Do you remember how easily amused we were when we were younger? Do you remember having an insatiable curiosity for everything that surrounded us? Do you remember being touched by a zen-like wholeness during those rare moments when we were able to appreciate beauty at its purest and most fundamental state of existence?
Perhaps it’s because of all the negativity in the media these days; perhaps it’s because I have seen so much (too much) with my own eyes in the mere 21 years of my humble existence; or perhaps it’s because my education makes me think too much on a daily basis, but these days, I can’t help but feel a bit jaded. About my life, your life, our lives. About my world, your world, our world. And about this one word that has been getting a whole lot of attention since Barack Obama stepped onto the world’s stage: Change.
What would it take for us to realize that in so many ways, our lives are no longer dignified? What would it take for us to make the changes that are so desperately necessary in the world we live in? What would actually make us care?
When I was taking Organizational Behaviour (WDW260) last year, one of the key things I learned was that people are only motivated to do things when they approach the task with the mindset that it is doable and that they will be successful in their endeavours. Sometimes, when I look around me and see a great emptiness where Humanity used to be, I can’t help but feel discouraged when faced with the daunting task of “Saving the World.”
Is it even possible? I’d ask myself. Is it even possible to find a cure for cancer? To combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic? To provide the children in Third World countries with not just shelter, food and clean water, but also a decent education? To stop child abuse? To protect women’s rights? To prevent precious animals and plants from becoming extinct and foreign species from hurting the health of an environment that already hangs in the balance? Is it possible for us to end terrorism, discrimination and corruption? And is it possible that, contrary to what William Golding wrote in Lord of the Flies, mankind is actually inherently good?
Sometimes it seems to me that no matter how hard we try, we’ll never end up “making” that “difference.” I used to think that perhaps owning up to our ultimate doom is the only way we can find redemption.
Last Friday, however, as I stood in Convocation Hall amongst thousands of bright faces, young and old, giving Dr. Jane Goodall a well-deserved standing ovation after the conclusion of her 50 Years of Chimps and Change lecture, I suddenly felt…different.
The lecture, a reflection on the incredible insights gained from her half-century of chimpanzee research, had sparked an old flame in me that I didn’t know still existed. It was as if I was a child again and the world was bright as a new day’s dawn. Dr. Goodall spoke about her research and her work as an environmental activist with such integrity and such conviction that it suddenly pulled me out of my self-absorbed mediocrity of a life, and showed me that whatever my our generation chooses to do from now on to fix our world, we can and will make a difference.
For the past two years of writing for lifeatuoft, my goal, like that of the blog’s collective purpose, has always been to support, engage, and challenge you, the students at U of T. Together, we have thus far surpassed many milestones in our undergraduate careers as well as in the various other aspects of our lives. I urge you to take pride in your accomplishments and to celebrate the many changes and metamorphoses you have experienced that have shaped you into who you are today.
For me, writing for lifeatuoft has been one of the most fulfilling (and dare I say it, life-changing) experiences of my education here at U of T. While it makes me sad that now I must say good-bye, as a writer I know I will be living vicariously through each and every one of you. So dare to dream big, always live out loud, and don’t settle for anything less than a legacy.