This past August 21, the world, especially Czech Republic, commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Prague Spring invasion. Various speakers spoke against the evils of communism, and how the Prague Spring invasion from the USSR and other Warsaw Pact troops threw the nation back into darkness. Luckily for me, I was in Prague in August, receiving my TEFL certificate, and was able to witness many of the commemorations of this pivotal point in Czech history.
In 1968, Czechoslovakia experienced a brief period of liberation and artistic creation, called Prague Spring. Coined by then president Alexander Dubcek as “socialism with a human face,” Czech society loosened from a previously oppressive and completely socialized society. Czechoslovakia experienced a burst in creation, giving this time period its name, “Zlata sedesata” (the golden sixties). But, upset with the direction Czechoslovakia was headed in, and wary the country--as seen by many as the connection between East and West Europe--would inspire other countries to adopt looser communist governments, troops from the USSR, ordered by stalinist president Antonin Novotny, along with other Warsaw Pact countries, rolled through Czechoslovakia and re-instated strict communism. All in all, around 250,000 troops invaded Czechoslovakia, including some 6,300 tanks and 250 airplanes. Around 72 Czechs and Slovaks were killed during the invasion, and some 270 injured. Although the numbers may seem low for something commemorated as such, the invasion symbolizes the loss of freedom and the catalyst of many more deaths during the 'normalization' back into the Communist way of life.
During the week leading up to the Tuesday, many of the historic locations in Prague housed special events to honor the lives lost in the reoccupation of Czechoslovakia. In Wenceslas Square, where citizens--typically students--historically protested, and where Warsaw tanks famously fired at the Radio station during the reoccupation, several organizations, including Vojenský Historický Ústav Praha and others, sponsored the showing of documentaries on a blow-up screen, posters displaying images of the brutal invasion, speakers, and singers. The goal of the commemoration was twofold: to remember the victims of Communism, and to make sure that Communism and similar ideologies never return. Their logo reflects their goal: “Aby sny nezešedly” (Let not the dreams (read "nightmares") go grey).
On Tuesday, August 21, many important locations had commemorations. A concert, organized by Czech Radio, was held in Wenceslas square, where many songs about the invasion were sung. A special video and maps were projected onto the National Museum nearby. Various museums had special exhibits on the invasion, free to the public on Tuesday. In addition, in Kampa, a grassy, tranquil area by the Vltava river, several speakers recounted the events of the haunting day. About 300 melancholic people, holding Czech flags and banners, surrounded a small stage which held three speakers. Among them, a USSR expatriate Mr. Gorbanevska spoke against the ignorance of Communism.
Gorbanevska’s family has a detailed history with Communism. The repression of Prague Spring happened when he was young, and living in Russia at the time. His mother Natalya Gorbanevskaya, a strong proponent of freedom, and vocalist against the USSR, was one of the eight people who protested on the Red Square in Moscow several days after the Prague Spring invasion. She brought young Gorbanevska with her, as well as her two other children. All eight protestors were swept up by the KGB within seven minutes of sitting in the square with a Czechoslovakian flag and a banner which read things such as: “мы теряем лучших друзей” (We are losing our best friends), “Ať žije svobodné a nezávislé Československo“ (Long live free and independent Czechoslovakia), and “Позор оккупантам!” (Shame to the occupiers). Most of the seven were subject to harsh treatment, including Gorbanevska’s mother, who was later sent to a psychiatric hospital for being a dissident, diagnosed with “sluggish schizophrenia.” She has been celebrated as a hero in the West, and is well-known for her numerous acts of courage and literary works on the necessity of freedom.
At the talk, Gorbanevska humbly opened his speech in a highly accented Czech, saying “Odpust mi, nemluvim Cesky” (Forgive me, I don’t speak Czech). A translator stood by his side and translated his Russian into Czech for the younger people in the crowd. For a people who had to learn Russian under the occupation, hearing Russian would be a hard thing on such a day. Gorbanevsky’s opener, however, created a platform on which he and the Czechs listening could together mourn the invasion. He continued to say, “I wanted to share a few words. A normal person to normal people.”
