How are you reading this article? Odds are you came across it while browsing the internet. This article could have been published today, yesterday, or even a decade ago, but that would not make much of a difference to you. Why? We live in a world on demand. Anything we want to watch, read, listen to, and buy, is at our fingertips and only a press of a button away. Only a few short years ago, few people had access to this on demand world as we do now. I am a part of the last generation that began life without most of the services we use today. I am amazed by the fact that most people who grow up from this point onward will never know a world without smartphones, without Facebook and YouTube, without Netflix and Spotify. When I was younger, just before the boom of on demand services, I would always dream of having the ability to watch any movie I wanted at any time, but now that I currently have that ability, I rarely use it. Recently, I have begun to wonder why I don’t use these services, and why I don’t take advantage of the uncountable forms of entertainment I have access to. I believe that I do not use these services as often as I am able to because I am still used to a life without them.
I believe that because I was raised mostly before on demand services were readily available to me, I am used to watching just what was on TV. I often find myself catching the middle of a movie like Forrest Gump (a movie I have seen over thirty times in my life) on TV and staying on that channel until the end of the movie. However, at any point in time I can switch to a new movie on Netflix, one that I have been wanting to watch for years, and I can never push myself to watch it. Odds are, if I come across a movie that is already playing, I will finish it, but I find difficulty in choosing a movie to begin and finish in one sitting. I spend most of my time on services like Netflix and Amazon Prime looking at the seemingly infinite number of shows and movies to pick which ones look interesting, and I end up spending two hours not choosing anything. For me, the library of films and shows I have access to is overwhelming.
The best comparison I can make to an issue in the real world involves money. Many people dream of having an infinite supply of cash all their lives, but if we did have infinite money, eventually it would grow tiresome. There would come a time when we would either get bored of what we have or get overwhelmed by the number of things we could buy. I have reached this point of overwhelming when it comes to media like music, television, and film. Because we live in a world on demand, there is so much to watch and listen to that we often take the endless supply of entertainment at our disposal for granted. I recognize this modern technological age for what it is, and I personally take on demand services for granted by saying, “I won’t start this now. I can watch it whenever I want.”
Living in a world on demand is not necessarily a bad prospect. On demand services are some of the best modern marvels of our world, but the ability to watch anything at any time leaves me with the inability to ever actually choose something to watch. As I have said, I am a part of the last generation that will ever probably know of another life before the rise of on demand services, and we know the difference between the world we were born into and the world on demand.
Day in and day out I feel her drawing me in. Whispering repose in my ear as she asks me to come visit, but I rarely can. The work must get done, but the cunning deception of work is that it’s unending. The daily pressures of my life wear and tear at my entire being. I’m constantly exhausted both physically and emotionally. Everywhere I go, I’m always carrying a load on my shoulders. No matter how large or small the matter may seem my anxiety will make it appear at large. If I am to achieve the serenity I so desperately crave and escape the daily anxieties I endure, I must accept the invitation she whispers to me. The ocean calls my name, and, ignoring my troubles, I tell her that I’m on my way. The moment I step out of the car and breathe in the air, my attitude changes. The closer I get to the shore, the more my worries get quieter and quieter in my mind. The cloud of troubles that shields my view rolls away with the sunlight pouring in.
Every aspect of the beach is beautiful. The sand is as soft as the light ocean breeze kissing my skin with salt. All the seashells are tiny, artful, masterpieces just waiting to be found, although nothing compares to the ocean itself. The sound of the waves brings about a feeling within my chest that is difficult to explain. Peacefulness, wonder, respect, curiosity, and a hint of danger; all these things well up in my chest. Here I am standing before this momentous body of water that covers ¾ of our planet, and I can’t help but feel such wonder and respect for the incredible nature before me. I can look out to the horizon and, as far as I can see, the ocean is unending.
