I Am Not That Smart

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By Meg Hossler

How many times has someone asked you if you’re in the Honors Program? Take a moment and really think about it. Do you have a number? If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been asked this question over a hundred times. Most of us have been asked questions like these since we were little. We grew up smart, and we were taught to take pride in our intelligence. I remember being the only person who could read in my preschool class, and my mom would brag to everyone that her child was so smart. I remember feeling happy that I could read better than everyone else. I also remember that, in elementary school, I would finish my work before everyone else. I would always get in trouble for talking, so my mom would send in extra worksheets for me to finish to distract me. I remember feeling proud of myself for excelling. When we were little kids, our fellow classmates didn’t seem to care that we were smarter. We were still invited to their birthday parties, and they still picked us for their kickball teams at recess. Now I’m grown up, and I wish people wouldn’t think I’m so smart. I used to take pride in my intelligence, and now I find it bringing me more misery than happiness. If you’re an Honors student, you might see where I’m coming from, if not, let me explain.

In the three years I have spent at UWF, I think the only thing my fellow classmates have actually learned about me is that I’m in the Honors Program. At first, I enjoyed people knowing that I was in Honors, but that feeling eventually faded. I learned quickly that being smart in college was not the same as being smart in grade school. Once people find  out I’m in Honors, they always have a snarky comment, like, “Wow, everything must be so easy for you since you’re so smart.” At first, I didn’t let this bother me, but, after three years of your classmates making assumptions about who you are based on one fact, it gets old. Instead of these people learning more about me, they assume that, since I’m in the Honors Program, I think of myself as better than them, and that I don’t have time for fun due to studying. All of my classmates have put me on a pedestal that I didn’t even ask them to put me on. Once other students learn that I’m in Honors, they don’t want to invite me to their birthday parties like the kids I grew up with.

Instead, my classmates treat me like I’m only a brain. They forget that I have a soul, a life, and a heart. My classmates proceed to make statements that just a brain would like to hear. Here is a list of my favorite ones- maybe you’ve heard some of them:

  • “When did you start preparing for college? When you were 3 years old?”
  • “What are you going to do over the summer? Oh, I know you’re going to do school work all summer.”
  • “I bet you make 100 on every test.”
  • And, my ultimate favorite, but I should provide some background before I state the quote. Some fellow students had asked me how I studied, so I proceeded to tell them that I start studying one week before the test. When I get to the end of the week, I realize that I remember more than I thought I knew. I thought this was a good response, and it would help them study, but I was wrong. To this they responded, “Wow, it must be so nice that everything is so easy for you.”

Now, to answer some of these questions, so people can learn that I am not just a brain. My life consists of more than just studying, and everything is not easy for me. To begin with, I didn’t even want to go to a four-year school. I wanted a way to get a degree quickly and get into the field of nursing as fast as possible. My mom’s best friend, who is a nurse, told me I had  to go to a four-year school to become a nurse. I didn’t do any other research, because I believed her. Only after starting nursing school this year did I find out that I  could have gone to a two-year school to become a registered nurse. Going to college and joining an Honors program were  not my biggest concerns after graduating high school, and I would have skipped all of it if I knew then what I know now. I am literally only in college right now because I was lied to. Second, everything is not, “so easy for me.” Being smart has never been something easy for me. Being good at anything has never been something easy for me. I have always worked harder than everyone I know to be smart and excel in what I do, and it’s quite frustrating. In both academics and sports, I have put in more effort than most to get where I am. My little sister is one of those people with natural talent. Growing up, I always worked hard for everything, and when my sister started following in my footsteps, I thought things would be difficult for her too. Instead, she was a natural softball player without even practicing while I spent countless extra hours on the field trying to master the sport. She could study the night before the test and ace it while I had to study a week in advance just to make a B. So in response to everyone who thinks everything is easy for me, it’s not. Everything is tremendously difficult for me, but I work hard to do well. I don’t only study. I actually enjoy doing other human things, like any other human. What I find most distressing about being an Honors student is that a majority of my classmates learn about my brain, and they never learn about my heart and soul. I’m almost 100% positive that if you asked any of my classmates the things I do besides school, they wouldn’t be able to tell you. My classmates haven’t taken the time to get to know me.

