07 June 2015

A Reflection on Now

In such a time of rapid changes, endings, and beginnings, I continue, for as long as I can, to repeat old customs (visiting teachers, still attending classes, extending my final goodbyes to my contrabassoon—and soon my bassoon, as well), and I slowly begin to grapple with the once-reverie of a new life style, a new community, and a newly strained network of friends from home, planning my future years partially to be a continuation of my last, only hoping that my goals and aspirations for college are those that I want due to their intrinsic value, rather than their mere resemblance of my old self, of the habits with which I've become comfortable. I hope that a break from this transition—my journey to work on an organic farming cooperative in southern France—will prove to provide me learning, "experience," and some guidance for my (hopefully successful) continuation of this transition, but, in fact, I'm consciously aware that these are only my desires, and that time's forward progression will be the only factor in truly determining how I choose to be. So, for now, I wait, delighting in the smiles and photos and hugs and final goodbyes I exchange, confident, unprepared, yet seemingly ready for whatever I face in the months and years ahead.

05 June 2015

To Utilize our Privileges for the Betterment of Humanity: A Discussion of Howard Zinn's "Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress"

In Howard Zinn’s “Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress,” he explores three main ideas, using the early European conquest of America as a case study: the lack of an American “national interest”; the oppressors’ role in deciding events of historical merit; and that in times of sacrifice for innovation, historians must always firstly look to the oppressed peoples for proper justification. In discussing an “American national interest,” Zinn argues that although “governments, conquerors, diplomats, [and] leaders” throughout history have contended that the existence of a “national interest” is the excuse for their subjugation of others, “nations are not communities and never have been”; ergo, as nation-states rarely ever look after the interests of their entire populace, it is imperative for onlookers to trust both the stories of the conquerors and the conquered, in order to develop a truer sense of the past. Additionally, Zinn contends that history mustn’t be decided by oppressors, but instead through scrutinizing a variety of contemporaneous perspectives. Be the societies or sub-societies the native Americans, the New York Irish, the industrial-age women, the socialists, or the national Islamic community, rarely ever have a conquered society’s writings entirely vanished, and it is to any critically thinking person’s advantage to explore the punishments of the past in order to ruminate on new ideas for post-modern political ideologies. Lastly, Zinn declares that, in times of sub-communal sacrifice for innovation, the privileged minority executing new “national” policies must consult the damned communities within its midst, for he argues that we, as people, may never maintain “the right to throw into the pyre the children of others, or even our own children, for a progress which is not as nearly clear or present as sickness or health, life or death.” While Zinn utilizes the early conquest of the Native American populations as a case study for each of his ideas, these lessons ultimately apply to most, if not all, of history and contemporary political affairs, stemming from the early subjugation of Native Americans to the present proliferate use of styrofoam, ultimately pulling us to form our own conclusions towards behaving justly and utilizing our privileges for the betterment of humanity.

An 800-Year History of Mesoamerica

Although during 600-1400 CE, trade between the North and South American continents mostly never occurred, divided by present-day Panama, Americans traded across most of North America and a significant portion of South America both luxury goods and religious items. Furthermore, although mostly, Americans utilized free markets, as the Incas developed (1200 CE), they transitioned into a government-operated trade network.

Islam in Western Afro-Eurasia

In order to expand its empire, the Muslim world’s methods of conquest differed by region, subtly addressing each’s nuances with new tactics. Thus, in Spain and western Africa in the centuries after 1000 CE, while Islamic forces conquered Spain, the Islamic merchants slyly infiltrated western Africa. Additionally, as Islamic Spaniards generally subjugated, the newly converted Muslims within western Africa rarely followed suit. Nevertheless, Islam’s proliferation admitted both societies into the global network of Islamic trade and education, stimulating new innovations in each society.

A Commencement Address to the Class of 2015

ON AN OTHERWISE EXHILARATING THURSDAY EVENING, after finally bidding the world my daily goodbye, I lay on my bed, writhing in excruciating pain of which I could only barely discern the origin.

After drudging through a 15-minute self-examination in my bathroom, I plodded, 10 steps in the hallway, until I reached my mother’s bed, on which I forced myself to lean, slowly moaning, “Mom, wake up… Mom, I twisted a ball.”

She looked at me, chuckling until she discovered the tears gliding across my unshaven face. Within minutes, she guided me into the Glenbrook Hospital Emergency Room Reception Center, where I waited for half an hour until a doctor could see me — apparently, someone had a cold. After three doses of morphine, 300 ultrasound images of my scrotum, and three hours of the most embarrassingly painful moment of my life, I lay unconscious on the operating table, opened up in ways I'd never before imagined, to form the most stressful moment of my mom’s life.

Without voicing too many details, all turned out well; I can still have children one day.

04 June 2015

On My Forever Distant Future

In my years of life, I hope to forever persist in aspiring to learn all that I may glean from the world around me, without ever mistaking all that I have learned—even all that has been added to the knowledge bank of all of humanity—for all that there is to know, perpetually discovering bliss in both new ideas and the potential for more. At Haverford College, a liberal arts college in the northern suburbs of Philadelphia and my residence for the next four years, I will challenge my preconceived notions of life’s many mechanics, and I will grow from my constant deliberation over truth and morality, in the many realms of history; literature; peace, justice, and human rights; and art; all under the shades of world languages both inclusive yet nonexclusive to English. In my coming years, and for the rest of my life, I hope never to accept either my current perspective or my community at large as correct or concretized; instead, I hope to forever alter both, forcing my life upon the path of an asymptote approaching perfection.