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Close to the Close of the Semester

April 29th, 2005 · No Comments

Six semesters ago, I came to RPI as a starry-eyed high school graduate. I was looking to study civil engineering, specifically pertaining to highway design. I practically had the MUTCD memorized, so it seemed like a logical idea. I had spoken to my future roommate online once before we got there. But he knew what it meant to be l33t, and told me that he was a fan of rocking the ganj, so I thought that things were just going to be rosy and that I was going to have a ball at college.

For the first few weeks, I had quite a good time. I don’t really remember going to class much, and I don’t even remember networking with other kids or being socially active. Actually, I don’t remember much of what I was doing because I was somewhat of a shut-in. My roommate and I both were, to that point were peas in a pod. We both discovered that we had the same knack for being “social enough” to get desired results without actually being social. This way of thinking affected every part of our lives. Everything with the people around us was a negotiation, or a challenge to be conquered. I remember one specific instance where we went to a party (of sorts) where there were about twelve people. We grouped back up outside after hanging out inside for a while. Without ever having openly communicated it, somehow we read off each other that we were going to just mess with them and take their lighters. When we got outside, we had four lighters between the two of us. It was that kind of innate ability to communicate non-verbally, and then after that to be skilled enough to carry out our plan, that made us partners in crime.

It didn’t take long for everything to go wrong, though. As they say, there is no honor among thieves. Perhaps two wrongs don’t make a right. Whatever the cause, the lesson to be learned is that if you build an interpersonal relationship on exploitation and deceit, you shouldn’t be surprised if you are exploited or deceived.

You get what you give, in any situation. I firmly believe that I know what is right and wrong. When I make a bad choice, I admit it, confront it, regret it, learn from it, and get over it. Is that something that’s not commonly practiced by my peers? Everyone seems so concerned with their egos that they might be able to admit an error, but never confront the consequences of their error. People make mistakes all the time, but no one mistake is any less important to learn from than the next. Every mistake is a mistake for a reason, and without confronting that reason, there’s no point in admitting the mistake in the first place.

The best part about failure is what you learn from it.

To allow failure to discourage you is counterproductive. No matter what people around you say, don’t let it get you down. When it comes down to it, this world is a wonderfully large place. If everyone in the world knows you, and 99% of them hate you, then you still have 63.8 million friends. So forget the people that want nothing but to discourage you, because as the saying goes, they’re merely drops in the bucket. For that matter, we all are insignificant in that regard. Life transcends the conflicts, failures, and tragedies that we individually experience on this earth.

You can cry while the sky is blue, and you can be laid into your grave on a bright spring day when the flowers begin to bloom. You can die in a collision during a Sunday drive, or die from an infection you got when going to donate blood. The world is not a perfect place, for sure, and nor is it predictable. Given the constraints of the system, we have no choice but to accept them and adapt to them.

Every process in the universe is bound by the second law of thermodynamics. Every last bit of mass, energy, and momentum in the universe wants to equilibrate, but this won’t happen for billions of years. Complex molecules and stores of high energy break down into less complex molecules and expend the energy they have into their surroundings. Life is the one exception to the second law of thermodynamics in that regard, but only when looking at the system from a microscopic perspective. The earth is not a closed system, because it takes in energy primarily from the sun. The energy from the sun was enough to cause simple molecules to actually become more complex, and those complex molecules gave way to the enzymes that ultimately gave way to life. Life, however, fulfills the prophecy of the second law of thermodynamics by actually increasing the rate at which mass, energy, and momentum are exchanged with their surroundings. The water cycle alone, which is a byproduct of the energy imported from the sun, plays probably the largest role in shifting entropy when considering how all biological processes rely on it.

The water cycle will be here much longer than any of us will. No single blade of grass will hold a water droplet on its cusp forever. Yet some people will die as obstinate as the day they were born. If everything around us evolves and fulfills the universe’s destiny by accepting, causing, and craving change, then how is it possible that people could honestly believe that the past is the best source from which to learn how to shape the future? Every last process in the world requires adaptation to remain effective in the long term.

Don’t think about life in the short term, day-to-day context that our culture seems to force us into. When you make choices, think about what that choice could do later. When you’re asked if you’d like soup or salad, ask yourself what you really want. Start there, and take that willingness to think to other parts of life. Think about what could happen if you go out to that bar and get drunk. Think about how what you do will affect people, and don’t assume that everyone else is capable of just cutting themselves off from the hustle and bustle of daily life. I really could care less whether or not the people around me like me or not, but I care enough to not want to dislike them back for an arbitrary reason. I don’t have time to be concerned with everything, because there is too much else in life to enjoy.

I enjoy the things in life that are beautiful; life is beautiful. I also enjoy hoping that things will get better. If you buy futures in humanity, don’t sell them short.

Tags: My Thoughts · Rensselaer (RPI)

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