But if they did, they would learn that I am a concert junkie. In high school, I used to go to 3-6 concerts a month.  I would probably still attend concerts  now, but Pensacola doesn’t support that kind of lifestyle. They would learn that I suffer from a mental illness, that every day is a struggle, and that  I’ve learned to not let the sadness win. They would learn that I am a wander luster, and I take advantage of any chance to travel. They would learn that I have a jean jacket full of patches from all of places I’ve been. They would learn that I’m a big sister, and that being a big sister holds so much more importance to me than being smart does. They would learn that I am loud, weird, and outgoing, rather than the quiet, shy, person I portray in the classroom. They would learn that I have a tattoo, and that I plan on getting at least 3 more. Finally, they would see that I’m not just a brain, but that I’m a free-spirited person who does more than just stick her head in books. They would see that I have feelings. They would invite me to their birthday parties if they only knew how cool I am.

My Eating Disorder Does Not Define Me

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By Rachael Whitlock

Since the 1990s, clinical eating disorders have been on the rise, with national surveys estimating that nearly 30 million people in America will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives (National Eating Disorder Association). Although many are unaware, I am one of these people. Contrary to popular belief, these diseases are not reserved for teenage girls that wish to look like models. Anyone can suffer from an eating disorder, regardless of age, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Eating disorders are not a choice or a diet plan, but are serious illnesses that, if left untreated, can cause devastating physical and emotional consequences. For many, eating disorders serve as coping mechanisms, safety blankets, and identities. For me, eating was about control and simplicity. My eating disorder is called bulimia nervosa, and, although I am recovering, the consequences of my illness still afflict me every day.

My eating disorder first surfaced when I was fourteen years old. At that time, my family had just moved, I was starting at a new school, and my social anxiety soared. I had no friends, struggled in classes, and my self-esteem quickly plummeted.  Soon, I began altering my eating habits to cope with my anxieties. I restricted food during the day until I was starving, and binged later on whatever food I could find. The loss of control during binges brought overwhelming feelings of guilt and self-loathing, but these feelings were alleviated by purging, or induced vomiting. My new routine quickly grew into an addiction. For the first year, I denied I had a problem, and allowed myself to believe I was healthy. For me, my eating disorder was the one thing in my life I could control. Bulimia helped me cope with negative feelings, and it became a comfortable habit I refused to acknowledge was harming me.

For the next three years, I continued my unhealthy coping mechanism. However, during my senior year, I became aware of the physical and emotional damage I was causing myself. I felt nauseous all the time, and purging could no longer alleviate the feeling. I also noticed that after particularly severe episodes, my heart beat irregularly, and my body would shake for hours. I also became aware that my eating habits were not normal or healthy, and guilt began to eat away at me. Finally, I decided it was time to quit before permanent damage was done, so I did. For the last six months of my senior year, I was bulimia-free. Stopping was surprisingly easy and, for a while, I assumed I had recovered.

However, my initial recovery didn’t last long. I had a devastating relapse the summer before starting college. I was overwhelmed with the stress of planning for college and then struggled to cope after a particularly difficult situation took place in my life. During these months, I spiraled into a depression I had never felt before. I lost all the self-control I had been working on throughout my senior year and completely gave up on attempting to recover. My days were filled with restricting food until late afternoon, binging, purging, and then crying until I couldn’t anymore.

As I continued to give in, eating became my entire focus. I could not think of anything else. I became consumed with thoughts of food, purging, and my self-image. I hated myself a little bit more with every meal, and the only way to alleviate the feeling was to purge. I was losing the illusion of control my eating habits gave me. Even then, when I realized what I was doing to myself, I didn’t want to stop. By then, my eating disorder had become such a large part of who I was that I couldn’t see anything else. In my mind, I didn’t possess any other qualities. I let my bulimia define me, and maybe this was the reason that, for so long, I couldn’t stop. I felt that if I was no longer bulimic, I would no longer know who I was. Although I hated my actions, and myself, for giving in, at least the feeling was familiar. Since the beginning, bulimia was my identity. In my mind, I justified my actions by thinking, ‘If I allow myself to heal, then who will I be? If I recover, I’ll lose the only part of me I am comfortable with.’ To me, the thought of changing my habits and abandoning my rules was terrifying.

