Nonfiction - Page 6

The Meaning of Life

Bence Polonkai

When someone mentions the universe, the first thing that may come to mind is how enormous or  how old it is, or perhaps its galaxies and suns and planets, or maybe even the empty darkness that makes up most of it.

Have you ever wondered what purpose it all has? What’s the meaning of it all? Sure, suns are there to provide heat and light to the planets orbiting them. Perhaps occasionally, in some remote corners of the universe yet to be discovered by humans, they accommodate life. Furthermore, it is conceivable that a portion of them harbor intelligent life.

Nevertheless, whether Earth is the only place in the universe to house life or not, the question persists. Why would all this vast emptiness exist, all just to contain life on one or more planets which are minuscule compared to the rest of the cosmos? Another question might emerge in us, namely: what is the purpose of  this life?

For a very long time in human history, religion was there to address this question: this life is merely a temporary phase of existing, after which you pass into the afterworld. The first “basic” religions didn’t really give meaning to life, as you simply passed on to the afterworld after death, without your deeds in life influencing anything. As civilization progressed, religions started adopting a worldview—still commonly held by modern religions—that this life is merely a test, so that the gods or a god can decide which afterworld you go to (e.g. Greek mythology, Christianity), and/or what happens to you after death (e.g.Buddhism, rebirth). The question remains basically the same in both cases: whether you believe in an afterlife or rebirth, or that you can become a god if you live in such a way. Why? What is the point? What meaning does a heaven have, where souls go and just chill about until eternity, or a hell where they suffer forever? Why would you become a god, which is, again, just another being that maybe occasionally does things, if you have no incentive to do anything at all?

Nowadays, biology gives us a different explanation. You are born to later reproduce, pass on your genes, and die. Not a very satifsying explanation, is it? On top of it not being a satisfying answer to our existence, it still doesn’t explain the purpose of those parts of the universe we will never reach before going extinct as a species.

However hard we try to think of a reason for it all, we will realize it is meaningless. Our existence is as meaningless as a thing can be, but that’s why it’s so beautiful: you must make it meaningful for yourself. The world doesn’t care about meaning, yet the best life is a life of meaning. And that is, perhaps, life’s greatest contradiction.

Double Discomfort

Lilla Kassai

I hate being a contradiction myself. I always have this duality between being nice, kind and caring, and being rude, sarcastic and hostile.

As a matter of fact, I really dislike this duality, but I also find it useful sometimes. Being rude, sarcastic and hostile keeps unwanted company away, but at the same time, it scares away those who could have become good friends.

Being kind and caring also has its drawbacks. To be honest, it makes people more vulnerable. Even if this mindset and characteristics can attract lots of people who may become loyal and excellent friends, others can use the kind and caring people for their own benefit, without good intentions.

What is more,  people seem to admire the sarcastic and brutally honest individuals, but meanwhile, they can’t handle them face to face.  Speaking from personal experience, I see that my classmates admire the loud, sarcastic and uninterested complainers, but meanwhile, if I act like them, they become uncomfortable and shut me out of conversations that I would gladly be a part of.

The same thing happens when I try to bring out the real me, the kind and caring one. It must be a surprise for them, but I can be very kind and gentle. I just don’t show this face of mine so often, and when I do, it also makes them and me uncomfortable. For them, I look like someone who contradicts herself: someone who is usually sarcastic and brutally honest trying to act like the complete opposite.

What Do We Have Power Over?

Alexandra Klaudia Süveges

Those things that people have no power over are truly natural occurrences. Let’s take natural disasters, for example: people may be able to tell when and where they would happen, but we can never be sure. So many times they have taken us by surprise. As a result, lives were lost, proving that not anything can be fully predicted or prepared for. This applies to anything beyond or within the known universe; if the Sun were to suddenly blow up, humanity could not do a single thing to prevent it.

I think everybody can agree we did not expect this decade to start with a pandemic. Nobody predicted this. The same can be said about fighting against it. Every country tries to make the situation seem less bad than it is, but in reality, no one knows for sure when it will end. If we think about it, humanity does not even know about the future. How will technology develop: in a bad or good way? We can not even know what will happen to humanity itself in the next x years. I believe our bodies will change, as we evolved over a million years, developing useful body parts for the life we are used to now. If the future changes our living conditions drastically, we will surely develop more complex physiques and functions.

The last thing we have no power over is death itself. Nobody can tell what happens after we are buried underground. True, some people predicted their deaths, but none could tell what happened after that. As far as science goes, there is no way to live forever, no experiment has attained that result; it is just not possible and probably never will be.

