Now think, if you were dying, what would it be like? I admit, this is not something an everyday person has to think about. Their realm is that of bills and work and grades and lovers and drugs and filled bellies. However, if you had to die, what would you think? Please, reader, accept the fact that one day you will, as we all stutter to admit, relocate into the past and become a memory that belongs only to others and lacks the individuality that defines who you are right now. Can you handle this? Yes, this is a challenge. Take a moment before proceeding and truly recognize that you will pass, soon enough, into oblivion.
Is it not a painful realization? Is it not also a liberating one? So, what do we do now, if our lives are so meaningless? Do we continue to strive despite the fact or become nihilists in spite of it? I think we should look this fact in the face and say, ” .” For, what else is there to say? There is no argument or rebuttal. Since dialect is empty and rebellion flaccid, I believe there is no choice but to accept our fates. Those who are religious will rebuff me, saying there is eternal life. Well, perhaps, but nonetheless, you must admit that if this is true, our post-expiration existence is independent of the now and living and, as such, must be negated as uninvolved in the real world.
Therefore, my fellow students, I beseech you to embrace our brevity. During our time in paradise (if you dare to argue that we, at large at UCSB, do not live in a previously unheard of paradise, I pity your ignorance of the human disposition) we should not waste away pursuing flaccid futures of degradation and sloth. Too many I have seen slip into the complacency and apathy that this place breads, wooing impressionable youths into the beauty and wonder and ease that defines the American dream. As such, I, again, implore you to look beyond our artificial walls of sea and mountain and to recognize the unprecedented blessing we have received in our tenure here at one of the most beautiful centers of learning in the world.
If you were not to die tomorrow, but in a year or two, or five, what would be the best years of your life? Would it be your childhood, with its blissful ignorance and its playfulness and joy? Or would it be high school with its taste of adulthood and every hormone in your body pushed towards the impossible dream of independence? Or, finally, could it be the now? Could it be when you are on your own, your life composed of nothing but learning new, exciting information of your choice? Without supervision (omnipresent governmental authority aside), we are alone, free, finally our own selves we were destined to be.
Still, though, I see my peers taking this for granted, as another step toward success. I warn you that the complacent mind is the devil’s playground. How can you, in your growing knowledge, expanding wisdom and widening appreciation for the world, not recognize the immense favor you have been granted by fate? Do you not see that we are sitting atop the peak of human history? All that man has achieved to this day has led to you comfortably passing away days watching surf, affordably learning the secrets the world holds for you, and becoming, without the stress of children or poverty or labor or death, the wholesome beings that mankind has only barely been capable of producing in our entire history.
You, my fellow students, hold the power of knowledge and the influence of privilege. You have heard talk of the greatest generation, those who defeated fascism and secured a free world for us all. Well, despite their bravest hopes, the work is not finished, and we, now, have more resources than they could ever have conceived of to help us finish their task. Use these gifts. See them not as mere facts of life; recognize your unique abilities as just that and strive to employ them in bettering the world around you. I see our student population’s indifference to the world around us and I can only attribute it to misrecognition of the interconnectedness we all experience every day. Read, study, listen, do anything possible to make yourself a mover of things. For, inevitably, we are all a part of this great experiment, whether we work for our own benefit or sit idly by and watch the tide.
Tom Bone is a senior political science major.