I ran for student body president during my senior year in high school. I knew how to win people over in high school and made friends easily. I badly wanted to win this election. I had lost the election for junior class president and didn’t want a repeat of that loss. I gave myself to the pursuit of winning, turning on my personality whenever I could.
The day of the election, the ballot boxes were placed just outside the cafeteria in the main hallway. I hung around the cafeteria during all lunch services, talking to people and giving high fives. I walked to the ballot boxes and saw two African American guys in my class. I greeted them as warmly as I could, asking about their families, their classes, their college plans. I thanked them profusely after they voted me.
I won the election. Truth be told, I was a terrible president. I didn’t work hard or put much effort into it, and coupled by the fact I was going through my heavy metal phase, growing my hair out and wearing rocker-type boots, I wasn’t the most well-liked president (and that’s a kind assessment). The only reason I remember the experience is because of the two black guys. I didn’t care about their families or college plans. I had never asked about them before.
That year, I took an art class. There was an African American kid in class, Marlon. He was only a sophomore but already the best artist in class. He possessed natural ability—the only one in class with it. Marlon and I talked every day and I got to know him. Before we graduated, the school newspaper ran a special edition on the graduating seniors. One of the stories was a feature called “Last Wills & Testaments.” The graduates would leave behind something prized for an undergraduate to inherit. Some would leave their lockers. Or letterman’s jackets. I included Marlon in my list, wishing him an art career.
I have no idea whatever happened to Marlon. I left town and really never came back. I think about these things, though. These two sides to me. One is manipulative, it knows how to get what it wants. The other is engaging and concerned. It likes people. How does the same body house two such separate …(What’s the word I’m looking for?)…creatures?
When I think of the world, what I’m struck most with is that it’s both beautiful and ugly. It’s filled with suffering but also innumerable joys. So how did it get this way? Better question, how did we get this way? The possibilities I see: There is a God, and he made the world broken. He created the ugly and the pretty, the horror and the ecstacy. Or, there is a God, and he made the world perfect, but something went terribly wrong. You see remnants of the perfect, spliced with the terribly wrong. Or, there is no god and everything we see was brought about from randomness and luck.
We can throw out the third option. Even among the most adamant supporters of natural selection, the majority still believe in a god that first breathed life into existence. As for the first option, I don’t want to believe in a god that would create something broken—hell along with heaven. I certainly don’t want to worship that god. The only possiblity I see is the second. It makes sense of my life. Warring emotions within me. Created from a divine spark, but something went wrong, tragically wrong, and because of it, the bad part of me is always coming into play, trying to snuff out the divine, good part of me.
I was taking the bus to work once. The bus was crowded—as many passengers stood as were sitting. A woman boarded, carrying a small child, possibly two years of age. Someone gave her a seat and she accepted it. As she traveled, she tenderly held the child in her arms, whispering sweetly to him. When the bus reached her stop, she pulled the bell cord. The bus driver didn’t stop (Several people were standing near her ear; perhaps she didn’t hear the bell). The woman grew livid. Cursing at the driver, looking for supportive indignation from the fellow passengers. This, only a moment removed from caring for her child with patience and compassion. How could she exhibit two such different reactions within seconds of each other?