I started this day off very, very unhappy. I’ve been starting off most days lately very ambivalent. Ambivalent about my feelings, about my future, about my place in the world. But today I started off very, very unhappy. I spoke in an earlier entry about how much this semester has sucked, and I didn’t then and still don’t want to go through a laundry list of reasons. I don’t think this is something that is quantifiable, it’s just something in the air. Like Matt said in his comment to that last post, my sentiment is in no way unique. So many of my friends in student government, in the Justice, and wherever have just about lost hope. One guy I know used the day before the withdrawal deadline to withdraw from every one of his classes. Many are struggling on in the face of terrible odds. Others are having their worst semesters ever. I am one of them.
Andrew just put up his first big entry on bJournals, the blogging service I helped set up. He says that he’s tired of being tired. He’s not unhappy, he says. He’s not lacking in friends, or in commitment, or in passion. He’s just tired, that’s all.
Today Josh Brandfon gave his “State of the Union” address. Unlike every “real” State of the Union address I’ve ever seen, Josh’s Brandeis version didn’t start off saying that the State of our Union is strong. Far from it. He talked about the many problems we’ve had to face this semester. He talked about some of our failings and misestimations. He talked about how we can do better.
But he also kept it positive. He talked about all that we have achieved, and we have achieved much. He talked about our great promise, and the beauty and wonder and spirit of this school. He talked about how that wonder endures. He talked about a future that is bright and good.
In the grand scheme of things, we’re really not that bad off. Not very bad off at all.
This semester has sucked, it’s possibly been the worst three months of my life. I dunno. I’m glad to see it finally finished But at the same time, I can look back and see all of the wonderful, profoundly good things that have happened. I can see the so many times that I was happy and excited and emotionally fulfilled.
As I sit here writing this entry, I am continuing to neglect a very important essay for one of the few classes that I haven’t yet failed. The essay is about the book The Sea-Wolf, on the character of Wolf Larsen. The class is American Individualism, and the thrust of it is examining American historical figures who, through their inflated sense of worth, through their utter devotion to the ideal of the imperial self, through their lack of knowledge or care about the greater community, achieved greatness, and failed spectacularily.
Wolf Larsen dies a slow, painful death, but it is not a tragic one, for he never realizes the error of his ways, he never sees the truth — that his faith was a delusion. Wolf Larsen dies alone, cut off from the world, with no great legacy, no positive influence. He lived each day for himself, and for no one else. He had no real relationships or lasting influence. He died at sea, and he was not missed.
Wolf is completely assured of the rightness of his ways. He has reasoned it all out, and he knows that he is correct. And yet, with no sense of something bigger then himself, with no conception of the immortal, Wolf never truly lives. About halfway through the novel he says this:
I often doubt the worthwhileness of reason. Dreams must be more substantial and satisfying. Emotional delight is more filling and lasting than intellectual delight; and besides, you pay for your moments of intellectual delight by having the blues. Emotional delight is followed by no more than jaded senses which speedily recuperate. I envy you, I envy you.
I know, logically, reasonably, that my studies are shot to hell, that I should continue to be upset and angry with myself and keep this feeling of hopelessness inside me. But I refuse to do so. I will heed Wolf’s advice. I can do so much for people, I can achieve such great things, and one crappy semester, one set of failed classes and dashed circumstances will not keep me down. I will be unafraid to move forward, swiftly, into the eye of the storm. I will balance intellect and emotion, take delight in both, and not be caught up in the blues. Jaded senses I have had, but now is the time to recuperate, and swiftly. There is so much more to live for. And there is so much promise in the future. I will learn from the mistakes of the past such that I am not condemned to repeat them. I will call this my early-life crisis, and hope that, through it, I can avoid one in mid-life. Wolf Larsen sees humans as an expendable commodity, available everywhere in great supply. You are not a unique snowflake, he says, except to yourself.
That is not my goal. Wolf Larsen is so very wrong. Our humanity is established through our relationships, through our legacy, through the way that we touch others.
Three students have died this semester. Three. Shot down in the prime of their lives, in this time where they were still trying to establish themselves, to make their mark on the world. I can’t wait to achieve great things. The time to act is not tomorrow, or after all of my studies are complete. The time is now! Right now! And while balance must be achieved, and while I must start small and work towards larger goals, and while I must plan for my future and be logical and conservative, I must also plan for the now, and be emotional, very damn emotional.
Life is that balance, right? Or lack of it? Or pursuit of it? It must be something like that! And it is so very fleeting. Is one ever hopes to seize the day, he must start with today, right? Today. This day. I will start today.