Caring Less

photoabigail
Photo by Abigail Keenan

By Rachael Whitlock

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might recall an article I wrote a few months back called “My Eating Disorder Doesn’t Define Me.” In that previous article, I spoke about an eating disorder that had consumed my life for the past five years. I recently decided to write this follow-up article because I’ve realized my problem wasn’t simply an eating disorder; in fact, it was much deeper than that. My real problem was my overwhelming fear of being judged negatively by others. The eating disorder was simply a symptom of my own insecurity. Many people experience this feeling of insecurity in their lives, and while I attempted suppress these feelings with unhealthy eating patterns, someone else may use a different method of control. I bring up my insecurity not to discuss repressing it, but instead to take the much healthier options and address them in order to correct the problem from where it begins. In other words, I’ve decided to care less.

Unfortunately, humans are a painfully social species, and it’s completely natural for us to care about what others think. If we didn’t have this empathy, we wouldn’t be able to form any healthy relationships or deep connections with others. In order to be happy, great relationships with others aren’t an option – they are a necessity. The fear of losing valuable relationships with people stems from the fear of other people’s opinions. And in some cases, this fear is useful. It can motivate us to behave in a way that makes more people like us. But in many circumstances this fear leads to anxiety, insecurity, and depression, which is counter-productive to creating relationships with others. The best way to overcome this is to simply not try so hard. Although it doesn’t sound very helpful, it works. Humans are drawn to others that seem confident and genuine, so the less we worry about others’ opinions, the more they will enjoy our company.

For me, caring less doesn’t mean being apathetic towards other people’s judgments of me, but simply not taking judgment from the wrong people to heart. Throughout middle and high school, I worried about what everyone thought: family, friends, acquaintances, even total strangers. But now, I can count on one hand the number of people whose opinions I let influence my life. I’ve found the importance in trusting a select few people who have your best interest at heart. Everyone else’s opinions should be ignored if they are not beneficial to you. This is probably the most difficult, and most useful, piece of advice I’ve ever been given. Even though I still have to consistently remind myself of my own advice, the advice itself has immensely helped my recovery.

Another way to care less about others’ judgments is to simply think of the absolute worst-case scenario if you ignore someone’s opinion. Chances are, whatever happens will not be anywhere close to how bad your imagination played it out to be. This tactic was extremely helpful to me because I realized that no scenario was worse than the one I was creating for myself by staying bulimic. I decided the best way to be happier was to think of how much worse off I would be if I didn’t recover. If I continued to let my insecurities rule my life, I would never get anywhere. Richard Branson, the well-known English philanthropist, perfectly summed up this notion when he said, “I’d rather look back on life and say, ‘I can’t believe I did that’ than ‘I wish I did that.’”

I decided to write this follow-up article not for myself, but for everyone else who is struggling with their own fears and insecurities. After all, that’s what college is about: struggling to fit in, to make a name for yourself, to overcome your personal burdens. At some point in their lives, everyone worries that others think negatively of them, and this insecurity can manifest itself in devastating ways. But with a shift in your own thinking, you can overcome much of these feelings. I am concrete proof of this accomplishment. Although it’s not an easy or a quick fix, it is possible to become the best version of ourselves if we simply care less.

Benefits of My Internship

IMG_20170614_231108_244

By Felicia Riggs

This summer I decided to take an internship as an exotic animal caregiver (which is a fancy way to say zookeeper and animal trainer) at a small private exotic facility in Louisiana. I jumped into this internship head first without a second thought and took this opportunity mainly as a resume booster, but I ended up learning more than I expected in my short time there. Here are some unexpected benefits that I have personally received through my internship.

1. Finding Myself Outside My Comfort Zone:

If you are anything like me, you have no real idea of who you are outside of your hometown/high school. I came to this small town in Louisiana just hoping that everything was going to work out and that I wouldn’t hate my summer. I was terrified that I was going to be here for a few weeks and not be able to handle the distance from everybody that I knew and loved. Going away to college wasn’t hard because I couldn’t wait to get out of my hometown, but taking a summer away from the place I now called home was something that I didn’t know I could handle. Being isolated from all my friends and family was hard for the first few weeks, but being away from them has really showed me that I can go live my life and be a “real adult” away from my comfort zone. I can adapt to places just like anyone else, and I find that it is easier to adapt once you realize that your comfort zone is what limits your exposure to the world.

