The standard requirement in blog posts like this is that I'm expected to talk about our rights in the society or metaphors of life. So let's talk about one more cliché́ in the genre, which is that a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about teaching you how to think.
If you're like me as a student, you've never liked hearing this, and you tend to feel a bit insulted by the claim that you needed anybody to teach you how to think, since the fact that you got admitted to a design college seems like proof that you already know how to think.
I think this one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean that I have to be a little less arrogant & have just a little critical awareness about myself. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of it turns out to be totally misled. One of them is that everything in my own immediate experience supports my belief, I am the absolute centre of the universe.
I have learnt this the hard way, and I suppose many of us have too.
Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the pure centre of. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to us somehow, but our own are so immediate, urgent, real.
I am here not trying to lecture about compassion. It's a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering of my default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centred and to see and interpret everything through this eye of self.
By way of example, let's say it's an average grown up day, and you get up and go to your challenging, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight hours, and at the end of the day you're tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have dinner and maybe unwind for an hour, and then pass out early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again.
But then you remember there's no food at home. It's the end of the work day and the traffic is obviously very bad. You haven't had time to shop this week because of your job, and so now after work you have to walk to the hideously lit, crowded supermarket. Of course it's the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping. Infused with soul-killing colour pop, the checkout line is incredibly long, but you can't take your frustration out on that stressed out lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily dullness surpasses the imagination of any of us here reading this article.
But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line's front and pay and then you have to take your creepy, flimsy, plastic bags of groceries and walk all the way home slow, heavy, etc etc
Everyone here has done this, of course.
But that is not the point. The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in.
For me the traffic jams and long bus journeys and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don't make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I'm gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to step out. Because at this time its all about my tiredness and my desire to just get home, and it's going to seem the world is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way? They are all just one more like me.
Or, of course, I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic being disgusted about all the huge, lane-blocking trucks, burning their wasteful, a few gallon full tank of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper-stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest most disgustingly selfish vehicle drivers.
You get the idea.
The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles idling in my way, it's not impossible that the Scorpio that just cut my bus off is maybe being driven by a father whose little kid is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he's trying to get this child to the hospital, and he's in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way.
I'm not saying you are supposed to think this way and no one expects you to just automatically do it because it's hard. It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won't be able to do it, or you just flat out won't want to.
But if you really pay attention to other options, it will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, summer-hell type situation as not only meaningful but enlightening.
Not that all this stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that's true is the freedom of a real education that you get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't.
But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is really important involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in petty, unsexy ways every day.
That is being educated, and understanding how to think. This stuff probably doesn't sound fun and breezy and inspirational. None of this stuff is really about morality or big fancy questions of life after death.
For me it is about living life not only for me.