The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Brazen Word

I left The Torch office for class Monday night around 6:40, and just like every other Monday night, I left a pile of unedited papers at my desk, my column unwritten, and a running to-do list on my mind.

When I entered my classroom, my professor began her lecture on Pamela, an 18th century novel, and our discussion on the text began, my work-induced stress was forgotten; I became enthralled in what I was learning.

We experience this kind of thing all the time, like when a paper is due, and we take time to listen to a song, or there is a test in the morning and we stop to watch our favorite show, when we put aside what we need to accomplish for the sake of temporary escape.

While everyone dabbles in this kind of detachment, it has never been called more into question than it is today. The things we struggle with, our papers or tests, are microcosms of recent world tragedies, like Hurricane Katrina or Ritha or Wilma, or the earthquake in Pakistan, which claimed tens of thousands of lives, or the War in Iraq.

And when there are so many devastating things happening, when there are lives destroyed or lost, how do we drop everything for a lecture on Pamela? I mean the book is great and all, but aren’t there more important things to do then discuss an 18th century novel?

What’s in question, I guess, is how we can live our every day lives when there are people starving, dying, homeless, sick, and desperate for help. Are we supposed to drop our books and drive down South with rations in our trunks and a tool set in our back seats? Most of us won’t, and that’s more than all right.

The victims of tragedies are emersed in the concrete, the temporal- their house flooded, their cars destroyed, even their loved ones lost. It is nearly impossible for them to think of anything but their surroundings, for they cannot escape their suffering.

College is a strange stage in a young person’s life. It is the metamorphic period between childhood and adulthood, our last shot at innocence.

St. John’s is a big bubble. Everything is at our finger tips, from cafeterias to classrooms to sports facilities and a weight room; this is a little world within a world, and we work and socialize within our bubble. There are few times in a person’s life where their biggest problem is a paper, a test, or a presentation. This is a time to create moments, the kind that stick in our memories, the kind that we can tell our grand kids about, the kind we don’t need a photograph for.

But this is a difficult request, as our televisions and newspapers are dominated by terrorism and destruction. How are we to seek these moments when we are forced to deal with the difficulties in front of us? That essay, an empty wallet, a flooded house, a lost loved one- it is a struggle to be otherworldly when there are so many distractions in the world.

When a terrorist threat is made, when Osama Bin Laden puts out a tape swearing to obliterate America, when a couple of Islamic fundamentalists fly into the Twin Towers and kill thousands, we need to be attached to the threat or the victims and the sorrow of the families but detached from the devastation so that we may live in a state of normalcy.

The most difficult task for us, as college students, as Americans, as just plain old people, is to realize that no matter what the disaster, it can never be that bad.

What’s the worst that can happen? We die? We lose our possessions? Our lives are drastically altered? Whatever the disaster, from an F on a test to a devastating hurricane, these instances are temporal, limited in the framework of time.

For the most part, we see these things on TV- the after affects of hurricanes, the death by terrorism, etc., but we are not part of such devastation. This is the unfortunate cause of most of our detachment, the detachment of indifference.

We see the low turnout numbers in national elections, especially in 2004. In perhaps the most virulent presidential election ever, one in which every young person and their best friend had an opinion on, we were largely inactive.

We can see it locally as well, like in last years Student Government, Inc. elections, where less than 500 students voted out of 14,000 plus.

While detachment from political activity through apathy is often a product of naive joviality, it is inappropriate when dealing with disaster and death.

The purpose of college, besides getting that degree for that job, is to make memorable moments that may be made new in memory, existing forever in the scrapbook of our mind.

To put an emphasis on the experience, the threat of terrorism, that hurricane, is to place the temporal ahead of the timeless.

Despite all the death and destruction around us, we still escape to class. We discuss Pamela while people struggle to survive, and thank God we can.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

We love comments and feedback, but we ask that you please be respectful in your responses.
All The Torch Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *