Observing at Airport

A huge white building greets my eyes. Its walls are huge windows, where the 4 p.m. sunlight shines through. The windows are separated by white wings. Its magnificent roof curves softly downwards from the entrance. This building is the only one for miles. It is isolated but nonetheless retains an aurora of importance. In the distance, a white plane climbs the vast blue sky until it becomes but a single speck.

Once I walk inside, in stark contrast to the isolated feeling outside, crowds of people greet my eye. A man with a phone to his ear walks by in a crisp suit. A boy with a green backpack holds the hand of a man with greying hair and glasses. A group of children with a purple tag hanging from each of their suitcases pass by, chattering excitedly. This is the Washington Dulles International Airport.

The airport is the second-busiest trans-Atlantic airport on the Eastern Seaboard. It sees an average of between 1,800 and 2,000 flights every day. Thousands of people walk past its entrance daily. Families, businesspeople, and travelers are but a few of the kinds of people who make up the mass inside.

“So how did you know? Did you work with someone?” My eyes wander to a man sitting on a black seat nearby. He is alone and there is no sign of a phone, so I briefly wonder whether he is talking to me. However, I detect earphones and assume that he has some kind of communication device that allows him to make calls without a phone in plain sight. I almost laugh at my foolishness, and then leave him to his own little world.

My feet take me to where the crowd of people is the most dense: the Meeter-Greeter Area. I sit in one of the black seats in the waiting area, blending into the diversity of the people there.

A man wearing a cowboy hat is sitting next to me. His phone rings, startling me, but I seem to be the only one other than the owner of the phone to have heard it. He leaps to his feet and takes his call, moving towards the arrivals line.

People stream from the arrivals gate. A plane must’ve landed. A young woman leaves the arrival line and laughs as she sees a man walking towards her. They start to kiss (for an uncomfortably long time) and I cast my eyes away from the PDA. However, no one seems to notice, or maybe they don’t care.

An elderly couple seats themselves next to me. A man stands beside them, most likely their son who had met them as they came through the gate. “Can I get you something? I know you look exhausted.” The couple shake their head. “You have not aged one day,” the man says fondly. After some more small talk, the three leave. It seems like the man is taking the couple to his home. It also seems like a young boy named Mike is eagerly waiting for them there. They disappear into the crowd.

There is a little boy, maybe eight or nine, in the middle of the Meeter-Greeter Area with a smartecart that has numerous luggage bags packed on top of it. He seems to be standing guard over it, waiting for his parents while turning in circles like how a carefree child would. Several people pass by – a couple, a man with a pet carrier, a group of young men – but none of them so much as glance at the young boy standing there all by himself. Looking at him, a word came to mind.

Islands. Whether part of a group or alone, the passengers were islands. They minded their own business and went their way. The airport was an ocean; although it was filled with many diverse people, each group or individual was their own island, separated by invisible waters that we call social norms. Ironically, a sense of loneliness pervades through the mass.

It is almost 6 p.m. The man with the cowboy hat is still standing by himself near the bollards. He has moved himself to the very front of the opening where the people who landed had trickled out about thirty minutes ago. Nothing but air surrounds him within a 10-foot radius. He glances at his phone and looks up. I wonder how long it’ll be until the person he is waiting for will show up.

Of Criticisms and Maturity

Although my passion for devouring books slowly waned as I grew, I still enjoy works that seem to be superior readings in my opinion; in other words, books that really make me think. A couple of these are “The Little Prince” and “The Lord of the Flies”, which I strongly recommend for readings this summer. The latest book that made me exclaim in wonder was “The Catcher in the Rye.” I understand that it is banned in most schools due to its foul language and depressing themes, but it is truly a magnificent work if you can get to the deep meaning hidden in the context. I have written an analysis of it to the topic of “Does Holden seek truth or an explanation of the hypocrisy he sees?”

 

In this book, Holden Caulfield criticizes the adult society’s norms of materialism and conformity through the eyes of a teen that is wistful of his childhood innocence. However, although he exemplifies a mature aspect in that he understands the faults of society, he is somewhat immature in the aspect of failing to seek the truth or an explanation of the hypocrisy he sees. Therefore, I believe that Holden is a level-two thinker.

At the first level are the people who do not question society’s materialistic norms and conform to them blindly, such as Mr. Haas, the headmaster of Elkton Hills, who was “charming” to the successful-looking parents and impolite to those who looked like they were from a lower class. The first level is made up of “phonies”, as Holden refers to them negatively throughout the book. They are the subjects of Holden’s criticisms.

