Saturday, July 12, 2008

MCAT Prep Writing Sample

2 Essays 60 minutes

Begin time 9:10am

Consider this statement: Men are dependent on circumstances, not circumstances on men. (Herodotus)
Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks. Explain the meaning of the above statement. Describe a specific situation where circumstances might be dependent on individuals. Discuss what you think determines whether or not individuals are dependent on circumstances or vice versa.

The statement "Men are dependent on circumstances, not circumstances on men" by Herodotus is one that puts faith in something beyond human control. He states that men are subject to the circumstances, situations, and conditions they already exist in rather than create the conditions around them. It almost seems that Herodotus is pointing in the direction that humans have no control over the conditions they are in, something like divine will, or control is some other fashion holds the reigns. But nevertheless, there are times when circumstances could be made by people. For example, a student who cheats on an exam, and gets caught rendering him 'failed', creates such a circumstance for himself, it was his own act of recklessness, that let him take the risk to cheat and get caught. Nevertheless, Herodotus would argue that there existed a circumstance before his act of cheating that lead him to cheat, such as lack of studying, delinquency, a broken home, a busy schedule, a job, or some other condition that forced the student to cheat , and therefore made him dependent on the circumstance.
I believe that arguing whether men are dependent on circumstance or circumstances on men, is just as inconsequential as arguing whether the chicken or the egg came first. There is no real way to know. A circumstance can be a product of a person's action, which in turn could have been a reaction to a prior circumstance and so on. There is no true notion of which is undoubtedly the independent variable since they both actively bounce off one another. Therefore, I would argue that men depend on circumstances while circumstances depend on me.

Consider this statement: The voluntary death by which a man puts an end to intolerable suffering is really an act of redemption (Ernst Heinrich Haeckel).
Write a unified essay in which you preform the following tasks. Explain what you think the above statement means. Describe a specific situation in which the voluntary death by which a person put an end to intolerable suffering would not be an act of redemption. Discuss what you think determines the choice of voluntary death in the face of human suffering.

The statement : "The voluntary death by which a man puts an end to intolerable suffering is really an act of redemption" is a loaded and broad statement. First, one would need to know what voluntary death means. Is it suicide, homicide, the death penalty, ect? Do we know who the executioner is? Is it the one committing suicide, an outside party, the person suffering at the hands of another, a murderer, an opposing enemy combatant, or a government? Again, we would need to know what the conditions of intolerable suffering, is it a physical, mental, or spiritual suffering, Is it a whole group of people suffering, an individual, or an ideal? Finally, the question of what redemption is being applied for. If all these quetions were specified with a specific answer, then maybe the concept could be true.
Assuming that Haeckel meant voluntary death is the killing of a person who is causing you to suffer in order to save yourself, would that be a justifiable action? Would it be okay for me to kill my neighbor's dog, since at odd hours of the night it barks like a banshee under attack, causing me to lose out on sleep. Would I not be redeemed, saved from the suffering of lack of sleep the very next day, if the barking dog was killed? The thought is atrocious, but according to Haeckel it is completely justifiable , based on his statement.
The quote makes any act of taking a human (or in general) life justifiable. Morality is something that differs from person to person, culture to culture, and religion to religion. Therefore, the quote is loaded with very loose terms that can be defined virtually up to the individual who wants to kill. The life of a person should not be subject to the justifications of others, or even a person's own deluded sense of justification at times. I believe that nothing determines the choice of voluntary death in the face of human suffering, because we were all born to live, to endure and tolerate hardships and suffering, and to adapt to life. Even Jesus, who in Christian faith, is believed to have been killed, sacrificed for the spiritual suffering of mankind, did not choose voluntary death to ease suffering, he was forced into it. (Although in Islamic tradition, we do not believe that he died, and each person self-redeems himself) Nothing justifies voluntary death for human suffering.

Finish Time 9:49am-- comment away... I need feedback... I'm taking the MCAT on September 13th and need to work on my brain skills....

