GUC: Call for introspection amidst political fervor
Opinions Column: Macro to Micro
I used to be in the habit of checking 10 different news websites as soon as I woke up — a method of staying updated with the world as I would argue to myself. The Internet, newspapers and television were happy to oblige and continue their supply of rage-inducing headlines. The more I read, the more I was complicit in watering the seed of bitterness they had initially planted inside of me. Feeling an urge to “do something,” I attended rallies, participated in protests, attempted to articulate my thoughts on matters whenever possible and took whatever steps I thought were necessary in fighting back against the cruelties of the world. Rampant Islamophobia, the lack of value our judicial system places on black lives, mass incarceration, the prevalent discrimination of various minorities, the oppressing force of governments — a list of issues with no approaching end that requires attention and action.
In the midst of my scrutinizing study of news, I never realized how detached I perceived myself to be from the issues themselves, even the ones that hit closest to home. I could always remain somewhat removed from all of the situations and difficulties present. Certainly, I regarded them to be major and important problems. Indeed, ones needing to be readily addressed by society and individuals alike. And yet, it was a slice of my time that became more of a hobby, a conversation starter, a marker of social awareness and less of a matter that I felt would impact my next hour or day. I was both wrong and correct. Such systematic problems in the country affect all of us, whether we are aware of it or not, and even if some of us do not fall prey to them as direct victims. However, they still remain external issues. Not external to our lives, but external to the inner workings of our hearts and minds.
Preoccupation with the politics of the world leads one to, more often than not, ignore the affairs most relevant and critical to one’s being. Primarily, the reality of existence. I direct these words foremost to myself. I find myself existing, and my existence appears to have been prepackaged with a certain set of questions. Questions that need answering. Questions that bother me. Questions that may be pushed to a shadowy corner and stomped upon, but will continue to surface again and again till I find a satisfying response to them. Questions that all religions and philosophers have grappled with, some settling and compromising on unconvincing tales, others denouncing the very existence of possible answers. Yet the human condition still demands a wholehearted individual struggle and search in pursuit of them. I don't need to explicitly state what these questions are. Anyone who attempts the slightest bit of reflection and self-engagement can conjure them up with ease.
As external as the nature of politics may be, it still does indubitably intersect with the internal state of one’s self. The two do not exist in a vacuum. However, the former should not hold the power to affect the latter. Rather, it should be the opposite. Of course, there are nuances to this relationship and layers that build up from the self to the family, community, country and so forth. Nonetheless, one’s activism can deliver the most powerful effect when it springs from a resolved and comfortable state of being. Otherwise, working backwards — letting the large, looming sphere of world affairs affect the smallest sphere consisting of one’s beliefs and principles yields to undesirable and painful results. This does not necessarily mean that only one sphere can be worked upon and strived at while the other must wait — no, but one must be given more weight.
There is a need to prioritize the act of reflection, especially upon the self. It is through reflecting on ourselves that we may contribute in any productive manner to the growth and progress of our immediate surroundings and communities. Understanding my own self will surely lead me to understanding all else that occurs around me. I finally realized this one morning as I awoke and did not reach for my phone or any other device that would instantly engage me with the happenings of the world. I instead laid down for a few more minutes, let myself think and participate in a moment of contemplation and engage with my own thoughts before rushing to divert and distract my attention to all else.
This is not a call for apathy nor for self-absorption, and definitely not a justification for indifference, but rather a reminder against self-neglect and a case for the oft-ignored process of introspection.
Aysenur Guc is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in philosophy. Her column, "Macro to Micro," runs monthly on Wednesdays.
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