The Binghamton University Student Association is a truly notable group. If you look closely, you can see the members’ arms extending into the smaller channels of our academic lives. Their practices are often imperceptible, and their inclinations toward organizing the metaphorical “spine” of our education at BU can make them feel invisible to those who aren’t involved.
Here’s a test: On any weekday morning, walk into your nearest dining hall. Scan the environment. If you look closely, you’ll notice a stack of The New York Times fresh from print. They’re provided to us daily, as BU students. Each day the piles are restocked by an employee of the SA, and like clockwork, all the news that’s fit to print finds its way to our fingertips.
First time you’ve ever noticed them? Don’t feel bad — you aren’t alone. Here’s the second test: Walk into that same dining hall in the evening. You’ll see the stack of still-present papers festering in their metal stands. The pile will be considerably shorter, but the stack won’t be depleted. The remaining papers will brandish this sort of knowledgeable anxiety; they appear to be teeming with this passion to know and share and develop, but instead find themselves in this limbo of simple existence — stagnant and bare.
This sensation isn’t unique to a stack of unread papers. As students, decoding our purpose as thinkers, learners and civic participants yields larger existential questions more appropriate for an upper-level philosophy class. Fitting ourselves into the daunting framework of global citizenry and study can leave us feeling as minute as scattered drops of ink across a single page of Wednesday’s Times. Constant questioning can drive us crazy. Why are we here at BU? What are our obligations as students of this world? What are our duties as global citizens?
Don’t answer those. They aren’t meant to be answered — at least not yet. As there remains beauty within the simplicity of a tightly sealed package of freshly printed papers, so too is there beauty in the innocence of indecision. Each step, if ever so meager, that we take across this campus in our years here will work toward forging the answers to those questions. Even if never answered, the very essence of our journey is sure to illuminate the path that awaits.
So here’s the third test: Rather than pondering our purpose as global students and citizens, let’s first become better ones. Walk into your dining hall tomorrow and pick up a copy of the Times. Make an SA member smile. Scan through it, and find something interesting. Read it, cut it out and hang it on the wall of your room. Pick up Pipe Dream and do the same. With this, you’ve already reached the tipping point on the way to answering those open-ended questions. You’ve sought to become globally aware — and it isn’t the reading or the cutting that did it. It was the conscious decision to reach down into the pile of papers to relieve some of their anxiety, relieving some of your own in the process.
We can go our whole student lives without noticing the beauty of a newspaper. We can go our whole natural lives without noticing the beauty of indecision. Let’s recognize this beauty and start to take steps toward the end of this road. If we never find it, that’s okay. We’ve sought to become better global citizens, and as far as my imagination can reason, that’s why we’re here. So grab a coffee, pick up a paper and let’s stroll.