Commentary

Dependent Origination

You can feel that eerie sensation all across campus. We are all closing our books and pulling out the term’s notes in preparation for four days of assessments. From a strictly personal perspective, this sensation is all too real. A blinking black cursor explodes into splashes of blue, purple and red. Once steaming hot, a cold cup of coffee to the forehead calms my throbbing headache. A pink pillow eases the pain swirling in my lower back. The digital clock shines 2:50 A.M., and at this point only the sound of keys hitting the aluminum one by one keeps me sane. A tear burns in my eye, lingering but refusing to fall onto my cheek. My brown eyes, rimmed with red, focus and refocus on the bold line at the top of my page screeching, “Paper.” I contemplate shutting the MacBook and curling up in my bed. The fear and stress eat away at my insides until I think I cannot take it anymore. Finally, my fingertips reach for the edge of the screen to close the computer. And then I catch her staring straight at me. I freeze. This Monday, I experienced my first Andover all-nighter with a new friend. Although I didn’t sleep that night, as I adjusted my eyes to the sunrise piercing through my window, I emerged with a new perspective and a few words of advice as we all enter our final week of winter term. If you were to ask me a few days ago if I could ever foresee myself exploring the Buddhist teaching of dependent origination with Evan Eads, I would most likely have laughed. However, once the weekend came to a startling end, I found myself with a subpar paper due the next day and 12 hours in which to finish it. Before the all-nighter, Evan and I were merely acquaintances. However, when I desperately needed help in organizing my paper and she offered to help me in the library, I was pushed into a spiraling adventure. We mutually agreed that our papers would not be finished in time for us to go to bed at a decent hour, so we ran to the Den and stocked up on coffee, treats, soda and chocolate to get us through our long night. Once in my room, I put on my red thinking pajamas and logged on to Skype. I was greeted by Evan’s usual overtly bubbly grin. “This is stupid. I could have pulled an all-nighter on my own. I don’t need her,” I thought. I began to believe that I was capable of accomplishing this feat on my own. After all, the first few hours of our all-nighter were easy. With fresh coffee circulating in my veins, I felt unstoppable. The sentences flowed onto my screen in a cohesive rhythm and formed into eloquent paragraphs. But this transcendent feeling was short lived as we entered into the hours of two and three A.M. My hands became jittery and my vision blurred. Fatigue was finally setting in, and frustration began to simmer as I realized that I was only halfway done with the essay. As my body began to feel weak and my eyes began to droop, Evan was there to wake me up, give me a call or make me laugh. What still shocks me is that she was always there. Even as I took a short nap, it was reassuring when I woke up to see her face on my screen. When I hobbled to first period the next day, with a throbbing headache and severe irritability, she steadied my arms. When I demanded coffee, she gladly added a ton of sugar. Usually, I thrive on the fact that I consider myself independent, and I cringe at the idea of having to rely on others. But Evan taught me that no matter how hard I try, the very nature of things is interdependent I needed her no matter how much I wanted to deny it. If Evan didn’t stay on my computer screen, I wouldn’t have finished my essay. If Evan didn’t put things into perspective, I would have lost my mind. A fundamental teaching in Buddhism is dependent origination, which, at a basic level, explores how our happiness depends on the work and wellbeing of others. There were times when even optimistic Evan became frustrated, and I realized that if she lost hope, I would lose hope as well. So I joked about the lovely rewards that would result from our late night, such as cute boys or chocolate. It was my responsibility to make sure she was happy because my happiness depended on hers. Selfish? Not at all. The goal of this principle isn’t happiness from physical or emotional satisfaction, but rather happiness through appreciation. When I was getting dressed in the morning, I wasn’t only happy because I finished my paper, but also because I appreciated the compassion of someone else. As we all prepare for a grueling finals week, maybe you can take a bit from my experience. On this campus we are programmed to be independent, and those who act otherwise are sometimes looked down upon as a “mooch” or “clingy.” I felt that way when I turned on my computer screen. I didn’t think I needed Evan. However, by the end of the night, I realized that I wouldn’t have survived without her. I’m not saying be drastic and profess any abnormally profound odes to those you depend on. But simply think of and maybe thank the Commons worker who worked hard to make your breakfast before your Chemistry exam or the librarian who kept order so you could finish your English paper. It’s so easy to get caught up in ourselves and the problems we face. However, if we begin to appreciate the sacrifices of others in our life, we can consequently make ourselves happier. Why? Because when we realize that we can only exist because of the work of others, we can abandon our self-preoccupied thoughts and actions and focus on maintaining the wellbeing of those people so vital in our lives. For example, the minute I forgot about my painful headache and focused on how Evan was handling her fatigue, my headache dissipated. On Monday morning, when Evan said “Hi” to me, I forced a smile because I could only see how separate we were. I deliberately worked to mark that division. However, its Tuesday night and, although I might not be in my most right mind, I know that our friendship will never be the same. I learned that it is alright to be Miss Dependent every once in a while. Elizabeth Oppong is a two-year Lower from Bogart, GA.