My greatest passion is learning how to understand and appreciate our existence. I have gained knowledge from different academic disciplines, friends and family, and personal research and contemplation. My ideas are ever changing; existence as I know it will never be defined.
I guarantee this is not the end.
One of the greatest pursuits of mankind is determining our responsibility to ourselves, other people, and the world. If we are truly governed by a higher power that holds our strings, these responsibilities are presented to us. However, if we are truly independent of a metaphysical influence, we create our own responsibilities and take over God’s role. If we are truly Gods of this existence, this requires great attention and dedication solely within our own human capabilities.
I have always been extremely curious about how life works. As a kindergartener, it struck me as an implausible concept that God had never been born. At that age, it was absolutely true that birth and death were a part of existence; anything separate from this rule was unimaginable.
Around eight, nine, or ten years old, I began experiencing desires, expectations, ideas, and judgments influenced by my society. Obsession over how to get a boy to like me, stylish clothing, makeup, the spark of romance, and getting bullied established an undetectable barrier between my unadulterated being and my manmade shell. In sixth grade, my best friend dressed in all black and sculpted her hair in unnatural ways with styling product. I attempted to mimic her, although my personality was much lighter and easygoing. Seventh grade introduced R&B and music videos, along with hats worn sideways, trendy shoes, and designer shirts. By high school, I adopted my parents’ religious views and went to church to praise the only religious figure I knew — Jesus Christ.
At the age of sixteen, when I fell for an atheist, my entire fabricated world began to crumble. His cynicism bombarded me with religious insecurities that caused my forgotten childhood curiosity to creep up from the shadows. This snowballed into a world of vulnerability and self-consciousness. Then, the worst parts of me budded their heads out of the ground: Was who I claimed to be only a manifestation of society’s influence? Fear and uncertainty enveloped my mind. These fears, a long with cares and concerns of both my manmade shell and my true self, began to battle. In the end, my most sincere identity rose from the ashes.
I gave up my Christian faith; to abandon superiority over the world was the most enriching relief. Instead of standing upon the soil, I was the soil. Instead of conquering the sky, my presence became a friend to its existence. To lay on the earth and feel the grass, or enjoy fruit and trees and flowers, or recognize and respect their being, opened my heart to viewing every form of life as equal to my own. My body was flesh and blood, bone and muscle, complete and utter life, like that of the stars.
In some amount of time that evades me, my heart began to beat for two people. My soul mate stepped into my life, and with passion and devotion to knowledge, he reminded me of my separation from nature. When I lay upon the earth, the grass did not acknowledge me. Neither did fruit, trees, or flowers. My endearing admiration for this man was only possible due to my consciousness identifying itself and thus allowing me to identify him. Yes, I was limited by this consciousness in ways, but also special because of it. In the late nights of summer or mornings when we awoke to the rain outside, our conversations proved an extraordinary truth: We could speculate, create purpose, and problem-solve. Unlike the ant, the bird, or the dolphin, we were aware of ourselves, of others, and of the world. Our decisions directly and indirectly affected life and every conscious decision from others directly and indirectly affected us.
In a sense, I became enlightened.
Despite this understanding, we still felt lost. To have come out of the darkness with a grasp on our true-selves did not offer absolute answers. Our origins, our true purpose, or lack thereof, was still a mystery. Was there a higher-being — a creator — that inspired or governed our existence? To what degree were his expectations of us? Or, were we the product of a random universe; the result of biological evolution? Without a god, to what degree should we hold expectations of ourselves?
With an involved god, one would assume morality was a direct likeness of his character. We are limited by what is endowed in us from him.
With a strictly observing God, perhaps humans create morality through noticing patterns, proposing a purpose, and constructing guidelines for a well-lived life — yet, this morality is still judged by god’s standards.
What is even more fascinating, yet terrifying, is if the universe is a product of random chaos without a metaphysical inspiration for, or cause of, our morality. If this is indeed true, then we are, in a cosmic sense, merely inhabitants. However, on a planetary scale, we are creators. Our consciousness is the sole instrument for purpose. When a spectrum of light forms in the sky, we call it a “rainbow” and propose a purpose. When we see a mass of chemicals and water in the atmosphere, we call it a “cloud” and we see shapes, beauty, or perhaps an omen for harder times yet to come. We care for our loved ones, pet or human, and when they die, we mourn the loss of their life. With this knowledge of death, we hope it comes for us many years in the future.
We go as far as idolizing gods not only because we crave a purpose in life, but also because we never want to completely cease to exist forever.
If we are truly alone in the universe, we are the protectors of this world. Sure, without us, the earth would be without our pollution and the constant depletion of land and water, but life would also be without compassion, watchful direction, and cognitive reason. It is irresponsible to ignore or demean the consequences of our decisions because the fate of this world has more to do with us than we ever imagined. The world is full of our purpose, and will burn from the depths of our arrogance or thrive from our dedication. We cannot be self-absorbed; we must acknowledge our bodies as composed of the same material as the universe, only that our consciousness bestows great responsibility. To have a relationship with life, instead of a dictatorship, reveals our truest nature as guardians. Perhaps then, when we fully acknowledge our potential and feel peace from a sunset, or bliss on a countryside hill, we will know that we’re seeing aspects of ourselves.
Like loving or fearing a god in the heavens, we love and fear the magnificence within our own minds.
When we do not hinder or destroy life, but prolong its well-being and value, we can heal the world. When we clear our existence of the empty desires and selfish fixations that constitute our manmade shell — when we realize the power of our own potential within our most inner being — we can fully apply the necessary attention and dedication needed to create a world full of meaning and purpose.
I believe in people.
Student essays are stored at each department or sometimes departmental library of the University in which it was submitted. No part of this text may be reproduced in any form without written permission from Jennifer M. Hartsock. Every effort has been made to ensure that credits accurately comply with information supplied.