Yes, we can develop technology enough to raise the prediction probability to 100%, but everyone knows deep inside how some things just can’t be controlled. One may win the main prize in the lottery in five minutes, while someone else may lose everything at the same time. Luck is one of the things we would never be able to control; it is so powerful, it could change anyone’s life.

It is scary how there are people in the world who think we have power over everything. Financial values often misrepresent someone’s true worth, but money can not buy true “power.”

Confidence and Insecurity

Buda Nedbalek

The attribute or feeling of confidence is something one gets whenever being assured about one’s qualities and abilities. It also may derive from acknowledgement and respect shown by others.

The attribute or feeling of insecurity is the exact opposite. We feel insecure when unsure about ourselves, whenever our capabilities are being ignored and left without recognition.

How come they often come hand in hand? The answer is more complex than we would think, since it varies from person to person. To find the solution to the problem, we have to dig deep to the root of the contradiction of feeling confident and insecure at the same time. The solution is the golden mean of being overconfident and extremely insecure. BUT.

First and foremost, we have to recognize that there is a problem. This comes at different ages depending on the individual. After reaching a specific age, we gain enough experience to be able to tell that there is a problem. Experience and admission are two key factors that are crucial when it comes to finding the root of the problem.

We admit that our confidence (the extent of which varies from person to person) is only a disguise for our insecurities. That our seemingly self-assured character is only something we wish we could call our true self, but something prevents us from fully becoming it.

Afterwards, we try to look for the causes of this inner conflict of ours. This is not a convenient journey at all. We open up old wounds, face past grievances and pain. Unfortunately there is a possibility of choosing the wrong path to find the cause. In that case, our journey becomes elongated and more insufferable.

We consider different, countless reasons but surprisingly enough, the answer is often childhood. It may sound hard to believe, but the root of such difficulties lies beneath the blanket of the idea of the seemingly regular childhood.  We think that toddlers and children of kindergarten and primary school are less likely to be affected negatively by certain events and circumstances than teens or adults. This belief is wrong. We are the most vulnerable at a young age. Children are exposed to their family, surroundings and much more without having obtained the necessary tools and ways to explain themselves whenever they have to. Finding the answer is painful. Battling with the reality of this answer is even more devastating. After opening our hearts and finding the cause of the contradiction in title, as far as I am concerned, we also have to base our identity in something greater, that is, God. Establishing a relation with God is something everyone needs, to come to terms with the hardships of the soul. Believing that we are accepted, acknowledged and taken care of by our creator is a state that cannot be reached by anything the world has to offer. This obviously does not mean that all difficulties vanish, but the battle becomes significantly more sufferable. All have a God-shaped whole in their hearts that can only be filled by Him.

What’s in a Brand?

Napsugár Katinka Molnár

I am currently sitting at my desk, trying to pray some life into our wifi, which stopped

working quite a while ago. I was just about to start doing my homework, I tried texting my classmate to discuss the details of our project, when I realised that all my social media platforms had given up on life. I quickly switched to my phone, turned on my mobile data, then tried plugging the devices out and in, redownloading the apps, but nothing seemed to work. I was getting so frustrated, I couldn’t really come up with a solution anymore.

This situation made me think about a contradiction in our everyday life: the concept of brand privilege. Just because an item or good has a name on the market, that doesn’t mean it is quality. Pretty obvious, right? Then why do we always step in the same faulty footstep that others have taken again and again? After surviving a year with our pathetic on-and-off wifi, I foolishly thought that this new device, which we paid a lot of money for, which has a lot of positive reviews and was recommended to us by several professionals, would live up to its name and really bring us “hyper fast” wifi. Well, as you can see, it does nothing close to what its name and brand promised us. This makes me think about all the people who spend a fortune on those high-fashion brands: they are willing to save up money by skipping meals, not going anywhere to hang out, buying cheaper everyday goods like food and cleaning supplies, just to then be able to show off with their new crocodile-skin handbag — while there is a hole in their shoe.

