I remember reading in the Winter 97 term an article titled You Can Blow Out a Candle But You Can't Blow Out a Fire. In it were the ministrations and expressions of optimism and courage. There was the desire to take the world and to shape it. The idea that a person could make a difference, to seize the day, to make a better place for you and me.
I also remember a time when I felt exactly the same way. I had that fire in my heart, and in my soul. I wanted to make a difference, to be more than a number in the machine. I wanted to change the world, fix its ills, Five years ago, I came to University, and I was going to show everybody.
University has taught me many things. Education has left its mark on me. I know how to solve various types of ODEs and PDEs. I know how to build an operating system. I know half-a-dozen ways of sorting things on a computer. I can derive the equation for a fluid flow (under certain assumptions.) I've found love, and lost it. I've learned how to lead people, and where I cannot lead them to. I've learned about Simonds, Borden, and Robespierre. I've picked up two martial arts. I've learned how to cross-stitch.
I also had the metaphorical fire blown out. University is wonderful in this regard, as well. University is a place where you still have to toe the line, even if the line is slightly more crooked then one would find outside its hallowed halls. People have their beliefs, their ideas, their system, and woe to you if you should challenge the dragon in its own lair. While infinitely preferable to anarchy, the system is still there, and people still fall through the cracks.
Yet, even when the fire was out, even when I fell through the cracks, the candle was still there. That small light that refused to die. Call it what ever you want; the silver lining, the light at the end of the tunnel; the metaphor of light is powerful and rich in tradition. But there is an uncompressible essence of you that can, and will, survive.
I do not know why I write this. Why the hell would anybody care about what I've learned and what I haven't learned? Maybe I write for the same unknown reason Jesse wrote his article. But instead of writing to exhort and motivate, I write to reassure. I no longer believe that I can change the world. I now believe that a man (or woman) can do worse but try.
In his article Jesse mentioned how the elders will envy the youth for their fire. Now, after five years, I leave this place behind, hopefully a little better than I found it. And I do not envy the youth for their fire. The best lesson I've learned here is that fire must be tempered with wisdom, and wisdom only comes from the pain of life. I sympathize with the youth, for their pain is yet to come. I do not wish it upon them, but it must come.
But you can survive. For there will come a time when all seems dark. When it all seems at an end. Even the fire will have gone out. At that point, the candle, the candle that lit the fire, can save you.
Jerry ``Fish'' Han
© 1997 mathNEWS