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Valuable Things

April 23, 2012

March 6th, 2012 10:24pm

In Aristotle class today, my professor asked us to pull out a piece of paper and answer two questions within the time frame of 30 seconds for each question. Puzzled, we did as she asked. I didn’t know whether to panic or not; were we having a pop quiz on the readings that were assigned for today?

Of course, I had planned on doing the readings, but didn’t actually get around to doing them. I was too busy editing my Aristotle paper on Luck due today, and watching a new episode of Modern Family. Really, the only thing I knew was that the readings had something to do with Aristotle’s views on “what is the good” and “what does it mean to lead a virtuous life?”

With pencil in hand and a little piece of scrap paper that my friend M gave me, I anxiously waited for instructions.

Professor D: Don’t put your names on it. Here is the first question: list three things of which, without, would make you very unhappy. 30 seconds to answer.

I hurriedly scribbled down three things. I was done in about 8 seconds. But then as I read over the answers, I decided that one was insufficient. So I crossed that one out and replaced it with another.

1. I would be very unhappy without: education, love, and friendship. family.

Because we sat at circular tables, it was easy to share our answers with others. I noticed that my friends M and C were doing it, so I proudly slid my sheet towards M and beamed as I watched him casually read over my answers. I didn’t get a chance to look at his answers though; the professor was onto the next question.

Professor D: The second question is: list three things you did yesterday. Be as specific as possible, we’re going to read these out loud later and we want to be entertained.

I stared at my paper and thought to myself, what were some interesting things I did yesterday? Of course, I couldn’t remember much. If you know me, you would know that I have an awful memory. (Actually, I prefer to call it selective memory. I just choose to remember certain things and discard everything else. At least, I remember the important things.) Despite my “awful memory”, I did manage to conjure up memories of doing three things.

2. Yesterday I… wrote on my blog called Found Philosophy, read book I of Spinoza’s “The Ethics”, and called Bell in an attempt to lower my Internet price plan.

I actually chuckled a bit at that last one. [I have two comments on the answers I gave to question number 2. First, I had added my blog’s name to my answer because 1) the Professor had asked us to be specific, but also 2) because I was hoping that she would read my answer out loud and perhaps, that the blog’s name would perk up some ears. Of course, it was a promoting kind of thing; I was trying to sell my blog; well don’t blame me, I want more readers, damn it! Second, now that I think of it, I didn’t even read Spinoza’s Ethics yesterday. I read that the day before. Yesterday, I read a couple poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Man, I really do have a bad memory.]

After she collected all of our scraps of papers, she shuffled through them and read many out loud. What was the whole point to this exercise? I didn’t really know, but I didn’t really care – I was just enjoying the fun. (That, but also because I was still on my high from getting perfect on this other assignment graded by one of the toughest professors I know!)

After having read through most of our answers, our professor told us that most of us valued the same things in life: love, family, friendship, education, and health; these were pretty standard answers. And yet, when asked what we did yesterday, very few, if not none of us, did anything related to that which we valued. Now after she said this, my eyes literally opened an inch wider. I thought about it and thought about it some more, and decided that the message she was sending us was a strong one.

At one point though, I felt myself to be upset. I mean, she was practically saying that I had wasted my day yesterday because I had not done anything related to the things that I value. I thought, well one of the things I listed under “valued” was family, and you know what? I did talk to my mother yesterday! If the professor had just allowed us more than three things, I would have listed down under question number 2, “talked to my mother.”

But then I thought, well that’s not the point. If we were allowed more than three things, we would go on forever and forever. The point was to narrow it down – to make you decide once and for all what you really valued in life. I really liked this exercise. It really made me think, “What do I value most in life and am I interacting with those valuable things everyday?”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2012 1:39 am

    That was a great exercise. I have also heard of one a prof did where students were told to write down things in their life they didn’t like (problems). The students were then told to pass the sheet of paper to the student to the left of them. After reading their fellow classmates problems everyone soon wanted their own problems back! It is powerful messages like these that make us change our lives!

    Great post!


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