20 items found for your search. If no results were found please broaden your search.
Many of us may have spent the weekend in the company of family. One’s family plays a substantial role in the early shaping of one’s mindset. One’s mindset affects one’s worldview. For example, the way I think about the occurrence of a sunrise and the qualities it displays impacts the way I think about the relationship between the sunrise and my own existence. My understanding of the existence of everything and anything in the universe is directly related to my grasp of my own position and purpose within the world. The language my parents may have used in referring to phenomena in the world will then have influenced the context of how I make sense of my existence.
I am, more often than not, guilty of inconsistent participation in class discussions. I tend to sit quietly, sometimes with questions brewing in my mind that I do not deem worthy enough of being verbally articulated or just completely tuned out from the entire conversation, lost in my own mental meanderings. I do not doubt that most students have experienced something similar to the following: a professor will ask a question and silence will weigh itself down upon the enclosed four-walled space as no one raises their hands or speaks up. I never felt guilty when this occurred until I found myself on the other side of the room. This semester, I had the privilege and pleasure of teaching a 1-credit class to first-year students called “Exploring Philosophy,” offered as part of the First-Year Interest Group Seminar (FIGS) program. The program allows certain juniors and seniors to teach a class of their topical interest and presents an opportunity for upperclassmen to advise and mentor first-years on navigating life at Rutgers. It was the second week of September when I had my first class and met my students for the first time. I was excited until I suddenly realized that I was faced with the herculean task of gauging out comments and responses from 22 students, not all of whom seemed particularly excited about sitting in a hot and stuffy classroom.
Last Friday, I was sitting on the carpeted floor of Cooper Dining Hall with a small circle of friends. Although we had all just been casually hanging out, we wound up having a long discussion spanning the topics of nature, gravity, causality and the utilization of human qualities in investigating the reality of the world around us. I left the conversation feeling content and at ease, my social quota for the day wholly satisfied. But more than that, it was the contents of what had been spoken about that imparted upon me a sense of meaningfulness. It is rare, nowadays, to have conversations that go beyond the mandatory “how is everything” inquiry. Most touched-upon matters revolve around the frivolous, albeit necessary, points of mundane, daily life. Engaging with ideas outside of that realm of talk is refreshing and, well, exciting.
Recently, in one of my classes, a question was raised on why humans, regardless of time and culture, have always wondered about and been preoccupied with the very same existential questions and dilemmas. A student, in response, remarked that it was human tendency to project meaning onto anything that exists, even if it inherently does not hold any such meaning. The implication is that because humans seek meaning, universal questions concerning one’s own existence arise that aim to find that meaning. This internal occurrence takes place despite differences in ethnicity, race, geographical location, nationality and so forth. The student’s comment triggered a thought process within myself that I thought deserved a more careful analysis. If the comment is to be accepted and applied more generally, it could have numerous implications that impact one’s everyday worldview. However, any assertion made — whether it is by a student or an individual of acclaimed knowledge — requires a personal investigation so as to be able to confirm or deny it. So the question to ask and explore is: do we, humans, try to find meaning within things that do not have any inherent meaning? However, in trying to answer this question, it is best to start from one’s own self rather than an all-encompassing “we.” As such, I will instead apply and direct the question toward myself. The significance of this inquiry lies in the fact that on one end, there is the possibility of an objective meaning waiting to be discovered and on the opposite end, it may just be that my consciousness merely colors onto my experiences something that they do not intrinsically hold. The latter option can also be understood as just a “mechanism” of my psychology to satisfy this apparent human need.
Red and yellow leaves are starting to populate the sidewalks. My wooly socks are officially no longer confined to storage bins. Autumn is whistling a cool breeze upon our necks as temperatures drop and sweater season begins. October is here. While I hold no complaints against the slightly cold weather and the increasingly colorful view of Voorhees Mall, the idea of time has been preoccupying certain corners of my mind. It seems like the semester just started and now midterms are already approaching. The topic of time has arisen quite a bit in conversations I have had in the last week. How does one manage time? For some it flies by, for others it drags on, taking ever slow strides. Yet perhaps even before speaking about how one ought to “manage” it, some reflection upon its nature is necessary. Time is an elusive concept — difficult to define and grasp. Some may state that it is just a term utilized for the progression of the world’s existence or that it is a social construct designed to help humans structure and anchor their own activities and actions. Others may assert that it is something that exists outside our dimension of understanding and is not subjective to our experiences. All may be correct. What fundamentally interests me is the relation between time and my existence. While such an approach may seem self-centric, I can only in an honest manner reflect upon what my consciousness perceives and so, only engage in subjective reasoning. Yet, this should not come to mean that subjective reasonings cannot lead to objective truths. The contrary may be argued.