A month before last semester ended, I began to throw up blood after a particularly severe lapse. Caused by unintentionally scratching my esophagus, the bleeding was not a medical emergency, but was a wake-up call nonetheless. That bloody night became a turning point, and helped change the way I viewed my disorder. I no longer saw my bulimia as something that was a part of me, but as something that was harming me both physically and emotionally. For me, bulimia was no longer something that I could control, but something that was controlling me. This shift in my thinking allowed me to finally tell my parents and seek professional help. Although opening up about my disorder first seemed like an impossible feat, it was the first step to recovery. Recently, I’ve begun to participate in online discussion forums and meet people in eating disorder recovery groups. Whether online or in person, talking to others who are dealing with the same issues makes me feel better about myself. Just the realization that I’m not alone takes some of the pressure off my shoulders. Every time I share my experience with someone new, it gets a bit easier to breathe.

My eating disorder was born out of the desire to feel accepted by my peers, but I assumed the only way I could have friends was by being physically attractive. Now, although these feelings still occasionally surge to the forefront of my mind, I understand that I was wrong. I’ve discovered, over the past few months, that I am the only one who criticizes myself this harshly. Other people really don’t care or notice nearly as much as I do. I was my own worst enemy, but recovery is helping me change the way I perceive myself. Even though I still have the occasional lapse, I’ve learned to deal with these setbacks too. I’ve come to realize that, although I am bulimic, I am also so much more. Being bulimic plays a part in my life, but it isn’t everything. It no longer controls me, and it is no longer my identity. My eating disorder does not define me.

Meditation and Chi: The Energy Force That Connects Us

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By Jade Jacobs

“You are not a drop in the ocean, you are an entire ocean in a drop.” ~Rumi

At the core of every major religion and spiritual belief system lies the practice of meditation. When we look deeper, we see that meditation is defined as “the disclosure of considered thoughts on a subject” or “spending time in quiet thought,” and we can see how meditation truly is the center of religious practices. In this case prayer, philosophical questioning, and 2 a.m. discussions about our purpose in the world are all considered variations of meditation. Today, meditation, along with other ancient practices, is most commonly associated with the Eastern Hemisphere. However, centering exercises, such as meditation, are more than their typical portrayal of a way to connect spiritually to a deity; they allow us to focus our energy inward on our own personal well-being. In modern society, we tend to become so fixated on work, classes, and other obligations that we forget to allocate time to work on ourselves.

A notion that I personally believe in is that each of us are connected. Whether you follow a more faith- or strictly science-based outlook on the world, both tell us that the energy in our universe has been here from the beginning. None is added, and none truly leaves. Energy flows through the system in a cyclical fashion. Our bodies and belongings return their energy to the earth and are reborn in new forms of life. Our life energy flows on as well, whether to an afterlife, reincarnated, or with our bodies back into nature. This energy connects each of us to one another similarly like how the roots of a rain forest intertwine to connect each tree, each branch, and each leaf. The energy flows through the forest providing life, and it connects each of us as well.

Just as the energy connects us to one another, it flows within each person individually. An ancient belief is that the human body harbors seven chakras, or pools of life energy called chi. Each chakra is connected to a different element, and is governed and blocked by a different trait. To help restore peace to the body, mind, and soul, the chakras must be unblocked in order from bottom to top, similar to how river dams are opened and water is allowed to flow.

The first chakra is the root chakra located at the base of the spine, and is connected to the element of earth. It’s governed by survival, and is blocked by fear. Meditating on this chakra teaches us to realize our fears, and accept them so they no longer control or burden us. The chi flows into this chakra from the sacral chakra located in the lower abdomen. This chakra is connected to water, governed by pleasure, and blocked by guilt. Meditating on the sacral chakra opens the mind to the guilt that weighs us down to teach us that negative things happen, but dwelling on negativity only clouds our judgement of the present. The chi flows to this chakra from the third chakra in the solar plexus, located just below the ribcage. This chakra is connected to fire, is governed by will power, and is blocked by shame. Meditating on the fire chakra allows us to continue from the previous chakra and let go of the negativity that plagues us. The shame blocking the fire chakra is often tied to the guilt of the previous; both must be left in the past to cleanse these chakras.