Gorbanevsky’s message was brief and direct: we must never forget the atrocities of Communism, and must actively reject it in all of its future forms. He dwells on current Russians’ ignorance of the repression, and how refusing to learn about the evils of the USSR based on the fact that these events took place in the past is an unforgivable excuse. If we forget the history of Communism--how it first started out as a political party which gained much popularity but evolved into a soul-killing machine--we risk repeating it.
In his talk, he chastises the Czech president, Miloš Zeman, for his weak stance against the Communist party in the Czech Republic. To the mention of Zeman, a rustling went through the crowd, stirring everyone a brief period of whistling in disapproval of Zeman. They’d been stabbed in the back by the secret police, their own brothers, countless times during Communist occupation. Betrayal by their president is close to unbearable.
Gorbanevsky concluded his speech by encouraging the crowd to never forget the tanks rolling into Prague, and to never tolerate limitations of freedom. He encouraged everyone in the crowd to continue protesting injustice everywhere, even if they risk persecution. Protesting evil is the right thing to do.
Following Gorbanevsky’s speech, the founder of the “The Memory of a Nation” project, a non-profit organization, talked about his work in sharing stories of normal people’s lives under Communism. His work has the same goal as those who organized commemorations throughout Prague--that people should never forget Communism, and never stop fighting for freedom.
After all of the speakers held the stage, a young singer was called to the stage. She sang the Czech national anthem, “Kde domov muy” (Where my home is), and the whole crowd joined. Following the song, members of the crowd lit candles for people they knew who died at the hands of the Communists during the occupation (the intellectuals, celebrities, and politicians who wouldn’t promote the USSR, as well as many others). They processed from Kampa to the statues memorializing the enemies of the state, and lay the candles at the feet of the statues. At the statue’s side, a scout (Scouts had been outlawed under Communism) held up the Czech flag. People reverently placed their candles down by the statues, and quietly related their stories to their neighbors.
This experience taught me many things. It explained the quiet stillness in the crowded metros, and the hard, emotionless face of the passersby. Communism may be gone in the Czech Republic, but its effects still linger. We must never forget what Communism was, and how it came to be here, but we also must be willing to move on and trust others again, rejoice, and enjoy this life.
Stay tuned for my impression and recap of the Museum of Communism next.
Interesting links for follow-up research:
Just one day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, men and women worldwide participated in what they called a Women’s March. These marchers claimed to raise awareness for disrespect towards women. However, instead of a march for all women, this march was clearly a march for progressivism.
These marchers equated the ability or choice to abort their pregnancies with women’s rights. By falsely doing so, they withhold the platform’s message of inclusivity and solidarity from women who have regretted their abortions, or who work to give women alternatives. Pro-life groups such as Students for Life of America and New Wave Feminists, after asking to be partners or sponsors of the event, were declined. By exclusively bullying these women, the Women’s March was much less of a protest for all women, and more of a protest for progressivism.
In the Women’s March platform found on their website, the protesters encourage healthy familial environments for women. They rightly argue that women should not accept violence towards their bodies in any way. Underscoring this true cause, the platform calls for the continuation of federal funding to Planned Parenthood—the organization which is responsible for more than 30% of the nation’s abortions, giving 1 in every 8 patients who visit Planned Parenthood an abortion. Clearly, this organization encourages abortions, a violent and harmful choice in comparison to adoption. So, although the platform initially seems to have a great message, the specific policies within the platform suggest otherwise.
It seems strange that this event happened right after Trump’s inauguration. If it was truly a march that highlighted real problems women have been facing for a while, why had it not happened sooner? Why had it not happened after Bill Clinton’s scandals? Or Chris Brown’s domestic violence? The march was much less than a march for basic human rights. It was a political scheme directly attacking both Donald Trump’s presidency and Conservative values (both different things).
Whenever politicians take advantage of natural disasters for their own benefit, people always seem to be dismayed. They argue it is wrong to use the victim’s experience to better the politician’s own standings. In the Women's March, the organizers used the abuse of women—the emotions women have been holding inside—for a progressive political ploy. This abuse of women and of their emotions contradicts the march’s end. It is a sad thing that this march has misled so many people from expressing their pain.
