Friday, March 29, 2013

Awareness Shouldn't Be a Miracle

The Age of Miracles
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Let's think of everything happening in our world today. A civil war tearing apart Syria, the Supreme Court deciding who has the right to no-strings-attached love, Russia becoming more authoritarian...there's quite a bit to go down in the history books. However, picture yourself in fifty years. If someone asks you what you remember about the Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage, will it be the court proceedings of each individual day that you remember? Or will it be how your grandmother almost threw a plastic spoon at your brother in a heated debate concerning the topic?
     I think the latter.
     In Karen Thomson Walker's The Age of Miracles, the turning of Earth on its axis slows day to day, causing mammoth environmental changes. At first thought, one would probably reason that our main character, twelve-year-old Julia, records a significant amount about how days progressively get longer and the effects on wildlife and such (birds dying, ecosystems breaking down, the like). But surprisingly, a much larger deal of the book has to do with ways in which, parallel to Earth's progressive change, Julia's life progressively changes. When her best friend moves away to a Mormon retreat dedicated to waiting out the apocalypse, said friend promptly forgets Julia. When Julia's mother becomes anal about collecting foodstuffs, her father begins an affair with the local hippie. Events such as these compose a much larger ratio of the book than information concerning the scientific portion of this "age." To a historian, such a trend is a complete and utter waste of time. To the average human being, it is the art of living.
     Now, it can definitely be said that many more people are aware of the oncoming Supreme Court decision mentioned above than the Syrian Civil War or Russian Authoritarianism. Why? Well, what subject is most bound to come up at the family dinner table? What phenomenon is most likely to cause dissent in the American family? What phenomenon is most likely to affect American individuals?
    The Supreme Court decision, obviously.
    But the unfortunate fact is that the Syrian Civil War and Russian Authoritarianism are just as if not more important than the Supreme Court's impending decision. Syrian families have been forced to live in caves for the simple protection of their lives (more info). Russian activists are being unjustly persecuted under Putin's regime (more info). However, these topics aren't easily grasped by the American public because they don't apply very much to them--but does that mean we shouldn't care?
     Absolutely not. America has a role in the world, and that role demands that we at least keep ourselves aware of international human rights violations. Even a simple statement of "We are here for you and wish you the best" is better than the ambivalent response we have now. Moreover, those of us that who are informed have a responsibility to the world, and that responsibility is to make these imperative phenomena applicable to our fellow Americans. Bring it up at the dinner table. Keep it in the awareness of our peers. Isn't penalization of Russian Activists somewhat similar to the Patriot Act? And if we were in the same situation as those Syrian families, wouldn't we find a cave to shelter our families in as well? We are all human--it's just haphazard groupings of letters called nationalities that differentiate us.
     And most importantly, if we don't address these issues now, we will be forced to do so when they become too applicable for comfort. Remember, the world is a dreadfully small place. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

To Be Young

Looking for Alaska
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Youth is fleeting.
     Let that be the one thing I've learned in these past few months. Looking for Alaska by John Green has taught me the confusion of youth, how we teenagers really don't have a clue about anything. The reason why we appear so clueless, as I have since reasoned, is that we think that there is more to this world than our own feelings. We adolescents think that there is some kind of constant in human existence that puts our own feelings to shame, whose sheer might and  all-knowingness can show us how nonsensical our feelings really are in comparison to the entire world.
    So what do we do? We are young, we are determined in our youth, and we are determined in our ability to take advantage of our youth, so we try and chase after this constant. We try to chase after that universal truth. We chase after it by trying to experience as many different areas of life as possible--whether drugs, relationships, or simply secluded places in our hometown. Our common reasoning for such exploration is that something, somewhere will teach us this truth, will tell us how nonsensical and petty our feelings are in retrospect. Because what teenager wants his emotions to be the only things composing his world? Adolescent emotions are as passionate and fickle as your fat uncle's eating preferences at an all-night dinner buffet, so such a world would be quite the mess indeed. Some will of course object to my thoughts with examples of adolescents acting like they are always in the right, like they know more than every adult on Earth combined. We've all seen or been that stubborn, thick-headed teenager at times, haven't we?
     What the adolescent breed is trying to accomplish with such hardheadedness is even more exploration of the constant mentioned above; by being so stubborn, adolescents are testing whether the constant lies in accepting their own opinions as God-given law. We're bombarded with enough stubborn figures being successful and enlightened--Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Rudy Giuliani,  Gandhi, even Teddy Roosevelt--that we can't help but investigate. The realization soon comes, however, that our brains don't harbor enough maturity to lead such enlightened lives, and we continue to act so stubbornly because of our bitterness concerning this fact.
     Eventually, the truth comes to us: that human feeling is all that defines tour world. There is nothing greater, nothing less, and no hope for anything greater either. The problem is that after this revelation, we stop experiencing everything, we stop searching for that truth, we accept that our emotions are all that can ever be, and we become adults.