Unblocking the lower chakras allows for us to move into the upper chakras, starting in the heart. This chakra is connected to air, is governed by love, and blocked by grief. Harboring grief locks the chakra and mind from expressing emotions clearly, and can lead to internal strife. In Chinese medicine, common psychological disorders, such as depression and anxiety, can occasionally be attributed to a blocked air chakra. Disorders are said to be due to the tension and pressure of the chi pooling within the air chakra which renders the body unable to properly handle the complex emotions. Furthermore, if cleared, the throat chakra, connected to sound, allows us to open the pathway of truth that is blocked by lies. The lies blocking this chakra are often the ones we tell ourselves, ones that keep us from fully realizing and accepting who we are. Our throat chakras are commonly blocked, and are especially difficult to cleanse. In a society that instills constant pressure of who you should be, it is difficult to accept who you truly are. However, acceptance and elevated self-identity leads to cleansing the following chakra: the third eye. Located between the brows, the third eye chakra is connected to light, governed by insight, and blocked by illusions. Throughout time, one of society’s greatest illusions is that of division. As stated previously, everything is connected through the chi it possesses. To unblock the third eye chakra, we must let go of divisiveness, and realize that there is no “us” or “them.” We are all only parts of one whole energy force. The seventh and final chakra is the crown chakra, located just above the head. It is governed by pure cosmic energy and blocked by attachment. Few people are able to see past the material world to connect directly to the chi that comprises life as a whole. We become so attached to the objects, emotions, and people around us that how completely connected we all are becomes difficult to see, and to accept.

We are all connected to each other, and to life as a whole, through a web of chi that flows incessantly through time and space. Like leaves in a great rain forest, we breathe as one. Meditation and centering practices aren’t attached to a specific religion or culture, they’re exercises that allow us to tap into this chi to let it flow freely through us. It is a way for us to connect to ourselves and others through the chi we borrow during our lifetime.

Beautifully In Over My Head

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By Victoria Clark

Usually, if someone tells you that they have experienced a miracle, your emotions go one of two ways. You either feel overwhelmed with awe and captured by the story, or you sit in defiance, doubting that it ever happened. I could tell you about my personal miracle and it may stop you in your tracks or you may shake your head and move on, but I’m not here to tell you to read the Bible. I’m here to show you what could happen if you want to know Jesus, not just know about Him.

One Friday night about a month ago, I experienced a personal miracle. I went to one of the small groups that my church hosts, which could be referred to as bible study, and my short life took a drastic turn. We sat in a circle and, one by one, began sharing our thoughts about this beautiful outlaw we’ve all come to know in our own ways. Across the circle from me sat a young man named John and as he spoke, I found myself frozen in my chair. He mentioned how this was his last night in our small group and that within the next few days he would be moving to San Diego, California, because that’s where the Air Force needed him to go. I felt my chest contract, an aching pain I knew all too well to be grief, and I began to wonder for the hundredth time when I would be okay enough to hear about people alive and fighting for our country now when my father was lost so many years ago.

For the nineteen years that I’ve been alive, thirteen of those years have been without my dad. One early morning in Oceanside, California, a stone’s throw from San Diego, we kissed my father goodbye and watched him walk away for the last time. Five months later there would be a knock at the door and six-year-old me would come in from playing in the backyard to answer it with as much enthusiasm as any young child today does. In the thirteen years that my dad has been dead, I hadn’t ever felt his presence again. Initially, I thought that if I befriended God I would be able to continue dancing, playing, and talking to my dad in my dreams because he would be an angel sent down from Heaven to me, but I soon realized I was thinking about God the wrong way.

As a child, I believed in God because I needed there to be a heaven where my dad could be.  I believed in God in eighth grade because I had a friend who told me I was a blessing in their life, and I wanted to truly believe that I was. I believed in God my junior year of high school because the ocean called to me to be baptized in the sea. I believed in God my senior year of high school because, against all odds, I realized I never had a reason not to believe. I used to argue with God, asking why other people who have lost loved ones can see them occasionally in their dreams or feel angelic hugs, and after so many years, I still hadn’t felt a single tug from a world beyond to tell me that all was okay.

I tuned back into the conversation at hand where a circle of strangers were excitedly talking about Jesus’ presence in their lives. The room went silent as Melissa began to speak.

“Guys,” she sighed and looked around the room, searching for words to convey the unfathomable love she felt within her, “Jesus thinks I’m funny.” I sat there confused, and I wondered what God I’ve heard preached of before thought of Jesus himself as funny. Melissa shook her head, a smile stuck on her face and light in her eyes, “When I speak to Jesus, I speak to him as if He is my best friend, because He is.” The room was silent for only a moment before more thoughts were contributed.