The water. Almost in a trance, I walk in to my shins. As I go deeper, I feel the water get colder. The drop in temperature sparks a sweet clarity in my mind. The water is at my hips. Before I know it, it’s up to my neck. I realize I shouldn’t go any farther, but the currents are arguing with me and try to pull me out more. It’s almost as if the they’re taunting me as the currents rip around my legs. With each movement, the sweeps prove to me that they’re stronger than I am, and the sea gives me a feeling of revere. These currents could break my balance at any second and pull me out to open ocean, but they don’t. I ignore the currents’ swift pulls and go underwater where the most beautiful part lies: silence. More specifically, a different version of silence lies within the depths. The only things that can be heard are the waves above me and the water around me. My thoughts are void of my troubles, which is unheard of if you have anxiety and know how it works. There are no worries, yet one simple thought remains in me: “peace at last.” It’s such an elegant thing to take a break from sensory overdrive to hear only water If I could, I would stay under the surface for much longer. I don’t know if I’d ever leave the ocean’s depths if I had the option, but my lungs protest. I give in and break the surface while heaving a big gasp. I reach for the sandy floor with my feet, but my head goes under again. The sea has brought me out a little farther than I need to be, and my heart rate quickens in slight fear. I swim back to where I can reach the ocean’s floor and can’t help but get a little annoyed. The ocean is greedy in the way she constantly wants me, and everyone else, to go out farther when she’s well aware we can’t do that. I look out again to the horizon to watch the tops of the waves forming and breaking in constant rhythm. I think to myself, “What’s out there?” Thinking of the ocean’s many secrets ignites a spark of curiosity within me. I don’t think of the dangers, like sharks, rip currents, or jellyfish. I think only of the positive possibilities of what I could find in her depths.
For some unexplained reason, the ocean makes me fearless, and I always want to swim out farther than I know is good for me. I always keep my cautious attitude, but I never want to listen to it when I’m surrounded with liquid courage. At the end of the day, still at peace, I sit on the shore caked in sand. My hair remains a salty mess throughout the day, and I’m loving it. Watching the sun set on the horizon, my eyes are rewarded with a conglomeration of the most beautiful colors that fill the sky and reflect off the water. Sharp reds and oranges guard the sun with soft pinks trying to calm them down. Crisp blues and purples bring up the rear as the moon pushes the sun out of sight over the horizon. However, a feeling of melancholy sweeps over me, as I know what comes next. It’s time for me to leave and return to reality after my day of relaxation. I gather my things, go back to the shoreline, and let the waves touch me to say goodbye for now. Silently, I thank this marvelous piece of nature for taking care of me and helping me relax. I thank her for allowing me to find an escape in a world where it’s next to impossible to breakout. As I drive away, my serenity and repose flicker away as the cloud of worry rolls back into the home it’s found in my mind. “Until next time my friend.”
The machine’s steady beeping was the only sound I had heard for the last week. Everything else, the other machines, all the voices, the scuffling in the hallway, I couldn’t focus on any of it. I could only focus on the rhythm of the machine. This sound kept me from getting lost in my head. The rhythmic beating was all that kept me grounded.
I couldn’t touch her. Her hands were so cold, and I couldn’t bear to reach out to her. The blue veins crawling up her arms were sickeningly prominent; the chipped red nail polish on her fingertips was a painful reminder of our life before. Every time I summoned the courage to rest my hand on hers, I drew back as soon as I grazed her skin. Every time, I looked at her face afterwards there was no movement. Not even so much as a flutter of an eyelid escaped her body.
Her still face was smooth and, although her cheekbones were sharp underneath her skin, she was still beautiful. Her once-soft skin was pale and took on a bluish tone, her honey-blonde hair was no longer there, and there were small clear tubes that snaked into her nostrils. To me, though, everything about her was still perfect. Even though her eyes were closed, I could still picture them: a light blue the color of a tranquil sea hiding beneath those dark lashes. What I would’ve given to see those eyes bright with life one more time.
I knew, though, that seeing that sea again was impossible because about a week ago, an insincere doctor had said so. I didn’t understand most of his words, but I picked up enough, enough to lose hope. After this news, I started focusing on the beeping.