Saturday, July 5, 2008

mental fireworks

Asalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu,
This is a random reflection on the fourth of july and the issue of fireworks and what not.
The other day, I was sitting on my porch watching fireworks... well maybe not.. but they're kind of hard not to watch, which is precisely the point of this email.
I sat outside, where I was actually watching fireflies, buzzing in and out, flying around like snowflakes, lighting up and dimming out, and I was thinking about how amazing they were. SubhannaAllah, I felt like they were the most serene creatures in the world. I went about thinking that their light will never run out until the moment they die. Sure it fades in and out, but the light is there nevertheless.

All of a sudden, explosions of thunder started to echo into my ears. Then lights broke the calm in the dark sky, and instead of the downpour of rain that I expected (given the i'm in michigan and summer thunderstorms are to be expected) fireworks lighted, to the brightness of day, then went out. It got me thinking, about the contrast of what i had just noticed. Fireflies, they dim in and out, but the light is something that is consistent. They buzz in a low voice, almost silent, but their presence is welcomed, calming, maybe even preferred. A feel of serenity engulfs you and your mind takes on an optimistic turn. Fireworks, well lets just they're bright one moment, and out the next. They're loud as heck. And I think I was at my wit's end when the ominous *BOOM* deafened my ears. Sure fireworks look pretty, but it comes with so much baggage. Loud noise, lighting them up, cleaning up their remains afterwards.

It made me think about people. Some people are like fireflies, seeping in and out, their light remains, and have a gentle calming optimistic, beautiful effect. While others are explosive, exciting, scary, pretty and elusive. I fell in love with fireflies, for the first time in the history of my life, because they reminded me of people who I see with amazing levels of Iman, consistent, and loving. And i felt a revulsion for fireworks for the first time in my life, because it reminded me of people who are short tempered, shallow, and well scary.
I'm not saying that people with firework like personalities are a bad thing, i mean i'm somewhat of an angry/explosive/short-tempered person. Maybe it's not about people at all, but life.
What I'm saying is, don't fall for the temporary. I guess, life is like fireworks.. pops up one moment, scary, exciting, beautiful, loud, but it'll end at the blink of an eye. Iman, i would say, are more like fireflies, around, consistent, dimmed and bright. When the fireworks go off, you lose sight of all the fireflies. blinded in the moment and what not.

i'll stop there for my fireworks/fireflies comparison and move along to another threat of thought

Yesterday, instead of going and watching fireworks (which i've done maybe once in my life) i went to an open mic/slam. The turn out was minimal, but i still loved it. People were there, preforming about the issues that meant the most to them. And again, i felt like i was seeing true beauty, mental fireworks. People's idea's sparking the atmosphere, moving people, exciting them, caressing their psyche. I felt that embracing true freedom, independence, and happiness, had lay within the confines of a small coffee shop. I felt like, everyone wasn't blinded by the pretty works of the world/life, but the movement towards something greater. In that room, I felt like people, rather than sitting around and watching other lights, were harnessing, feeding, and growing their own lights within themselves. So, why go for the superficial, when the real thing lies within reach, all you need to do, is tap into it.

again, you're probably thinking, what the heck is this random girl talking about?? I honestly am not sure myself. All I know is that, contrary to what people believe independence/freedom does not lie within a written scrolled declaration. Nor is it provided by other people. It is God given. After that, only you hold yourself back from being truly free.

While I was sitting in that cafe, on the night of freedom and independence, I felt a widening within my chest. I felt like, even though I was one of 3 muslims who attended the event, everyone in that room was on a path of self-freedom, self-reflection, and self-expression. Everyone outside of that room (well to an extent) who sat and watched fireworks all night long, well i felt like they were being blinded by the temporary prettiness of the fireworks, making them sell out their freedom. Allahu 'alam

I guess i went off for a bit, but khadigah told me to be my little old self when i emailed out on my-net, and i decided to reflect away.
Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed your day of freedom. because their's 364 more days that, i guess, aren't as free... unless you free your self internally.
Jazakum Allahu khairan
asalamu alaikum