When faced with the daunting task of my very first piece on this very new media platform, I racked my mind for the perfect introduction. I brainstormed witty lines to draw you in with my Siren call, with allusions to pop culture to show just how progressive and forward this institution will be. Yet I quickly found myself stuck, hoping desperately that the golden phrases of literary history were not exhaustible and that I could find my very own “to be or not to be” if I tried hard enough. I quickly realized that perhaps what I wanted to say had been said before, or rather, painted. Paul Gaugin is not just a funny name that 98% of Americans will inevitably mispronounce. Gaugin was able to portray those gnawing midnight questions I ask myself, the subconscious anxieties my brain finds inexplicable, and use a combination of post-impressionism and chiaroscuro to somehow make the chaos appear beautiful. Yet any honest person with half a brain will admit these unanswerable questions are more frustrating than beautiful, though I do appreciate Gaugin’s attempt to pacify. “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” How simply he sums up what thousands of years of human cognition couldn’t solve. So while I will say there may be no answer to this tripartite riddle, today we will try together.
Where do we come from? I challenge you today to answer this beyond the realm of geographical location. I am not just from Philadelphia, I am from a single mother who went hungry most nights so that I could eat. I am not just from America, I am from a family who preaches resilience and determination. So where are you from? For, I hate to break it to you, it will never matter how many fluent languages you flaunt or stamps your passport boasts or foreign cuisine your pallet recognizes. Those things, like the beautiful ivory-draped balcony of a house, will be nothing without a solid foundation. You cannot know the world if you do not know yourself.
What are we? This proposition proves even more complicated than the first. In so many ways I have been categorized, as a minority or as a woman or as lower than the rest. But that is not what I am. I think what we are is exactly what we make ourselves to be. I am a woman, I am a student, I am not a label. I invite you to use The Scholar to answer this question for yourself.
Where are we going? As sadly I am not the Oracle at Delphi, I cannot answer this one with definitive dates and times. I feel this is exactly why Gaugin leaves this for last, and why it is perhaps the most crucial question we should ask ourselves. Are we going in the direction we wish to be? I know where I’m going is absolutely everywhere at the moment. I write this first piece from Tel Aviv, where I have lived and worked for almost three months now. My coming articles will be written from London, Paris, Rome and beyond as I am spending the next six months studying in Europe. I feel I have no concrete idea of where I’m going, only that it will be exactly what it is meant to be. Where are you going?
I hope my evocation of the late Gaugin has proved a successful tool in the goal of my first literary impression. I find so often we consume ourselves with the environment around us, we forget the one within. I welcome you to use The Scholar to learn not only about the cultural and political world around you, but also about the universe inside of you.