Even with the machine’s calming rhythm, though, I was not calm. I couldn’t help but stare at the wedding band wrapped tight around her finger, and that was more painful to look at than her still body. The way the diamond mocked me as it glittered, and the gold metal took on a rosy tint in the pale blue light. The scene reminded me of what our life used to be. The ring that once symbolized love, hope, and progress was now nothing more than an artifact with the capacity to drudge up painfully sweet memories. I stared at the diamond until it was just a blurred shape in my vision, and my thoughts took over. I was no longer in the hospital room, but in a memory, I would give my life to go back to one more time.
I stood under a giant oak tree with the wind whipping my dress around my legs, and I was smiling as I watched her walk towards me. She was absolutely stunning- white dress glittering in the sun, honey-colored hair falling in rivulets down her back like a waterfall, red lipstick outlining her smile- I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She walked down the pale blue aisle slowly while holding an overflowing bouquet of wild flowers loosely at her chest. After she reached me under the oak tree, she read the vows she’d written nearly a month before she had even proposed, and then I read mine. Her smile got larger with every word, and tears began to spill down her cheeks behind her veil. Before I knew it, I gently lifted her veil over her face as she threw her arms around my neck. Then, her red lips were on mine, so warm and soft–
The frowning man with the lab coat pushed the door open to break me from my thoughts. He opened his mouth and sound came out, but I was trying to focus on the noise of the machine to keep from hearing him. I knew why he was here. I had signed all the paperwork yesterday, but I just couldn’t bear to hear him say it again.
The doctor continued to speak until I finally heard what I’d been waiting for: It’s time to say goodbye now. Right then, the crack in my heart that had been slowly growing the last few months broke open into a giant abyss that left me teetering on the edge. I took a deep breath and, with a shaking hand, finally reached out to her. I grabbed her icy hand and held on like I would never let go.
The slowing of the machine’s once-steady beeping threw me off rhythm. After a minute, the sound was replaced by a single drawn-out flat-line. Then, silence ushered its way into the room as the doctor turned the monitors off. He walked out. He had left me alone in the room with nothing more than an empty shell of the woman I once loved. I stared dumbly for what seemed like an eternity before finally standing and wiping away the tears that had begun rolling down my cheeks. Without the machine, I had nothing left to focus on, nothing to hold on to, and nothing to keep the thoughts at bay. The silence was deafening.
I know where I am, because I’ve seen where I’ve been. Although I’m not sure where I’m going, I know I won’t be back again. The past has snares that bind, and the future’s high beams blind, yet I leave footprints behind me as I move forward towards change.
The path I’m walking is far from straight. Some stretches have holes hiding as they await an unobservant foot. My gait becomes awkward when I wade within the water, waist deep, wishing to wash me away. The undertow shifts underfoot and undermines the purchase put beneath my own weight. The surface of this cypress swamp sits still. The mossy haze mocks me as a woven wood of roots wind the path into a maze. Still, I move forward towards change.
Occasionally the sun beats down, providing my head a glistening crown and sheaths my body in a crimson cloak. Each step another hot coal stoked. The arid climate a threat to choke me of the breath I hold so dear. Mirages taunt of oasis near but sand sweeps, serpentine, and swirls to sear my sight. Still, I move forward towards change.
Clouds converge to cover the sky, while lightening crackles and creatures cry curses to the storm that soaks them and soils their shelters. The path becomes soggy and seeps to my bones. There’s no place to dry in and no hearth to make warm. Yet frogs plop into puddles and worms rise from the earth. Unbothered by the torrential pour, they spring forward to embrace the storm, and I move forward towards change.
When darkness falls on an open sky, the stars glisten and remind me why I march on. For just as they sail through celestial seas, I too feel a burning need to strive for whatever lies beyond what can be seen. Through the cosmos waltz flaming ships that never settle, but take their risks so every petal blooms into constellation. Thus, we all move forward towards change.
