Let's post our essays to help next years students get an idea of what they should write.
Here's my Chicago essay exactly as I submitted it (typos included).
Apperently it didn't work
Essay Option 2: Destroy A Question
“There must be an answer.” I thought to myself. I, a thinking being, must be able to deduce the answer to any question I can pose. I could not. Every argument I concocted I just as easily repudiated. I only got back to where I began- nowhere.
I frantically perused the musty pages of the classics in a vain attempt to resolve my question. I found that my question was more often a topic of prevarication than discourse. Plato never pushed beyond his postulate that the universe was eternal and immutable. Descartes’ brilliance collapsed when his haphazard proofs of God’s existence were repudiated. William James simply dismissed the question as unanswerable. It seemed that the great minds spent more time dismissing each other’s work than building their own.
I was lost. In every other field I had studied reason provided a clear path to knowledge. This time, however, reason led me nowhere. Every time I thought I had deduced the logical path to a new idea I discovered faults in my logic that left me in the same place I had started. I could not find any axioms of knowledge.
I consulted a revered theologian. He consigned my question to the mind of god. “But who created god?” I asked, sensing a hole in his answer.
“God is the uncreated creator.” The memorized rebuttal carried with it contempt towards my lack of knowledge of theological canon. I left the conversation refusing to accept any axioms of my existence.
I then sought out a venerated scientist. I asked him my fabled question, expecting a meek response. Instead, he began a dissertation on the mechanisms of the universe. “But why is it that way?” I asked again and again only to be met with another wave of explanations.
“That is what empirical evidence indicates.” He retorted constantly.
“But how do you know your conclusion isn’t like an explanation of the movement of shadows on a wall” I asked alluding to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.
“I needn’t concern myself with hypotheses that cannot be falsified. I am a man of science.” His dismissive reply left me in the same place I started.
As I walked out of his office I overheard a toddler importuning his mother. “But why?” he asked time and time again. His mother’s repeated explanations failed to satiate his need for knowledge. He continued probing. Her explanations eventually focused on the existence of the universe. The toddler was not pleased. “Why does the universe exist?”
“It just does,” the mother said as she walked out of earshot.
As I walked on I noted that all three never reached any firm basis for their knowledge. The theologian and the scientist both dismissed the question as unanswerable. In his youth, the toddler refused to capitulate. He continued probing for knowledge beyond what his mother could provide.
My question was fundamentally a question of the mechanism explaining a condition. However, in order to explain something we must be able to observe it. By definition I couldn’t step out of the universe and observe it. I couldn’t answer my question because it was impossible for me to observe the mechanism. I capitulated to the inevitable: my question had no answer.
Last edited by Bill_h_pike; 03-30-2006 at 10:58 PM.
bill... i like your essay! it's too bad you didn't get in... it fit better than mine, which was really my brown essay tweaked into the prompt, and i DID get in... anyway, without further ado....
I am something of a creature of two worlds, or at least of two great interests. I used to wonder which would be the greater mastery and how I could better serve the world: as a scientist or a musician? I have slowly come to realize that the best answer to that question is simply that the question is irrelevant.
Sitting alone at my piano playing the works of the long-gone masters, I cannot help but wonder if I am worthy of such music. Would Chopin approve of my small hands spanning his massive chords? Would Mozart, with all his innate, eccentric genius? What about Bach, with all the chaos of his mathematically perfect polyphony? Performing classical music is like speaking another’s words, but lending to them an accent of my own.
In all but this, I am the scientist, with accuracy and efficiency natural priorities of mine. In far less time than it takes to sort through tangles of ink blots and lines for the elusive beauty of a melody, I could certainly write a computer program capable of greater technical proficiency than any human. Yet that would be to master the method of the music without knowing its value; to achieve nirvana but behold it with indifference.
The soaring soprano strains that land in crashing, earth-shattering thunder can be rendered only by human hands, conceived only by a human mind. Yet the piano itself is a marvel purely mechanical in nature. Its rich strings and ivory keys are every bit as important as the performers who use them and the people who originally transcribed the music into reality.
I can see no reason in the world ever to choose between passion and practicality, when the two are so inextricably intertwined that neither exists meaningfully alone. We must see the world’s imperfections with compassion, contemplate how we might improve upon them, and then wrest that idea into a solution within the constraints of reality.
This is the definition of greatness as I perceive it: to have at once the insight both of a scientist who sees the world as it is and of an artist who sees the world as it might and maybe should be. The true wonders of human invention do not obscure the dreams of their creators. It is no contradiction to say that I love science because of art. It is the method by which we snare our audacious dreams and pull them into the physical world. I saw it when I watched my first model plane spiral impossibly up into the air on wings of balsa wood and tissue. It was evident this past summer watching my twin robots successfully and seemingly intelligently simulate the children’s game of tag. I hear it every time I translate a line of notes from a page into music.
