Buenos Aires has a distinct smell. Much of the air is permeated by diesel fuel, fried food, and the condensation of smog. But love, too, seems to fill the air here with a sense of sweetness that overshadows the less savory scents. It goes to show there are things that we can smell if we just open up our hearts and take a deep breath in.
Much of life is a balancing act of opposites and compromises, but being in Buenos Aires has reminded me that the goodness in life typically overshadows that which is acrimonious, bitter, and harsh. I walk down the streets and see couples embracing one another, parents who seemingly have very little material wealth turn into royalty of parenthood: they love their children. As dirty as the streets may appear and as heavy as the air may seem, you can taste the sweetness of the bond of community, of boyfriend and girlfriend, chicos and chicas, tango partners. There is something so innocently beautiful and pure in a photograph of two people in love caressing each other, looking at each other with smiling faces, and loving lips. The paradox of life is that nothing can be everything when you have love; and everything can turn into nothing without gratitude. Be grateful for what you have and humble in your assessment of what others ostensibly have to offer. Underestimating the nuance of another culture could prove costly in understanding the world and our place in it.
Take time to travel. Find the time to get outside of your own world and enter the world of other cultures that have hundreds of years of history and have different lenses through which they view and assimilate with the world. The importance that we place in one thing others invest in building another; others might give you key insights into how best to live, but only if we are open to nuance and experience. The most marked difference I’ve noticed in living standards (both economic and emotional) is in countries that seek to pursue wealth and those that seem to pursue love. The countries that pursue wealth and achieve it seem often to have far less than those places with fewer riches but increasing love. I always place an emphasis on the importance of this dichotomy because I find it fascinating to study the way we view wealth. Wealth ostensibly raises our living standards, but what about our standards of emotions? Are we purely physical beings that are capable only of measuring their worth based on our balance sheets; can we not have an emotional balance sheet by which we measure our success: of happiness, love, and our emotional productivity. How about a metric such as GNL (Gross National Love) or GNE (Gross National Emotions) rather than a purely quantitative metric of output such as GDP?
Life is surely more than mere dollars and cents, and traveling to a place that values differently the things that are supposed to be the most important elements of our life force us to question – healthfully – what we choose to value. As stated above, life is a balance. It is important that we continue to balance out the circle of life with an awareness and appreciation for the cultural offerings of places different from our own. They just might have the key ingredient to give us that extra perspective that allows us to experience life and love more fully than ever before.