From the nostalgia archives: one of my college application essays, back from the grave

[ED.NOTE]: This was an essay I penned many moons ago, when I was a struggling high school student seeking to join the ranks of the enlightened. I’m not sure how well it’s stood up to the test of time, but reading back through it now, I think I understand where and how I ended up. It’s a good look at who I used to be, and I can glean from reading it how I’ve changed, either for better – or for worse.

Flip open a newspaper today and what do you find? For example, in today’s Los Angeles Times (10/31/2009), the front cover contains, among others:
-a story about the slide of the Dow Jones
-a kidnapping/rape story
– Obama discussing a potential troop increase
-Iranian crisis
-the botched Afghan election
-the Darfur crisis

If someone were to read the front cover without any prior knowledge of Earth, he or she would immediately decide that human beings are decidedly faring worse than they used to. Perhaps they would think that we’ve degenerated far from who we used to be, from the human beings who created the United Nations, who banned CFCs, who overcame the Plague, who discovered America.

And perhaps they would conclude that we’ve become lost. That the human mind has languished, has not given way to innovation. That the spirit of good and morality – so long a distinguishing human trait – has been extinguished. The spirits of Socrates, Galileo, Columbus, Lewis and Clark, Muir…these are all dead and gone.

And a lot of people believe that.

I don’t.

I believe that man is – still – inherently good. I believe that we still have a spark of decency in our hearts. I know that we’re still making progress.

And I read the Los Angeles Times cover to cover. And between disaster stories and politics, I find articles about a new grocery going up in South Los Angeles. I read about police officers helping a woman to safety. I read about a congregation desperately trying to find one of its members. And I smile, since I know – I KNOW – that we are good.

Don’t listen to the naysayers. Don’t listen to the skeptics that say that the human race is going downhill. Don’t watch ‘Blade Runner’, or read ‘Brave New World’.

We’re not like that.

This theory – the fundamental goodness of man – is something that I try to remind myself of every day.

When I open the newspaper and read about a political scandal, I know that there are good politicians.

When I read about a combination murder/rape, I know that there are people trying to stop it.

When I read about pharmaceutical companies selling drugs in Africa, I know that there are people trying to help them.

And I am assured that the world is turning for the better, not the other way around.

All this positiveness – some would say naivete – has led a change in my worldview, or my outlook. Needless to say, I see the world as something good…something to be proud of, of what we have created. I look at the great achievements of this world, and feel glad.

But there’s something more, something more abstract.

I can feel it when I jump out of my bed in the morning and head outside for my morning jog before school. I breathe the cool air, look around. I see the green trees on the hill. I see birds, flying from tree to tree. And I see the sprinklers creating rainbows.

I start jogging.

I see a fellow jogger. We exchange hellos and friendly smiles.
I stop to pet an enthusiastic Labrador.
I wave to a man mowing his lawn.
I greet a friend, leaving in his car.

It’s the little things that matter. It’s at times like these – when you forget about the bad things and focus on the good – that my heart bursts with pride at what we – not you nor I, but WE – have created. Why can’t we do this more often?

In the end, does religion really matter? Does the issue of abortion? Does the keeping of guns?

Why do we insist on focusing on the mundane, the trivial? Many of us only see the decline of humanity, because they focus on the small and the tiny.

But broaden the picture. If the history of the universe was a 24-hour clock, humans would appear 1 second to midnight…and look at what we have done in that one second! We have done more in THAT ONE SECOND than the other 23 HOURS, 59 MINUTES, AND 59 SECONDS.

Why can no one see this? Why can you not be enlightened? Why can no one see that we are capable of getting thing right very easily? Why do we focus on the pixels when we can gape in awe at the big screen?

It’s a question that has always haunted me. Finding pleasures in the inherent goodness of ourselves – whether it be volunteering at a shelter, or helping a man across the street, or finding the owner of a wallet – why can we not focus on them?/

Open your eyes, Iranians, Kurds, Muslims, Christians, Pro-lifes, Pro-choices, NRAs, Sierra Club! Why can you not see?

Look at it! Look at what we have done! Don’t you love it?

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