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Our Big Small World
Jan 1, 2012

The past year was a busy one for The Fountain. In cooperation with many local NGOs and authorities, The Fountain organized quite a number of panels, seminars, and conferences all around the world. Locations ranged from Australia to South Africa, from Nigeria to North America. The major ones among these were the "Media and Values" series of panels across the Far East in March and April, "A Decade after the 9/11" conference in New York in September, and "Establishing a Culture of Coexistence and Mutual Understanding" in Abuja, Nigeria, in November. Traveling across long distances and witnessing the particular conditions of each place, one realizes two things: 1) it is a big, vast world with a wide range of colors, tastes, problems, strengths, and weaknesses; 2) it is a small world with similar colors, tastes, problems, strengths, and weaknesses. The tea that is served with milk in the Far East is different than the one served plain in Turkey. Some cultures would insist on serving whatever he or she has in their possession; others would only ask you generically if you might like something only once the host is comfortably reclining in his chair-or they might even prefer for you to just ask for something if you want it. But offering guests some form of tea seems to be the same everywhere.

But our similarities and differences can also be much more significant, as well. On one hand, for instance, the tenth anniversary of 9/11 was a major occasion for the U.S., but for a great majority of the world it was just a single chapter-albeit a long one-in the chronicles of violence in human history. On the other hand, almost every nation today from the Philippines to Nigeria has diverse security issues, and in many countries mass killings, violent attacks, and explosions have become astonishingly unastonishing. Just before the turn of the year, for instance, terrorism showed its monstrous face once again against Christians observing Christmas in Nigeria. Indeed, these attacks were an unprecedented form of violence by so-called Islamic terrorists-where in the history of Islam can one show violence against Christians as they are worshipping, especially when the Qur'an and the Prophet forbade harming worshippers in churches or monasteries? Is there any permission in Islam to attack civilians? Iraq and Syria have their own fashion of violence: sectarian conflicts in the fight for obtaining the right to rule. There are many major concerns that all human beings share, and this calls for developing a common understanding so that we can tackle them together. In all of the events The Fountain organizes, we try to raise awareness of our commonality by cultivating an environment in which we can learn from our differences.

The lead article in this issue underlines one dimension of one of our universal humanness by relating "happiness" to "virtue." The article on autism tries to open a window of hope for families suffering from this really difficult ordeal. In "The Optimizing Man," you will read on the many economic irrationalities we commit for the sake of transient fancies. The article on cultural differences shares with us some interesting differences between varying nations of the world with memorable examples. De Villa guides us on an exploration of the fantastic civilization of Al Andalus, an exemplary era of coexistence in human history.