2. Figuring Out The Right Job For Me:

You will know quite quickly if that specific job is something that you want to do for the rest of your life. If you hate the thought of continuing the work that you are doing, or taking on an internship related to that work, then you need to find a new career path. If I didn’t love my kangaroo joeys, and all the other one hundred-plus animals out here in Louisiana, then there is no way that I would last at this place. I work long days out in the sun and the Louisiana heat, but being able to snuggle with my lynx kitten at the end of the day makes everything worth it. So, if you take an internship and can list more cons than pros, RUN. Your internship should not be a chore to you, and you should not hate every minute of it. I would be lying if I said that there haven’t been a few days that have been extremely difficult for me, but I can honestly say that I have experienced way more good days than bad days during this internship opportunity.

3. Getting Thrown Into The Real World:

Taking an internship away from home is, in my opinion, the fastest way to have to grow up. I went from having meals prepared for me and having no job (other than school) to buying and preparing all my own food, working fifty-plus hours a week, and still having school work to do. Now, some of you may have more “adulting” experience than me and think that I’m entitled or taking too long to adjust to adult life, but this move was a big change for me. For example, this past week I have been sick on top of every responsibility, so I’ve really had a crash course on “How to be an Adult.” But, oddly, I like this feeling, meaning I like knowing that I am living entirely on my own because it’s freeing. For those of you thinking about taking an internship, don’t let fear scare you away. Run toward your fear, and it will pay off for you, big time.

4. Establishing Business Connections:

Okay, now this is one of the more obvious benefits of taking an internship, but I never guessed how much this one opportunity would help me. Even though you may think your bosses don’t notice you putting extra hours, working way harder than other people, or picking up on the smaller things that make the day run smoother, They do. You may think that your employers just hang out in their office all day and take care of the business stuff, but they ask about you. Bosses want to know if you are a potential employee after graduation, and they want to know if they really need to write a personal letter of recommendation for you or just use a vague template with your name on it. So, you should do all the extra things. Even when you have already worked thirteen hours that day and are at your wits end keep going. Bosses especially notice who is working hard at the end of a long, crazy week. My boss has offered me a job after I graduate and has also offered to connect me with one of his colleagues for a part time job while I am working on my degree. I cannot stress how much employers notice when you think they aren’t looking.

5. Making Friendship Connections:

Making friends during your internship or work opportunity may not happen everywhere. I am lucky enough to have wonderful people working with me, so I get along quite well with all of them. I have even met one person in particular who I know is a true friend and that know I will keep in touch with for the years to come. Having friends around while you are doing an internship is going to be a big part of your happiness. We all get mad and frustrated at work, and we need somebody that we can trust to go to when we are having problems. My friend here happens to be one of my coworkers (By the way, be careful if you befriend a coworker. You just don’t want anything negative you say to get back to the boss.) Another reason having a friend at your internship is a positive influence is that the two of you can go explore. If you are in a totally new location, don’t just lay around on your days off. You might want to go out, explore, and get a feel for the local culture. Being in Louisiana and far away from home, I sometimes feel like I’m in a totally different country, but I know that I always have a partner in crime to go find an adventure with.

The best advice I can give any of you wanting to jump into an internship is to just do it because it’s going to teach you so much about yourself and your life plans. Plus, internships are just a lot of fun. I love my internship, and it was honestly the best way I could have possibly spent my summer. Also, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get very many offers when applying for positions. I applied to 23 different facilities all over the world and this was the only internship I got offered. It’s competitive out there, but if you can snag one, take it! And once you have taken that opportunity try to learn what I learned; find yourself, your interests, and your connections to the world outside your comfort zone.

Dream For Tomorrow, Live For Today

dsay

By Jade Jacobs

From the moment a child is able to utter a coherent sentence, the question comes up. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Wide eyed and mind reeling, we blurt the first thing that comes to mind. As we grow older, the questions never leave us. “What are you doing this weekend?” “Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?” “What will your wedding be like?” These questions all share a common theme: they plan for a future that we aren’t guaranteed to have. By the time we are eighteen, we may be less bobble-headed and glassy-eyed than that three-year-old version of ourselves, but many of us are still far from being able to answer the question that has plagued us. Even now, seventeen years after first being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I could have a different answer every day.

