March 6, 2015

The answer to life, the universe, and everything

About a week ago, Nicole and I got into a very enthusiastic and emphatic conversation about, well, everything. While I know the answer to life, the universe, and everything is 42, sometimes having the solution doesn't prevent me from just having these moments where I abstractly think about existence on its most fundamental level, which, to be honest, only makes life that much more mind boggling. Though I know I'm not the only one on earth having these dramatic thoughts of "BUT WHAT IS LIFE?!", it's not a subject that comes up on a daily basis. So having this little chat with Nicole was somewhat calming, in that it reminded me that I am not the only one sitting around being completely confounded by the world. 

We talked about a lot of different things, but eventually our conversation turned back to where it originated, which is, essentially, why the hell are people fighting all the time? This may seem like a naive question, but really, I just don't get it. The whole cliché "world peace" thing was basically our answer and desire. In an ideal world, people would flourish and create without the conflict of religion, economy, race, power, opinion, etc, etc, etc. We could just be, and as an individual, isn't that all we really want? To be alive. However, that is most definitely not how the world works, for it is far more complicated. 

In this ideal world, the goals of the organization established to figure out the whole "world peace" thing, also known as, the United Nations, would reign true:
  • To keep peace throughout the world;
  • To develop friendly relations among nations;
  • To help nations work together to improve the lives of poor people, to conquer hunger, disease and illiteracy, and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms;
  • To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations to achieve these goals.

In the real world, however, the UN is often criticized for being weak, and strife continues while these goals fail to be achieved. I'm not going to give you a political science lesson on the struggles of the UN, but I can tell you, that visiting the Palais des Nations, the official UN headquarters in Geneva (UNOG) will make you want to believe in a world without war all over again, just like Nicole and I imagined only days ago. 

Venturing to the Palais, as Brooke, Lindsey, and I did back in June, you are first greeted by a grand sculpture commissioned by Handicap International in 1997 , called Broken Chair.  

The model was originally designed to urge countries to sign the Mine Ban Treaty and help mine victims, though it was later reinstalled in 2007 to invite countries to participate in the process of banning cluster munitions. 

Behind the gates, in front of the Palais the flags of the 192 countries that make up the UN stand tall. 

When you finally find the entrance and enter the UN you're taken on a tour by an informative, wide-eyed, and optimistic tour guide.

She spoke to us in her hopeful voice about all the wonders of the UN; the goals it embodies and the attempts it is making to better the world. By the time you move on to the rest of the tour, you are left believing the World Health Organization just might figure out how to stop diseases and that all 192 countries will soon stop fighting for good. 

Going down long hallways and wide corridors, you see the many gifts the members have ordained the Palais with over the years. 

There are several conference rooms inside the massive building, and dependable on the issue and number of foreign guests the appropriate room will be chosen. 

Each set of seats is equipped with a microphone and earphone. 

The most impressive of conference rooms you are guided through is the Council Chamber, originally designed to host the League of Nations. The walls are covered in gilded murals, by José Maria Sert, that depict the progress of humankind. 

It is imaginable that the scenery from vistas in the Palais could do much to bring peace to the minds of delegates, for there are few views as stunning as Lake Geneva sitting below the towering French Alps.  

One of the last things you see before exiting the UNOG headquarters back into the streets of Geneva, is a plaque made from a tattered UN flag that survived an Algerian bombing, where 17 colleagues of the UN were not so lucky. As you leave the building, full of the idealistic hopeful ideas that the United Nations claims to embody, this memorial serves as a reminder of just how far away those ideals are. 

Nevertheless, when leaving the second largest headquarters for the United Nations, I was left with a bit of hope for the world. And entering out into the Geneva sunshine didn't hurt either.

When we live on a planet with places as stunningly beautiful as Switzerland, it's hard to remember why there is unhappiness in abundance. 

I believe Geneva has taken it upon itself to do its best to emanate those ever optimistic foundations of the United Nations by epitomizing a happy and flourishing city. 

However, it also doesn't pretend to turn a blind eye to the rest of the world, as exemplified in the political cartoons that line the strand along the lake. 

After spending our morning filling ourselves to the brim with faith for humanity, an afternoon laughing until our bellies ached in the park, Brooke, Lindsey, and I continued that evening embracing the wonderfulness of what the world could be, as brought to us by Switzerland. 

With a lake bluer than the sky, could you really believe water pollution is a global issue? 

At this point, looking back, it becomes almost comical how exemplary Genevan society seems. I mean, they were having a freaking 1993 roller disco by the lake (at this point we actually decided the Swiss somehow got stuck in the 1990s, and that's why they're thriving).  

These people were having an enviable, heartwarming, undeniably fantastic time getting down on their roller blades. 

Still riding our the-world-is-perfect high, our last day in Geneva was spent only further gawking at what a wonderful place this gorgeous city must be to live in. 

(There may have been bouts of silliness intermixed with our awe). 

They literally have a Disneyland-esq. flower clock, like common.  

Even better than a flower clock, they had pianos set up all over the city to promote music or something fantastical like that. 

Then we found our last stop at the gigantic Parc des Bastions, which I am pretty convinced is just a happy jolly location for the community to mingle, picnic, and play checkers & chess. 

Legitimately, Geneva, you are too perfect. 

That's the thing though isn't it? Did you note the sarcasm that Geneva's quintessential perfect society took on mid-post? Geneva is stunning, and it also has many wonderful examples of community fun, but then again so do many places. We left UNOG looking for the best in things, moreover, we're optimistic, wide eyed girls, just like our tour guide. We were travelers out looking for the beauty in the world, in a new perspective. When you go out and want to find things that are wonderful, you will. When you go out looking for fear and anger and strife, those things too you will find. 

I accept this post, originally well planned, has taken on a rambling of sorts, just as that erratic conversation Nicole and I had did. Whenever I think about traveling, particularly my travel experience, I am so grateful for the amazing things I got to see and do. Sometimes I chalk up how well everything went to luck, but really, I think it is more about perspective. I went to study abroad in Italy, and I expected to love it, so I did. Despite its flaws (hello, hollering men on the street), I learned to embrace the culture, knowing I had to adjust to the unfamiliar. Being able to do this each new place I went, made me love everywhere. I cannot name a place I didn't appreciate at least a minute bit of if I'm asked. I honestly believe that if we all just tried to do this a little bit more (not saying that I've got it all figured out, because trust me, I do plenty of things wrong) then maybe the whole bad-evil world might become a little bit better. 

Yours, Kenna

P.S. Again, I apologize about the rambling, but I don't promise it won't happen again xx 

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