The lives we live are rife with irony.

Sometimes it’s irony mixed in with a little bit of hypocrisy, and sometimes it’s a sudden realization that we have taken so much for granted.

September 11 is a great example of our apathy.

For so long we had ignored patriotism, derided the military and stood apart from the world.

After September 11, our entire country awoke to the fact that Americans are a group and not a color. We came to understand the need for unity and respect for other cultures.

To express our unity, millions of Americans bought flags to display on their lawns, cars, shirts and anything else an American flag could be put on. It was a time to show patriotism. It was the fashionable and cool thing to do.

Patriotic songs became instant hits on the radio. Patriotic poems became the norm. Red, white and blue came to represent a new America, but this zest quickly died down.

When the fad was over, so was the interest.

We were once again happy to sit back and be apathetic again. The memory of the plane crashes were gone from our mind. Again, we were happy to care about nothing more than our own lives.

Look around you. How many people still fly flags from their car? How many even display a flag anywhere?

It is the sad yet ironic truth that without war we cannot appreciate peace. To keep ourselves passionate about our world, we require conflict, strife or anything else we would label as plain bad luck. The journalism industry thrives on it. Our minds need it.

The Matrix made one very good point about human nature. Agent Smith tells Neo that the computers first tried to allow humans to live in a perfect world — a world without pain or grief. However, the human mind rejected it.

The mind could not live with such perfection. It needed to have something wrong with the world. To me, this suggests that we need the negative emotions in order to define the positive ones.

The concept is also applicable to the sudden renewed interest in space exploration after the recent Columbia incident.

How long has it been since we have had any significant coverage about space exploration or the research that goes on? The only significant TV coverage of space related activities was when John Glenn flew into space again. After that, the public no longer cared.

The NASA program was successful, and success is not interesting without failure.

But with the recent tragic death of seven NASA astronauts, space has become the only news item. Suddenly, people are visiting space museums and discussing the future of space.

This trend of defining our positive emotions only through our negative experiences is disturbing.

As a nation, we need to stop reverting back to our apathetic attitudes. We need to care about more than our mundane lives.

These astronauts will be honored in our memory not for what they did in their life, but what happened that caused their deaths. What a horrible way to be remembered. If only more people had cared, if only more people had shown these brave explorers more interest, we could actually mourn the horrible waste of their potential.

We need to stamp out the oft repeated phrase “You don’t know how much you love something until its gone.” We need to stop waiting for something to be gone to appreciate it, to love it. We must learn to enjoy without understanding enjoyment as the opposite of sadness.

This week, a better way to honor the memories of the seven astronauts will be to look inside yourself and find some part of your life that you have taken for granted. Make sure you are able to show this neglected part of your life your true appreciation for it, before it’s too late.

He is a freshman and can be reached at mhe@campustimes.org.



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