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The World Is Wonderful Essays

What a Wonderful World - Varsity Tutors Scholarship Essay

Life today has become more fast-paced than ever before. People are active the entire day, rushing to appointments, meetings, errands and jobs. Twenty-four hours each day has become insufficient to accomplish the work today’s society demands of us.

Recently, I had a conversation with my cousin about his previous job. His company became much stricter with their policies, causing him to work longer hours. His superior also told him to lay off numerous loyal employees. As a result of these demands, he grew unhappy with his job.

Driving through his neighborhood on the way home from work one day, my relative had an epiphany. As he traveled through the neighborhood he saw two people playing dominoes on their porch. A woman kindly greeted her mailman and engaged him in a conversation. He kissed her cheek before he went on with his route. A policeman with his sleeves rolled up was helping a young man jump start his car. Upon seeing the unspoiled simplicity of these acts, my cousin realized just how much his work controlled him, making him unable to appreciate life’s little pleasures. He pulled to the side of the road and began sobbing as Louis Armstrong’s soothing “What a Wonderful World” filled his car. From this conversation, I learned that a person can easily move through life and not notice its beauties. How many of life’s gifts have we missed because we are rushing from place to place? What have we overlooked because we are too stressed from work?

This enlightening conversation inspired my book’s premise: a man kayaking capsizes and is drowning. As his life flashes before his eyes, he reflects on the opportunities he has missed. As a father, he missed his son’s birth while away on a business trip. He opted out of a family vacation because his career came first. Countless late nights at the office made him miss the lively family conversations at the dinner table. Hanging onto his last breath, the man fights to the surface and takes the first breath of his new life, a second chance to live life to its fullest.

The message I would like readers to grasp is that life is precious and should be lived at a much slower pace. There are numerous comforts in life we miss due to our fast-paced culture. Similar to my relative and the character in the story, we still have the chance to adjust our life so we can recapture the simple pleasures it has to offer. We should not work at a job we detest, but rather do what makes us happy and savor every moment of this treasured, albeit short life.

"How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people -- first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving...

"I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves -- this critical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed empty to me. The trite objects of human efforts -- possessions, outward success, luxury -- have always seemed to me contemptible.

"My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities. I am truly a 'lone traveler' and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude..."

"My political ideal is democracy. Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized. It is an irony of fate that I myself have been the recipient of excessive admiration and reverence from my fellow-beings, through no fault, and no merit, of my own. The cause of this may well be the desire, unattainable for many, to understand the few ideas to which I have with my feeble powers attained through ceaseless struggle. I am quite aware that for any organization to reach its goals, one man must do the thinking and directing and generally bear the responsibility. But the led must not be coerced, they must be able to choose their leader. In my opinion, an autocratic system of coercion soon degenerates; force attracts men of low morality... The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the political state, but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in thought and dull in feeling.

"This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of herd life, the military system, which I abhor... This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism -- how passionately I hate them!

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery -- even if mixed with fear -- that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man... I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence -- as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature."

The text of Albert Einstein's copyrighted essay, "The World As I See It," was shortened for our Web exhibit. The essay was originally published in "Forum and Century," vol. 84, pp. 193-194, the thirteenth in the Forum series, Living Philosophies. It is also included in Living Philosophies (pp. 3-7) New York: Simon Schuster, 1931. For a more recent source, you can also find a copy of it in A. Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, based on Mein Weltbild, edited by Carl Seelig, New York: Bonzana Books, 1954 (pp. 8-11).

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