One person stated how you can pray to Jesus wherever you are because he will always be there to listen. One person shared how she was taught the proper way to pray was to be on your knees, hands together, and eyes closed, but then she asked us if it was possible to pray and drive a car at the same time. I sat in this circle thinking of all the times that I’ve wanted to know Jesus, all the times that I’ve cried out to Him asking for help or guidance, and how, through all that time, I was looking at Jesus as a superior being who pulled on the world by its puppet strings and not as a human.

When Jesus was a child, He had to learn how to tie his sandals. The day I learned how to tie my shoes was one fateful day in kindergarten when I interrupted my teacher multiple times just to show her that I could do it. I threw tantrums as a young child if I didn’t get my way, and Jesus did too. I skipped rocks on the surface of the water and Jesus skipped them too. I get scared of the dark, I grieve for all the loved ones I’ve lost, and I go hungry, but so did Jesus. Jesus threw tantrums as a child before He grew up and changed the world. Jesus skipped rocks on the surface of the water until the day He stood up and walked on the water instead. Jesus knew that this darkness that fell every night could be defeated, He grieved for the loved ones He lost and then He turned around and raised Lazarus from the dead. He went hungry, and the aching pain in His stomach told Him to eat just like us, and then He broke apart bread to represent himself. Jesus is both God and human. Imagine that.

Usually, if someone tells you that they have experienced a miracle, your emotions go one of two ways. When I was told of a huge miracle Jesus did for such a small person, it began to hit me just how powerful He is. The little boy was about four years old, possibly five, and he walked confidently up to me as I sat on the small couch outside of the children’s ministry three years ago. I smiled at him, wondering what was happening in his little brain. His eyes searched mine, looking between them, watching for something, and then he spoke.

“I’m a miracle.”

He looked away from me and sat down on the couch by my side as if his soul was aging quicker than he ever could, and then he sighed and spoke again.

“I’m a miracle.

“You are, are you?” He nodded, looking up to meet my eyes again. “Tell me.”

This little boy proceeded to explain that, at two years old, he had fallen off of a four-story balcony onto cement and survived. I listened to him, awestruck by his story. He told me how his family had prayed for his survival, how he wasn’t scared for his life, and that he was alive only because of Jesus. This young child came up to my side and told me that he’s a miracle, no doubt in his mind, and then as quickly as he had come up to me, he was gone. His mother took him by the hand and smiled at me, leading him away.

He waved.

This was the first time I could see the light of Jesus in someone’s eyes. Tonight, at this small group, I saw the world light up.

The bible is not a rule book. It is not a strict step-by-step guide on how to live your life. It is, in fact, the opposite. For a very long time now, the predominant Christian religious establishment has been following these strict rules they claim to find in the bible instead of offering insight into who Jesus actually is. A lot of people in our world today misinterpret the words in the Bible and see in their heads a portrait of Jesus that is pristine, perfect, ghost-like, and staring into a world beyond what they can see – but that isn’t Him. What they don’t see is the Jesus who sits on our couch across from us, feet up on the coffee table, leaning forward excitedly to learn about life from our unique perspectives. What religion today lacks is the personality of Jesus.

The biggest mistake I made growing up was trying to know Jesus by learning all the rules He created and lived by instead of knowing Him for Him. I listened to the societal perceptions that were said to be true about Christians, all the stereotypes painting us as judgmental, “holier than thou,” self-righteous people who never make mistakes and only play Christians at church, but then I realized what a trap this was. Jesus’ heart is a garden, a beautiful mess of a world, and we are all blooming stories in it.

His love crashes over us daily, over my heart every second of the day. He is the reason I love the sea, He is the reason I laugh at the little moments in life, He is the reason I take off my shoes and climb any and every tree in sight. His playfulness, His humanity, and His love is what fuels my life.

As the small group came to a close, we all decided to pray for John. He pulled his chair to the middle of the circle as the rest of us stood up and stepped in, placing our hands on him and bowing our heads, offering prayer to rush over this young man. Each of his friends took turns speaking for John and praying for safe travels there and a fulfilled life once he arrives in his new home, and, on the outskirts of the circle with my hand on this stranger’s shoulder, I felt my eyes fill with tears. My chest contracted, the grief grabbing my heart and holding it tight, and I couldn’t stop thinking how this man is going to be stationed in the last place I lived with my father before he died. I could not stop thinking about how God made a full circle in this little room, a new beginning was about to start where one ended, and I prayed, tirelessly, endlessly, “God is good.” Tears ran softly down my cheeks and I felt a comforting hand on my shoulder, an overwhelming sense of calm, warmth from all the love in the room. I opened my eyes slightly to see who was offering me such a comfort, but the room was empty behind me.