Humans have had a preoccupation with fashion for centuries, and our society’s priorities have been acting up in the last few decades. I remember the news from South-Korea, when around 2012 a specific high-end brand’s winter jacket got so popular in the country, literally every student had to have it. Not just for the “fun” of being the “same individual,” but also for exclusion: the ones whose parents couldn’t afford the ridiculously pricey clothing would face the consequences of being considered a cheap outsider. Youngsters got picked on in their community for not having the jacket, and the issue got so serious that there were several reports of students stealing money or the jacket itself from stores to avoid bullying the next school day. So unreasonable, right? That would never happen where you live, right? Think again. Tell me in all conscience, would you not peek at least once at the only classmate who was not wearing the clothes everyone else had on, or would you not feel pressured to get it, when you were the only one left who still couldn’t buy one? Never mind that parents work hard to make ends meet for their family, and your asking for something so expensive, just because it’s a trend, and refusing to get the cheaper one, even though it would work just fine for you, is straight up greedy and ungrateful, isn’t it? Picture living in a society where brands and names are valued more than quality, and people feel the pressure to reduce expenses on basic everyday needs just to be able to keep up with the always changing trends’ demands and stay in the game in others’ eyes. It doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination. This generation can relate.

So what is the real problem here? Is it the capitalist viewpoint, the materialistic thinking, the “keep the realtionships on the surface” mentality? I would say all and neither. Is it society shaping the people or the people shaping society? This is like asking if the chicken had the egg or from the egg came the chicken. As we exist next to each other, we all have our individual feelings and relations to topics, behaviours towards certains happenings; we are all responsible for what happens in the world. It would be unreasonable to say that a few “up there” are making the trends, leading the society by setting up values, while we are just all victims of this malicious act. Nothing can survive for too long if it does not resonate with the people’s unique vibes to a certain extent. It has to be relatable to some point, then people who form society will follow it and make it a trend eventually. I think this is what happens with brands as well. Companies advertise them as high-end, quality goods that will make a person look rich with a high-maintenance lifestyle, rich enough to afford rare materials. And it is, again, human nature to present yourself as competitive with others. But it is not destiny.

These brands will eventually earn a name for themselves, thus privilege becomes present, and brings its oppressed little brother, prejudice. Let’s see the simplest example of the phenomenon. Three words, which we probably will all have the same thoughts about: Made in China. Cheap, short lived, low quality, fast fashion, and so on. If you buy your clothes from a Chinese boutique, you probably don’t have fashion sense and especially not the money to afford fashion. Or at least this is what society makes us think. But remember, we individuals make up society. It is our fault if we keep believing the stereotypes, thus it is also our fault if we value something based more on the name than the experiences, if we trust blindly in an item’s fame instead of doing our own research on its quality. Because, let’s admit it, this is what we do to our fellow individuals as a society. We judge each other based on everything, including the name of the brands they own: that is, the goods they own, the status of the brand they’re using. They, we feel the urge to skip those meals, buy cheaper basics and let another hole form in our shoe just to be able to go out with that crocodile-skin brand handbag and feel valued — by valuing trends and status over our own unbiased judgment.

My parents and I probably should have given a chance to the less pricey wifi devices, chosen a different brand, switched to another company, or hired better technicians. Or maybe I should give a chance to this wifi to prove that the name is not everything, and that it has more to show and offer than its privilege of brand. I am not even that annoyed anymore.

Where We Lack Control

Gréta Tóth

The thing most people believe they have power over is thought, especially other people’s opinions. Trying to change the way other people think is very common and can be good or bad, but still it is called manipulation. I know, it sounds very straightforward, but it is true. This means that whenever someone tried to convince you to do something you did not want to do at first, they manipulated you; even if you say that “they persuaded me,” there was still a little bit of controlling.

Some people can resist manipulation, but usually this is very hard, because the other person does it without our noticing. In some cases, they do not even realize what they are doing, because they are natural manipulators. Let us take some common examples: most children are influenced by their parents, before they reach the age to form their own opinions. The parents try to form their child to have the same ideas as they have about everything. For another example, politicians manipulate people to vote for them. They promise things that are not realistic and of course, people believe them and vote for them, and when the time comes for them to fulfill these promises, they end up forgetting them or come up with a silly excuse. Last but not least, people manipulate each other to buy something, make the other do something for them, or just win an argument. Some people are influenced by their own friends. For instance, someone might like a certain book and tell someone else about it, who ends up hating it. In most cases, they just try to convince the other one why they should like the book, but sometimes people get extremely rude in these situations and just say that they cannot be friends anymore if the other person does not share their opinion. Beyond all of this, we even get manipulated by ourselves. It is very complex and strange, but it is true.

