The Viral Obsession with Self
Every time that I return to our beautiful campus, I am reminded quickly that Houghton is a cesspool of seasonal illness. Every strain of cold and flu that we can manage to bring with us from home gets bred and spread here. Someone gets sick, then half the campus gets sick and we’re all doing everything we can to detoxify ourselves, from taking I.Vs of Airborne to attempting Bubble-Head charms in the mirror to disappointing and non-magical avail.
In light of living in this impending germ mosh-pit, I got my flu shot this year. I’ve gotten for the past four years without any negative side effects. Since I’ve been at college, however, I feel that saying the words “I’m getting” and “my flu shot” in the same sentence is the ultimate taboo. Fellow students have a tendency to dog-pile me with protestations, citing every Wikipedia article that says flu shots were tainted by the terrorists to brainwash me into paying for gas over three dollars a gallon. If they’ve heard anything about the dangers of flu shots, they’re going to compile a list of reasons why I’m a moron for protecting my vulnerable immune system. I’m getting a shot that has proven, by personal experience and medical science, to keep me from getting sick. Now, riddle me this: Am I a complete idiot for continuing to have this procedure done, based on the previous statement? Obviously, mass-hysteria and poor internet citation are more accurate than my personal experience. I’m sorry for ever doubting you!
More than anything here at Houghton, it feels as though we are not primarily plagued by physical ills – no, it comes down to a condition far beyond the reaches of modern medicine. We are, in Brian Regan’s words, “Me-Monsters.” We all hold our opinion above anyone else’s, regardless of whether we’re emotionally vested in the topic or not. We may not have a cotton-pickin’ clue about anything surrounding the circumstance, object or person we’re assessing, but we feel the need to draw conclusions and speak them as truth. The whole phenomenon starts primarily with gossip, but erupts into a pseudo-factual fun fest.
“I heard that What’s-His-Name is a total creeper. He was walking on the ski hill at the same general time of day as that one girl who has that reputation and they may have crossed paths once, so oh my, he was following her and doing sketchy business. I don’t know either of the people I’ve mentioned, and I’m pretty sure they don’t know each other, but I know what I’ve heard, and it’s not good. How are you friends with this guy? HARLOT!”
This ridiculous assumption that “Ego knows best” is a rampant virus on our campus, one that I fear and despise more than any strain of flu. This disease that we carry ranges from all areas of conversation and observation, primarily dealing with people and personal relationships and reaching out as far as tastes in food and various minor life choices. They can be directed at friends or complete strangers, but when we have something to say on the subject, we feel the need to open our mouths.
One of my favorite statements as of late is “Black coffee is gross.” Upon inquiring about multiple speakers’ experience with coffee and its degree of blackness, most times the response is something like “I… don’t drink coffee.” “Oh, never?” “Well, once when I was ten… and it was at a church welcome open house… and the carafe was rusted… and I only had a taste of my mom’s…” The fumbling continues and I proceed to gulp down my Frenchy French roast with a smack of my lips. That’s a simple matter of personal preference, and if this were the only issue, I would have no problem. It’s having little to no experience with the topic at hand that makes this exchange so convoluted.
We as a college need to stop being so fascinated in the sounds of our own voices as to take a moment to actually hear the truth on campus. We don’t need to say something about everything! This isn’t a Socratic seminar, no one is keeping tally on our participation. Try personally interacting with those people you criticize and rail against before you spread vapid lies and negativity to those around you. Sample the foods you spit out before you’ve even put them in your mouth. Learn the real facts about topics at hand before throwing in your counterfeit two-cents worth into the ring. Once out in the world outside of Houghton, you’ll have a harder time disguising your lack of knowledge. Start getting to know your surroundings and make mistakes while still in the safety of our blessed wooded home.
Look at me for example, proclaiming my observations and opinion to a paper read primarily by my peers. It’s what we do, it’s who we are. We have every right to form opinions. We will pass judgments and we will have preferences. But let’s not allow our impressions, judgments or wandering ears to become infallible truth in our minds. Let’s start being willing to be open to what we don’t know. We can’t accurately form opinions on things we don’t have a clue about. Caution is not a sin, but don’t let caution become rampant distaste and scorn. We consider ourselves first all the time, knowing our preferences and primarily ignoring those of others. If someone doesn’t seem to fit to our liking, it must be a problem with them, not with us.
My overreaching generalizations are meant to point out that I am also sailor in this unsteady vessel. We know ourselves and we can either admit our faults in these areas or deny them completely. In the end, no one else can convince us to change. That goes both ways. For those of you who need your unconfirmed words heard, I can’t make you change. For those of you being bombarded by someone else’s unjustified stand, those insipid conclusions should not change how you perceive your surroundings. We will be the same people unless we choose to change, by God’s grace, but we can’t be the voices of change that people will respect until we stop our dumb sheep-like existence and start opening our eyes while standing on firm and proven truth. This can be the only vaccination.