Holden is at the second level because he is aware of the faults of society enough to be able to criticize norms and not conform to them.  However, he lacks the will to search for an explanation and a way to change the norms, which distinguishes him from a level-three thinker. He admits that he is “yellow” and a coward, and while it can be interpreted as him being a pacifist as in the situation with the gloves, it also implies that he does not frequently act in situations exemplifying society’s ills and avoids confrontation. Frequently, he just observed and criticized, such as in the night club with the dancers when he looked down on them for searching for celebrities but said nothing. However, he shows some promise of moving into the higher level when he finds the courage to erase the “Fu** you” writing on the wall of his old school.

The level-three thinker was shown in Mr. Antolini’s quote: “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” The “mature man” is at the third level, while the “immature man” is at the second. The similarity between the level-three thinker and Holden is that they both can find faults in the human behavior of the society of their time. However, the level-three thinker grows intellectually by making use of their resources in education and learns from others while writing records to teach others. This type of thinker is more valuable in that he or she tries to find the truth behind human nature and expresses it clearly – the level-three thinker is a true scholar. Mr. Antolini, who finds potential in Holden, tries to guide him towards the right direction. However, at the end of the book, Holden fails in that aspect. He dreams of becoming the “catcher in the rye”, in other words, the savior of innocence, but doesn’t go beyond that. Maybe he does not yet understand the deep implications of Mr. Antolini’s advice.

Compare and Contrast Essay

If you walk into a flower shop, a vast burst of color might greet your eyes. The burst of color is orchids, whose unique shape captures your vision. When you exit the shop and walk down the sidewalk, you might be able to spot a dandelion who has found success in fighting its way out of a crack in the concrete. Despite the fact that both flowers have long, slim stems and leaves that grow from the bottom of the stems, the similarities end there. They are polar opposites from inside to out.

Orchids are known to be beautiful, exotic creatures. They come in numerous colors, from soft pastel pink to vibrant neon orange. Coveted by people for weddings or gifts, their beauty is admired. However, despite being quite rare, their method of reproduction is common to that of most flowers. In order to preserve their bloodline, they tempt bees and fruit flies with their visual appeal and rely on these flying creatures for pollination. They are also dependent on other ways. Some orchids, called mounting orchids, need trees to grow on. Attaching their roots to their host, they grow with its support. Others, being delicate and dainty, require special care and attention to blossom.

On the other hand, dandelions, with their fluffy heads of either yellow or white, can easily be glimpsed in a spring or summer carpet of green outside. Being one of the most common flowers does not add to their popularity; some people scorn them as “weeds” and label them as “plain.” However, although they may not be a gift for loved ones, they are in important in other ways, as medicinal purposes. Also, their method of reproduction is unique. They require nothing but the wind; on a windy day, their white heads slowly disappear as their seeds are cast far away to begin a new generation. In addition, their lifestyle is very independent; being stronger and sturdier than most flowers, they can grow almost anywhere with little help.

The orchid is a lovely, dainty thing that is soft to its core. Needing assistance and special care, she is a princess that cannot live by herself. On the other hand, the dandelion is a robust flower that can withstand tough circumstances. These two flowers have a spark inside of them that speaks of life. However, the dandelion is the one that is successful at achieving the essence of life: survival. Despite its plain appearance, it has what counts inside. Appearance isn’t everything.

Chair of Passivity

This is my speech from an original oratory competition in February. Please comment and tell me what I could’ve done to make it better.

 