So for all those who say that they have never ever been manipulated and who think they have control over manipulators, it is impossible. Many people study it, do research, and test their skills on others, but we are simply not able to resist all the time, not to mention that we sometimes turn into manipulators too when we want to. As I see it, it is very complex and hard to take in, and we will never be able to understand it, since we do not know how the human mind works. So, as long as we do not know how the brain functions, we will not manage to acknowledge the full scope of manipulation.

A Different Kind of Theft

Gréta Tóth

Robert Perry is a forty-three-year-old American man. Robert has been happily married to his wife, Annalise, for twenty years. They met in high school and fell in love instantly. It was love at first sight. They got married as soon as Annalise turned twenty-one. Today, they have two beautiful children: Nathaniel Perry (eighteen) and Katherine Perry (fifteen).

Robert is a born perfectionist. Even his co-workers refer to him as “the perfect man.” He works in a bank; work is never too stressful, it is not boring, he never has to work overtime, and he has a really good salary. Both of his parents are still alive; they live in the countryside, where Robert was raised as a kid. In his free time, he reads or does something in the garden. There is always work to do around the house. They bought it in the same year that they got married, and they renovated it themselves. On the weekends, they often go hiking or camping with their family and friends. Every Sunday morning, they go to church, and they volunteer once a month. All in all, he has a happy family, a great job, the ideal house, and on top of all this, he is the most faithful child of God. He really is beyond perfect.

Robert is also strictly against criminals and any act against the law. No one could bring up anything bad against him. He is the ideal citizen of any country. Something that he adores is watching films and listening to music, especially songs from his teenage years. What he never realised was that the website he uses for downloading the films and the songs is illegal, since he never pays for downloading any of the songs. Therefore, he could be considered a criminal who has deflected a huge amount of money without knowing it. Despite this, he is still considered the “perfect man,” because no one knows about this, not even Robert. Meanwhile, a woman who stole a bottle of water from a shop gets punished and is going to have a criminal record and difficulty finding a job in the future. They did exactly the same thing: steal.

Everyone downloads files from illegal websites from the Internet. Even if many people would not admit it, they probably have done it at least once in their lifetime. These pirated software and media are worth thousands of dollars. An average person knows over 4000 songs and probably listens to at least ¼ of them, which is 1000 songs. According to famous legal song downloader websites, 1 song costs about 1 dollar. It leaves us with 1000 dollars per person, if they do not use some type of audio streaming service. An average person watches over 3000 films in a lifetime. To download all these movies, it would cost approximately 45,000 dollars, or, if we “rent” them, about 6,500 dollars. In total, we download and use data worth over 7,500 dollars. So the real question is, how come people steal this money but would never rob a shop? Just imagine someone walking into the nearest supermarket, grabbing everything they need, and then just walking out. Similarly, a person could go to a local car dealership and drive home in a brand new car.

What most people do not realise is that even though illegal downloading is not seriously punished, it is also a form of crime. It is unfair to the singers and film producers who made the songs and films, since they get their income from the people who buy their products. If we really want to support someone we love, we should at least pay for their work. Moreover, we should not judge the people who get punished for robbing, while we do it without any consequences. It is the same thing, even if we do not wish to admit it!

The Pool of Never-Ending Questions

Deniz Sabuncuoğlu

We are taught at a young age that life is unreliable. From the earliest years of our lives, we are made to adapt to an unstable state of being. Constantly changing, always evolving. Never standing still or making a pause. Changing opinions, growing minds. Always learning but still yearning for more. The deepest desire to see all, know all. And above all, the belief that we can achieve all.

Life’s full of contradictions; we hear everyone say. “Every opinion is valid, but mine’s the one that’s right.” “Respect all but those who disagree.” “Be yourself as long as the version of you that you choose matches the ideal on the dot.” But how do you find your place, the correct space, the ever-so-difficult place between the blurred lines of life? How do you decide what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s true and what’s false? How do you choose when the mere existence of life is one big contradiction? Some time later, as you grow older, your mind grows stronger. You go from having many questions and very few answers to even more questions and too many answers. Every question carries weight, every answer carries expectation. What will you do? Which will you choose? Can you choose? It’s a black hole, a bottomless pit, an endless pool of opinions, questions, answers and contradictions. Contradictions….

They lie in the middle like the core that powers it all. Shapeless, formless, changing and evolving. Creating more questions with every answer, making the exception of every fact, a wrong for every right, a true for each false. Somehow all remain true but none are real, all work but they never settle. They’re contradictions. They contradict themselves, growing dualities inside dualities, making more and more until the lines between question and answer gets blurry. Because the more you learn the less you know, the less you know the more you yearn, the more you yearn the more you learn and the more you learn the less you know. And the never-ending cycle continues. It continues, growing as humanity does, only getting stronger. It’s messy, chaotic but somehow very orderly. Like a pattern you can never spot, like a word that rests on the tip of your tongue but just won’t come out. It forces you to unlearn everything you know, only to make you learn new things just to have to unlearn them again.

