Introspect for effect

By Allegra Tepper

William Godwin, a 19th century political journalist once said, “The philosophy of the wisest man that ever existed is mainly derived from the act of introspection.” Similar thoughts, albeit not so eloquently phrased, rolled around in my mind as I considered the junior year personal essay assignment. Dr. Charles Berezin began to tell us a story from his own trials and tribulations at the start of each class for inspiration. I raised my hand and asked Dr. Berezin how he had become so introspective. He seemed caught off guard by my blunt open-ended question. In typical form, I would have broken the silence with a quick quip, bringing levity to the pondering audience. But the truth was that this question had been rolling around in my head for quite some time. Dr. B. told us that, like Tim O’Brien, the Vietnam veteran and author of “The Things They Carried,” had discovered, it takes 20 years to uncover the moral of your war story. But as the world seems to revolve at an infinitely faster pace, it seems unbearable to wait a mere five minutes for a bit of information, let alone 20 years for what could be the missing piece of my puzzle.

As I evaluated the options I had for my personal essay, I ran through the typical go-tos: the loss of a loved one, the winning goal, the birth of my sibling. But I challenged myself to find that sort of spectacular beauty in the ordinary; something profound and ironic buried in the mix of the mundane.

My mind went blank. I realized that in a life that moves a mile a minute never once do we have a moment to lie down in the grass alone and contemplate our navel. And if this rings inaccurate to you, then I encourage you to step outside, leave behind your Blackberries, your iPods, your friends and your foes, and be alone with nothing but your thoughts. It’s mind-bogglingly foreign.

So who’s to blame for our inch-deep mindsets? Certainly no one has a problem pointing fingers at technology, and rightfully so. Take the ever-revealing status: you look at Jane Doe’s, who recently updated her status to feature some sappy Elliott Smith lyrics about the road that lies ahead. Jane must have been doing some soul searching today, hmm? And on the off chance that Joe Blow has a remarkable instance of epiphany, I don’t doubt his impulse is to “tweet” a 140 character summation of his weighty discovery for all 800 of his closest “followers.” And on a total aside, I don’t care that you’re out of toothpaste or eating a sandwich. Carly Simon, can I get a soundtrack please?

But let’s think outside the text box, shall we? Could our desire to craft the perfect persona for colleges A to Z be barring us from reaching personal discoveries? Take for instance, the choice between The Self and the Spirit and AP Physics. I don’t think I have to tell you what the typical Harvard-Westlake student is choosing between them; we are all guilty as charged. Have we all been brainwashed to believe that there is nothing to be gained from a class so involved with the process of inner exploration? The paradox lies in plain sight when we make our lists of outrageously diverse collegiate aspirations. I would venture to say that the haze of the last four years has compromised the clarity of our goals and ambitions for the next.

So I challenge you all to take a stroll with me when summer arrives. We’ll go our separate ways; cut the cord with an industrial chainsaw. It’ll seem like we are defying nature, but in the end we may even reach bliss. On my walk, alone with my thoughts for the first time since what could be infancy, I plan to ponder why I know more about Booker T. Washington and Gifford Pinchot than I know about Allegra Tepper, and maybe try to figure out how to finally dilute the fog that divides me from myself. What will you contemplate?