I am a scientist by nature, but I am not blind to fancy. To choose between science and art would be an offense against the amazing ability of the human mind to encompass both and in so doing be complete. The question of which to pursue is thus irrelevant at best and irreverent at worst, usurped by the very answer to it.
I cannot attempt to match the understated genius of Langston Hughes. Truth be told, I am not a poor, 22-year old black man who faced the oppressive racial climate of the American South. There is no possible way that my words will carry the same pain and hope that his words did.
My 18 years have been fortunate ones—I grew up in a relatively affluent area of the city, surrounded by the constant love and affection of my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I attended private school, went to summer camps and on nice vacations. I’ve had a very sheltered existence—but that is not to say that I want my life to stay that way.
Such a rudimentary biography can only say so much about a person. After all, our lives are more than a mere smattering of details, of “whos,” “wheres” and “whens.” It’s the “hows” and the “whys” which are important. So yes, it’s true that my life has been relatively easy at times, and probably easier than most other people’s lives. But I’ve also made the best of my opportunities.
Now, some might view my experience at a private Jewish high school to be narrow compared to the cultural diversity found in a public school. I might have thought so too, early on, but I discovered the rich Jewish culture that underlies and inevitably influences my life. After reading—in the original Yiddish—the stories of Morris Rosenfeld, I came to appreciate the cultural meaning and rich history behind the language my grandparents spoke (when they wished not to be understood).
But otherwise they did want me to understand things, for it was also my grandparents who pushed me to read and learn as much as I could. My grandmother was a children’s librarian, and her house, at which I spent many weekends, was always stocked with books. Every night there, before bed, I would immerse myself in them—while I may now read the likes of Thomas Pynchon and Tom Robbins, it was Curious George who sparked my love for reading.
Just like that “good little monkey,” I’ve always had more than a healthy curiousity for knowing more. Over time, I’ve delved into various subjects—from attempting to read and understand Ulysses to learning about the stock market, to teaching myself guitar and bass. At times, I was consumed by the sheer obsession of wanting to know everything possible about the subject at hand. But it’s not enough to merely be able to quote lines or know what a stochastic oscillator is.
I do want to escape from this little bubble. It’s only natural to move from the second-hand learning from books to first-hand experience. I don’t want to be one of those people who can spew endless facts, but has nothing unique or personal to contribute to a discussion. So there’s nothing left to do but to go out and stake my claim somewhere in the world—I have to put all my years of learning (both in and out of the classroom) to good use, because to squander my opportunities when I’ve come this far would be an utter waste.
ill post my prompt, not my essay
i think my prompt was bette rthan my essay lol
In the popular animated sitcom, "The Simpsons," Lisa encounters the spirit of former president John F. Kennedy. After a brief and encouraging conversation, the spirit gets engulfed in infernal flames and descends to hell. The writers of the show seem to be alluding to the fact that Kennedy's political agendas were often in discordance with his religious beliefs. Tell us about a time when some of your beliefs, identities, or responsibilities seemed to clash against each other.
I'll post my essay, I suppose, as long as you all aren't too cruel to it.
I wrote on the Langston Hughes prompt.
(I was accepted, by the way. Early action.)
As a chubby, pig-tailed third grader, my only goal in life was to read every book in the library. Starting with Avi, I worked my way, reading nearly a book a day, to Lois Lowry. Completely disregarding the need for a social life or even friends in general, I would sit alone at recess, quietly devouring the wonderful world of the time-traveling Murrys while the other kids played their silly little games of “kickball” or “four-square.” I scoffed at their conversations, their idiotic bantering, the sheer mindlessness of their day-to-day operations.
I like to think that I’ve matured since then. I realized some time back that no matter how rapturously marvelous it is to be wrapped up in books, one’s life is never complete without real, vivid, breathing human relationships. Along with my humanization came the startling revelation that I am no better than any other person on this earth. I have absolutely no right to intellectual snobbery or academic elitism at all. And oddly enough, the kids who played kickball at recess are now some of my best friends, and people whose opinions I truly respect.
The most important lesson I’ve learned in high school hasn’t come from history or math or English. If I’ve learned anything that will stay with me for life, it’s how gloriously unlearned I truly am, how limited my knowledge is, and how much more I have to learn. It’s not exactly an original idea, and I’m sure that Socrates expressed it approximately 50 bajillion times better that I ever could. Nonetheless, it’s the sincerest truth that I have.
