This is the paper I wrote to conclude my experience in World Literature class. It is meant to be a strong statement ("I believe..."), and reflects on what I've learned in the class.
(this does not particularly connect to the dialogue project)

World Lit.

I Believe

As a graduating senior this year, I am lead to feel that I am face to face with some of the most momentous decisions of my life. In choosing a college, in choosing what I wish to study, in choosing where I will go with my life—I am confronted with questions of responsibility. What world/reality do I live in, and how am I supposed to live in it? In particular, should I seek to fulfill what society and/or my family expect of me, or should I seek to fulfill only my own hopes and dreams? Assuming the world containing society and my family is reality, is my "real" life more important than my perceived spiritual life?

In World Literature class, I have learned about customs and philosophies from around the world. I have learned not only how they differ, but also how they connect to express similar ideas. In exploring the various and diverse cultures of the world, I have also discovered, somewhat rudely, my specific position in this world called Earth. The class has put things in a certain perspective that admittedly, at first disrupted my understanding of the world. However, through self-reflection and consideration of the texts studied in class, I have formulated a conclusion to answer my questions of responsibility and to restore the confusion caused by World Literature. I believe my quest for spiritual satisfaction is inseparable from the entirety of the world I live in. To merely find contentment in pleasing only my family or myself is not enough. There is a whole world of people left with suffering unhealed and hopes unfulfilled. I believe true, absolute happiness and contentment can only be achieved when spiritual satisfaction is found in the scope of all humanity. Follow me on my journey to this conclusion.

I began believing in self-reliance. I believed in Emerson's absolute trust of the self and that doing what I believed was right would provide me inner peace. I believed that Enlightenment could be reached through self-cultivation. Meditation, self-discipline, and self-understanding would yield me happiness. I'd only ever need to find and follow my own "way." Although personally rigorous, intense and abstract, it was a simple and beautiful belief to follow. However, the simple is so often an expression, and in my case, a mask for the profound.

When Basho (a student acting as Basho) came to visit class and taught us Japanese haiku, it took me a few tries to grasp the true essence and genius of a haiku. I do not think I was ever able to replicate it, but I certainly became able to appreciate it. The brilliance of a haiku lies in its ability to communicate much by saying little. In this way, I relate to my discovery of what self-cultivation actually means. Emerson spoke of creating a strong individual, a person so confident to be in a likeness of a god. My original perspective was narrow, and I believed in a self that was disconnected and independent from the rest of the world. I failed to recognize what the word, "self," actually contains. In Taoism, the Tao isn't something within you that is uncovered in "enlightenment."
Enlightenment is achieved when the Tao is felt flowing through you. The self is merely a vessel, a container that spits what the world has given it back out in a unique and supposedly "independent" expression.

Our study of South American magic realism further bolsters my belief in the self has a vessel. In The Night Face Up, by Cortazar, the protagonist throughout the story lived in two realities, one in the Aztec past and one in modern day. The story, and magic realism in general, emphasizes the connection to the past. I realized that I too, had a past, and that I owe my existence to that past. My ancestors live on through me, and since I am part Hawaiian, that is probably especially true. In this sense, my identity is inextricable from my background. "I" am much more than a single body. I am also my family's past, and in this truth, I arrive at my original conflict.

As an entity inseparable from the world I live in, I feel I am also inseparable from what the world expects of me. So far, I have believed in individuality, and that individuality would bring me spiritual satisfaction. Yet here I am, my very identity defined by individuals other than myself. How am I to find peace? I believe the answer still lies within my soul. I believe Emerson meant to say that true peace and happiness is only known to the individual involved in seeking it. Where must I find peace? To pay the debts of my existence, I could fulfill my family's, and to a greater extent, my country's wishes. I believe that is not enough, because contentment in the sphere of my family is not contentment in the sphere of my country, and so on. I believe I must find contentment in the grandest sphere possible: the Earth and all of humanity.
To quell my anxieties of the future, I believe my spiritual life must attempt to conjoin and align with my "real" life, although they are already in essence, one. Pleasure and happiness can be found in either, no doubt, but if the two act in harmony and unison, an experience similar to nirvana is attained. It is like in the teachings of Zen Buddhism: the ultimate goal of all human life is the return to authenticity. My individual self and "real" self are intertwined, yet it does not feel so. I must try my hardest to align them, and in order to do so, I must follow my heart in the world that I live in, the Earth. The magnanimity of this quest is beyond comprehension, and success seems unrealistic. But what is life but this exact struggle: the reconciliation of the self with the world?

  1. Basic Geography
  2. The Project Partners
  3. Petronas Twin Towers
  4. Mount Kinabalu
  5. Malaysia Boleh!
  6. Rasa Sayang
  7. Dialogue Project Paper
  8. Project Extension-Rasa Sayang
  9. I Believe... Paper
  10. Bibliography