There are two sides to each coin. A scale that’s never quite balanced but getting there, closer and closer until it tips off again, because let’s be real, humanity has never been stable. And maybe we’ll see all once the balance is restored, but that’s impossible because we will always need more. Order needs chaos, light needs dark, sanity needs a bit of insanity and vice versa will always apply until it doesn’t. Because the contradictions still apply.

Course of Life

Gergely Sülye

Every somewhat intelligent person will reach a point in their life where they question their existence, their future, and if it’s all worth it. The most important question in our lives provides a turning point from living by instinctual needs to doing so by defined goals and wishes. When this happens, we do our best to achieve what we set out to accomplish, be it simple fulfillment, not much more noble than being driven by instincts, or complex goals that will require serious commitment. But is it really possible to achieve these plans?

Most of the time the reality is that nothing changes. This direction in life just provides something to look forward to, besides being something we can look at in times of hardship and say “It will be worth it!” We still try to look in the right direction while being pushed around by external factors like waves in a storm. But ultimately, if chance deems so, those waves might push us all the way back, never allowing us to reach our intended destination.

An invention that led humanity to the top of the food chain is the forming of societies and groups where everyone cares for each other and achieves, or at least tries to achieve, a common goal. Societies are formed on a common understanding and some level of respect. While needing social attention may be in our blood, forming and advancing society is not instinctual. Its existence hints at previous hardships and hard decisions that early humans had to make, willingly. They didn’t have the leisure for sophisticated goals like becoming a pianist. Each one of them just wanted to survive, thus their common goal was a given.

But life is easy now. It is not required to actively participate in society, as someone can just rely on the advancement of technology and pursue their own goals. While most people would do this, everyone benefits from a societal structure, so it only makes sense not to throw it all away. The emphasis is now on the benefits, not on the inherent value of self sacrifice and kindness. Nobody really cares about the other if doing so doesn’t directly benefit oneself. But it’s easy to forget what would be lost if we lived for ourselves alone.  

A Contradiction in Itself

Áron Antal

The past few days were sunny and warm. And yet, no matter how much I would love to go outside, my being ill doesn’t let me do so. The same situation has happened to me twice this month, although the first occasion wasn’t as serious as this. Isn’t this interesting? A man with an immune system of two or three times his age, who has never been to a hospital in his life, except the time he was born, a man who hasn’t had any serious illnesses in four years, catches the common cold twice in a month, and this annoys me. Why? God knows why. But this surely is a contradiction.

I think everyone in their life felt at one point or another a sort of pleasant pain. If you would like to explain to an alien race what pleasent pain is, I’m sure they couldn’t understand. The concept of pleasant pain is a contradiction, yet we experience it quite often, for example via relief.

When a couple in a movie breaks up, we often hear the phrase: “I love you, but we are not meant for each other.” This is also a contradiction, but this one doesn’t make nearly as much sense as pleasant pain.

The point is that contradictions surround us, and are essential to a certain point, because they add a certain mystery, something that will force you to think about them. The problem is that our society today is a contradiction in itself. It has become a part of our life, a tool for a lot of people. Social media sends you the message that you should be perfect, you should be beautiful, a perfect housewife or businessman. The expectations are way higher than anyone can reach, so people try to “make the best” out of themselves. They show that they are always well prepared, never tired, always smiling, never dull and do some sports on a daily basis, summarized: they are perfect. And because most people think the same way, they believe it. The truth is; no one is perfect. The models on TV aren’t perfect. YOU aren’t perfect. And the most valuable people are those strong enough to show that they are not perfect and won’t stand in the line to reach the unreachable. Those are perfect, who are imperfect. What’s disappointing is that the perfection-chasers don’t realize that they are chasing a false dream, and even if you tried to convince them, they would either get mad at you, or would stay unpersuaded, because they live in the sun of popular approval.

Today’s society is built on false impressions, because the people who belong to it are false impressions themselves, and that’s why it’s rotting. I realised these types of people annoy me the most in life, those who are pretenders and hypocrites at the same time.

Now, you probably agree with what I said, but is that what you really think, or is that what you would like to think? I’m not saying that you are one of them. You have to decide….

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