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[YRP Students' Essays] The World's Infinite Possibilities

The essay is written based on the novel, "Looking for Alibrandi" written by an Australian woman Melina Marchetta, about a girl in her last year of high school who is trying to find her identity.
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http://www.amazon.co.jp/exec/obidos/ASIN/0375836942/qid=1137551055/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl/250-8395091-3145015
http://www.education.tas.gov.au/english/alibrandi.htm



We can change the world ? yes, I mean it ? just by changing the way we think. It may sound confusing, but by changing my way of defining the act of "thinking" itself, my outlook on the world changed dramatically. Life is all about how you interpret and deal with the situation you are confronting ? this was the conclusion that I have reached. It is completely our freedom to choose the way we view every matter that is happening in our world. Isn't it amazing? Just by how we think, the world can change. It can be beautiful as anything, but on the other hand it can simply be a wreck ? it is totally up to us. The hints of this idea were given a year ago, during the English classes by Mr. Hayes.

 "Makoto," Mr. Hayes called. "Would you like to volunteer to go first?"

In cases like this, it is simply the best to follow the order given. I shouldn't complain about the "volunteer" part.

 "Yes," I feigned a reluctant tone and slowly walked up to the front of the class. I was actually ready, but with other students around me, I decided that it was not nice to seem too vigorous.

I had practiced many times. I can do it.

After a deep inhale and an exhale, I started out. "This business is well ended... "

This was a line by Polonius, the king's councilor from Hamlet. We were studying this play and were assigned to recite any speech longer than ten lines. Polonius is a vulgar man. Although his position is quite high, his intelligence is external ? the type of intelligence that only satisfies one's pride. Hamlet who is truly intelligent insults him with awful irony, but this vain man does not even notice that he is getting insulted. This part includes the famous line of "Brevity is the soul of wit", but he says this after a terribly tedious introduction. I loved these kinds of irony and sarcasm that were inlayed all over the scenario of Hamlet, and this line was especially my favorite.

     "...What isn't but to be nothing else but mad? But let that go."
Eleven lines. Right after this, Gertrude, irritated, tells him to speak with more content and less art ? but this was it with my recitation. Although I had rushed a bit, I was satisfied enough with my work. I glanced over the classroom and enjoyed the small "Ooooh"s that arose from the class. It was pretty pleasing. My eyes met Mr. Hayes', and he smiled and nodded. That was even more pleasing.

Our study of Hamlet continued on. Since I was the kind of boy that has liked to overreach for something beyond my ability from when I was little, a novel like Hamlet was just what I desired ? the fourteen year-old Makoto Oshimo was absorbed in the class. (Mr. Hayes had done a great job teaching Hamlet, and he is still one of my favorite teachers.) As I read, I noticed how each of the characters thought freely. For example, Hamlet muses so much in depth ? so more deeply that it is quite troublesome for us readers to step into his thought. However, meanwhile, with a vulgar man like Polonius at the head of the list, the people around Hamlet are deceived that he had gone lunatic, although he is actually thinking more deeply than anyone else. This is nothing else but a flat irony. "No one can peek inside our heads ? then, why not think of whatever we want?" ? This idea I got by reading Hamlet greatly influenced my way of thinking. It taught me that the right to think freely is given equally to every person on earth, including me. 

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn was the source of the next hint. It was at the end of our eleventh school year, right before the spring vacation. We were assigned a book report which had to be written on a "literature". A list was given, and Mr. Hayes gave us an oral explanation of which books he approved. Out of nearly fifty books on the list, there was a book that he especially recommended.

 "This is one of my favorite books," he explained, "and it takes place in a concentration camp of the former Soviet Union. It's by a Nobel-prize winning author. His most famous book is tremendously lengthy, and I'm not telling you guys to read this book. But this book is comparably easy to read ? well, it's a bit difficult, but you guys can probably handle it ? and I strongly recommend that you guys read this novel."