The sum of my experiences-- all that I’ve felt and seen and heard-- has led me to this one conclusion: knowledge is an ever-empty glass, always begging to be filled, but never quite overflowing. Though this idea would have scared the pants off of that little third grader, now I know that having ever more to learn is the most magnificent state in which I could possibly hope to find myself. As soon as the world has become fully known, understood, and defined, it has become completely devoid of pleasure. The fun of living is in the learning, the experiencing, the doing, and the seeing.
So here you are. One page, neatly typed, summarizing all of my worldviews and my ideas about myself concisely, yet touchingly.
This is my page for the University of Chicago.
I'm sure you all have a lot more intellectual/creative/better essays than I do. I didn't get my acceptance/rejection letter yet, so I'm still holding out hope that this essay was good enough to get me in. What do you think?
Essay Option 2:
Why. This simple three letter word holds the power to question both everything and anything. It is an innate and universal question asked by people of all ages, ranging from toddlers, who ask it in the form of, “Why do I have to take a bath?,” to the elderly, who wonder why kids these days listen to such loud and distasteful music. Seemingly out of instinct, humans have always wondered why things are the way they are, and this curiosity has, throughout the course of history, challenged the minds of the greatest scientists and philosophers. Einstein wondered why the equivalence principle violated Newton’s first law of motion and could not be accounted for in Euclidian geometry. To answer this, he formulated the concept of general relativity. Sir Isaac Newton asked himself why something that goes up must come back down. This inquisition, along with the fortuitous falling of an apple, ultimately led to the development of the law of universal gravitation. Dunkin’ Donuts pondered why it was necessary to throw away their doughnut holes, a procedure which wasted millions of pounds of dough each year. From this, the revelation which we know and love as the Munchkin was born. In each of these instances, a “why” question was posed, and the answer was of such monumental consequence and profundity and engendered such awe and amazement that the question was utterly destroyed. Ever since the law of universal gravitation was conceived, the theory of relativity created, and the first Munchkin devoured, the world has never been quite the same.
As demonstrated in the preceding examples, many questions are destroyed by an answer. However, “why” is unique in that it can also be destroyed with another question. While our society emphasizes its importance, “why” is actually a flawed question that is less significant than queries such as “how” or “what.” The high esteem in which we view philosophers and scientists, people who base their work on such questioning, demonstrates our love for those who inquire. But just how important is it to wonder “why?” Despite the attention and respect allotted to those who ask it, the question “why” is not nearly as almighty as perceived. For example, Newton’s law of universal gravitation would have limited use without knowledge of what gravity is and how it works. Merely knowing why gravity works is not as significant as knowing how it works. In science, only statements confirmed by experimentation and experience are admissible, and although Newton recognized that he could not verify why gravity worked the way it did, he understood how gravity affected the motion of an object. Newton realized that the answer to the “why” question could not be proven through experimentation, and so he elected to pursue the answer to the “how” question instead. This instrumentalist view, adopted by Newton as well as many other scientists in their studies on gravity, emphasizes the significance of the “how” rather than the “why.”
Although not as significant as other queries, “why” questions have spurred the progress we have made in answering the “how” and “what” questions. Ranging from the largest discoveries to the most trivial of innovations, much of history has been scripted by the inquiry of a curious mind. Answers to “why” questions have revealed powerful truths which were of such consequence that they destroyed the question. A few weeks ago, my friend asked me, “Why are you applying to the University of Chicago?” I proceeded to provide him with an answer which was so overwhelming and profound, so awe-inspiring and powerful, that he was left speechless. Well, I guess I destroyed that question, too.
Out of any school, I have to say that Uchic's were incredibly scrumptious for the eyes to devour-- gulping all those delicious, silky words... Well, this is my create your own type of essay and response:
This essay was inspired by my three-year-old sister, a full thirteen years younger than me, and about to grow up into a completely difference culture and world than I was raised in. In this day and age, America has become even more of a melting pot of skin, eye shape, languages, and culture. Still, every ethnicity remains distinct. Describe your own experience within a constantly changing culture, how you define yourself.
“This is your nose,” said a small, somber voice in perfect Chinese. I blinked to find a cherry-round face gazing intently into my bleary eyes, giggling delightedly as I crossed my eyes to look at the finger that rested on the newly discovered object.
It is strange watching my littlest sister learn, her toddler self quickly differentiating between America and China; America means hamburgers. China means pig loin. When I look at her, I see myself, stumbling out of the terminal in Los Angeles, still foreign to the world, and even more foreign to America. I remember that my father had handed me a Barbie, my grasp on the “blue eyes, blonde hair” concept still a vague impossibility. I touched her shyly, marveling at the complex architecture of the doll, so different from my rag dolls. From that instant, I lusted after American culture, lusted after peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Barney, Saturday morning cartoons, and Wal-Mart. America stood as El Dorado, a place where people filled their houses with Barbies and fat-fried foods.
