Now that this day is here, the day of my last Alligator column, it may be appropriate for me to reflect on what I have been trying to do here for the past couple years.
I think all of us columnists can attest that however long we have been writing for The Alligator, it doesn’t seem that long. We whip out columns week after week in a frenzy, with our heads down and focused. When we finally pick up our heads and breathe, we notice how late it is and how much time has gone by. Is the day really over? Is it really that late?
It is funny to attempt to reflect on all of the things I’ve written for this paper because each column was born in a different context and under a different circumstance. I feel like a father of 50 children trying to say something unique about each one, even though I’ve forgotten some of their names. I’ve tried to write about various topics like technology, culture, college, politics, movies and even religion. Truthfully, I have tried to keep a few key themes prominent in each of my columns, no matter the topic at hand. Along the way, I’ve also learned a few things.
The first lesson that comes to mind is that serious topics are incredibly nuanced and demand reflection. We tend to settle for cliché opinions about dynamic and important topics, but the truth tends to be more interesting than that. Of course, just because an opinion is interesting doesn’t necessarily make it something people will always like to read. There are plenty of misguided people who have, nevertheless, mastered the art of the "hot take."
However, the more I have written for this paper, the more I’m convinced of the importance of reflection. Malcolm Muggeridge, an English author, once said, “Only dead fish swim with the stream.” The opposite is also true. Only living fish will swim against the current. To settle for what pop culture, or even our professors, teach us about people’s motives and then to take those things at face value is to miss out on the richness of reflection.
What does it mean to reflect? Well, that is not an easy question. I am tempted to lob abstract definitions at you. Some questions, or at least the important ones, cannot be answered quickly or easily. Instead, they must be lived. They must first be felt and experienced before they can be addressed. In a way, all of my columns could be interpreted as attempts to live out that one question of what it really means to live a reflective life.
I like the thought that one can live out questions and living is a way of understanding. Normally we think the big questions, like whether God exists or whether life has meaning, should be reserved for philosophy classes and huge libraries. In other words, we separate everyday life from big questions. These questions aren’t for plumbers or bankers or engineering majors, we think. They have to be rigorously studied and discussed, and they only apply to a certain type of person in a very limited context.
However, if my experience counts for anything, I think this is wrong. I think the big questions cut down the center of every person’s life and heart. In our everyday lives, especially in the most boring parts of the day, deep questions are asked and answered and asked again. Better still, deep questions are lived by all of us every single day. Life itself is a question we all try to answer. It is a book we all study and a painting we all try to understand. This is perhaps the greatest lesson I’ve learned while writing for The Alligator.
J. R. R. Tolkien once said about “The Lord of the Rings” that his “tale grew in the telling.” I’d like to think something similar has happened to us over these past few years and that you and I have grown together while thinking through things. It has been a wonderful experience thinking alongside you, and it is something that will always remain a warm memory. I hope you have been as enriched as I have been. Thank you for reading.
Scott Stinson is a UF English senior. His column normally appears on Wednesdays.