In middle school, I witnessed the first fight in my life. It was like those fights in movies like “Mean Girls” where two girls acted like a pair of angry cats. Apparently, one of the two girls had bullied the other, and it had turned into a not-so-pleasant scene of pulling hair and pulling clothes while screaming several profanities that I cannot add into this speech in fear of damaging your ears beyond repair. I was standing in the crowd of students who were pushing to the front to get a better look. Well, that day I learned that people do actually chant, “Fight! Fight!” during a fight. But what I also learned was that despite not being related to the fight in any way, I had committed a crime. I had been a bystander.
One of the few things that we actually get out of grade school is the fact that when you see bullying or fighting, you should immediately let a teacher know and get help pronto. If you do nothing, you are in the wrong also. I’m pretty sure you all know the term for the person just watching and doing nothing: a bystander. However, what we don’t seem to know is that this does applies not only to bullying situations but also to real life.
How many times have we found ourselves wanting something but stopping at that very thing: wanting? How many times have we found ourselves looking at a problem but lacking the will to take action? We just watch the Earth turn on its axis and do nothing – like bystanders.
Most of you are probably currently sitting in a chair as bystanders. And no, I don’t mean that literally, but figuratively, as in the chair of passivity. In my speech, I will open the doors to our current problem of passivity and close them only after letting you in on how it can be solved and the benefits that come from that. By the end of this speech, I hope to convince you to stand and walk out with the will to change.
I’ll start with one of the hottest topics of last year: the 2016 presidential election. According to exit polls during the election, when voters were asked which of four qualities was the most important in deciding who to vote for, 39 percent of the voters picked the top response: can bring needed change. The desire for change apparently trumped other factors.
Peter Funk, a New Jersey businessman, told ITV News, “People obviously wanted change. And Trump seemed to be the absolute ‘wildcard’ being seized upon as an agent for change.”
However, this is not a new phenomenon. During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Obama’s slogan that placed him in the White House was “Hope and Change.”
Yes, we want change. Yet what have we been doing other than electing President after President in the hopes of a better future?
Here is an iconic quote by John F. Kennedy. “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” It was said less than a century ago, yet during those years what have we done? Other than posting Tweets and Facebook messages complaining about our current situation, we have sat there in our chairs of passivity, hoping that higher powers would rescue us like Superman. Well, let me tell you a secret: Superman does not exist. Sorry for ruining the childhood dreams of some of you out there.
Now let’s look at this issue on a global scale. As globalization is dominating our lives, we cannot blatantly ignore the plights of various different places dotted across the globe. Numerous places scream for change, from starving people in Haiti to the havocs in Syria. Yet although we don’t close our eyes to their problems, we aren’t reaching a hand out to them either. We surround ourselves with lies, lies made up to excuse our behavior, but lies nonetheless. I don’t have time. I don’t have enough resources. I don’t have the ability. Whatever we say, the conclusion is the same: we are all bystanders.
So stop. Stop being a bystander. Transition from being passive to active. Don’t wish for change; be the change. Since William Shakespeare had said, “All the world’s a stage,” let us be the main characters of this theatre, not the audience. Lights. Camera. Action.
And then you might ask me, “Well, what can I do?” First, let me chase away those pesky little doubts buzzing around in your head. You are not too young. You are not powerless. You are not inept. If you can believe, you can try, and if you can try, you can make a difference.
The butterfly effect theory, coined by the American meteorologist Edward Lorenz, states that when a butterfly moves its wings somewhere in the world it can cause a tornado in another part of the world. Well at first, it sounds kind of silly. If a flap of the wings of one little insect could bring about a huge storm, when someone sneezes, wouldn’t we be saying “Oh, there goes Alaska” instead of “Bless you?” But looking at it in a social context, this theory means that a small, unnoticeable change, like the flutter of a butterfly’s wings, can cause a huge impact.
Let’s take Ben Rattray, for instance. He was just your average guy from Santa Barbara who was pursuing a career in finance. In 2007, he launched a little website called change.org. Now it has grown and brought such an impact onto the world, such as raising awareness to save lives in Aleppo through online petitions, that it is now known as the platform of change. And the start of it all? One ordinary person who took action. One ordinary person who refused to be a bystander. This shows how ordinary people (a.k.a. you and I) can have the extraordinary power to change the world.
Now close your eyes and imagine thousands, no, millions of butterflies across the world. And each one of these butterflies can bring about a colossal amount of change. How much brighter would the future be?
If we start to rise together, dream together, strive together, we can create that future that is as magnificent as the rising sun. Let me end this speech with a section from one of the most famous songs of all time: John Lennon’s “Imagine.” You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will be as one. Thank you.

Happiness Coexists with Grief

“There is neither happiness nor unhappiness in this world; there is only the comparison of one state with another. Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss. It is necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live…..the sum of all human wisdom will be contained in these two words: Wait and Hope.”
Alexandre Dumas, “The Count of Monte Cristo”

“The Count of Monte Cristo” is one of my favorite books of all time.Not only does Alexandre Dumas weave a fascinating story of revenge, he peppers his book with striking quotes. My favorite quote from the book is the one above. What is happiness? Happiness is a state of mind that is unique from individual to individual. If you have suffered the bleakest, darkest situation, you will be able to appreciate the wonder of the ray of sunshine signifying happiness. Even if you are suffering right now, don’t worry. Every moment of happiness with taste just as sweeter, for you have endured pain to compare it with.

“When you compare the sorrows of real life to the pleasures of the imaginary one, you will never want to live again, only to dream forever.”
― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

Whenever you find yourself dreaming of what could’ve been during a depressing situation, stop yourself. It won’t help your situation at all; you’re only going to get more depressed. You should try your best to climb your way out of the situation and/or look to the future with hope. I know this is not easy; I’ve had plenty of trouble not being able to stop regretting and wistfully imagining. Now I try to look up at the sky and smile as I feel the warm rays of the sun on my face – it’s the little things in the present you have to be able to appreciate.