Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash
Richard N. Clark IV is the Editor-in-Chief for The Easterner. Any opinions expressed in this article are his own and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Easterner, its staff members or EWU.
As a child growing up, I struggled with coming to grips over the cards I was dealt – mainly the challenges and shortcomings that I had no control over. Being the youngest of seven siblings, having divorced parents and moving frequently early in life affected me in ways I wasn’t aware of at that time.
Not feeling a part of a larger community or having a sense of home, I suffered from a loss of identity and purpose.
For many years this caused me to suffer from anxiety, bouts of depression, but worst of all, it led to a lack of empathy. I was so caught up with my own problems and how frustrated I was with my expectations of life versus the reality of my own, that I forgot everyone else is struggling with the same issue: We cannot control everything.
But we can control how we react to experiences and situations in life. It is all a matter of perspective.
A thought-provoking practice that I developed on my own, in order to remind myself of this concept, requires a bit of an imagination—bare with me.
First, I would create a mental picture of myself and everything immediately around me. Typically, this would be my bedroom, a random field or a patch of grass in the surrounding forests (growing up in central Washington there is plenty of nothing to get lost in).
Then, I would “zoom out” a little further and try to imagine where I am at regionally and everything in the area in detail. Then, “zoom out” a little further, until you imagine where you are at within the whole country.
And a little further… And a little further…
Until you, the world and all of its man made problems dissolve in the back of your mind as our human capacity to understand the limitlessness nature of the universe is reached and it all fades to black.
This, for me, reminded me of the idea that my worries and pains, which I carried daily, were so trivial in the grand scheme of things.
However, I think the late astro-physicist Carl Sagan sums it up best in this excerpt, which was inspired by a photo of Earth taken from over 4 billion miles away, from his book, “The Pale Blue Dot.”
“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
All too often, in our attempts to add a personal note in the book of our collective human history, we forget our most important quality: Our humanity.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
Last week, as many of you may know, was homecoming. What many of you may not realize is the importance of events like this.
In a previous article that was originally published in 1969, The Easterner writes “the New Left is so busy complaining about what is wrong and the Right is so busy complaining about the New Left that neither side seems to remember the good side of life.”
Given the current socio-political atmosphere here in America, I think this is more relevant now than it was then.
The Easterner continues by saying, “everyone seems to think the world’s problems can be solved NOW. This they can not. But only through understanding, cooperation and friendship will they ever be solved. To have cooperation is to adjust to another, to discard hostilities and hopefully become friends.”
“Homecoming lasts for just a short while each year. Just as a coffee break increases efficiency in work, so should the homecoming increase the possibility of the world’s problems by promoting relaxation for a short while … and by promoting friendship.”
But just because homecoming has ended, does not mean the time for understanding, cooperation and friendship has.
Again, this is more relevant now than ever before in human history.
With the rise of the internet, people have more access to information and are able to connect more than ever before, but with this technology has come an excess of information that makes it difficult to find clarity and focus in one’s daily life.
Tyler Durden, everyone’s alter-ego from Fight Club says it best, “advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war… Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. We’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
But why are we pissed off? Are we pissed off because we can’t actually be these superstars?
Or are we pissed off that we convinced ourselves of the lie that we should be?
Remember why you came to college in the first place, I bet you it wasn’t to party for four years and spend thousands of dollars doing it.
I for one, wanted to learn the skills and more importantly, build a community whose common goal is to make the world a better place.
It was my decision and my decision alone to intentionally make myself a better person by seeking out mentors and holding myself accountable to the goals I set for myself early in life.
Let this be a reminder in case you forgot, you are an entirely free human being who is free to make your own decisions.
So, in case you forgot from the last sentence, if you decide that your time at college and EWU is a negative experience. That is your decision.
However, there are two sides to every coin. Again, it is all a matter of perspective.
If you want the most out of your time in college, and more importantly, life, it is up to YOU to make that decision for yourself.
But what does that look like?
Two issues ago, The Easterner ran an editorial on getting involved and finding your place in the EWU community. We all have different cultural experiences and individual perspectives that dictate what that means, but there is one thing we all have in common: We are ALL eagles.
This is all of our home, regardless if we like it or not.
With all of the struggles that EWU has gone through over the years, both socially and financially, it is not uncommon or a surprise these days to hear students express their frustrations.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said that a riot is “the language of the voices that go unheard.”
Thankfully, there haven’t been any riots at EWU yet this year. But multiple student groups and organizations on campus have staged protests in the past.
What are these various student groups trying to bring attention to? Why are they frustrated?
I urge the university officials to listen. To try and understand the current needs and wants of the student body.
On the contrary, what are the actions of the university? What do those actions mean?
I urge the student body to observe and try to comprehend the ways the university is balancing both the sustainability of the college and the demands of the student body.
Since moving to Cheney, my appreciation for the campus and EWU community has grown. I am proud to call EWU my home.
That being said, I recognize that we ALL can be doing more to understand, cooperate and develop stronger relationships as a whole EWU community.