I remember riding in the car with my dad once when he asked me a simple question that changed my life.  He just asked “What do you think a comedian sees when they walk into a room?”  Since then, I have tried to walk into a room and create observational humor from first glance.  I’ve tried to train my brain to see the humor in the mundane things that Jerry Seinfeld thrives on.  Then I remember the Jason Bourne movies…especially the scene where he is in the diner, listing how many cars are in the parking lot, what their license plates are, and the best place to find a gun.  I had on some level accepted that people see the world differently.  Being a peculiar personality type myself, I had gotten used to people thinking a bit differently and having different interests and preferences.  But I don’t think anything prepares you for a difference in Weltanschauung.

Yes, I do get a bit of an ego boost throwing around German like it’s nothing.  I owe it entirely to my  Ben Lippen High School education (Christian high school in Columbia, SC for those of you who by some bizarre chance haven’t heard about this small, private school in the middle of nowhere).  It means, basically, “worldview”.  A culmination of our beliefs about the world, the meaning of life, its origins and its value.  And regardless of how different our political affiliation, our moral code, or our ideas about how earth came into existence, most of the Western world (or I’ll say American world conservatively) holds similar values.

We may have different idea of when life starts, but we all for the most part agree that murder, abuse, and any death administered against someone’s will is wrong.  We all for the most part agree that people deserve the freedom to make their own choices and pursue happiness and be individuals.  All of us felt or feel the ability to change the world.  We are taught that; no matter how small our influence may feel, we can change something, for the better or for the worse.

***DISCLAIMER: Just observations and theories, ready to be debunked.***

Japan is a different story.  I am piecing together the whole idea, but there is a clear divergence from the worldview I carry.  Teaching a bible study based on why we have confidence in things besides God left them staring at me, perplexed by the idea of having confidence in ANYTHING.  The purpose of life has been reduced to a function within society, with each person temporarily filling a space in this machine of inter-changeable human parts.  Old and outdated parts are tossed aside and replaced with newer, comparable ones.  Japanese finance minister Taro Aso garnered little reaction within Japan when he blatantly said to “let elderly people hurry up and die“.

With this kind of mind occupying a prominent position in the government, it is no wonder that ordinary citizens feel little personal worth.  The Japanese idea of Kamikaze is nothing like the Islamic idea of Jihad.  There is honor and glory in this life and the next for the Muslim; in the Japanese mind, it is ridding the world of their burden.  Shutting Out the Sun by Michael Zielenziger tells too many stories of people who simply ended their lives when they feared their mistakes or insufficiencies burdened those around them.

I am far from answers, but way too far to turn back.  Just a word to anybody out there hoping to connect with someone from a different culture:  the differences go MUCH deeper than what clothes we wear and how we prefer our chicken.