These essays are the result of a homework assignment given to the class by Transylvania University's Community Engagement Through the Arts class when our classes met on Friday, February 24, 2010.
The theme for today was "Nature vs. Nurture." As usual, I placed a decisive order: a main dish of nature with a healthy side of nurture. When impassioned, Antigone said, I am not made to hate. I am made to love. This I believe.
Tonight I read a book to two children who love dinosaurs. They like the Allosaurus, the Tyrannosaurus Rex. They like the pictures of carnage. They like the blood. I think about myself at that age. My reaction was so different, but no different now than then. It hurts. It hurts to see things killing each other. It hurts to see things die. It hurts to see things suffer in pain at the hand or tooth or weapon of another. I am made to love.
When I was very young, I didn't need to know myself because I already did. I didn't need too many friends because I had ideas for how I would spend my time, making things in my room. I had my brother and sister and they would make those things with me. We were made to make. We were not made to destroy. When I was older, I didn't understand myself so well. I knew what had always made sense to me still made sense, but my mind and heart and ears were filled with questions posed by others, or questions caused by others. If I am made to make and if I am made to love, are not others made to destroy and made to hate? Is this nature or is this nurture? Is there something innately wrong with me? Am I at the bottom of the food chain? Am I a noble empath or a gullible gazelle?
I am made to love. And what has become worse is that I am asked to change by people I love. I am told that there is only Nurture. That I make every aspect of myself. That I am my own worst enemy. But I know differently. I am made to love. And I am my own best friend. This I believe.
This I believe…
I believe that the energy one sends out into the world will be returned to them.
Sometimes I see people so full of such negativity – anger, hate – and this energy they reflect into the world is reflecting back on them, perpetuating the cycle of negativity in their lives.
There is a man in my life that I have worked for for almost nine years – I’m 28. Last night his negativity and anger attached to me causing such anger and hate to swell up in me that it completely overtook my emotions. It wasn’t until I cleared it out that I realized where the energy came from. Perhaps this is his problem too.
I know he has good in his heart… I’ve seen it before. But now all I feel is his anger - his passiveness just as a way to manipulate and make one feel insignificant. I’ve heard his demeaning words spoken to others, and myself… words so full of hate and so disgusting – grasping for control and power. But his words are becoming weak – his presence is weakening – I no longer fear him when I am strong. His dark energy cannot enter me when I am aware.
I will and can only do my job to the best of my abilities. I will not allow him to change my mood, bully me, affect my sleep or cause me unnecessary anxiety. I will send him positive energy and love when I can because I believe that he probably needs a little more love and positive light in his life.
This I Believe:
The best place I have ever seen or visited isn’t marked on an atlas or mentioned in a travel brochure. You don’t have to pay to go there, and you certainly don’t need to pack a lunch. It’s about 1400 square feet so leave your walking shoes at home. The drive to this place is always memorable with those windy roads that make your stomach jump, and the ever-present fear of what may or may not crawl out onto the road in front of you. When you hit gravel, you know you’re almost there. Go passed the little blue house on the corner where April and her family live. You’ve never met them before, but you know a lot about them in spite of that. The little brick house is up a ways. Before you get out of the car, figure out where the dog is and strategically begin to plot your path into the house. Go through the stained glass door, something you will one day wish you had, where your grandparents are waiting for their only granddaughter to give them a shy, reluctant hug. Most likely, there is a banquet awaiting you in the kitchen, but you sit down in the living room first to visit with your Grandpa who is sitting in his navy blue, overstuffed recliner. He has a hat on and blue “overhauls,” unless it’s Christmas or Easter. He calls you knucklehead. He makes up words like, “larapin.” It means cool. He’s the only person you know who smokes a pipe, and he loves UK even though he lives in Corydon. He loves to mow the grass, and grow tomatoes. Your dad will one day eulogize him as a true country gentleman. Your Grandma, has been cooking and cleaning all day. The house is spotless, and everything is as it was the last time you came. The extra bedroom, which you think is basically yours, still looks like something from the Secret Garden. You’ll listen to your first CD in that room. If you need to go to the bathroom, don’t forget to lock both doors. If you get a chance, sit on the deck and watch the butterflies dance around your grandma’s flowers. When it’s time to eat, go inside, sit around the table and a share meal. You might not always be able to follow the conversation while you eat, but you enjoy watching everyone laugh and share stories. When it’s time to leave, pack up the car, give a goodbye hug that’s a little less reluctant and hope the dog won’t chase the car all the way down the road. As you circle around to leave, you’ll see a front porch light going on and off. One last goodbye from the best place you’ve ever been.
I believe in my identity; a chaotic, somewhat repetitive & long paragraph that may or may not make sense to you.
