By Robert A. Price
All too many of us are missing out on the innumerable opportunities our unique collegiate experiences present to deepen our individual understanding and appreciation of who we are. When the question of, “Why are you here?” is asked, many stumble as they try to sift through the myriad complexities that this question presents. We are indubitably not here to strictly gain a degree, this much is clear. Unfortunately, beyond that superficial motive there is significant confusion as to why the varied pedagogical instructions we receive are important. Many claim empathic persuasion as a motive for impending careers, but this is often a dubious claim because of the societal acceptance and overt validation of such intentions. This strong social force causes many to believe that they are indeed, selfless creatures, when in fact they are only compliant to the weight that is society. Others subscribe to the belief that they are seeking subsistence and basic satisfaction of the essentials, of which money plays no small part, in order to ostensibly gain advantage in an increasingly hostile world. Those who choose to believe this are, in their pragmatism, quite honest with themselves, but in actuality just as impressionable as those who site altruism as their sole incentive. Both groups of people are in effect, lying to themselves since the honest answer admits submission to the populace, whereas their explanations imply cognitive investment. The reasons we choose to participate in our perspective fields of study vary greatly, but for the most part we unwittingly play the role of, according to William Deresiewicz, “excellent sheep” who know not why they follow one another. In order to avoid this witless existence, one must internalize the fact that existing is not meaningful in and of itself. Only after being provided profound context can existence be made to fully satisfy an individual. To account for the exceptions an awareness of how bold these assertions are must be noted; it is indefinitely presumptive to ascertain that all students fit within these largely insufficient categories. That being noted, learning the purpose of our academic journeys and, in turn, what defines us as individuals has never been a more pressing issue than it is today.
Today is an abstraction, and in reality only indicative of the instance in time in which a particular perception is most clear. Our collective understanding of today is typically associated with contemporary events; this association is detrimental to our understanding of today as a broader concept. Today is now, the moment in time in which decisions are made and direction is determined. Historically we have not taken advantage of this truth, it clearly determines today as something we have direct contact with, as opposed to the indirect contact modernity presupposes. This along for the ride mentality is more harmful than one would initially believe. In tandem with this paradigm comes the tendency to let go of passions, forget dreams, and embrace that terrible and bestial creature, reality. The assertion of so many influential figures that say “I am a realist,” indicates an acceptance of quotidian or a base level existence, which is detached from original ambitions. This settling of sorts is purportedly necessitated by the world, but what most do not realize is that we as humans are capable of immense transcendence. Today, we have a chance to believe in opportunity and look to possibilities rather than “realities”. Our mindsets determine our perception of what is real. If we believe in ourselves then we can begin to express those things that make us so sublimely unique.
Fear is quickly becoming one of the most pervasive qualities in college students. Not unrelated to that trend, anxiety and depression have become rampant in the collegiate space; according to the National College Health Assessment, “About one-third of U.S. college students had difficulty functioning in the last 12 months due to depression, and almost half said they felt overwhelming anxiety in the last year.” This cannot solely be blamed on students who are, for the most part, blindly following what society has told them is acceptable. The vast majority of students who suffer from such difficulties simply do not recognize that, in trying to emulate what their parents and other successful forebears have achieved, they begin to ignore their own predilections that make them who they are. The ancient Greeks had an adjective for those concerned only with the unintellectual and ultimately meaningless task of making a living, banausikos. This descriptor captures the essence of what we students should be trying to avoid. We should primarily be concerned with expressing our divine peculiarities, beautiful flaws, and infinite ambitions, not, as the world would have it, our natural desire to assimilate into the masses and just make it by. We are capable of massive feats, since our identities are not attached to accomplishments or monetary achievements, but to the blissful state achieved when our personal self, the person you are in solitude, is in perfect unity with the person you present to others. In order to become this sort of radically inspired generation, we only have to choose to fill our time with what is intrinsically joy inducing, and in doing so, discover ourselves. Compliance is a behavior which we have adopted to deal with disapproval; it is high time we recognize that this disapproval is only a hallucinatory manifestation of our deepest anxieties and fears. As we begin this year’s journey, it is of paramount importance that we remember not who we wish we could be, but who we actually are.