1. What do the Women's March organizers claim were the goals of the Women's March?
2. When did the Women's March occur?
3. According to Ms. De Gree, what were the real goals of the Women's March?
4. What is your opinion of Ms. De Gree's analysis of the Women's March?
5. Optional Questions: Where did the Women's March occur? Which individuals or orgaanizations provided funding for coordinating and organizing the Women's March?
As the new semester starts to roll in, and both students and teachers start falling back into a routine, it is important to first set goals to ensure the most amount of learning. Being able to step back and create a vision for the semester will help both teachers and students have something to work towards. When work starts to pile up and overbear, students or teachers may feel like giving up. But, having a picture of success in the back of the mind can help both students and teachers work through their challenges better and more efficiently.
While creating goals, both students and teachers should seek to make goals for things in their order of importance. Prioritizing things may help hold things in perspective throughout the semester. In creating a sense of order, creating goals in respect to priorities may help the student or teacher focus less on the superfluous details. It can be easy to focus on these details too much and get drawn away from the big picture and that which really matters. When creating these goals which shape the end picture of the semester, try to make them about the most important things you would like to achieve. Try to focus on setting no more than five goals so that you can focus on those five things. Then, for the following semesters, once you’ve been practicing those five goals and making them habitual, you could expand your goals to work on bettering your learning strategies in other ways. From prioritizing your goals then, you will be able to focus on the things that matter, and use those lessons to help you expand your abilities even more in the future.
When envisioning the semester and setting goals, reflecting on past experiences can be indispensable. One of the reasons why the freshmen first semester GPA is astoundingly low compared to the rest of the semesters at most colleges is because students learn from their past mistakes and use that information to better prepare them for the future. While the succeeding GPAs may not always increase or follow that pattern, students learning how they best comprehend material greatly influences their future learning habits by helping the student place himself in the best situation to succeed. Teachers do the same thing. They reflect on past teaching semesters, analyzing which activities really helped students understand things, and comprehending how to better fit those activities in the lesson plan. Sometimes it may be difficult to recognize that specific activities were not beneficial in the classroom, but being able to recognize this and change shows that you are both humble and want to change for the students’ benefit.
Thus, through reflection and intentional ordering, the student and teacher may prepare themselves for the coming semester. In reflecting, the student and teacher recognize their strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures. Understanding those differences helps shape the learning curve for the succeeding semester. When the student or teacher prioritize goals for the semester, they place themselves in a better position to do well because they have fewer things to worry about. As long as they have a solid understanding of the big picture, and how to get there, they will be able to succeed.
AI (Artificial Intelligence) has grown so much in recent years, it has become embedded in our lives. From the development of the Walkman to the plans for the so-called smart headphones, we have become more reliant on artificial realities for companions. Whereas the Walkman started to block our interactions with other people through distracting our hearing, the looming creation of smart headphones pose a deeper threat to our human connections. Soon, with the potential creation of smart headphones such as the Vinci smart headphone by Inspero Inc, people will be able to use headphones to somewhat replace a human companion. With these headphones, people will be able to ask a Siri-like voice for multiple things, such as directions, music shuffling, and weather predictions. But the most shocking thing these headphones will be able to do is suggest changes to the buyer, such as changing the music to fit the anticipated “tone.”
This addition to our influences will most likely be another negative one. Following along with the negative culture which dually takes away our resolve to rely on critical thinking and places less importance on human connection, reliance on smart headphones will end up leaving people feeling empty and lonely. Unlike other technological advancements which improve manual labor, this advancement in technology will take away the need for people to be alert and think for themselves. In this way, smart headphones will continue the trend of creating the mob culture instead of training people as individuals. Much like how reliance on social media, such as Snapchat and Instagram, greatly persuades people to think the way media want people to think, smart headphones may numb people from recognizing the importance of both their critical thinking skills and human connectivity.
When watching the Kickstart advertisement for these headphones, I was horrifically reminded of the shells (wireless smart headphones) from Fahrenheit 451. In Fahrenheit 451, people are so accustomed to the companionship they receive from the shells that they hardly ever think for themselves or have any deep relationships with others. Only when the main character realizes this and stops using them, is he able to see reality without that outside influence. Now, while we approach a time when our culture will start to become more and more reliant on Artificial Intelligence, it is extremely important to remember the vital lessons from Fahrenheit 451. Namely, that human companionship is unparalleled, and the ability to think independently forms the core of our very own identity.
