Fall and the Stars
An ongoing theme this semester: stars. Let me explain.
I’ve always had a hard time communicating with people the extent to which I believe that everything is connected. It might feel like a weak connection in some areas, but I genuinely believe that there are always connections between anything (people, situations, circumstances). Whether it’s a mutual friend, doing something small that ends up having a big impact on someone else or simply connecting with someone over the feeling of loving something, everything affects everything and every action you take will have repercussions, benefits, or lead you somewhere, no matter how small.
I think about a lot of things often, but one thought that comes up consistently for me is that I feel as if I do not have the words to describe what goes on in my head. Things can make perfect sense in my head, but as soon as I say it out loud I feel silly or small. I feel like this experience has always been a part of me.
I’m taking a class this semester called Human Condition. It’s a long-form writing class in the Journalism/English department and it’s been nothing but amazing so far. My professor is amazing, my classmates are some of my favorite people on campus, and our field trips have been so eye-opening and exciting even though we’re only 6 weeks into classes.
For one of our assignments, we had to discuss the idea of the human condition and explain what we think it is. I said that the human condition is life. It sounds easy, but it is not. I believe that life is more complex than any of us can even comprehend. Even when life feels simple, our bodies and organs are still functioning. Our cells are still multiplying. The universe is still expanding. God is still working. The human condition is events, emotions, science, connection, characteristics, personalities, growth, spirituality, aspirations, heartbreak, etc. Everything that makes up the basics (and complexities) of human existence.
Every once in a while I’ll be sitting in class minding my own business, in the middle of a conversation, or even stuck in traffic and remember that the world does not revolve around me. Selfish, I know. But true.
This past summer, I was in traffic a lot. I did not have to be, but I was. I drove between Westchester and Pasadena around three times a week for different events, whether it was taking my dad to and from LAX, hanging out with friends, or meetings on campus. On days where I was rolling down the various freeways that make up the LA highway system, if I was not blasting music and screaming my lungs out (my favorite), I was people watching. I constantly found myself wondering where people were going. Home? To work? On an adventure? And then I would eventually remember something I always seem to forget.
Everyone I have ever encountered and everyone I have not has lived equally as complicated, connected, heartbreaking, exciting, uplifting, rewarding, and complex of a life as I do. Every single person lives 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. When other LMU students started trickling back to the bluff from their hometowns, when they would tell me their summer was good, that they spent the whole summer working, I believed them. I would tell them the same thing. What I failed to realize was turning life and your summer into a sentence does not capture what it actually was to any extent whatsoever. I eventually started telling people that my summer was exactly what I expected: high highs, low lows, and everything in between. It was still good and I did spend (what felt like) the whole summer working, but I obviously did a lot of other stuff too. I think I fell in love, I ran away from home, I learned a lot of important lessons. I laughed and I cried. As I am sure everyone else did as well.
I have been an evaluator and analyzer my entire life. I am strategic, a developer, and I love to make connections. But I am also incredibly empathetic. I want to know why something is the way it is, why everyone is so different, why everyone is so similar. I want to understand. I often find myself pondering life’s most interesting questions, which recently have included “why did my little brother [do that thing that one time]”, “why does [this person] have trust issues?”, and “why can’t some of my friends communicate effectively?”. I have theories, but no answers.
For my class, it just kept repeating that life is all about the human condition. It is everything that makes up our lives. Key events, personality, morality, emotions, goals, motivations, thoughts, actions, feelings, etc. My human condition is changing constantly. Some days are better than others. Even some years are better than others.
When I think about the human condition, I am reminded of Guyana. I spent spring break on LMU’s IC Guyana trip, where we explored Faith in the Amazon. While my group was there, we spent a day in a 398-person village. Their entire community is 398. Similar to the size of my high school graduating class. While they were teaching us about their lives and lifestyle, all I could think about was how much I did not understand about the world and how much I simply did not know. The beautiful people of Baitoon have created something wonderful and have lived complicated lives regardless of whether or not anyone outside of Lethem, Guyana knew they were there. Eventually one of the locals asked my group what our favorite part of Guyana had been so far, so I said that while everything had been amazing, the stars were really making an impression on me. I had a long conversation with a local explaining light pollution, but I don’t think he fully understood what I was saying. All I could tell them was how lucky they are that their skies are so beautiful at night, they can see what feels like every single star. I don’t think they understood why that was so mind-blowing to me. Back at the Jesuits’ residence, I talked to one of the other participants about what we see when we look at the stars. I forgot that while we all look up at the same stars, we all see different things. That is just apart of the human experience, the human condition.
One of my favorite quotes is from This Is Water, an essay by David Foster Wallace. “It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive, day in and day out”. I’m taking Astronomy this semester, a class I was nervous about. I still am. I do not love science. Had my first test, it was stressful (shoutout to my LITERAL angel, he knows who he is). We spent the first class session talking about how big the universe was, how it’s constantly expanding, and just how small we are. Everything I felt seemed insignificant in the grand scheme of things. In 10 years I will no longer be worried about the boy who did not say hi to me or the B+ I got in a class last semester. I might not even be worried about those things next week. I feel very lucky that God created all of this for us and I feel very lucky he created me.
Life is complex and life is beautiful. Even when I hate it, I love it.