By James Barraford
I have been thinking about my mortality.
As a student - and someone curious about history - seeing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown me how fragile life is.
This virus brought the world to a stop and left us isolated.
We were barraged daily with conflicting truths and outright lies.
The pandemic wrought a nearly two-year lockdown with millions of deaths. And, in terms of the world order, nature has finally reminded us who is truly God.
Not that this would stop President Vladimir Putin or President Xi Jinping, whose thirst for power may plunge us all into darkness. Or former President Donald Trump - the cancer of Western Civilization - who would rather cripple the West and the world in order to win “bigly.”
We are all feeling the columns buckle. We are reacting to it in one way or another.
In some ways, it felt like I was dying along with the world.
Nothing seems certain. This same uncertainty had been stirring something within me - something indecipherable - for a significant portion of my life.
I always knew that someday, theoretically, I would die. I just didn’t really know it.
It’s hard to know who we really are anymore.
The world is being manipulated by chaotic elements. Each action creates more unknowns.
However, the events of today are not relegated to this moment.
I remember in the ’90s seeing the casual images of violence far away. The endless recycling of images of suffering left me paralyzed with fear.
Then it came home - though it was always here.
I remember watching people falling from the World Trade Centers on 9/11 and the buildings’ eventual collapse. Over and over again.
I saw my cousin return from war -his calf stripped of flesh from an IED (improvised explosive device) that killed his friend in the process.
Everything about my world - fearful enough as it was - now became totally alien.
What good is life when we are so quick to destroy it?
I read the papers daily in order to feel less powerless in a chaotic world and developed a hatred toward power.
My government was willing to kill thousands in a pointless, greedy war and strip our civil rights in the process.
This cynicism led me to minor in journalism. However, I was unaware this feeling came from my fear of death.
As I walked the campus, I felt divorced from a culture that has changed so radically as if the sea was taking me farther from shore.
Sometimes I wondered if universities filled a spiritual void in a materialist world.
Have the fruits of humanism become hardened by ideology?
Academia once shined as a beacon of knowledge. Now it suffers under the weight of its own theories and mechanisms.
There has been a fervor on Western campuses that uses intimidation to silence dissent.
I believed I had made myself an enemy to the world, for I would not be compelled - whether it is in the name of religious fascism or nebulous yet stringent Woke ideologies - to dictate beliefs I do not hold or act in ways contrary to my conscience.
The world is ever-changing, like the cresting dunes of a beach, being shifted by elemental forces with elegance and ferocity.
And so too will we return to the elements. On this issue, we are powerless to nature’s grand design.
Whether or not the end is final - I have doubts upon doubts - our awareness of the end can offer freedom from the paralyzing fear it brings.
Despite the agony that life can bring, it is better to know that life is a miracle.
Treat life as a miracle and it will become one.
We must act as if the power of God is within our hands.
We must also be humbled by the power of God.
Let yourself feel the fear but do not become trapped in it. Grieve and move forward.
Think for yourself and be willing to make mistakes.
And remember that darkness is impermanent. However bad it gets, know that every dark night has a million bright stars.