I wrote this credo and delivered it as a speech for my English class senior year of high school. It’s supposed to basically sum up my viewpoint on life up until that point. I still agree with it today.
The late American author David Foster Wallace wrote, “Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realest most vivid person in existence.” Think about it. You have never experienced anything except through those eyes and ears with which you are listening and watching me today. We all have it. We are all the centers of our own senses and thus our own experience. But this predicament that we all share also imposes another one, the fact that we are alone within ourselves. Any thought, or experience, or message from another person has to be delivered through indirect means. We are forever inmates in a prison tapping morse code to our fellow inhabitants through the walls of our cells. We can’t feel what another person is feeling unless we have felt it ourselves; words can’t quantify human existence, they can only sketch it.
This solitude within us creates many things. It is the basis for religions, music, Avatar, literature, and poetry. But what it does most of all is endow us with a deep desire never to be alone. We structure our lives to make sure other people are always around us. At times it is very tempting to bend our sense of self because we think it will ensure our relationship to the people around us.
One day a philosopher brought one of his students to a statue of a man. He said to his student, “Yell at the statue.” He watched for a half an hour as his student began to yell and berate the statue harshly. “Now praise the statue,” said the philosopher. He watched for another half an hour as his student praised and complimented the statue. After finishing his praise of the statue the student looked to his elder. “How did the statue react when you criticized it?” Questioned the philosopher. “It didn’t,” said the student. “And how did the statue react when you complimented it?” Asked the philosopher. “It didn’t,” said the student.
I believe in being the statue. I believe that the truest form of human existence is the act of deciding who you are and what you want for yourself, and then having the courage to stand up and, like the statue, allow the people around you to love you or hate you for that.
But deciding not to give in to our fear of being alone doesn’t mean that we don’t need people. I know that I am standing here today not on my own merit, but on the merit of the people around me. Without my parents I am nothing. Without my grandparents I am nothing. Without my sister I am nothing. Without my friends I am nothing. Without my teachers I am nothing. I belong to the lucky sperm club. I’ve been fortunate enough to go to PDS for 14 years. There is nothing that I will do in my life that can’t be attributed to the people that I have met, and lived, and learned with here. I’ve learned almost everything I know during my time here. But most importantly, I’ve learned everything I know about life during my time here.
I’ve learned that being happy is something that comes from the inside not the outside. That getting what you want may make you feel happy for a while, but that nothing breeds contempt like familiarity. Yes the workload is extremely stressful. Yes some things aren’t fair. Yes some things have turned out in ways that I didn’t want them to. But I’ve had a good education. I have good friends. I have good teachers. My family loves me. If I can’t be happy where I am I will never be happy. But being happy doesn’t mean that I am satisfied. Being happy doesn’t mean that I am complacent. Happiness comes from getting out of bed every single morning, and making an effort to put a smile on your face and be glad to be alive. Satisfaction comes from when your inner model of how your life should play out matches your biography. I will chase satisfaction until I die, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be happy while I’m doing it.
So what does all of this add up to? To me, it means that you can be rich and miserable or poor and happy but the difference is what you say to yourself in the mirror every morning when you wake up. It means that people are essential to living a good and fulfilling life, but ultimately my actions have to come from me because I have to take responsibility for them. It means that there are some things we don’t understand, and perhaps aren’t meant to. But what do I believe life is? As New York City double-decker bus tour guide Speed Levitch says, “I would say that it is an unintentional meditation and an elongated journey into our own forest. I think life is a gigantic adventure that leads back to ourselves.”
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