“Cherri-baby, sing me a song,” I requested, shifting so that her thirty-five pounds did not rest directly on my bladder-- a hopeless cause, as she always had impeccable aim. She took a deep breath and belted out a children’s song, her honey voice warbling in Chinese. Every so often, a word would come out in English; I smiled, as this was a habit of mine as well, meshing the two languages with jagged sutures.
My mother had other plans that would hinder my ambitious Americanization. She insisted on cooking counterfeit American foods, indulging in calculus for diversion, and, fearing that I could still avoid my Chinese blood, sent me to Chinese school. I attended with the deepest loathing and bitterness—my precious weekends were being consumed by daunting characters and complicated passages. I was being stifled in the mess of my unwanted, unneeded culture. While other children were outside frolicking, I sat inside, burrowed in a math book or stuttering awkwardly through Chinese stories.
Two years ago, I became an official citizen, and, ironically, it was then that I came to the stark realization that no matter how much I conformed to American stereotypes, no matter how many hotdogs I gobbled down, and no matter how merry my atheist Christmases were, I would never be American. Or at least, I could never be the classic Barbie doll. An epiphany had struck-- I had confused America’s ideals for my entire existence thus far; it was not about how one dressed, what one ate, or the fads one indulged in. America was a mindset, a philosophy! It was a dreamer’s playground, somewhere that anyone with ambition and wit could succeed. My parents were two of the dreamers, and I will be another, striving against ignorance and the threat of poverty, the voice of my past still strong in the hope of my future.
This is why I teach Cherri her 123s in both languages, why she knows the names of the Disney princesses in English and Chinese. I hope that China grants her discipline and a tireless soul, and America lends her diversity, as they have both done for me. I hope that she will find a peaceful duality, and exist as I do with a seamless patchwork of China and America, a quilt to guide her in her dreams.
They travel on tracks,
laid more than a century ago.
Millions have passed by
on this conquered steel road.
Unbending and resolute,
conformed to the notions,
of where it must lead.
The 7:07 to Denver,
contains the same sights and sounds,
Monday through Sunday,
morning and night.
There is no improvisation,
nor sign of exploration,
not even a dash of human error,
attempts to appear.
There is only the unending passage,
through charted territories
as the single engine Cessna soars overhead.
Through swirling winds and wandering clouds,
it begins to touch the vastness of the world.
Skimming across illustrious lakes,
Slipping between mountain peaks,
and every crack and corner
it has to offer.
Taking off and landing, whenever needed,
with no set agenda or expectations.
Guided solely by circumstance
and what lay ahead.
From the window of the Cessna,
the world cannot be taken in
with a single breath.
We can finally see, what we have never seen.
Now the question is posed. Am I a Cessna or a commuter train? I am certainly not a perfect duplicate of either, but my attributes are much more akin to those of a Cessna, of a mind that does not stick, than of a commuter train. At times, it can be exhausting flying around, forging my own path, but it beats the guided mechanical approach handedly. What fun, what reward, what knowledge, comes from doing the same worn out trick, writing the same lifeless paper, living the same homogenized life? For me the answer is none. The fun of it all comes from breaking down boundaries and tearing down walls, in creating something entirely new, which the world has never even fathomed. Such was the case, when the sport of Ninjaball was born. It grew out of boredom and out of necessity for entertainment, as many great ideas do.
On a balmy summer’s evening the four of us piled into the car and headed off towards Lake Ellyn; completely unaware of the glorious game that awaited us. In the trunk, we had gathered a vast array of sporting equipment: bats, balls, hula-hoops, and other odds and ends, but mostly wiffle bats. The game began simple enough. One person pitches, another hits, while the rest field, but the simple baseball spin off quickly bored us. However, when one of us brought a bat into the field it all changed. Our collective imagination began to turn, as we threw ideas back and forth, as to how we could incorporate fielders with bats into a game. What we came up with on that day would be the fundamental outline for the sport of Ninjaball.
There is one pitcher, one batter, and however many fielders that bats are available for. The batter tries to hit each pitch and the fielders attempt to hit the hit that batter just hit with their own bats. The batter has a total of 9/3 outs and he gets 1/3 of an out by missing a pitch or by not hitting the ball past the pitcher, 3/3 of an out when a fielder hits the ball in the air with the bat, and 9/3 of an out if the fielder throws the bat and hits the ball. On occasion rules are added, but this is the core of Ninjaball, a game that sprung from our own minds and took over many a summer’s day.