John Donne wrote those words as an opening to his poem ‘No Man is an Island.’ The poem serves as a representation of both our empathy for one another as humans and the one fate we all share: death. I mention the death and loss of people not to make people sad, but to remind everyone that we are all connected because that is what both of those concepts inherently do. The loss and accompanying fear of losing a person are the ultimate reminders of how close we are as people on this planet. One prevailing theme of Donne’s poem is that, as humans, we all share the same problems and the same experiences. I’m writing this article because the last year and a half has reminded me of Donne’s poem and, subsequently, reminded me of the importance of us as people. I have begun to notice the problems of those around me more than I notice the problems in my life, and, through my observations and experiences, I have seen how applicable Donne’s words are.
“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.”
I said earlier that one of Donne’s points was that we share similar problems as humans. This point is the case because humans are empathetic creatures by nature, and when one person has a problem, we make his or her problem our problem. The past 18 months have shown me that this notion of empathy is true. In these months, I have seen people lose their loved ones and fear losing their loved ones. I am a human, a creature empathetic by nature, so I have felt these people’s feelings along with them. In these past 18 months, I have lost one friend to leukemia, one to cancer, and one to depression. In these cases, I had not spoken to that person for years or only briefly before their passing, but I know people who spoke to those friends practically every day. So, when these friends passed, not only did I cry for them, but I cried for the people around them. I cried for my loved ones who felt a loss greater than mine. I cried because each of those events reminded me of how one day I will lose someone close to me, and I was reminded of the importance of every human life. This importance is a concept that Donne addresses in his poem, as he implies that we are one continent as mankind. If any part of the continent disappears, then we are all affected. Just as the ocean eventually weathers away parts of a coastline, time takes its toll on mankind. As time ticks away, we must hold close what is important to us.
Now, as I said, my point here is not to sadden people but to remind everyone that we are all connected and all exist under the name of mankind. One person’s suffering relates to everyone because everyone endures some kind of suffering in their lives. John Donne wanted to remind us that we all suffer, and we all have problems. He wanted to emphasize that we are not just individuals but a species connected through emotional hardship. I want everyone to realize that the people in their lives are important because our time here is so brief, and the most important aspects of our lives are the connections we make with other people. I write this article now for reasons similar to Donne’s reasons for writing his poem. I want people to realize and value what they have now, but before what or who they have has disappeared forever.
Disclaimer: The views reflected below do not represent the collective beliefs of UWF Infinite Wisdom, nor do they represent the collective view of its writers. We possess writers of various ethical and political backgrounds, so the notions expressed here should be viewed as my own.
Disclaimer having been made, I’ll note here that I’m making no attempt to remain unbiased, for I believe the only way to move forward is to express one’s opinions raw and openly. Argumentation, debate, and learning is what will drive our nation forward, make it great again even, but cowering behind an unbiased opinion moves us nowhere. Consider this a combusted start to an open dialogue.
There’s only one word that comes to mind when I view the photo above: pathetic. Though, contrary to the opinions of the many who oppose Trump, as well as the newest piece of healthcare legislation, the word pathetic does not pop into my mind because of the miserable forced smiles of 200 men. The word pathetic doesn’t arise when I contemplate the fact that millions of people may soon lose health coverage, nor does it squirm in when I contemplate the enumerable numbers of people that may soon be swindled into increased healthcare prices due to past conditions they have no hope of controlling. No, what is so endlessly pathetic is not this conglomeration of political backwardness because I expected that. It’s not as if we weren’t warned of the atrocities that Trump would come to commit in his reign, and anyone that expressed even the slightest bit of shock from the recent political events clearly paid no attention during the election. No, what’s pathetic is not the foreseen raging tide of the Conservatives on Capitol Hill, but the American nation. Our bifurcation of politics has not only allowed such a miserable piece of legislation to occur, but has utterly annihilated any sense of open dialogue among the parties. Many rational minded Conservatives have been driven into hiding for fear of the public ridicule they’ll receive upon emerging as a Republican, and that, my fellow Americans, is what strikes me as pathetic. It is not the retreat of these rational individuals that is pathetic, but it is the behavior of the opposing side that strikes me as pathetically incorrect.
