Opinion: We should all follow Anthony Bourdain’s message of understanding

Tamlynn Torchon

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Graphic by Sam Chaney

The wonderful and unforgettable celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain passed away on June 8 of this year due to suicide. It was, and still is, a rather painful event for many people of different backgrounds. He will remain one of the most impactful individuals we may ever know. Let’s understand why this statement is factual and useful for us all to replicate.

Anthony Bourdain is credited as an amazing storyteller. His multiple shows display him visiting so many locations, from the greatest and famous, to the unknown and seemingly undesirable. “The history of the world is on your plate,” said Anthony Bourdain to Trevor Noah on the Daily Show, and it is true. Many conversations or debates start during meals, hence why so many of us do not enjoy our Thanksgiving dinners.

Anthony Bourdain went to several places for 17 years. In an interview with the Daily Show, he added, “I think Mark Twain said that travel is lethal to prejudice… I love showing up thinking one thing, and having those expectations turn on their heads all the time.” It is always refreshing to hear someone being excited, rather than presumptuous, about other places.

Bourdain gave his hosts a feeling of being valued, just by actually understanding. In today’s world, with all those tensions and reinforced polarities, there’s an obvious unwillingness to even understand others, especially those who aren’t familiar with our own circumstances.

Bourdain hated the act of snobbing others, regardless of the issue. It makes sense. When one travels as much as he did, and when one listens to so many stories, one has created a habit of trying to walk in others’ shoes. He strongly felt that way about women who’ve been victims of sexual assault, and towards Middle America who is often vilified, taken advantage of, or downright ignored.

Bourdain talked and ate, and most people believe this effort of understanding had made him the fantastic being he’ll be remembered as. This initiative was admirable to watch, nonetheless, because it was during his numerous meals that he would inquire about the food, the culture surrounding it and the feelings of his hosts.

All of his accomplishments come down to one important lesson: we must try to walk in others’ shoes, not only for their sake but for our own, to find common ground. This world is vast, with many realities that we often times can’t know enough about. Therefore, let’s listen and understand. Let’s get educated about one another.

Of course, this is easier said than done, but it is not impossible. We are in the perfect spot (a university) to start experiencing much-needed shock about our perceptions of the world. Hopefully, this experience changes us for the better.

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