The creative force behind Ninjaball is something I try to keep with me always. To be able to improve upon something is a valuable commodity, just look at Japan’s industry. They never settled for what others said was the best; they toyed and tinkered, and developed products far superior to any seen before. They have a collective mind that does not stick, which continuously searches for new ways to look at the world and new ways to improve it. If this view of life is good enough for the Japanese, the original ninjas, then it certainly works for me.
Reading everyone else's essay, I feel entirely sub-par. Be honest if you have any put-downs or whatever. I think I'm a very bad writer and I'm really surprised that I got in at all. Now that I think about it my essay just sort of ends in the last paragraph. My last sentence is super corny but I decide to keep it in because it's true and it was the best way to express how I felt. Anyways, no one's perfect (but some, like me, are less perfect than others). I applied EA:
Essay Option 1
I’m walking to school today. Various thoughts race through my mind. Somehow they are all tied together, though I’m not sure how. I think about Kant’s argument for the existence of free will. The argument makes sense, but the premises that it is based on aren’t solid. This goes against the entirety of what Kant has been saying up to this point—that you should check your foundations because if those aren’t solid, then everything proceeding from them is unsupported. I then think about the latest controversial event in the news, trying to understand the pros and cons. I reach the school. I guess it’s back to the real world.
I take my cello out of its case. I tighten the hairs on my bow, trying to find the right balance. Next I tune the various strings on my cello—A, then D, then G, then C. I begin practicing the song, reminding myself to bow steadily and to use more wrist, as Mrs. Brokaw has told me. I stop and adjust the D string on my cello. A little sharper—oh wait, too sharp. There, that’s as close as I’ll get it. I return to practicing the song. I’ll occasionally lapse and won’t bow steadily or won’t use enough wrist and will have to correct myself. My goal for now is to be proficient enough to play with other musicians in college. I await the day when I will be able to play the beautiful music that goes through my mind.
I enjoy scenes like these. I like to call time like this my “alone time,” whether I’m physically alone or in my own little world of thought. Others often ask me, “Is something wrong?” I suppose my serious expression and silence throw them off. My response is that nothing is wrong, I’m just thinking. Now don’t get me wrong, I talk as much as anybody. I guess that’s why people think something is wrong when I am silent. I wish I could just broadcast to people that sometimes I just need time to think.
Oh, there is so much to think about. Lately, I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with my future. I need time for my brain to analyze all of the facts. Other times though, when I’m not thinking about issues of fact, I spend time daydreaming. I look inward and try to decide what I really want out of life, what my values are, and simply what I think. Philosophy has helped provide a guide for me to find my own answers for questions such as these.
I’ve always been intrigued by questions such as, “What is justice?” and, “Why are we here?” These questions to me have always seemed relevant. Despite the fact that I cared about such questions, until recently I had the preconception that philosophy was impractical or not to be taken seriously—that it involved old men sitting around together asking questions just for the sake of asking questions. My understanding of philosophy has changed dramatically in the past year, since I began reading Plato’s Republic.
I first heard of the Republic in another book that I was reading. The book elaborated on the influence of the Republic and Plato over and over again. This piqued my interest in the Republic and caused me to buy it at the first chance I had. Since reading the Republic, I now better appreciate what philosophy represents. Though I didn’t necessarily agree with Plato’s assertions, finding my own answers to questions posed in the Republic has helped my mind to grow.
I’ve come to my own understanding that there are not necessarily right or wrong answers to philosophical questions. I now believe that the process of coming to my own answers is what is important. Among other lessons, philosophy it has taught me to question everything and not to accept something simply because everyone else has. One of the “bad” aspects of philosophy is that it makes me think too much, if that’s possible. On a perfectly fine day I may be walking to school when I’m suddenly interrupted by thoughts of what knowledge really is or if there could ever be a definition of beauty. The benefits of philosophy are enormous. I now live with an enhanced sense of purpose and a greater desire to learn, to think, and to know.
This is my rough draft version - sorry I couldn't find the final product. It's close enough for you to get the point.
University of Chicago Essay #3
“The mind that does not stick”
“I told the man to keep his grubby paws off of my mind, and then it all went downhill after that” she told me, looking me straight in the eye. To be sure hers were a little crazed, but I smiled politely and nodded.
“A very interesting story. If you’ll excuse me” I said, trying to make a quick exit.
“Oh, but you haven’t heard the best part” she said, her eyes twinkling.
“And what is that?” I asked.
“In another universe you were my husband.” She was all teeth now, her face broken out in a huge smile. I smiled too. If this was a pass at me, it was certainly the most unusual I’d ever heard. Well that and I don’t get too many passes.