I believe in respecting who you are as I understand what makes you who you are. I believe your identity is complex and hard to quickly translate. Who you are may be a little piece of me. Who you are might influence who I am. My feminine identity is compromised in some circumstances, but I won’t let you know. Who I am emotionally is constantly evolving, and stability is something I am not interested in. Those who are not far from me are close for a reason and my identity relies on them for confirmation. My dreams make up my unconscious identity that I, for the most part, do not agree with. Who I am not is also a part of who I am. I have, or rather am beginning to finally mature and accept who this person I call “me” is and embracing it against all odds. Some artistic mediums are my way out of the corruption of my surroundings and also a way for the outside to see my in. Your humbling manner is noticed, whether you notice me noticing your humbleness or not. The way I speak is not the way I think, but rather filtered in such a way to make sense. A part of me is my history & future of reincarnation and my subconscious being is ever altered because of it. Who I am is who I have lost, or almost lost last summer. I find myself, and you in musical references that plays songs to my life as my life plays out. Youth is a word that is far from me, but I yearn for it to be closer. You can be my mirror and I may be your reflection. I believe in honesty, not truthfulness, but honesty. I show beautiful signs of my mother and quite negative signs of my “father”. My identity is sometimes pessimistic or shallow, but my recognition of it is diluting it quickly. My lover sees half of who I am, he will see the other half when I am going into labor. I find myself in small details I find in you and they make me secretly love you. Identity can be foreign, but I don’t judge it in an ethnocentric way. I sometimes have to beat you up to bring me down. I believe my children will be a better version of who I am and who I always wished to be, whether that is passed genetically or not. Part of my identity is concealed or restrictive, and the frustration that comes from that is intense and will one day be released. My identity is obviously not definable, but easy to put into many words.
This I Believe
I believe in people watching. Sure, call me an elitist or arrogant or even a prick. But if I am out and about and I see some jiggle jag at the counter or down the hall, I am going to turn to the person next to me, crack a joke, and laugh at their expense. It is a pastime that has been going on in my family for decades, I’m sure. People watching isn’t simply the act of making fun of other people, it is an observation of their actions, their mannerisms- the way the walk, the way they talk, look, sit, stand, eat, drink, sing, clap, and even the way they wear their clothes. All of these factors, added together, make perfect material to get in a simple but highly comical jab, without their knowledge.
Okay, so I may cross the line by saying this guy’s pants are so tight he probably sits at home and writes sad songs on his acoustic guitar, or that girl’s hair looks like a bird’s nest. But it’s funny, and they can’t hear me. I would say I was pushed into people watching by my mother and father. I can remember during my days as a child my parents nudging one another while getting tickets at the movies, or waiting for a table at a restaurant. They’d nudge with an elbow, then point with their head or sometimes their finger, and enjoy a nice chuckle to themselves. It soon dawned on me as to what all the laughter was about—we are goofy-ass people and we are all around ourselves.
No matter where you are, there is always someone with really crazy hair or a really old pair of jeans. Sometimes all it takes is a “Hey, look at this guy.” I take pride in people watching. It never fails to cure a serious case of boredom. I believe in people watching, because people are made to be watched.
A Life Worth Living
I believe in wellness. I believe in wellness as pertains to all levels of life, individual and collective; I believe in wellness as pertains to all spheres of existence, mental and physical; I believe in wellness as pertains to a state of being, sought and maintained. Above all, I believe wellness is a way of life. I did not always believe this. I used to think that simply the state of being healthy was wellness, but I have learned otherwise since then. True wellness is the result of a concerted effort, a certain conscientious dedication to one’s overall wellbeing.
This, more than anything else, is what I learned in high school, because one month before the start of my freshman year I was diagnosed with asthma. The week of soccer tryouts. Everything was fine at camp the previous week, but come Monday I just could not catch a breath. Asthma. This has defined much of my life since that first day of the diagnosis, but not all of it has been bad; after all, it did teach me the value of true wellness.
I believe in exercising, not for a skinny figure, but for the sense of power that is derived from strengthening the muscles that support my body – and the look on people’s faces when I can carry boxes that look to weigh half as much as I do. I love working out for that unparalleled high of an endorphin rush. I am at my silliest, most carefree state of mind after I exercise, and that is why I believe in wellness.
I believe in a healthy mind, and in puzzles and questions that present a challenge and demand mental dexterity. We may live in a physical and material world, but it is impossible to succeed in it without using your mind. Besides that, it would be just plain boring. Mental strength, just like physical, requires training and conditioning. Wellness is putting in that work for a strong mind.
If you think about it, the most highly revered characters in our society are those who have perfected wellness, at least on one plane. Professional athletes are the supreme examples of physical wellness, and they center everything that they do on protecting it. The CEO’s, politicians, and researchers of society represent the importance of mental wellness. Although it is rarely considered in this way, wellness is a quality that is respected and appreciated by the masses.
I believe in wellness, the practice of doing everything possible to make a life worth living.
I believe we need to work to transform prisons from being a place of punishment to being a place for healing and rehabilitation. I think it is very easy to see people who commit crimes as monsters instead of people who have done monstrous things, because prisons work to dehumanize prisoners both in the public’s eye and the prisoner’s. This informal practice reflects how our society views prisons and prisoners. People who have committed a felony are defined by that mistake, and I believe the way our society is structured works to devalue the people behind those crimes. I think we need to evaluate what the point of prison is and what we should strive for it to be. Currently, our prison systems do not work toward rehabilitation, but instead are to punish. I believe this helps to explain why the prison system in our country is busting at the seams. I think it is important to look for factors that cause people are committing crimes. I believe that although we need to be accountable for our mistakes we should not be defined by them. We need to question what type of punishment prison is there to give. Currently it works to dehumanize those incarcerated and helps to keep the revolving door in place. I believe reflection is the way to learn from our mistakes and therefore change our behavior. I believe in the power of reflection and that creativity is a great tool for reflecting. There needs to be more creative programs in prisons because they work to understand the cause and this understanding can work towards healing. I believe creative processes allow for emotional journeys to unfold. Creative processes enable us to work towards understanding rather than to search for blame, and it is through understanding that we can discover how to work towards change. I believe creativity allows for honest reflection and healing.