The semester is drawing to a close and students across the globe are cramming months of information into their tired brains in a week. This raises the question: Why is there such an emphasis on final grades? The following spoken word piece addresses this question from a religious viewpoint:
These weeks in December and again in May are times to consider: What is the purpose of finals? Why do students create stress for themselves? Life is interesting in that we have no way of predicting where it will take us. Right now, I feel what the above picture expresses: I have no idea what’s going to happen, in finals, in life, but I will love life regardless.
The Sacrament of the Present Moment.pdf
This essay uses diction that raises more questions than provides support for an argument. Reading it, I felt as if I was missing the larger idea this essay was commenting on; I was. Searching “The Sacrament of the Present Moment” online led me to discover what I read by Richard Rohr was a response to a 300-year-old enlightenment book. As a response essay, this piece would have been more successful if Rohr defined the terms he explores. Currently, it seems almost as if his piece is written backwards. To understand the first paragraph which discusses why nondual consciousness is necessary to understand God over dual consciousness, you must first know what “dual consciousness” means to Rohr. It isn’t until the fourth paragraph when he refers to dual consciousness as a “binary system” with only two options (good/bad, black/white, right/wrong) that a clear idea of what “dual consciousness” means is given. Other terms that could be defined to draw in readers from outside the argument would be “Ultimate Reality,” “Presence,” and “Real Presence.” A response paper should not only explore the ideas in the piece being examined, but do so in a way that those reading the response gain a general sense of the whole argument at hand and why it is important. “The Sacrament of the Present Moment” by Richard Rohr fails to do this.
Ruth Chang has spent her employed life exploring why choices can be so hard and how to make hard choices when they appear. However, you don’t need to be a philosopher like Chang to explore these and other difficult questions. On November 10, 2016, I interviewed Dean of Engineering at UNC Charlotte, Robert Johnson. “Dean Bob” as he is referred to by those close to him fits society’s typical picture of success as a well-traveled, academic individual. Achieving this status took effort and, yes, the making of hard choices.
To kick-start the interview, I asked Dean Bob who he is exactly and what defines him. He confessed that throughout his life, he has been defined by different things, but his love of learning is one constant in how he defines himself. This love of learning, combined with chance, resulted in Dean Bob receiving a full scholarship to Cal Tech and later becoming a professor at the University of Illinois, a top school in engineering.
His love of learning is a logical progression to the position of a faculty member at a university, but when I asked Dean Bob how he thinks he got to where he is today, he responded “accidents more than careful planning.” These “accidents” can be traced back to his acceptance into Cal Tech. This prestigious school drew him in, not because of its reputation, but because he had always wanted to go to California. Following graduation, he could have used his degree to work in industry and earn twice as much as in the field of academia. However, colleagues from Cal Tech recommended him to employers at the University of Illinois and he pursued the position. He did so, not as a part of a greater plan for his future, but because he wanted to keep his options open. By starting in academia with its lower pay, he could easily transfer to a job in industry. Going the other way around would have meant cutting back his standards of living and would therefore have been more difficult. Throughout his early life, Dean Bob made choices to purposefully leave his options open.
Ruth Chang argues in her Ted Talk “How to make hard choices” we have misunderstood hard choices. In hard choices, neither option has more benefits or drawbacks than the other. Dean Bob addresses this by keeping his options open. In this way, if a decision doesn’t make you happy, you can choose the alternative option. In the words of Dean Bob, “Keep your eyes open. Keep your options open.”
Maybe it’s a little cliché to post about turkeys this Thanksgiving week… so I’m doing it anyways! Happy Thanksgiving!
Ahead of me on the freeway a truck is leaking something from the back. Maybe leaking is the wrong verb… Shedding? Dropping? Regardless, hundreds of small pieces cascade towards me from this truck several car-lengths and a lane to the right. My mom used to tell me when I still had my permit and was required by law to chauffer her around that when something is falling from the back of a truck, you should stay away from it in case it cracks your windshield. But I’ve always been unhealthily curious. And anyways my foot is getting a little tired from all this driving. Like eyelids at midnight it is getting heavier and so I’m going faster and now I am beside the truck looking through black bars… at turkeys. It is feathers shooting behind the truck.
I’m not a vegetarian. Seeing all those turkeys crammed together in the back of that truck though reminds me of what I ignore when I order a Big Mac: what I eat was once alive. And right now the animals beside me are very much alive. It’s Thanksgiving week.
I mentioned I was unhealthily curious; I’m also unhealthily impulsive. I have continued to speed up until I am a little in front of the cab of the truck, and I jerk the wheel to the right so we are sharing a lane. He reacts automatically, making room for my car by jerking his vehicle to the right as well. Except instead of a lane beside him, there is a thin grass shoulder, a dip, then some trees. He crushes blades beneath his sixteen wheels until he enters the dip and half of the truck is significantly lower than the other. The speed and the dip work together to pull the truck onto its back. Metal screams and I think I do too. The front of the cab is smoking slightly and the windshield has somehow turned red… was it always red? The rear of the truck is bent only slightly out of shape, but it’s enough for dazed turkeys to squeeze through and scamper into the woods.