Although Fahrenheit 451 lays out a society so reliant on AI it seems a bit exaggerated and impossible, it nevertheless challenges us to constantly keep our reliance on AI in check. Humanity will never reach the point where we use only AI for companionship because we are social animals and will recognize the superficiality of AI in the end through our natural impulses to create real and deep relationships with people. But, I think it is very possible for people to rely on AI to an unhealthy extent, despite their real relationships. While in the end, people may just use these headphones as any other headphones due to the apparently great sound quality, knowing the potential dangers of these headphones may prevent people from disappearing into an entirely different world–the Artificial world.
With 2016 coming to a quick close, the media has tried to reinforce its agenda with its focus on giving 2016 a negative name. The media has been filled with mourning for the loss of many celebrities and the outcome of the election through countless memes and sound bites. Through these tactics, the media has striven to consume the audience with their agenda and project a negative outlook on the passing year. But, instead of providing encouragement for the coming year, this negative judgment of 2016 aids the media by convincing the audience to remedy their sorrows through materialistic means. In other words, by drawing attention to the deaths of celebrities, the media hopes to drown the audience in its materialistic message. And, by referring to the election as a complete loss in 2016 with quick memes and sound bites, the media pushes its progressive ideology (with its lacking of analytical thought) onto the audience in a way that is hard to challenge.
Through dragging us into thinking that 2016 was a horrible year, the media demonstrates its focus on the memes and sound bites which emotionally attract people. Using events which have recently happened, the media encourages people to make rash statements and generalizations about the year. When many celebrities died in the week leading up to the New Year, memes suggested that their deaths were indicative of the entire year. Because the media was so focused on these deaths, it made people attach their deaths to the entire year. Linking the deaths to the year emotionally aids the media in trying to make people believe that the year basically and superficially relies on the lives of the celebrities. But, because the media does this through funny memes and sound bites, people are easily lead to believe the media.
Thus, it could be easy to get caught up in the media and believe that 2016 was a horrible year. When all you see or hear is death, progressive ideology, and sound bites, it may seem like 2016 was really that bad. But it is important to not get mixed up with that thinking. We need to remember that we can’t judge the entire year based off of just the last two months. This would be entirely superficial. We can’t only judge the year off of the media’s presentations. What we must do is view 2016 holistically. We must discern in which areas we grew and in which areas we need growth. Judging the year based off of celebrity deaths and the election should be thrown out of the window because none of those things are as important as relationships with Christ, family members, and friends. Nor are those two things as important as understanding things on a deeper level.
The coming of the New Year this weekend allows us the opportunity of meditating on the important things in life. Through recognizing that the media does not provide a meaningful way to judge the year, we will be better able to ensure a better next year because we may be able to deny the media’s idea of the good life.
The week before finals, when I was writing one of my essays, my dad made me realize that I didn’t have to stress out about school as much as I had been. The essay was not where I wanted it to be at that point, and I texted my dad, asking him to send up some prayers for me. I told him that I was stressed that the essay would not be good enough, and that I really needed divine intervention. My dad replied that he would of course pray for me, but that I really shouldn’t stress out about the essay. He pointed out that stressing about work is not worth it because as long as I did my best, there was nothing else I can do about it. From that point on, I fixed my attitude about my essay, finished it to the best of my ability, and moved on to other assignments.
My dad revealed a very important lesson. Oftentimes, we associate our self-worth with our worldly successes. When we do poorly in school, don’t perform the best in sports, and don’t execute well for our bosses, we decide that we are worth less. This is a flaw in our culture. It shows that we value people, including ourselves, for how they can benefit us in situations. We “aestheticize” people, that is, we use people in a utilitarian sense, taking what will benefit us and leaving the rest. Instead of looking at people as unique human beings, we sometimes only see people for how they may help us. And, to a certain point, this may be necessary. We may become friends with someone because we have to in order to survive. But if we are only friends with them for that reason, we miss out on any deeper meaning in the relationship.