I pretended to examine her closer. “My word! How could I have forgotten you my queen! It’s all of this haziness about time – I can’t decide whether I’m going backward or forward so sometimes faces get a little jumbled up. I meet so many former wives nowadays it’s a little hard to keep track of them all. What did you say you name was again?” I was playing along, trying to decide whether I should order her a “white” jacket or a cup of coffee.
“I didn’t. It’s Eve silly. And don’t even try that “time confusion” thing that all of my husbands give. Anyway, all of this talk of time makes me hungry.” She pulled an object out of her bag. “Apple?” she said, offering me the fruit.
“Déjà vu?” I asked, taking it in my hand. I took a big bite out of it.
“Fate” she said. An overdressed man came over to us and gave a disapproving sniff.
“Sir, outside food is not allowed in here. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
I nearly choked on the apple. “But, but” I sputtered. As I was escorted to the door of the building I noticed Eve had followed. It was when I was standing outside wondering how I had gotten there, that she walked in front of me, smiling that infernal smile.
“Look what you did,” I said. “You got us kicked out. It was nice buffet they had in there – free too.”
“Well, now you know better at least.” She said, laughing.
“Don’t you take anything seriously?” I asked, a little annoyed now.
“Oh! But I take you seriously – you make me laugh!”
“You knew we would get kicked out of there if you offered me that apple” I accused.
“It was fate. Don’t you believe me?” she asked innocently.
“I don’t believe in fate” I retorted.
She laughed harder. “I told you, you make me laugh. Watch, next your going to tell me you believe we were actually in that building.”
“Actually, I do.” I said. I was really annoyed now, and I didn’t feel like playing her game anymore.
“You see?” she said, laughing.
“Don’t you believe in reality?”
“The last time I believed in reality I found myself counting how many forty-five degree angles there were in a square.”
Now I was confused. “But there aren’t any forty-five degree angles in a square…” I said, scratching my head.
“Exactly,” she said.
“Ok – fine. Let’s start with something simple then. What’s one plus one?”
Now she looked confused. “What’s 'one' again? Is that the same as ‘ten’? I can never get those straight.”
I was tearing at my hair. “One is very different from ten! For instance…” I picked up two twigs from the ground and held them up “these are two twigs. We have one here” I said, holding it up, “and another here. One means a single individual twig. If we have another single individual twig together they make two. Do you understand now?”
She furrowed her brow. “Yes I think I understand now.”
I relaxed a little. “Ok – so what’s one plus one?”
She picked up two twigs from my hand and put them together end on end. “One tiny twig, plus another tiny twig equals one big twig. So one plus one equals one. Right?”
“No! You…I…you didn’t…” I was really pulling at my hair now. The pain kept me convinced I was real.
“Ok, ok,” I muttered to myself. “Let’s start with the law of identity. ‘A’ is ‘A’. No matter what ‘A’ will always be equal to ‘A’.” I picked up a small pebble from the ground. “This pebble will always be this pebble, containing its characteristics and form. Existence exists! It’s the fundamental axiom of reality. In other words, what you see is what you get. Do you understand now?”
Again she looked confused. Then her face cleared. “Oh! I understand!” She closed her eyes. “If I can’t see the pebble, then the pebble doesn’t exist!”
“No, you’ve got it –”
“– What you see is what you get!” she repeated to herself in a singsong voice.
“No – it’s not just sight!” I said, exasperated. “It’s all of your senses! If you can see the pebble you know it’s there, if you can feel it you know its there, if you can hear it falling to the ground you know its there, if you can smell it you know its there, if you can taste it you know it’s there! Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.”
She smiled at me pityingly. “So what if I was born deaf, blind, mute, and without a sense of smell, touch, or taste? Would reality exist for me? Would I exist?”
“There is a world that exists objectively – independent of you! If you die do you think the world dies with you?”
“If I’m dead,” she responded, “then I don’t exist, therefore I don’t know that there is a world to believe in. Therefore for me – reality doesn’t exist.”
At this point I must have looked upset because she put her hand on my shoulder and kissed me on the cheek.
“It’s ok – look me up in a couple hundred years – alright? I’ll be waiting.” She smiled one of her crazy smiles again and then put her hands over my eyes, and closed them. I felt her hands move off my face. I opened my eyes. She was gone.
I suddenly felt very dizzy and sat down. I picked up a pebble from the ground – and looked at it – I needed something for my mind to stick to, because suddenly it felt more than a little loose.
I liked your essay, but it reminded me a lot of Robert Sheckley's short story Warm... Except for the fact that yours is much more light hearted. I liked the prompt-story connection, btw. Kept me interested.
