Last week provided a torrent of bad news. The horrific Virginia Tech shootings, continued bloodshed in Iraq and, by week’s end, the story of workplace violence at the Johnson Space Center in Houston dominated television, radio, the Internet and newspapers.
Rest assured that pundits will analyze these stories with fervor. After all, American media outlets have turned into something akin to a circus in which the news anchor is the ringmaster, solemnly narrating the spectacle of horrors we have come to expect on our televisions every night. Meanwhile, at every turn, self-proclaimed “experts” seek out their 15 minutes of fame by attempting to explain why they think these events took place, and what could have been done differently.
But while these stories have the common theme of death, perhaps they are more instructive in helping to show what’s important in life. These events serve to explain the concept of “seizing the day” in a 21st century light. It is all too easy to become entangled in routine and forget that no one is guaranteed a tomorrow.
I am certainly not, however, predicting the end of the world or even saying setting goals is a futile pursuit. If anything, the realism of the events of this past week serve best to promote balance in life.
Sure, life is full of stress. Major events and life decisions are a part of living, and if Americans look hard enough there can be plenty to complain about. But if people were given the opportunity to know that this day would be their last, would any of it really matter?
It is for that reason that I am an advocate for not taking oneself too seriously. Laugh a little, even at yourself. While not armed with any medical statistics of my own, it is hard not to see a link between too much stress and long-term mental/physical illnesses.
So take some time to pursue favorite hobbies. Studying assigned material is certainly important, but don’t forget the “me time.” Take time to decompress and find a passion, whether it’s reading, dancing, painting, athletics or traveling – the choices are truly endless, limited only by your imagination and interests. It’s all part of living life to the fullest.
Of course, simply taking care of oneself and making today a priority doesn’t seem like enough. After all, humans are intensely social. Interaction is critical, whether the goal is building friendships or addressing global problems.
Egocentrism is often portrayed as cool, but the notion that people can co-exist and thrive with different ethnic groups and personalities is important. Considering other viewpoints and perspectives can bring a realization that others aren’t as different as once presumed.
It must also be understood that while seizing the day and building a network of friends is important, these actions won’t necessarily stop senseless violence on their own. Increased security, efforts at fostering peace and improved mental health facilities may help deter violence, but these can’t eliminate it either.
The real solution is for people to live their lives to the fullest potential. In doing so, they accomplish something that no senseless act of violence can take away.On another note, after writing this column since March 2004, my time as a columnist for the Oracle has finally come to an end. To those who have read, edited and given their opinions on my take of current events, thank you.
Aaron Hill is a senior majoring in economics.