A hand squeezing my shoulder.

After thirteen years, a comfort, an okay sign, something telling me that love is greater than all. My own miracle.

For the remainder of the night, I spoke with all the strangers in the room as if we had been friends since the dawn of time. I stayed in their home until a little past ten, talking to everyone. The kindness and genuine love in the room felt so surreal, overwhelming my soul. I could feel, that night, the presence of Jesus sitting back on the couch, feet up on the coffee table, smiling and watching over us as we all talked to each other with so much light in our eyes you’d forget that the sun had set for the night.

I am beautifully in over my head.

Make America Think Again Part 2: Civility

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By Samuel Alvarado

Candidates for the presidency of the United States of America should be qualified in areas such as experience, civility, and civic mindedness. It is not befitting for a candidate to feel entitled to the presidency, especially if these qualifications are not met. An ideal candidate for the presidency of the United States of America would be a person who not only has experience in government, but also has the civility to govern the great citizens of this nation we call home. In my first article, I discussed experience as a quality greatly desired in a candidate because it makes a candidate better prepared for the difficulties of leadership, and I would advocate that civility is a quality that is required in any leadership position.

Civility entails a person who can respect the position of his or her ideological opponent. Civility refers to having the humility to understand that we are all humans at the end of the day, and should be decent towards one another, as people with different perspectives and ideas should be able to do. Many leaders these days are crossing the line of civility, as they wish to be less politically correct, and blunter with their constituents. However, this incivility comes at a price to both their candidacy and constituents, as it sets a precedent that is not one to be proud of.

Both parties in American politics are guilty of a lack of civility. A prime, and recent, example of the lack of civility would be the 2016 presidential election. The 2016 presidential election was among the most ruthless and pessimistic elections experienced in recent history. In the past election, there was far too little focus on the platforms, and more of an emphasis on the scandals, such as Benghazi and email scandal for Clinton along with the tax return scandal for Trump. The point of being politically correct is to minimize the damage that one is responsible for with their words. Our words have the potential to bring people together or to divide them. Being politically correct is, at its core, being understanding of different people in hopes of being able to work with them effectively. Because of civility, we can more easily make a deal, reach a compromise, and understand each other’s points of view.

When we are civil with one another, we can bridge political divides and make compromises that allow society and government to function  A world without civility is a world with much more ruthlessness, anger, and tribal attitudes. We, the citizens of the United States,  must be able to understand how certain words can trigger a negative response from others, such as calling people “illegals,” “hacks,” or “idiots”. These small acts of agitation will add up to make people bitter towards working with those who have been insulting them. Having a sense of what to say, or not to say, can go a long way for future political discourse. It is understood that the current president was uncivil and politically incorrect throughout his campaign. However, Hillary Clinton, who some would say has maintained an excellent political record for more than 30 years, made a lapse in judgement when she callously characterized Trump supporters. Clinton may have the experience, but she lacked the civility at a moment when civility was her greatest asset. Trump could not have been a better foil for Clinton’s esteemed civility, but she lost that high ground when she got down in the mud. The characterization of Trump supporters as belonging to a “basket of deplorables” was insulting. Trump made various missteps in civility as well by characterizing Mexican immigrants as drug dealers, rapists, and criminals, as well as offending many others within the country, such as the media, the freedom caucus, and other countries. We can see here that both candidates lacked a level of civility during their election campaigns.

It is time for the return of civility to American politics. The return of civic dialogue between the two polarized political parties would greatly benefit the United States of America.  In hopes that our representatives can work together to secure a better future for the citizens of this nation, we can hope, and we can change these bad habits ourselves. This change of callous dialogue does not happen overnight, and we can not expect our politicians to be more civil if we will not subjugate ourselves to the same measures and expectations.

Of Knowledge

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By Joseph Cox

            We’ve built great walls, forged empires, decimated other species, built nations on the ashes of those that came before, and have written, pictured, or otherwise described a preposterous amount of information. We’re able to conceive of infinities, pin ourselves down in the depths of perspective, and alter the fabrics of time with spoken words, yet inside us all there lies the greatest trickster of them all. That trickster has caused the massacres, the enslavements, the wars, the joy, the art, and the beauty too. At the end of it all, the human mind is the greatest trickster of them all. Never has a species so advanced used their minds so mindlessly.