It seems like I am always surrounded by books. Books in my personal library that are waiting to be read. Books that are pivotal for my research projects. Books, worn and bent, that I cherish and carry with me sometimes out of pure affection. This consistent exposure to what may be regularly regarded as a mundane object has led me to reflect upon what exactly constitutes a book. In physical terms, it is usually recognized by its form and material. Shaped in the standard shape of a rectangle, it is comprised of a cover and thin paper bound to a foundational spine. But a physical appearance is insufficient. Content — usually in the form of individual letters inked together to create a piece of text — is required. And such text must be arranged purposefully with a specific intention to form a comprehensible and meaningful piece of literature that will offer a potential reader reasons as to why it is deserving to be read.
Many of our friends are leaving this year. April, as it does each spring, comes in a sudden manner, bringing its blooming cherry blossoms seemingly overnight. These days I hear seniors, their eyes pensive and brows furrowed, speak about graduation day. Post-college life for some may hold concrete plans but there is nevertheless an uncertainty of the conditions and flavors of the near future. Listening, I find myself engulfed in a particular type of emotion, tinged with sadness and despondency, but also one that urges immediate contemplation. Just as last April has led to this April, this year will bring about the next year in a quick stride. My college years are flying by just as one’s youth is eventually seized away. Questions of time allocation for the following (unguaranteed) years arise in my head. The graduation of others reminds me that my own graduation is not too far away and forces me to consider how I shall invest in the remainder of my time.
Rays of sunshine enter my living room early in the morning. It looks like it is going to be another sunny, warm day outside. Yet, the snow left over from last week remains. The weather seems to offer some perfect picnic days only to force us under our heavy coats the next day. Many attribute this to climate change as the averages of global temperatures are rising. It is a bittersweet type of sunshine, then, that we are allowed to enjoy these days. However, though the scientific reasoning behind the flip-flopping of weather is undoubtedly a call to take heed, I am primarily interested in the sense of instability and continuous change such weather makes us experience.
In recent years, the phrase "instant gratification" is being used more in daily speech rather than as simply a term within the usual spheres of psychological science. Critics of millennials complain that our generation constantly seeks the results of efforts — or even their lack of efforts — immediately. They also believe that we are being shaped into impatient and superficial human beings through the use of our technology that offers immediate access to a plethora of information at a finger’s touch. I do not doubt that these may be true. However, I am not so much concerned as to whether the constant commentary of the older generations will prove to be accurate as I am a part of this millennial culture. I do find it to be true that along with a desire for immediate gratification whether it be for food, information or television shows, there is a sense of urgency that our lifestyles demand. Texts need to be answered within the hour. Emails give the leniency of one, maybe two days. Social media and different applications are constantly bombarding us with notifications. All of these various modes of communication are presenting the idea that one must answer, respond and address all incoming messages immediately — as the person on the other end awaits anxiously. With the ease smartphones offer, this is all possible of course. However, not only do our devices make it possible, they also transform such convenience into a mandatory duty. There is no excuse to be unresponsive assuming one’s phone is not dead. Whether a message is from one's friend circle or from a coworker, a late reply is not to be tolerated lest it be accompanied with apologetic phrases and words.
About 213 years ago, on this day, New Jersey became the last Northern state to officially abolish slavery. An important, if not overdue, step in a long path that, even today, we have miles more to walk through. It was also the first Northern state to apologize for the role it played in perpetuating slavery. Yet, more than 200 years have passed and we still have not managed to eradicate the racism rooted so deeply in, not only our system but also our national psyche. But I can go on about what is mandated by this government and its people, but I will not. What I would like to discuss, rather, is what is being done within our individual spheres of influence. All progress starts by our own doorsteps — through our own local communities.
By the time this article will be published, a massive protest on the College Avenue campus will have taken place. I am speaking about the rally against the “Muslim Ban,” or the Executive Order put forth by President Donald J. Trump that prohibits immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries including Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Somalia. And while in the midst of being immersed in the planning of this rally — spreading the news of it, drafting emails, planning out logistics, meeting with the University administration — I can’t help but right now pose myself this question: Why am I doing any of this? Why am I expending any effort for this type of activism? Activism is not easy, or exactly fun, nor is it immediately rewarding. More often than not, it is draining — physically and mentally. It requires stamina and endurance. Qualities that I don’t really find in myself. Despite all of this, I still find myself submerged within the activist culture. I usually tend to prioritize matters of belief, introspection and activities that require solitude, and yet, here I am, most likely one of the people who was marching and chanting amidst a sea of protesters.
