inside. Irresistibly, I went to that royal garden, immersing myself into green, the air was fresh, the Sun came up, I wish I could stay longer, but still decide to move forward.    

Going back to the street, I asked a young boy who seems to be a student, he might know where the library is, he confirmed I was in the right direction to keep moving forward, and later, I arrived in The Victor plaza, as there are different streets passing through the place in various directions, I was kind of getting lost again.  I casually picked the direction to go ahead, feeling suspected, so I asked again. I saw there was a senior couple using their phones to search for something, so I asked them. They smiled and said, sorry, they came to visit Paris from another city in France. No clue about the direction, they themselves got lost. I smiled back, kept moving forward. I have to keep asking, all global strangers are friendly, so I saw two ladies chatted and came toward this way, I asked them. One of them immediately use her phone to navigate for me, my goodness, they showed the direction I just came from, I had to walk back, and they reminded me I needed to go across the street. I trust them, as they are also very friendly, joke around and their English are good to guide through…  I appreciate their effort. A few minutes later, I ultimately walk across the street and see the large grey white building standing quietly – that is the National library de France.

I asked 9+ people within an hour to find it at the city center of Paris. But overall it's a very delightful experience – in the new place, you walk around, follow your own pace to explore the fresh things, you get lost, but you believe in yourself, also trust others – those global strangers who were empowered with digital tools to help you out. And based on my observation, perhaps that was not at the peak time for them to go working, all folks are happy to help out, very friendly.

The experience of walking through one of the biggest libraries in the world is also considerably delightful. The library hall is spacious and warm, with perhaps millions of books decorating on the wall, sitting on the shelves, hundreds of people sitting quietly, reading, surfing peacefully, enjoying the raining day in the knowledge enriched environment that allows us to see the deep side of Paris.

Anthropological Insight: We are all human beings, so same and different; we have different personality, perception and life experience; So our set of learning/life differences are different from others. We need to be sensitive about cultural differences. I take seriously being an insightful inquirer, and many global strangers I met were friendly helpers who enjoy guiding me directions; we try to make such encounters a good experience for both parties. We people have fundamental trust, we like to help and make an accomplishment.

Neurological/cognitive understanding: People do things differently and solve problems in different way; the reason we need to learn from each other is because nobody is perfect. Some are more focused on the bigger picture; some are very fluent in communication; others love to show off their technical tools or skills, etc. So we should first know deep enough about our own strength and weak point, and then we can learn more effectively and interact with others more friendly.

Geographical aspect: Because Paris is a historical city with enriched cultural heritage and influence from the industrial revolution. They divide their numerous plazas and squares into different streets with diverse names, so the directions in those places are not four dimensional (east, west, south, north), they are more polygonal streets, very easy to get confused. Sometimes, one major avenue is called by a different name at varying locations. Perhaps that also makes the large fashion capital Paris more charming – not straight, but cursive. Walking through the cursive subway tunnels has the same feeling, like untangling into a puzzle, but always believe yourself, you could solve it as there are also some science symbols in it.

Psychosocial perspective: Either you’re an inquirer or a helper, think positively, build confidence. If you ask, give others clear clues about your question, being confident and humble at the same time, so people don’t feel you are wasting their time; but making themselves feeling good as well. As we are both interesting enough, to bring a short conversation or a friendly interaction. We –global citizens enjoy initiating some dialogues and helping each other.  If not, that is perhaps caused by language obstacles or other sort of misunderstanding.  As an author, I would like to appreciate and compliment those helpful global strangers. That is healthy psychology.

Sociological viewpoint: We are all social beings. Social interactions are both art and science. From a small inquiry to the large-scale problem solving, people with different backgrounds and experience should be able to work collaboratively to solve problems together. We discover each other and surroundings, find people who are similar to us, or different from us spiritually; in my case to ask directions, I try to find locals who might be more familiar with that region and help me better.

Technological Insight: Digital technologies bring an unprecedented level of convenience to human society, from East to West, from large city to small town, people enjoy their smartphones and other gadgets which help them live a better enriched life. As my phone was out of the network in Europe (I can still use Wifi in the hotel), most of the ladies or gentlemen were pulling out their phones, doing the navigation. With powerful tools, why not – they are confident and ready to help, compared to decades ago. 

Philosophical wisdom: From specific to abstract; from daily experience to long term life journey, we develop our knowledge/skills, shape our perceptions, and accumulate wisdom. From a small social interaction to participating social events you are interested in, we get to understand people deeper, better, abstract our knowledge into fresh insight, we discover truth from false, challenge conventional wisdom; although history repeats itself, the world become more advanced, old experience will not always work, we have to constantly discover new things, new solutions, to life up humanity.

Interdisciplinarily, we continue to explore the world, learn, grow and influence the world. We need each other, to bridge the difference, close blindspots, In new cities, meeting with strangers, enjoying fresh sceneries. Our eyes might bring us some illusions (like what I had in the paradox museum), our experiences might mix with good or bad; our perceptions are paradoxical sometimes. But always be positive, the global society become more hyper connected and interdependent, we need each other and we can make the better world