Yes I was just accepted today! Chicago was my top choice so I'll definitely be going there next year. I've actually never read Warm - thanks for pointing it out, I'll have to look it up now. What was your essay about? We're you accepted?
I'm actually applying as a transfer, so I won't know for a couple of weeks! My essay was about my nontraditional education experience (I'm 27 years old, and I dropped out of highschool when I was 16). I would post it, but since the decisions haven't been made for transfers yet, I'm not sure if it's appropriate (who knows who's reading this forum! ). I'll post it whenever I get my decision. It's a pretty good essay, I think.
I really enjoyed writing this one; it's actually the second Chi essay, the one about literary works and what not.
I knew this question would come up among my application essays and unfortunately I'm pretty sure that I'm going to see it many, many more times. So let me first thank you for that. Because of my clairvoyance not only am I ahead of the game, I have also had time to ponder which literary and artistic pieces please me mentally and often physically.
I can say without any doubt in my mind that my favorite poem (and as such should be the benchmark of all poetic art) is "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams. After being introduced to it during American Literature, dying with glee, and continuously re-reading it, I accidentally memorized the poem. I’ll display it for you now. No, not in some arrogantly characteristic attempt to woo you with an elephant-like memory, but simply because I don’t think anyone can fully appreciate my adoration of the poem without having first witnessed the deliciousness themselves. That and it’s pretty short. Here goes:
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
Hahahahaha! Orgasmic. I love it because it is so bleak. Here were these mouth-watering plums somebody else had set aside unselfishly for breakfast, perhaps for the family or the neighbors or even God, only to be devoured by a single man who did not care about the plans the plums had made. And what does he do to make amends. Why he gives a hollow apology for the buffet he did not regret. And why should he? The plums were, after all, delicious and cold and sweet. The poem is sheer brilliance. Read it again if you must. Why it's hardly a poem at all, but a note the author left next to the icebox telling the recipient about the enjoyable plum heist which occurred before breakfast. Human nature at it's finest. No one feels remorse for his or her Greed. It is after all the least deadly of the Seven Sins. Never in my life have I read a piece of literature that so truly reflected human nature, as "This is Just to Say". My life, as does every applicant to Chicago, is that of petty larceny. Just today at Buffalo Wild Wings I distracted my sister to obtain the last Medium (not to be confused with the Mild, which is of less intensity) wing of the dozen. It was rightly hers, but I wouldn't change my decision for the world. It is the plums and wings of the world that outline our true selves: greedy, life-sucking capitalists that would rather enjoy temporary satisfaction than ignore that insatiable temptation and lead selfless lives. We pass over the possibility of worldwide solidarity for plums. This man’s miniature poem is a window into human honesty. And the survey says: humans suck.
Oh, and as far as favorite books go, I’ve always been partial to the dictionary.
What is a mind that does not stick? For that matter, what is a mind that does stick? Is there a preferable sort? How does either concept relate to me? Traditionally, Zen Buddhism does consider not words and logic to be relevant to either truth or real meaning. An ancient and famous Zen proverb states that “Bodhisattavas never engage in conversations whose resolutions depend on words and logic.” However, if one assigns physical qualities to an abstract concept, it makes sense to consider that abstraction like any other physical object. With a spirit of healthy contrarianism and adolescent logic, I debate the stickiness of the mind.
Mechanical physics explains whether or not an object sticks when it hits the ground through a combination of the forces applied to the object, the force of gravity acting against the object, the surface it impacts against, and the composition of the object. Each time my foot has struck the track, it has bounced back up, and around and around and around the same loop for three years. This year it bounced up and into the pool, a new venue with a different repetitive motion. I love running, but part of that love is based on the changing scenery, and track combines repetitive motion with a repetitive view. The stickiness of a mind is directly related to what it’s sticking to, and how long it has been sticking to it.
Chemistry explains the different bonds an atom or molecule can form through a variety of methods. However, one group of elements almost never form bonds. The mostly-inert noble gases have a complete octet of valence electrons, and any more or fewer elections would make them unstable. I feel a certain empathy for the poor, anthropomorphized, unreactive, unsticky noble gases. If I had any fewer activities or easier classes, I’d be bored. If I had any more, I’d be unstable. There are still a few more things I wish I could have done over the past four years. I wish I’d been able to stick with jazz band, I think that joining the debate team would have been a stimulating experience, and there are dozens of books I want to read but don’t have time to. But if I can share the plight of the three totally unreactive Group 8 elements, it is logical for me to be encouraged by two that can stick to other atoms. Xenon and krypton both can bond to form compounds with fluoride and oxygen, which, assuming the stickiness of mind is a measure of involvement with things I care about and can be explained by chemistry, is a hopeful suggestion that even unsticky minds can stick, sometimes.