When we view our worth as directly related to our worldly success, we limit ourselves to just our capabilities for success. For example, if I thought that I was a great person based off of a great paper grade, I would only be judging my character based on my ability to write. That would be a very inaccurate way to judge myself. Perhaps my grades show determination, will-power, commitment, and an ability to understand. But sometimes people get good grades because they know what the teacher wants, or because they were born with a specific talent. A grade doesn’t directly reflect the time you placed in the course or the level of understanding of the material. Perhaps you understood the material, but simply didn’t test well, or wrote in a particular style that the professor didn’t like. All in all, judging ourselves based on how well we did in the class limits the value of the class itself and shows a lacking in recognizing the transcendent worth in knowledge from the course.
As cliché as this will be, our grades truly do not define us. Although grades and GPAs may affect our scholarships and may demonstrate our determination to do well in classes, they do not always reflect our transformation throughout the semester. We should look at school beyond our grades. Instead of limiting courses to credit hours and grades, we should view courses as ways to grow in our life. We should keep in mind the higher purpose of learning. Like the man in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, who is released from the darkness and finally understands the light through education of the light, we are able to understand things in life in a deeper, more truthful way through education.
Thus, through education, we may learn how to live better. At Hillsdale College, students sign an honor code rather than reading a list of “do’s and don’ts.” The honor code, which states “A Hillsdale College student...through education, rises to self-government,” demonstrates the importance of education. Through gaining wisdom and understanding in education, we are able to understand our role in society and things in life in a deeper way. This understanding, thus aids us in having full lives. Therefore, rather than limiting our education to numbers and letters, we should recognize the greatness in education as that which helps us order our lives for the better.
During my senior year of high school, my older brother, who was attending UCSB at the time, told me the best advice I have received. He told me that if people don’t push themselves past their comfort zones, they will not learn. Through putting ourselves in unfamiliar positions, we learn of the consequences of new actions. Therefore, he told me that I had to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Not only will putting ourselves in challenging positions teach us how to grow, they will help us feel confident in our abilities.
When we use social media, we only sometimes put ourselves in challenging situations. More often than not, we just scroll through, looking at whatever catches our eye. Because of the way social media is structured, most of the content does not demand our full attention. Unlike a newspaper, in which you have to read the article to understand current events and issues, social media usually are something which does not demand the user’s analysis. Sometimes, we read articles our friends share. And perhaps engage in discussions on social media. But most of the time, we pass up on these discussions to avoid hurting other’s feelings.
We use social media to get to know other people without having to do the hard part of actually talking to them. We avoid the challenge, if you would call it a challenge, of getting to know someone and be able to read them to understand what they’re actually saying. Social media gives us the opportunity of filling our lives with almost meaningless noise because it distracts us from the reality of things. It only lets us see things at the surface.
Why do we continually use social media when we get the same results each time? Although we may feel like we get closer to others because we find out about their lives, when we don’t actually develop a relationship with others, the satisfaction we receive fades. Because we don’t have real interactions with people, and because we don’t fully focus on social media, it’s hard to form lasting relationships with people. We return to social media for the same fake feeling of friendship.
Sometimes we use social media to receive our news. We learn about the current events from reading article titles and memes, instead of reading actual newspaper articles. Thus, the things we see on social media, if that is the only way we get news, greatly affects the way we view the world. If we view the world based off of social media’s representation, then we only view the world with the carefree attitude we use towards social media. This makes it hard to take the important things in life seriously because we don’t fully understand the things that go on.
This past week at many schools, students had to write their last papers before finals. This week at my school, and many other schools, is commonly called “Hell week” because of the insane amount of papers. I, too, had a hell week and had to write many long papers. This task, albeit challenging, showed me how mind-dumbing social media is. I used social media as a break between writing my papers because it provided light, brainless entertainment. It helped me realize that the knowledge and satisfaction I get from social media is fading compared to the knowledge and understanding I gain when I write papers.
Knowledge and understanding gained from reading intellectually stimulating articles, essays, and other literature is far more transcendent than the satisfaction from social media. When we use social media, we tend to want to keep checking it habitually to see any updates. But, after reading a good essay, we feel satisfied for much longer for learning something stable.