Before I delve deep into the rant, let us get one thing straight, we live in a representative democracy, meaning that those 200 men pictured above, the Democrats that accompany them, and the senate, are what represent America to the foreign world. It’s not the posts of the Liberals who claim that Trump is, “not my president,” it is not the attendees of Trump rallies, and it is not any particular American city or state, for that’s the point of having representation. We, as a collective, elect the individuals that best reflect our beliefs, but many of us have forgotten what representation means. For all purposes, being in a representative democracy means that your beliefs only hold relevance when they’re influencing those that represent you. From the mayors of cities, to the house, to the senate, to the POTUS, each representative is elected to act on behalf of the collective. America elected the men pictured in that photo, for the Conservatives did not act alone.
Definition of representative democracy aside, it’s time to talk about what’s pathetic. To every Liberal that has ever posted that Donald Trump is not your president, that mysterious blob of spray tan is, in fact, your president. To any Liberal that has dared to disagree with this healthcare bill only to point fingers across the aisle at the Conservative party, this bill is your fault too. Finally, to anyone, including myself, that has ever forced someone to feel idiotic for holding beliefs that they may never have fully investigated, you’re the real idiot in that equation. Yes, I’ve been an idiot before too.
My point here is simple: as a part of a representative democracy, what Trump and the Botox faces do is our responsibility as a collective. There is no Conservative or Democrat to the rest of the world when they see America because all that’s in sight is Trump. The election is over, yes, but the lessons that needed to be reaped from the process have clearly been left in the ashes of Clinton’s dreams. Democrats are every bit as responsible for every action Trump takes as the Republicans are, even if a Democrat voted against him, because that’s how a representative democracy functions. As a Liberal, your responsibility is not to belittle the other side into submission, nor is it to shame those that have defeated you. Any attempt to shame your counterparts is a direct contradiction of the beliefs you claim to hold, literally. Here, I’ll prove it to you. The following is the definition of Liberal: open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values (feel free to google it for yourself if you don’t believe me).
What’s pathetic here is not that the Conservative party is fulfilling its promises, but that the Democrats have dared to act as if they’re powerless to stop the tide of red. The facts are blatant. Facebook posts, whining on Instagram, yelling at your Conservative friends, festering in the wonders of groupthink with those that think like you, and tweeting about how much you just can’t stand those tight faced white dudes in suits isn’t going to get you anywhere. The Republicans didn’t win the last election because Americans are ignorant, but because they were the only people that showed up to the fight. If you want the egalitarian world you so desperately desire, then you may well wish to start talking about it to the people that think your views are ridiculous. Your Facebook friends don’t need convincing, but the thousands of people passionate enough to attend Trump rallies, as well as the millions of people passionate enough to vote for Trump, do need to hear what you have to say. Neither Conservatives nor Liberals are necessarily immoral due to their party affiliations, but backing people into corners until the only voices they hear are those shouting the loudest will certainly convert them to foolishness much quicker. If you think the other party is doing stupid things, maybe blame the individuals spreading the rhetoric and beating you at your own game, as opposed to the innocents that are merely buying into the arguments that are continuously presented to them.
It’s insanely counter-intuitive that the political dogma that so vehemently speaks for equality has collectively grown to have the voice of a nagging 5-year-old that won’t bother to hear what the other side is saying. Belittling, whining, walking away from the difficult discussions, and telling your friends about it isn’t helping, but dialogue with those that are different can, and does, change the world. Debate, engage, and start conversations amongst the people that have the power to sway your representatives in your desired direction because this healthcare bill won’t be the last abomination. Need proof of my arguments? LOOK AT THE PHOTO because they’re beating you for a reason.