Everything I love seems to perish. This may come off as a rather morbid statement but upon closer inspection, there may lie some glimmers of truth. Over winter break, the preoccupations that seem to fill up my usual schedule on a consistent basis were mostly put on hold. I had, for better or worse, time to ruminate upon a few matters. And due to such, indeed, I found that all I feel love for comes to an end. When I say, “love,” however, I do not mean only in the romantic sense but simply all that my heart forms an attachment to. For example, roses that my eyes find pleasing and my nose delights at eventually wilt and become dust upon touch. The flavors of food that my taste buds rejoice at last a few seconds only to become a faint memory or at most, are attempted to be captured in a hasty photograph. Individuals that my heart grows fond of might reciprocate or more likely frustrate but will nevertheless leave or die. To me, through my human observations, it seems that all I love, all that I would like for to last eternally in perfect fashion cannot help but succumb to their transient nature. Nothing seems permanent.
I was leaving the interfaith meditation room located on the lower floor of the College Avenue Student Center when something scribbled on the wall adjacent to the room’s entrance caught my attention. “Drain the swamp,” it read. This is a phrase that has been utilized by many politicians in the past, the most recent being the current president-elect. It tends to refer to the action of purging a government of existing internal corruption. Thus, one can imagine my surprise when I saw it penned onto a wall that is located right next to a space publicly used on a daily basis for prayer and reflection by many students, a majority of which identify as Muslim. What was the correlation between the meaning of the phrase and the space it was drawn near? Needless to say, I took out my phone and photographed it. That same day, I filed a bias incident report to the University.
I was probably the the last person on campus to learn about the results of the election. The night before, I watched my roommate check her phone every other minute with increasing anxiety. She opened her mouth to make a comment about the most recent percentages but I shook my head. “Don't you care about the possible implications?” she asked in an incredulous tone. I smiled and slept early that night, and quite peacefully too. The next morning, I did not check the news. Nor did I make any effort to seek information about the outcome of the previous night. It was half past noon when I overheard an international student make a remark about the strangeness of the United States. A few revelatory comments were made about the electee. I was neither shocked nor upset nor pleased — a stark contrast of state with the rest of the country, or university at the very least.
I take a sip of my third cup of tea for the day. Black. No sugar. Excessively hot. The tip of my tongue burns. My hands search for the box of tissues I have been carrying around with me all day for the past three mornings and evenings. Earlier this week I was visited by an old friend. One who tends to swing by at least once or twice each semester. We know each other quite well but each time my door is knocked, our friendship develops and at the end of each visit I am left in a state of reflection and gratitude. Though always unexpected and unsolicited, and hardly ever purposefully invited, my dear friend, sickness, is loyal and consistent.
It was early morning as I strode across campus surrounded by groggy students making their way to their 8 a.m. classes. The air was brisk and my shoes stomped upon crinkled yellow leaves indicative of the arrival of autumn. By the bus stop, a student was hunched over, her face distorted in pain. I stopped to ask her if she was feeling well and if she was in need of assistance. She was clearly sick so I advised her to go home. Appreciation flashed across her eyes but she shook her head, replying in a low tone, “I can’t. I have a chemistry lab today.” We spent a couple of minutes conversing and I tried to persuade her otherwise. She finally agreed to go and seek medical attention. We parted ways. My thoughts floated around the short interaction throughout the day.
“April is the cruellest month,” declared T.S. Eliot nearly a century ago. I might be inclined to agree with him. It was only a few weeks ago when soft, pastel pink cherry blossoms greeted us on campus — perhaps signaling the official arrival of spring. Yet, as I stroll down College Avenue numerous times a day, I cannot help but pause and watch dull leaves replace the pretty flowers that induce such joy and admiration. The short life span of cherry blossoms leads my wandering thoughts to the concept of transience: the inevitable end of all that breathes. Impermanence is a reality that plagues my very existence. Perhaps April is the cruelest month because it portrays both the beauty of life and the certainty of death.
Often times I am asked, “What do Muslims believe in?” Now, my lips could automate back an answer like a drill, but I am usually inclined to respond instead with another question: What do you mean by “Muslim?” In the current political climate, there is hardly a day that passes by without a headline displaying a disparaging comment made about Islam or to the adherents of the faith. But who exactly is being criticized, called out and facing such gross statements?
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.
The demise of the “student” must surely be near when education is now defined as a “purchase.” Indeed, this definition is merely a signpost of the problem's deeper roots. We, “students,” are not students anymore. We are customers. When the value of an experience lasting several years is calculated by predicted future income, or when the inherent worth of a field of study is now measured by its respective “job market,” the end of learning is clearly waving its sad flag.