I do not aim to assert that humans are stupid, but I do wish to assert that we are wired to make sense of a senseless reality. Such little time is granted to the idea that we, as collectives or individuals, may be much closer to knowing nothing than we are to knowing everything. Here we stand, constantly at the cutting edge of technology and scientific advancements. Our phones talk to us, our bodies are fueled by genetically engineered foods, our cars are becoming electric, and our lives are becoming increasingly convenience based, but what do you know, truly, about the world around you? I don’t possess the faintest idea of how a phone works, how my text messages manage to zoom through space, how my food is crafted, or even how my car manages to propel itself onward using gasoline. Yet, here I am, preparing to tell you about why you may know nothing at all. Perhaps, at this moment, you’re feeling as though you know this article will do nothing to suede your perspective on the world, or perhaps you’re pondering whether or not this article is a waste of your time. You might even reach the conclusion that some wacky, philosophic, college kid hasn’t the slightest chance of blowing your mind. Deep down, you might even think that you know I could do nothing to alter your reality. At least, I can’t do it in the written word. Though, before you go, I do hope that you’ll consider the following question: how does knowledge feel?

How does it feel to know that I can’t change your mind, or how does it feel to know that I might? Even better, when you turn on a burner, how does it feel to know that it’s hot? I’d imagine there’s at least some sense of certainty to these various thoughts, or a comforting sense of undoubtedness about the world around you. I typically consider my knowledge of burners to be secure. I seem to know that if I touched the burner, I’d be burned. Surely, such a fundamental aspect of human life could not possibly be doubted. When we get hit by buses, we should feel pain. When we drop a pen, it should fall to the earth, for gravity should cause it to do so. It’s almost ludicrous to imagine that any one of these basic facts about human nature would be false, even if it were just for one real occurrence. Certainly, one could imagine a bus striking a man only to find that the bus was crushed at the man’s might. A folded metal tube lying pathetically at a confused man’s feet certainly isn’t an impossible thought, but we should know that such an occurrence could never take place in reality. There should be a certainty about such ludicrous ideas, for we should know that they will never occur. Buses should always hurt people, burners should always burn, and pens should always fall. Shouldn’t they?

Now, here’s the kicker, all three of the conclusions I just named aren’t reasonable. You can’t know that a bus will hurt when it hits a human, that a burner will burn a human, or that a pen will fall to the earth the next time it is dropped. You can’t know any such conclusions, should knowledge require certainty, because each conclusion is based on inductive reasoning.

How does one know that a pen will fall when dropped? Well, in all my prior experiences of a pen being released from my hand, the pen has fallen. Thus, the next time I drop a pen, it should fall. Gravity should always cause the pen to fall, but what does gravity look like? Can we experience gravity? Can we be certain of its existence? When I see a pen fall, I do not experience the gravity that causes it to do so. Rather, I see the pen being released from a hand, and I see the pen hitting the earth. I do not see, nor do I experience, the gravitational force that pulls the pen down. As a human, I am not under constant duress from the force of gravity. I do not feel bogged down by gravitational force, nor can I see, taste, smell, or hear it. One might assert that I’m experiencing gravity by not floating away into the distance, but there’s no experiential reason to assert that gravity keeps me grounded. Subatomic fairy princesses could be keeping me grounded, and that conclusion, if we trust our experiences alone, would be no less plausible than the gravity explanation. I cannot experience the subatomic fairies, nor can I experience gravity. One explanation merely appears more plausible than the other, but why? I assume that gravity exists, because it’s the best explanation as to why things fall when they’re dropped. There’s no sensation based justification of gravity. Rather, gravity is merely the best explanation for all of my previous experiences of pens falling, planes crashing, and planets orbiting.

Better yet, how can I know of any causal power? How can I know that the burner will be hot when it is turned on? Even more radical, how can I know that heat will always be hot? Heat is nothing more than the accelerated movement of particles, but I cannot see heat itself when I watch particles move quickly. I may be able to feel the heat radiated by the movement of the particles, but there’s no guarantee that the feeling will always remain the same. Nothing about the fast movement of particles dictates that they must cause me to feel a burning sensation, and nothing about a burner dictates that it must always burn the person that touches it next. If we can’t experience causal powers, like heat and gravity, then we can’t be certain that pens will always fall and burners will always burn. The only knowledge we have of such occurrences are formed through habituation. A potentially indefinite number of burners have been touched only to be followed by painful misery, but that does not mean the next burner touched will have the same effect. At any given moment, a pen could take off from a desk, a burner could freeze a human hand, or a bus could hit a human only to cause the human to morph into molten lava. If knowledge must be certain, then we may know nearly nothing.