I blink. I am once again behind the wheel of my car and there is a truck several car lengths and a lane to the right of me. Feathers flick past. I’ve thought it out a little more this time. My heavy foot crushes the gas and I am passing the truck. This time I ease into his lane (I even use my turn signal mom!) and transfer my foot from the gas to the brake. I slow, forcing the truck and all others behind him to stop. I walk to his window and ask point blank how much it would cost to buy all the turkeys shedding in the back of his truck. I drop five thousand dollars on turkeys.
I blink. Again. And there is a truck several car lengths and to the right of me. He turns on his turn signal and gets off at the exit. I drive home. And yes, I will eat turkey this Thursday, but at least I can say I had second thoughts about it.
The root of all evil resides in your child’s bedroom; maybe yours too, depending on your hobbies. It nestles on shelves and dressers, watching silently as your child comes and goes, comes and goes. Light slickens its sides and gives off a plastic glimmer reminding you of the worthlessness of all the trophies now cluttering your house. Yes, according to many (including Megan McArdle, author of “Why Writers are the Worst Procrastinators), trophies are responsible for recent generations’ lack of self-direction and tendency towards procrastination.
In actuality, constant praise is not what limits our children, but rather constant structure. It used to be kids only went to school and work. At school they experienced structure, but at work they learned self-direction that profited them after they left the education system. Today, students go to school, participate in sports, volunteer with organized groups, and overall have their day planned for them from dawn to well after dusk. They lack the freedom of free time and the self-exploration that accompanies it. Constant praise is not the problem, the problem is that children are always coming and going, never free to find themselves in independent activities.
If recognizing everyone as a success was the cause of procrastination and lack of self-direction, then Megan McArdle’s opening argument in her Atlantic article would prove incorrect: She argues writers are particularly susceptible to procrastination because of their easy successes in English classes. However, participation trophies make everyone a “success,” yet not everyone procrastinates to the same extent. She is right to conclude that never facing failure makes for a spoiled learner, but in low stakes activities like little league and recreational soccer, a prize for everyone is not the end of the world. Giving everyone a trophy may even have a positive impact: if everyone receives a prize for various levels of success, then a child needs to determine their own self-worth. Instead of being told with a piece of plastic they are a success, they must look to their own level of effort for validation.
Rewarding every child is not the problem: Setting their schedule from an early age to make them appear well rounded for the sake of higher education is. Do your child a favor and let them decide for themselves the activities they want to participate in. Encourage self-direction and increase their work ethic for their future.
According to an age old aphorism, money can’t buy happiness. Let’s imagine for an instant that this is true: I’m guessing the majority of people would still rather cry in a mansion than out on the streets. Money may not guarantee happiness, but it does purchase security that allows for soul searching in a way that is not available to those struggling to find housing or food. In addition, speaker Michael Norton at TEDxCambridge argues you actually can buy more than security, you can buy happiness. It is just a matter of spending money on the right things, or, more specifically, for the right reasons.
Norton argues there are no items that should be on one’s “must have” list in case they win the lottery. In fact, winning the lottery proves to be a killer of relationships and leads to overspending and eventually debt. Instead, he advocates for the spending of money on others. He cites one study he conducted at the University of British Columbia where people were given money to spend either on themselves or others. The amount of money they spent didn’t matter. What did was who they spent it on. Those who spent on others reported feeling significantly happier throughout the day than those who bought something for themselves. What is interesting about this study is that the subjects were given the money they were to spend. Giving away something that is not yours is easier and does not entail the same level of sacrifice giving from your own belongings does. So, maybe spending on others does increase happiness if you spend on others, or maybe this is a flawed survey. Regardless, maybe we shouldn’t view the pursuit of money as negatively as we sometimes do. And, when we have money, maybe we should conduct our own personal experiments and spend it on others.
The remembrance poppy first gained significant meaning during World War I. In 1915, following several major battles in Belgium, France, and Gallipoli, this red flower was the only thing to grow on the ravaged battle fields. The poppy soon became synonymous with loss of life in wartime and remembrance.
The thick stems acted as a lifeline,
Something to cling to,
To go to.
She refused to look up,
Eyes clenched and hands clenched tighter
To the poppies.
To anything in this one moment,
To anything that wasn’t the inevitable truth.
It was his passion,
To join the army.
To serve the country.
But the numerous reasons
Did not cushion the fact
That he was leaving,
She sat at the table
Watching the poppies fade to black.
And she listened to the
Of her heart
In beat with the
At the door.
And it was over.
And she was free from dread.
Of not knowing.
But maybe she liked the worry.
The poppies had faded
As had he.
As would she.
Today the poppy is a sign of recognition to those lost in war, but also the veterans still living. Thank you for protecting our country, our freedom, me. Thank you for bearing the unspeakable so that we can speak freely. Thank you veterans, and God Bless America.