The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

The dream from an enlightened freshman’s perspective

Through the dim light and humming voices of Intimate Dining, we stuffed down our juicy carne asada steak and spanakopita like cadets aboard a submarine, with deep-ocean lights and a churning engine room, cramped for space, energy and time. There we were, two young men hard at work, discussing the project of what it means to live the good life. “Yeah, it’s nice to have gotten practical tips [about Grinnell]… but even though Asa goes here, that doesn’t necessarily mean I have it figured out,” said Isaac Wilder ’13, an enthusiastic young Dream-Liver whose brother, Asa Wilder ’10, is studying abroad in Lourven, Belgium.

Some of you may know Isaac from Cleveland Hall, Cleveland Lounge, or maybe even Cleveland Beach. Hell, maybe you’ve even noticed that suave pseudo-super model-looking chap in the low cut t-shirts and pointy leather boots strutting his stuff on the dance floor in Gardner on any given Friday night. But how many of you knew that Isaac spent the year after high school living in India, or that he has a serious passion for cooking? “I get my Zen on in the kitchen,” Wilder said, as I frantically scribbled notes. “Why?” you might ask, as I did that night. Because “whether it’s cooking, making model rockets, or f*cking jumping into piles of leaves…this is the place to explore any passion,” he said.

As an increasingly jaded senior, it is easily possible to lose site of the peculiar and exciting opportunities that Grinnell offers its students. Each day, there are several if not multiple chances for all of us to experiment with or hone in on whatever it is that puts the spring in our step, be it psychic, social, or intersubjective. According to Isaac, who as a first-year has “only five out of 24 hours in the day committed to,” there is plenty of room at Grinnell to do whatever it is one is passionate about. For Isaac, and hopefully many others like him, one must work hard and not waste the chance to really do what one loves, because, as he said, “you can’t stand on mountain tops unless you climb mountains.”

When I asked what “living the dream” meant to him, Isaac told me something about his past, both growing up in a big family, as well as that year in India. “I’m not much of a Jew…” he began, with a smile on his face, “…but there’s a cool concept, Tikkun Olam. It means ‘to heal the world.’ That’s the good life—to soothe, to make another’s life beautiful. We need to do things that leave a positive work or erase a scar, not force our concepts of happiness onto other people. In India, there were people living on the streets with smiles on their face, because anyone can genuinely love their life.”

Though not all of us may have the leisure time of a first semester first year, we can all certainly do our part to do something positive or heal at least a small part of the world, in whatever capacity in which we see fit. In the end, for Isaac, and perhaps for us all, “it’s about going, not getting” to wherever it is we are headed.

So, heeding Isaac’s advice, I recommend a tune-up on how to enjoy whatever it is about Grinnell that gets our motors boating. For the underclassmen, that may be as simple as embracing that sweet Tutorial about the Wire or being sure to enjoy all twenty gourmet meals, even on those Pork Vindaloo nights. As for you seniors out there on the unstable life raft floating between that Teach For America position and “rock bottom,” don’t forget to remember that you aren’t defined by your grades or even your social justice portfolio, but by the sum of all your dreams and how big it is that you live them.

Before we cleared our trays, Isaac told me a story of the future, a future I sure hope to live in. “I want computers to understand human language before I die, and someday I want to go to the moon,” he said, “and that’s not an unreasonable thing to say.” He’s right, it’s not unreasonable, because it’s a dream yet to be lived. And what is more, it’s about the going, not the getting, and that’s always something worth being passionate about. As for the rest of us, maybe we’re still working on finding what makes us tick. Hopefully someday, someday soon, we’ll figure it out, and maybe then we’ll be “living the dream.”
Not satisfied? Deal with it.

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