On a bigger scale, chemistry considers the phase of a substance. A solid is a solid because it doesn’t merely stick together, it’s locked into place. A liquid can flow, but the molecules are at least momentarily stuck to each other. Gases hardly stick at all, not even to the container. Much of the way gas chemistry is studied is based on the assumption that under normal circumstances, gases don’t stick, and that a gas molecule retains its kinetic energy to bounce away from collisions. Life is filled with collisions, and we must bounce back from them. A mind that gets stuck gets nowhere. Gases, and minds, don’t always stick or bounce back. If you’ve ever watched a helium balloon deflate over the course of a party, you’ve observed gases bouncing off the sides of their container, but many of them pass through the gaps in the plastic. Minds too can push through obstacles, without bouncing off them or getting stuck.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are generally considered a benchmark of stickiness. However, it is a distressingly frequent occurrence for me to find the jelly bleeding through the bread, wandering off from where I put it. My history classes have been a similar. History is one of my life’s passions, and in school, my interest often moves beyond exactly what we’re studying at the moment. In my European History class, it seemed inconceivable that our discussion of the Crusades into the Holy Land didn’t also reference the Albigensian Crusade, the Hussite Wars, the history of the Mongol invasions that left Muslim states fragmented during the time of the First Crusade, and the subsequent fragmentation of the kingdoms of Outremer that eased their reconquest by Muslim forces. To come back to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I can understand why some people prefer the jelly stuck exactly where they’ve spread it. In your mouth though, it’s all stuck together – just as true understanding of history doesn’t have arbitrary geographical constraints preventing its mixing.
Cellular biology is filled with stickiness. From the hydrophobic ends of phospholipids that stick together to form the double layer of membranes within the cell, to the antibodies that stick to pathogens, marking them for immune systems, to the tightly-wound cohesion of condensed chromatids during mitosis - the existence of all living things is based on stickiness. On a grand, macroscopic, figurative scale, a certain degree of self-stickiness is not only beneficial but necessary. A mind must have some cohesion, but it can’t be entirely stuck to itself. One of the differences between normal cells and cancerous ones is the way that cancer cells have no intrinsic limits on their density. They divide and divide, expanding the tumor as they stick to each other without limit.
Things don’t always stick together, though: sometimes, you have to stick them out. One of the less pleasant experiences I’ve had sticking something out was during a field trip to Seal Beach last summer. As a summer camp counselor, I supervised my kids, especially in the water. Sticking out three 30-minute shifts in cold, malodorous water that’s intensely brown from red tide was a long, monotonous necessity.
The game of foursquare is an appropriate metaphor to conclude with. The game revolves around a playground ball, generally red, and inflated to perfection. An underinflated ball is too limp to hold on to properly. When you hurl it, it hits the ground and stays. An overinflated ball bounces too far to be practical or fun. The perfect ball is somewhere in between. A call for moderation might seems like the easy way out, but it’s the only way. Consider two important English idioms: bricks are stuck together very tightly, but telling someone he’s as thick as a brick is no compliment. A head full of hot air (a crude term for a gaseous mixture with substantial average kinetic energy) does not stick, but that doesn’t make it good. As a final note regarding my pondering, I refer to Zen and to this essay’s prompt. In meditation, there is no destination – only a journey.
My favorite band is Wrangler Brutes. They were a short-lived exercise in thrashy postmodern skate-core, bizarre yet compelling album art, and stage antics. Between incomprehensible lyrics (you could hear them fine, they just didn’t make sense), a thirty-something singer who had a hundred times more bile, ferocity, and humor than poseurs ten years his junior, and a sense of personal style rooted in Neanderthal chic, they couldn’t last. But they lasted just long enough to release the same demo tape three times, as a tape, an LP, and a 2x8” (they did have an actual studio album, too), acquire glowing reviews from crust punks, indie nerds, and everyone in between, and leave a wake of trashed warehouses, backyards, and apartments.
My favorite magazine is The Economist. I’ve been a loyal reader since fifth grade, when my dad got it as a Christmas gift. The Economist is a British news magazine, and a stubbornly intellectual one at that. It’s filled with graphs, not fancy graphics, and you’ll never find a discussion of last week’s Desperate Housewives in it. I love The Economist for is its outside-in perspective and its unabashed intellectuality. The Economist has given me a solid understanding of geography, British politics, business trends, foreign policy, and an interesting outsider’s perspective on US politics. In short, I credit it with my intellectual upbringing.