A lot can happen in an hour and forty-five minutes. That’s especially true when the professor goes overtime till at least 7:12 every class. On most Mondays and Wednesdays Nick Leither stole about 2 minutes from me.
Normally I’d be upset, I’m an impatient person and English is my least favorite subject. There are so many other things that I’d rather do than sit in a room talking about some book we were supposed to read. 2 minutes might not seem like a lot, but my mind would run rampant on all of the other, more entertaining possibilities.
This is the type of toxic mindset that developed during my senior year of high school, the dreaded “senioritis.” Unfortunately, it carried over into my freshmen year of college. It was as if every assignment or project or paper or worksheet, you name it, was just an incredible nuisance that I didn’t want to deal with. My time was the only thing that was important, and Nick Leither was here stealing two of my precious minutes.
That was until we watched a video called “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace.
The video began with two young fish swimming in one direction. Another elder fish passes them going the other way. He remarks, “Morning boys. How’s the water?” The two fish continue on until one asks, “What the hell is water?” This sets the tone for the rest of the video as Wallace goes on to explain that we often overlook the most obvious, but important things in our daily lives. In the fishes’ case, they don’t have any clue what water is, and water surrounds them, keeps them alive.
“What the hell is water?”
In our own lives this obliviousness occurs all the time while we sit in traffic or wait in the grocery line and observe all of the annoying, despicable people around us. We dehumanize them because it is easier to do that then to consider the world from their perspective. By doing this, we fail to consider that these people have their own frustrations and problems beyond our own comprehension. Many have it much harder than me, and here I am complaining about waiting an extra 2 minutes in class.
Throughout the 9 minute and 22 second video I began realizing just how selfish I really was. Many of the sentiments were applicable to my daily life. I had it easy. Here I was, a 19 year-old college student at an excellent university. The point of me coming to college was to get a higher education so that I can one day get a great job, and here I am upset at my professor for taking 2 minutes from my day. I had it backwards. I should be appreciative of him for spending an extra two minutes out of his day teaching me. He has places he’d rather be, he has his own problems to deal with, but he decides to spend his time teaching me instead. The least I can do is give him my undivided attention.
From that point on, I began showing up to class with a much better attitude and that made a tremendous difference in my perception of the class and the world around me. Because I showed up to class with an open mindset, I was able to learn more than I have ever learned in a class, and the content stuck with me, haunted me even.
I realized that Injustice is abundant in the world, and we indirectly support it. The biggest example of this is in the factory farming industry. Animals in the livestock industry are constantly abused and raised in horrible conditions. Most chickens are packed into tiny crates that don’t allow them to even spread their wings for months on end. On top of that, these chickens are shocked to speed up their egg-laying cycle and they become so stressed that they sometimes peck each other to death (Zuzworsky 2001). Keep in mind that these chickens are pecking each other to death without beaks because those are usually cut off earlier. Chickens and other animals aren’t the only ones who suffer, though. In another movie we watched in class, Cowspiracy, we learned about the harmful effects of the livestock industry on the environment. Each year animal agriculture uses anywhere from 34 to 76 trillion gallons of water. One of the most stunning facts in the film was that it takes about 2500 gallons of water to produce 1 meager pound of beef. I was shocked and horrified by this statistic, and have yet to eat a burger since that class.
The lessons from “This is Water” are applicable in our everyday lives. Often times we fall into a routine of monotony, and we forget about the little details that seem trivial at the time. However, our actions carry much more weight than we actually see and know. Whether it’s letting the car next to you into your lane or simply asking someone else how their day is going, our actions go a lot farther than we know.
This is not a one-time decision, though, which is what makes being aware and appreciative so hard. It is a choice that we make every day in every situation where we decide what type of person we would like to be. It’s a tall task, and there are days where we may fall short of the standards that we set for ourselves. The point of this post is not to tell you to be a perfectly respectful and understanding person 24/7. The point of this post is to implore you to consider the world around you and realize that you are not the center of the universe, and that 2 minutes is not a big deal.