This Thanksgiving, I visited one of my good friends near my school. While on my visit, I saw a cute little magazine cover framed on one of their bookshelves. On the cover, a little girl in a play dress sat knitting what looked to be a scarf. After studying it for a while, realizing how happy the girl seemed, I noticed that it was the cover of an old Good Housekeeping magazine.
Now, this cover would not have been printed. People would have claimed that Good Housekeeping supports a limited view of women and their roles as mothers. Good Housekeeping, according to them, would suggest that a good mother is one who teaches her daughter how to be a good mother in the future, or a good mother according to the standards of that day. Her daughter would learn how to knit, sew, wear dresses, and do other chores. Any mother who fails to do this, fails in being a good mother.
The way our society would react to this cover if it were published today shows a drastic change in our definition of motherhood. To fail to recognize that knitting and sewing are perfectly fine activities for a woman, if she so chooses, is one of the ways we can see this drastic change. Good mothers put their children first. They show them interesting things, and teach them how to behave well. This cover shows that a good mother teaches her children things, including knitting. It demonstrates that good mothers, in teaching their children these things, show them that they can create things and find happiness in their abilities to create. It doesn’t limit women to specific household chores. It merely shows that women, as people, can and should create things.
I remember learning how to knit from my mother. I was excited to be able to make scarves and other neat things just through using two needles and yarn. This sparked my interest in other areas of crafting. But I wasn’t the only one in my family knitting. My brothers did as well. We loved creating things for my family members. We made scarves for practically everyone in the family for Christmas. After learning how to knit, my siblings and I learned how to sew. We created neat couch pillows, with embroidered designs. Whenever we finished a project, we gave it to someone we loved, happy that we could simply create something and give it as a gift.
My mother, as all good mothers, showed us how to create things and find joy through our abilities. She helped keep us creative when we could have been bored watching some unintelligent TV shows, or stuck with an iPad, just following instructions and not really thinking. Through showing us how to knit, sew, and do other crafts, my mother sacrificed her time. Instead of having us sit in front of the TV to let her do the things she wanted to do, she would talk to us and teach us things. She devoted her time to our development and thus our confidence.
Now, many of the Good Housekeeping covers are centered on the mother herself instead of children. The juxtaposition of just the covers of this magazine demonstrates our culture’s drastic change. When motherhood used to be focused on children, it is now focused on the mother and her ability to host other adult guests. It shows that as a culture we are much more focused on ourselves and our pleasures instead of sacrificing for others. And, it shows that we are much less concerned on children and their development in general. We seem to just let other things teach our children, such as educational TV shows or iPads, so that we can have more time ourselves. This is a loss.
Why couldn’t this old magazine cover be a cover today? Would teaching your child how to knit today restrict them from seeking things other than knitting in the future? Does it teach little girls that her place is only in the house? Of course not. It engages children and helps them feel accomplished from creating something. As opposed to just placing children in front of the TV, or handing them iPads to do activities which require them to do things, instead of the more engaging activity of creation, mothers teach their children important skills.
After the election, students at Cornell University organized a “cry in.” Much like the community students have sought through “safe spaces,” these students want to feel that they are not alone in their misery. They gathered to mourn the recent election of Donald Trump and console each other in their coming fear of a man who, they claim, is a bigot, sexist, misogynist, homophobe, xenophobe, and racist, among doubtless more personal attacks.
Professors at other Universities have condoned similar behavior, cancelling tests throughout the week to accommodate the emotional “shock” of their students.
People have fled to Facebook to voice their pain, writing that they will be “allies” to women, blacks, members of the LGBTQ community, and so forth. They claim that those who voted for Trump reflect the descriptors they have used for Trump–attacking their morals and character.
These people make it seem as though everybody who voted for Trump did so out of hate; because they believe in a kind of white supremacy that demands that they bully people who are different.
But that is the way they have seen this whole election. The media has presented Trump as this figure of hate, while the media presented Clinton as the beacon of love. Clinton would be able to support these minority groups and repress the bullying from the privileged. But a vote for Trump would condone it.