Philosophers refers to this phenomenon as, “the Problem of Induction,” and it remains an unsolved riddle to this day. In all our wonderful endeavors to better ourselves and the world around us, it would be horrifying to think that the guiding entity of all our actions could so blasphemously assert its own rationality. How crazy, or how wonderful, it is to think that the mind may be the most mischievous entity of all. The thing you are meant to trust beyond all else may be the thing that deceives you most. Interesting, eh?

Welcome to the realm of philosophy.

Leaving a Legacy

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Photo by Sabrina Corbin

By Sabrina Corbin

Why am I here? What am I doing this for? These questions skip through my thoughts throughout the day. I close my laptop and heave a weary sigh, for these questions are restless and do not let me rest. For tonight, there will be no more studying and no more homework. It’s time to let my mind rest, but will it? In bed, I stare at the ceiling with an exhausted body, yet an active mind. My heart begins to beat faster. I’ve worked so hard today, but is it enough? I think of my unpredictable future, and what I want to do with the time I’ve been given. My heart yearns to help people, to create things that will solve problems for those in need, and to connect with people I never would’ve dreamed of connecting with. I have a craving to travel all over the world and build things that will help someone 100 years into the future. This life I’ve been granted is so short. I could die tomorrow and never have achieved any of the things of which I dream. Will I ever make it there?

“And when my time is up, have I done enough? Will they tell my story?” Eliza Hamilton, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.”

I see myself with a degree in hand, but I’m running in place. No matter what I do, I can’t move forward. All the colors fade away into black and white. My heart is racing now, it’s harder to catch my breath, but I’m still running. I finally run into a room, and it’s full of mirrors. A giant hourglass appears with sand rushing out so quickly, as if it’s trying to return to the ocean’s floor. I look back into a mirror, but instead of my reflection, I see my tombstone. With a huge gasp, I’m awake. It was a nightmare.

No one can tell what the future holds, but neither can anyone tell me that it’s not terrifying. You may not have these thoughts or worries, but I do believe that you should briefly think on them. What will your life consist of? What will you do with the time you have? What will be the meaning of your life? It’s difficult to apply a definition to the meaning of life. Nonetheless, I think being happy and helping others satisfies that definition, for me anyway. As a college student, it’s easy to get overwhelmed in the thought of your future and all the, “What If’s?” ‘What if this doesn’t work out?’ or ‘What if I’m not happy in my career field?’ and so on and so forth. The important thing is that if you’re feeling these things or something similar, that you’re not alone.

The first thing to do is to get a handle on all the restless questions in your mind, because they do nothing to help you. Forget all the, “what if’s.” Just live your life. People will remember those who are kind and happy because they are often jealous of those attributes! Be yourself and you will leave your unique mark on those who come into your life, whether they’re with you for long or not. Forget the unnerving questions, “Why am I here?” or, “What am I doing this for?” These questions only bring anxiety and ruin unto yourself. As I said before, it’s challenging to define the meaning of life, but we are here in this beautiful world to be happy, as well as to use the time and resources we’re given to help those who need us. I find that I ask myself the second question very often, “What am I doing this for?” Here’s how I answer that question: I consider my hopeful future in the biomedical field, and I tell myself, “I am doing this for the people who need to me to succeed.” All the challenges ahead of me are going to be grueling, but worth it because I know I’m going to change someone’s life. Keep in mind, time is the most heartless of all your enemies, and she will not wait for you.

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”

-Leonard Bernstein

Never ever lose your confidence, for you are incredible. One last thing to consider is that one of the sacrifices of leaving a legacy is that you may not see the repercussions of your legacy. You may not see who your legacy has helped or how it has helped, so you simply must believe in what you’re doing. Life takes a lot of faith and belief, rather than hard proof, and, understandably, life is very hard to live. The hard proof will be what you’ve done in your life, your legacy. All in all, your legacy will be what you make it. If you want to help people, as I do, then do it and make it happen. If I’ve learned anything in my two semesters here at UWF, it’s that very few things will fall into your lap. If you want something, then go get it. Dream it and then achieve it, because the world is yours.

“I am the one thing in life I can control. I am inimitable, I am an original.” Aaron Burr, “Wait for It.”