As a society, it has been so deeply ingrained in our psyche to set goals and make plans that we’ve forgotten what it means to live in the moment. We’ve forgotten what it means to appreciate those we surround ourselves with not for what they do for us, but simply because they’re here. We’ve forgotten what it means to wake up early not to get that workout in or clock in the extra hours, but to simply take in the sunrise. We’ve become so focused on who we’re going to be, that we’ve forgotten who we are.

I’ve come to realize that people bounce between two modes. We’re either planning, or we’re waiting for plans to happen. If someone isn’t planning a trip, then they’re counting down the days until they leave. If we aren’t planning what classes we’ll take, then we’re waiting for them to start (or waiting for them to end). This loop of monotony never ceases. We give ourselves the illusion of change by looking forward to a future that seems different from today, when all we do is fall into the same patterns over and over.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been taught that I need to think three moves ahead of the next action I’ll be taking. There will always be the next step that needs a path to follow or the next set of doors where only one can be opened. I’ve spent most of my years thinking about where each path would lead, or what is on the other side of each door, that I forget to see what trees line the paths or what colors the doors are painted. Time that I can’t get back was spent worrying about where I need to be tomorrow and not enough of it was used to enjoy where I am right now.

However, there are moments that make me think by pulling me out of this uncertain future and immersing me in the present. My favorites of these moments are cold sand sifting through my toes, the Milky Way stretched out across the sky, a million lights mirrored on the waves, and the moon, orange as if aflame, climbing high or laying to rest on the horizon. We need to take in these small moments and realize that they are much bigger than they seem. It’s the times we take for granted that we so dearly wish to return to. Don’t let today be just another grain of sand in the hour glass. To reach your dreams tomorrow, you first have to let yourself dream them up today.

19

IMG_8431

By Joseph Cox

I was 15 years old when I self-harmed for the first time. In media, there’s always a pale character shimmering in the darkness of the room. The knife slides through the flesh off-screen, the camera zooms in on the neck as it gasps in succulent relief, and the character fades into sleep as all the troubles slip away and the blood reaches the comfort of the sheets.  I found relief, but it came only from the shock of the moment. It wasn’t the cut, but the bitter realization that suicide was drawing near.

Every year as the clock ticks by, the candles get more plentiful, and I venture just a bit farther from home, that kid with the knife gets a little bit farther away. I remember the days when I’d stand in front of a crowd and shake so much that my skin would beat against my baggy jeans, but that boy gets buried a little deeper with every presentation, speech, and leadership role I encounter. Though, all the drifting feelings can’t hide the reality that the boy is never too far away. He was wrapped in the same blanket I’m tucked beneath as I write this now, he wore the same watch, he sang too loud in the shower to the same music, and, truthfully, the same things scared the hell out of him. The people that didn’t care about him then don’t care about him now, he didn’t stop caring about the people he loved, and he stubbornly refused to have apathy for just about anyone, yet, somehow, he became much happier. He rose the tired body that he detested out of bed every morning, tried to fix the hair he could never get right, brushed the teeth that pounded with brace pain, and put on polos that looked atrocious on him only to drag his depressed self to the high school that had zero chance of improving his happiness. I just turned 19, and I think back to what I’d say to that kid now.

I’d tell him that the sweaty palms and resounding thuds of his heart won’t go away no matter how many times he stands in front of a crowd, writes down words he hasn’t heard someone else say, or talks to a girl he finds attractive, but it won’t matter that he can’t quell his heart. His heart is what makes him feel alive. Even when he horrendously massacres a social situation, he’ll learn to laugh at himself, and he laughs quite a lot. Sometimes, he screws it up just for the fun.

I’d go on to explain that I don’t blame him for anything he’s feeling right now. He lives in a society that’s rigged with systems built to retain commerce instead of happiness, and high-school is a breathing example of a system that went horrifically wrong. I’d also know that he spends every day surrounded by people struggling just as much, if not more, than he is. Then, he comes home to watch the news that belts a cheerful, “Good evening world,” while proceeding to tell him all the reasons why the evening is not good at all. Also, his parents ask him, “You okay?” so many times per day that he’d love to have something go right in life just to have something else to talk about. I’d tell him that life is incredibly tough at times, and I don’t blame him for wanting to die for a fair portion of it.