I noted his words, and when it came to buying a book on Amazon, I unhesitatingly bought this book. This was my first encounter with Russian literature. It didn't take me long to get into the story. I stood ready for the overwhelming melancholy which I assumed from the key words "concentration camp of the former Soviet Unions", but most surprisingly, the story was not dark at all. The reason for this was because Ivan Denisovich was a man that could appreciate the fact that he was alive. Although his life at the camp was definitely not comfortable ? awfully severe, to be frank ? he knew how to find small happiness in life. Even through trifling incidents like being able to cheat off an extra lunch from the cook, bringing back a piece of metal that would make a fine craft knife, and buying a fine tobacco from a Latvian, he could be satisfied and think that he had a good day. This had quite an impact on me; I had never thought that people in concentration camps that were treated poorly and given meals that farm animals are given could ever be thankful for their days.

Then I realized it. Happiness and wealth cannot be connected together with an equals sign. What truly brings happiness is how you view and interpret the circumstances you are in, and by being conscious of this fact, it is not impossible to find spec of gold, even in what seems like complete darkness. Life all depends on our self-consciousness.

Through these two given hints, I have reached the conclusion that is now my principle. We all have the freedom to think. No matter what kind of human the people label me as, or no matter how I usually behave towards people, it is absolutely free for me to think of anything I want. In other words, I can joke around, act like crazy, or stupidly goof off ? the people around me could call me a fool or anything ? and yet, I can have the most sophisticated and lofty thought inside my head that no one else would think of. (This is not a matter of whether I truly can be that intelligent or not; I am saying that I have the right to do so.) No one could take this privilege away from me, and it is completely up to me what kind of book I read or what I spend my time musing on. The act of thinking is simply marvelous, because just by the way we think and interpret our surroundings, the world can turn out to be as beautiful as anything.

Life is like a gigantic maze with countless rooms ? or what people believe to be a maze, for we even do not know if there is a goal or not ? with an infinite number of rooms. People step into these rooms as they walk through the maze, and they never know what the rooms will be like until they enter them. No matter how comfortable the room is, there is a certain length of time that they can stay depending on each room. For that reason, the majority live walking through the maze searching for a room that they can relax and settle for a while. However, the minorities still struggle to reach the goal, and even among those minorities, the very minority attempts to map the maze. They suppose that if the whole maze is looked at straight down from above, there is a certain figure the maze is creating. They persistently believe that the maze is actually incredibly simple, trying to figure out what shape the maze is ? and we call these people philosophers.

It was little ago when I heard that my great-grandfather was a philosopher. He only wrote papers and did not publish a book, but I was thrilled by this fact. As I have mentioned earlier, I was highly interested in the act of "thinking". (Of course, this "thinking" is not like the studying we do at schools.) My interest in philosophy grew instantly. However, many of the philosophic writings by famous philosophers such as Nietzsche, Kant, and Rousseau are awfully enigmatic. Therefore, although I do have some interest in those books, I realized that the path I should take is to read literature instead. The very cores of famous literature are usually quite philosophic, and even if they are not, they for sure have a weighty theme.

The solution I drew from Hamlet and One day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was extremely epoch-making. I can think about whatever I want with no interference, and just by the way I think, the world can change dramatically. I learned to view the circumstances I am in from different point of views, and it is not once or twice that I was saved by this stance. I realized that there are infinite possibilities to the act of thinking, which means that there are infinite possibilities to the world, also. This realization was my emancipation. However, it is not yet fully consummate. I need to read more books and sense the philosophy of the authors to attain complete emancipation ? supposing that such a state of mind exists. Even if it doesn't, it is still possible for me to shorten my distance between that state through ceaseless mental exertion.

The final objective of life is emancipation ? freedom from the maze. People make their own attempts using their own different methods. I have found my path. I just have to keep walking.

 

Child Research Net would like to thank the Doshisha International Junior/Senior High School and Makoto Oshimo, student and author, for permitting reproduction of this article on the CRN web site.

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