by Adam Pittman
As I reflect on the last semester of my four years at Cedarville, a line from The Head and The Heart song “Rivers and Roads” keeps running through my mind. “A year from now we’ll all be gone, all our friends will move away, and they’re going to better places, but our friends will be gone away.” I know the semester is not quite over. As I write this, spring break is a little under a month away, but my mind drifts toward melancholy and reflection nonetheless.
My premature recollections do not diminish the fact that change is coming; it is that person you’ll bump into as you round the corner, or the door that is opening as you are about to grab the handle. Even in those lyrics, the writer seems torn between the better places his friends are going and the losses that those changes will bring, but he says with certainty that life will not be the same as before.
As the school year moves along, and for those of us who are leaving Cedarville at the end of the semester, we must not let our opportunities to learn, grow, and affect others during these last few months slip away. Yet we must look to the future not with despair or fear, but with excitement and anticipation.
There is expectation that floats around college seniors that we must have everything figured out, that we must have a job lined up, a spouse and a home or a spouse-to-be, and that we are supposed to know who we are as people. We are never told those things specifically (I realize my experience is not exclusive and therefore I cannot speak for everyone). We are not told to find a spouse in college or to graduate college and immediately land in our dream career. We manufacture these expectations out of the lives we perceive others are living, or out of external pressures that we imagine.
I am constantly asked what I am doing after I graduate, and I immediately go on the defensive. Yet when I meet a fellow college senior, what is the first question I ask? “Do you know what you’re doing after you graduate?” I am genuinely interested to see if this fellow existential pathfinder knows where they are going. But when I am asked this question my insecurities and self-imposed fears lead me to frustration. My humble word of advice: most of us humans are just trying to get by in our own lives, and are probably not aware of the deepest unspoken insecurities of the people around us, for better or for worse.
My mind, and probably your mind too, naturally seems to view change as those world-shaking events that alter the course of our lives, but limiting our perception of affectations leads to merely a factual view of events: A + B = C. We tend to view history, even our own personal history, through this lens.
I recall reading in high school that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand led to the onset of World War I, but that was only the final push over the edge. The century before World War I, full of nationalism, imperialism, the Enlightenment, and the industrial revolution led to the mass killings on the fields of Europe that were previously thought unfathomable in Western culture. History is always more complicated, and our lives are always more complicated as well. Life is the complex interweaving of the histories of social, political, ancestral, and individual histories.
When each human is born, it is not their own life that they are embarking upon, but the culmination of thousands of years of events that led, unpredictably, beautifully, tragically, to that moment of birth. A + B might equal C, but knowing the outcome does not mean that we understand the entire equation. The changes that externally influence our lives are incomprehensible and elaborate, and above all else, they are not always what we choose.
In this study of change, I have covered the changes representative of future (and looming) life decisions, the expectations that influence our decisions, and how changes are not limited to what we alone can see.
Finally, I would like to view how we can change our perception. If our understanding of historical events is lacking, then I imagine that our understanding of current events are lacking as well. As much as I would like to enter into an academic paper about how the current antagonistic nature of American politics is influenced by the past centuries of Western thought, I realize that this is neither the time nor the place. However, what I do want to discuss, is the humility of opinion.
The more I have followed politics, the more I have seen two disparate political parties throw arguments at the other side without realizing their humanity, and without seeing that other people have a lifetime of experiences and understandings that cause them to vote a certain way or see an issue a certain way.
The world is ultimately more complex than we can comprehend, and there is no single cure for the human condition. Sometimes, more politically active Christians throw Christ around as a political wrecking ball, as if Jesus is the cure to our political arguments, the ultimate trump card. Yet Jesus was more focused on pointing people away from the idea that we could fix ourselves. Instead, he pointed to himself as if to say that accepting him was the recognition that humanity could not fix itself.
I am not arguing that Christians should stop trying to change our society, nor from being politically active, but I believe that Christianity’s best work is done away from political arenas, and away from seeing the problems of the world as a simple equation that needs solved. We as humans are far more complex, and as we move on to live our lives in jobs and places outside of Cedarville, we should seek to live with humility in a world that is not as simple or one-sided as we all might like it to be.
Adam Pittman is a Senior English Major and Just Sayin’ Columnist for Cedars. Among other things, he avidly enjoys reading, the outdoors, coffee, and soccer.