Thursday, December 19, 2013

An obligatory statement on social media

"Nothing happens by accident; scenarios present themselves and we have the choice of which path to take; make wise decisions. When the pieces are properly aligned on the chessboard of life, it's checkmate."

If we're on Facebook at all, we likely have "friends" on the site whom we barely know. And if you're at all like me, the vast majority of these contacts post a neverending stream of cat pictures, selfies, and political propaganda. I can't bring myself to defriend them, though, because at some point I obviously considered their inclusion important - even if I don't currently remember them at all.

There's this guy named John who is a Facebook friend I barely know - I remember meeting him several years ago, and I remember a brief but surprisingly intellectual conversation, but I think that may have been the only time we actually met face-to-face. He does not post cat pictures, selfies, or political propaganda. He does not use social media to glorify himself, idolize celebrities, or spread partisan talking points. He is one of those rare people who uses social media - that all-consuming thread in which we can spotlight anything we want to thousands of other human beings - to try to inspire them.

"My drive and determination will not accept failure. The one's who are willing to work harder than the next will be successful; the one's who have an iron will to go above and beyond will last long."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Difficult Meaning of Meaning

One of my students challenged me a couple of weeks ago to tell him what, in all the world, meant something.

This student, a rather intelligent one, ascribes rather heavily to the "speck of dust in the universe" philosophy that in the grand scheme of things, one tiny person in one tiny city on one tiny planet in one tiny galaxy can't possible be a part of anything meaningful. As the Animaniacs put it so eloquently in verse a couple of decades ago, "It's a great big universe, and we're all really puny." Such is the curse of intelligence, I think: if you're as bright as my student (or the Warner Brothers), these are the kinds of questions that plague you, because only with intelligence can you really comprehend just how tiny you are in the grand scheme of things. I imagine that this would be a source of great anxiety for me, as well, if I were that intelligent. Happily, I'm not.

After probing him a bit to learn the source of the question and attempting to get him to answer it for himself, I finally gave my own interpretations of why we matter. Unsurprisingly, he was not convinced. My meaning is not his, nor is it yours.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

This lady I met at the party

I was at a party tonight, and I met a woman.

Not the kind of party you probably go to - this was a "Hey, We All Just About Survived Another Semester" party with the other PhD students and candidates at GT who weren't removed from the program in some voluntary/involuntary fashion. It mostly consisted of bowling, enjoying free food and beverages, and using really big words (most of which I freely admit intimidate me).

After a couple of hours, I strayed away from the main group and noticed the drink table, behind which our bartender/drink server stood. It occurred to me that she looked very alone. It also occurred to me that we'd been there quite some time and she didn't have a chair. Then it occurred to me that I was thirsty.

So I went and asked for some water. She asked if I was sure, because nobody else was drinking water. I said I liked water. Then I asked her how she was.