Why have people become so weak to the point that they feel the need to publicly cry for the outcome of an election? And why has that become acceptable in this nation? Why have there been an increasing amount of “safe spaces” on campuses?
It seems like the people who have cried, who have voiced their opinions against Trump and for Hillary, and who have felt the need for safe spaces on campuses do exactly what they claim they oppose. They use the system to accommodate their feelings and insult the people who don’t agree with them. They limit these conversations, which could be made about rational things such as policies and actual facts, down to merely emotional responses. And claim that anyone who disagrees with them is a bully and a horrible person.
But, is it really the students’ fault? Many of the universities now have professors who support a progressive, liberal agenda. They reflect the arguments the media has used to demonstrate the weaknesses of those running. But because the media has relied so heavily on the emotional response of the voter, they have focused too much on name calling and mudslinging. So much so that those who claim are rational beings, the university student, is left with little or no means of expressing himself well. They rely on sudden bursts of rage on Facebook, or public displays of sadness through cry-ins, or signs of giving up through “safe spaces” because they think that those who disagree with them will hurt them in person.
What happened to the idea of civil discourse? Has this tool, the very one that lets us express ourselves as people through communication and our use of reason, become just something of antiquity? Can we still fight back the animalistic urge to express ourselves in tears instead of reason?
I think so. As Edmund Burke puts it, “To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting.” Let us read, then. And reflect. So that we may differentiate fact from opinion–truth from falsehood.
Challenging ourselves is good. Through challenges, we learn important things, such as what we are best at and how we can do things better. We may grow from challenges, thus widening our areas of expertise and becoming more comfortable in pushing ourselves. Through a good challenge, we focus on bettering specific things so that in the future these things may come a bit easier to us. However, sometimes it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture and place our focus on the difficulties of the challenges themselves instead of focusing on our improvements. Through giving ourselves an unrealistic amount of challenges, we may sometimes spread ourselves out too thin and hurt our abilities to succeed.
Through challenging ourselves, we force ourselves to evolve. With less time, resources, or better expectations, we now have to find ways to do better than we had before. In forcing ourselves to do more, we naturally gain more experience. In time, this experience will result in knowledge. Whenever I feel uncomfortable doing something new, I try to remind myself that it is sometimes good to be uncomfortable. While doing something I’m not quite good at, but that is good and beneficial for me, I may at first feel uncomfortable. When I went to College, I was at first uncomfortable with living away from home. I didn’t know anyone, didn’t have a car, and wasn’t that great at school. But day by day, I felt more comfortable because I made friends, found ways to get places, and became a better thinker. All of these things are good things that only resulted from me pushing myself out of my house and into something uncomfortable.
However, sometimes we get caught up in the challenges we have, and focus just on how difficult they may be, instead of how we will get better from accepting them. We may get lost in our challenges, and forget what we actually had wanted to achieve through them. Through giving ourselves too many challenges, we may start to only do the bare minimum, resulting in understanding only the surface level of deeper things.
Recently, I had to limit the amount of times I worked my on campus job at the office. Basketball season had started to pick up, and midterms had hit me hard. I was disillusioned with my standings in some of my classes, and realized that I had to readjust my schedule to give me more time for my studies. Although it was hard to decrease my hours at the office, I realized that it was the best thing for me to do because I had been spreading myself out too thin. I had lost sight of the big picture. Seeing some of my grades really notified me that I was not where I wanted to be in my studies and that I wasn’t focused enough on learning. Instead, I was too distracted by the other uses of my time to put enough time in my studies.
Through recognizing our challenges and understanding their goals, we may be able to grow in great ways. However, if we challenge ourselves in too many ways, we may never actually put enough energy into things and get great results. We should, instead, focus on fewer things at one time and get good at them so that we can pile on more challenges later. By becoming experts in our initial challenges, we may use the skills we learned from these and apply them in the future.
Jessica De Gree
Jessica teaches English as a second language in Spain and plays basketball professionally there. She recently received her Bachelor's degree from Hillsdale College, one of the nation's top Liberal Arts schools in MI. At Hillsdale, she played basketball and studied English and Spanish. Some of her hobbies include reading, writing, painting, surfing, and playing the piano.