Stop, look and listen

The meaning of Spartan life

Jacob Martin

It’s that time of year again. Spring break ended, classes resumed their normal operating pace and finals loom right around the corner. However, every year at this time there always seems to be a brief lull in day-to-day homework but a surge in stress.

So today I take a break from criticizing the administration and renouncing student apathy to reflect on the title of my column, the meaning of Spartan life.

Why do we continue to subject ourselves to overwhelming stress by way of overextended activity involvement, overloaded course schedules and overlooked emotional and physical wellness? Why do we take on so much? Are we all masochists?

There are 168 hours in a week. No matter how you allocate those hours, it never seems like there is enough time.

I often find myself questioning this reality and desiring a boxing match with Father Time. He usually grants me 10 rounds and I can hold my own for a few of them. We trade winning rounds but no matter how many I win, he always lands a knockout punch sooner than later.

When I come to and realize what’s happened, I’ve then lost other battles in the form of unfinished homework, bad performance in class and failings with other people. I usually decide to get back on my feet, shake hands with the formidable Father Time and resolve to follow his rules, but every now and then I just want to lie on the mat and not get up.

This time of year is one of those instances of despair and discouragement. Aside from being less than a month away from the end of classes and the finals frenzy, real life still oversees college life.

I was in Nevada for spring break. I went to thrift shops in Reno, hiked around Lake Tahoe and gambled in Las Vegas. When I returned home, I buried my aunt who passed while I was away, discovered a potential medical issue and realized I had classes to attend and homework to finish, among other things I do not wish to write in this space.

The purpose of highlighting these things isn’t to ask for sympathy or simply vent my problems. Rather, my purpose is to demonstrate the importance of never giving up.

I could insert any number of appropriate quotes from literary giants, philosophers or otherwise inspirational people in the hopes that their words would be a comfort to you if you’re stressed out, disillusioned and ready to quit like me. From the many people around campus I’ve talked to, this feeling seems to be the general consensus.

Sometimes the best medicine is a dose of radical self-expression. Wear what you want, spend time doing something you love, take a moment away from those things which are pushing you to the brink of insanity. Be yourself without any barriers.

Personally, my mind doesn’t shut off. Metaphysical questions generate at the sight of something as seemingly insignificant as a tree, existential awareness hits as the sunset kisses the tops of campus buildings and my senses overwork themselves attempting to observe everything going on around me.

Because of this, I’ve learned that in order to keep moving forward and successfully complete daily tasks like homework, I must quiet my mind. So I run. A lot. I meditate, listen to music and don’t mind taking a moment to sit on the Guilford porch and watch the Mather Quad for 15 minutes. I also enjoy talking about the thoughts I get. Yet no matter what I do, I always remember that I’m blessed to be here at Case Western Reserve University as a student because I could be a lot worse off.

I like soul music. In fact, I list it under the hobbies and interests section of my CV or resume. It’s one of those things that brings me inner peace and makes me smile. There is an intense vitality to it that encourages being content with what you have, thinking positively, love and togetherness. But the unifying theme of soul music is the notion of going through some difficult ordeal and knowing that things will get better.

Whenever I feel like saying ‘I can’t,’ I listen to soul music. You don’t need to have a girlfriend to hear Ray Charles sing, “I’ve got a woman, that’s good to me” or Wilson Pickett yell, “I found a love” and feel urged close your eyes and grin. And hearing Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions say, “It’s alright, have a good time, ‘cus it’s alright” or Otis Redding whistle at the end of “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” make me feel like everything really will be alright.

When you’re feeling like you can’t go on and there is no meaning of CWRU life, do something you love. Listen to the words of Sam Cooke when he says, “It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change gonna come.” Know that things pass just as each grain of sand falls through the hole in Father Time’s hourglass. The past is gone, the future uncertain, so don’t worry about them. Embrace the moment. Embrace now.

Jacob Martin is the senior opinion columnist. He hopes everyone took advantage of Mother Nature’s April Fool’s joke on Tuesday.