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Definitions are endlessly interesting to me because so few of us seem to examine what they really are. In modern society, we love to have opinions on any concept we can begin to grasp. Politics, the news, science, religion, abortion, drugs, welfare, and student loans are all things being debated everyday by people with minimal education to people with doctoral degrees, yet we pay such little attention to articulating our definitions before we bother to debate. We take such stupendous amounts of information for granted that we often wind up accepting terms that we never agreed to, being swooned by people we trusted, and agreeing with statements we have never fully grasped. I hope to elaborate more on the philosophical and political implications of our society’s specificity problem, but for now, in the spirit of finals week, I’ll focus on just one application of definition: what defines you?
As a college student, I’ve been hit with that rusty train on numerous occasions. I refer to the defining task as rusty because that’s what the question feels like when it’s asked, and what the advice sounds like when it’s given. Being asked to define myself is like a rusted pile of metal painfully screeching its way through my brain in a pattern I’ve seen a thousand times before. I’m always just waiting for the train to pass. Biding my time before I finally explode to explain all the reasons bothering to define myself is a worthless endeavor for two reasons. One, the definition should have relevance to only me, and secondly, the act of defining isn’t permanent. The definitions of people, as with the definitions of words, are flexible objects that change with the flow of life. Well, here’s the explosion of my reasoning.
What I define myself as, should I choose to apply such a strange limitation to myself, is relevant only to me. Applications, tests, and interviews are all designed to delve into some strange, falsely universal, method of uncovering who we are as people. Finals week presents no better time to point out the uselessness of tests in defining who someone is. Around me every day are future scientists, communicators, teachers, and parents of differing cultures, beliefs, religions, and experiences, yet I observe most us, myself included, worrying about things that we allow to define us. The effects of test scores have little practical implications in our lives beyond the powers we grant them. Say I’d like to be a scientist. What about failing all 5 of my exams would stop me from achieving that goal? Sure, it would be preferable that I succeed now, but my future success isn’t entirely dependent on the scores I receive currently. My point here is simple. In the scientist scenario, I’ve assigned a definition to myself: I’m a future scientist. Such a construction was, hopefully, created entirely by me for my own sake, yet here I’ve been all week worrying that someone might take that definition away from me. The fear of test scores does not come down to a mere fear of failure, but to a fear that something might strip away the definitions we’ve afforded ourselves. Though, the truth is much more frighteningly beautiful: the only thing that can strip away that definition is whatever assigned it. Test scores can’t touch your dreams, institutions have, at best, limited power over you, and the only person that defines anything in your life is you. Feeling stressed? Change your definition of success. Don’t want to change your standards for success? Better define the requirements you must meet to reach such success. Test scores have only the powers that you grant them, so define the scores however you so choose.
Furthermore, perhaps the most overlooked point of defining oneself, is that definitions of all kinds are infinitely flexible. Few people ever stop to consider how words themselves come to be defined. Take how the word ‘red’ came to be defined for example. How did that color come to be established? It’s not as if there was some objective concept of the word before humans came along. Sure, the color red may or may not exist independent of our perceptions, that’s a whole other debate, but the word ‘red’ certainly doesn’t exist beyond the human use of it. Red, therefore, was created because of a lexicographer, or the equivalent of one at the time, who decided that’s what the color should be called, and that’s how every definition has been created. Meaning assignment is an empirical science that fluctuates with changes in human society. Words change along with the human usage of them, as will the definition of one’s own self change with the continuation of time. In English, my argument against exam worries, as well as defining people in general, is simple: who cares?
The definitions of people are relative, meaning that they’ll change with the circumstances that surround them. Today, you may be defined by a couple of letters on a piece of paper accompanied by a percentile ranking. Tomorrow, you’ll be defined by how funny your pun was on snapchat, how dank your Instagram post was, how attractive your smile is, or by one of indefinitely many other variables. In ten years, you’ll be defined by whatever the heck it is you’re doing with your life. The point is simple: defining yourself is a task made for you and by you. Don’t let anyone or anything, especially an exam, take away that privilege. The test scores don’t define you; you define you if that’s what you wish to do.