I’d also tell him that his polos and overly large jeans aren’t hiding his chubbiness from anyone, that his brown polo he used for picture day in middle school made him look like a UPS salesman, that the roundness of his face is hilariously more accentuated when his hair is short, that he’ll forever have a hatred of sandals and flip-flops unless they are worn by Spartans, and that he’d probably hate himself less if he just went to the gym instead of dissing muscular people that have the bodies he wishes he had. Also, I’d tell him mac-n-cheese is delicious, and even though he’ll go on a ridiculous diet plan that no one should ever do, learn the convincing rationality of veganism, and come to despise the drowsy feeling he gets from consuming cheese, he should keep eating it for the fun of it.

I’d tell him these things because depressed people aren’t always blameless. People confined to wheelchairs aren’t always nice, veterans aren’t always cool, policemen don’t always shoot unarmed people, and small children don’t always bring me to tears with their high voices, so no one should be treated a specific way due to one characteristic.  Don’t get me wrong, life became immeasurably more enjoyable upon graduating from the cesspool of self-loathing that is the average American high-school, and some mentally ill persons are dictated by the terms of their respective diseases. But, it’s not as if the universe delivered happiness to my life. As much as I wanted it to happen, happiness never burst through my door in Kool-Aid man fashion with an “OH YEAH!” no matter how many times I said, “Oh no.” to the life I so desperately hated. Why? Because depression doesn’t come from having a terrible life, it comes from the perception that life will always be garbage. Hence, we kill ourselves to avoid the insurmountable avalanche of trash coming our way. No suicidal individual ever had the final thought of, “I’ll bet life would be great if I was living tomorrow, but nah.” The truth is, I always defined what happiness was for me, but the kid I was had no idea what that definition might be.

What I did know is that other people weren’t bullied, other people weren’t chubby, and other people didn’t struggle with the immense amount of other troubles that are too personal and lengthy to mention to an audience that didn’t ask for any of this. I also knew that I felt sorry for everyone else, didn’t want to be worthless, and wanted every person on the planet to be happy. Yeah, of course I was going to be sad when that’s all I was consciously aware of.

Look, what I’m trying to say is being purposefully antagonistic to any ill person, mentally or otherwise, is probably one of the least cool things you can do as a human being. It’s right up there with kicking the crutches out from underneath someone and hitting a dolphin with a boat; cruelty and misunderstanding to any ill person is no bueno. However, bashing the ill person over the head with empathy until they feel helplessly defined by the ailment isn’t a better alternative, for we should strive to listen and care for the people that need it rather than berate them with empathy. Had I received more understanding, perhaps I would have learned to define my own happiness sooner. Instead, I was caught in the world that always loved to come crashing down.

Obviously, I’m not asking anyone to walk up to a cancer patient and go, “Hey pal, I empathize and understand the severity of your situation, but walk it off, homie. It’s just cancer!” because anyone who says that should be kicked in the left knee repeatedly. What I am saying is that empathy, as rare as it may be, is only the beginning of a decent conversation. Empathize, think through the situation, and respond accordingly. Don’t just hit him or her with an, “Aw, I’m sorry, but life will get better soon.” That’s about as useful as reacting with glee at any cat video; it’s an automatic reaction now.

So, in conclusion, I’d tell my 15-year-old self that he’s incredibly strong for enduring the pains that his perception, and the things that caused such perceptions, had brought him. I wouldn’t blame him the least for wanting to kill himself either. But, most of those crappy things aren’t going to change quickly, and life is still going to be insanely difficult regardless of what he does. However, with some work, some great friends, and a hell of a lot of mistakes, he can manage to work his way through life. I won’t propose that there’s some one stop solution to everything, but I will propose that life gets to be much more interesting when you leave that dark room, that desolate high-school hallway, and the daily drag of allowing yourself to have the exact same thought patterns. Start small, kid, because each step makes the next step a little easier.

You’ll probably never figure it out, but that’s what makes it all so entertaining.

The Island Of Us

DONNE REAL
Poem by John Donne

By Jay Ayer

“No man is an island entire of itself.”

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.

The Definition of You

Suess
Quote and illustrations by Dr. Seuss

By Joseph Cox

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.

Of Knowledge

Image result for socrates

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.