Campus Voices: Making “uncertain times” certain again

Daniel Gallardo, CSUB English graduate student

With opened eyes, I look around my room and what do I find? A pile of mostly unfinished books that I used my loan money to purchase, lying on the foot of my dusty wooden desk. One computer monitor, displaying a Word document of an unfinished project for my Composition Theory course, while the second monitor blares Twitch – a live streaming platform for gamers, musicians, and entertainers. An overflowing trashcan, with fast food bags and halfempty plastic cups filled with flat soda, sleeping next to the desk. My framed diplomas from Cuesta College and CSUB hung quietly, as if hovering above my cheaply made bookcase that I purchased from Target to organize only half of my library. And lastly, but certainly not least, my framed poster of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, hanging above my unmade bed, eyeing me down like a disappointed judge.

I could go on and on about how my room, my personal space, my laboratory, my cave, my den, my turtle shell, is anything less than the ideal image an ambivalent parent imagines when sending their son or daughter away to college. I write this piece, not to grant myself a spot in the popular victim marathon, but to map a path of redemption, where your nature as a human being is reveled for its inner capacity to overcome tragedy.

We are now halfway through this ghost of a semester, and its tremendous weightlessness of being present virtually has become a mental toll I did not expect. Sure, anxiety is a word I hear often iterated in these “uncertain times, but like any word that is overly used for the sake of unrequited empathy and prescribed virtue, the word is destined to lose gravity.  

Straightforwardly, I miss class. I miss interacting with other students and teachers face to face. I miss walking into the Kegley Center and tutoring our student athletes, for their exorbitant extraversion was a contagion I wanted to transmit. I miss walking into a restaurant, being waited on by a server who dreaded their work but was unmistakably alarmed by my willingness to be polite, so the rest of their day had a little more light and a little less darkness.  

The new normal is a mirage of the word new. Doesn’t the word new usually indicate appealing qualities? When restructuring an invention to make it anew, the engineer or lead designer assesses the least amount of changes needed to improve the invention to maintain a degree of accessibility, functionality, and originality 

The haphazard changes of our society are more in line with a volatile earthquake, rather than a surgical incision. Pushback against uncertainty is inevitable, for in these uncertain times, a mentor is necessary to overcome our daily challenges and to sway temptations. 

Though these feelings of anguish of our blanketed society haunt me dearly, I yearn to lean on the easily debatable structure of society any longer. There is much to be done in my own personal space, for I am here to delight you with some timeless words of encouragement, even if encouraging others to harness their potential is deemed as grotesquely traditional.  

Look upon yourself before carelessly assessing the tragedy of the world, for the individual who courageously strives forward is the redeeming factor when encountering wrongdoing. My room is the place for me to start a journey of redemption.  

How do I have the authority to dare say anything ill of society if I cannot maintain my room’s wellbeing?  

Once I rearrange my room accordingly, perhaps I could do the same to my household, expanding outwards from inside rather than starting outside. A person’s character is defined by their interiority, and how they integrate that interiority through explicit action reveals such character. In relation, a society’s stability is defined by the individuals within it, and how those individuals treat one another – irrespective of their beliefs – reveals the health of such society.  

In other words, it is easier and far humbler to work on oneself than to reprehend an entire society for its historical injustices. As each individual works on bettering themselves through reflecting on their own inadequacies, society will eventually become a more hospitable and welcoming place.  

Carl Jung, a depth psychologist who is popularly disregarded in the humanities, iterates the importance of the archetypal shadow. Simply speaking, the shadow is all our universal flaws that reside within the collective unconscious 

It is the malevolence we all carry deep within our hearts. It is the urge to lie when the truth is needed. It is the urge to choose immediate gratification over expedient pursuits. It is the urge to be aggressive when assertiveness is needed. It is the urge to exploit others for predatory greed. And so very often, we choose the easy way out of problems by ignoring their overwhelming significance, when careful attention and confrontation is needed to unweave the complexity of such problems.  

What Jung suggests as an alleviation of such malevolent temptations is an integration of the shadow. Confront our flaws by understanding how easy it is to become resentful and vengeful, integrate our aggression into our character, and become a noble person who has mastered their aggression for the sake of the good. 

 Be Aladdin, who journeys into the depths of the underworld to discover something of value, the Genie, who grants him the finest of wishes. Be Pinocchio, who dives into the ocean to rescue his father from the belly of the whale – a forgotten and criticized journey of remembering our forefather’s wisdom. Be Simba, who must retake his father’s throne from the malevolent brother, Scar which is an archetypal journey of childhood into adulthood. 

 The world we live in is shaped to be a narrative, and how we choose our actions determines which character we inevitably portray as actors and actresses. 

Compare yourself to who you were yesterday and not to who others are today. Our overly technological society is a representation of the comparison mindset, where our good times are more favorable to share than our tragedies.  

Projected from a screen, we assess our differences by comparing our lives to a false paradise. Each one of us, no matter the amount of revenue accumulated, has some sort of tragedy cast upon us in the immediate or future, whether through the guise of an afflicted family member or oneself.  

Why compare our lives to others when your personal experience is inexhaustibly different? It is far easier to assess an unfair advantage when its portrayed on a screen because the psychological toll of reflecting on our own wrongdoings is kept at bay. Perhaps, there is much to learn about ourselves if we looked back upon our differences from yesterday.  

Did you finish that homework assignment that is due by tomorrow? Did you remember to call your family members to check on their wellbeing? Did you fold your clothes after you took them out of the dryer? Or did you sulk into an endless loop of immediate gratification?  

One incremental achievement for each day of the year is a total of 365 achievements. That is a lot of achievements! Imagine the type of person we all could become if we improved ourselves one day at a time. 

I am not the master of these words of wisdom. I am merely an imperfect spokesperson, who speaks on behalf of what I have noticed to be lacking. The emphasis on societal change goes without saying, but to forget about the individual is to mediate human history according to an ideological perspective of new historicism. 

Gandhi was an individual, who struggled against a tyrannical state of oppression. He integrated his shadow, learned how to be a formidable person, and ameliorated his region and people with courage and conviction.  

Mother Teresa was an individual, who was the archetype of the benevolent Mother. She blessed the world with her endearing compassion, sacrificing herself for the good and becoming a memorable martyr, even if her physical wellbeing was at stake.  

Martin Luther King was an individual, who dared to rewrite our past with empirical evidence of our Constitution, for all men and women, regardless of color, are created equal under a Judeo-Christian ethos. Much like Gandhi, MLK was the prime example of an integration of the shadow. He harnessed his aggression for the intent of good, became a noble character that had a sophisticated pursuit, and changed the world for the better. 

There are only a handful of figures who changed the world for the better, but the fundamental pattern of how they changed the world is clear and forgotten. It all starts with the individual, who bears his or her cross upon their shoulders, carries it uphill without contempt, and aims to make the world certain again.